Dear Diary... May 2014

Saturday 31st May - Edge Of The Tomorrow Seat

It was nice just to be able to head out of bed, take things relatively easy, and clean most of the house and get everything nicely sorted for later on. I also knew that I wanted to head into the city centre and get my hair cut, as it needed doing pretty badly. I was able to head to The Northern Cutter and there was no one waiting, so it was a case of going straight in, getting the hair cut as I wanted it, and leaving not long after feeling much more refreshed and happy with the way it all looked.

I also spotted as I walked back down Oldham Street that there was a record fair going on in the Sasha's hotel near Piccadilly itself, and so headed to the entrance, went through to the function room that they use for the fair (which ironically faces Oldham Street) and then paid the £2 admission fee. On the whole it was okay, although I didn't actually get anything. There were a few bargains to be had if I didn't already have some 12" singles, and some of the collectors' prices were a tad on the eye watering side, but still, not that bad. I did see a couple of women who were getting married later in the day and being sat relaxed before their big day later.

It was then back on the bus home and I did some fresh tuna steak in a pan and basically fried it nicely, and had that with some rice for lunch. It's part of a drive to try where possible to eat a little more healthily and make sure that where possible I'd taken in a good amount of fish as well as meat, as often it's not always been the case of late. I'm sure though that it'd be even better once I started to see the results and the weight coming off somewhat. I'll have to see over the next few weeks I think.

Later on The Love In My Heart came over, and it was off out for the evening, having a drink in Kro before heading to Zizzi in Piccadilly for a meal. I did have a voucher for £20 off thanks to redeeming some Clubcard vouchers (£5 worth making £20 off, quite good that) and so decided that a starter and main would be pretty good. I had the calamari to start and then a carbonara for main, with quite chunky pasta tubes. The Love had a plank of assorted meats and cheeses to start with one of the new mains, a hung rack of chicken and peppers with a sauce and potatoes - definitely was a talking point when you saw one of those being delivered.

It was then off to the cinema to see Edge of Tomorrow, the new Tom Cruise film. I must admit though it was better than I thought it would be. I'd never read the original book "All You Need Is Kill" by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, but with its plot of effectively replaying the same moments in time but learning from them in attempt to find a way to defeat the enemy Mimics and locate their "Omega" burning heart, and thus change the course of time. Some might have found the whole "time loop" plot repetitive, but it's worth noting that's exactly what the original book had and so was being faithful to the original.

Emily Blunt is rather impressive as Rita, really showing some skills of combat and a really blunt hard faced exterior of being a soldier and warrior, and Jonas Armstrong (Robin Hood no less) as Skinner, one of the J Squad, is also rather gritty and yet hilarious. Bill Paxton as Master Sergeant Farrell really does play it spot on too, having all the authority he should, delivered well. The soundtrack even has John Newman's "Love Me Again" at the end of the film, kind of makes sense and so tune of the day there.

Friday 30th May - Half Full Friday

I woke up in the Ibis, nice and refreshed after a good shower, and after sorting out all my stuff and packing, not forgetting to keep the EP safe in the overnight bag for playing later when I got home, it was time to check out of the Ibis and head around to the local Wetherspoons close to the hotel for breakfast. The bacon roll and coffee is normally around £2.29, but as it turned out if you order before 9am (which I did) it was a mere £1.65. Absolute bargain, especially with free refills on the filter coffee. Good move, that and I was able to relax and chill out with breakfast before heading back to New Street for the train.

The train journey back was nice and quiet, and I was soon back in Manchester Piccadilly and had enough time to head homeward on the bus, and unpack the bag, put the clothes in the wash, have the wash finish and then hang it all to dry before leaving to head to work for the afternoon. In fact I was glad that I did head back to work, because it meant that I could get a number of things done without too much hassle, and was also able to resolve a problem for one of my colleagues whilst he was away.

We'd found out that a couple of PCs were losing connections to the network printers, which normally get re-added via Group Policy, and no matter what, they weren't being re-added correctly. I did a bit of research and testing (restart spooler, remove drivers, re-add them etc) and they all pointed to not being able to connect to the server with error 0x0000000a. After a bit of searching, this article pointed me in the right direction - a corrupted registry key which meant that the servers that the printers were on weren't showing correctly in Windows, hence you'd never be able to properly connect.

In fact I all I needed to do was stop the printer spooler with net stop spooler in a command prompt, delete the registry key and then do a net start spooler, and badabing! The printers came back without issues. Interesting and somewhat cool that I'd managed to do that, so felt pretty pleased and productive that I'd managed to get on top of a problem that had us stumped last week. The fact it worked consistently on multiple machines is good and at least means that we've been able to do some background testing.

It was good to get home and spend a chunk of the evening on the phone to The Love In My Heart too. We're heading out for a meal and a movie tomorrow, but it's worth noting that on this very day and Friday night six years ago, we met for the first time, and I can honestly say that the whole night one of the best days of my whole life I've ever had. I can still recall so much about that evening - the wonderful meal we had, nice cosy drinks, and that feeling of not wanting to leave and go home, and really enjoying each other's company so much. As I rightly said to a friend the day after, it wasn't just a spark, or even fireworks - it was the whole display! And long may that continue.

With that in mind, I'm dedicating today's tune of the day to The Love, and no less than the rather uplifting and massive dance tune that is "Lola's Theme" by Shapeshifters. It is one of her favourite songs of all time, and was so even before she met me, but I think when I listen to the words I can understand why even more so - and of course I have that as my ringtone when she calls me (only seems right to somehow!) - and a perfect way to get in the mood for Friday night. This one's for you, my gorgeous beautiful love xx


Thursday 29th May - All The Way From Birmingham

It was a half day for me at work today, as I was heading to Birmingham to see Vix & Her MsChiefs at the Sunflower Lounge. It would also be doubling as their EP launch as well, which means I'd be able to get my hands on it (which I was looking forward to purchasing). I had booked the train tickets in such a way that I could go down in the afternoon, come back tomorrow morning and as such only take this afternoon and tomorrow morning off, made more sense to me than taking two full days' leave otherwise. So with a spring in my step, it was the short walk from my workplace and on to Piccadilly train station in good time.

As I had done my usual trick of part of the journey being on Virgin Trains and changing at Crewe (so cheaper fares, £7.65 on the way there!) it was a change at Crewe and sit in the nice new waiting room on Platform 5, which is nice and comfy. The London Midland train to Birmingham New Street soon arrived and before long I had arrived at New Street with the weather looking a tad dull and cloudy. I walked out via the Hill Street exit, and admired the work on the new look station so far, and then headed down to Hurst Street before locating the Ibis hotel where I was staying over, right next to Chinatown.

The room was typically nice Ibis - nice comfy bed, 32" widescreen telly with lots of channels, a nice bathroom with walk in shower, fluffy towels, tea, coffee and hairdryer and even proper hangers in the wardrobe. Yaay indeed. I unpacked the overnight bag and hung everything up for later (thankfully not creased) and so decided that after a few minutes rest, I'd be heading back into the city centre to have a nice walk around, then have food later and head to the gig.

I had heard lots of positive about the Library of Birmingham since its reopening, so walking up the hill along Hill Street and then over Centenary Way to avoid having to dodge the traffic on the underpasses, I soon arrived at the library and thought it a good idea to head to the roof gardens and get a view from there. I got to the third floor and had a good view and a sit down from the roof garden there, which was lovely, but it didn't stop there. I went up to the ninth floor with the observation deck in full flow, and through the glass there you had a gorgeous panoramic view, and a touch screen to show you what is where. The Shakespeare Room next door with a beautiful archive of his work - just brilliant.

It wasn't all either. On the seventh floor is another little roof garden with views over the North of the city as well, and that really was positioned well to make the most of the view. Obviously on a more sunny day you'd see more of course, but I got the idea. I then walked along Broad Street past the walk of stars to the canal, and then passed along Gas Street Basin and went through the building site that currently is the Mailbox before heading back via Richer Sounds and Music and Video Exchange on Smallbrook Queensway and having a mooch there.

I got myself showered and changed, and settled in for some Pointless as well as Only Connect on Dave (a really early series: Victoria Coren as she then was in a trouser suit, and the six questions having Greek letters instead of the Egyptian symbols they have now: twisted flax, two reeds, lion, water, horned viper and eye of Horus). It was then out for some food and there was a pub close to me doing a decent deal on a curry and a pint, so one chicken korma and some very nice ale later, and that was me well and truly sorted for the evening.

Then it was the short walk to Sunflower Lounge, and there were four support acts on before Vix & Her MsChiefs - they were all competition winners from the Emergeination competition, which meant they had a support slot on and would be getting help with marketing and publicity for themselves too, a nice idea that. Indeed Susanna Westwood from Emergeination was there (killer heels, Susanna!) and introducing each act to make them feel much more welcomed and relaxed when they came on. It was getting nicely busy and so on with the show.

First up was Jess Silk - and she was pretty good. One of the tracks that she played was "Better Not Said" which was thoroughly enjoyable, with some nicely crafted guitar playing throughout. Next up was Rose Redd and she was good too - two tracks, but both of them pretty epic - "Girl In The Café" first off (written about being stood up on a date) was particularly lovely. Her bright red hair certainly got the attention and her bass player looked cool with his colourful shirt on!

Peter Williams was on next (preferring PTR Williams so as not to be confused with the bloke from Dexy's Midnight Runners, apparently.) He had some nice songs including "Let It All Out" but the one I think everyone loved was the quirky "Text Me A Smile" which was crying out for some phone manufacturer to use it on its advert. It reminded me of MJ Hibbett at his indie quirky best (and trust me that's a compliment!) Next up was Sally Haines, and her brand of acoustic soulful music went down well with the knowledgable audience to say the least, with some really nice workouts with the guitar and a great voice to boot. One that caught my ear was a little story about where she got to where she is now, and delivered with a massively passionate voice. All good, and got me in the mood.

In between acts I noticed a familar face walking around the small venue and chatting to Vix, and then I realised who it was - Maggie Dunne from Fuzzbox! That was nice of her to come along and see her former fellow Fuzzbox bandmate, and she had an early 12" single which it looked like she was asking Vix to sign (maybe for a fan or something?). Either way she looked really good in her outfit, and it was an unexpected and welcome surprise to see her there.

Vix and her MsChiefs came on, and it was a really good set, starting off with one of my favourite songs of this year, and the lead track from their EP, "All The Way From Birmingham" (make that tune of the day). It seemed even better live than on the EP, and at the end Vix changed the line "I've got to get to you, in.. Tipton" to Bilston instead (another place close to Birmingham!) - which made a lot of sense. They also did "Fame Is Your Driver" from the same EP, albeit with a second take after one of the little lights near the stage failed, but they managed really well with that. There was also a sultry version of "Fever" with three bass chord changes, and Bexx on the double bass managed that really well.

There was a nice mix of original and cover songs that made up the show, and with different sources too: one of the songs was from the film "Stir Crazy" and another was "Big Rock Candy Mountain" which appeared in the "O Brother Where Art Thou" soundtrack too. Even the "Mercedes Benz" song originally by Janis Joplin and used later by the car maker themselves had an airing, with a bit more of a country / Americana twang to it. One of the new songs had Bexx taking the lead on vocals as well. You could tell all four of the girls (notably Mimi on acoustic guitar, drum box and other instruments) were having lots of fun, and Nemi on violin really played gorgeously in some a rather lovely dress and heels.

All in all, a great set, and it was nice to pick up the EP, with a red CD, and already signed by the girls. I had a quick chat to Vix and she seemed really made up I'd travelled down to see them, and made a point of getting Nemi and Bexx over to say hello, which was rather nice. I chatted a bit more and it was so nice to see them feeling upbear and happy after a really nice warm intimate gig, and it wasn't too long to head back to the hotel room and reflect on a rather wonderful night all round - and added Fuzzbox for good measure. I headed to bed with their version of "Fever" planted in the head...

Wednesday 28th May - Upbeat

Had a semi-productive day at work, and felt a bit more upbeat as I headed home later in the day. I think on the whole when you have a positive outcome to a few things you've sorted, it gives you that extra added spring in the step as you head homeward. I just had to nip into the local Asda on the way home for some wine for The Love In My Heart, but that was all, and I was soon back home and deciding to kick some backside with a session on Wii Sports for the Wii, and attempting to break my "nearest the pin" ten hole distance of 28.8m - which is harder than you think!

I was still doing that and indeed the bowling training where you knock down increasing numbers of pins with the power throws where you also score double for the strike (692 is my current record on that) and The Love came over, looking rather gorgeous. As we were going out on the Saturday evening but have an anniversary on Friday (six years since we met) we swapped cards now so we could open them on the actual day itself - The Love is working late on the Friday and near where she lives will be full of One Direction fans heading to the Etihad Stadium, oh joy and rapture indeed!

I made us some nice hunter's chicken with some mash and petits pois for tea, and then settled in for the evening. The Love wanted to watch Britain's Got Talent so I indulged her for a while - however it annoyed me somewhat. Not because that some of the people didn't have any talent (which they didn't - how the hell they got this far is beyond me) but it just all seems so convoluted, and another exercise to make more money for Simon Cowell and all that. Maybe it's just me.

Anyway, we both had a good chat about all sorts, and obviously The Love was interested in Coronation Street this week because of the storyline with Tina and how she was pushed off the balcony of a building. I don't think anyone quite expected the goings on tonight to have pipped the previous night for drama, but The Love seemed happy enough and so I'll judge it on by what the soap fan amongst us thinks. I kind of gave up on the soaps years ago to be honest - too many episodes a week and not enough realism for me anymore. Again, maybe just me being a little on the cynical side.

Tune of the day maybe reinforces that cynicism but with good reason, especially after the European elections kind of prove a point that not just the point of being nationally proud, but also certain parties as the National Front in France coming to prominence and proving racism is (sadly) alive and well in most of Europe. I simply have to play "Ich Bin Ein Auslander" by Pop Will Eat Itself, purely because of the fact that back in 1994 this song and the tour just after it asked questions of the likes of ethnic cleansing, but also with a clear message that "freedom of expression doesn't make it alright". No truer words have ever been spoken, and it's rather sad that it's still relevant now to be honest.

Tuesday 27th May - Back To The Grindstone

It was a pretty busy day back at the office, primarily because it felt like I was catching up on two days' worth of work in just one day, as was most other people in the office as well. I can understand that to a degree, but it also makes you wonder just how much time is actually lost on a productivity scale because of people being a little bit on the stressed side having to cram so much in. In a way though it also shows that you have to be prepared for moments like these, so spent some time sorting things out with printers and the like and attempting where possible to stay calm (not always easy, obviously).

I also knew that realistically I had to think about the next few months' work and what we'd need to do in terms of re-imaging of student machines with a new standard build, and how we'd plan that somewhat. In many ways it's a more difficult exercise when there are so many machines to do in different locations with different software, but as well there's also a feeling that you have to really get on with it and just push yourself to get it all done on time, which was pretty mental last year because of the late opening of the buildings etc.

It was good to get home later and take things relatively easy, although I wasn't seeing The Love In My Heart tonight - she was on a late shift at work and wanted to get home and chill out, so she's heading over tomorrow instead. However, I did watch Happy Valley anyway, and it was quite bloody towards the end to say the least. I do think though that both Sarah Lancashire and Siobhan Finneran have both been excellent in this series - and a lot of people are also saying it's been Sarah's finest acting performance. I'd be inclined to agree, she's come a long way since the days of Racquel in Coronation Street.

The new Pop Will Eat Itself single "Reclaim The Game (Funk FIFA)" got its official video release today, and is tune of the day. It's good to see that the band haven't let up in terms of having a conscience, and with Mary Byker usually living in Brazil, he's drawn on the first hand experience of what the World Cup really is doing to Brazilian citizens. Also good in the video to see Graham Crabb at Wembley during the Conference play-off final, and a No To League 3 banner being proudly displayed in that video (quite right too).

For me, the likes of the proposals the FA have for the League 3 shows how out of touch they are with the fans but also how much the English game is dominated, probably too much, by what the Premier League wants. It's clear that since the inception of that league the English team, bar Euro 96, has been not as good. When it was the World Cup 1990 we didn't have world beaters apart from say Gary Lineker and Paul Gascoigne, but what we had was the heart of a lion and the passion for the country, and players all cutting their teeth at top English clubs without the influx of overpaid cry babies we seem to have now. It does make you wonder doesn't it?

Monday 26th May - Wigan Walk

It was nice to be able to have a bit of a lie in this morning, but not too much, as I had a shed load of ironing to do, and also wanted to make sure it was all done before The Love In My Heart came over, as we were going to head out somewhere for the day. I suggested a possible trip to Haigh Hall Country Park near Wigan, as we'd never been there before and thought it'd make a nice change. I then got back to the ironing and set about getting it all done, with some Nine Inch Nails in the background.

I decided to put the 2-SACD reissue of The Downward Spiral on, as the first disc is the whole album in glorious 5.1 surround sound, and it does sound rather brilliant remastered like that. I really like "Eraser" this way, it sounds even more evil than the original, so tune of the day it most certainly is. It was also good that the second disc (albeit just a stereo SACD) also sounded really nice, putting together mixes, single B-sides, film soundtrack tracks (namely Burn and Dead Souls) plus the "Closer To God" version of Closer, which was on the UK second CD single. For me, I almost prefer this to the original, it sounds much more dark, and of course there's the distortion at the end which makes it sound as if your hi fi is broken when in fact it isn't. Hehe.

The Love came over to see me, and after a quick coffee from me it was off avoiding the city centre, down the East Lancashire road, on to the M61 and off at junction 5, following the A6 to a junction where we'd then follow a B-road through towards Aspull and turning left just before Haigh village for the road to Haigh Hall Country Park. It wasn't easy for The Love to locate a parking space, as the car park was very full, but she managed it well, and a mere £1.50 to park the car for the whole day, which I thought was a pretty fair price to be honest. Had to have exact change for the pay and display machine though!

We walked past the stables with the little shops and café and headed on the path past the playgrounds and indeed the crazy golf, which looked pretty busy (must admit I was tempted to have a go actually!) and then walked through the woodland. It was nice to walk through there and have to keep an eye open at a couple of level crossings for the miniature railway. We then headed towards one of the main paths and headed downhill to eventually a bridge which carried the Leeds and Liverpool canal. We then headed over there and onwards further along the path.

After about another half mile we could go right or left. We went left, and took further down the hill, coming across a nice waterfall and a track which mountain bikers were coming down. Instead we then went along the path further and then came to a bridge with a road going over. Sounded like we'd gone too far along to be honest, so we headed up to the road and once I'd got the maps on the phone realised that we'd had to head back along the road, rejoin the canal and then walk back to the bridge that we'd passed earlier. Oops!

Still, we made it back and the walk alongside the canal was pretty nice actually, and definitely maybe a longer walk just following the canal towpath one day. Mental note made to try that sometime. We got back to the bridge we'd followed earlier and then headed back to the path and this time took the main driveway which would take you all the way to Haigh Hall itself, and that looked pretty impressive. It wasn't open to go inside but nonetheless looked rather grand, and the views over the hills from the side of the hall were actually really nice.

So it was then back to The Love's car, and we headed back to mine via the Greenfinch in West Didsbury for some food (I had the fish and chips, it was rather lovely it has to be said) and had a pint of Hobgoblin to go with that. It was soon time to head home, and The Love headed home too, and the day had gone far too quickly. I did watch Only Connect later and I must admit that the rounds this time around were pretty hard - I did though excel on Missing Vowels so felt pretty pleased with myself there.

Sunday 25th May - Monaco and Nine Inch Nails

I had a relaxing morning with breakfast with The Love In My Heart, and took the PC downstairs to hook up with the big telly, and for good reason. The Monaco Grand Prix was on later and thanks to The Love's sister, I had a way of being able to watch it. Woohoo! I was eternally grateful of course, and watching the pre-race build up with Martin Brundle's grid walk was pretty good - lots of former drivers were around such as Thierry Boutsen as well as some celebrities too. Reckoned already there was needle between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg after qualifying yesterday, so be interesting to see how the race went.

So, would there be a safety car? Hell, yes. The race got underway and on the first lap, Sergio Perez went wide at Mirabeau and Jenson Button attempted to get inside, only for Perez to try to close the door and get knocked into the barrier as a result. Safety car followed and the car was wheeled back up the hill to the nearest crane. The Love headed home so I could watch the rest of the race, and it was pretty good. Adrian Sutil crashed out and there was another safety car. Lewis Hamilton wasn't happy that he had to be double stacked for the pit stops and wanted to be called in a lap earlier as he'd come across the accident and knew it'd be a safety car job.

The race carried on and Hamilton had something in his eye and so fell back, and almost was caught and passed by Daniel Ricciardo. Meanwhile Kevin Magnussen had a coming together with Kimi Raikkonen and that meant that Jules Bianchi in the Marussia went up to 8th. He did have a five second penalty to be added at the end of the race due to a safety car transgression so had to keep pushing, but even with that and finishing in 9th overall, it meant Marussia's first points in Formula 1 - ever. Good stuff for them and really pleased.

Also pleased for Jenson Button to battle his way to 6th, passing Magnussen down the home straight and getting the job done before Sainte Devote, and pushing Nico Hulkenberg for the last few laps to get fifth. Mercedes' superiority wasn't just the one-two, everyone from 5th onwards was lapped by them, and that with two safety cars which would have bunched everyone up as well. Interesting post race interview by Hamilton though, looked like he's well fallen out with everyone within Mercedes at the moment. Also he revealed that Mercedes have one strategist, where McLaren have one per driver, so he claimed if still at McLaren they'd have responded better to him asking if he could come in early for the pit stop.

With all that done, I got changed into my Nine Inch Nails "Now I'm Nothing" t-shirt and waited for my friend to arrive, he was coming down from Ulverston to head to the Phones4u Arena with us. It was good to see him as always and we saw some of the F1 highlights on BBC One whilst we chatted and caught up, which was good. We were both looking forward to tonight a hell of a lot, primarily because it was around five years since we last saw them live, and with it being the final night of the UK tour, a good opportunity shouldn't go amiss.

We went back to our old school ways this evening and after taking the bus into the city centre, we walked up to Babylon on Oxford Road, our haunt of the past, and had some pizza in there. Still gorgeous and still worth the money massively. It was then over to Piccadilly and following the tram line past Shudehill and on to the Phones4u Arena. We'd timed it well so we were able to get a decent position standing up, close to the mixing desk, and with a good view of the proceedings about to happen for the evening.

First up were Cold Cave, who were pretty good. It's basically Wesley Eisold's act, and he had Amy Lee doing some of the keyboards for this set and tour. Effectively there's some good 80s style synth backing and beats together with Wesley's vocals, and looking quite moody with it. I think it was a good way to set the mood off, plenty of really nice bass lines with the synth ones, and the occasional played live syndrum made it work rather well. The new album is out recently so might have to give that a bit of a spin. "Confetti" and "People Are Poison" were the two highlights for me.

Around 9pm on came Nine Inch Nails, and it was rather excellent all round. The sound was spot on and for an arena that's difficult to master properly. There was a big screen behind the long stage with plenty of effects that worked with the songs, notably on "Disappointed" with all lines which merged or spun ninety degrees which was a great idea. It was good to hear the new album stuff from "Hesitation Marks" live, and especially "Copy of A" which we both enjoyed massively. We also got the likes of "Find My Way" and one of the earlier singles "Came Back Haunted" which went down really well too.

Of course, being real diehard NIN fans that my friend and I are, we both also wanted to hear the older stuff, and in particular The Downward Spiral album was well represented. "March of the Pigs" and then "Piggy" back to back was rather impressive to say the least, and later on getting a really laid down and dirty version of "Closer" had everyone singing along to the chorus nicely. What we didn't expect was "Eraser" later on either, which we both enjoyed, yelling out the lyrics, especially the "Kill me!" line. Felt pretty cathartic, that.

Other old school classics we got included "Wish" (yes!), "Head Like A Hole" (even more yes!") and "Gave Up" from the Broken EP, so much happy with that in particular. We would have had "Sin" as well, but you can't have everything I guess. The time went too quickly and even a slowed down encore of "The Day The World Went Away" and a rather slow and passionate version of "Hurt" did nothing to slow time really. It was a great set, and full of rocking and everyone enjoying themselves massively.

My friend and I agreed it was an ace gig and after seeing them in 2009 thinking it might be the last time we get the chance to go, it was sensible to go this time and rock out. And that we did. For me, two excellent gigs in one weekend and I wasn't arguing with that in any way whatsoever. We headed back to mine and after a quick chat and for my friend to pick up his stuff, he was on his way back up to Cumbria. It had been really great to see him and so much better to be at a gig with someone else who really gets it and kicks backside. And that we do!!

Saturday 24th May - Rain, Rain, Go Away and Do One

I woke up this morning after the exertions of the night before, and must admit I was half tempted to go back to sleep. The tiredness had made me sleep really well for the first time in ages, and maybe I need to have an exercise of pogoing to the likes of PWEI on a regular basis to help with the exercises and stuff? Nonetheless though with the rain absolutely bucketing it down, it was a good excuse to get on with plenty of housework and make sure everywhere was clean and tidy in the meantime.

I had realised that I didn't have any fabric conditioner left for any clothes washing and was almost out of bleach for the toilet as well, and came across a brainwave. I could cash in the change I had in my jar and then use that to purchase the stuff I needed, so without further ado I headed through the rain to my local large Asda, where there was a Coinstar machine. I tipped out the heavy bag of change and watched it start to count, and was most surprised when the total came out. Didn't realise I had so many 1p and 2p pieces to be honest!

With that not only was I able to cash in the voucher, but got the fabric conditioner and bleach, and when I went to the real ale aisle, the Robinsons Brewery beers were amongst those that were three for a fiver. So I thought "hmm yes, two of the Trooper and one of the Dizzy Blonde for me please!" and that in a way was my main treat for emptying the change jar out. Any excuse to have a nice beer tonight I reckon with my tea, because that's how I roll.

The food shopping arrived from Tesco later and I tried out something I purchased, the Tesco Finest Chorizo burgers. Actually they were much nicer than I thought too, with a decent spicy kick in them, and went really nicely with some ketchup on top. It said grill them but I did them in the oven, and that was just as nice too once I did it that way, so was most pleased with how it all turned out. It was still hammering it down though, even more so than before, so thought it best to get everything done that I needed to.

In the meantime with the rain still hammering it down, tune of the day is the rather ace "Def Con One" by Pop Will Eat Itself. I had much fun last night pogoing around to it, and the rain last night and today certainly made it feel rather like it was def con one in certain ways. Mind you, I do have the alternative version with the words "Big shake, fries to go" instead, which puts a different take on it instead of "Big Mac, fries to go" and all. And I managed to do the whole Twilight Zone bit in the middle, massively happy..

Friday 23rd May - Sweating Like A Pig Doing A Jig at the PWEI Gig

A long hard day at work (as it has been all week) but I knew that at the end of the day, there would be a mighty gig with Pop Will Eat Itself at Sheffield O2 Academy2. The gig ticket was part of the bundle for the new EP that I'd pledged for, so it was good that I was able to redeem that and see them do their thing. I know some people are still unsure about the new line up, but as far as I see if the original folks like Clint Mansell are more than happy to see Graham Crabb and the gang do their thing, then that is more than good enough for me, so there you go.

It was hammering it down after I'd got home from work and was trying to time the run so I didn't get completely rained on, and managed to get to the local train station in good time to get the train to Stockport and then the 1828 to Sheffield, and from there a walk up the hill and along Arundel Gate to the venue, which was at the side of the main O2 Academy itself. Bit disappointed that there wasn't a cloakroom but piled my coat on top of many others which seemed to be perfectly fine for some reason.

The two support acts were pretty good - Cold Lazarus started off with a three piece rocking out with some good if a little lengthy tunes, and Resonate later on were a two piece with some programmed instruments and a really good drummer Mark, with lead vocal man Alex also doing the guitar duties. Their tunes were solid stuff, and really enjoyed listening to them - got me in the mood nicely for what was to come. "On The Run" was particularly good with a great synth line throughout to draw you in. Well worth checking out if you have time.

The tension built, the DJ played a selection of Manchester tunes by Morrissey, Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets at al before then getting us more in the mood with Orbital and Massive Attack (know my classic songs) and then at around 9pm Pop Will Eat Itself hit the stage with the usual these days intro of "The Incredible PWEI vs the Moral Majority" which then kicked off with Back 2 Business" before it was time for all of us to start pogoing like mad to "Preaching to the Perverted". Well, it'd have been rude not to, you know?

Plenty of classics ensued throughout the night, and it was great to see the band on top form. Graham and Mary Byker really work well together, bouncing off each other if they're pogoing around with plenty of attitude, Tim Muddiman on guitar really does want to almost get into the crowd with every riff, and on bass Davey Bennett just smiles a lot and plays it really cool. Jason Bowld at drums at the back underpins with some bloody great drumming. For me when PWEI recruited Fuzz Townshend in the early 1990s having a live drummer made a massive difference to their live set, exactly the same here.

The title track of the new EP Watch The Bitch Blow got a very good reception - think the crowd really liked it especially as there's pogoing to be had just before each chorus, and certainly for me it's a sign of how good PWEI Mark 2 are, and the World Cup single Reclaim The Game (Funk FIFA) had everyone shouting out something else to do with FIFA instead in the main chorus along with Mary, definitely sounds pretty heavy live and well worth a bound around too that. Tune of the day in fact, really did sound even better live.

For the old schoolers amongst us, there was Wise Up! Sucker, There Is No Love Between Us Anymore, Radio PWEI, Dance of the Mad Bastards, Everything's Cool, RSVP (with Graham saying "No thanks to Pledge Music!" to introduce it - a dig at their ineffeciency with regards to the EP and all the bundles that the band put together), a storming Ich Bin Ein Auslander (with Mary asking "UKIP? What the hell was all that about?" in response to the local and European elections the day before) and Get The Girl, Kill The Baddies. The newish stuff included Nosebleeder Turbo TV, the Watch The Bitch Blow EP version of Babylon and Oldskool Cool as well.

I was pogoing like mad, and definitely rather hot and sweaty by the time it was the encore at around 10.15pm or so. I knew that I had to keep some energy back for the end, and just before the encore a lovely woman at the front with her two friends was celebrating her 40th birthday, so the band sang Happy Birthday to her before then unleashing Def Con One on to the masses, which was ace. And they weren't done either - they donned their Anonymous masks and blistered into Their Law, which was not only much heavier, but with feeling and anger, and the crowd belting out "**** them and their law" at the right moment.

It was all done by around 10.30pm so I had chance to get a t-shirt (blue with the classic PWEI Product logo and text in white) and there were a multitude of t-shirts, the beanie hat, shopping bag, and even a hoodie. You could if you so wanted get a signed set list for £10 or one of the Anonymous masks signed for £15, neat idea that. I was semi-tempted by the set list but went for the t-shirt instead which hopefully I'll be wearing in Cornwall this Summer, that's the plan anyway.

I headed back down the hill to Sheffield station and managed to get the final train back to Manchester, the 10.47pm one. As it turned out we got to Stockport in enough time to get the local train back home as well, so didn't have to go back from Piccadilly. As a result I got home a fair bit quicker and so was able to have a well earned shower before bed time (needed it, was sweating still after a cooling train ride) and reflect back on what was a bloody quality gig. Thanks to the band massively.

Thursday 22nd May - From There To Here

As far as both The Love In My Heart and I were concerned, the main thing to watch on the telly tonight was From There To Here, a three part drama series on BBC One. Special interest for us both of course because the first episode was based around the time of the IRA bomb attack in Manchester on 15th June 1996, that changed the city forever, and the fact that the city rose from that disaster to be an even greater place than it is now (if I say so myself). Other interest of course for me was that Philip Glenister (aka Gene Hunt of course!) was in it, along with Liz White, so a sort of Life on Mars reunion on-screen. Intriguing, I thought!

I made us a nice chorizo pasta bake for tea and before that programme came on we had a good game of Scrabble, with the music bring provided by Vix and her MsChiefs and Seth Lakeman, with the original release of the Freedom Fields album no less. Still prefer the version of "Lady of the Sea" on that one and it has The Love's favourite Seth song on there too (Band Of Gold), so had to be worth putting on for that. Nice use of the Z by The Love in this game too, making LAZE with the Z on triple letter. Go her!

So, on came From There To Here, and it started off innocently enough, with Bernard Hill as Samuel and a confectionery owner, being the father of Philip Glenister's character Daniel, and how they were meeting in a pub in the city with the other brother Robbo (played by Steven Mackintosh) to reconcile, as Robbo ran a dodgy nightclub in what looked like the back streets of the Northern Quarter. They're in the pub having a drink, the windows get blasted through and the cleaner Joanne (Liz White) is caught in the blast also.

The scenes with the bomb in it were well done, and interspersed with footage from the actual day for the sense of realism, even having the red phone box which still was left standing near Marks and Spencer. For me it reminded me of going back from from a friend's place and telling them I was heading into the city centre. I got as far as the Phoenix on Oxford Road and the bus was terminating there, so walked across to get a bus home to my Mum's instead. It felt like everything was cordoned off and it was only seeing what happened on the telly later that brought home that I might have been caught up in it had I left earlier in the day.

The aftermath of the disaster is well played out here, and it turns out that Daniel and Joanne end up occasionally seeing each other afterwards. Liz White is brilliant it has to be said, and kind of like the way she had her hair back to the way it was on Life on Mars (yes, I noticed). Philip is of course great anyway, and when he is willing England to win Euro 96 because of a bet put on by Robbo to save the nightclub from the drug cartels, you can see that drive and passion - and then there's the Gareth Southgate penalty miss.

The soundtrack is a mixture of original I Am Kloot compositions (what a very good idea) to classic Manchester tunes of the time and beyond. So we had The Stone Roses' "I Wanna Be Adored" (make that tune of the day), A Guy Called Gerald's dance classic "Voodoo Ray", and at the end "Ask" by The Smiths, with its line coming in of "if it's not love, then it's the bomb that will bring us together". Classic use of the song that. I am looking forward massively to the rest of the series, and it may well be a contender for TV show of the year, and yes, it is that good, especially for a Mancunian like me.

Wednesday 21st May - Watching City Women Win

I had a long day at work, primarily because most of our focus was turned to keeping the large format printers up and running, and making sure that as much as possible was done to try and keep them going as well. As it transpired after parts coming for one yesterday and that being fixed, we've since discovered the top tray to feed rolls has some sort of issue. Thankfully a two tray four roll setup means that we're not shafted, thankfully, but good to know in this situation we can keep things going.

I've tried to remain pretty calm to be honest, sometimes it's the one who has to see the bigger picture and work out ahead what we need to do. In one sense I did that with a colleague this morning and we both have agreed that it was a very good course of action to take on the whole, as everything is now working as intended and meaning that we can keep things going. I suppose when you have a technical head and are able to offer a sensible pragmatic solution to problems it works out for the best.

After work I headed home, made sure I did a little bit of food shopping in the local Iceland, and then headed home, had something to eat for tea and then back out. I knew that Manchester City Women were playing tonight against Everton Ladies in the Women's Super League and thought it'd be worth a trip out to see how they do. I think too that the women's game is on the up massively, and so being able to see my team for not that much money in the Manchester Regional Arena made a lot of sense (even with an athletics track around the outside of the pitch..)

I went to the ticket office, got the ticket and then mooched around the ground a little bit. Looks like there were a couple of food and drink vans close to the entrance to the arena itself, with the security scanning your ticket on the way in. You also got to choose to sit where you liked, and I picked a position close to the half way line to see what was happening. The teams came out to Fatboy Slim's "Right Here Right Now" (make that tune of the day) and with the sun setting gloriously over the Manchester skyline, it was on with the game.

You could tell that the women's win at Arsenal on Sunday had given them confidence: they were passing the ball well, keeping possession and going for goal whenever they could. The opening exchanges were shared but City got more into it, and from a free kick taken by Steph Houghton, the Everton keeper Rachel Brown-Finnis had to be alert to save it. Jill Scott had also had challenged for a header earlier which was cleared away, and overall City were bossing the game pretty well.

A corner was taken for City, the ball fell to Krystle Johnston, whose shot deflected rather wickedly off the Everton defence and trickled over the line before Steph Houghton could then make sure. It'll be down as an own goal eventually, but the possession City had meant that the goal was worth the wait and we were deserving of the lead. And as the half went on, City pressed forward and kept it at the other end of the pitch with authority, good to see.

More was to come in the second half, but a deserved goal came a few minutes in for player of the match Jill Scott, with a lovely chip over Finnis-Brown off her line for 2-0, and really did show some sublime skill in doing that. In fact Jill could have scored another late on when put through only for the ball to hit the side netting instead. Everton did have a chance to score but it was cleared and then one of their strikers hit the bar when it was easier to score, and that was the closes that they got.

A really good performance from the women overall, and it goes to show that the hard work that they've put in is all a step in the right direction and that we are going places. In fact until the Birmingham City v Arsenal result was confirmed later in the evening, City's women were top of the Women's Super League table as well. Two wins followed two defeats and that was good to see overall, and the fourth win after two Continental Cup wins too. Thoroughly enjoyed it all.

Tuesday 20th May - Incompetence and Happy Valley

I must admit there's something that happened today that made me feel pretty miffed inside. To put it mildly. I don't normally let things get to me in any way, but the way that something has been handled at work has not been handled at all well, especially when it was something that I might have had a chance with. It was mainly thanks to my manager who very kindly asked a couple of questions and noticed that something was amiss too, or else I might not have spotted it necessarily. I thought on the way home that maybe the only way to really rail against that is to rise above it, so maybe what I'll need to do is refer it upwards and let the necessary people deal with it who can maybe put in a few words of wisdom with more right to do so than I have.

But enough of that. I made sure that I had cleaned and ironed all I needed to do, and just in time for The Love In My Heart heading round. I don't think she was that impressed with me playing Pop Will Eat Itself at full volume in preparation for Friday's trip to Sheffield - with "Watch The Bitch Blow" going for it at full pelt (make that tune of the day) and really kicking it. I still adore this track and it'll be fascinating to see how it translates to a live performance along with some of the other new stuff.

I was in the kitchen whilst The Love was watching Emmerdale, and I made us some chicken tikka massala curry with some rice and naan bread, and that all worked out pretty well. I had even got some diced chicken which I'd further diced to make it all decent sized pieces. Mind you, in hindsight I should have got some mushrooms or something just to add to the mix a bit and make it a little more varied. I did have a nice bottle of Spitfire to go with it all though and that went down a treat.

We did in the end decide to watch Happy Valley on BBC One, and even though we'd not seen some of the earlier episodes, we picked up the story pretty quickly, and spotted plenty of acting talent we've seen over the years. Ironically as a lot of it is set around Halifax and Calderdale, not that far from Bradford, it sees George Costigan and Siobhan Finneran (both in Rita, Sue and Bob Too of course) in this series. Sarah Lancashire is rather excellent as the police woman though, and that really pins it all together well.

Must admit though I wasn't expecting it to be as brutal, especially quite late on. Comfortable evening viewing it is not, let me tell you. In the context of the drama and the series, I understood just why, but without spoiling it for you, the word "graphic" in terms of one scene doesn't come close, and it's superbly acted all round. I really liked the way that the real sense of community of the areas filmed in shone through as well, felt rather Northern and proud of it to be honest. Why the hell didn't I start to watch this earlier?

Monday 19th May - Fix Me

Plenty of time today where I was in fix mode, not least as I was making sure where possible things were running smoothly. I was organising a visitors' car park pass for our printer engineer when they come on site tomorrow, and the parts were all organised. As it turned out the error code I gave them had happened to one of the same printers in their head office in Brentwood, and as such meant that they knew what parts to get and also how to quickly sort it, which I know will be appreciated massively by everyone.

I've mainly been thankful though that our office is air conditioned and that I was able to keep cool when all around them were losing theirs so to speak. I think though that part of me is thinking what I need to do in future: I'm all very well at ensuring things get done and am not afraid of taking on some of the work myself of course, but somehow it's like for some reason I feel like I need to move on. Not for any one reason, but there's a few things which have made me feel less happy than I should be, and maybe there's something for me to consider. What do I do? Take a brave step and seek elsewhere, or stick it out?

In the one piece of good news today, I did sort out a trip for The Love In My Heart and I to London at the end of June, so we can take in a visit to Kew Gardens at the same time. Having the Two Together Railcard means discounts of course, but getting two seats in an airline style, with a non-obstructed window view, a little bit harder. In the end though I did manage to sort it, ironically booking via CrossCountryTrains for a Virgin service. Yeah, I know! Shame actually that not all operators allow you to pick the seat that you are booking, it'd make a lot more sense to be honest.

I also spotted that you can do 2 for 1 on London attractions if travelling by train (the idea is that you're being more green I suppose) and that'd mean that the admission would be £15 for us both instead of each. I think for me it's quite good because you could do more than one thing in a day and get cheaper admission, and also promote leaving a car at home and not taking it everywhere with you. I think too that if you are attempting to budget more, taking up offers like this actually makes a lot of sense to be honest.

Tune of the day is the rather sublime "Black Sheep" by Natalie Merchant from her self-titled album which I received yesterday. For me, there's quite a dark direction in some of the songs, but keeping up Natalie's unique voice throughout. And there's a gorgeous piece of saxophone in between the verses as well which just underpins stuff nicely. From the listens I've had so far, it's pretty promising and definitely wish I'd been able to head down to London to see her tour when the album came out. Hopefully there'll be a tour up North sometime soon...

Sunday 18th May - Five Ways, Four Friends, Three Courses

It was nice to see the sun out this morning and after I'd had a rather good sleep, with the two cats of The Love In My Heart for company, it was nice to get up and shower and feel refreshed, and change into my outfit for today - nice pair of jeans, Fred Perry red and white check shirt, which I've grown to like to bits to be honest. The Love made some eggs benedict for breakfast so I felt massively spoilt to be honest, even with a little bit of parma ham into the mix as well.

Later on, once we were ready to go, we left nice and early and headed towards my place and then along the A6 to Hazel Grove, and turned off on the Macclesfield A523 road for The Five Ways, which is rather nice, because their carvery and food is gorgeous, they do decent real ale, and the atmosphere is good too. Looking in, it didn't look like we needed to reserve a table, so I got The Love and I a drink and sat outside in the beer garden so The Love could soak up the sun a bit and I could have some Two Hoots ale to boot, and why not?

Our friends arrived later on and we headed in to a nice table which had the doors and windows open to let some nice air in, and it was light and airy inside too. Even though the carvery was tempting, we all decided against it, and they had a deal where two courses with drink was £14.50 and three with drink was £16.25. The Love decided on starter / main and I decided on all three, and my friends did main / dessert. In the end it proved a good decision, as it meant that I could have a nice cool soft drink (could have had an ale if I fancied) and then the food for one price, good value that.

The starter I had was the stilton garlic mushrooms, with nice button mushrooms in garlic and a stilton cheese sauce, and some garlic bread. The Love had the paté which was also looking on top form, and she enjoyed that immensely. She had the pork belly for main which looked a big plate too, and my friends had the scampi with chips and peas and the ham and eggs which both looked good. I went for the fish and chips and wasn't disappointed whatsoever, nice good sized fish with chips and minted mushy peas, happy bunny I was I can tell you.

The desserts were a varied selection but we all went for the roulade: I had the blueberry one which was good, and my two friends had the lemon (which was lemon with chocolate sponge) and the rocky one (strawberry and white chocolate). They ended up swapping, but in the end they enjoyed them so that was fine. I must admit though that it didn't quite top the cheesecake that I had last time in there, so point noted for next time The Love and I head in there, possibly with my Mum at some point in time.

My friends had also got me some lovely presents too for my birthday (yes, I'm still celebrating, what am I like!) - CSI (the original Vegas series) Seasons 9 and 10 on DVD, and the new CD from Natalie Merchant, which I was after (yaay) and the Full English album, which features Seth Lakeman on there as part of a folk supergroup of sorts. It also won a Radio 2 award for best album not so long ago, so will be looking forward to that I think massively.

Later on after a quick visit to Mum's, The Love headed home and I stayed in to watch the Bafta TV Awards on BBC1. Must admit I was pleased that Long Lost Family won, it was a programme The Love and I adored because of the getting people back together in families, and how Davina McCall was just perfect for it. I would have possibly preferred Borgen over Breaking Bad for the International Award, but was also pleased to see Julie Walters get a Fellowship award and Olivia Colman win best actress, one of three awards that the series Broadchurch got.

Tune of the day in the meantime is The Who's "Who Are You?" - the theme tune to CSI. I decided to start series 9 by watching the opener "For Warrick" - one of the best episodes of CSI in my view. Seeing the team get together and work out what really happened when Warrick was murdered was immense, and the fact even Sara flew back to help out showed that team togetherness. Who would have known Grissom would leave half way through and it'd take till Series 12 with Ted Danson to really rally back on track somewhat? There are some excellent episodes in Series 10 and 11, but being attached to the cast since the first series, it was hard to break the habits I suppose...

Saturday 17th May - Shopping and Scorching

Well, the weather's turned out rather nice today, hasn't it? It was a lovely warm day in Manchester (yes, we do get nice weather here you know) and I decided that I'd head into the city centre and treat myself with some of the gift cards that I'd got for my birthday. It made a lot of sense as it meant I could get something for not much money (or free, even better) and therefore be sure that I treated myself. Plus of course it meant I could possibly even wear it when heading to The Love In My Heart's place later on.

I ventured into TK Maxx, and I had a voucher for there, so thought it'd make sense to at least look and see what they had. I did see a nice light purple checked shirt, which looked good, but wasn't too sure of the size, not least with the annoying "slim fit" which really means big shoulders small tummy and all that rubbish, so I decided to take two sizes in and try them both on. One fitted but was bulging in the wrong places, the other one was tons better and so I went for that, and only had to put a few quid extra towards it as my gift card covered most of that. Happy bunny.

I also ventured into some of the other shops as well, and on the whole everyone was out feeling in the mood for Summer. Of course there are some sights to be had though, such as some people wearing outfits not quite right for their figures, or even worse, and a cardinal sin this, black bra white top. Okay I suppose if you wanted to get people looking at you, but to be honest, not quite right somehow. The Love In My Heart doesn't do this and carefully co-ordinates spot on, so looks pretty at all times, yaay her.

I headed back to mine, and sorted out a few things around the house before watching Fantasy Homes By The Sea, which was all based around Looe in Cornwall! Of course I had to watch to see the Cornish coast and of course the rather lovely town of Looe, which is a really scenic place to be, especially if you have a house overlooking the harbour and beach and all that. Must admit as well that part of me just wanted to be in Cornwall right there and then to be honest.

I headed off later on the bus to The Love's place, taking a route that avoids the city centre as many Rugby League fans were off to the Magic Weekend at the Etihad Stadium and so would be getting similarish buses to me from the city. The way I went meant I could also nip into a newsagents on the way to The Love's place and get her a lottery ticket for tonight too, so all good there. I got to The Love's and she was looking lovely, and all relaxed for the evening.

We did see most of the FA Cup Final, and The Love was making some really lovely food for some of that - some chicken stuffed with soft cheese and herbs, wrapped in parma ham, along with some nice little potatoes, carrots and cheese sauce. It was gorgeous and she'd even made some nice frangpane jam tarts for dessert. I felt really spoiled, not least as she had also very kindly got some real ale as well. Awww, made me feel all special that did.

After Arsenal eventually won after extra time, which I was gutted at as I wanted Hull City to win, I repaid the favour to The Love for allowing me to watch the Cup Final by sitting through Britain's Got (No) Talent. I can instantly see why I dislike the programme. Yes, there are talented people who should really have been discovered through other means, like the singer songwriter who'd written tracks for The Wanted et al, fair dos. But that so-called comedian who killed the audience stone dead with silence with that poor joke? No. Just no. Clearly some people have delusions of grandeur or their Andy Warhol moment..

Tune of the day in the meantime is a proper tune and one I spent some time listening to this afternoon with the sun out, no less than "Talent Plus Attitude Equals Dollars" by Pop Will Eat Itself. Somehow when doing the chores like the ironing you get massively fired up by this. I think it's because of the attitude in this track: granted it was 1996 and it was PWEI sans Graham Crabb, but Clint Mansell took the mantle up and continued with the rest with a harder Industrial sound, proven here. If only the album had come to light then rather than wait till a 2013 issue as a second CD on the reissue of Dos Dedos Mis Amigos, called "A Lick of the Old Cassette Box".

Friday 16th May - Cooking Like A Champion

One of those days today. The team meeting went fine, the two transfer kits for two faulty printers both arrived so we were able to fit those and get the printers up and running, that was fine. I had a meeting with a member of staff and chatted about a piece of software with them - that was also fine. I also spent a fair bit of time writing some new documentation - that was fine. I was pretty much having a constructive day on the whole and it felt rather positive.

Well, I did. The last thing of the day was that we got a call to check one of the wide format printers, and upon checking it the printer had errored out and asked for a reboot. We did this, the printer rebooted, and it errored out again. I tried again, same error code. By this time I knew it was an engineer call out for early next week, so made sure that everything was turned off and disconnected, and then I put an error notice on the printer so people at least knew that there was an issue with it.

Sometimes it doesn't always go your way and you have to accept it and move on as best you can really. Because I had to stay late and attempt to sort that, I didn't get home till much later than planned. However, I decided the best way to wind down nicely was to watch Toy Story of Terror again. Who would have thought that Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed from the Rocky movies, folks!) would be Combat Carl, and that his catch phrase would inspire another of the toys in the story?

I did see the final of MasterChef later, and of course being the final they gave a background to the three contestants, so off to the West Midlands for Jack, with his girlfriend and his family, and then to Bath where Ping was talking to her Mum in Malaysia on Skype with husband and little girl, and then to Chorlton, Manchester, where Luke lives. And the likes of On The Corner and The Horse and Jockey got a spot on the show in the background, spotted them both I did!

The final was three courses from each of the contestants, and seeing how they all have done over the last week, I would have called it as between Jack and Ping. Both of them seem pretty accomplished and are really organised with what they do - Luke tends to make it up as he goes along and gets a little haphazard with the timing, and he did a little bit tonight to be fair, still with rather good food though. I'd have happily eaten all three courses of either Jack or Ping's menu though, they were both rather ace. As for the winner? I'll leave you to watch it on catch up if you've missed it and find out for yourself.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the closing track from the Vix and her MsChiefs forthcoming debut EP, "I Sing Alone" which really has a beautiful melody, played gently and acoustically before rising and soaring throughout. Vix is on rather fine fettle vocally and it all bodes well for seeing them later this month. Excited? I am actually. Sometimes nice small intimate gigs are tons better than being in some arena somewhere feeling soulless..

Thursday 15th May - Pay Day Is The Pay The Holiday Day

Being paid is good. Not least because I needed to also ensure that the remainder of the money required for the holiday to Cornwall is paid off as well. I thought that it'd be best to pay the deposit first to secure it all, and then once I was paid I'd be able to then sort the remainder out and have it all settled, leaving us a couple of months or so to look forward to being away. I think that by the time it comes round we'll be both looking forward massively to some time away together, and that will be lovely.

In fact this evening I checked out something we might be able to be doing too - the Polgoon vineyard tour. It's quite close to where we're staying, and at a pinch possibly even walking distance, which will be good. They have a nice deli shop by all accounts, so not only will we most likely do the tour but we might have to then get something nice from the shop for ourselves for the evening meal as well. I think it'll just generally be nice to relax a fair bit and I think we're both of the view that taking things nice and slow will be rather lovely.

I did see The Love In My Heart this evening too - I'd already headed over to my auntie's place (not far from me) as it was her birthday today, and I handed a nice card and a present for her which she appreciated. Their cat Coco was being all cute and lovely, although miaowing a considerable amount. The Love came over straight there and we had a good chat with my uncle as well, so the four of us were really just chattering on for a fair bit. It was good because it was relaxed, and I even had a nice coffee from the Tassimo as well. I felt all spoilt somewhat.

Back at mine I made a start on the tea - some pork with gruyere cheese and leek topping along with some mash and petits pois, which did the job rather nicely. The Love was watching the drama unfold on Emmerdale, and she was happy enough with that, before we turned over to MasterChef, where it was the penultimate show, following the three finalists to Barcelona to really pick up on styles of cooking and learning from some of the more experimental chefs all round. Some of the tapas dishes I wanted to eat there and then to be honest, but we both enjoyed that a fair bit.

We also did chat a bit about work and how busy we both seem to be at the moment, but that's a positive thing because the days are passing pretty quickly. I had spent a chunk of time sorting out not only packaging Adobe Reader 11 and customising it with the customisation wizard, but also documented all of the wizard process with screen shots so that anyone could potentially follow on that guide in future. The key thing for me is that we try to achieve a high level of documents so that everything works correctly and is easy to follow, makes a lot of sense to me to be honest.

The Love headed home and I spent some time listening to some of the new CDs that I'd got for my birthday. Another one that was on tonight was Queen's album "The Game" which was good to get hold of and partly for completion's sake too (I also got "News of the World" on CD after owning the original release vinyl for some time too) and of course there are some pretty good tracks on there, even if it is a little more electronic in parts. Not least of course the classic "Another One Bites The Dust" - tune of the day - which really does to this day still sound pretty darn good.

Wednesday 14th May - Ironing and Ordering

I really didn't want to have to face the large amounts of ironing that I needed to do that were getting to be a considerable pile of clothes, and even more so when I had worked late to almost finalise the Firefox configuration. One thing I couldn't now do was to customise the title bar in the way that it used to be done, as you can't easily change anything inside omni.ja to make it work as it used to - the compression method had changed massively and although I could extract it okay, compacting it back or even trying to open the file within the archive and saving it failed. Ah well.

I got home later and thought to myself "well, not going to do itself is it?" and so set about doing the ironing. And of course as I usually do, putting a CD on in the background helps considerably with me to get on with it, so on again went the Little Sparrow album and this time the rather lovely title track "Wishing Tree" caught the ear nicely, so tune of the day for that one. Although I could have downloaded it, there's something rather much nicer about getting the physical CD and playing that I think.

It was then on to another task I needed to do, with the album by Prodigy "Fat of the Land" on as well to keep me going. As I'd purchased a number of CDs at the record fair I went to, plus of course receiving some for my birthday, once I'd done myself MP3 versions if I needed to transfer them over to the little iPod Nano in the future then it was time to sort it all out. I think on the whole that it's good to keep things in alphabetical order anyway, you know where stuff is and you also then know what you've actually got in the collection too!

One thing I did notice was that I've now got a considerable number of Moby albums, after The Love had very kindly got me the new 2CD and 2DVD live set that was recorded at The Fonda in LA. Of course some of the early stuff was issued on all sorts of labels before he ended up on Mute for a fair while, but nothing for me gets close to his 1996 album Animal Rights. I'm about the only one who probably likes it, but there's a sense of rawness and emotion about it, plus tons of guitars in there. I quite like Last Night too, very much a return to the old school and the tracks really do bound along rather well.

Granted, for a lot of people Play was the album that saw him really break through into a lot of people's consciousnesses, and I proudly bought that very early on after release, without realising how many of the songs would be on adverts and how massive it'd end up becoming. I saw him at the Academy 1 in early 2000 and it was a great gig, but months later he was playing even bigger venues. A far cry too from the Animal Rights Tour where Academy 2 or even 3 were the limits.

Tuesday 13th May - Champion

It had been a busy day at work, and I was spending a fair bit of time into checking over the configuration tweaks that we were doing for the latest extended support release (ESR) version of Firefox that was going to go into the new build image for PCs. I tend to stick to those because they have a better support cycle, and compared to the new version 29 that's just out, and apparently getting all sorts of negative reviews due to its interface, I think it was the right thing to do to be honest.

I had most of that sorted by the end of the day, so that allowed me to head home in relative good time, and I headed to the local Tesco to pick up a couple of things, including a birthday card that I needed to get for later in the week as well as some other essentials. It did mean I could get home and listen to some of the CDs that I got for my birthday and so put on the Little Sparrow album "Wishing Tree". I have to say it was an inspired decision, as it's a beautiful album. The opening album "Polly" reminds me of PJ Harvey and Bat For Lashes but with Katie Ware's own style on top. Gorgeous. Tune of the day easily.

The Love In My Heart came over later and I made us some spaghetti with meatballs for tea, and then settled in for the evening as she first indulged herself a little with a repeat of Don't Tell The Bride on BBC Three, complete with the couple getting married on a beach in Magaluf and then having their reception in an infamous bar complete with a takeaway across the road to get all your food from. Not exactly the sort of romantic gesture I'd imagine a lot of women wanting to be honest!

After that it was time to watch a couple of DVDs which I'd got for my birthday. The first of those was the Pixar short film Toy Story of Terror, featuring a lot of your favourites from the Toy Story series like Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie, Mr Potato Head and Rex, but also some of the newbies from Toy Story 3 like Trixie and Mr Pricklepants. Although twenty minutes or so long, it's a good storyline and plenty for the small or big kids to be entertained. And they even got Carl Weathers (you know, Apollo Creed from the Rocky films and all that!) to do the voice of a soldier doll called Combat Carl ("Combat Carl never gives up. Combat Carl finds a way!") - simply great stuff, and if you haven't got a copy as yet I'd suggest strongly a trip to the local Sainsbury's that stocks DVDs should prove rather beneficial.

Even more impressive was what followed: "Weekend of a Champion" which I'd noticed just after Christmas and thought it had to be on my wish list of things to get. Film director Roman Polanski got to spend the whole weekend with Jackie Stewart at the 1971 Monaco Grand Prix, and so shadowed him over the whole weekend with access to everything, and so meant that you could get a documentary of the race from a rather unique perspective, and see how it really is to have been a Formula 1 driver back in the day.

There's lots of insightful things, such as the breakfast where the track is drawn on the tablecloth and Jackie shows Roman the art of cornering, a beautiful thing. The track lap as well is what'll really surprise you - the way the track and Monaco itself looked was a lot different back then - less high rise apartments, a much shorter tunnel, a wider Sainte Devote corner, and no swimming pool section. And indeed in some parts of the track no armco barriers or fencing, just the kerb with someone stood over it watching the cars at close quarters. Safety was a lot different in those days.

For The Love and myself, having been to Monaco, it was also an insight into how the principality has changed, and how fans would pack around the track clamouring for the best view in the house. Indeed seeing no Fairmont Hotel at the hairpin and a railway arch instead of a bridge before Portier was also very revealing too. A nice touch at the end is that it has Jackie and Roman chatting about the race and F1 in general, in the very same suite in the Hotel de Paris that they stayed in back then. All in all, it's a really excellent piece of documentary making and for Formula 1 fans, put it on the next to buy list.

Monday 12th May - Emerging

I would have been up on time, had I not had an awakening at night with the sound of rowing from next door. Just what I needed early in the morning, I thought. As a result I ended up oversleeping, which made me then late for work, which I didn't like. Of course people had thought that I had been on the beer the day before, but to be honest, I never drink on a match day. I don't see the point of being drunk and not enjoying the occasion of seeing us win the league!

Anyway, work was pretty busy and I spent a fair amount of time testing out a few things as well as sorting out some printer issues, and on top of that doing some other tests. I also in the middle of all that had to show a couple of our temporary folks how to make sure that the mono wide format printer had the ink changed correctly, which was a good exercise to do later in the day as the sun had finally come out instead of absolutely tipping it down as it had done earlier on.

I decided not to head to the City Parade, as the city centre by all accounts was already massively busy, and as the route was much shorter than two years ago, it'd mean more people attempting to fit into a smaller space. In any case the Manchester City web site was streaming it live, so I decided to watch it there and that made for some good viewing. Not least of course when comedian and City fan Jason Manford decided to call his friend John Bishop (Liverpool fan at that!) and have the City fans leave a message with a song about a certain Liverpool player on it. Oooh, naughty!

The parade did head around the city centre and it was all pretty busy too, and I can see just why the roads were closed off way in advance as the open top bus headed around Deansgate, with many fans coming to salute the heroes. It looked fab, and I'm sure that the City players and management appreciated it. Mind you, from Exchange Square they were heading off to the airport and on to Abu Dhabi, so I bet some of them were rather tired after the day's excursion!

I then watched something else online too, the emergeination online workshop / interview, which had Victoria Perks (Vix) from Vix and Her MsChiefs talking about her career, how Fuzzbox came to be and how the band musically were all heading in different directions, and then how her other projects also came to be, along with some advice for vocalists on preserving the voice and making the most of it. The interviewer was the CEO of Emergeination, Susanna Westwood, a keen songwriter and musician herself, and it did seem rather relaxed and lovely.

Even better was that Vix along with two of the MsChiefs (Bexx and Mimi) then played a three song set, which was rather lovely and a sure indication of how it'll be when I see them live in a couple of weeks time. "All The Way From Birmingham" sounded excellent indeed, and "I Sing Alone" even more so, so that's tune of the day. It felt informally relaxed and a lot of fun as the band played too, so that's just as nice. I hope that Emergeination put the whole show online so others can enjoy what I did!

Sunday 11th May - The Title Is Ours

It could yet be another birthday present and a half later today of course, as Manchester City were playing West Ham in the final game of the season, knowing that a draw would realistically be enough to secure us the Premier League title and indeed the second in three seasons. I think realistically that getting into this position was the hard bit, but as I saw two years ago in that most nerve shredding of endings, you can never take anything for granted.

The Love In My Heart and I got ourselves up, and it was nice to snuggle up together all night anyway, I think when you really do love someone lots those little things mean a lot to you, and they do to me - and rightfully so. She was getting herself ready to head out later with her family, and my other auntie came over too, and had a card and a nice pressie of a TK Maxx gift card for me, so I could treat myself to some new clothes in there, very much appreciated too. We had a good natter as well and put the world to rights which was good, and then The Love headed off to pick her father up and I waited in for my friend to come over.

It was soon then off to the Etihad Stadium and even though I did feel nervous, I didn't feel as bad as I did two years back, and neither did my friend. Maybe it was the calm way we didn't panic on Wednesday and crushed Aston Villa 4-0 that did it, or maybe the fact that we had everything in our hands and had already crushed West Ham 9-0 on aggregate in the league cup cemi final earlier in the season. Even inside the ground the feeling amongst the fans just seemed much more calmer and relaxed, which was good.

Of course, come kick off, I was as nervous as the next person, and so I just concentrated on singing the chants, getting behind the lads and they were doing the business. They kept attacking, forced saves from the goalkeeper, and methodically went about it. A cheer went up from nearby, and we soon learned that Liverpool were losing 1-0 at home to Newcastle, which made our task even easier - as it stood, we could even lose! Don't know if that got to the players, but we kept going with some style and flair and I figured it'd only be a matter of time before we scored.

And so it proved, and after some interchanges in the middle of the pitch, the ball went from Yaya Touré to Samir Nasri, and he had a shot on goal from 25 yards, which was powerful and accurate. The West Ham keeper Adrián could only palm it on to the post and in, and it was 1-0. I celebrated madly, but knew the job was only half done, and that meant at least we were in a better position. Despite a late shot by David Silva rattling the bar, it was 1-0 at half time, and Liverpool were still losing 1-0, so all good thus far.

The second half got underway and a few minutes in, City got a corner. The ball came over, Edin Džeko got a touch on it and the ball headed to the six yard box where captain Vincent Kompany swivelled and drove it home for 2-0. Yeeeessssssss! After being lambasted after his sliced clearance allowed Liverpool to earn a 3-2 win at Anfield against us, this was more than pay back. We never had a two goal cushion two years back and you could tell it was much more happier around the ground now. Even with Liverpool then going 2-1 up against Newcastle, we knew that it was in our hands, and we played out the last half hour with some ease.

The final whistle went and 2-0 was an excellent scoreline, and did the job for us. The whole lower tier decided to invade the pitch, but we stayed put in the second tier, and before long everything was being assembled for the trophy presentation, and as Kompany held the title aloft, I felt nothing but a massive amount of pride, singing along to City's classic anthem "The Boys In Blue" (tune of the day obviously) and then seeing the title come around the ground with the players being interviewed. I did feel sad that it was the likes of Joleon Lescott's final appearance for us, but at the same time appreciated the efforts of all the team too. The title is ours!

Saturday 10th May - Birthday, Brewery and Bonuses

So yes, it's the small matter of my 42nd birthday today. I must admit I'm not that hung up on age to be honest. I just think that as long as you live life the way that you wish for, and that you make the most of it, you shouldn't have regrets - in essence, only regret what you might not have done, instead of the things which you did actually do. I suppose a lot of that has been inspired by certain events in my life, but also partly by The Candles On My Cake, who has been a massive inspiration over the last near six years of my life.

I woke up and got myself and the house all ready, and I already had a present to open from one of my friends, which was very good of him - not least as it was Moon on Blu-Ray and the soundtrack CD for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, of course by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of Nine Inch Nails. Most happy, and I'll have to make some time to watch Moon and its ace Clint Mansell soundtrack. I then had myself a coffee and awaited the arrival of The Candles for a rather nice day all round.

The Candles came and looked lovely as ever and had plenty of lovely presents for me, some from her family as well as herself. Her family were very kind and had got me CSI Season 11 on DVD, Toy Story of Terror on DVD (Pixar rule of course), the 2013 F1 season review on Blu-Ray, some real ales too. The Love excelled herself though: she'd already booked us on the Robinsons Brewery Tour but also got me a Nine Inch Nails T-shirt, this fab coaster for my coffee with the Sifters record shop on it, which she got from a local craft fair, the Moby live Almost Home 2CD set, 1 - Life on the Limit DVD (nice F1 documentary) and Weekend of a Champion on DVD, directed by Roman Polanski and featuring Jackie Stewart at the Monaco Grand Prix. Excellent all round really!

We headed on the bus to Stockport and headed to the Robinsons Brewery for the tour, which she'd managed to squeeze us on to the 11.30am tour. The tour guide was ace and it took around an hour and a half to go round, have lots of explaining of the history of the brewery and the new facilities up front, showing the older ones behind as well and the whole process from start to finish. As they also make the Trooper beer in conjunction with Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, there were a few Maiden fans in the group heading around as well, and they were a really nice bunch! In fact, "The Trooper" by Iron Maiden is tune of the day so there you go :)

It was good to go behind the scenes, see all the older equipment and how the new ones make the production much more efficient, and see the fermentation vats with the lovely smell of the likes of Dizzy Blonde ale and one final vat making a batch of Trooper, which sent the Maiden fans into happy raptures. You also got three tokens which you could use for either a whole pint or three little third pints of ale, or a glass of wine, or a soft drink. The bar at the end was fab, and really nicely done up. I could happily go there for a drink at any time to be honest, and I had a third each of the Golden Dragon, Brazilian (season ale) and the Trooper, all of which were ace. I even treated myself to a Trooper ale and the beer glass to go with it, be rude not to really!

I headed home and there was a card and little present through the door from my auntie, who had got me some Tassimo pods and a gift card for Debenhams, which was very nice of her and family indeed. We noticed that in the gift bag was a toy plane belonging to her grandson which had popped in there by mistake, so on the way to Mum's we dropped that back through the letter box for them. We then spent a fair bit of time at Mum's, primarily setting up her replacement telly which had arrived earlier that day, and also having a coffee and some nice cake too.

My youngest sister and my brother had dropped off presents at Mum's too, so it was nice to open even more nice things: "News of the World" and "A Day At The Races" by Queen, as well as the Avenged Sevenfold CD "Hail to the King" too. And on top of that, Filth on Blu-Ray. Happy days indeed. It was also nice as my sister did pop round and my nephew too so I could thank them personally, and that was rather lovely all round. My nephew was on top happy form, he's such a character with it!

We headed back to mine and The Candles and I got changed and ready to head out and hit the town. I'd booked a table at Jamie's Italian for us both, and as Saturdays were pretty full we had to go for a 6pm booking. As a Gold Card member I did get an offer where we could have a bottle of prosecco to celebrate, for free, with our meal, and that swung it a bit (as well as the food being lovely of course). It was weeing it down with rain so The Candles was armed with a brolly and looked stunningly hot and gorgeous in her new blue dress and Kurt Geiger heels. How lucky am I, I kept thinking to myself.

We got to Jamie's, had a nice table on the ground floor, and the staff were as lovely as ever, and brought over the bottle of prosecco to share, and some tap water too to have with the meals too which was good. The little taster you get as a member was some fennel salami which was rather nice, and that set the tone for the gorgeous food throughout. My starter was the mushrooms baked with mozzarella and some crispy bread, and they were fab, as were The Candles' lovely cauliflower lightly battered with a cheese sauce too.

The mains though, wow! The Candles had one of her favourites, the turkey milanese, with some nice potatoes to really compliment them nicely, and I went for the sausage papardelle, which I'll be having again at some point I think! The fennel sausage mashed up like a ragu in a gorgeous sauce and some lovely ribbon-esque papardelle pasta was just heavenly, and I really took my time with it to savour every mouthful. The Candles had a bit and said she could see why I loved it so much. We both were just very happy and contented together and that really made us both smile.

I did order dessert but the waitress said that as it was my birthday, I'd normally have a free birthday brownie, but she'd substitute it for the tiramisu if I wanted, which was good, so I did. Out came a lovely plate with some caramel and pomegranate spelling out happy birthday and a little candle in the top of the tiramisu! Awww, that was so nice, and the tiramisu was on top form. Because of that and the prosecco being free as part of the gold card thing, it was around £35 for the two of us for the meal in all, and that was massively wonderful value, and another excellent meal in there it has to be said.

We then headed onwards to The Bank first, where I had a pint of the Nicholsons Pale Ale, brewed by those fab people in the St Austell Brewery, before then heading to Kro, which for us both is a special place, and I had the Coiled Spring ale. The Candles maybe didn't realise it, but where we were sat tonight was where we'd actually sat the very first time we met, so when I saw the table free whilst she was at the bar, I made a beeline for it and thought "just perfect", and so had the day been. The Candles was looking so beautiful and I really wanted to just give her lots and lots of kisses and not care who the hell was passing comment!

It was then home after a long but lovely day, and we snuggled up seeing the results come out on Eurovision with the ascerbic comments of Graham Norton, and indeed looking rather puzzled at how the hell the winner from Austria was chosen. Shock value maybe? The Netherlands' entry was a more folky Fleetwood Mac type sound, and if it was a contest based on musical merit, then that should have won by a country and folk mile. But still, no accounting for taste.

I also tweeted during the day a series of songs, in my list of "It's my birthday and I'll play what I want to" which apart from the Iron Maiden track included the following: "All The Way From Birmingham" by Vix and Her MsChiefs, "Wise Up! Sucker" by Pop Will Eat Itself, "The Perfect Kiss (video version)" by New Order, "Polly" by Little Sparrow, "Hit The North" by Frank Sidebottom, "Metal" by Nine Inch Nails with Gary Numan, "Brand New Toy" by Paul Weller, and "Rules and Regulations" by Fuzzbox. Should give you some idea of the ecelectic music taste!

Friday 9th May - To Be Frank

It was a busy day in the office, but at least I was able to get everything done that I needed to get done, and also to try and sort out a few things moving ahead as well. My colleague had spent some time packaging up a newer version of Dropbox and had folllowed a guide I'd created, and so was able to spend some time with me testing it. On the whole it's all gone pretty well and I think in truth it was good that we were able to give it a good going over beforehand. Testing is often overlooked but it's often the most important thing of all when packaging up applications and sending them out.

I stayed back behind a little bit at work as this meant I could cast my eyes over a document and make some necessary amendments required to one which needed some sorting out - a couple of the screen grabs needed sorting out and that took some time - although they were ones I'd taken on my own Android phone for the Android guides so it was a case of going through the setup again and making sure everything was working the right way, and ensuring screen grabs were all done at the same time to do so.

I then headed along from work and over to the Cornerhouse, where first of all I needed to pick up the ticket I had ordered online for the 6pm showing of the film Frank, which was starring Michael Fassbender and loosely based on Jon Ronson's memoirs of being part of the band with the late great Chris Sievey (in his Frank Sidebottom guise of course). It had been adapted differently, on Chris' wishes, so that it wasn't just a straight drama about his antics and his "you know it is, it really is" at the end of each song, and it'd be that which I'd bear in mind later when seeing the film.

I fancied something to eat first and knowing that the Cornerhouse did decent food headed to the upstairs area, and was soon shown to a nice table by the window. They had a nice pint of real cask ale on, so I simply had to go for that of course, and after much deliberation I ordered the La Reine pizza, with nice ham, mushrooms, mozzarella and tomato, and olives too. They even kindly sacked off the rocket and put some more mushrooms on for me which felt rather good of them. It was a gorgeous pizza too - the best I've had in a fair while, and that certainly made me feel more relaxed and in the mood to see the film.

I won't do a full review now as I'll probably at some point do that anyway, but in essence, the key thing to remember is that it's something Chris Sievey himself had a say in, in that it's not a straight drama based on him. The head is the same, that's about it. It's fascinating stuff though and there's definite elements of the likes of Captain Beefheart and some lo-fi indie bands in there, as well as a nice touch referencing social media throughout. Suffice to say though, the made up band Soronprfbs actually played themselves and played well, and the end track "I Love You All" is my tune of the day - it'll make a lot more sense when you see the film to be honest.

I left the Cornerhouse and was soon heading on the bus home, and in good time for my weekly grocery delivery from Tesco, which was very well timed indeed. I knew too that I had a long day tomorrow, and so spent a bit of time catching up on some telly that I'd missed by being out at the cinema, and before I knew it, the bed was calling and getting all nice and comfortable ready for tomorrow, as I'll be the answer to life, the universe and everything, according to the Hitchhikers' Guide anyway...

Thursday 8th May - Check and Double Check

Some very strange things were afoot with the SCCM system at work today, not least because of the fact that when attempting to bring down a task sequence, the deployment status showed at nothing but blanks, or wasn't updating. A quick call to my colleagues in our Systems Team revealed all: the virtual memory of the server had filled up for some reason from around 3am onwards, and appeared to be not that stable, so they spent some time working on that today, and I was then asked to double check a few things afterwards for them and make sure all was well with it.

I guess at times like this my analytical brain kicks in and starts to think of the whys and wherefores, and basically wanted to make sure things were running correctly. Once I was happy, it seemed all appeared to be catching up in a good way and working the right way around, which was also good. I even managed to get a couple of more laptops done, so felt pretty pleased with myself that it was all working the right way and as I wanted it to be. Progress hopefully made and in a good way.

I also had to nip out to the bank at lunch time and pay in a cheque (I know, old school eh?) as when I transferred my gas provider recently, the old provider had realised that I had overpaid them, and very kindly sent me the money back as a refund. Can't really complain, the new provider has been good too, and it was very honest of the old one to stump up the cash too. I got that paid in, and it was really positive to feel like I'd been treated correctly as a customer and have a nice smiling face at the counter of the bank too. Sometimes, it's the little things that make us go round.

Anyway, I've also now booked the holiday for The Love In My Heart and I, and we're off to Cornwall. Of course, this makes me happy anyway, but we had a chat together and realised that the stupidly expensive prices for any form of accommodation in Glasgow has meant that any chance I had of going to the Commonwealth Games were just zero: the cost of four nights in a Travelodge were some £800, Premier Inn the same and Holiday Inn Express £1100, and I've paid much much less than that for a gorgeous apartment in Cornwall for a whole week.

I had confirmation from the Glasgow 2014 ticketing team that there will be an official ticket resale platform, and this will commence in June 2014 onwards. As almost all mine are for the athletics, and that was massively over subscribed anyway, I'd like to think that I'd be able to resell them, at face value of course (which is the only right and fair way in my view), and allow someone who is more local to Glasgow (or who can afford the accommodation) the chance to be able and go and see some top class competition. So everyone effectively wins, I reckon.

So I'm just waiting to book the trains for coming home (the trains for going are already done) and this gave me the chance to use the Two Together Railcard discount for us. That worked out rather handy as it meant one third off the cost of the tickets, meaning that the getting there was under £50 each (with the change at Cheltenham Spa instead of Birmingham) and First Class between Cheltenham Spa and Penzance as well, which will be rather nice all round I reckon. Yaay to nice train travel indeed.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the classic Lush track "De-Luxe" from their 1990 "Mad Love" EP and also appeared on their 1991 compilation album "Gala" rounding up all their early singles. For me, I've sung this on Rock Band 2 on expert vocals but there's something gorgeously lovely about the track - from Miki and Emma's guitars and vocals especially. It's ideally suited for nice long and beautiful train journeys, which we'll obviously be going on soon...

Wednesday 7th May - One Hundred and Counting

After a rather wet and windy day at work, it was good to be heading homeward, where I'd have a bit of time to sort out something to eat for tea and then relax with a little bit of telly and catch up with Monday night's episode of Only Connect. It was fascinating stuff as I happen to have met one of the contestants - Rachael, the DJ from an online radio station, was on the Record Collectors team, and her team played very well. I must admit some of the missing vowels rounds were trickier than nomal but I did pretty okay on them considering. And yes, I still adore Victoria Coren Mitchell on this, I admit.

Anyway, off to the Etihad Stadium with my friend then, and with the rain lagging it down, we made our way to the ground and in the warm. Unfortunately for some reason all the catering outlets in the ground near me are now serving Nescafé coffee (ewww) and sachets with water at that (double ewww) and to finish the job off, little cartons of milk (triple ewww) and yet still charging the same price as was for the standard Kenco or Kenco Millicano. This is not good, and I didn't drink half of it because it was so horrid. Must look at the catering boards on Sunday and make a decision I think.

We knew that it was a case of being patient tonight, and during most of the first half it was clear that Villa were intent on proverbially parking the bus and making sure nothing got past them, with just one attacker up front and a massively defensive display. We got forward often, and Aleksandar Kolarov forced a good save from Brad Guzan, and too often we were also trying to walk it in, which wasn't really what we needed to do. It was still throwing it down, so shooting low and hard from distance might have got some mileage from the keeper really.

At half time we weren't worried, but figured that as the game wore on, the more it stayed 0-0, the more the fans might start to worry in general. Another quarter of an hour went, and still 0-0. Things were changed as James Milner made way for Stevan Jovetic, and straight off you could see him causing mayhem in the middle and up front, allowing both Kolarov and Pablo Zabaleta to get forward. The ball came to Zabaleta, he put in a gorgeous low cross and Edin Džeko turned it in for 1-0. Get in. Zabaleta's celebration in front of the North Stand on his knees, fist pumping, told you all you needed to know about how much it meant for him.

A few minutes later and David Silva released Zabaleta down the right, and another gorgeous ball in was met by Jovetic, whose shot was part saved by Guzan, to fall straight to Džeko to score for 2-0. Now we all could breathe a sigh of relief, and even when Villa hit the crossbar with a few minutes left, I knew we had enough. Fernandinho had come on for Silva and Džeko was rested for Sunday's game with Álvaro Negredo coming on, and the fans started to make their way to the exits, well those who wanted to leave early anyway.

Their decision proved foolish and my friend and I had to smile and laugh. They missed Yaya Toure bossing the Villa defence before picking out a ball for Jovetic to rifle home low and hard under the keeper for 3-0, and in the final minute of stoppage time, Kolarov released Yaya, and off he went, and kept going, with five Villa defenders trailing in his wake. He smashed it home for 4-0 on the night, and indeed City's 100th league goal of the season. Amazing stuff, it really was, and I was pleased to see that one go in big time, excellent. So one point needed on Sunday to win the league, but a win would seal it even more and it was so nice to hear the players saying they wanted to finish the job properly.

City went off the pitch applauding the fans with the strains of the anthem "The Boys In Blue" playing over the speakers (tune of the day) and never a truer word said in that one: "The boys in blue never give in", which is nicely merged with today's more modern chant from the City fans that "We're Man City, we'll fight to the end" and we do. It's through sheer determination and a focus that's got us back on top of the table for the first time in ages, but crucially when it matters. I just hope we can now finish the job on Sunday..

Tuesday 6th May - Back To The Phish(ing)

It was all go at work today, not least because it was the day after the Bank Holiday and therefore a shortened week, but mainly because of an email spam / phishing attack, that requested people to open an attachment that was an invoice of some sort. It was a malformed PDF with some nasty viruses/spyware contained. It did look as if most of the time Outlook had quarantined it itself and said "no, you're not allowed to open it" but after we'd had a request to report anyone who had opened the emails, we had plenty of them to deal with, me included.

That coincided with having two temporary members of staff join us today for the next few months which will be pretty useful all round to be honest. We're down due to people being off poorly and what have you, and I think the strain has shown at times, so getting these in should at least help out a fair bit. One of my managers showed them around the campus today, and they've been out with me on some jobs as well which has been pretty useful, including the safe way to change a fuser kit on one of our colour printers.

Still we were getting more calls about the attempted phishing email, and gradually I managed to work out what had been going on and ran some virus and malware scans on some. Occasionally they'd find the odd one and I'd then be able to get rid of them safely which was always pretty useful to do. I think too it's meant I've got out there and met lots of people and been able to converse with them as well, and make the time investigating any issues pass by much less time-consuming too. Sometimes it is good to be a people person.

I headed home and the journey took a lot longer than I thought it would, and approaching one of the junctions, I could see why - a car had had a bit of a bump and was taking up one lane of the two which turn right on to the main road, so effectively it was half of the traffic being able to turn at one time. This meant it took around twenty odd minutes or so later to arrive than previously thought - and so in a way meant I was able to get home, and just get on with things. And that's what I did.

I did indeed listen to all sorts tonight whilst finishing off composing this month's poems, which also gave me some inspiration. Such as The Durutti Column's second album "LC" which included the superb "Jacqueline" a perfectly short but sweet example of what Vini Reilly and co are about - so tune of the day was an easy decision really. I also turned my attention to some forthcoming gigs and thought that if I could get time off, heading to Birmingham to see Vix and the MsChiefs might be doable, but also... Gary Numan on a small venue tour!

I did ask about the possibility of going to Chester, but that might be a no. There's other gigs including Holmfirth Picturedrome but that clashes with a gig a friend and I are already going to. There are other options but seeing him in Cardiff a couple of years back was pretty good, a nice small venue with a great atmosphere and all that. I kind of wish though I'd have sussed these out a bit earlier, but many visits away from home and not being near a PC as of late put paid to some of that. Anyway, we'll see what happens..

Monday 5th May - The Jester Has The Last Laugh

The Love In My Heart and I had a leisurely lie in, and it was nice just to be up and not have to think about work, which is always a good thing. We had a few ideas in our head about where we'd like to go, and we thought that a nice walk around the gardens in Quarry Bank Mill would be a good idea. It also meant that we'd be able to have an afternoon together before The Love had home stuff to do and I could settle in and watch the last session of the World Snooker final, as I do of course.

We first off headed to the local Tesco petrol station as I had accumulated plenty of money off petrol with the Tesco Fuel Save vouchers, and putting some petrol in meant plenty of money off, so all good there. We headed down towards East Didsbury and then through Heald Green and on to Styal and towards Quarry Bank Mill. We thought that the car park was busier than normal and then we found out why - the National Trust had organised a Victorian May Day with lots of retro fairground rides and attractions such as a coconut shy for the children, complete with Punch and Judy show in the garden and so on.

We had a lovely walk around the gardens as well, which were taking shape especially in the allotment area, with one of the greenhouses fully restored, and the dipping pond had tadpoles in too. One of the nicest views over the whole of the mill and garden is from the very top of the gardens with a bench by the trees as you look down, and it was nice to sit there and chat hand in hand (very romantic I know!) and generally just be away from it all. There was even a Snugburys ice cream stand in the gardens too, so, well, vanilla tub it was for me then, and it was ace.

We headed back and were possibly going to have a drink or food out, but The Love said that it'd be best if we saved some dosh, so fair enough. We got back to mine, and the snooker was still on from the afternoon session. In fact it was now 11-11 and into what proved to be the final frame of the session two frames early, and that lasted ages. You'd expect Ronnie O'Sullivan to put in an easy pink to win the frame, but amazingly he missed it, Mark Selby cleaned up and it was 12-11 going into the evening session.

I had some tea, and then settled in for the final session, and what a session that proved to be. The atmosphere was cranked up several notches and Adamski's "Killer" belted out (tune of the day) as Rob Walker had the intro for each player as they came on to the Crucible stage. The atmosphere felt special and once it got to 12-12 after an excellent Ronnie clearance, the rest of the match came alive. Mark Selby won three on the bounce with some great tactical play to go 15-12, only for Ronnie to pull back two and it was 15-14.

Mark though wasn't to be overawed and went into another gear, and made a 127 century break which was under ten minutes and pretty excellent, and an 80 in the next made that one his as well, so 17-14 and all to play for. Then with the balls going a bit AWOL, it was a case of making the best of it and clearing up. And when it got to the colours, the final few that Mark sank to win the frame and the match were immense. The yellow in the final frame was excellent, but the green even more so. Holding the nerve was superb.

I don't get all this "negative snooker" slagging off of Mark Selby either. He unlike some players has a B game where if it's not going according to plan he can still find a way to win, and that's something you need to have in the locker if you need it. Also when he was able to get in amongst the balls he can be as lethal as anyone to finish a frame off, the final frames showed that when under intense pressure. He's made the fifth highest total of centuries this season, with 49, and that's one behind Judd Trump (50) and four behind Ronnie O'Sullivan (53) - plus he's contested five out of the last six "Triple Crown" finals, and all three this season, and completing his own Triple Crown to make him the ninth in history to do all three.

Sunday 4th May - A Damsel In Her Dress

My friends and I woke up on Sunday, reflecting on a pretty good day, and waking up with coffee and croissants was a rather nice start to the day, and we watched the iPlayer recording of The Football League Show. We weren't sure if he wanted to watch the whole Doncaster relegation thing unfold, but he did. Two of us did say that if our teams lost, Match of the Day was boycotted (glad it's not just me then who has this rule!) and it was good to have a final chatter before two of our friends headed homewards, as I did later with my friend very kindly dropping me off at the station on the way to his relatives' place.

The train ride home was fine, it let on a shed load of people in Sheffield heading towards Manchester Airport, and The Love In My Heart agreed to come and pick me up at Piccadilly on the way back, so we could therefore head out and do some shopping. She had some gift cards for Oasis and wanted to use them towards something that she had seen and wanted for her birthday in there. We figured that because it was easier for her to park there we'd just head in and get what was needed, hopefully.

It was lovely to see The Love and she looked gorgeous as per usual. It was also really nice to be able to spend some time chatting in her car on the way to the Trafford Centre, and we noticed on one of the roundabouts close to where Bowlers is that there were a considerable number of rabbits living on the grass bit in the middle. Granted it has trees and is around 60 metres wide, but even so, it was a bit of a different place for them to live. I just hoped that they weren't crossing the road, and getting hit by a car.

The Trafford Centre was properly busy but The Love managed to get into a space, and we were soon heading along and locating Oasis. We found out how much was on the gift card, and attention focussed to the very nice crepe "Lola" styled shift dress which she was after, and in blue. We didn't see it in blue, but saw it in a yellow ochre colour, so I suggested that she tried it on to make sure the size was right for her, and then she'd then know what size to look for in blue. Made sense, I thought. As she tried them on, and she looked gorgeous in it even in yellow, one of the lovely ladies in there said "I'm sure we've got a couple in blue left" and scurried off.

She came back, and had located a blue one, and in the size which The Love In My Heart was after. She tried it on, and wow, she looked stunningly lovely. I thought "you have to have this no matter what" and kindly offered to put the rest to for her, but she was more than happy to do that herself, and so one purchase later, and she was a very happy bunny, and rightly so in my view. I have a feeling she might be wearing that when we head out this weekend, and deservedly so as well.

Later on we settled in to see some of the world snooker championship final with Mark Selby up against Ronnie O'Sullivan, and I made us some rather nice chicken roasts with potatoes and peas for tea. We both thought that Mark Selby wasn't playing at his best and needed to hang in there, and hang in he did. At 10-5 down we both thought he needed to win the final two frames of the night to be just 10-7 behind, and that's what did happen. He's still in with a shout tomorrow. His walk on music "Fast Fuse" by Kasabian is tune of the day.

Saturday 3rd May - Doncaster Weekender II, Day Two

We all got up and about at my friend's place and had some very nice Cumberland sausages on some barm cakes for breakfast, with some nice fruit juice to go with it. That and some coffee were just the thing to get us up, and even a bit of the third session of the World Championship Snooker between Mark Selby and Neil Robertson. We knew though that we'd be heading off later that morning, going through Doncaster centre and on to the bowling alley where we'd booked - it worked out the first two games were part of an early bird deal so £5.95 for those and an extra fiver on top for the third game, which was pretty decent.

We waited at the bus stop near my friend's place for the bus into the centre, but it didn't arrive, and the next one then did at its time. In between that we had a bus head past that said "sorry not in service" with people on it, which several people after we'd got on were complaining about somewhat. We did get to the bus station, but then needed to get across quickly to the bowling alley, and so my friend directed us to the taxi rank and we got a taxi to where the bowling alley was. We had at least got an all day bus ticket which we could use later..

The bowling was pretty good, the bowling alley has people who look after it properly, it's always spot on with the balls being really good and responsive and I thought that any scores I earn would be properly done. Indeed, once the silly disco lights went off and it was back to the normal lights, it was a lot better for us all, and we could really show the skills off. I managed over 100 points in all three games which I thought was pretty decent, and one of our friends scored three strikes on the bounce and a massive total in game three.

Of course, it's always more tense when football is going on, and my friend from Doncaster, being a Rovers fan, was anxiously checking to see what the scores were. Doncaster were at the champions elect Leicester City, and Birmingham City, one point below but with a better goal difference, were at Bolton. At half time, 1-0 to Bolton and 0-0 at Leicester so all well. Even with Leicester scoring, as long as Bolton were winning it was okay. 2-0 to Bolton quickly became 2-1 and it was anxious moments, and we heard a groan from one of the reception staff. I headed over and he said to me "we're down mate. Birmingham just scored in stoppage time." It was true. We were all gutted for my friend really.

We headed back to the centre of Doncaster on the bus and had a very well earned pint at The Old Angel pub before heading though the centre, past Cask Corner (we were going to head in there later) and then to The Yorkshire Grey, which we'd spotted did food at non-expensive prices, so a good place to do lunch in. And so it proved, with two meals for a mere £6.49. The fish and chips two of us had was spot on, and the curry pie also, along with the tikka massala. They did two for one on the desserts as well, so apple crumble for me, and that was ace.

They did have Sky Sports News in there, so the Sunderland fan amongst us could see the score of their game, which was effectively a huge match at Old Trafford against Manchester United. Sunderland were winning 1-0 and with Fulham and Cardiff losing and heading for relegation, it was working out. Even more so as Fulham were losing 4-1 at Stoke City and Newcastle United scored a late second goal to beat Cardiff 2-0 and send them both down. United lost 1-0 at home to Sunderland and my friend was pretty chuffed.

As I would be later, as we headed to the Black Bull pub and saw the first half of Manchester City's game at Everton, with Sergio Agüero and Edin Džeko giving City a 2-1 lead at half time. I kept my eye on the rest later on via the BBC Sport app on the phone with us eventually winning 3-2, which for me was great but for my Liverpool fan friend wasn't so good, especially as it then put pressure on them to do the business at Crystal Palace on Monday evening.

By this time we'd relocated to Cask Corner, and it's easy to see why it's such a nice haunt for real ale fans. It has eleven different nice ales on, a juke box with a good selection of tunes, and indeed a really nice atmosphere. It's a bit ramshackle in parts, but then so is Sandbar and that never did anyone any harm, and that's a place we also love to bits as well. We put some tunes on the jukebox and had some lovely beer, and we had Moonlight Shadow by Mike Oldfield for our host, to cheer him up a bit (he is a massive fan) and then True Faith by New Order, which my friend and I ended up singing most of! Tune of the day as it brought us all a huge smile.

Later on when there was a live act about to get underway at Cask Corner, we relocated to the final pub of the day, the Corner Pin, which was comfy and with some nice old school pub style too, very much a place you could chatter in rather than anything else, which was good. We then headed in good time to get the bus towards my friend's place and have the best Chinese takeout I've had in ages. If you didn't want a full portion of the Chinese meal plus rice or chips, for some of the meals they did a box, which had the meal and the rice in one box, a smaller and cheaper portion effectively. The chicken in black bean and egg fried rice worked a treat and that was rather lovely.

Friday 2nd May - Doncaster Weekender II, Day One

After heading up, sorting out lots of cleaning and ironing around the house, and then making sure that I had my case all packed for the weekend, it was off to Manchester Piccadilly station to get the train to Doncaster, where I'd be staying with one of my friends for the weekend, and indeed two of our friends would also be coming along. I do really look forward to the times we spend, they're usually full of much fun, and also nice real ale pubs, plenty of chatter and all that sort of thing. It's also a good wind down for those of us who have children (not me but two of the others do) and a general chance to be the big kids as well.

The train journey is always one that's shorter than I think. Obviously I'd done the trip to Sheffield on numerous occasions recently anyway, but once past there it was on past Meadowhall, and under the M1, and of course past what used to be the Tinsley Towers with the power station, not there anymore, before skirting around the back of Rotherham and onwards through Mexborough and Conisborough before joining the East Coast Main Line at Doncaster station, where my friend had very kindly come to collect me, much appreciated.

We headed back to his place and spent most of the afternoon with coffee and chat, and an occasional watch of the World Snooker Championship semi final, which looked pretty close between Neil Robertson and Mark Selby. It transpired that both our other friends had ended up close to the junction of the M62 and the A1, one coming Southbound from the A1, one eastbound from the M62, and there was a jam because of an accident. One of them managed to hit a left on the M62, come off at the A19 and cut through towards Doncaster and got there around 5.30pm, and about forty five minutes later our other friend got through the traffic and all was well.

We spent a bit of time in the evening relaxing and listening to various online mixes of old school Commodore 64 music, including the likes of one where various game themes were played in one six hour mix. Being old schoolers as we are, it was good to identify each one and each of us had a different take on the tune and what it meant at the time. This included game themes from the likes of Stormlord, Monty on the Run, Cybernoid, Savage, Fairlight et al.

It also included the main theme to the excellent arcade conversion of Ghosts'n Goblins, where the theme was a different tune and not the same one as the arcade version, which immediately I said "you do know this is a cover don't you?" and after a bit of searching, I came up with the original it was based on - "Dangerous Dreams" by Klaus Wunderlich. I played it back and my friends were like those in that Peter Kay sketch: "it tastes the same!" (etc). Definite tune of the day and it goes to show how inspiration can come from the most unlikely sources.

After a fair bit of the frisbee disc golf on the Playstation 3 with the Move controllers, it was off to the local takeaway, and we decided the local pizza place was the port of call. It was a little bit of a walk, but worth it, as everything was made fresh and looked nice. However, in hindsight I should have gone for the 9" deep pan or even the thin pizza, as the 12" deep pan I ordered was massive, and I could only eat just over half of it before deciding that enough was enough and leaving the remainder. We relaxed a bit more with some retro game themes before deciding it was time to get some well earned sleep.

Thursday 1st May - Watch It Blow

After liaising with one of my colleagues, it looked like the issues with multicasting were fixed, and so I could test a few task sequences with the new laptops to ensure that they were working correctly. One of my colleagues had one of the laptops from my batch as well, and so was able to test it and make sure that it worked over there too. On the positive note, all seemed rather good - things started to work correctly and it was a case of the speed being rather good as well. One other thing I noticed was that all the drivers, hotkeys etc all worked spot on as well, so that was a rather positive thing all round really.

I managed to get all five of them that I had to be done all complete by the end of the day, and everything worked nicely. One thing I noticed was that the backlighting seemed to be on for periods of time when you pressed a key, which was fine if you were working with the laptop at night. However, there's an option using one of the Fn function keys with the letter Z to either toggle it to on for a short time, on all the time or off, so at least that could be set just as the user wished to have it, which was quite a good thing really.

I got home later and the snooker semi final was on of course, and Neil Robertson and Mark Selby both played some very good snooker. One of the frames was a real tactical battle with some superb safety shots, and it showed just how much both players were concentrating to win the match. It was 2-2 at the mid session interval with Mark Selby making a quality century break and on the balance of play about right. I wasn't happy about the amount of kicks both players were getting from the table though.

Later on the frames were going Mark Selby's way with some good breaks and clever safety shots, one which Neil Robertson took several attempts to get out of. At 5-2 down he needed the final frame of the evening and cleared up with another century to make it 101 for the season, and that really set the tone nicely for tomorrow afternoon's second session between two of the world's best players, no doubt about that. I thought that it was a shame I didn't have a ticket for Sheffield really..

I then kicked back with some music and played Pop Will Eat Itself's title track from their Watch The Bitch Blow EP and it's still rather good all round to be honest - tune of the day was an easy decision. It still kicks backside just as much now as it did when it came out, and it's going to be one of my favourite singles of the year without question really. There's the attitude, the guitar riff, plenty of anger and plenty of power in it, all mixed into one. What more could you wish for?