Dear Diary... November 2010

Tuesday 30th November - Let It Snow

Well I had a bit of a surprise when I woke up this morning - it had started snowing. Not a massive amount like the rest of the country, but there was still a plentiful dusting of the white stuff. With that in mind, it was safety first and on with the cross training/walking boots that I have - they're really sturdy and grippy, and in this sort of weather perfect for walking in, especially fresh crunchy snow at that. And with me having a meeting at 9am I needed to be in - and thankfully the buses were running fairly normally so I was able to head in as per normal.

Mind you, I didn't expect that meeting to be three hours long instead of the proposed hour and a half, I guess this is what happens when you have five or six people wanting to have their own say instead of just one or two and yourself who has some of the answers for them. Still it was constructive so that at least felt like it was a good thing. The afternoon also panned out well as I was about to sort out all the potential issues with some of the external entity accounts prior to the GroupWise to Outlook move that is happening soon - so good to have got all of that done.

I arrived home later in the evening and it was a slow journey home on the bus, but as the roads were generally starting to ice up a little it was understandable. The Love In My Heart came over later for tea and I did us some gammon with some potatoes and vegetables, and really did the gammon über-well done for her, which was good. I didn't mind it but in hindsight I should have put mine in a little later to be more tender - still, I'll learn. We looked outside once I'd made tea and it was snowing again, so we snuggled up by the fire and then dug out the Scrabble for a game.

It was nice to relax and use the brain power whilst listening to Swing Out Sister's "It's Better To Travel" album, and that was sufficiently relaxing so that we could have a good game of Scrabble too. The Love ended up using all the large scoring letters in good move, starting with ZANY at the opening move of the game and culminating with JOB on triple word as well, so very well done all round methinks. Tune of the day has to be the classic "Breakout", it's still a classic even after all these years of hearing it, and despite the bad weather it's enough to cheer anyone up.

Later on The Love headed for home - although I never want her to leave I knew that the weather was getting worse and I'd much rather her be home safe and sound rather than be skidding in her car on any icy roads. Thankfully she made it home fine and called me to let me know, and as I headed to bed later on I looked outside the window and saw that the snow was setting in even more than it had done, so it might be a little crunchy when I head out to work tomorrow, see what happens!

Monday 29th November - Bloody Delays

Another Monday, another manic day or so it seems anyway. I had a bit of fun and games getting in this morning as the weather looked like it had caused a little accident on the main road with all the cars stuck behind, and then of course once it got past that it positively sprinted it off to work which was good. Some of the heating had failed in the building as well but thankfully it hadn't done so in the office, so I spent some time today checking out what external email aliases that we still need going in to the move to Outlook in January, and that was a pretty good move to get it all done to be perfectly honest.

I left work quite late as very late in the day we had an issue with one of the servers which we needed to be fixed up and quickly, and got all that sorted out before I left so that I knew I was able to at least leave it to all be working and up and running, so that was good at least. I then headed into the city centre as I needed to pick up a couple of Christmas present orders (ah, click and collect, it rocks so it does) and then decided to have a quick look around a couple of shops before heading homewards.

The journey home was also a little longer than expected, the main road that I travel along was blocked off by police and all cordoned off so the bus had to take a diversion around the other streets. Thing was that every other vehicle was doing the same and so it turned out to be a rather long jam of traffic and once we got past all that it soon headed home pretty quickly, but wonder what it was? Was it that someone had escaped out of the local police station or had something gone off, the road had collapsed, a bad accident or something? I'm sure I'll find out later on in the local news but still...

Anyway, settled in for the evening now and with a nice warm coffee watching Droylsden against Leyton Orient in the FA Cup second round. The Bloods are quite a local non league side close to me (they live around three miles away) and had it not been -2 outside I'd have been tempted to go along and support them, but I will do on ESPN methinks. As I am typing this Droylsden are winning 1-0 so let's hope that they manage to carry on and get the win to face Norwich in round three.

Tune of the day in the meantime is Metallica's cover version of "Stone Cold Crazy" by Queen, simply because it's an excellent cover version of an early Queen classic, it sounds even faster than the original and keeps the spirit of it intact as well. What's also good is that you can really tell that they love the original in the way that they play it. And the title was of course apt considering we ended up outside this morning due to a fire drill - who makes these things up to be timed at the coldest day possible?

Sunday 28th November - Out With The Old

After having a very nice lie in and feeling all nice and snuggly and cosy, The Love In My Heart and I eventually got up and pottered around mine for a small while, catching up on the news and some telly, seeing if we'd actually won the lottery or not (no surprise but we didn't, meh) and with my drill in hand it was off to her place to try and see if we could get the aerial through to another bedroom to set a telly up in there and get it all working, rather than run cable around lots of walls and have doors banging against it on the way.

As it turned out the wall where the main aerial socket through was part of the main structure of her apartments, so this meant steel girders were in between the two walls. Not getting through that, methinks. We then noticed that in the bedroom and the main room there were what looked like aerial sockets. As we worked out eventually, these were actually extension sockets, so you'd plug the cable from the main aerial into the socket in one room, and it was wired to another, and then plug the telly in. Only snag though it wasn't in the bedroom we wanted it in, so I drilled a hole in the wall between the two bedrooms and that worked out well to thread the cable through.

We did however note that the extension aerial socket in the main room looked like it wasn't playing ball, so we'd have to sort that out another day. What this did mean though is that we knew we could sort it out, and along the way back to mine to drop the drill off and work out this plan of action, we also had an old CRT television which we needed to get rid of as it wasn't that good anymore. Thankfully the local recycling tip near me has a place to put all the old televisions in, so she drove us up to there and we carried it in, making sure it was in the right container and all. That felt good to recycle it anyway.

We headed back to mine later where I made us some very nice chicken wrapped in bacon with potatoes and vegetables for tea before allowing The Love a bit of relaxing time with The X Factor. I avoided bits of it but suffice to say that as it was rock week there might have been songs I like, had they not been bloody butchered by some of the contestants. For me, the originals will always be the way to go and Bryan Adams' "Summer of 69" is a case in point. As much as I don't like his stuff now, back then he was rocking and making classics like this - so fair play and tune of the day definitely. Now if only we could have had Wagner win, ah well...

Saturday 27th November - Birmingham (and the rest of the country) Is Freezing!

It was a day out that had been planned for some time today, as me, The Love In My Heart and my Mum were all heading off down to Birmingham to go round the Christmas markets that they have there and generally have a bit of a mooch around all the shops as well. We knew that the last few days had been pretty cold and so were all wrapped up pretty well, and with layers on to try and keep the weather off. The Love headed to mine first and then we headed on the bus into Piccadilly Station, where not long after Mum came and met us, and we went off to Costa to have a warming coffee before we would head on the train.

I'd booked the train tickets so that we'd change at Stoke-on-Trent each way, as if you do part of the journey with Virgin, you can get 10% off with Virgin Money and the fares are a lot cheaper than going direct with CrossCountry (I kid you not) and so we were nice and relaxed as we headed from Piccadilly down to Stoke-on-Trent first of all. As we headed past Macclesfield you could see the snow on the fields and hills and that definitely made for a pretty sight although it did look a touch on the cold side as well. It didn't take long for the train to arrive at Stoke-on-Trent and a few minutes later on we got to Birmingham and that was relatively pain-free, thank heavens that we reserved our seats as it was pretty busy.

We got out at New Street and walked out of there and along New Street itself, heading to the end and on to the Bull Ring, where it was nice and cosy and warm as we headed around the shops. It seemed like Christmas was in overdrive a little and even Jeff Brazier was there on the ground floor helping people to try and win a Suzuki car. Mum went and even managed a little chat with him as well which was good whilst I entered her and The Love into the competition at breakneck speed on the Mac that they had out. Ah, if only everything was that simple, I thought.

After a good look at all the shops in the Bull Ring, we then headed to the Pavilions via Marks and Spencer before walking up to Corporation Street and found a busy Wetherspoons but it did have seating available so we could grab some lunch in there. I think even Mum was a little shocked at how cheap lunch was, but the ham eggs and chips I had was spot on, so no complaints there. We then headed past House of Fraser and along one of the little streets of arcades which is very nice, reminds me a bit of Leeds and also the Royal Exchange in Manchester, before then heading past the cathedral and into House of Fraser, where I persuaded The Love to take home this year's Fraser Bear. She had the 2008 and 2006 ones so it made a nice addition to the collection, I thought.

We then headed down to the bottom of Corporation Street and up New Street where the Frankfurt Christmas Market was. The stalls were very nice indeed and full of lots of little gifts for everyone, whether they be small wooden collectible toys and dolls, furry hats or purses made of felt, or doughnuts, pretzels and other sorts of food as well. As the night time was just starting to come in, it really did start to feel a lot more Christmassy, but also pretty cold too. We headed around the square by the town hall which was rammed full of people having beer and sausages of all types before heading to the craft part which is in a smaller square going towards the walkway to Broad Street. We got some very nice mulled wine in there and sipped that to keep warm as well as saw all the nice little stalls with hats.

It was then through the walkway over the city centre inner ring road and on towards Broad Street with plenty more craft stalls to have a look at. A lot of them did a very nice line in lights, jewellery and also one which used lacquered wood to make a really different drinks bottle holder as well which had a weight in it so it'd always hold the bottle the right way for you. Neat that. It was bitterly cold at this point and I did reckon we were in the minuses in terms of centigrade as well so it was time to head inside and get a little bit warmer and so headed for the Glasshouse for tea.

It was lovely in there to warm up and it wasn't expensive either. I had the square steak and ale pie which was absolutely massive and it was a proper pie too, hurrah! Mum had the steak and that looked spot on whilst The Love's Southern fried chicken also hit the spot, and three empty plates said it all. We had a drink and a good chat in there before heading back down Broad Street and through the market stalls, taking a nice slower walk and being able to admire all the twee items as well. You could see the snow off the main roads and so that did make it feel a little bit more like Christmas as well, so that was good.

As we headed back through to New Street and went along past some more of the stalls, we wanted to give Mum that authentic market experience and so herself and The Love got the strawberries covered in chocolate. Needless to say they were happy bunnies and scoffed the lot and loved them, and I waited till the doughnut stall and got one covered in strawberry icing with some jam in the middle. The evening had really set in but the market was getting much quieter as the main shops were closing (the market was open till late though so that was good) and we were able to peruse some more stalls before heading back to the station.

It was a little bit of a panic heading home as the train we were getting arrived into New Street late and it was touch and go whether we'd get to Stoke-on-Trent before the connecting train back home. However it made it with a few minutes to spare and the one we were getting was late getting in anyhow, so we soon headed on that which was lovely and warm as we reflected on a long but good day out. I think we were all pretty tired and wanted to head to sleep when we got home, but it was nice that Mum loved the market, proclaiming it much bigger and better than Manchester (which it is I have to admit) and despite the freezing weather (no warmer in Manchester either I should add) it was a lovely place to head and visit. I think she might be going back there on her own at some point!

Tune of the day sums up the weather and also just how it was that keeping moving was the only sensible thing to do to be honest - "Winter" by Kristin Hersh. I kept thinking of the song and the bells in the opening and how it woud just sound nice to hear it as I would be walking around the market, just to make it feel that much more like Christmas than it already was. It was a tad cold it has to be said!

Friday 26th November - Lens Envy

Another day in the cold of work and I had our technical group meeting today. I was able to contribute quite a bit and was also able to offer some useful handy hints about adding the student address book in Outlook which might come in handy for the move when everyone at work goes over in January - that's not so hot to be perfectly honest, but that's another story. It's intriguing as well that so many different things are going on that it's often hard to be able to keep up, the times they definitely are a changing, that is for sure.

I headed home in the afternoon and then off to Tesco to do some food shopping, and got all that sorted out. I even picked up a Pizza Express little pizza for my tea at half price, and after putting that in the oven for a while, it tasted very nice indeed, it has to be said. I do think that less is more and because it was done with their cubes of mozzarella as the cheese, it actually didn't have to be loads on it to taste good. It was also good to see that I was able to get plenty of nice little things for during the week at not so expensive prices so did manage to stock up a little bit on bits. Still, not always that cheap though!

I also had got some ideas for Christmas presents for a friend of mine too, so I did a bit of online shopping tonight and got that all sorted, and as I was doing so I decided to see what lenses were around for the camera. My, it's like lens envy out there, there's so many different ones that I could get, and of course at varying prices. I'd ideally like a 55-200 zoom beastie so that I can get a nice long zoom on stuff (especially football for example) and the Nikon one seems to go for around £130 on ebay and even less on Jacobs' website (and they have a shop in Manchester, so click and collect would be doable). And they're cheaper than the 18-200s which can go for shedloads (although they'd be nice!)

Tune of the day is another little rock number as I'm the mood for rocking to keep warm at the moment: no less than "Rockin' in the Free World" by Neil Young. I quite liked this when it came out and of course it's now in Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock as well, so definitely an incentive to try and do that well on vocals as well as nail it on bass and lead guitar. Not tried drums on it yet, might be worth a go methinks. Nonetheless it really is a classic song and even has little solo guitar bits just to throw in occasionally too. Keep on rocking, folks, it's the only way!

Thursday 25th November - Wintry Weather, When Will We Warm?

It certainly felt much more like Winter as I left the house this morning to head to work, that's for sure. It certainly didn't feel like the temperatures of the last month which have been okayish, but definitely heading towards freezing. Of course as you don't see much daylight on the way home from work either, it's pretty grim outside and you can tell that the cold snap is setting in. Thankfully, Manchester hasn't had any snow to speak of but north of the country and in Scotland it's a white out, and even in the Peak District it looks a little more like the Winter, Castleton looked very lovely but also very full of snow.

As you can imagine it was nice to get in and feel the warmth of the house when I got home, having diverted via Piccadilly station to use the fast ticket machine to pick up the train tickets for a day out on Saturday. I've found it easier to sometimes get them picked up before I travel, as I know at certain times of the day even the fast ticket machines are completely rammed with people. This way I can just get them and go. With me booking the trains in advance via Virgin Trains (discount with Virgin Money card and much cheaper than rip off Cross Country) the only option they give you now is fast ticket, presumably to keep the costs down etc.

Anyway, got home, made myself some fish for tea and then settled in for the evening with plenty of domestic chores and washing and ironing sandwiched in neatly between watching a DVD I have of some of the greatest ever Grand National races. The Becher Chase was on Sunday over the big National fences and so it reminded me that I had the DVD, and so watched the races from the 1970s (in full I should add) with Red Rum's triumphs in 1973, 1974 and 1977 with L'Escargot pipping Red Rum in 1975 in the mix as well. What's intriguing to see is that back then the race was always in danger of being the last one every year, and that lots of horses tried to win from the front before coming a cropper (especially in 1977 where Boom Docker refused at the 17th whilst miles in front and then Andy Pandy fell at Becher's second time and he was a fair bit up front!) and also shows that it was a slog in the rain sometimes...

Also spent some time doing some Christmas present shopping - and what a boon it's been to do it all online, and of course use any options I can to make it cheaper, and get some cash back as well. I think somehow that might have done well out of me recently but that's because they're often cheapest, and usually rock solid reliable in terms of stuff being shipped out as well. And with a few people providing me with ideas it's meant that I've been able to get more sorted and I'm into single figures as who left to buy for, so that makes me feel pretty good as well.

Tune of the day is "Chemical Warfare" by Slayer and for good reason. I had another blast at some songs on Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock on vocals, and went back to this one to see if I could improve the score in any way. Once I worked out the best way of scoring, I was then able to improve further and get a rather nice 117,103, which is second in the world on the Wii and only 180-odd points being the world's best Tom Araya impersonator (or something). The song's pretty intense as well and you really have to go for it in their style if playing drums or guitar - way too hard for me of course!

Wednesday 24th November - Full of Adobe Hot Air

I had a bit of a nightmare today with Adobe Air. It's officially meh in a corporate environment because a) you have to turn off any updates to it with a registry key which Adobe don't actually document properly, b) the installer doesn't like to work with an Air application install on a per machine basis, instead per user, which causes issues, and c) why the hell have a help system in CS5 needing Air to install anyway - surely standard Windows and Mac help files or even html files which the help links to offline would be the way to go?

It also transpired that when I checked my Adobe Enterprise Manager installation that the Enterprise install doesn't even include the Help, or Air either. You have to run separate commands to do those installs and then it'll work correctly. It makes me wonder just how much Adobe need better software engineers rather than trying to reinvent every single wheel. Oh, and it gets better. If you try and roll out the Adobe Help installer, it keeps asking any user to update it without being able to turn that feature off either - yet more proof as if any were needed that they don't seem to understand the needs of catering for a corporate user system where stuff like that needs to be consistent. Officially meh.

Mind you, there was plenty going on not far from work today as a lot of the students were marching down Oxford Road in protest to the way that Higher Education will be funded in future. For those of you not in the UK, the recommendations by a recent report by Lord Browne state that tuition fees need to be increased to ensure that Universities are funded correctly. Of course, although most of this will mean that students pay back their fees as they do now post-graduation with a sum out of their pay once they earn a certain amount, the amount will dramatically increase from the £3,290 a year as is now to around £9,000 a year which has been mooted.

Although this is nowhere near what some American universities charge students to study there, where their free market really does mean astronomical fees that would prevent a lot of intelligent people from even thinking about it, the dramatic increases certainly don't hold well with a lot of people, me included. What's also galling is that many students queued outside polling stations and voted for the Liberal Democrats in the General Election back in May because of their pre-election pledge that they would oppose tuition fees, and now as they are in coalition with the Conservatives in Gorvernment, it seems that their promise has gone out of the window which has led to a lot of anger being aimed at the Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg.

I'm all for peaceful protest in these situations so that their views can be expressed and done in such a way so that the public take note and see it from that point of view. What I don't agree with is the actions of some in London who decided to vandalise police vans and such like. This sends out the wrong impression and also will lead people to lose empathy with the genuine students who are trying hard to make a difference. I only hope for their sake that the majority of them who are well behaved speak up and do so with fairness and show that those who wish to hijack a protest for their own stupid sake are not welcomed.

I did spot a fair number of police vans on Oxford Road as I headed home and certainly there were plenty of students still outside wandering around and walking along the road. It took a bit of time to get home but I can understand why and it's hard to disagree with the amount of anger and feeling being poured out from the students at the moment. What it does show me is that I don't think it'll be the end of their protests - far from it. Could well be a Winter of discontent ahead that's for sure.

Tune of the day is in tribute to those who are protesting peacefully and trying to make a difference to their world - "Rise Above" by Black Flag. When you hear the words belted out by Henry Rollins and the sheer intensity of the track along with all that trademark Greg Ginn guitar feedback you know it's a real rousing anthem with intent. Even the re-record that Rollins did with his band and with Chuck D on vocals a few years back, it was no less angry a track either.

Tuesday 23rd November - Going Underground

After work I headed homewards and had a pretty quick change as I was heading back out to the city centre for the evening. I needed to put on some comfortable and sturdy footwear, so out came the walking or hiking boot with tons of grip as well as some layers for wrapping up warm, and of course the camera as well, ready to rock and roll. I also made sure I had a torch as well as I'd got one from the local pound shop last night and had loaded it with batteries ready for the evening ahead.

I headed back into the city centre and headed to the infamous pebble close to Bridgewater Hall, and soon a fair few of us who were meeting up arrived there. We were all going on a Manchester Confidential tour of some of the tunnels of the city of Manchester underground, and these ones would mainly be the Great Northern ones that are buried deep underneath the city and not easily visible or located either. Quite a few of us Flickr people from the Mancunian group decided it'd be nice to head along there so many of us booked onto the same tour so we could have a peekie around.

We all arrived and the tour guide took us across the road and back along by the front of Manchester Central, before heading to the entrance to the Great Northern complex where the AMC Cinema is. We actually carried straight on along the ground floor and to what's called the Interpretation Centre, which showed some of the scale models of the former war tunnels. We spotted the door which might well be the way in to the tunnels themselves and excitement grew, before we then headed down the many flights of stairs and inside the tunnels themselves.

Mostly it was pretty dark so I was glad I had a torch with me and it was also a little wet and muddy underfoot, but amazingly it was actually a lot warmer than it was outside. We headed through bay 1 and then through a little gap to this wide open cavern which was intriuguing to see before heading back to the central arch where we'd come in and then on to bay 2 followed by bay 4. All the old direction signs to the bays were in very old school fonts and they were good to see, and as you walked along there was even an old prop from a stage show which looked like a zombie or dead body, mainly put there I think to spook people a bit.

At bay 4, there were various bits of red graffiti and it was supposedly done by someone called Eddie Storm who was supposed to be living down here in the 1980s - and you could see the possible attempts at getting lighting in there. How true it was we don't know - maybe it was an urban myth? We did see some of the end of the bay with lots of water in, and this proved that it was at one point used as an underground canal to transport goods - and then in the second world war it was an air raid shelter (hence the chemical toilets as well which were placed handily in each bay).

We later headed out to the Deansgate entrance to the Great Northern and the guide explained that we'd been directly under there walking around which was a little spooky to know - and she mentioned that the St John's Gardens not too far from there were full of dead bodies stacked up under the ground. I'll not look at that place again quite the same methinks. Overall it was a good tour with plenty of interesting history and facts and the time alotted allowed me to get some practice with the camera - and I ended up managing a couple of shots I was really pleased with too - have a look at them all here if you so wish.

A few of us didn't want the night to end and so we walked up to Ra!n Bar and had a couple of drinks in there and generally chatted about all sorts. What's nice is that a lot of us aren't just interested in photography either but lots of other stuff, and we ended up discussing that the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was tons better with Gene Wilder instead of the new one with Johnny Depp, how The X Factor is killing music and what can be done, and online shopping being the future of Christmas shopping. Good times. Anyway, much kudos to eleanor_d on Flickr for organising it, and hellos need to go to the other Flickrites who came along too - you know who you are, so thanks for a top night, folks.

Tune of the day seemed pretty appropriate cos of the title: "Going Underground" by The Jam, but it's also one of their finest songs to boot, when Paul Weller was much more angry and had more to say than he does now (although he's still good I should add) and when immediacy in three minutes was the key to a killer tune as well. It hasn't aged one bit and I'd happily listen to it now if it was played on the radio - a surefire sign that a classic hasn't aged too adly at all methinks. I kept humming it in my head as we walked around the tunnels...

Monday 22nd November - The Catch Up

Tonight I decided that I would spend some time doing a proverbial catching up. Not just on any emails that I might have needed to reply to over the weekend, but also to speak to people too. Sometimes there's only so much you can write in an email and it's often better to actually talk on the phone and have conversations, like normal people would do. Of course I usually ring The Ale In My Glass at some point during the evening, and so the first port of call was to call her, as I figured going back to work after some time off might have been a little bit of fun and games - and crucially I didn't want to disturb her before the soaps came on.

It was then later on I called my cousin down in Bournemouth, and it was good to catch up and chat about all sorts, including her three year old son and what he's now into. It's amazing what kids pick up from the telly and now his current favourite thing is Fanboy and Chum Chum, which I'd admittedly never heard of until she mentioned it. It did seem pretty annoying though when I checked out the clips so I can fully understand why it drives her around the bend a little bit. On a positive note she did manage to get herself a ticket for Take That in Cardiff, so she'll be doing what The Ale will be doing and having a girlie night out seeing the Mancunian fivesome. Bless!

I spoke to my friend as well as he and his wife had been down to Wales to see some of the relations - and by all accounts it was a little wet and wild in terms of the weather. They'd been to Tenby as well but it sounded a little bleak - as if everything there tends to shut in Winter when it's out of season. I must admit it was reassuring to see Whitby pretty much open the other day and I mentioned that a lot of places by the sea are trying to cater for all year round visitors now, the right way to do it in my book.

He also mentioned about Virgin Media and how it's not been ideal since he signed up. I had done some research on it and most of it is down to the new Virgin Media Hub that they're shipping out - it's a Netgear cable modem and router in one but with Virgin's own firmware and it seems to be that which is doing a lot of the blocking hassles that they've been having. I did read on their forums that there's supposed to be some new firmware coming out which is going to fix quite a few issues so I've suggested he tries to see if he can have it early and try it out - see what happens. It was good to talk to my friend as well about the footy and how City had been doing so well for a change!

Tune of the day in the meantime is "Ramones Medley" by The Bad Shepherds. Take some classic two minute songs by one of the finest bands to come out of America, put them together with some folk inspired playing and Vyvyan off The Young Ones singing away with his mates and you've got it nailed. The medley contains snippets of "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue", "Shock Treatment" and best of all "Blitzkrieg Bop" at full pelt with them belting out "Hey! Ho! Let's go!" at volume too. Excellent stuff and reminds me of seeing them twice earlier this year.

Sunday 21st November - Lazy Sunday Afternoon

It was a lazy Sunday all round really and after the week we'd had and the days off away that we'd also had, The Ale In My Glass and I were glad to have a bit of a relaxing rest and lie in, and I even did some nice bacon on toast to just make us feel energised enough without being too full. It was good to be able to do things at our own pace this morning and I uploaded the pics from Whitby as well to Flickr, so the best ones I took are there now for people to have a good little mooch at.

We decided to head to Knutsford in the afternoon as we'd wanted to see if we could get a couple of cards but also to see if some of the little shops were open as well to have a look around there too. Parking is free on a Sunday so The Ale and I went over there in her car and we were soon there and parked up, walking along King Street and in little nice shops like House, The Cherry Tree and The Hidden Jem, full of far too nice lovely stuff and twee household items for her to swoon over. Awww. We did however enter one card shop and find a card that we both had been searching for for some time - so that was good. It was good to walk around and see what was open and we noticed how the recession has hit even here.

One of the last times we headed there we noticed that the lovely Mallard tea rooms had closed, and this time a couple of shops had gone by the wayside, and even Starbucks had left the town too. This of course meant everyone including us was piling into Costa for a coffee, and I had to indulge in a creme brulee latte as well as us both having a lemon cupcake, which was rather nice. I did think though that it also goes to show that despite all the indepedence, it was ironic that the busiest place was part of a chain.

We headed back home and relaxed with the telly on for a bit and couldn't believe the half time score at Craven Cottage - City were 3-0 up against Fulham and cruising apparently. I kept an eye on that during the second half as we watched some of that Coach Trip series on More4, and that was pretty good fun, even though the Chuckle Brothers were in it for some strange reason. We even noticed that it was a case of spotting the former Eastenders characters as well for good measure even if we both dislike that soap immensely.

I made us some gammon for tea before The Ale headed home. I felt really sad when she was going home to be honest but I knew she had lots to do as well so thought it best that she could get on with it at the same time. I listened to plenty of music in the evening and even tried a couple of experiments with the camera as well before tuning in later to see the Becher Chase on iPlayer - twas a good race and a good indicator of who might win the Grand National.

As for tune of the day I'll have to go for "Pi r Squared" by Clint Mansell, the opening track from the soundtrack to the film Pi. I really like this film and the first one by Darren Aronofsky that got my attention. It's one of those films that needs your attention all the way through but it's really worth it when you make sense of it all. I like the closed up claustrophobic existence of the main film as well, really gives it that feeling of being spooked out at the same time. Excellent stuff - do check the film out.

Saturday 20th November - Homeward Bound and Birthday Bound

It was up at a reasonable time after a short lie in this morning and time to say goodbye to Scarborough as the morning mist rolled over the sea, so much so that you couldn't see some of the cliffs in the distance. However, it was lovely to see that in a way - showed the drama of nature and the sea all in one. We headed out and grabbed some breakfast on the way before we headed to the train station on the 1047 departure, which was pretty rammed once a lot of people got on at Seamer. Plenty got off at York (assumedly to do some Christmas shopping) but then plenty got on too to head to Leeds as well. We were glad to have reserved some seats!

From Piccadilly station we headed back to The Ale's place, so she could drop her case off and we could pick up her car and do a little whistle stop tour. We'd first head to her Mum and Dad's and pop in and see how they were and hand them some little gifts we'd got from one of the old school sweet shops in Whitby, and then it was back to my place, dropping my stuff off before I grabbed the card and present for my brother in law and headed to my sister's place to see them both. We got him the new Jeremy Clarkson book which was a good choice I think, especially as others had got him clothes and beer and stuff.

It was then back to mine where we relaxed for a bit and then I made us something lovely for tea - starting with wild mushroom soup and some crusty bread, followed by a main of chicken wrapped in bacon with some new potatoes and vegetables which went down really well. I even tried this Saltaire chocolate ale that my friend had brought for me a few weeks back - it definitely smelt of dark chocolate and tasted quite rich to say the least. It wasn't too bad though and that was palatable along with the tea.

I left The Ale to watch X Factor in peace whilst I had a look at processing some of the pictures from the recent visit away from home. Some of them looked good but others weren't that much in focus - something that I need to try and learn more about over time. Still I was pleased with some and I could hear many of the contestant ruining some of the Beatles' classic back catalogue at the same time - not so good. Of course none of them picked possibly my favourite song of theirs, "Helter Skelter" so I'm going to make that tune of the day for the hell of it. I really don't want to hear anything by that bloody Wagner again though - dear or dear...

Friday 19th November - Wonderful Whitby

I was excited this morning as The Ale In My Glass and I got up. I'd been looking forward to going back to Whitby for some time, and as The Ale had never been I wanted to show her just why myself and her friend rave about the place. She was a little worried when I said that we'd easily spend the whole day there but I convinced her that she would find plenty to keep us both occupied and that you'd have some of the best fish and chips along the way too. Can't complain really.

So it was a reasonably early start as we both headed out for some breakfast before heading out to the bus stop right next to the train station and waiting for the Arriva Bus 93 which would take us out of Scarborough, through to Cloughton and then through the woods and moorland before veering off down Fylingthorpe and on to Robin Hood's Bay before clambering uphill and along the main road, over the River Esk and then down to Whitby, where the bus station was next to the train station there. From there with the harbour on the right it was then a walk along the road, over the swing bridge and then into the Old Town as we headed through the cobbled streets.

First stop was the mere 199 steps that you have to take to get up to St Mary's Church and then Whitby Abbey, where we'd spend most of the morning. The abbey really does overlook the whole town but also is of historical importance, so it was good to see that the ruins are being well looked after. The infamous ducks were there going around their own business and of course the abbey's reflection in the small pond there was the shot that I simply had to get above all else. It was good to walk around there and really see how even in the morning mist the whole place was inspiring. Once that cleared and the sun came out, it really did work well and you were able to see in the sunshine just how beautiful it looked. Words fail me sometimes.

We headed back down the stairs and through the Old Town, stopping off at many of the little shops to have a good look around. It really was nice to see so many small and independent traders doing well, and there were even more specialist shops to cater for the many Goths that occasionally descend on the town too, but lots of homeware places that certainly were selling plenty of twee stuff as well which is the sort of thing that The Ale quite likes too. It was also good that plenty of them were selling proper Whitby Jet and none of the fake stuff, and it's quite well known that it's the place to get it too.

It was back over the swing bridge and along towards the West side of the town and past the many eateries for lunch along by the fish market. I was acting on a hunch and although there was no queue outside the Magpie Café (rather unusually it has to be said) we thought of somewhere else, and we were both so glad that we did - off to Graveleys, which overlooks the sea and has a rather nice view of it as well. We were attended to really well when we got there, and got a nice table position to look out of the window. The waitress service was friendly and unfussy, and we had their little special deal on - large haddock, chips and choice of peas, pot of tea and bread and butter for £9.95. The fact that both of us didn't leave anything should tell you some of it, but the haddock was absolutely gorgeous, properly white and no rubbish, in a light batter and lovely chips too - stunning stuff it really was.

It was then up the Khyber Pass road and to the top of the West Cliff, where we looked over the town from there and saw the whale bone arch as well as the statue of Captain Cook which seemed to have plenty of seagulls wanting to perch on its top. We saw some lovely views and then headed down to see the surfers trying their luck on the sea with its waves, and along the pier to the lighthouse, and noted that the very end of the pier was closed off and with good reason - the waves were crashing in even on this very calm non-windy day. It was nice to walk along the pier though.

We then headed back through the shops of the newer part of the town and back over the Swing Bridge to check out some of the old school sweet shops in the Old Town and also saw the replica of the Endeavour moored in the harbour before heading to one of the pubs in the Old Town, the Duke of York, where they had a gorgeous pint of Black Sheep, and in a proper Black Sheep pint glass. We were able to look out of the window over the river and towards the sea, and that was rather nice indeed. Darkness was starting to fall but it looked even more picturesque as it did so, before we headed on the bus back to Scarborough.

It was a lovely day and I was so pleased that The Ale liked Whitby so much - you can see why so many people want to spend a week there and just immerse themselves in the history of the place as well as having the North Yorkshire moors close by - all lovely. We ate out in Scarborough in the evening and felt that we'd had a good time today and that we'll have to head back to Whitby again. Even better the pub we were in had a beer by the St Austell brewery called Coxswain's Special which was up to their usual standards. Hurrah for that! Tune of the day in the meantime is "Dragula" by Rob Zombie - it's kind of related to Whitby of course because of its links with Dracula even if Rob decided to spell the song differently...

Thursday 18th November - Slightly Windy Scarborough

It was nice to have a couple of days off work and even nicer to spend them with The Ale In My Glass as the two of us were heading for a couple of days away. A while ago I'd seen an offer on the Travelodge website for rooms for £9, so as you do I decided to snag a couple of them at that price, and one was at one of their recent acquisitions in Scarborough, which happened to be opposite the Grand Hotel (so we knew where it was). We'd booked the trains in advance so hopefully it would be a lovely couple of days away, even if the weather wasn't looking completely perky.

After doing all the food shopping I needed to in the morning as well as getting the house all nice and clean for when I got back, I headed off to Piccadilly station and met up with The Ale, and once we'd got ourselves a Meal Deal in Boots sorted for our lunch, we would make our way over to Platform 13 and head on the 1211 departure to Scarborough. Transpennine Express always do the seat reservations so if you're sat at a table seat, you're opposite each other. Thankfully two women sat on the table with us and they were nice enough - one was heading back to Leeds after a meeting in Manchester and what looked like an evening of some drink, and the other was off to York to see her sister's graduation and ended up having to peg it through York to the minster.

It was nice to have nice people to talk to rather than people who you just think "ewwww" and it meant that the journey there went a bit quicker. Once the train left York it was pretty empty as it headed towards Malton and then Seamer before arriving in Scarborough bang on time. We headed out and walked down the main shopping street and then soon made the right turn down Huntriss Row and arrived at the Travelodge. We got there at 2.30pm but the staff were being a little anal and not allowing anyone in before 3pm, and if we wanted to, we'd be charged £10 for early check in, which would defeat the object of having the room for £9 per night. Anyway, time soon passed and we checked in, went to the room (a bit square and lacking some storage space, but we made do) and then headed out.

The wind certainly was howling as we headed towards the Spa Cliff Bridge close by and then down to the main promenade. We walked along the front and even along the beach as dusk was starting to fall, and we got to the harbour and walked along to the Diving Belle statue, which in the late afternoon dusk looked even more imperious. It was nice to see it still there taking centre stage and we walked back along to the front and then after a quick look in a couple of shops, headed back uphill along the main shopping street and ended up having a mooch around some of the shops there, which was nice. We had a well earned drink afterwards and by this time night had descended before we were going to head to the Travelodge to recharge.

We got showered and changed and it was then off out back down along the front to Ask, a really nice Italian restaurant chain - and the one here was by the harbour. We had to nip in and book for 8.30pm as it was pretty full so went over to the Golden Ball for a very nice pint of Samuel Smith's (it really was, and cask too) and we could see out of its windows to the harbour and sea before heading back to Ask where the two of us had a really nice meal. I had the mushrooms al forno which were big and plentiful to start and we both had the carbonara which was very lovely indeed. It was nice seeing the harbour from the window and that certainly made the evening a little more relaxing.

We finished off by walking back along the front and heading to one of the arcades, and one of them had three pinball machines side by side. Wow! I picked the CSI one and did okay first go, but on second go earned enough for a replay, and so had another credit and game to play with which was good. They even had a Guitar Hero arcade machine but I didn't need to have a go at that right now, but instead looked back on a really nice day as we headed back up the cliff to the Travelodge to head to sleep before the next day's trip out to Whitby, which we were both looking forward to.

Tune of the day in the meantime is "Everybody's Happy Nowadays" by the Buzzcocks, not least because I had the "Singles Going Steady" compilation on in the morning and this is the sort of song that gets anyone up in the day. It also sums up my feelings about me right now - pretty happy now you know. I just wish that some Guitar Hero game gets this put in as well as the good move of putting "What Do I Get?" in Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock. Ah, the classics never die do they?

Wednesday 17th November - Who Needs Another Mess?

After work today I called The Love In My Heart, knowing that today she was finishing work the same time as yours truly. I had to nip to Debenhams to collect another Christmas present that I had ordered and wanted to make sure that I collected it promptly. As it turned out she was just leaving work herself and so we met up and walked up to Piccadilly. As it was she hadn't had the best of days at work and so was able to tell me all about it and get it out of her system nicely. We're away for a couple of days soon and the last thing that I think she wants to think about is work to be quite honest.

I made the conscious decision a while ago that once I leave the office and head for home, my thought for work stops. It was getting me a little stressed out previously that I would think about work constantly, but I then realised that there's only so many hours in the day and if you can't do everything, so be it - everyone can be in a similar situation and to be perfectly honest, it doesn't do you any good. I feel much more of a calming influence around me and the team I work with now, and I feel that I can concentrate better for it. Especially with no chocolate anymore of course.

We headed to Debenhams and picked up my parcel and it was all lovely, and then we headed around the store to have a look. There were some lovely dresses for The Love and there was a gorgeous coat by one of her favourite designers Ben de Lisi reduced from £95 to £60. It did look stunning on when she tried it on and to be honest, had I not already got her all her Christmas presents, I'd have definitely got her it no question. For all you fashionistas who may read this, you might want to peekie over at the website to see how nice it is. Gorgeous, darling!

It was then over to Costa where the Christmas special drinks were out and so that meant a creme brulee latte for me - I couldn't resist it. And a little raspberry and almond slice to go with it as well. I know, I like little things like that. The Love dislikes almonds so I also knew that I'd have to eat the whole slice myself (oh, the shame of it all!) and it was good to have a bit of time to relax and rest with the woman I adore and love before we headed homewards later. We don't normally make a habit of impromptu meeting after work but I really wanted to see her and spend some quality time. I'm a big softie really you know.

Later on it was out with Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock and just lately I've been trying to do lots of songs on vocals and see how well I do. I managed three more songs at 100% last night on expert, which pleased me immensely - Metallica with Ozzy Osbourne's version of "Paranoid", AFI's "Dancing Through Sunday" and best of all Slipknot's "Psychosocial" which at first sounds simple with shouty phrases, but the choruses have to be sung pretty much note perfect to get through it. And there's a little thing to watch out for - the second to last chorus has a longer end note, and it caught me out on the first attempt. Soon remembered that and managed to do it properly though - so tune of the day for me there I reckon.

As for The Apprentice, well who needs another mess? It was clear to me that had Stuart's team lost, he would have really borne the brunt of the other three ladies and been unceremoniously kicked off the show - his arrogant me me me attitude really did get the goat of Nick Hewer for one (and millions of others no doubt) and to be honest, Sandeesh committed a major harikari on the other team by getting one of the two who hadn't been technically trained on the recording equipment to be shown all that first, losing valuable time and sales in the process. Of course changing to a car driving footage and copying the other team didn't help either and to be honest she didn't really lead right. I did think Jamie might have gone as he was a bit negative.

I mean, Sandeesh is supposed to be a recruitment consultant, right? So why not, knowing that Christopher would have military precision in mastering the DVDs, get him to visit the technical people and get it done properly rather than take the two sales people with her? Right roles for the job and all that. If I was project managing it, I'd have also told her that you don't want to be approached by people in the suits in the shopping centre either - especially the likes of Westfield which are full of families. The star for me was Joanna on Stuart's team, you could tell her parenting skills were well used here and she really engaged with the children - and a cunning ruse of a little chocolate medal for all the kids was spot on. Nothing better in my view!

Tuesday 16th November - We're With The Celebs and Frank - You Know We Are, We Really Are!

After a good day of productive work I headed down to the Cornerhouse to meet up with The Love In My Heart, as we were heading out for the evening together. I really wanted to see the opening of an art exhibition at the University of Salford which would be devoted to none other than the late bard of Timperley, Frank Sidebottom. I also knew that one of my friend's boyfriends had some work on display there too, so it was good to see that we could go along and be supportive too.

We had something to eat in the Cornerhouse for tea - I had the mushroom and pancetta pizza which was spot on, and The Love had the steak sandwich which looked really fullsome and with tons of steak, so that was rather nice to have as well. As we were having a drink I noticed that no less than Terry Christian was at the bar, and he came and sat on a table close to us with a couple of friends as they had a chat and meeting with various bits of paper being handed round. John Robb (you know, muso journalist, used to be in the band The Membranes) also joined Terry later and it was like they'd never been away chattering about all sorts. We'd had tea and all was well and so we headed to Oxford Road station round the corner.

We got the train to Salford Crescent, which is adjacent to the University of Salford, and then headed over to the Chapman Building where the first floor housed the Frankophilia exhibition. As it was the opening night they'd laid on free drinks too, so it was nice to have a glass of orange juice (or in The Love's case, a glass of wine) and have a peek at all the exhibits. They were really good and many of them paid good tribute to Frank Sidebottom - there were papier mache heads, embroidered artwork of him, short films and animations, even some 3D images that worked well too.

On the way up the stairs to the exhibition I bumped into one of our former students whom I used to help out both at my previous job and my job now, so was lovely to see her, and I bumped into one of the City fans whom me and my friend sit near at Eastlands too, so it was a very small world indeed. I chatted with my friend and her boyfriend, and his exhibit was pretty good too, so nice to see that he had some representation there as well. We had a good chat and headed around the exhibit, and my friend had a little surprise for The Love as a thank you to me for sorting her laptop out a while back - a really nice crocheted brooch - absolutely gorgeous. I was so touched as was The Love, and that really made the evening for me. So if you're reading this, thank you tons from us both - it was ever so lovely of you x

We headed back to Salford Central station and hopped on the first Manchester bound train which meant we got off at Victoria. We walked past the Printworks and inside the Arndale, and whom did we walk past on the way towards HMV? No less than Ryan Thomas, who plays Jason Grimshaw off Coronation Street. Even me as a non-fan spotted him straight off. It was certainly a night for bumping into famous people that's for sure. We ended the night with a drink in Kro before heading home but we'd had a lovely time and lovely to see my friend and boyfriend too - all was very well with the world there.

Tune of the day happens to be something by Frank Sidebottom, no less than "Guess Who's Been on Match of the Day" which was always one of my favourites of his. I was recalling the Magical Timperley Tour earlier and it reminded me of how he would play this at gigs and the crowd would sing along back to him, and how often I'd help fill in the next line and sing along to it too. I miss Frank tons, to be honest. You know I do. I really do. Thank you.

Monday 15th November - I Feel Lucky, Punk

It was a fairly long grind at work today to be honest, notably because we were two staff members down within our office, but also because I knew that I had plenty to deal with. I set about the tasks of the day and was able to really get down to business, sorting out an A3 and an A4 printing problem, explaining to one of our Mac users why they couldn't connect online whilst chatting about old school indie music at the same time, and then being able to rectify a fault with one of the machines on the ground floor. All in a day's work and it was pay day today as well so it was the best day for most people.

I do think though that I can count myself lucky to be still in a job at the moment. Lots of places in Manchester are making people redundant and that's not nice to see that some people who have been loyal and working at a place for years are suddenly deemed surplus to requirements. It's also a concern that even the likes of the police force here are shedding jobs due to all the cuts that everyone needs to make - so what happens now if there's crime on the streets? Will that be open season for more criminal scroats to do their stuff if the police are having to be taken off the front line?

It's all pretty concerning for me to be honest as I'm trying hard whilst I can to make myself more qualified so I am able to hone my skills to a wider set if required, I'm also wary of the fact that I need to be sure that whatever I do in future I feel comfortable in what I do and that I enjoy it. I still do enjoy the job now but with all the changes underfoot, particularly in the education sector, then anything could and possibly will happen, and it would be foolish for me to think that I will have a job for life, as nice as that possibly sounds.

I got home later on and put on some Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock, and was able to nail some more songs on expert vocals and at 100% too - Linkin Park's "Bleed It Out" and then Nine Inch Nails' "Wish", which of course I put the swear words back in to make perfect sense of the song, and then, because they're from round these parts, the Buzzcocks' classic "What Do I Get?". I was so glad this made an appearance on the game and it was long overdue, and I was pleased that I sung it well - so tune of the day there for me.

Sunday 14th November - Formula 1 and Fiddle

I settled in this afternoon to watch the Formula 1 from Abu Dhabi. The final race of the season, and with any of four drivers able to win the title, it was a case of keep my eyes purely on the telly action going on. It was good to be able to see how mad the grid was with Martin Brundle, as I suspect everyone wanted to be there and see some history unfold. Out of the four drivers, most people were hedging bets on Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber, but Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton still had a chance if things went their way, and you never know with this F1 lark.

The race started and Vettel on pole stayed ahead of Lewis Hamilton, with Jenson Button jumping Alonso for third with Webber fifth. It stayed that way even with the safety car at the end of the lap as Michael Schumacher's car spun and Antonio Liuzzi had nowhere to go but over the top, pretty scary stuff. Some of the midfield runners pitted under that to get their mandatory stop out of the way, but the leaders kept at it. Red Bull brought Mark Webber in early as his tyres were shot, and Ferrari responded a lap later with Alonso pitting. This proved to be a mistake for them both - although Alonso was ahead of Webber, they were behind cars which had pitted during the safety car and weren't stopping again.

At the front the leading three pulled enough of a gap so that when they came in the pits, they would still be up there. However, Robert Kubica was pitting later so although Vettel got ahead, Hamilton was behind and couldn't get past, giving Vettel a bit of a lead. Button nailed some good laps but after his stop he was behind Hamilton and Kubica, regaining third when Kubica pitted. Hamilton chased after Vettel with no luck, which meant Vettel would win the race and Hamilton second. That meant Hamilton was out of the running, but what about behind?

Well, Alonso couldn't get past the Renault of Vitaly Petrov, no matter what he did, and although he jesticulated at Petrov after the race, the Russian did nothing wrong - he held position, drove well and kept Alonso at bay. Alonso's seventh and Webber's eighth meant that the title went to Vettel, who was clearly crying over the radio when he was informed that he was champion. I was pleased that Alonso didn't win due to Ferrari's team orders cheating scandal in Hockenheim, and if Lewis or Jenson wasn't going to win it, give it to a driver who would earn it. Vettel never lead the championship till after the final race, and a perfect time to do it I think.

Later on The Love In My Heart came over, and we had a relaxing late afternoon. We had some Swing Out Sister on and had a good game of Scrabble as well as play Fun Fun Minigolf on the Wii, and I made us some pasta in sauce with meatballs for tea. We also were able to have a good chat and look forward to later this week, and also arrange some nights out in the future too. I did look at a dress she quite fancies getting herself for a few dos come Christmas and it looks very nice indeed - I'd wholeheartedly approve and know that she would look gorgeous in it to say the least.

It was then off to Academy 2 as were going to see Seth Lakeman. The weather wasn't the warmest ever but we decided to head to Kro on Oxford Road opposite for a drink and a chat with The Love, and we were able to relax in there for a while. They even had some decent real ale on which was nice, and it felt like just what we both needed. This did mean that we missed the support Delta Maid, but I spotted one of my work colleagues at the Academy 2 bar later who said that she was pretty good and well worth checking out.

On came Seth Lakeman (official site) (myspace) and he was as good as he usually is. It was good to see a full line up after one of them was missing at Shepley Spring Festival (with good reason though) - and they were a really cohesive outfit. Also whoever the sound man was there got the sound spot on again, I had the same happiness last year with a really clear sound. It was nice to hear clearly and to see how good it all was, and starting off with the likes of "The Hurlers" put everyone in a good foot stomping mood. We also got "Solomon Browne" early on which I really like (especially as the song's about the lifeboats around Mousehole in Cornwall where I've been.)

Of course, no Seth show is complete without him doing "Kitty Jay" and he certainly did that at full pelt on his own, really shining out from all the darkness around the Academy 2. Nice to see some stuff from the new album including the title track "Hearts and Minds" as well as "See Them Dance", "Preacher's Ghost" and a rather nice rendition of "Changes" as well. Some fans were pandering for the old stuff and what was a nice surprise was "Ye Mariners All" from the Punch Bowl album, didn't expect that (so tune of the day right there) . We also got "Blood Upon Copper" complete with fast hoedown bit at the end, and of course "Race To Be King" at the end. And therein lies a small problem - the set list's getting a bit formulaic if you know what I mean.

What was surprising was that the Academy 2 was only around two thirds full, if that. You'd think that someone as highly regarded musically as Seth would get more people coming, or maybe it's that people don't want to head to gigs on a Sunday evening? It did concern me slightly, especially as he and the band were as tight as ever and playing a good set. We made our way homewards knowing we'd had a lovely time together and the perfect end to the weekend which had started out frustrating with City and ending with the sound of the fiddle in our hearts. Aww.

Saturday 13th November - Who Put The Nil Nil Draw On The Wall?

It was a day of two halves, of that there is for sure. I went over to my friend's place earlier in the day as with the new Virgin Media router hub that he has, for some reason it wouldn't let either the PS3 or the Wii online. I had a look at all the settings, worked out that they were as correct as could be, and found out that the only way to let the PS3 see out was to give it a static IP (remembering to put Virgin Media's DNS in as well) and then put that static IP in the router's DMZ. Once we did that it talked happily to the PSN and the Singstar Store (which is what my friend plays quite a bit) so that was good. The Wii was happy to be on the net doing the same thing, but firing up Rock Band 2 or Guitar Hero World Tour showed that none of them would connect for online play. Absolutely frustrating to say the least.

A scan of the web later shows that my friend isn't the only one to suffer much hassle with this router (it's a Netgear, but basically with Virgin Media's own firmware) - plenty of forum posts say that it's not very reliable and tends to not allow online gaming to happen (boo). Also, to access certain websites, you have to put Virgin Media's proxy servers in - what the hell is all that about? I wouldn't mind, but the sites that didn't work are ones that you'd not expect to be failing under normal web load to be quite honest, and it does make me wonder just how fit for purpose the router is.

We then headed off to see Man City against Birmingham City, and to be perfectly honest, it was a pretty awful affair. The first half was devoid of chances and Man City were playing overly cautious again, leading to some of the fans booing at half time. City did improve during the second half but to be honest never looked like scoring, and when Roberto Mancini took off Carlos Tévez and put on Gareth Barry, we were all thinking "what's that about - go for the win, surely?" and some of the fans even were chanting for the now on loan at Cardiff Craig Bellamy - which shows just how frustrated the fans were getting. It was a chorus of boos as the team went off, and understandably so to be perfectly honest.

The blame for this lies fairly and squarely at Roberto Mancini too - playing 4-5-1 at home just isn't cutting it for me. Sides are coming to City's ground and going defensive, so there's no need for us to match that. We should have the attacking guile to break down defences but to be fair Tévez can't do it alone and needs someone with him to at least help out to score. I guess on the other side of the coin you could say that it was the third clean sheet on the bounce, but that's no consolation. We're losing ground on the teams near the top and that isn't what we want to see.

Rants over - we headed to see The Love In My Heart and had a cuppa as well as something to eat for tea. It was lovely to see her as ever and it made the football a bit less depressing as we chatted away for a while. My friend and I then headed off to the Academy as we had something which would hopefully cheer us both up - a gig - and Skunk Anansie at that. Although the new album "Wonderlustre" had received mixed reviews, I know that when they play live they go for it and it's usually a kick backside show. I was hoping for more of the same and we headed to the Academy in hope of that.

First off were the support, The Virginmarys (official site) (myspace) and they were the perfect example of how not to employ the wrong soundman. They were going for it and rocking pretty well, and they seemed tight enough, but the mixing was all over the place and sounded far too much like noise and not enough like the rock which they actually sound like. This was a shame for me because you could tell their influences from their sound, the likes of AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, and their ballsy rock was a very good warm up for Skunk Anansie to come. It was good to see some old fashioned no frills, no fancy light shows, just rocking.

However, if you want to rock out live, then Skunk Anansie (official site) (myspace) will show you how. Granted they had lights, but they were intelligently used, and the main focus was on the classic four piece putting all their stuff together and rocking out. I'm sure Mark the drummer has a double bass pedal and he wasn't afraid to use it, Cass flicked the dreadlocks and looked effortless on the bass, whilst Ace was bounding around whilst nailing some riffs on the guitar, and then there's Skin, who draws you in the whole thing with her being the focus of what the band are doing - rocking, and pretty hard too.

It was nice to hear plenty of stuff from the new album and that sounded pretty good, notably the slower stuff really had a punch and poise to them. They had a good mix of the old stuff too, starting with "Yes It's F***ing Political" and then "Charlie Big Potato" which got everyone in the right mood. During "Weak" Skin decided to go walking on the audience with them holding her up with her hands - a truly ace sight to see. Even better was that Skin declared a song to be about sex and went headlong into "I Can Dream" which still is a classic even after all these years. Tune of the day for that one for me without doubt. There was also the likes of "On My Hotel TV" which sounded pretty hard and full of angst, and a really nice rendition of "100 Ways To Be A Good Girl" which was a lovely surprise.

Mind you, they still had plenty in their armoury and having "Little Baby Swastikka" as the encore makes perfect sense as it really does allow them to climax everything in one full on assault with everyone singing along too - it's one of those moments at gigs. Skin was walking with the audience again and asked them to get down so she could stand tall in the middle of them - surreal stuff. Add to that a lovely singalong of "Hedonism (Just Because You Feel Good)" as well during the encore and it was nailed, spot on. My friend and I really enjoyed it and proved beyond doubt that Skunk Anansie rock with a capital R.

Friday 12th November - If You Want Peace, Prepare For Vocal War

After a busy day at work it was off to Tesco to do the food shopping. I actually did pretty well on the old buy one get one free offers, as I picked up some fabric conditioner that was actually buy one get two free, and also I needed some AA batteries as the one in my clock had gone - and when I saw that they had a pack of 8 Duracell on buy one get one free, it meant around £6.50 for sixteen in total which isn't too bad for that make, that's for sure. It was pretty busy in the local Tesco and I settled in and made some tea.

I'd had some bad news earlier in the day though as my friend had been rushed to hospital where he lives to have an operation on his knee. By the sound of what he said it wasn't too good, and he was due to come down from Ulverston tomorrow to see Skunk Anansie with me, but couldn't make it. One of my friends who lives local and whom I go to City with is coming with me instead and I'm sure we'll have a good time, but I'm gutted too that a knee op has forced my friend out of it. I know that we've had great times seeing Skunk Anansie in the past, but these things happen.

I then settled in to a bit of Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock and decided that it might be a good idea to see what other songs I could completely nail 100%. I'd already done Children of Bodom's "If You Want Peace.. Prepare For War" but knew that my score was around 1,000 or so off the best ones thus far on the Wii. I actually was going to record myself doing a 100% score to see if I could do it live, and got the star power activation just right and then when I looked at the score I went pretty mental - 71K plus, which is a pretty high score on that song to say the least! Yaay me.

As for tune of the day well that'd be another song from the same game, which I finally managed to do pretty well on vocals on too - REM's "Losing My Religion". A couple of tricky little vocal phrases had given me difficulty before but once I listened to the song a few more times (no hassle as I love REM anyway) it was good to be able to finally put that one to bed and complete that too. It's still one of their finest songs and I was ever so pleased to have it in Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock as well as previously downloadable content for Rock Band 2 as well - yaay.

Thursday 11th November - To The Sound of Nothing At All, Except The Wind

It was a pretty lengthy day at work as I had to make sure that plenty of the new printers were playing ball, but not only that, but also plenty of jobs came in for me to do and to get things sorted out. I actually caught up on a couple of things to do as well so was able to update the hardware database for the PCs that we have, and also write up some documentation as well as provide some feedback as to how our Outlook rollout is changing (answer: debatable, but we shall see). What is important though is that I feel like I'm getting somewhere with a few things right now and I'm sure that's a good thing.

After work I headed home and relaxed a bit, it was time for The Love In My Heart to head over to see me. It's always lovely when she comes over to visit, and I think it was made especially nice by the fact that she'd come straight from work to get to mine. She relaxed and chatted to me and then showered and changed, and I made us a coffee and we chilled out before I put on the evening meal of rump steak with chips and vegetables. Tesco last week had the rump on half price, so got two massive steaks for a mere three pounds, which as anyone will tell you is a veritable bargain. It was lovely and went down really well.

We then settled in for some telly, and I know she wanted to watch Corrie after the events of the other night and so I indulged her with it. It did seem quite sad and I can see why she got so emotional the other night about it (which is a good thing, it's nice to be human I reckon) and it did also seem pretty dramatic as well with lots of good acting too. With that and some bad news in Emmerdale which of all people Pauline Quirke really acted well, it was not the night to be cheered up by the soaps methinks.

After that I got the Scrabble out and put on the new 3 Daft Monkeys album "The Antiquated and the Arcane". The Love and I noted it was certainly more folky and acoustic sounding than their previous work, but the stand out track for me at the moment is "Days of the Dance" which has a lovely waltz feeling at the start and then builds up speed for the chorus parts, which has a warm homely feeling to it all - tune of the day most definitely. At one point, The Love had J, Q, X and Z in her rack but she did ever so well to get rid of them one by one in some excellent moves, TAX on double word, ZOO with triple letter Z, QUIP with triple letter Q and JAR with double letter J. Well thought out and planned.

It was rather windy outside and we could both hear it howling around and really blustering - so much so that a small tree near my house was pointing a bit less than straight up which wasn't too good. I was worried later when The Love headed home and insisted that she send me a text when she got home to let me know that she'd arrived safe and sound - and as the night set in the wind howled even more, and even with a little of Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock on vocals to drown out the wind somewhat you could still hear it really whistle like anything...

Wednesday 10th November - Blankety Blank

It was the big one today. Derby Day. Red versus blue. City versus United. And in Manchester football terms, it doesn't get that much bigger to be perfectly honest. Of course there'd been plenty of hype during the week and plenty of banter at work as well, and it was now a case of seeing what would happen. My friend came over and we headed to see The Love In My Heart prior to the game so we could have a nice warm cuppa and have a chat beforehand - it's almost our pre-game thing now if she's around and it means that I get to see her too - win win for me.

We then headed off to the ground and we noticed that the City Square wasn't selling beer - probably to avoid trouble at the game, and the queues to get in the ground were pretty massive too. It was really good though when they turned the lights off before the game started and had the scoreboard screens display the blue moon rising - it was smart. The Man U fans decided that letting off flares was their riposte which made my friend and I wonder how the hell they got them into the ground in the first place.

Unfortunately the game was about as dull as it gets, both sides being pretty negative and cancelling each other out. It seemed to me like it was as much about not losing or fearing that they would lose, and due to that not really going for the jugular. I can only remember two clear City chances, with Carlos Tévez's free kick being well saved by Edwin van der Sar, and Pablo Zabaleta being through with a ball from Adam Johnson and curling a shot just over. It was all about the defence and to be honest it wasn't worth the watch, I'd have much rather fallen asleep or even watched The Apprentice to be honest, and it's not often you'll hear me say that.

Sadly Roberto Mancini was to blame for it - sending out City to be way too defensive and almost wanting to shut up shop straight away. Often the ball was going back to the defence, forward a bit and then back to the defence again and that was pretty shocking stuff to be quite honest. It didn't seem right to me and I just felt like it was a bit boring to say the least. Tune of the day sums up this mood: "Boredom" by Buzzcocks - it made me feel like that - and the main upshot was spending some good time with my friend and then us both with The Love In My heart afterwards. Ah well, you can't win them all.

Tuesday 9th November - Going Daft At Academy 3

It was a longish day at work today as we had all the new über-printers delivered, and we had our technical people from Océ come and do the installs too. We're basically saying goodbye to some old HP Designjets and hello to some nice Colourwaves, which are not only quicker but also better quality, and it's really proving to be a task and half to get the room set up just as we need to so that people can turn up, log in, release their print jobs and then get them all nice and neat and tidy. Of course with such large volume and sized printers, getting them in was a different matter entirely!

With that all done for the day I headed home, relaxed a bit with some Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock as well as doing some of the household chores, and then it was off to Academy 3 where I'd be seeing 3 Daft Monkeys again. I like the Academy 3 for this sort of gig - it never seems too full and it means that where this band are concerned, you can bound around like a loon without a care and get in the mood for a good little dance around. As I knew that it was cold outside, I headed across to Kro opposite first for a cake and a coffee so that I'd feel a bit more awake but also had some calories to burn off (I know, I know, any excuse!)

First up in the support acts were Pablo's Finest Hour (myspace) and they weren't too bad. There were just two of them but they seemed to play pretty well (notably Hannah with her strings) and their songs were a little bit on the folky side but well structured and put together. It set the evening off nicely, and they also had a nice stage presence whilst getting the job done. I think that they might need a little bit more audience interaction but that's a minor niggle - I'll have to keep an eye out to see them again and see how they develop.

Then it was fun and games with Inflatable Buddha (official site) (myspace) and they were tons of fun. They had one of the coolest bass players who had this rather thin standing double bass, but meant that Sue the bassist could bound around it and still play it with a massive grin on her face. Richard with his sax wouldn't have looked out of the place in any 80s ska band, and played really well, and Steve up front had a bit of a Northern accent whilst getting everyone warmed up nicely and encouraging them to dance around (well he is a performance poet which explains things). My favourite song of theirs was one about women's magazines where they're basically about weight loss and sex, and Steve basically blamed magazines like New Woman for thinking like this. I'm with him - it was great.

On came 3 Daft Monkeys (official site) (myspace) and yet again they were utterly brilliant. They really know how to get everyone moving and although starting off with a couple of slower paced ones, it didn't take Jamie, Athene and Tim to get everyone up on their feet and dancing around the place. I guess "Human Nature" always does it - the intro is nice and slow and you can sing along, then the pace builds up and it's time to go for it. It was good of them to play lots of stuff from their new album "The Antiquated and the Arcane", and tracks like "Perfect Stranger" and "Love Life" really do show them off to their finest. I think they were quite moved when people were singing along to the latter.

Last time they toured they did play stuff that would be on this new album, so the likes of "Masquerade Parade" and "She Said" went down well with everyone (I love that song too - make that tune of the day) and then of course plenty from their previous release "Social Vertigo" - where I think everyone belted out the words to "Paranoid Big Brother", they all did the waltz opening part to the title track, and also of course old classics such as "Hubbadillia", "Faces" et al too. It was just great and I didn't mind really going for it, they're worth it. I just felt so pleased to be there and "Days of the Dance" had people doing a proper waltz at the front (if you hear it you will know what I mean!) and that was bloody great. I felt like Len Goodman - "Seven!"

Afterwards I went to see the lovely Jenny at the merchandise counter and got myself a copy of the new CD, and that was good enough, but even better was that Athene and Jamie from the band came out to see the fans and were happy to sign the CDs - so that was lovely of them. So my new album is signed by them and Athene even drew a flower on her signature too - bless. Her dress was really unique - made of all little bits of recycled clothing and put together well and it suited her style. I like quirky stuff like that and she really did make everyone feel lovely. Awww.

Monday 8th November - Just Another Outlook Monday

It was pretty much O-day for me and my colleagues at work today, as we've been the first group of users to move from GroupWise to Outlook, running on an Exchange server. As you can well imagine, I'm not the biggest fan of Outlook to be honest, it just doesn't do what it's supposed to do and of course it's full of security holes. Give me Mozilla Thunderbird at home and I am happy. But then you'd expect that. What was supposed to happen was that after log in, Outlook would fire up with some default settings, become the default mail application and generally work properly. Guess what. It didn't. It turned out that this was due to the way that Zenworks was configured in some containers to bring the application stuff down, so once that was fixed it worked again.

I had a bit of a test with it, and of course straight away set my email to be plain text, not HTML, as well as also try and arrange the windows like I wanted it, rather than the daft task panes which mean that the email you read is actually on the right hand side with not that much text to read easily. I eventually got it a bit more like what I wanted, but to me at least it just seems not that good. I guess on the plus side that other devices such as iPhones talk to an Exchange server pretty well, so those sort of things should work well, but would you really want to use them for lengthy emails?

Anyway, I put together some useful information for some of our central teams, and on top of that I then set up some preparation work for our new über-printers arriving tomorrow, so that should be pretty good. I guess that if we can do the majority of the stuff now it will save plenty of hassle later on, so fingers crossed and all that. Still doesn't change my opinion though - I really loathe Outlook and I'll be even more loathe to really not do anything with GroupWise anymore, I've grown to like it over the years. I'll see what happens in the future months.

Tune of the day is Senses Fail's version of "Institutionalized", originally by Suicidal Tendencies. The ST original is a proper skate punk classic, and a real genre-definer. So when the producers of the Tony Hawk's American Wasteland game wanted modern US punk bands to cover old classics, it was inevitable that this got covered. To be fair to Senses Fail they do a pretty good version, and with the original lyrics as well (cue ending of "I'll probably get hit by a car anyway") and at least keep the spirit intact. I'd much rather have that than some awful emo version!

Sunday 7th November - Markets and Birthdays - Simples!

It was a fairly hectic day for myself and The Love In My Heart, as we had two things to do in one day. The first was to head up to Chorley and to Astley Hall, where there was a Christmas market and fair being held to help one of the local hospices in the area. It sounded all very nice and would get us in the mood for Christmas a bit too, so we were soon heading up the M61 in The Love's car, off at junction 8, past Chorley Hospital and then down through Astley Village to the park and hall, where the car parking situation was a tad tricky. I did see a van pulling out of a space and quickly alerted The Love to it, and she was there in a flash to snag it. Good girl!

The food part of the market in the courtyard was pretty busy with one cake stall really doing well - I think they ran out of stock by lunch time. There were also plenty of little gift stalls and the like in the inside part of the old stable block and the space was compact and tightly close together. The Love got a very nice little neck scarf for a mere two pounds which looked lovely on, and even the Café Ambio place for coffee and snacks was pretty rammed too. I thought that hopefully lots of money would be raised and earned too so that'd be good.

We walked along to the Hall itself, where on the way you could take a ride on a horse and cart or this little mock London bus (popular with the kids, that) around some of the park paths, and there were queues outside the hall for people to go in with their kids and see Santa. The Hall itself did look very well preserved, even having a long gallery like Little Moreton Hall complete with uneven sloping floor and bad building work for its time. The parts of that hall looked really neat and I'm sure on a quieter day it'd be nice to head there and have a look around. Back at the courtyard, the food stall with the pork and apple burgers was doing a roaring trade, and that was very good to see.

We left later on and headed back down the motorway and then on to my Mum's, where she was hosting a little party and get together for my six year old nephew. He was pleased to bit with the little toy light saber I'd got him and the Toy Story related t-shirt (although it turned out he'd got it already but Mum suggested he could have one at hers and one at home so he could always wear it if need be). Mum did lots of food including a very nice warm hotpot and lots of the family were there. I ended up spending some time mid-afternoon helping my nephew, his friend and my niece building up a little Lego oil tanker, so that was good to spend that time.

I was anxious to avoid the telly so not to see the F1 result but did find out that City won 2-0 at West Brom so that was good, and later on, my uncle had some fireworks with him so we set them off safely so that my nephew could see a little display on his birthday. He did seem pretty pleased with himself overall and it was nice to see that plenty came too - certainly made for a nicer day as well. The time sped by and soon The Love and I were heading back to mine for a relaxing cuppa before she set off for home. It was sad to see her go as it always is - sometimes I wish we had more time!

In the meantime, I then watched the F1 highlights and it proved to be a good race, with the top five in the Championship taking the first five slots in the race. I thought Jenson Button did well to come back from 11th to 5th and did some very neat passing, even more so considering what happened to him the day before. It was close up front but of course Sebastian Vettel's win was more helpful to Fernando Alonso, who can now finish second in Abu Dhabi and win the title whatever happens. It'll all be go next Sunday for sure - and Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" has to be tune of the day - it is the F1 theme tune!

Saturday 6th November - Steak Out

It was a good day for me today with plenty of rest and relaxation, but first - Tesco! Off to get some of the shopping that I needed for during the week and on top of that, it was a case of getting there early before the usual Saturday shopping crowd. I also wanted to head back early to mine because I had a feeling that the postman would deliver a package I was waiting for. Indeed, as I sat indoors in the warm watching the 2010 Bathurst 1000 on DVD, there was a knock around noon time with a parcel for me which contained no less than two Christmas presents, so that was good.

I headed to Asda later in the day only to stop for a birthday card for my nephew, as he is six tomorrow. I found a really nice card with a six badge on as well, so that was good. Asda was pretty rammed though so I didn't want to spend too much time in there, just get in, get what I wanted and get gone again. You know how it is. I was pleased to be able to get it all sorted though, and spent some of the afternoon relaxing and rocking a bit on Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock before The Love In My Heart arrived mid-afternoon and we'd be heading back to her place.

We relaxed with Swing Out Sister on her hi-fi and us having a game of Scrabble (I've left the Travel one at hers for now, seems to work well) and we had a pretty good game. I ended up doing REMNANTS (blank used for A and N) which scored a massive 74 points on my second move, and consistently scored 20s and 30s all the way through. In fact the game was pretty quick even by our standards so that was quite impressive, and before long I relaxed a bit whilst The Love was sorting out the tea for us. And what a tea it was - she made this lovely steak with diane sauce, some lovely potatoes, fresh carrots and little button mushrooms. It tasted gorgeous and it only made me wish I could cook like her. And on top of that, her legendary lemon cheesecake! I was spoilt for choice and that really did make me feel special.

We spent the evening mainly crashing out on the sofa in front of the telly, with us seeing a bit of Strictly Come Dancing which proved that it's turned into a person popularity contest instead of actually judging on the dancing (I mean come on, Ann Widdicombe is a joke of a dancer, right?) and then as The Love would always do, she goes and puts X Factor on. I had to sort of grin and bear it (I hate it to be honest) but I know she loves it and I was at her place, so just cuddled up lots instead. The theme of the week was American Anthems and hardly any of the songs picked would have been my choice.

I had a think during the show and I think some of the following would have been good: "Because the Night" by Patti Smith. Okay, so Bruce Springsteen wrote it and credit to him, but somehow Patti made it feel more personal and more emotional, so good on her. Tune of the day for me that one in fact. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana might well be genre-defining for its age, so it'd be good to have that in, and of course along those lines "Killing in the Name" by Rage Against The Machine, which of course kept X Factor off number one last Christmas but also way back in 1992 was an anthem for a disaffected youth across the States, so good enough reason. Going back further, you could consider the likes of Marvin Gaye's "Heard It Through The Grapevine" along with another Motown number "Tears of a Clown" by Smokey Robinson. So there's five that sprang to mind which could all be bona fide classics.

I'm sure you could think of more, but lots of them weren't really that classic, either too recent to be considered a true anthem or in one case Kim Wilde's "Kids in America" which the only connection to being anthemic is that it has America in the title. Woo bloody hoo. I don't know. It makes me wonder that if such shows are to give the kids a bit of a pop history lesson and maybe even introduce them to songs they might like, then try a bit harder to actually show some real classic songs out there. Can't see them having a Metal themed night, that'd be ace to try and get them to do the likes of Motorhead, Metallica, Slayer (hehe, "Raining Blood" would scare the crap out of the kids wouldn't it?), Judas Priest etc. Maybe one day there'll be a proper rock music contest for proper musicians. We live in hope.

Friday 5th November - Wii Rock!

After a long and hard day at the office, one of my friends and colleagues at work met up with me and we headed back to my place for an evening based on rock. We've occasionally met up and done this, and as I now have Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock, we thought he could have a peek at it, see what he thinks whilst at the same time playing lots of rock tunes. We got home and I put the kettle on for a brew and we had a good chat about all things music, and then I started to make us something for tea - some Cauldron Lincolnshire veggie sausages in a nice big barm and some chips to go with it. It went down well and tasted spot on and filled us up nicely.

It was then out with the guitars and on with the Wii as we whacked on Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock for a bit of a rock fest. We decided to take on some of the classics from the set list first, and this included the likes of Bohemian Rhapsody, Money For Nothing, Rocking In The Free World, Pour Some Sugar On Me and of course Unskinny Bop by Poison. Actually I quite liked Blind Melon's "Tones of Home" as well that we blitzed in the first batch of stuff. It worked really well.

We swapped instruments around so that my friend did vocals whilst I did lead guitar and that worked pretty well, especially when doing Poison's "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" so that's tune of the day right there. We also did very well with some of the Guitar Hero 5 stuff that I'd imported into the game as well, and by this time we'd gone to me on drums and my friend back on lead guitar as well - so that was good. The drums on "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" by Elton John weren't easy but I did them, and we also did Motley Crue's "Looks That Kill" pretty well as well - all good that.

I was surprised when I went to vocals that I still managed to turn in a decent performance, and on expert: a mere 97% on Bohemian Rhapsody which surprised me immensely, as well as high 90s for the likes of "Rio" by Duran Duran, "The Unforgiven" by Metallica (imported from Guitar Hero Metallica of course) and so on. We did try the Dragonforce track "Fury of the Storm" but the drums were nigh on impossible as were the lead guitar parts and we epic failed, but to be honest it's very hard to pass anyway. The time went by so quickly but I just had to try out one last thing: "Sudden Death" by Megadeth. My friend was on vocals but in between the vocal bits he was admiring how difficult the guitar part is - I did pretty well on it - and you could see why it's just such a tough song in the game to beat.

My friend made his way home later on but we'd had a great evening and lots of rock and music were mentioned too, so all was good. I caught up with one of my friends online via Skype later and that was nice to have a chat too - so it was a real Friday night of rest and relaxation which was the perfect end to a good week, not least when I had been so busy sorting stuff out and it got to the point where I just needed to finalise a few things for the weeks ahead. Time is ticking away to say the least!

Thursday 4th November - Pole-Axed And Rocking

During work today, and after finally doing the last lot of the PCs that we needed to re-image (so that's around 50 of them done in the last few weeks on top of everything else that I've had to do) it's now been a case of sorting out other tasks as well which will make life easier in the long run. I estimate that there's a massive task of working out what PCs need replacing in some of the buildings and going from there to see what we need to do. It's all part of a bid for new kit, and so I'm sure that it's going to be a tough task ahead of us. I didn't want to stop too late after work finished though as I needed to head back home.

You see, City were on telly against Lech Poznan away in the Europa League. I went to Tesco and then Iceland and got some food in for the evening, and got back and made sure everywhere was tidy before my relatives arrived, with my uncle being the first one there just before kick off, and eventually my brother, my cousin and girlfriend, and my other cousin arriving also. It meant six of us watching the game on the big telly, and as the last of them arrived, Poznan whacked in a thirty yard low strike to take the lead a 1-0, which wasn't good, and they pressed for a second as we looked very poor before half time.

The second half improved when David Silva came on, and he was able to inject a bit of life into proceedings. City equalised from a corner as Emmanuel Adebayor headed it towards goal, their keeper saved it, but Ade was good to follow up and smash it home. The game turned in one minute late on, when a cross from the left saw David Silva hit it just over, and then up the other end Poznan got a free kick, and as Dedryck Boyata headed clear it bounded back off a Poznan head and in off the post. Unlucky, but these things happen. And then they scored a screamer to win it 3-1, and deservedly so it has to be said to be honest.

We all were well narked with ITV4's coverage as the summarisers and commentators were all pretty much anti-City and were really closet Man U fans in disguise which was annoying, and then no word from the City camp, just straight to their next game on the telly. Thoroughly annoying too that was. What does worry me is that it's three defeats on the bounce for City and with West Brom away being a tricky game on Sunday, and then the derby on Wednesday, we've lost form at the wrong time and that's also not very good. Maybe just maybe it's proving something - that we are useless without Carlos Tévez.

I decided to put Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock on, and it ended up four of us being in a four player band and going for it. In the end we had my brother on bass, my cousin's girlfriend on lead guitar, my cousin on drums and me on vocals, and we swapped a bit so that he tried vocals too and me on drums. It worked out really well as we scored pretty highly on the likes of "Money For Nothing", "Losing My Religion" and "Aqualung" from the new game, and also some of the song imports from others, and so we nailed "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me" for example.

What was good was that we did "Bohemian Rhapsody" really well and I did decent enough on vocals on that one, and we gave a blast of "Paranoid" by Metallica with Ozzy Osbourne, by which time my cousin's girlfriend was on drums and my cousin on lead guitar. It rocked pretty hard that, and we did very well. We did even better on Muse's "Uprising" so that's tune of the day - I had to do the Matt Bellamy vocals which was tough but fair to do, and it really did sound like we were a band. I'll have to see if we can get two or three of us rocking on my cousin's Xbox 360 come Christmas Day, as he's apparently getting the game...

Wednesday 3rd November - Birthday Fun

It's my Mum's birthday today, and so Mum invited myself and The Love In My Heart over to her place along with a fair chunk of the family after we finished work. The Love was on her late shift, so I headed into the city centre after work and managed to get another Christmas present sorted out for my nephew - and he'll be very pleased to get what I managed to find - especially as I know what he likes. My sister approves wholeheartedly too, so that's good - another one done and less to go. I stopped off at the Cornerhouse for a quick latte and then headed to The Love's workplace to meet her.

We headed towards the bus stop to Mum's via one of the shops to get a bottle of wine to bring along with us, and the bus pretty much sped along the main roads, so we got there pretty much at the time we thought we might. Mum enjoyed the present that we got her (the Forsyte Saga box set on DVD) and a few of us had the chicken curry that Mum was making, complete with rice, naan breads and so on. It was very nice actually and we enjoyed munching that whilst relaxing and chatting to the family. It was good too to see so many people there as well.

We then had a gorgeous birthday cake with a really nice and light sponge and filling - it really was luscious and I had to end up having a second piece on Mum's insistence, it was that nice. My niece was running around and generally causing mayhem but my new little nephew seemed oblivious to it all and just wanted to crash out and sleep, bless, he's such a little sweetie. We all had a good time chattering away and we ended up heading back to mine later safe in the knowledge that Mum would have had a good time.

Later on The Love and I settled down to watch The Apprentice, and seeing them attempt to sell clothes in the Trafford Centre was a right laugh and a half. I kind of wished that I'd been there that weekend just to see how they did and what they were really like, but at the end the two of us were cheering as Paloma rightly got knocked off her perch. She was a bit too mouthy and Lord Alan Sugar had it spot on when he said that she'd talked herself out of it because of the way that she almost ganged up on one of the contestants simply because he claimed he knew the Trafford Centre like the back of hand yet the promotional stand was well away from the shop itself.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the excellent "Just Can't Get Enough" as covered by Nouvelle Vague. It just sounds right for the relaxing evening and I finally remembered what advert it was from as well - hurrah! It's been used in the ad for Tropicana orange juice, and I can remember the sun coming up with their version playing. It had been bugging me since I heard it again last night where it was from, so good to finally put that one to bed. Hurrah!

Tuesday 2nd November - We Just Can't Get Enough

It was a pretty rainy Tuesday in Manchester (honestly, even more so than normal) and it was off to the Academy 2 for myself and my friend as we were off to see Nouvelle Vague. We quite liked their different take on punk and 80s classics and to see them performed live might be an intriguing gig, we thought. Most of you might have heard their version of "Just Can't Get Enough" as it's been used on a TV advert before now. The weather might have put some people off but I'm sure for those who went to see the French band do their thing, nothing was going to stop them.

In fact when we got to the University building where the Academy 2, 3 and Club Academy all live in, it turned out that there was a massive queue of indie pop kids for some band at Club Academy, but Academy 2 seemed somewhat empty till we realised that in fact the gig was in Academy 3 right at the top. Thankfully we were able to get up there and so managed to get close to the front for an excellent view of proceedings. The mixing desk was left on with Portishead's first album "Dummy" and that just set the tone for the relaxing feel of the evening throughout. We were excited but didn't know what to expect, but time soon passed and with a cold drink to have, the action began.

The support band were Projectionists (myspace) and they didn't sound too bad. I thought I recognised the lead singer Becki somewhere, and after some research back at the Towers later, it turned out that she used to be in the Pipettes, and that made some sense. They had some quirky little pop songs with the drummer doing backing vocals too, and a nice keyboard melody holding most of the songs together well too. Out of the songs that they played, I quite liked "I Never Wanted Anything" which had a real poppy side to it that I didn't mind one bit. It got the crowd warmed up nicely.

On came Nouvelle Vague (official site) (myspace) and they were absolutely excellent. In fact my friend said later that it was one of the best gigs he'd been to this year, and I was with him all the way. Their set list featured many of their covers done in their bossa nova style, and with a nice funky feel with the coolest bass dude Marc Collin out there, and the drummer absolutely giving it some, whilst Oliver Libaux did his acoustic guitar thing. There was also a keyboard player doing superb work, and two female singers. You could either fall in love with Melanie Pain (the cute brunette one in a lovely black dress) or Nadeah Miranda (the tall slightly crazy blonde one in a green dress and tights) depending on your preference but they really commanded a stage presence.

It was a really good and varied rendition of many classics, including "Metal" by Gary Numan (we approved of that), "Ever Fall In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've?)" by The Buzzcocks, "Too Drunk To F***" by Dead Kennedys (complete with Nadeah spitting water and running around in the crowd getting people to dance with her), "Master and Servant" by Depeche Mode, and what was especially lovely was "God Save The Queen" by Sex Pistols, with just Melanie and Oliver, a nice acoustic rendition. Of course everyone did the "No future, no future, no future for you" in proper punk style, which Melanie acknowledged: "Okay, we're in Manchester" and started moshing a bit. Good on you flower!

The band played with a smile on their face and the set was really good: we even got "Guns of Brixton" by The Clash. But at the end of the main set, one of the loveliest tributes to Joy Division you'll ever hear. They did "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and stripped it down to a bit more bare bones, but kept all the feeling of the song intact. To have the audience sing the main chorus as one was a spine-tingling moment and to be honest, I almost cried. The original is my all time favourite song ever and for a band to do it justice, in Manchester, was a really poetic moving thing. Has to be tune of the day definitely methinks.

The band came back on for an encore, did an excellent "Just Can't Get Enough" with everyone singing along, and even did Martin Gore's "A Manner of Speaking" at the end which was a really nice surprise at the end. Later on Melanie and Nadeah were signing CDs and my friend and I got a CD each signed, a compilation called "New Wave" where the two main guys from the band pick their own favourite alternative cover versions and compile it. We didn't realise that at the time, but I'm sure it'll be a good listen. I might just have to drop hints that I want a Nouvelle Vague album for Christmas. Oh, I just did. Honestly, if you get chance, go and see them - and if they tour again, I will be there, without question.

Monday 1st November - Dark And Depressing

You could tell that the clocks had gone back over the weekend, especially when you were in work today. It looked all well during the day, especially as I managed to blitz another building and do all of the workstation images that I needed to in the one day, so that was pleasing to see. However, as the day drew to a close and as I was typing up some notes from our technical group meeting that I had been to on Friday, you could see the clouds darkening and the skies getting more black by the minute, and as I left work it was pretty dark out there.

I headed into the city centre as I needed to pick up a couple of Christmas presents, and with those done it was towards the bus for home. It just looked rather Mancunian moody with the rain coming down and the blackened sky certainly telling you that the next few months of darkness would be descending upon you. It's normally not too bad but I guess it takes some adjusting when the clocks have gone back and you need to be able to put that out of your mind when you're thinking about other stuff.

I spent some time tonight watching the Bathurst 1000 highlights DVD that arrived over the weekend. And wow, what a race! I just wish that someone like BBC would pick up some rights to show the race overnight when it's on in Australia, but it really is the pinnacle of the V8 Supercars season and one of the events of motorsport anywhere in the world, and so it proved. A first lap crash at really high speed, plenty of close battles throughout the race, and even some rain to just throw itself in the mix a little bit too. All in all a great race and one day, I'll just have to head out there and see it for myself - that would be my aim.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the excellent "Evil" by Mercyful Fate. It was one of the songs covered by Metallica on their "Mercyful Fate" medley, and the original was from the early 1980s and really showed even back then that you could rock pretty hard. In fact the band got back in the studio to re-record it for Guitar Hero Metallica because they couldn't locate the original masters. Kudos to them for doing so really and it also showed just how much that Metallica respected their fellow peers by wanting them to be on their game too. Well worth checking out if you have time.