Dear Diary... November 2007

Friday 30th November - The Central Island

Well it was a day off work today, and with good reason. I'd decided to make this weekend a bit of a long weekend - especially as there was a MJ Hibbett and the Validators gig at the Island Bar in Birmingham to go to! I'd booked the hotel and train tickets, and thankfully the hotel booking via meant that I'd got a decent room for around forty quid, so can't complain. Had I planned it better in advance I'd of course have gone for a Travelodge for £29 and that would have been that, but doesn't matter. I guess from the recent little tour last month it was actually quite nice to stay in other places for a change - not that I get to do it that often!

So after getting everything sorted in the morning, it was time to head to Piccadilly station to get on the 1154 train to Birmingham New Street. The journey passed off without incident and I soon managed to get out of New Street and head down Corporation Street to the bus stop. The Quality Hotel I was staying at was in Hagley Road, a road I used to travel up and down along in the early 1990s when I used to spend a fair number of weekends in Birmingham (long story) so I pretty much knew what buses still went down there. I craftily also remembered that the buses don't give any change whatsoever so I made sure that I had my three pound coins ready for the day ticket, and off I headed on the 126 towards the hotel.

During the journey, it amazed me how much some things have changed and some haven't. The concrete underpasses that ring the city centre are still there as ever, and Broad Street seems to have increased in number in terms of bars - it had a fair few back in the early 1990s but seems to be the happening place to go in the evenings now, with what was formerly Ronnie Scott's Jazz Bar now turned into a gentleman's club - you can only imagine.. Anyway, as the bus headed to Five Ways and along Hagley Road, there were some familiar sights - the Tesco right next to the Five Ways roundabout, the horrid concrete shopping centre on the other side of the roundabout, and the nice pub on Hagley Road which has proper ale, just opposite the cylindrical monolith that's the Strathallan Hotel. As it turned out, the Quality Hotel was pretty near there, and the TGI Friday's that's still there too, so I headed off and checked in.

Interestingly, the normal rate for the hotel was a massive £100 for a single room and £120 for a double, thank heavens I didn't pay that to be perfectly honest, way too much! Anyway, the room itself was nice enough, fairly high and comfortable single bed, working telly, and shower and bathroom that seemed to have a heated underfloor as well, so all good. If I wanted to, I could take advantage of the swimming pool complex, but I wasn't going to. Mind you the reception did tell me that breakfast was also thrown in as well which I definitely intended to take full advantage of in the morning!

I went into the centre of Birmingham to have a look around the shops, and notably the Frankfurt Christmas market that was in and around Victoria Square. The market reminded me of the one that they have in Manchester, full of little hut type stalls charging way too much for some handicrafts, and indeed some of the food stalls seemed to be charging way too much for hot dogs and beer. But on the plus side it did add a certain sort of ambience to the whole proceedings and that had to be praised at least. These days it's actually not a bad shopping experience in the centre, the revamped Bull Ring looking a hell of a lot nicer, and it definitely seems a lot more positive. It was rather busy all round, and after a few hours of browsing around and getting a couple of things, it was time to head on the bus back down Hagley Road.

I got showerered and changed and headed out to the Ask restaurant about two minutes walk away down Hagley Road. It was nice to see that this was one new development, and the ambience inside was very warm and inviting - always a good thing. I've eaten in Ask places before and they never generally disappoint, so it was the garlic mushrooms and then the carbonara for me, which went down a treat. It was hammering it down outside and so I was glad I was wrapped up pretty warm - even if I was going to a gig, the bar it was at looked the sort of place that you didn't necessarily want to turn up to in a band t-shirt.

Headed to the centre of Birmingham and my earlier check of where the venue was paid off as I was able to get there quickly (it's next to the Alexandra Theatre) and indeed out of the rain. Soon I spotted Mark (MJ) Hibbett, along with Tom McClure and Tim Pattison, so that was three of the band - and found Emma a couple of minutes later being very relaxed, and looking very festive in a very nice red number as well. Once Frankie Machine had made his way over from Derby, the line-up was complete and ready to rock in the upstairs bit of the Island Bar. It was just a nice intimate atmosphere inside and I think everyone was getting themselves in the mood to enjoy it.

First up was Winston Echo (official site) (Myspace) from Northampton. The lead singer seemed to be the main guy, and the drummer just seemed to be a mate helping along. The set wasn't bad, with short sweet bursts of little nuggets of wisdom, even if the words weren't always remembered or in the right order, and even a cover of Nirvana's "Something In The Way" thrown in, which was rather good. Just set me up in the mood though for MJ Hibbett and the Validators (official site) (Myspace).

In fact, this gig was memorable for several reasons: first off, Mark's girlfriend Charlotte was there too and was rather lovely to chat to - and had told me that Mark had been telling her endless stories of the recent tour (!), as were a few other people that were there too, and during the opener of "The Gay Train" the bloke who is Mileage turned up half way through the song! The line goes: "As my mate Mileage's Dad would say, it doesn't really matter if you're straight or gay, all that matters is love" and so it was rather a nice thing to have him there to hear that line live and performed with an audience. Awww. The vibe just felt really nice to start with, and that was just the start!

Other really nice songs followed, including "Things'll Be Different When I'm In Charge" which they hadn't played live for some time - so that was tune of the day right there - and a couple of new ones such as "Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid", the old classic "Post Subsonic Bass" and to end things with, "The Lesson of the Smiths" and lots of audience participation during "Easily Impressed" which went down especially well. During "My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once" I couldn't resist singing along to Emma's backing parts (it's mainly singing "My Boss Was In An Indie Band" during the verses) but throughout she seemed to be really enjoying herself and had a massive smile on her face. It was that sort of vibe!

Last on were The Icicles (official site) (Myspace), a rather nice six piece from Grand Rapids, no less. Their songs were really nice, the keyboard player had happy smiley grins throughout, and they just seemed to be enjoying themselves a heck of a lot. If only the mixing desk was better so you could actually hear the vocals, but hey ho, these things happen. They all had co-ordinated stripey tops or stripey trousers and it did look a very different way - but in a good way. The crowd seemed to like them too. As it turned out, their outfits were all co-ordinated, as I found out later.

Anyway, it was time to mooch around, and had a nice chat with all of the Validators, Charlotte, her friend Ange, and a couple of members of the Icicles. Joleen on keyboards had noticed that I'd smiled through the gig, that's cos it was a happy smiley sort of thing, and she couldn't resist having a big grin too, it was that sort of atmos. Joleen also makes the outfits (she's skilled at embroidery!) too. Emily the bass player turned out to be a big Morrissey fan and was so excited seeing MJ Hibbett and the Validators' sleeve for "The Lesson of the Smiths". Turned out a few of the band were fans and they went to Manchester to do the whole tour of Morrissey-related places. And to think I pass The Holy Name Church on my way to work every morning, teehee! I liked what they heard and so I might have to investigate their "Arrivals and Departures" CD - they all dressed as airline cabin crew for the cover!

Went back to the Quality Hotel very uplifted actually, what a great end to the month and indeed a month that had started with some rock (in Bristol no less) ended with some more rock in Birmingham. I worked out that in the last month or so I've been to quite a few cities and towns and I think I'm starting to get the travel bug again - might even have to see if I can think about Cornwall next year, cos that would be rather lovely.

Thursday 29th November - Hey, Doctor Beeching!

Ah, the joy of live bootleg(ish) recordings. MJ Hibbett alerted me to the fact that Pete Green's live set from the Cornubia on 1st November (which I was at of course) was recorded by Rocker from Dandelion Radio, and now can be downloaded from here. Do have a download and take a listen, there's some really good songs in there, and one of them, "Hey Doctor Beeching" is my tune of the day. Why? Well, imagine if Beeching hadn't done all those railway cutbacks in the 1960s, think of the places we could still go to by train and open up more of the tourist industry for the UK these days.

For example, Transpennine Express' service to Scarborough could then go up the coast and carry on to Whitby, there could still be a branch line from Bodmin Parkway to Padstow in Cornwall, so those of you wanting to visit the land of Rick Stein could do so easily, and you could go from Swansea or Cardiff straight up to the picturesque coastal mid-Wales town of Aberystwyth. And.. you could go across the North Wales coast from Bangor along to Pwllheli. Imagine how much of a journey time that'd save if you were going there from Manchester, instead of having to change at Shrewsbury and get a slow local train all the way around the Cambrian coast? Well have a peek here and check out the 1961 and 1969 maps to see how badly the axe affected things...

Makes me wonder really. But, there is hope you know. When Manchester expands the Metrolink, the possible extension through Chorlton and Didsbury is in fact using the old railway line. In the old days, that line went on through the other side of Stockport and would join the line just south of Hazel Grove and on to Chinley and Sheffield. Now it'll probably stop at East Didsbury, but nonetheless recycling of the old line is a rather good idea. In fact the old Fallowfield Loop Line, which had stops in Fallowfield, South Levenshulme and then looped towards Piccadilly is now used as part of the National Cycle Network and is used well during the daytime for people to cycle around, so that's a positive. All that axing in the 1960s though, if it didn't happen just imagine how much better the public transport could be...

Wednesday 28th November - Power On And Repairs

Well after the mitigated disaster that was yesterday's power outage, everything seemed to be back up and running when I got to the office this morning. Well, I thought it was, but it soon became apparent that things weren't so well. Several of the fuse boxes in the building I work in had tripped out, including one for the server room - so no one could actually log on anyway, bit of a nightmare that. Once that was all up and everything started to kick back to life, things just took their time and for most of the day things seemed to be getting back to normal, slowly too.

In the end I thought it best to stay back in the office and do some server maintenance, those of you who use Netware will know the good old dsrepair command. So I started off with one of the main ones, got that done, and then dealt with the email server, and finally I was able to connect to that and administer it from the PC in the office, so that actually worked really well as intended. I guess that meant we'd have to do some more checking tomorrow just to make sure everything was playing ball, but it certainly seemed a lot better than it was - and a bit quicker too.

Also because some of the printers came on before the servers did this morning, they were trying to find a network address to be assigned to, but of course couldn't find anything! So ultimately it was also a case of me advising people to do the trick of "switch it off and then on again" which I don't like doing, but in this case it was actually the easiest solution, so it'd find its network address and happily start printing again, which is something I suppose.

After all that fun and games I was glad to get home and kick back and watch the Liverpool-Porto Champions League game. To be fair to Liverpool they did play really well and they deserved their 4-1 win, but it still means, realistically, that they need to go and win in Marseille, not an easy task. But it's in their own hands now and that's the main thing I guess. Mind you, it looked cold in Trondheim as Chelsea were panning Rosenborg 4-0 at their own ground, that's something. No wonder Didier Drogba looked so cold after he scored even with his gloves on - the wuss, he should actually play without them instead!

I must admit after doing all that research into those football songs for my recent article, I needed to listen to something decent yet football related and found just the thing - Pete Green's excellent "The Ballad of Phil Jevons". Fans of Everton, Grimsby Town, Yeovil Town and most recently Bristol City should know exactly who this bloke is, but if you don't, well listen to Pete's song anyway and enjoy it - it's on his EP, which you should buy. Sort of now. Tune of the day? An easy choice. Read the review if you don't believe me.

Tuesday 27th November - Power Off

I got into work this morning and everything was going according to plan. I was going to enter some data in one of our databases and also check the configuration of some revised settings for our anti-virus software we use, which also includes some spyware checking settings as well, when - blam! All of a sudden the lights went out and the power went off in the building. I looked around just in case it was our office that had gone off, as sometimes the local fuse box goes off and we have to get someone to reset it, but looking down the corridors, it seemed that there was no power whatsoever anywhere. One of our colleagues from the third floor came down to see us, and they had no power either.

In fact, checking the building and the ones near to us, it seemed that all the power had vanished and that the buildings were being evacuated. And as one of them was a halls of residence as well, some of those evacuated were in their pyjamas and duvets and were being escorted to another building to keep warm and also be temporarily placed there until all the power was restored. Myself and my colleagues kept an ear out for any information, and as it turned out the building I work in was being closed for the day and we were being sent home, as any power restoration may take some time to happen.

So as you can imagine, that was pretty dramatic. I got home after a detour via the city centre to get my hair chopped to bits (which I was going to do after work anyway) and found that a Christmas present that I ordered had arrived safe and sound, and that was rather pleasing. As I'd also ordered something for myself at the same time it made perfect sense to have a quick flick through that and check that it was okay, and so I might have to watch it later. Can't tell you what though, as it's the same item that I got as a present and so I'd be giving the game away as you can appreciate!

As I'm looking forward to Sunday's PFA Charity game between England and Rest of the World legends, I felt just in the mood to play a rather nice football related tune, and what better than Manchester band Supra's rather kick ass version of "Blue Moon". Not only does it do a soft opening bit, but then absolutely lets go and rocks nice and hard and gets everyone going, as it rightly should. It makes me go all goosebumpy when I hear it at City's ground and just gets me ready to sing for the lads for the ninety minutes. Tune of the day right there.

Monday 26th November - Slippershells

The day went by pretty anonymously to be honest, and then late on in the evening, one rather lovely thing happened that took me by surprise. You see, those of you who regularly read my diary or know me will know that I absolutely adore the music of Kristin Hersh and admire her as a person, and now that she's a writer as well of her first book (which I have the signed copy of, of course) she's now finally launched the CASH Music Project. For those of you not initiated into the whole idea, back in August Kristin decided that she wanted to try different ideas to distribute her music, and in essence the likes of Radiohead's "In Rainbows" has actually copied the concept of Kristin's idea.

Anyway, Kristin's part is now live, and you can have a read of it here, and the first track has been released, called "Slippershell". It's absolutely gorgeous and right up there with some of Kristin's best work, and best of all, you can decide how much you'd like to pay for it, if you wish to donate. One song a month is promised, which is all rather nice and lovely, and if you wish to donate and subscribe on a regular basis, you can do so, and it's well worth the money for the rewards you get. For example, US $30 a quarter ($120 a year, or around £60) not only gets you a window sticker, poster, and Kristin's new CD when released, but A Works in progress CD sampler and a free guest list pass for you and a friend for a Kristin Hersh, Throwing Music or 50 Foot Wave performance. You don't know how tempting that is for the likes of me, especially as you consider what you get supports the artist but the guest list privelege is rather nice.

Needless to say, I'm making "Slippershell" tune of the day - it's absolutely lush, gorgeous and plenty of rocking guitars that kick in very nicely. If this is a taster of what's to come, it's all very exciting and extremely worth it to say the least. I applaud her for trying something different in terms of distribution and think that it's a positive sign that people are not just downloading it, but also paying and subscribing too. I guess the loyal fans like me would because we feel that we'd like to give something back to her for all the music she's made over the last twenty or so years, but also appreciate that you can't just live off releasing stuff for free, it's a life and career too, you know?

I think that in essence the way that the artists are re-gaining control of their music and distribution is a positive. With the Year Zero remix album, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails has satisifed the contractual obligations and so can be freed of the corporate beast, releasing stuff as and when he'd like to. I'm sure too that many other artists will follow the same sort of lead. It's not just about the physical CD being available (which I'd always prefer as I like to have a physical object to hold and play on a dedicated system) but also about the way you can distribute that. If I were ever to compose anything electronically and release it, I'd probably do a limited edition proper CD release, bit like MJ Hibbett did with his recent album, and go from there.

And talking of MJ Hibbett, check out the BBC Radio Bristol's "Listen Again" for Sunday 25th November's "Bristol Uncovered" and during the show there's his interview and session tracks he did for them a few weeks ago, all on the ukelele, namely "Control Alt Delete", "Chips and Cheese, Pint of Wine" and "I Did A Gig In New York" which are all on the new album "A Million Ukeleles". Hurrah to that, I say. Isn't it so nice when stuff just works like it should?

Sunday 25th November - Fixing Things

I spent most of today fixing a PC for one of my relations, and on the whole it wasn't too bad a fix on the whole. I had on Friday discovered that the graphics card was completely kaput and not behaving itself, with vertical lines down the screen and barely usable - indeed when the driver kicked in and did any sort of hardware acceleration, it was blue screen of death time. Doing some more testing today proved that to be the case so I headed to one of my nearest hardware dealers and got a like for like card - a Geforce FX 5200, AGP version. It's not used for playing games so you don't need something too fancy really, nor too expensive, and it did the job.

Got home, unplugged everything, put the new card in, powered up, Windows found the drivers (the previous card was an FX 5200 as well, doddle) and all seemed well, nice clear display and everything there as intended. After that I thought it best to do a full scan of the PC and check for any viruses, spyware etc as well as make sure that the hard disk had been defragmented, sounded like it was churning around for a bit because it hadn't been done often. One defrag and check later and all seemed very well indeed - not least as I'd got rid of some spyware along the way that seemed to try and open pop up windows when using IE - despite the fact I'd put Firefox on there to make sure there was a much safer alternative. Still, you live and learn.

I got everything done in good time so I could relax, put the feet up, and watch Top Gear and then Long Way Down, which worked rather well. Top Gear with the three of them trying to convince the public that an old British Leyland made car could still be a good bargain and they ran it through all sorts of test. I had to giggle when the car door of the one Clarkson was driving came off rather spectacularly as it went down a bumpy road - and then dragged along behind for some considerable distance!

Whilst fixing away, always good to have some background music to keep you going. And with Christmas coming soon, I thought something warm and wintry would be a good move to do. No Christmas albums though, but instead something to really make me think of sunnier places, so Röyksopp's "In Space" just has to be the right sort of floaty feeling so that one's tune of the day. In fact, when you think about it, the whole of the "Melody AM" album has stood the test of time rather well, don't you think?

Saturday 24th November - Mirror, Signal, No Manouevre!

I had a nice day today as I went over to visit one of my good friends, and did lunch, coffee and everything and even though along the way the rain caught us both out, I'd had a really nice day and plenty of catching up and conversation ensued along the way, which to be truthful was rather lovely. I think if you make time for your friends and appreciate the time that you spend with them, it makes everything so worth it really that it's time to treasure and appreciate.

A good pub lunch is always rather nice, and the rump steak I'd had was rather spot on, it has to be said. Add to that an open fire that was burning wood and being rather toasty was just the thing, definitely helped considerably along the way and made conversation rather all the nicer for it too. Hurrah! I mean, okay, I'm not short of a word or two at times but I think sometimes when you are able to just take some time out for yourself and do something enjoyable it makes life rather worth it and a bit less short than it actually is too.

Anyway, the real hassle wasn't the journey there, which was a little bit delayed, but the journey back. The train was some twenty minutes late arriving, and then it proceeded to just get delayed further as it went through the Hope Valley, almost grinding to a halt a couple of times at Grindleford and Edale, but also stopping outside Chinley due to signal failure. As it turned out the train trundled into Piccadilly some fifty minutes late because of all that, but at least I could then take the train back home from there which arrived pretty quickly so it wasn't all bad news I guess. The weather was pretty wet and wild and I'd be hazarding a guess that high winds had something to do with the journey delays, at a guess.

Got back home and whacked on some CSI episodes to relax me somewhat over some more coffee (I tell you, it's just the thing for keeping warm at the moment!) and then put on Frank Zappa's rather classic "Hot Rats" album. I thought it'd be the perfect antidote for someone on the train who insisted on listening to some rather rubbish current chart stuff, and so it proved to be honest - the excellent "Son Of Mr Green Genes" is just an example of how to get a few bars together and just make it into a progressive and brilliant instrumental - tune of the day right there!

Friday 23rd November - One Goal, One Million, And Nine Tickets

I dashed after work off to the Manchester City ticket office to get tickets for me and some of the family to go to the PFA Centenary charity match on December 2nd, which has an array of England legends versus a talented squad of Rest of the World legends, all for a good cause by raising money for the new Manchester Children's Hospital. And as the PFA is based in Manchester, it makes perfect sense not only to host the game but to also raise money for a local charity along the way, which is a really worthwhile one at the same time.

Amazingly there was no queue at the ticket office, which surprised me somewhat, and the bloke in the ticket office told me that sales weren't going so well for this game - and I got some really good seats for the nine of us going. It surprised me somewhat as the tickets were a mere £10 for adults, £5 for kids, and if two adults go, one kid goes free, which you can't say fairer than that. Add to that of course that the date doesn't clash with Man City's away game at Wigan, and the appearance of plenty of legends who played for both Man City and Man Utd, and it makes you wonder really. Oh well, I'm going, and I'm going to make a day of it for sure, especially if Shaun Goater ends up playing from the Rest of the World Squad (managed incidentally by City's manager Sven-Göran Eriksson) and I'm sure many of us City fans would love to see that really.

I stopped off to get some food shopping on the way home and then settled in for the evening looking at a PC that one of my relations had brought over. After some initial tests I was reckoning on the graphics card being the culprit for anything failing, as straight lines were appearing down the monitor screen that clearly weren't supposed to be there - and they were there even in safe mode, which definitely indicated to me some sort of failure. I'll have to see if I can obtain one over the weekend and give it some testing and go from there, that would be the best way to do it I reckon.

I kicked back with another listen to PJ Harvey's excellent "White Chalk" album tonight, perfect for keeping the cold weather away, not least with it being a potential minus five degrees in the middle of the night and being a bit nippy to say the least! And on there is the rather wonderful "Dear Darkness" that sounds more beautifully poignant with every listen, and for some reason, having seen it live, it draws me in like no other, so that's tune of the day right there.

And yes, I looked for Morrissey tickets. But darn Seetickets, you thought Ticketmaster were bad? They're argubaly worse. The ticket face value is £35, Seetickets then add on £3.50 booking fee and a massive £4.80 admin charge. So that's another £8.30 on top, which in real terms is an increase of around 24%! The venue box office only charged a £2 booking fee in comparison, and obviously their tickets sold out much quicker. Darn and blast really, I hate ticket agencies and their exorbitant costs, and that's just another example.

Thursday 22nd November - No Surprises Really

Well, after the abject and disgraceful lack of performance by the England football team last night, it was only a matter of time before Steve McLaren was to be sacked, and once we at the office heard that there was going to be an emeregency board meeting and then press conference, it was pretty inevitable that it would be the sacking that in truth many people had hoped for. But in my eyes, at least, that's not even enough. It just felt like he was the head puppet in a power game between the players and the manager, and for me several of the players should hang their heads in shame after the way that they didn't even try.

Peter Crouch aside, no one seemed that bothered and no one wanted to actually show that they cared enough to do something about the situation. Having been given a chance to qualify where only a draw would do, the way that the team didn't play was subject to so much debate. Whether it be the negative tactics or not, it just seemed that the players were too arrogant and assumed that they would qualify anyway and only had to turn up. Wrong, just wrong, and that sort of attitude was one that would not only cost but quite rightly be one that would have amounts of vitriol aimed at the players.

I'd personally like to aim a considerable amount of that at Frank Lampard, who for the last three seasons has not really put together a decent performance for England. In fact he was totally anonymous until he took the penalty to make it 2-1, and the way he just didn't seem to get any grip on the game nor at least perform was nothing short of absolutely appalling. His prima donna attitude seems to be much more prevelant than some of the England squad, and he doesn't seem that bothered. The fans have rightly been giving him stick for some time over his abject performances, so you'd think to prove the fans wrong you'd perform, right? No, he actually played much worse and just was in it for the money, a disgraceful attitude that smacks of pure arrogance. In a Chelsea side masked by talent, he can easily look good, but would he be the same in an average side? Just ask West Ham fans what they'd think and they'd all tell you he wasn't a patch on his dad.

But enough of that, or else I could happily rant on for hours and still come to the same conclusion. And in truth that wouldn't be a bad idea for a book of rants, don't get me started! But anyway went over to see a couple of friends of mine in the evening, and that was quite nice to do. In the end I ended up taking out some PC parts and replacing them but found out that in fact there was still the occasional PC crash that really wasn't the ideal thing to do, so it'll be a case of maybe looking at some replacements over time. It was nice to have a good natter though and we were debating the Morrissey gigs in January. I'm tempted, but I'd like to see how much I'd be ripped off for the booking fee first.

Anyway, in recognition of the abject failure of the England team (or lack of) I'd like to dedicate Joy Division's "Failures" to them and that's my tune of the day. At least the Joy Division song has actually a bit more passion and rockiness to it than the team do right now, and at least it was played by four Mancunians who actually cared too about what they did. The England players could learn a lot there I think.

Wednesday 21st November - Got My Toby Snax

I'm a very happy little one right now. Why's that, you ask? Well, some time ago I ordered Kristin Hersh's book "Toby Snax" and not just the normal copy, oh no. You see, to help finance the book's production, there was a limited edition of 50, which was the normal book but with a hand drawn picture of the Toby Snax character on the inside cover, and that would also be signed and numbered by Kristin herself. So with me being quite a fan of her music and stuff (understatement, as those of you who know me will know) I excitedly ordered it and the very lovely Tine who runs the Throwing Music web store looked after me and sorted it all.

So, when I got home from work today and found that a package from the USA was there in the post, I knew what it was going to be, and it's absolutely gorgeous. Not only is the illustration beautifully drawn, but the signature is just wonderful to have and mine's number 5 of the 50, which was a rather low number to have. The book's good too, a really nice cute kids story for the younger ones. I'm quite tempted to get the regular edition for a couple of younger relations in the family actually, as it looks the part and the colourful drawings are enough to get anyone's attention. Now all I need is an adult sized Toby Snax t-shirt, that would be rather lovely.

Well it's England on later and I hope that the team do the business to be honest, we need to. I'm kind of glad that Paul Robinson appears to have been dropped though, he's been a bit bobbins lately and not the keeper you want in front of the back four. As Scott Carson did a good job on Friday he deserves to play (his club form for Aston Villa's been good also) and I think that it's a case of making sure the job gets done. What we mustn't do is play for a draw, because that's got a whole load of connotations and worries attached as if we lost, well it would be Goodnight Vienna - literally! I can't see Russia not beating Andorra so you have to make sure the job is done, especially now as it's back in our hands again.

As I mentioned yesterday, today is No Music Day. As such there's no tune of the day to speak of. In fact I almost got away with having listened to no music at all until lunchtime, when the pub had some tunes on in the background, and during the afternoon my colleague whacked on the Led Zeppelin compilation around 3pm. Not listened to anything at home though and do feel better for it in a way - sometimes you need to see if you can manage without certain things to see if you can cope..

Tuesday 20th November - Birthdays And Surprises

As it was my sister's husband's birthday today, I spent some time after work at their place which was all rather nice. In fact I'd got him a little present of a mini optical mouse to go with the laptop, which I thought was a rather good idea and one that would work. After all, have you ever tried to use a nipple mouse on a laptop? They're absolutely horrible. As for the touch pad thing, you end up being oversensitive and double clicking when you don't want to. In these situations only a real mouse will do and nothing else, which is why I'm quite pleased that my trusty MS optical beastie still works really well as intended after a couple of years of movement and pointing on a constant basis (apart from when I'm typing like a maniac of course).

A nice package arrived for me too which was the JAMs' "It's Grim Up North" CD single. After Saturday's diary entry I had a look online and saw that there were some record dealers via the Netsounds music dealer portal offering it, and for not that much dosh. So I did the decent thing for myself and ordered it. Now, bearing in mind my order was Saturday afternoon, and there's no Sunday collections in the post anymore, then it's the earliest it could have got here as the CD was posted out Monday. What's nice is that Netsounds often handle the credit/debit card payments on the seller's behalf, and then they get the money via them. Makes things a lot easier and it's dead easy to use too. Hurrah!

Of course I went straight into the ten minute version that is Part 1, which is really extended and has a middle verse that the radio edit doesn't, which features more Northern place names and even the M62! (yes, really). It's just really insightful and clever, and to be honest the KLF (lest we forget the JAMs was one of their alter egos) were ahead of their time. If only people realised that now to be honest instead of watching yet another dance video with pointless tits and ass that only just serves to promote the whole dance scene as something you want to get into if you want to get off with a supermodel girl that you'd have no chance with. In fact, I remember Bill Drummond purchasing a painting, splitting it into lots and lots of squares, which you could buy at £1 each. I remember getting a couple of them for a couple of friends when the exhibit hit the Cornerhouse in Manchester, and that was rather good fun all told.

But that isn't tune of the day - why? Well simply because I heard something today that reminded me of just how indie music used to be and how it was actually rather nice to be reminded that getting into the top 40 was a major achievement - namely Ride's "Taste". If you've forgotten how this gem sounded back in the day, then I suggest you head over to the blog named "Because Midway Still Aren't Coming Back" and look at the April blog entries, and you should be able to snag it from there. I even remember The Mary Whitehouse Experience show taking the pee out of Mark Gardner of the band. Happy days, they were. And taping the video to "Taste" off the Chart Show... ah, memories.

Incidentally, as tomorrow is supposed to be No Music Day, I'm not going to have a tune of the day for tomorrow. Unless I craftily pick John Cale's "4''33" as that's just silence all the way through, but that's kind of defeating the object isn't it??

Monday 19th November - Grinding Onward

Finally got several laptops almost done at work today and felt very positive on the whole, it has to be said. I think it's because I was able to get everything done that I wanted to and not feel that many distractions during the day, so I could concentrate on the task ahead, which always helps somewhat. I think when you're focussed on something you manage better, and even got a nice little roll out of one of our Inventory clients done at the same time. Such is the way of the world I guess, but at least I was able to get what I needed to do done, so that pleased me a fair bit.

I've been coughing the last bits of flu bug out of me today and I generally feel tons better than I've been doing, so that has to be a relief, I can tell you. I'm not taking any chances just yet but I do feel much better once I've had some warm liquid inside me, and a nice cup of tea sets me up nicely for the rest of the day generally. I pondered this as I was doing some research into some driver downloads and just let the antidoxants in the tea kick in nicely. I think in a way that generally even though it's not been the best bug to have, best to get it out of the way now and not have one during the Christmas period, fingers crossed.

It does feel like a grind at times, only because I've just got my head down and the workload's increasing a bit but at the same time also it's best to keep busy, I reckon. I've also been fascinated by the start of that series on BBC Four about the motorways, excellently narrated by Philip Glenister, which gave you the real reason just why the M62 goes round a farm between a couple of junctions, and in the process shows you the first motorway (the M6 Preston Bypass) also being built. It was also because of the work of two designers that all road signs changed to be consistent, and the fact that they're all still in use today is testament to the excellent design work back then that made everything functional but proper, and that's how it should be - easy on the eye.

In the office today we had the Led Zeppelin "Mothership" compilation on, as my colleague had purchased it on iTunes and added it to their library. Excellent. No complaints from me as the likes of "Kashmir" and "Stairway To Heaven" were being played. But, because of its use in School of Rock (complete with Jack Black practically begging the band to let the track be used in the film - see the DVD extras) then it had to be "Immigrant Song" as tune of the day. It's just a classic of classics really, and the perfect start to Led Zeppelin III (of which I've got the original vinyl LP with rotating wheel cover, fact) so tune of the day right there.

Sunday 18th November - We Love You Israel, We Do

After writing yesterday's diary entry, I had a phone call from my uncle asking if he could come over and watch the Scotland v Italy game, and with Israel v Russia on a bit later than that, I thought it was a good idea, so he and his son came over just in time for the 5pm Scotland kick off, and with warming cups of tea all round, time to see if the Scots could qualify for Euro 2008 and despatch Italy. I really hoped that Scotland would do the job, although I was also thinking that if Israel got any sort of result against Russia that would be a major bonus.

Seventy seconds or so in, the Scottish defence fell asleep, the ball came in with no challenge and Luca Toni made it 1-0 to Italy. The Scots fought back admirably, although an Italian goal ruled out for offside, which was actually an appalling refereeing decision (cos it wasn't offside to be honest) did turn the game slightly - the Scots could believe again that it was their night to be and pressed on, and with the mighty Hampden roar behind them you could feel the atmosphere on the back of the neck and be able to take it all in. It just felt right and I was hoping that the result would go their way, and when the equaliser went in to make it 1-1 it was just almighty. Around a few minutes later, I flicked over to Sky Sports 3 to see Israel take the lead against Russia, so the big plan was going rather well at that point.

Disaster struck for Scotland though, a couple of chances went begging and right at the end the Italians got a free kick that only the ref knows why he's given it. The cross comes in, the Italians head home and make it 2-1, and it's goodnight Vienna - literally - for Scotland. An absolute heartbreak and I could see the faces of anguish all round the ground. Despite that, they shouldn't feel too down - an incredible performance to be able to battle to the end, and in a campaign where in a group with Italy and France they've beaten France in Paris and pushed both teams to the wire, they should be proud of themselves and use that as a platform for the 2010 World Cup qualifiers.

Anyway, by the time the end of the second half came for Israel v Russia, the Russians had equalised, hit the post twice and had come close to scoring. My uncle was asking me to turn the telly over, but having watched City far too many times score at the death, I knew I had to watch the whole thing. Thirty seconds later Israel scored in stoppage time and let's just say there were three very happy people going mental at the Towers, it was absolute euphoria and to make things even more fun they almost went and scored a third. But no matter. With that and Croatia's loss to Maceodonia 2-0 (Croatia had already qualified due to Israel's win) it means that England could win the group if they either beat Croatia 2-0 or by three clear goals. Now that would be a turn up for the books, but I fear it'd only mask things for the time being. Still..

Been having a leisurely day today mainly watching all three rounds of the V8 Supercars from Tasmania (thank heavens for Motors TV and their delayed coverage so I can watch it at a reasonable hour). The three races there leave the finale at Philip Island nicely poised to say the least, so that was good all round, and indeed the closeness of the racing meant wheel to wheel stuff and the occasional collision, one of which put championship leader Garth Tander out of the third race and which meant Jamie Whincup won that and also took the lead overall, exciting stuff ahead then. I kind of wish that series would have more exposure, as it's certainly exciting racing for sure - or could we at least get live coverage of Bathurst? Please?

Continuing the KLF related theme from yesterday, I remembered Blacksmoke's excellent EP "F**k the f***ing f***ers" and although the title track was very nice, it was in essence a reworking of their earlier track "Gimpo Gimpo" which was basically the band driving round the M25 in a Ford Transit van. Insane, loud. Industrial and jsut the sort of anti-safe music which I actually adore to bit. Repeat after me... "Round and round in your Transit van, choking London with your fumes, no place to go but round and round as London burns into the ground!" - oh yes. Tune of the day by miles there. So much so that you really need to watch the accompanying video:

Saturday 17th November - People Have Birthdays Too!

I spent a bit of time with some relations today, some of it planned, some of it not so! I went over to Mum's for a cuppa and a chat and then headed on the bus into the city centre, as I needed to get a couple of things. Next stop after I got on was my sister and her daughter along with my auntie, so that was a nice surprise to see them. The little one was holding on to her new favourite soft toy, Stitch from the Lilo and Stitch Disney cartoon and film, and even attempting to put her woollen hat on that of the soft toy! I thought that was really sweet, and after seeing them safely into the city centre, I popped over to where my brother works to see him and his girlfriend and have a good chat, good to see them both as well.

Anyway, as I ventured into WH Smith to get a couple of birthday cards (it's lots of birthdays this month, five in all!) and I thought "hang on, need some wrapping paper to wrap up a present in". Could I find any? No. If I wanted Christmas wrapping paper that was all very well and doable, but normal everyday birthday wrapping paper seemed completely non-existent. After a few minutes I just gave up and almost put the cards back in protest at their lack of consideration, but thought better of it when I saw the queues everywhere. Thankfully I was able to get some closer to home, but that wasn't the point. People have birthdays in November and December and they don't want a token effort of just some wrapping paper that's all Christmassy, they want something that says "it's your birthday". It's a sad state of affairs when one of the leading newsagents in this country can't be bothered to consider that.

I'm in two minds whether to watch the Israel Russia game later. Part of me wants to, just in case Israel get a result and do England a big favour, but as one half of the game will clash with the second half of Scotland v Italy, I'd much rather see how they do and see if they qualify. It's down to the last game and basically if Scotland win they're through, if they lose they're out. But nonetheless to be in with a chance, and in a group that includes both France and Italy, is credit to them and I think even if they don't make it, they should be applauded for their efforts. Certainly they're doing what England aren't right now - playing with fire in their bellies.

As it was very cold this morning I kept thinking of one song, the JAMs' "It's Grim Up North". Technically speaking the JAMs are of course the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, an alter ego for the legendary KLF of course. I love the fact that all the Northern place names are recited in a very deadpan droll way with some pounding techno beats over the top. And it can be grim up here, but at the same time it's rather cold all over the country at the moment and so it doesn't surprise me that it seems quite grim. In any case, it's tune of the day and below is the video for your enjoyment.

Things to note: Leigh is mentioned twice in the song and as for Scarborough-on-Sea, since when? Always thought it was just Scarborough myself. Anyway.. always wanted the CD single of this because the track's some sixteen minutes long in two parts, sort of prog techno? Hehe. And if you've ever been Hebden Bridge, well it's rather cold up there it has to be said!

Friday 16th November - This Means Nothing To Me, This England Friendly..

..oh, Vienna! Literally. I was sort of half heartedly watching the England friendly on Friday against Austria, and whilst at least we won 1-0 with a goal from Peter Crouch, it just didn't feel like a coherent performance at all. Whether or not it was the many substitutes that were used, the extent of Michael Owen's injury meaning that he's out for several weeks, or the fact that the team have been rattled by some rather truthful comments saying that they're over hyped and quite frankly not good enough, I don't know. The media don't help either, instiling that it's England's almost divine right to win stuff. Actually, it isn't, and hasn't been for some time.

It just felt as if too many players were going through the motions hoping to be picked for Wednesday, and did we learn anything from it? No, apart from the fact that Michael Owen is yet again injury prone and I'm sure the Newcastle fans will thank Steve McLaren (once Middlesbrough manager, remember?) for ensuring Owen's out of action for the Magpies once again. In any case it could all be all over tomorrow provided Russia win in Israel - might not be that easy a task but to be honest I have a feeling that we're going to go out. The only question is then if McLaren gets the sack. Well, quite frankly, he wasn't the right man for the job in the first place, too much a yes man underneath Ferguson at Old Trafford and later Eriksson with England. More to the point, he doesn't seem to care enough and wear the heart on the sleeve and instil that pride and determination. Is it no coincidence that the England under 21s under Stuart Pearce have won their first five qualifying games on the bounce, and in the process not conceded a single goal either? Now if that isn't consistency, then what is?

The thing is, the FA are in a tight spot. Sacking McLaren now might prove expensive financially and indeed would start a frantic search before the World Cup qualifying starts, but also maybe the key is to actually give the manager the time to develop the squad as he can? Remember that in 1988, despite qualifying for the European Championships, England were rubbish and everyone was calling for Sir Bobby Robson to be sacked. What does he do? Qualifies us for the 1990 World Cup and with passion in their hearts, goes all the way to a semi final defeat against Germany on penalties. So often it was pride and passion that got the team through, but they all played as a team and memories such as the last minute of extra time winner against Belgium were embedded into English football folklore. A bit like this:

Ah, the days when Paul Gacsoigne was good! I remember watching that game with my brother, and we both jumped out of our seats when the goal went in, and everyone in the street was outside celebrating afterwards, happy days!

With the football in mind, I thought of some football related songs, maybe a possible future themed CD compilation I could come up with? Well I thought of one straight away that makes me smile, and that's the excellent "England 2 Columbia 0" by Kirsty MacColl which describes being on a date with someone who was a cheat and yet despite all that still the England team did the business and it was something to hold on to during that time. As it's such a darned good tune, it's tune of the day right there. In fact, it makes you wonder just how tragic it was for her to be killed back in 2000.

Thursday 15th November - Light At The End Of The Tunnel?

Well after a really hard night's sleep, I think that the chest and throat infection, or flu, or whatever I've got, is starting to make a move. I've not coughed as much as I have the last three days and I'm generally not either overheating or feeling too snuffly. I even managed to get all the laptops finished that I'd been working on - and that included the late arrival of some extra RAM that had to go in them all to bump them up a nice round 1GB, so that was easy enough to do as well. I felt really pleased on the whole that I'd managed to get everything working as intended and was able to get the job done ahead of schedule, which was the plan. And now another pile of laptops to work on - it seems everyone's buying new kit at the moment, oh joy!

Still, I can't complain too much - the week has flown by and I am starting to gradually see light at the end of the poorly tunnel and feel a fair bit better, which has to be good. As it's one of our colleagues' birthdays on Saturday, we're heading out for lunch tomorrow which will all be rather nice! I think sometimes it's good to be able to get out there on a birthday and do something a little different, and definitely for us all it also gives us something to look forward to. It's also Children in Need tomorrow and I'm so tempted to stay in and watch the proceedings in the evening and see what's on there. Of course last year there was the nice surprise of the cast of Avenue Q being on. Yaay!

And I really must go down to London and see it for a third time. I absolutely must. And quickly too, because three of the original cast do their last performance on.. December 1st! Nooo... nightmare. I did have an idea though so I'm going to see what becomes of that and go from there - I'm good sometimes when I have ideas floating in my head.

Anyway, I'm still recuperating with warm drinks and keeping myself on a level, even having bio yoghurts to settle the stomach too. Hopefully by the end of the weekend I'll be as right as rain, and I need to be to - the next few weeks towards Christmas are always a bit mental really and I'd rather be settled and right for them, as you can appreciate. And everywhere I go in town I'm starting to hear Christmas songs. Noooo! Way too early. So instead I'm going to offer you the perfect anecdote: "No Christmas" by The Wedding Present, the 12th of twelve singles that they put out in 1992, on a month. And it's just such a long chuddering almost depressing tune, perfect to be the antithesis really, so tune of the day it certainly is.

Wednesday 14th November - Ninja Warriors!

Whilst I was waiting for my friend to come round, I was wholly engrossed in what was being shown on Challenge - namely the rather odd show Ninja Warrior. Imagine, if you will, the Krypton Factor assault course, which is pretty hard going for anyone and a real test of all physical ability. Now, make the obstacles less in number but more in difficulty, add a nice strict time limit and make it so that you have to win each stage (there are four) to be crowned the Ninja Warrior, and make it really difficult throughout. Yes, you've pretty much got it in a nutshell.

And what makes it even more mad for us UK watchers is the fact that Challenge have got no less than Stuart Hall, presenter of the utterly bonkers It's A Knockout, to do the commentating duties. And boy, is it just great fun or what? He really does do his thing in such a hilarious way. Incidentally, if you're looking for many people to complete all four stages: don't bother. In fact it's normality that less than ten people complete the first stage, and indeed only two people in nineteen such competitions have completed all four stages - yes, it's that difficult!! Think like Takeshi's Castle where hardly anyone ever wins - ever.

Anyway, had a good time with my friend - we caught the back end of Ninja Warrior and had a good chat about the possible merits (or not) of The Z Factor. For me, I'm not going to budge, every time there's a reality talent show out there it means someone else who does the work the hard way doesn't get the exposure or the hype that they'd deserve instead. My friend did say though that if all these competitons means that we find one person that makes it, does that get deemed a success? A tricky one to call, but the problem is now that so many people are just on there for their fifteen minutes of fame: it's just like Andy Warhol predicted, you know!

I even whacked on some DVD-Audio surround discs, including Dire Straits' classic "Brothers In Arms" compilation. And I couldn't resist whacking on "Money For Nothing" in full advanced resolution surround - and boy does it sound rather excellent, not least when that guitar riff kicks in after the intro. It's just immense fun, and as it turns out the US 20th Anniversary double sided disc I have (CD on one side, DVD-A on the other) has been long deleted, it's proving not so easy to get hold of. And incidentally, Mark Knopfler himself had a hand in the re-master. Fact. And the UK 20th anniversary edition (which is a hybrid SACD) was downsampled from the DVD-A remaster. Fact. Nonetheless though such a classic tune as "Money For Nothing" deserves the tune of the day status.

Tuesday 13th November - Sleepy Hollow But I Can't Sleep

I continued onward at the ranch today with the laptops and got to the point where they needed one of the members of academic staff to have a play around with it and check that everything works as it should do, so I arranged a meeting with them for tomorrow and then concentrated on getting all the little jobs out of the way, and there's plenty which I've been getting on with in the meantime - so good to close a couple of them off. One of them involved some Access database work and so it was good for me to be able to get that out of the way so I could concentrate on the bigger tasks in hand, not least as I'd had delivery of some more laptops which was my next big job to get done!

This evening I went over to a friend's and spent some time there, which was all rather lovely. Always good to catch up with friends I think, and over coffee and later on some rose wine it was a case of putting the world to rights and overall being rather relaxed. Indeed later on we caught the last hour or of the Tim Burton film Sleepy Hollow, and as we're both big Tim Burton fans that was obviously the thing to do. What of course is intriguing is the fact that in a lot of Burton directed films appear the likes of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter - indeed they're both in the next Burton film Sweeney Todd, and of course the overall feeling of gothic-ness rather added to the whole appeal. I'll have to start thinking of when it gets closer to Christmas to watch the classic The Nightmare Before Christmas on DVD, definitely one for all the family that!

Unfortunately my chest just didn't feel completely good at all and if anything I actually felt worse than yesterday, coughing and spluttering and not managing to get to sleep for ages - in fact I reckoned it was something approaching 1am by the time I was able to get some shut eye. Not ideal of course during a work night but I guess that's the way it happens sometimes and at least I had nodded off somewhat. No matter what I was trying nothing was seeming to shift, and so I resolved to try and do something more about it tomorrow.

In the meantime, as I'd planned to try and drift off to sleep I was in the mode of playing stuff that might generally make me feel dreamy - but as that didn't work I thought getting some tunes played that would tire me out might do the trick instead, so on went some Prodigy and on went "Firestarter",a true classic of its time. The fire is how my throat felt, but hey, what the hell, even if the tune lifts bits of The Breeders and The Art of Noise, it's still well good enough to be tune of the day. So there.

Monday 12th November - Off My Chest? If Only?

I woke up this morning (in true Blues song style) and found that whatever had made me cough a splutter a bit over the weekend had in fact got a whole lot worse. I was coughing like mad and just felt very very chesty indeed, and it wasn't a very nice feeling. My head was ready to explode and generally I wasn't one hundred percent whatsoever, which didn't feel very nice at all. How I'll manage through the next few days, not least as I've got several laptops to be getting on with imaging, is beyond me, and I'll just have to concentrate on being "in the zone" as it were, and go from there, it's about the only thing that I can do really.

Anyway, what was nice was that I did manage to at least not only get all the drivers sorted for the laptop I was working on, but also make a start on adding the updated software to the image as well and actually making some progress. This was a rather unexpected bonus but at least I knew that I was able to be methodical about it and carry on with work and generally sit out of the way of everyone and get on with it - so that was something - that in between sucking throat lozenges and anything else that I could get my hands on that'd make my throat a bit less painful to bear.

As it was, I got home and decided to take a leisurely evening in and just catch up on some episodes of CSI from the series 6 DVD set I'd made a start on. In essence, it's actually very nice to be able to watch them back to back and in order, it just appeals that way and of course there's no annoying commercial breaks in between so you can just concentrate on the actual content instead, which is all very nice isn't it? I've hopefully got the rest of the week nicely planned as well so I'll have to see how that all goes, methinks.

As I'd been listening to some mellow music during the day to try and keep myself at one, the theme continued during the evening and so some Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds was my weapon of choice, not least "Nobody's Baby Now" which is just gorgeous and just really well written - not to mention that Cave's voice is in very good form and that's what matters. So that's my tune of the day right there really.

Sunday 11th November - The Magic Of The Cup Less The Lack Of Dancing Magic

I ended up wrapping lots of Christmas presents last night while watching Strictly Come Dancing on the television. Now I know there's been lots of fuss about the fact that the results show is now on a Sunday compared to the fact that it used to be later on the Saturday night, and I have to agree with the dissenters here. The whole point of something like that is having the votes counted on the night and then finding out who's been kicked off so that you're aware of it. Pre-recording it on the Saturday evening and then showing it on Sunday is a bad move - and it mirrors the US one, which may work for them over here but it doesn't quite do the job here. While the dance off does make sense, it still allows for surprises to happen. I just wish it'd go back to a Saturday night as it should be - much more fun that was!

Anyway, with presents wrapped I watched a couple of episodes of CSI on DVD and then had an early night - whatever coughing I've been having just got a bit worse and I couldn't face attempting to stay up to watch Match of the Day, so I instead decided to get up in the morning instead and watch it, but also have the red button to hand so I could watch the FA Cup first round goals. Now, the magic of the FA Cup is still there and if you don't believe me, ask the likes of Barrow, who did a marvellous job holding Bournemouth to a 1-1 draw, and Staines Town, who got a 1-1 draw at Stockport, so a replay for "The Massive" there. And indeed the likes of Chasetown and Harrogate Railway who beat fellow non-leaguers to get to the second round and be in the draw. I must admit I did feel sorry for Altrincham though, they were winning 1-0 and then one dodgy sending off decision later and the game changed for them - but they put up a good battle against Millwall.

You see, the magic of the cup is still there and for the clubs in the lower leagues reaching the third round and possibly facing the Premiership big boys is a mouth watering prospect, being pretty much their cup final. Things like television revenue help a lot if you're drawn against, say, Liverpool at home, because the cameras will want to be there and everyone will watch hoping for a shock upset - which is the magic of the cup really. On the day anyone can beat anyone else, and it was so nice to see proper old school football grounds where big concrete girders block the view, or little shed like stands behind the goals, sort of as it should be really. Mind you, I have to say that I really enjoyed seeing all the goals and will see at least the first half of Toruay-Yeovil before watching Man City at Portsmouth a bit later on.

Anyway, I felt the need to have something a bit melancholy on today what with it being Remeberance Sunday and all that, so what better than Natalie Merchant's "Thick As Thieves"? The piano version on the limited release of "Retrospective" is just so beautifully haunting and makes me feel a tinge of comfortable sadness when I hear it, and just sounded the right thing before the silence at 11am this morning - so that's tune of the day. As much as I hate war as much as the next person, for those people who gave their lives fighting for peace they should be remembered and honoured accordingly.

Saturday 10th November - In, Bought, Done!

I don't muck about usually when it comes to Christmas shopping to be honest. It's either a case of seeing something online which would do the job nicely and order it from my own home, or going in, getting what I need and out again before the centre of the city becomes not the place to be. My dislike of the Trafford Centre (the air quality is appalling to be honest) and the fact that you get so many idiots hanging around there means the centre of Manchester is my preference where possible, and it's usually not too bad if you're walking down the main streets and popping into shops as and when you need to. I could tell that the O2 people were still hyping the iPhone today though, even after its launch yesterday. I've got better things in life to spend money on than £300 for the phone plus the £35 a month for two years contract, thank you very much. The sad thing is that people were queueing outside the Apple store in London. Why?

Anyway, enough of that. I soon made my way around the shops and immediately some gift ideas came to mind. One that I knew what to get was for one relation, and I had to make a quick call just to make sure that what I was going to get was compatible with what they had, and that done, I purchased it and that was one off the list. I soon made that seven by the time I'd left the City Centre and headed towards Vinyl Exchange on Bridge Street to browse a few CDs for myself - I didn't get any but it was worth a look anyway and got me nice and relaxed after sorting out the shopping.

Two things I have to ask though: firstly in Argos, why does their system say "Order number xxx to your collection point, please?" when in fact the item hasn't even been put on the shelves behind the collection point? All it does is have a queue of people waiting at the collection point in question and that can cause frustration for people who've obviously assumed that their item is being there for taking away - surely it would be better for the collection point staff to key in the number of the item for collection once it had arrived, saving time and queueing. Makes me wonder why more people don't use the quick pay kiosks though, saved me lots of time waiting around it has to be said.

And secondly, why do people think it's okay to smoke in a bus shelter right next to me and deliberately aim the cigarette towards my face to try and make me inhale their fumes? In fact as I was having a bottle of water outside Boots, a couple of workers in there were sat down and decided to smoke. I moved to the next shelter along and then sat down again, hopefully making the point pretty clear. The thing is, most people that smoke do at least have some consideration for the rest of us and will try not to make us inhale or indeed be a bit less in your face about it - not these two. And they were working in the beauty counter which just made me giggle.

But on the plus side, one of the Boots employees in Manchester must have had good music taste, because what was playing as I was in there? No less than I'm From Barcelona's "We're From Barcelona", so that immediately had to be tune of the day becuase of the sheer unexpectedness of it being played in somewhere I wouldn't expect. I resisted the urge to sing but did have a grin on my face as I was queueing up to pay for some gift tags to go with the paper I'd bought a while back, so that kind of cheered me up no end in the bitterly cold Autumnal weather. Hurrah!

Friday 9th November - Driving Me Mad

I've been working on a laptop for most of the day to try and build an image for the department that purchased it, and they got ten of all the same one, so it makes sense that if I was to get one done correctly I could just image the rest - or at least that's what you'd think wouldn't you? However, I did notice that some issues came to light in that the laptop had had Windows Vista Basic chucked on to it, and the drivers for all of the hardware are only for Vista and not Windows XP. Bit of a nightmare that, and I've been spending a fair bit of time trying to track down the relevant drivers to enable everything to work as intended. Thankfully I'm almost there at the end of the day - even getting the Fn function keys to work correctly. Rather frustrating though that a big name laptop manufacturer is putting all their resources into Vista and not thinking about corporations that to be honest don't want to make the switch yet.. grrr.

Had a quick sprint around Tesco to get all the food that I needed, but also decided that it would be a good idea to get some Christmas cards as well - as some of the cards have to go abroad I'd much rather get them written out early and be able to have them all done and dusted. Thankfully the charity ones this year look very nice, and they raise money for three charities, one of them being Marie Curie Cancer Care, so that just happens to be the right thing to do. No qualms with me - if decent charities are being helped by me purchasing some cards that I'll use, then that has to be the right thing to do I reckon.

Had a leisurely and relaxing night tonight, chucked on a couple of DVDs and generally just took it easy. I was thinking of doing some Christmas shopping tomorrow, so that should work out quite nice, not least as I've had a few good ideas as to what to get people and if nothing else I get to spend a few hours out and about which is all rather lovely. I don't really want to get too excited about the festivities yet, but I do want to get the presents all sorted out so at least there's something which I can not have to think about. Not daft, me, you know!

As I felt in a bit of an indie mood tonight, I decided to whack on some classic old MJ Hibbett and the Validators, and even now the title track of their album "Say It With Words" is rather twee, cute and has all the right lyrics in the right places for anyone who can't necessarily express themselves by saying it with words - we've all done it myself included, so that just had to be tune of the day for me right there - and that's for sure. If you've ever tried to say to someone you really like how you feel, I can guarantee that the words don't just quite come out as intended really. Aaaaargh, so to speak.

Thursday 8th November - Christmas Lights and Golden Ages

I ventured into the centre of Manchester last night, primarily as I was going to see Elizabeth The Golden Age at the cinema and I thought it would be a good idea to see it while I could. I'd seen a few of the trailers and quite liked what I saw of it, and I do enjoy the original. And naturally there's the fact that Cate Blanchett is a rather good actress and absolutely nailed the part in the first one. All those things made me think that it would be a good idea all round to go, and despite the fact that the Christmas lights in Manchester were being switched on and a massed crowd would be there to swoon over Shayne Ward and Chesney Hawkes, I thought "well go anyway."

I'm glad I did, because it was a great film all round. It certainly made for a good sequel from the first film, not least because it centred around the time of the Spanish Armada when Elizabeth would have been much older, so the gap between the two means that the likes of Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush have aged to look the part in the sequel now. Cate is absolutely fantastic: dominant and powerful with rivetting speeches, but also emotional and full of self-doubt as required, and it's a commanding performance. Rush's reprising of his role as Walsingham is also superb, and he really does almost steal the show as he manages to keep on the right side of everyone as he strives to avoid the threat of the Spanish. Samantha Morton's a bit undertstated as Mary, but plays the role well with a convincing Scottish accent. I can take or leave Clive Owen but I can see why lots of women like him, and his role of Raleigh's pretty decent all round. Even if not completely historically accurate, it's an excellent piece of period drama and sits up there with the original as a great piece of film making.

I suppose as well that in reality it's the fact that nine years have passed since the excellent original and in that time it's been defined as one of the great period dramas of its time - and the sequel did have some negative views from the American press. I guess that having instead a mainly British and Australian cast that might have thrown them a bit - I don't know. But suffice to say from me that sometimes it's the story that has to work along with the performance, and if those work then it's straight on to a winner to be honest.

All the Christmas lights are on in Manchester and for the most part they do look reasonablt okay - not sure what to make of the new Santa though, it's generally been on the Town Hall roof but this year it's made of some 100,000 lights and placed on a temporary platform above the Town Hall entrance - make of that what you will really. I suppose during the day it looks like Zippy from Rainbow in disguise, which is either the intention or a sign that it didn't quite look like Santa. Ah well, I miss the rooftop blow up one with the reindeer, me, call me old fashioned but it was that sort of thing that made me realise I was back home - and with the European markets coming soon to the city centre, which should be lovely, I suppose it was the safest place to put it. The big tree's been moved as well.

As for tune of the day well I'm going to go for the rather nice and laid back feel that is Golden Claw Music's "Long Ships". Now a lot of you won't have heard of it, but it was the ambient project by Graham off of Pop Will Eat Itself, and rather nice it is too - very trippy and the sort of thing that you'd want to chill out to when it's very late and you're feeling altogether somewhat sleepy. I enjoyed it anyway.

Wednesday 7th November - Corrupted Profiles

Well I had a bit of an eventful evening really. After a pretty hard day at the ranch, I had a phone call from my uncle as their PC wasn't playing ball, and he was worried that he'd lost all his pictures and stuff, and half his desktop icons were missing. After a quick look I was soon able to work out why - when Windows loaded it was saying that the profile couldn't load properly and so Windows was going to load a default profile instead. Whatever had happened in the last day or so had obviously gone and corrupted it, and so it was a case of using System Restore to go back to the previous day's point and seeing what happened - and it worked. Hurrah, that was an easy one.

I did check out the PC for general stuff anyway, and recommended the removal of Messenger Plus (it's full of annoying spyware you know) and also had a check of a few cleanup settings to make sure it was running at really good speed all round. As it happened, my sister had arrived with her son (it was his birthday today and the party I went to on Sunday) and so I got to spend some time there as well - he did look rather cute in his whole Sporticus outfit (those of you who watch Lazy Town will know what that's all about). and so that worked out very nicely indeed. As I said, quite eventful and as I got home to clean up the house a bit, I felt very at one with myself as well - can't think why as such but probably because I've been handling things rather well at the moment.

And a very nice little package arrived too, namely the Just Joans' CD "Last Tango In Motherwell" which is all rather good fun really. Twee indie pop is the name of the game here, and they did mention that they had a new EP out even giving me the location of where to order it from. So one visit to Weepop! records later and that was me ordering the EP too. Aren't I nice? Well, they deserve it. Despite the not so hot production, their CD is just good fun. You can't help but like it, and "Friday Afternoons" is going to be tune of the day because of its singalong quality and also because it even features a bit of the lyrics from The Wonder Stuff's "Size of a Cow" thrown in as well rather niftily. Yaay to that, I say.

Tuesday 6th November - Magnificent Seven

Well I went off to the pub last night to watch Man City against Sunderland, as it's on Sultana Sports (yes, I know it's called Setanta, but the presenters and the commentators on there are pretty bad, so sultana is the cheap option!) and so as the local shows that channel, it was a bit of a no brainer to head over there just before the kick off and watch the mighty blues do the business. Admittedly it wasn't that good a performance as such but the job was done, and indeed the finish by Stephen Ireland was well worth the jaunt out alone, after some excellent work by sub Darius Vassell down the left wing. Not so sure about the goal celebration though, let's hope he's not up before the FA for it!

Still, that made me smile nonetheless as that's now seven straight wins at home and we're one of only two sides to still have a 100% home record in the top four divisions (Ipswich is the other one, in case you wondered). We've scored more points at home than we did last season and we've still got plenty of games to go. Now only if we could sort the away form out, and Portsmouth on Sunday is going to be a rather tricky game - in fact I'm sure that it's on Sky but I'll have to check to be absolutely sure. Nonetheless though to be third in the league at this point pleases me immensely.

Caught up with watching Dragons' Den earlier (I'd used the good old Sky Plus as I was out watching the football when it was on last night) and I have to say some of the ideas were pretty laughable, not least the one who'd written a fantasy book and only sold around 2,000 copies of it, and yet was trying to put together a sizeable budget to put a film together - with a lead actor who didn't want to reveal his name. How odd - surely if he was going to endorse the product as such you'd think he'd leap at the chance to say "yes, I'm going to be part of this magnificent indie movie". In fact all the good stars these days have been in one - yes you may see the lovely Samantha Morton in "Elizabeth The Golden Age" for example, but she's just as brilliant in "Control" too. Just as an example.

Anyway, with me spending a bit of time tonight getting the cleaning, washing and ironing done, time to whack on some tunes to keep the domestic bliss going - and so some KMFDM was the weapon of choice for me tonight, not least the rather good "A Drug Against War". The video to that single won some award I'm sure, as it's superbly animated and goes really well with the hard rocking Industrial noise that the song has. And before any of you ask, KMFDM doesn't stand for "Kill Mother F***ing Depeche Mode", despite the band's hate for the Basildon synth popsters. But nonetheless "A Drug Against War" is so darned anthemic, wish they'd play this at Rockworld really - so tune of the day for the pure hell of it.

Monday 5th November - Iggle Piggle Niggle Wiggle Woo!

It was one of my relations' third birthday party yesterday, so we all headed to my sister's for some food, lots of lovely cakes and indeed a good all round little birthday get together. The sandwiches were spot on, had a rather excellent cup of tea along the way and got to see one of the little ones' faces light up. You see, knowing that my three year old relation was into In The Night Garden, what better to get him than the Igglepiggle figure from the same series? And even better, if you pressed its tummy it'd either do little phrases or squeaks and if you pressed it often enough it woud do the Igglepiggle song, which was all rather cute. Well, once he opened the present he didn't want to let go of it and was holding on to Igglepiggle and giving him plenty of cuddles, which was all rather lovely to see.

My other sister had put up a small inflatable bouncy castle in the kids' bedroom so it was fun and games for the little ones as they had a play on that and used up all of their energy bounding around like little happy people, as it should be of course. The ironic thing was that In The Night Garden came on later, and it wasn't just the kids watching - oh no, most of the adults were fairly transfixed seeing the likes of the Tombliboos, Upsy Daisy, Igglepiggle and co do their thing. That's one advantage of knowing kids' telly - you can seem knowledgeable and know what the little ones are talking about and that makes you their favourite relation ever. Indeed, my sister had told me that when the little one had seen the Igglepiggle, he kept saying "I'll be dead good Mummy - can I pleeeeeeeease have it?" and of course it was a case of saying no, so you can imagine the sheer happiness on his face afterwards.

Felt weird being back at work though, I guess when you've had a week off and plenty of time to relax, you do feel like you've really wanted to make the most of it. I worked out that apart from last Sunday, I was out of the house doing something every day of the week which made it go by rather quickly but also be pretty busy too. I of course enjoyed the mini tour of the country and being able to see good musicians do their stuff is rather nice, it has to be said. I did also take some more touristy pics of Bristol and Glasgow, so I'll have to put them up to my Flickr! gallery at some point.

Talking of things on the web, I noticed that the Zaw Towers Youtube channel today hit 200,000 video views for the videos I've put up on there. That's a pretty decent total to be honest, which pleases me no end and I'm glad that I'm able to put up content that people seem to like - which was after all the main reason for doing so. Indeed, there's two with over 20,000 each and that's a rather nice figure also. Okay so I'm not going to reach the millions of views that some videos have (notably music ones) but nonetheless it's nice to see that my extra add-on idea to the site is working as it should. Yaay!

And talking of things that make you go "yaay" how about a great piece of music to banish those Monday blues? Well you can't get better than a bit of classic punk, so how about the Dickies' rather fab cover version of the Banana Splits tune? It's just so much fun! And indeed, I even have the single on banana yellow seven inch vinyl (not an idle boast I can tell you!). So maybe you need to watch the below and understand my tune of the day reasoning. Tra la la, la la la la, tra la la, la la la laaaaaaaaaaa!

Mind you, there was always the alternate version of this song that you used to sing in the school playgrounds, which went a little like this:

One banana, two banana, three banana, four
All lined up for the Second World War
One had a tommy gun, one had a stick
And one had a hand grenade tied to his..
Tra la la, la la la la, tra la la, la la la laaaaaaaaaaa

Ah, yes.

Sunday 4th November - A Kiwi And A Kangaroo

Well you know how I mentioned that one of the packages I got yesterday was something to watch today? Well, it was a DVD I'd ordered all the way from Australia - namely highlights of the 2004 Bathurst 1000 touring car race. It's one of the races of the year in any form of motorsport, and after seeing this year's highlights, I did a bit of browsing in some of the DVD shops over the other side of the world, and spotted one that not only delivered to the UK but also weren't that expensive either, which helped rather nicely. So I'd ordered it and waited for the postman to deliver, and it only took a week which wasn't that bad!

I spent a couple of hours watching the race highlights and it was excellent stuff, definitely to see cars go at full pelt on the mountain and then hang on for dear life as the cars wind their way down the other side through the Esses, The Dipper and Forrest Elbow is something else, let me tell you. In 2004, the pairing of Greg Murphy (New Zealand) and Rick Kelly (Australia) did the business, but not before a fair few scares along the way - including a kangaroo that invaded the track, was hit by Russell Ingall's car and due to that car slowing down Jim Richards whacked the back of it. Amazingly, despite being hit at over 100mph and the car going flying, the kangaroo lived!

Amazing when you think about it because of the sheer speeds done, and definitely 2004 looked to be an exciting race from how I saw it anyway. There's been many memorable races though, wouldn't mind seeing the infamous 1981 race where the track got completely jammed due to a series of crashes on one lap and the organisers just had to red flag the race, or indeed the 1992 controversial finish. I guess being a fan of all sorts of motorsport as such to see such great moments like that is part of history, and even Murray Walker's commentated on a couple of races as well which must have been rather good. In fact, if he's around next year the Aussies need to get him on board!

I feel sort of back to normal now as everywhere in the house is tidy, all the washing's been done and it is back to the grind of work tomorrow. I do feel though as if I've had a really good week though, not stopping at all and having a really good time of it on tour (as you do). It's also made me realise as well that not only have I gone full circle in a lot of ways but also I'm firmly of the belief that life is too short and where possible to try and make the most of it (money and other factors permitting) so that I can really start to enjoy these middle years. And you know what? I feel a heck of a lot better for it to be honest.

As for tune of the day, because it's so lovely and relaxing and perfect for the Sunday afternoon ahead, it's just rather nice to listen to Röyksopp's "Melody AM" album, not least "In Space" which is just gorgeously relaxed and some beautiful instruments are there throughout, it might not seem as if it does much but it's perfect for background listening and that's what's important isn't it?

Saturday 3rd November - Toasty

After the week of touring, pretty nice to be back at home - even if I'm not always in the house! First stop this morning was the food shopping, which I'd normally do on a Friday evening but as I was going out with some friends for a friend's birthday last night, there was clearly no time whatsoever to be going round for food, so instead I just got up and went this morning. One thing I did notice though: the croissants have changed shape! They used to be the long curved ones, now they're much more rounded. Whether that's a good thing or not I don't know but as long as they taste the same (and thankfully they did) that is okay. I also needed to make sure I got some beer and wine for this evening.

Once home I got everything packed away, kicked back with some breakfast and then headed over to me Mum's. It was her birthday today and so the least I could do was pop round there and see her for a while - and did a bit of lunch while I was there. That's one thing I always try and do - never forget any birthdays. It only seems right somehow that I don't and it was good to see Mum. I went home for a while after that and by that time the post had arrived with some more Christmas presents being delivered and something for me - which I thought I'd watch on Sunday!

After some food later on I got changed and headed out to a work colleague's house warming party in Whalley Range. It was nice and easy to find where the house was, not least as plenty of kids in Halloween costumes were running around having a whale of a time. In fact the atmosphere was really nice, lots of lovely people who were warm and friendly, and a good selection of tunes (until the amp decided to have a dicky fit and eventually it all got sorted by me and a couple of others) and lots of good conversation. There was a bonfire in the back garden which was lovely and toasty so rather nice to keep warm by, and earlier there'd been fireworks and all sorts for the little ones too, which was lovely. Some of the adults even had made an effort with their fancy dress as well, and that was rather nice. I left around 11.30pm so I could make sure I could get the buses homeward, but knowing that it'd all have been lovely. Obviously taking some bottles of Black Sheep was the right idea as I was able to have a leisurely pint of that stuff and relax with it.

As I was relatively chilled out (in more ways than one) in the still but quite cool evening air, it was great to see that a lot of the younger ones had heard of bands like The Velvet Underground, The Sex Pistols and so on and weren't afraid to bound around the room dancing to them - which was all good to see. In fact, you know what? Becuase for the sheer hell of it, "Holidays In The Sun" is going to be tune of the day - it just sounded so nice and controlled (Marantz CD player and Rotel amp combo did the business) and loud, and that's just how I like it sometimes. And as an opening track to the seminal "Never Mind The Bollocks.. Here's The Sex Pistols" album it gets you in the right mood straight away.

Friday 2nd November - Homeward Bound And Not To Widnes Like The Song

Got up reasonably early today and met up with Mark to munch breakfast at Holiday Inn - I think we were both in the case of getting as much down us as possible to keep us going during the respective train journeys: for some reason he had to from Bristol Parkway and so had to get a single ticket from Temple Meads to there, how odd! We walked over to Temple Meads later and said our goodbyes - it was all over for the tour for sure now, but it had just been a great week and one of my ambitions was fulfilled: see a tour from start to finish. And it's done.

The journey back was eventful to say the least, the Bristol to Birmingham section was fine and I even played most of John Mayer's "Continnum" and a few Pete Green tracks I'd snagged off his web site before I headed to New Street (aka Hell on Earth - read here why!) - and sure enough it lived up to its reputation. I made it to Platform 10b to get the train to Manchester only to find the seat reservation system thing wasn't working as should, and so had to drop polite hints to someone to move out of my reserved seat. That done it was the likes of Juliette and the Licks and Juliana Hatfield on the way back - needed to listen to them all the way through too as we got stuck at Wolverhampton due to a points failure. As it was to be only four minutes late heading into Piccadilly wasn't that bad and so I soon made my way back home to the Towers.

I spent a bit of time admiring the fact that I'd actually cleaned the house before I left and so didn't have to do any housework save some washing of clothes I'd took with me, so that pleased me quite a bit to say the least. I then played Pete Green's great track "I haven't got a Myspace because Myspace f****g sucks" which I completely agree with in all ways - he's got it spot on. Tune of the day most certainly, and I don't care if it has a swear word in it. The words are what matter and it's just so true - let's hope others take note and not rely on a presence on some Rupert Murdoch-owned corporate monster.

The weekend ahead looks busy too - so it's going to be non stop till I go to work on Monday: out for a meal tonight with some friends, and then off to me Mum's tomorrow for her birthday and then off to see my sister's little one on Sunday for a third birthday do - that's come around so quickly really and I'm thankful that I managed to get his present in advance as well. Now to get some sleep before tonight...

Thursday 1st November - A Million Ukeleles Tour, Day Three

The last day of the tour, and I was able to sleep at home in bed the night before, so that was all rather lovely. I woke up, got myself some Rice Krispies sorted out and then headed into the centre of Manchester to collect Mark (MJ) Hibbett from the Travelodge he was staying at and then off to Piccadilly station where Pete Green was going to meet us - and indeed we'd all booked the same train, the 1124 direct to Bristol Temple Meads for the final night of the tour. Thankfully Virgin were as reliable as they normally are, so much so that we actually arrived in Bristol four minutes early, woohoo! Lots of conversation and cups of tea on the way down so that was all good.

We waited in the station for Marianthi from Pete's record label to arrive as she was coming along to the gig tonight and then off we all headed - I had booked myself in at the Holiday Inn Express right opposite the station so that if I needed to wake up tomorrow worse for wear it wasn't far for me to get the train back to Manchester - Mark had also thought the same idea! And as it turned out it wasn't that far from the venue for tonight either so that was all good. I spent a bit of time in the afternoon having a look around Bristol, went all by the river and docks and through the Millennium Square, back through the cathedral and its grounds before also then seeing all the statues dotted around the City and through Castle Park to see some of the old ruins plus the spooky church in the middle of it. Before I knew it, time to head to base and get ready for the evening.

I had spotted an Indian restaurant very close to the hotel and so I decided to go there for ease of convenience. As it was, the curry I had (chicken korma with pilau rice and garlic naan bread) was spot on, and definitely comparable with the ones I normally have in Manchester's Curry Mile, so that should be enough recommendation. The only slight thing I would say is that it could have had a bit more chicken for my liking, but the sauce was spot on and with the naan bread collecting any excesses, my cunning plan worked rather well to say the least!

Mark and I headed to the Cornubia where tonight's gig was happening, and the pub was a proper real ale pub with lots of good ones from the Hidden Brewery (the Hidden Quest was absolutely gorgeous stuff). Pete and Marianthi had already made their way there, and we spent a bit of time doing the trivia questions on football and music on cards left in packs on each table, so that was good fun. The local support, Rescue Society vs The Black Terror had also arrived and we all made our way to the room upstairs, which felt like someone's front through lounge but felt rather intimate because of it. All was well it seemed.

Mark did his ukelele set which was good fun as always, and for some reason, the George Formby cover he does as part of that ("Leaning on a Lamppost" went down better this time around. It was also nice to see that the people who had come to see Rescue Society vs The Black Terror were supportive, and when they came on, it was two very good acoustic musicians playing their songs sat down, including bizarrely a cover from High School Musical and Bugsy Malone as well. They were really well received though and it was so pleasing to see them just enjoy it despite their nerves.

Pete came on and did his thing, and the song "One Monday Morning" was really well delivered. Pete himself was very impressed with it and definitely could tell that he'd have to record that properly one day. As there were some Bristol City fans in the area, "The Ballad of Phil Jevons" worked a treat here it has to be said. As it turned out Bristol had farmed him out on loan and so that was just a giggle everywhere really. Pete was on fine form all round, and he resisted the temptation do to his Myspace song, but did do the main track from his EP, "Everything I Do Is Gonna Be Sparkly" which came across rather gorgeously it has to be said.

So the last night and the last time I'd see MJ Hibbett do his stuff, but Mark didn't disappoint, even if he got stuck during "The Fight For History" and a couple of people in the audience had to assist with the words. What did go down well though was "I Did A Gig In New York" where he almost decided to run downstairs with the guitar and go for it. However, "It Only Works Because You're Here" was just rather wonderful all round and everyone was just really impressed, so that's tune of the day - what a great little love song it actually is. I must persuade him to record it (mental note made) and go from there. All was good though, and the audience particpation was in good form on "Easily Impressed" and "Boom Shake The Room" so it just made everyone happy.

We headed down to the ground floor pub for one final nice pint of Queen Bee with Marianthi and the DJ Rocker from Dandelion Radio and the five of us were just in really high spirits and chatting about all sorts. The tour had been great fun, and I'd really enjoyed it from a fan point of view: Mark and Pete were excellent company throughout ever, and as I'd offered to do the merch for them both, I'd even shifted a few copies of their records and Mark's t-shirts too, which was good for them to be able to concentrate on the music and mooching. In fact I bought Pete's EP myself because it was the right thing to do - supporting the artist with my own hard earned cash. It was all sadness as we hugged before we all went our way homeward: Mark and me back to Holiday Inn, and Rocker was giving Pete and Marianthi a lift back to their B&B. But sadness because it was just all rather great fun for the week and it was a case of it not wanting to end!