Dear Diary... November 2012

Friday 30th November - Slave To The Lowry Love

It was another busy day at work as I had two meetings to go to in the end - one of which was re-arranged from this morning as it clashed with our technical group meeting. I headed to that first and it was pretty productive, and I was able to give them a viewpoint on some forthcoming changes and why it might not be a good idea to do them without due notice and warning. It was also good to note what was going on out there and generally it was good to catch up with a fair few people and see what they were doing. n the afternoon we also had another meeting for us as incident co-ordinators. That also proved pretty productive and it was good to throw some ideas together and work out a possible solution to a potential problem and see what would happen then.

I also headed into the city centre later on to get a birthday present as well - and I'd seen what I wanted online but only in the wrong size, so went to the same shop that I'd seen the item online to see if it was in store. Two of the item left - and both in the size I wanted, and at a perfect price too. So that of course was immediately purchased and made for a good trip into the city, avoiding the masses of crowds in Albert Square particularly who were all heading for the mulled wine and the Christmas market.

It was then to Marks and Spencer for their dine in for two meal deal that I planned to get for myself and The Love In My Heart for tomorrow night. In fact, it worked out pretty well because all the things I wanted to get were there, the nice chicken with crumbed cheddar top - and with mushrooms, the really lovely mash, the panna cotta for dessert and a nice bottle of white wine. The bloke at the counter asked me if I was an O2 mobile customer (which I am) and that meant I got £2 off, so it was dine in for £8. Result or what eh, especially as the wine is normally around £7 a bottle in there really.

I headed home and noticed how foggy it was getting out there with the cold weather. The mist had started to descend in the early afternoon and by the late evening visibility wasn't good at all, and it showed a real feeling of mysterious darkness outside. I took a walk out later and I have to say it really did feel like something from an Albert Hitchcock film - really odd and eerie in parts. In fact I got a good black and white shot of a road near me in the fog, and if it wasn't for the headlamps of the cars, it would be pretty dark out there...

On the happy side too, I managed to get myself and The Love In My Heart two tickets for Bryan Ferry at the Lowry in October next year. I've always been a fan of Roxy Music thanks to some of family relations, and their first two albums (notably with Brian Eno's knob twiddling weirdness) are just some of the finest pieces of 1970s rock music out there. From the second album "For Your Pleasure" the brilliant "Editions of You" simply has to be tune of the day as it's got all the great component parts of the band into four minutes.

Anyway, it'll be six years when we go to see him since he last toured, and I know that I promised The Love that if he ever tours, we're going because I know she liked his 1980s era solo stuff especially (whereas of course I want to hear him play Roxy Music songs from the classic era!) and it'll be interesting to hear how the evening pans out. The Love joked that she's already got three massive gigs lined up for next year now but I think of the three this will be by far the most intimate of them (unless of course Swing Out Sister tour in which case we're so there!!)

Thursday 29th November - Shopping and Switzerland

I had a pretty busy day at work today, lots of toing and froing, and lots of heading over to other offices to try and get issues resolved as quickly as possible. I also started imaging the final batch of replacement PCs which would be going out next week as part of the final Windows 7 push. I think it's been pretty good overall in terms of being able to really push on and because we've managed to really nail things over the last week or two, then it goes to show that we really do work hard as a team. In fact I reckon that by the end of tomorrow we'll have a pretty good idea of how close we might actually be to completing the task in hand.

I also spent some time as well with a couple of our technical staff, handing over the laptops that they'll be using to operate the new weave looms that they're getting. There's a piece of software that runs on the laptop that connects to the looms and sends the weave patterns, and it connects via a USB to serial port dongle to the serial port on the loom itself - you then just tell the software which COM port it needs to use (and often it's normally COM1 as no modern PC has a serial port, let's be honest) and away you go, theoretically anyway.

After work I headed into the city centre to get another Christmas present sorted, and it was just a case of making a decision as to which gift I was going to get for my brother's girlfriend, as there was quite a bit of choice in one shop that I went in. It also helped that the staff in that particular shop were really nice and friendly and helpful, and served me with lots of smiles too. Isn't it nice when you get lovely people like that? It certainly made me leave there with a smile on my face too to be honest, and I soon got a birthday card sorted as well for a forthcoming birthday coming up.

Once I was home, The Love In My Heart arrived not long after and I got all the ingredients together for my chorizo sausage pasta bake which was just the thing on a cold night to warm us both wonderfully well. It also really works much better now I'm using penne instead of fusilli pasta too - just has that bit more of a bake about it when it's done. That was thoroughly enjoyed and in good time for my brother in law heading around, as he needed me to scan the receipt for the Samsung Galaxy 2 tab that my sister was getting him for Christmas so that he could apply online for £50 cashback - and that all worked well.

Later on The Love and I settled in for the next instalment of Great Continental Railway Journeys, this time heading around Switzerland, starting at the border in Basel before heading to Zürich and its beautiful lake so close by to the city, before eventually heading along to Lucerne via another lake, and then following some of the more mountainous railways before heading up and up (and then up some more to over 11,000 feet!) to Jungfraujoch, and the views from there looked rather stunning it has to be said. The only problem is that it's making me want to explore all these places myself and am itching to go!

The Love was also very happy as her sister had managed to get tickets for them both to go and see Robbie Williams at the Etihad Stadium next year. I know that when they went to see Take That (with all five members, and Robbie having his own solo bit) they loved it loads, and I know that seeing him alone will be an infintely better experience than them going to the hell hole that is Milton Keynes Bowl and seeing him there many years ago. For a start it's much closer to home but also somewhere they've been to for a gig before so they know the drill!

Tune of the day though is much more of a rocking tune than all of that, during BBC Four's "Top of the Pops" from 1977 in fact. The opening song of the show was no less than Tom Robinson Band's "2 4 6 8 Motorway" which even now when you hear it is instantly recognisable. Also unusually for TOTP back in the day, the song appears to have been played live which gives it a massive amount of immediacy and sparkiness that you don't just get in the studio. Ace, and still a classic to this day, so there.

Wednesday 28th November - Covering The Tracks

It was a different sort of day today as I spent most of the day in another office and basing myself there - we were a bit short of staff and so I volunteered to cover and give a hand to the staff that was based in the office there. It was definitely worth me brushing up on a few things whilst I was there as well as keep everyone informed if I needed to nip out and do some stuff. In between all that I managed to sort out some Windows 7 reimaging for one of the main post rooms, the faculty accountant and indeed one of the facilities managers as well, so felt positive at the end of the day.

I was looking forward to tonight's game with Manchester City away to Wigan. Our record against them has been pretty decent with us winning five on the bounce in the Premier League, and so hoped for more tonight. As of course I suspected that Man U would win at home against West Ham, a win for us would keep us a point behind and in a good position to keep challenging for the title. And indeed avoiding defeat would mean a massive twenty games unbeaten in the Premier League (6 from last season and then 14 this), so here was hoping to be honest.

But before all that, it was off to Mum's and to have some tea. Mum excelled as per usual and did a lovely roast with two types of potato, carrots, peas and gravy and it tasted really good. I even had an apple pie and a coffee for afterwards so felt rather nice all round. I had a good chat with Mum about her weekend away in Birmingham with my sister and by the sound of it they had a great time despite the fact that the Christmas Market there was charging a massive £4.50 for the chocolate covered strawberries, which in my view is a massive rip off. It probably also explains why no one was bothered buying any either.

Mum wanted my help with making sure she knew where she was going on a train journey that she's got coming up soon. She doesn't always travel by train as she's not sure where to change etc, but it's not too bad once I explained where to go and what to do. Some of the train company websites even have station plans of all their stations which was helpful to explain to her where to get off and where the platforms are, so she feels a lot more reassured now about what she needs to do. I'm sure I'll find out soon enough how she got on.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the epic "Invincible" by Muse, which certainly refers to how Manchester City did tonight. We didn't play great but what we did do was keep going and then win 2-0 with an excellent James Milner strike capping off an excellent performance off the bench. Shame he's injured though now as we could have done with him come derby day in a week on Sunday's time - the sort of player you want to play for your team, a bit like Pablo Zabaleta who was in four different positions tonight...

Tuesday 27th November - The Joy of the Single

It was a busy day at work today, and I had plenty to do with too little time to do it. We were also in a team meeting for around an hour or so, which was pretty eventful in the fact that we had lots to get through. Thankfully though I'd had a heads up from my manager that we needed to provide some figures with where we were at in terms of the Windows 7 rollout, and I was able to present the team with an up to date set of stats. Thankfully we've got a heck of a lot done in that time and so that's a positive thing.

I felt also pretty positive in the afternoon as I started working out a plan of action for next week and the week after when we take on the final department we have to move to Windows 7. It looks pretty clear cut as a lot of the machines are pretty new and so we don't have to think about any replacement deployments as such, but we've also got to carefully work out when we can do each member of staff so as not to disturb the workload too much. One option we might have is to set them off last thing at night before we go home, but that means we can't monitor it till morning. I'll have to have a think.

I got home and settled in to watch Pointless and one of the rounds was "sister acts" where you had to name a band with "sister" in the title and guess the most obscure one. The first couple said Swing Out Sister, much to my delight of course, and it had Alexander and Richard humming and singing their way through the chorus of "Breakout" which was a nice little touch - at least they remembered it to be fair. Tune of the day obviously as even after all these years it's still a classic and a half.

The Love In My Heart came around not long after that, so I made us some nice free range chicken with potatoes and vegetables, and I indulged her in some Emmerdale before we put on The Joy of the Single which I'd recorded from BBC Four the other night. It was a fascinating documentary about the single and how it depicted the history of pop music in the time when you would all hang out in record shops and in listening booths deciding which precious piece of 7" vinyl to buy, and how you'd be really captivated by playing the records over and over on your player.

It was good to see the likes of Richard Hawley and Norman Cook enthuse about the songs that they bought, why the first single meant so much to them and how the single evolved, with Holly Johnson and Paul Morley explaining the mass of remixes of Frankie Goes To Hollywood's "Two Tribes" keeping it at the top of the chart with a new mix to buy each week - which resulted in a changing of the chart rules to prevent other acts doing the same. I must admit the 7" single is wonderfully evocative and the documentary certainly reinforced that for me - well worth a watch if you get the chance to.

Monday 26th November - A Tough Day Of It

With not many staff around, there was just a lot to do and not much time to do it, which isn't always what you want to be quite honest. It seemed too that plenty was going wrong as well which meant you were being more reactive than proactive, and that has to be something which we have to keep an eye on. It also meant that I was literally going from building to building trying to sort things out, and in one of them we had a machine which was just failing to image, so I took it back to the office and did some diagnostic tests on it before we re-imaged it, and it worked then. I think I know why and have a theory on it..

Still, it probably didn't help that I had to walk a fair bit of the way into work this morning after the bus I was on got stuck in a massive traffic jam. This was due to to a water main on one of the main roads into the city bursting, and traffic was being diverted along a road which my bus goes down, which in truth isn't built for handling lots of cars in one go either, and so the dreaded almost gridlock like conditions began. It was a concern so the driver let us off and I was more than happy to walk from there and get to work on time, thankfully.

I got home this evening and after chatting for a long time with The Love In My Heart about the tough day and also having some food for tea, I relaxed a bit and watched the best bits of yesterday's F1 race all over again. In truth it was pretty good to be able to see in more detail what had happened during the race, pausing as I needed to, so I could see more of the action unfolding and maybe moments that the commentators may have missed in real time. I guess that one day I'd like to do this F1 lark, seems good to me!

I then spent some time watching Only Connect on BBC Four before having a relaxing rest of the evening with some Orbital on, namely their recent album "Wonky" which for me is the best they've done for a fair while. I absolutely adore the album closer "Where Is It Going?" which just has an epic progressive feel about it, and for a mainly techno track, it's bloody ace. Tune of the day is an easy decision there to be honest, and the more I listen to the whole album the more I love it too.

And I've found out that there's going to be a Superstars on Boxing Day on BBC1! Yaay! Obviously it'll be more like a little bit of fun with some of our Olympic athletes, but to be honest anything's better than nothing. I would like though a return to the classic series of old with proper competitors and the gym tests etc. In the 2003 and 2005 series they got it almost right, apart from the fact it needed to be in the UK in some freezing cold place instead of the sun of La Manga, but the spirit was there. Be interesting to see how that turns out...

Sunday 25th November - Holidays Are Coming..

I got up this morning and as I was making a little breakfast for myself and The Love In My Heart, that Coca-Cola "Holidays are coming" advert came on. I know it's a month to Christmas and all that, but it would be nice at least if the adverts would actually start in December instead when it would at least feel like it's the run up to Christmas and all that. Here's hoping of course, but you can't win them all I suppose. It was good just to potter around the house for a while and relax though before we headed over to The Love's place.

We had a quick drink there and then headed into town to meet a friend of mine who also happens to work in another campus - we'd arranged a meetup a few weeks back and after some consideration decided on Olive (formerly The Olive Press) for a nice lunch there. I booked it online and realised that I was still a member of their dining club which of course meant that we'd get 40% off the food bill, which is always nice. It was at least a dry sort of afternoon which meant that hopefully it wouldn't rain and we'd walk through the city centre to Olive relatively unscathed.

We all met there and my friend looked really lovely in her outfit, really suited her it has to be said. The only difficulty we actually had all afternoon was choosing what to have, as the food all looked rather lovely as it usually does. I went for the crispy oyster mushrooms with garlic dip to start, which was really nice, breaded gently and the mushrooms were crisp, and the garlic dip wasn't overpowering either which really did work well together. The Love had the chicken liver pate which also looked pretty good along with the bread you got.

The main courses were excellent too, my friend had the salmon and dill rigatoni which in a creamy sauce looked fab with lots of salmon, The Love had the spaghetti carbonara which was up to the usual excellent standards and I had the mushroom risotto with extra pancetta thrown in. And it was gorgeous, it really was. The only thing I could find wrong was that there might not have been enough of it, but it was still lovely. We even had dessert too (well two of us did!) - my friend had the sticky toffee pudding and I went for the tiramisu. And ooh, how nicely presented it was too with a round see through mug and saucer with the tiramisu in. Well cute!

Conversation flowed and even with a nice post meal coffee, the time flew by so quickly and we'll have to definitely get together some time soon again. The Love's hair looked lovely today and my friend observed that too, and it just felt like a lovely afternoon all round, something which we reflected on in Kro later before The Love headed home. It was a good way to wind down on the Sunday evening to be honest and yet for me there was more to come as I headed home to see the Brazilian Grand Prix (which I sensibly recorded off BBC One HD so I could watch it when I got back!)

The race was pretty dramatic stuff wasn't it? Sebastian Vettel facing the wrong way after a few corners but miraculously surviving, Jenson Button making perfect judgement calls in terms of the changing conditions and staying out, getting 40 odd seconds ahead before the safety car bunched the field up again, and then having to battle again to stay with Nico Hulkenberg and Lewis Hamilton before the two collided and Hamilton had to retire, Hulkenberg rightly getting a drive through for his efforts.

And then it still wasn't over as the rain started to lash down, lots of tyre stops, everyone struggling to keep it on the black stuff (as Vettel's race engineer was telling him all the time) and whilst Fernando Alonso battled to second with the help of Felipe Massa, out front Jenson Button did his thing and won the race with a superb drive. Alonso's second wasn't enough though as Sebastian Vettel's sixth was enough to win him the world title for the third year on the bounce, pretty impressive it has to be said. Working things out, Jenson Button will have number 5 next year. Maybe a Red 5 a la Nigel Mansell?

It'll be sad though that Jake Humphrey won't be presenting it anymore - the rapport he had with David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan really did make the whole presentation feel much more warm and friendly and give the viewers more of an insight into the whole thing. Of course I would love the job of presenting the coverage, but I can't see it happening to be perfectly honest, but anyone's got to be better than the lame front people Sky seem to have employed. And "The Chain" by Fleetwood Mac is still the F1 theme of course, so tune of the day right there.

Saturday 24th November - The Inside View

I had a good and lovely day all round today. First off after a lie in it was off to the city centre and to the hairdresser's to have the hair cut, and it felt much better having it all short and neat. It was a little bit of a wait in there because it was a little bit busy, but it was nice just to sit and relax and feel good afterwards. Once that was done I was tempted to stop off in Kro Piccadilly for cake and coffee, and as I entered there I spotted someone I know from Flickr, as she was heading on the "Polawalk" which was basically a walk around the city with old Polaroid cameras.

It was nice to sit and chat to a few lovely people over coffee, cake and they were all looking forwards to the afternoon's walk and I was hoping that the weather would hold too. The St Clement's Cake in Kro was on fine form and very delicious indeed, as was the coffee, and that made for a perfect snack. A couple of other people that I knew also arrived so it was nice to chat to everyone before heading home in good time for the afternoon that my friend and I had planned.

We were off to the Etihad Stadium to do the tour of the ground. We'd never been on it before and as we're both big Man City fans it would be intriguing to see how it would work out and what time you would get to see everything. Well, I'm pleased to report that it worked out very well indeed. You got to see an exhibition at first which details the new Etihad Campus along with a designers' view of the new stadium and also got to watch a short film on the City in the Community and how much that has changed over the years, so that was good.

It was then on to the Connell Club, the really posh bit of dining in the stadium where for the top prices you could be wined and dined really smartly, and have access to the best seats in the house, right along the middle of the pitch on Level 2, and complete with heated leather seats to keep you nice and cosy during a cold game too - excellent idea that. It was a good view of the pitch from there and I could well imagine being sat in the seats there would be rather special. It was then back out of there and on to Level 2 of the Colin Bell Stand to take the lift down to the basement and the inner sanctum.

It was into the media room used for press conferences and you could imagine the place being packed and asking lots of questions to the manager, and then the post match room where you'd have a buffet and talk post match tactics with the statue of the great Bert Trautmann, followed by a very special room indeed - the 2011-12 room, which all around the room details the Premier League winning season in pictures for each game and the trophy is on display in a glass case with City's name engraved on it as the current holders. Oooh yes, worth it for that alone I reckon.

It was then into the home warm up area with artificial grass, exercise bikes and a five a side net to keep the players toned and then into the dressing room, with all the shirts laid out of the players so you could sit in your favourite seat, and then to the tunnel, walking through to the pitch itself. It was raining and they'd covered the seating but we still worked out which one the manager Roberto Mancini would sit at, so my friend did just that and pretended to wave as the Italian would do to us.

It was all over too quickly to be honest, but it was a great tour and the only regret I have was not being able to have more time in some of the rooms, but it certainly showed just how much time and effort that the club have put in to make the tour massively enjoyable. If you really wanted to do it in style there are of course tours with a City legend, a two course meal and even a trip behind the scenes training at Carrington as well, but you need a full day off work for that one I reckon. Anyway, Man City's classic "The Boys In Blue" is for obvious reasons tune of the day.

I got home later, watched the F1 qualifying and then The Love In My Heart came over and I made us the lovely meal I'd purchased from Tesco last night, which was chicken in a mulled wine sauce with pork stuffing balls, along with some mash with horseradish, and some steamed vegetables, followed by cheese and crackers which went very well with a nice real ale as The Love tortured me with The X Factor (why the hell she likes it I never know) and then we watched the Graham Norton show from last night on BBC iPlayer as it turned out a certain Michael Bublé was on it (but so was Helena Bonham Carter so that was me more than happy let me tell you). Overall a lovely day all round really.

Friday 23rd November - Everything Is Wrong

It was a case today of if anything could go wrong, then it would go wrong. My colleague and I arrived early this morning and headed over to the office where we'd set off 12 PCs to be imaged. Only five of them actually succeeded and we had seven failures. I set them off again and indeed one in the meeting room, and also two in the third floor of the building opposite that I'd arranged to do. Ironically, despite a go slow on those latter three, they did finish around 2.30pm in the afternoon which at least meant that I was able to chalk another three off the list.

What was concerning though was the failure rate, and it was the same for other sites as well so one of our central team took the decision to reboot the SCCM server, and we were more than happy for that to go ahead. With the server rebooted at 3.30pm, I went back to the same office that I'd been imaging last night and set the final three that had failed off and running. I was just hoping that now they all would succeed and be without issues, but here was hoping. It did at least mean though that I was able to be sort of back on track where I wanted to be.

I headed straight to the large Tesco on the way home, and actually found it quicker to get off the bus at Belle Vue and walk the remainder of the journey as the traffic was horrendous. No bad thing either as the weather was at least dry so it meant that I could spend more time getting what I needed. A quick call to The Love In My Heart whilst I was in there meant I could sort out the menu for tomorrow night's meal in, and also be able to get myself the necessary shopping I needed - including some lovely haddock which I had later with some lemon rice for tea.

As it'd been a hard week I spent some time watching some classic Bathurst races from the DVDs that I have - I have the highlights of the 2007, 2008 and 2010 races on DVD and I spent some time with the 2007 race mainly, especially the last 15-20 laps or so where the rain was coming down slightly, the really brave drivers tiptoed over the top of Mount Panorama on slicks and were super careful, even if some of them came off and hit the walls. It was epic stuff and well worth watching of course, not least admiring how good the drivers were. The intro is ace too, with various drivers describing the bits of the track and how easy it is to muck it up.

I also then did a bit of rocking with Rock Band 3 and again tried some more songs on hard bass, the idea being that I'd try and push myself and get better. I did decent on War's "Low Rider" and struggled a little on The Police's "Don't Stand So Close To Me" because of the way that the main chorus has you stretching from green to orange in a fell swoop. However, I did best on "Imagine" by John Lennon, which I did 100% on in expert bass mode - get me! So for obvious reasons the song is tune of the day.

Thursday 22nd November - Another Railway Journey

It was a busy day at work, not helped whatsoever by the slowness of our SCCM server, which meant that imaging which should take a couple of hours actually was taking six or seven hours. I hit a little lucky with a couple of machines during the morning which meant that they finished before lunchtime, so I was able to add on any remaining bits of software and get them all done and dusted. We ended up going to an office at 4pm and we'd already arranged with them that we would image the machines en masse overnight to try and minimise the downtime, so we were just hoping all would be well.

It was throwing it down as I left work though and I was thoroughly glad that I had my Winter coat which happens to be massively waterproof. The deluge of rain that came down didn't affect me one bit, and although it wasn't nice to walk around in, I felt positively dry and warm inside which was a good thing in my eyes, as I saw people run around with brollies going inside out and not having enough warm layers on to keep themselves cosy in this weather. Madness, I tell you.

The Love In My Heart came over later, having braved the weather herself in the car, and we settled in for the evening, with me making us some chicken with a mushroom sauce along with some wedges and vegetables, which was pretty nice all round. She had had a longish day herself and we were chatting about it and trying our utmost to get any frustration out of the system as soon as. Sometimes we all need to offload a bit and I think that it helps sometimes if you manage to do that and be able to just give someone a nice big cuddle when doing so.

Later on we watched Great Continental Railway Journeys, which was fascinating stuff as Michael Portillo headed around Germany. I've always fancied visiting that country and certainly from what I saw of Berlin, that wonderful church in Hannover next to the train station, and indeed the countryside heading west, it had lots that I could enjoy. Most intriguing was the overhead monorail in Wuppertal, with the rails above the train carriage, so you're travelling suspended in mid-air and being able to see in people's houses. Quite surreal and I'm not so sure I'd want to live on the path of the line!

In the meantime though tune of the day is the wonderful "The Storm" by Seth Lakeman. It seems somehow rather apt a title considering the horrid weather here and indeed in the South West of the country where Seth is from, where there's been lots of atrocious rain and some flooding, with more rain to come. I just hope it doesn't get any worse as a lot of places down that end of the country have suffered enough, and the ground is already saturated from previous flooding.

Wednesday 21st November - Champions League? We're Having A Laugh!

It was off home after work, grab something to eat and then do a bit of rocking on Rock Band 3 before my friend arrived and the two of us would be heading off to the Etihad Stadium to see Manchester City play Real Madrid in the Champions League. In truth I suspected after our 2-2 draw with Ajax we'd be out of the competition as we had to rely on other results going our way. And I just couldn't see that happening over the two games that we had left. What I did want though was to see us play with some pride and at least show that we could battle a bit and not just go out with a whimper.

We soon got to the Etihad and the crowd were starting to fill up nicely. I was a bit worried that we wouldn't have a fullish stadium but by kick off over 45,000 were in there - with spaces for the likes of the "UEFA Family" not taken up, which really upset me a bit. Give the seats to real fans who actually want to go and see their team for crying out loud. Anyway, the teams came out, on came the Champions League theme tune (make that tune of the day and we'd soon be kicking off to either carry on the possibility of qualification till the final game or being knocked out tonight.

The first half wasn't too good at all, and seemingly playing 3 at the back with two wing backs didn't have the desired effect. The defence all stood still looking for offside when a cross came in at the far post and Karim Benzema pounced to take the lead at 1-0. In truth only some stellar defending kept the score down, Joe Hart coming out well to stop Cristiano Ronaldo, whose shot over Hart was cleared by Matija Nastasic, and did a good job. Hart also blocked a one on one very well and I honestly thought we were going to get hammered. At least we did have a couple of shots on goal ourselves and felt like we could still be in the game but it was worrying how easy Madrid were carving us open.

At half time the highlights were showing of the other games with the album version of 2 Unlimited's "No Limits" playing. Dear me, it's bad enough as it is! But mercifully no line of "Techno techno techno techno" either, so that wasn't the end of the world. We did notice that Borussia Dortmund were panning Ajax and were 3-0 up at half time, so it meant that in effect unless we beat Real Madrid, we'd be out now, and in fact would still be relying on other results if we did win, so not too good.

However Roberto Mancini changed tactics as he brought on Javi Garcia for Aleksandar Kolarov, which meant for a flat back four with Pablo Zabaleta at left back, Maicon at right back and Yaya Toure pushed further forward. It certainly gave us a much more settled look with the Zabman, out of position, playing well and David Silva pulling a fair few strings. Sergio Agüero came close with one shot at close range forcing a brilliant save from Iker Casillas (fair dos too, it was a quality stop and if Joe Hart did that I'd have been proud!)

The game was getting a bit tense with a few fouls here and there and with around twenty minutes left, Agüero was brought down in the box by Álvaro Arbeloa and the ref, who had been terrible all night, pointed to the spot for a penalty, gave Arbeloa a second yellow and sent him off. Agüero scored the resulting penalty and it was 1-1, very much game on and we were hoping for another goal to at least take the qualification down to the last game of the group.

Sadly, it wasn't to be. Real Madrid went defensive, held their line well and despite a couple of good crosses by Maicon almost splitting the defence open, the goals wouldn't come and it ended up 1-1, so we were out. I was at least heartened by our performance and that our unbeaten home record in the Champions League had stayed intact. We did though need to look coldly at the fact that we weren't good enough to qualify and not performing in both matches against Ajax ultimately had cost us a chance of qualification. Roll on next year if we get there...

Tuesday 20th November - Birthdays and Bags

It was a nice but busy evening after a long day at work, and one that proved to be quite enjoyable all told. I had had a busy day at work and The Love In My Heart was working late, and so headed straight over to mine from her new workplace and got herself changed and ready here, which made sense and saved us time whilst I got on with making the tea - no less than some bacon steaks in a barbecue sauce with cheese, along with sea salt and black pepper wedges and some lovely vegetables as well - it did the job and filled the gap very nicely indeed, it has to be said.

Once that was done, we headed out and first stop was my sister's as it was my brother in law's birthday. He quite liked the Jeremy Clarkson book that we'd got him and that added to a couple of other books he got, so he could read them when he had some free time - always good to do. It was pretty busy there as my nephew and niece were happily playing, with my little two year old nephew bringing me bits of his Mega Blocks train accessory set to build, a couple of tunnels that he could push his Thomas the Tank Engine through. It certainly made him happier anyway when he had some attention so that was nice.

It was then on to Mum's who very kindly offered us a lovely cuppa and a nice relaxing sit down in the front room. Mum was heading away for some nice leisure time soon and wanted to borrow one of our weekend cases - so we brought them both around to give her a choice. Understandably she picked The Love's one, it's a bit more girly and has lots of little pockets for things everywhere that might be handy, and indeed is lighter in weight when empty too, so all those things added up to make for a good decision really.

I had a chat to my brother who was showing me a website in French that he often buys stuff from - apparently there's a lot of French people who just won't buy second hand goods, so what tends to happen is that items go for cheap - a sort of cross between eBay and Gumtree, if you like, but in French. Of course both of our rudimentary knowledge of the French language was enough to work out what was going on, and I'm sure that there's plenty of bargains to be had if you look hard enough. A cheap house in Nice would be rather lovely though...

We then headed home and over a nice relaxing glass of wine for her or drink of ale for me we watched the Paul Weller Abbey Road session that we'd recorded from Channel 4 HD when we were in York last week. It proved to be a good showing of his current band in top form, with even the likes of some Style Council and early solo stuff played as well as tracks from his 2012 album "Sonik Kicks" so all good there. My favourite song of the session though was the brilliant "Thechangingman" which still sounds mighty and rocking after all these years, so tune of the day was an easy decision really.

Monday 19th November - Back To It

It felt strange heading back to work after a few days off, but then again it always does. I knew I had a shed load of emails to go through and spent some time this morning heading through those and checking everything through to be sure that I hadn't missed anything. It always does take that little bit of time to do that though and so I guess that was part of the morning used. I also spent some time this morning chasing up a few jobs that I wanted to complete and get done, so felt good for that.

During the afternoon I delivered a couple of replacement PCs in one of the rooms in the building I used to be based in, before heading to another building to sort out an issue for a member of staff that couldn't see their network drives etc. I worked out why - it was a mixture of two things, the user's profile not loading correctly with the Windows 7 Group Policy, but also the drive letters had been used up by the card reader drives, so changed those around and we were all good to go.

What was nice to read though was that a member of staff whose laptop had recently been stolen thanked myself and my colleague for our help in loaning him a Mac whilst his new one was being ordered, and then getting his new one to him so quickly with all the stuff he needed on it. It's good to be appreciated and the member of staff in question has always been good to us generally, so always nice to be able to assist and do the job properly and make them feel looked after. It goes to show that if you are good at what you do and appreciate how things are and adapt, you'll go far (ish!)

I had to stay behind a bit late to set off a couple of things with regards to workstations, and then headed home to watch Pointless. The jackpot had not been won for ages and it stood at over £17k, which even with some Pointless answers adding £250 to the jackpot each time meant that for around three weeks it hadn't been won (it rolls over with an extra £1,000 added each show). The two contestants in the final round picked modern artists thinking it was a music question, and then were presented with a question on Turner Prize nominees. Ouch. Ironically Phil Collins was a pointless answer, and that would have suited both meanings of the category. Maybe it was against all odds?

I spent the evening then watching some telly, speaking to The Love In My Heart about her first day in another building, and then watching Only Connect on BBC Four, which is always rather tricky. I did pretty well on the connecting walls and indeed the missing vowels round at the end, which surprised me somewhat as I'm usually bobbins on that one. I must admit though it did seem considerably harder than the heats with some fiendish connecting walls. Granted, you have a team of three, but even so...

Tune of the day is "Space Truckin'" by Deep Purple, which is one of their staple 1970s classics and indeed during the classic "Mark II" Deep Purple era, which for many fans including me was their best era. The solo and drums during the middle part of the track really do give it that full on rock feel and some excellent vocals by Ian Gillan really do show how rock and metal was developing nicely, even in 1972. Of course it's also available as a track to download for Rock Band 3, so I might just have to give that a blast sometime...

Sunday 18th November - A Leisurely Walk on a Sunday

It was nice just to be able to make a relaxing Sunday and just recuperate nicely before next week's onslaught of work that I would inevitably have. I got up at a more sedate pace, nipped to the local pound shop to get a couple of bits, before then watching the F1 qualifying from yesterday that I had recorded - and it seemed ominous in part with Sebastian Vettel on pole - he could clinch the World Championship later so I set the box to record the race just in case I wasn't able to stay up and watch it tonight. And after a little bit of a session on Rock Band 2, The Love In My Heart came over for the afternoon.

It was nice with the dry weather to head out for a bit, so we headed to Dunham Massey, and instead of walking around the deer park to see the deer (although a couple were out close to the entrance to the courtyard and by the ice cream stall) we took the path that takes you along the middle of two fields towards the village of Little Bollington. Admittedly it was a little muddy in parts and I think that The Love was pleased that she had her wellies on and had changed, and my footwear managed okay. Getting to the other side showed some really nice apartments in an old mill that overlooked the river running close by, and the narrowest of footbridges which took you to the village.

Little Bollington is just that - little, with a few houses, a farm that sells Christmas turkeys and chickens and other produce, and a pub - which understandably for a Sunday afternoon was very busy indeed. The Swan With Two Nicks is signposted from the A56 close by, so understandable that people would also be driving in to have Sunday lunch there as well, which looked nice. We decided instead to head along the other path, which was actually a narrow lane, which took you around the Dunham Massey estate and slightly uphill back to the road, and then a short walk back into Dunham Massey itself.

It was a nice leisurely little walk but wished it was a bit longer, but it was nonetheless good to be out there. We decided that a late afternoon lunch / early tea was on the cards, so we came off the M56 at the airport, headed around the B roads and soon were in Heald Green, where we stopped at the Beefeater there. I'd not been in one for ages but it always looked nice when I've been past it, so thought we'd give it a go. We both ended up having the same starter and main because they did a Sunday lunch deal for two courses for £10.99.

We also both agreed that we'd be back there for a meal sometime soon, as the food was spot on. The breaded mushrooms with two dips really did hit the spot nicely and were very well done, and the roast pork with Yorkshire puddings, vegetables and nice crispy roast potatoes were great - even the crackling on the outside of the pork was left intact and you could taste the crispiness of that. The roast beef had already sold out by the time we got there, maybe a sign that it does well if everyone orders that? We may have to go back and try the steak as well sometime.

One interesting thing is that they've started doing a reward club (effectively loyalty) card, where you can build up points every time you eat there, and for every 500 points you can claim a voucher for £5 off your food. And with you getting a free 300 points to start, not a bad incentive really. The card's also got the top left hand corner missing, like someone had taken a bite out of it, so would be quite distinctive I think. There was also a prize draw to enter online which I did when we got home later to win prizes, so who knows? It might just prove to be a lucky visit as well as an enjoyable one.

It was hard later to say goodbye to The Love In My Heart as it always is, but I know that she's got a lot to prepare for tomorrow with work and I wanted to be sure that she was able to have that time to get herself sorted. I ended up doing a plethora of washing and ended up watching the F1 highlights of the American Grand Prix, with the circuit proving a hit as well as some good battles (notably Jenson Button v Kimi Raikkonen, epic!) and up front Lewis Hamilton beating Sebastian Vettel with a great opportunist overtaking move when Vettel was held up by a back marker. Epic stuff, and it seemed somehow apt that the BBC's coverage had lots of Americana music in there. And Bon Jovi's "Wanted: Dead or Alive" which somehow works, so tune of the day to that one I reckon.

Saturday 17th November - Top of the League and On Top Form

It was a relaxed sort of morning today as I got plenty of food shopping done, cleaned up the house a fair bit, managed to make sure all of my weekend case had been unpacked with the washing all done from the contents of it, and on top of that managed to grab some lunch before my friend came over to pick us up en route to the Etihad Stadium, where Manchester City were taking on Aston Villa in a repeat of the Capital One Cup fixture earlier in the season (but obviously not with the same result, I hoped.)

The weather looked like it was closing in and it might have rained, so it was good to have been able to get out there and get to the ground beforehand, and with a cuppa in hand, we were hoping for a good performance which would at least for a few hours send us top of the Premier League. City looked like they meant business with a relatively unchanged side, with Maicon starting at right back and Mataja Nastasic again partnering Vincent Kompany in the centre of defence, and Carlos Tévez up front with Sergio Agüero.

Villa though had come to defend and try and hit City on the break, with their striker Christian Benteke coming close a couple of times, one a header which Joe Hart did well to save. Hart also had to save from Kompany who in trying to stop the ball reaching Benteke had directed it goalward. It was a bit nervous to be honest and the more the game went on, the more I knew City had to score first, and before half time we thankfully did. Tévez had hit a low and hard shot to the bottom corner which was well saved by Brad Guzan in the Villa goal. The corner came over, a bit of a goalmouth scramble ensued and up popped David Silva to dink it over Guzan for 1-0, which made the half time break a much more happy one.

City started to press in the second half and a lovely pass from Silva almost had Agüero in to score, but from the resulting corner a moment of controversy. The cross had come in and Ron Vlaar had bravely knocked it away from Yaya Toure for a corner, or so we thought, but the linesman was flagging frantically after which the referee had pointed to the spot. None of the City players had appealed and it transpired it was for a handball, which to me looked very very harsh indeed, not least as there wasn't a handball I spotted when I saw the replays later on Match of the Day. Agüero calmly slotted the penalty home and it was 2-0 to the City boys.

A few minutes later and another penalty, although this time far more clean cut. David Silva was about to put the cross in and as the ball went along the ground, an outstretched Villa defender's hand got in the way, and clearly was an intentional handball, so penalty straight away. The paramedics who stand behind us on duty said "Even we could see that!" and so this time Tévez took the penalty and scored with aplomb for 3-0. A couple of minutes later and Tévez released Agüero down the right, and his low shot went in off the toe of a Villa defender for 4-0. It was all geting a bit easier now.

On came Edin Džeko for Agüero and he had a hand in the fifth goal, as he held the ball up, released Samir Nasri down the left who put in a low inch perfect cross for Tévez to turn in at the far post for 5-0. A resolute thumping in the end and one that would send out a message psychologically to Man U before their away game at Norwich later in the day - it also meant that City would be top at least for a couple of hours and that sent my friend and I home very happy indeed.

For me, that wasn't the end of the night either, as my friend and her partner came over from Huddersfield and after a coffee and a chat at mine, which included the last ten minutes of Norwich beating Man U 1-0 and therefore keeping City top of the league (and the Norwich scorer isn't related to me before anyone asks, although it would have been nice) it was off to the Academy 1 where the Levellers were going to play a hopefully great show - it certainly was last year when we went and the atmos in the Academy when they play is always excellent.

We headed first to Kro and I had a well earned drink of the Spitting Feathers ale in there, and we got upstairs and chatted for ages, and it was much quieter and more chilled out than downstairs too, which meant that you could hear yourself talk (and plenty of other Levellers fans with their t-shirts on had thought the same as they were on tables upstairs as well). We ended up chatting about Pointless as it turned out that all three of us like the show, and so were wondering if and when someone is going to win the £16k plus rollover on the show - really good stuff.

It was then to the Academy 1 and in good time and we got a good position just looking left of the stage to see the Levellers do thier thing, and frankly they didn't disappoint. Their new album "Static on the Airwaves" sounded in parts a little too clinically produced, but when played live the tracks sounded a heck of a lot better, much more purpose and immediacy about them as well, notably the opener "We Are All Gunmen" and "Our Forgotten Towns" where the more intense fiddle playing really did come across spot on.

Of course the old classics got an airing with a massive audience singalong too, so the likes of "15 Years", "One Way" and during the first encore "Liberty Song" were played, with a massive chant along to the chorus of that which made you feel part of the gig, massively. It was nice too that tracks from "Letters from the Underground" got an airing with the likes of "A Life Less Ordinary" and "The Cholera Well" getting a positive reaction (admittedly "Burn America Burn" would have been nice but that's just me nitpicking). I just wish that they wouldn't play "Carry Me" anymore, a sentiment that my friend has in buckets as it's not her favourite song either, but the audience seemed to like it in droves I guess.

Two other highlights were for the final song and second encore, "The Recruiting Sergeant" where the band had asked people to audition to play with them on stage for the song - four vocalists and a number of musicians to play along. It was a nice touch and certainly made it much more less of a barrier between the fans and the band, so all good there I reckon. But best of all was a rousing version of "The Riverflow" which really did have everyone bounding around like a loon and having a great time when doing so, so tune of the day there massively. It was a great gig and the night went far too quickly, and it goes to show that when a band make the effort to do a great show how the fans will come back!

Friday 16th November - Leaving For Home and Leaving Do

It was nice to be able to relax a bit and wake up feeling relatively refreshed after a good night's sleep, and once The Love In My Heart and myself had got ourselves up and ready, we headed over to Costa for a well earned breakfast and a cuppa before a short walk to Betty's Tea Rooms. Plenty of people were in having breakfast in there (very posh of course!) but we went in as I fancied one of their frangipane mince pies that I'd had last year. I got one and The Love got a couple of little cakes for her Mum and Dad (she is so thoughtful) and I'm delighted to report that the mince pie went down very well indeed.

Once we'd got back and finished packing everything, it was time to leave and head for the shortish walk to the train station, where we'd be getting the 1140 back to Manchester Piccadilly. The train was quite busy with people getting off from Malton and Scarborough, but was relatively quiet until Leeds, where plenty got on. We noticed as the train stopped in Stalybridge too that the station there was having massive improvements done, with extra platforms and seemingly a better look to the whole place - no complaints there of course.

We got to Piccadilly and said our goodbyes, with us both agreeing that we'd had a lovely time and it was just the thing that we both needed to get ourselves in the right mind frame for the future at work but also seeing a good gig and having plenty of us time, so felt much happier because of that. I headed home on the bus, sorted out some of the pictures I'd taken, and then went to Mum's for a bit. It was good to have a coffee and chat with her and also see my brother before he was heading away for a few weeks as well, so all was good there.

It was from Mum's I then headed into the city centre and to Gorilla on Whitworth Street West, as one of the staff in the buildng I've been working in this week (and indeed in our Marketing and Alumni department) was leaving for a promotion elsewhere, and she had very kindly invited me along to her leaving do. We all sat upstairs and it was quite good to chat to a few people outside of work so we could chat about more normal stuff, and with the cocktails and beer flowing, a good time was had by all.

It's quite interesting to see that the interests of people are more varied than you think - one of the staff in there does horse riding, mainly dressage, and also was impartial to real ale (yaay) and another also did their own thing with a letter press, whilst we also discussed music and how eclectic all our tastes actually are - indeed I was pretty pleased that one of them had actually only heard of Roland Gift but had even remembered the Fine Young Cannibals as well - pretty impressed I was all round really.

I should also add that I had a really nice chat with a couple of people from Recruitment and Admissions, one of whom I'd met before but the other I met for the first time - and they were both lovely and chatty, and it was good to put the world to rights as well as me possibly having an idea for something in the future direction of what I'd like to do as well which was useful for me to think about. In fact I could tell that quite a lot of the team that they worked with seemed pretty close knit and happy, which made life a whole lot nicer to work with too. Yaay them and yaay nice people - you know who you are!

I headed home and put on some Cabaret Voltaire, mainly their late 1980s house inspired stuff as I felt like it on a Friday night. Tune of the day therefore is "Magic" which really does sound like it could have been off any brilliant house single of the day back then, but really does have a nice smooth bass line, the vocals of Stephen Mallinder really adding the substance, and a great drum sound to underpin the whole thing too. When you hear it, you'll understand what I mean - just top stuff all round.

Thursday 15th November - No Shopping Time Like The Present

After a well earned lie in and a nice long sleep, The Love In My Heart and I got ourselves up and were soon ready to hit the city centre streets of York with some shopping to do. It was going to be a nice clear if a little cold day but with no rain it'd mean a perfect day for heading around and getting lots of present shopping done, with me having some ideas for Christmas presents for people. So, with ourselves up and out first stop was Costa Coffee so we could have a nice cuppa and some toast for breakfast (yes, they do do toast if you ask, just something you might want to be aware of!)

From then it was along the pedestrian shopping streets and to Zara, which I know is one of The Love's favourite clothes shops as it's very like her - stylish and beautiful. She saw a nice jumper which would be perfect as part of a work outfit, and so was very pleased with that, and we also saw a really nice burgundy dress that I thought she would look gorgeous in. She tried it on and looked really lovely, and I thought "hang on, that could be one of your Christmas presents!" and so offered to purchase it for her for Christmas - and she agreed. Yaay! And believe me, she looks beautiful in it - I am so lucky!

That felt good, and indeed my good run of present buying continued, as I managed to get a few presents in shops for some of my younger relations, one for both birthday and Christmas, and the others for Christmas, with The Love as my creative consultant to give the nod to - always better when you've got someone who works with children and knows what's fashionable to cast the beady eye if it's a clothes-based present, or understands the practicalities of any toys that might be worth buying too. That's always good and so by the time we'd ventured to a pub and I had a steak pie for lunch with some Doom Bar ale (yaay) then I felt rather positive that we'd done well.

We spent some time during the afternoon venturing around the little shops, admiring all the small cobbled streets and also heading down Fossgate with its little independent shops down that street too. The Love spotted Lisa Grahame and Louise Marshall from Jools Holland's Rhythm and Blues Orchestra walking past us and we later saw Lisa in one of the clothes shops too, and I was sure that Jools himself had walked past us whilst we were heading back towards the Shambles. All in all though and by the time The Love had got a couple of things in Urban Outfitters, it was the end of a long day's shopping and one that really did prove massively worthwhile for us both.

The evening was a lovely relaxed time too, not least when we decided to eat out at Ask, an Italian restaurant chain of note. I had a voucher code on my phone were the second main was £2 when you ordered one, and so that would save us some dosh if used well. The restaurant in York is actually inside the former Assembly Rooms, and inside it's a beautiful building with its marble columns and beautiful detailing of the ceilings and domes which really do add to the sense of being somewhere special. The food was stunning too - the breads with olive oil were gorgeous, as was the chicken and mushroom risotto main I had. The Love had the Milanese Chicken and that simply oozed quality, in a gorgeous sauce and with chips and broccoli, but so well made that it just melted in the mouth.

We both agreed that Ask are missing a trick massively by not having a restaurant in Manchester because even though it's a chain as such, the food is well cooked, the staff lovely and attentive but not in your face, and the price very fair for what quality food is on offer. And in such a building like this where you spend the time admiring the architecture as well as the food, what was there not to like? We had lots of chat about all sorts as we had a drink first in the Lendal Cellars and then in the Punch Bowl (which to my disappointment don't do their own pies anymore - boo hiss) with a nice relaxed drink or two.

In fact we got to talk about how at Christmas certain films are always on the telly and how seeing the Polar Express last weekend got to remind us of that time of year and what's always on. I remarked that one of my favourite Christmas films is The Muppet Christmas Carol - because I like the Muppets of course, but also because Michael Caine admitted that it was one of his favourite films he'd ever made and a dream to star with the Muppets (and this is a legend like Michael Caine, take note!). We also remembered ET too which always tends to be around that time now, and so John Williams' main theme from that film gets tune of the day. We then headed back to the Travelodge and were soon fast asleep.

Wednesday 14th November - By Jools, It's Rhythm and Blues

It was the start of a lovely remainder of the week for both myself and The Love In My Heart, as we were heading off to York for a couple of days on a well earned break for us both from the stress and trials and tribulations of work (more her than me too it has to be said). It was nice just to be able to have a lie in and cosy up in bed for a little while before getting up, showered and ready, remembering to take the train tickets and the concert tickets for tonight's gig as well as the reservation for the Travelodge, the camera and my weekend case at the ready (I know it's not a weekend I'm staying for but it's a case with enough space to pack for one if you know what I mean!)

The Love was at the station by the time I got there and she looked lovely as she always does, and after getting a Boots Meal Deal for lunch to have when on the train, we headed to the platform and got on, with the train making its usually reliable journey through Huddersfield, Dewsbury and Leeds before passing all the relatively flat parts of Yorkshire on its way to York itself, which looked nice and dry at least, much more so than the unfortunate flooding that it had had in recent times. We soon made our way to the Travelodge and checked in, and once we'd got unpacked it was then a case of heading out for a short walk around the city, getting our bearings a bit and taking a few photographs. We then headed back to the Travelodge and got ourselves showered, changed and looking rather smart and lovely, with The Love looking stunning in her gold dress, before heading out for the evening.

First stop was Harkers, a really nice pub that's close to Betty's Tea Rooms and also does very nice food, so we could have tea there. It didn't disappoint one bit as I had the Nicholson's Pale Ale (brewed by no less than the St Austell Brewery so epic win there) and the meal was spot on. I had the crispy calamari and on having that last year said that it was the best I'd ever had. Nothing has thankfully changed, so was very pleased to report back that the standards were still superb. The Love had the breaded mushrooms which were spot on, and then I had the sausage and mash for main which hit the spot, and The Love had the pork belly, which admittedly looked even better than mine did and by all accounts tasted good too.

It was then a fairly lengthyish walk past Clifford's Tower and around part of the city walls to the Barbican, and the venue looked pretty busy as people were mingling around having a drink at the bar and waiting for the evening's entertainment to start. We got a drink and was safe in the knowledge that we had tickets for the front row - which for The Love was great because no one massively tall would be sat in front and in the way, but also because we had more leg room to relax and enjoy ourselves with - the advantage of booking so early I guess. And sure enough, the seats were spot on, right in front of where Jools Holland's piano would be!

First up was the support, namely Christopher Holland, who, as the name suggests, is Jools' brother. He was actually a very talented piano player in his own right and had the crowd entertained with some cover versions but also some of his own songs from the solo albums that he has. The stripped back just piano and vocals songs really did make for an intimate atmosphere, and it shows that whilst the likes of The X Factor has the commercial clout, the real music talent is out there and being appreciated by people who care about music - and a perfect start to the evening.

We headed outside for the interval, got The Love a drink to take in for the main set (which we knew from experience would be around 2 hours or so) and then on came Jools Holland's Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, who kept the crowd entertained with a varied and very enjoyable set. It didn't take them long to get going and everyone seemed to have massive smiles on their faces, especially the sax player Lisa Grahame. It was hard to pick a highlight because the playing was so spot on for every song with everyone in the band doing their bit, but I'll try.

Louise Marshall sang a very poetic and soulful version of "Valentine Moon" which just filled the hall with mellow softness, which was lovely, Rosie Mae did her thing (not sure about those big pink heels compared to the rest of her vintage look outfit) and sang "The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" with aplomb, and as the set built to a crescendo with Ruby Turner later on, her blasting out "Get Away Jordan" really took the breath away, and you could see that she'd actually got quite emotional after singing it, putting her all into the performance. That stood out wonderfully for me, showing just how much she cared about getting it right.

What was a nice surprise though was how well the guest vocalist for the tour, no less than Roland Gift, formerly of 1980s band Fine Young Cannibals, integrated so well with the songs he sang. When we booked, we booked this night out of the two in York as Marc Almond was going to guest vocal, but Marc had to pull out - and I was worried because of FYC's ruining of the Buzzcocks' classic "Ever Fallen In Love". However, it was never in doubt Roland had a good voice and so it proved, with "Good Thing" being particularly good - so tune of the day there. There was also "I'm Not The Man I'm Used To Be" and a nice cover of "Suspicious Minds" as that part of the set, so it was all very good indeed.

We headed out of the theatre at around 10.30pm and it had been a great show, and made our way back to the Travelodge via Piccadilly and then up the pedestrian streets back to the bridge over the River Ouse, and spotted that plenty of students from the University were out for the evening, and seemingly having a great time of it as they headed to the late night bars with student nights whilst we headed back for a well earned rest and sleep, with a rather nice day all round behind us - just what I needed and I must admit feel so much better for.

Tuesday 13th November - All Done and Sort of Dusted

It was good to get some time this morning to effectively blitz one building that I had started imaging a load of the PCs last night. Most of them were all done, and only one failed imaging, so it was just down to me to ensure all the users were in the correct AD group, the permissions were sorted out, and all the additional bits of software were re-advertised and added accordingly, which seemed to go well. I was on hand in the building most of the morning as we had to take over six new replacement PCs, and that effectively meant that a lot of lifting needed to be done.

You see, the building that we were working in doesn't have any lifts due to its age, and there's around eight stairs to the ground floor, and a narrow staircase which takes you up to the first and second floors. And guess where five of the six replacement PCs were? Got it in one - the second floor. It was good though that at least the base units were small and so could be shifted up in one fell swoop - made life a heck of a lot easier in the long run, as we had people on hand to shift the old stuff back to the office for writing off.

It was productive as we got all the new kit up and running, the old stuff disposed of and then adding any additional software to the new kit as and when we needed to. It worked much better than I'd expected and this meant that I could spend the afternoon sorting out other jobs, going to a team meeting, and then clearing the desk full of rubbish. I like to have a tidy desk at the best of times but because I'd been working on imaging PCs and laptops it seemed like more of a cluttered mess every time. Not any more, and I felt pretty pleased that I was able to get on with things and make it all clean again.

I had stayed behind a little to get the last few jobs done which meant that I was effectively able to hand over a few things to colleagues and also know I could have a few days off and relax a bit, which is exactly what I plan to do. Nothing worse than feeling you can't leave work behind when you're off, you want to just have your own quality time for you, so that's what I am going to do. I know it's been a bit stressful for The Love In My Heart as well and so from her point of view it's a well timed break that we both have been looking forward to - here's hoping the weather holds and that the gig we're going to is ace.

I got home later on, and relaxed in front of the telly for a while, watching two episodes of Pointless I needed to catch up on and seeing that still no one has claimed the jackpot, so it's going to be around £15K tomorrow. I wouldn't mind winning that or indeed the Euro Millions jackpot tonight which is a stupidly obscene amount of money (not that I'd complain, if I won that I'd be living in Monaco permanently with a flat that overlooks the track!!) One of the questions on Pointless was about Stock, Aitken and Waterman hits of the 1980s and my were there some rubbish songs in there...

Later on as I packed the case and got everything ready, I knew I needed some proper rock music to get the mood right, so it was on with Roy Harper's HQ album, which really was Roy in more rock mode, with some great guitar driven songs and a few acoustic numbers too, a great balance. I own the original Harvest vinyl album (as does my brother) and listening to it on CD certainly reinforces how good an album it still is. For me, the revamped "Legend" as "Referedum (Legend)" - is a timely and brilliant update of one of his old songs, and a crunching riff between each verse, and that epic ending - ace. So tune of the day easily.

Monday 12th November - Tell Me Why I Don't Like Mondays

I could come up with a hundred reasons, at minimum, for why I don't like Mondays. But today really did feel like an effort of a long day and one that just was one thing after another to sort out. I had been busy as well working on a few things and some of them did work out and all come to fruition, but others just didn't. There weren't enough staff in to go round and there was just too much to do to be honest. Needless to say it wasn't easy and I had planned to head to one building at 4pm to start a lot of Windows 7 imaging, but didn't get there till around 4.20pm.

And on top of that, my cunning plan to have them all imaged overnight looked not to be playing ball as I'd imported the machines in with the new names and had deleted the old one, the idea being that there wouldn't be too much work to do afterwards tomorrow (hopefully!) and that it'd also mean that users could get on with things quicker too - nothing worse than delaying a user. Of course if things go wrong then I'm going to at least get cracking on earlier and make sure that everything is nailed in one fell swoop as well - here's hoping.

It was just a long day though and one I don't really want to have too many of to be honest - but we shall see what happens. It was good therefore to get home, relax a bit, make the tea, speak to The Love In My Heart and sort out our little break later in the week, and then settle in for some quality telly on BBC Four, with Only Connect being on with the Children in Need Special. I was pretty pleased that the questions didn't seem that pared down for the celebrities on it, and indeed with the likes of Richard Osman from Pointless and the footballer and Countdown winner Clarke Carlisle on there, it was good fun.

Of course it was pretty close between the two sets of teams and the final round proved that Richard Osman does know his stuff, especially with one theme with the missing vowels that he nailed all four of - and that proved to be the decider really. And after that was a programme featuring Michel Roux Jr following the history of one of the chefs that inspired him - and that was fascinating stuff. When people seem fit to endlessly slag off the BBC because some of its journalists weren't quite as good as they should have been (unerstatement) it's easy to forget the quality television that they do produce.

I even caught the extra time between AFC Wimbledon and York City in the FA Cup with it ending up 4-3 to Wimbledon in a right classic. I think that it'd be very interesting if MK Dons beat Cambridge City in their replay and the draw then works out as the proper Wimbledon playing the team who took the Wimbledon name and spat it out (ie: MK Dons). Be good to see what happens and if that would be a televised tie as well (I suspect it might be!). With that in mind, it'd only be right to have a football song as tune of the day and what better than this song - "This Is Our Time" by Steven Bor, written in tribute to the proper Wimbledon, and spot on!

Sunday 11th November - Edin Džeko, Supersub!

It was back with The Love In My Heart to her place this morning, so we could avoid the traffic heading to the Etihad Stadium (where my friend and I would be heading later of course to see if Man City could again beat Tottenham in the league) and also to relax a bit in the morning too. It was good to have a bacon sarnie and some coffee for breakfast beforehand, and when I got to The Love's place she'd left out an old wood desk top that was too big for the car that needed breaking up a little. As it'd been left in the rain I hoped I could jump on it and break it clean, and that I did - yaay it worked!

My friend was stuck in traffic due to various Rememberance Sunday parades. I myself had stopped at dead on 11am with the coverage on BBC One to pay my respects. I always think that had there not been so many brave men fighting for freedom back then that what we have now wouldn't be, and we'd be under a regime where you wouldn't be allowed to as much as speak a word of your own opinion without being effectively silenced in a different manner. Sometimes I wish the youth of today would realise that.

My friend got there eventually and so we headed over to the Etihad, in good time for the kick off. City had been a little low because of the Ajax game on Tuesday but I felt that we'd have enough to overcome Tottenham. Remarkably I still felt that when we went 1-0 down when a free kick came over and Stephen Caulker's powerful header wasn't stopped by Joe Hart as it squirmed into the net. The referee was doing his best to not give anything City's way with a clear obstruction not being given as well as an even more clear handball. The referee got a chant of "You're worse than Clattenburg" for his troubles (about five seconds after I predicted it!) and at half time the ref got a massive booing off.

Early in the second half Roberto Mancini changed things and brought on Maicon, so effectively playing a 3-5-2 with Maicon and Aleksandar Kolarov as the wing backs, with Pablo Zabaleta, Gael Clichy and Vincent Kompany a back three. I was a bit worried at first but it was clear gaps were opening up, and after a surge forward with a deflection heading Yaya Toure's way, he guided it to Sergio Agüero who cooly kept his head, switched the feet and then slotted it low past Brad Friedel for the equaliser, and well deserved.

Not long after that on came Edin Džeko for Carlos Tévez and again the game changed. City had some chances with Agüero going close after being laid on by Džeko, and then David Silva hit wide, but with two minutes to go of the 90, the ball was on the right, Džeko cut in and passed to Silva, whose gorgeous little lob over the defence was met by Džeko who slotted it past Friedel and a perfect finish. The City fans chanted en masse with the chant of "Oooohhhhh, Edin Džeko!" and everyone seemed pretty happy with that. A good win in the end.

I have come to the conclusion that when Džeko comes off the bench, he changes things much more than he does when he starts. In the late 1970s Liverpool had David Fairclough who could do that and the Liverpool fans affectionately called him SuperSub. The same could be said of Edin now, he doesn't like that and would rather start but to see his passion is just what we want. It's hard for Mancini to keep everyone happy but I'm sure that the time will come and Edin will start more often, but with the way that Tévez and Agüero work so well, it's hard to see - for now at least.

I headed home later on after a well earned coffee at The Love's place, and settled in for some Rock Band 3 rocking, doing quite a few songs online including the ridiculously hard "Llama" by Phish, and on medium it's tough, but on hard, wow, it's super hard, with lots of frets on and off in a chord, and plenty of weird solo goodness to try out. I dread to see that on expert to be honest, just totally manic. Stll, tune of the day though as it is quite unique and catchy!

Saturday 10th November - Shopping and Beer

An unlikely combination maybe, but that's what a fair chunk of today was all about. I had a couple of online orders to pick up from stores in the city centre, one of which I can't reveal where as it was a present for The Love In My Heart and I don't want her to know what I've got her. However, I had a bit of a lie in which did me some good and after a bit of a tidy up and some breakfast, it was time to head into the city centre and get all the bits of shopping I needed to get done all sorted.

It was good to be able to also get a couple of Christmas presents for my relations too, and with a quick check with their respective partners, it was presents bought and indeed at a slight discount too, so money saved whilst still spending a good amount, so all good there. I also went into the M&S Currency Exchange place as I wanted to get some Japanese Yen for my brother - he's off there soon for a few weeks and won't be here at Christmas so the least I could do was give him some spending money as a present instead. The staff in M&S were great and it's the little things like that which make shopping a much nicer experience.

It was then off for a coffee to the Virgin Money Lounge, which was much more relaxed and chilled out than the nearest Costa, Starbucks or Caffe Nero tends to be on an afternoon. A nice coffee and watching the world go by was just the thing, and I could admire all the shopping I'd purchased or collected and think of the happy recipients of what I got them. It's always better to give than to receive to be honest and I'm sure that seeing the smiles on Christmas Day will make it all so much worth it - well I hope so anyway.

I headed back home and I'd found out that Carringtons in Chorlton were having a bit of a wine tasting session - The Love was busy during the day or else I think she'd have fancied that. I headed along anyway and got some very nice real ale for my troubles too - it was hard to decide which beer to get so I got five in all, two by Blakemere (Hit and Run, and Freshly Squeezed), the Dunham Massey Treacle Treat, Thornbridge's Wild Swan and the ever gorgeous Copper Dragon Black Gold as well, so that made me feel good.

I then walked up Beech Road to On The Corner, where coffee and carrot cake in the mid afternoon was in order, along with a big chunk of Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours" album - on vinyl too. Of course it was a turntable that played both sides without turning the record over (ace!) and so of course The Chain came on and sounded great, especially as the classic Formula 1 intro bass bit came in just as a couple were coming in to get a coffee, almost a staged entrance if it wasn't by chance! Tune of the day obviously, as you'd well imagine. I even had a little singalong in my head, woo!

After that I headed home, and The Love In My Heart came over later, and I made us a nice three course meal with some mushroom soup and granary bread to start, some gorgeous rump steak with peppercorn sauce with potatoes, green beans, peas and carrots and some raspberry swirl cheesecake for dessert. The Love watched the X Factor and so that made her happy with her weekly fix of Dermot O'Leary (probably more so than the contestants although if I was a betting man I'd go with James or Ella for the win) and it was a relaxing evening in the end. Just looking ahead to seeing some proper musicians on Wednesday...

Friday 9th November - Surprises and Rain

It was the last day of what had been a long and tiring week at work, with plenty of people all off on jobs to do today, myself included. It was off to two buildings to start machines being Windows 7 imaged, then back to the office for a meeting with my fellow incident co-ordinators amongst the campuses, before then heading back to the two buildings and finishing off the Windows 7 stuff I'd started in the morning, before having a well earned Friday treat lunch at Babylon - nice ham and mushroom pizza for me, I reckon.

After that I had an appointment with a member of staff who was collecting their Macbook Pro from us, and they were most happy that we'd managed to get everything up and running for him so quickly after his existing Mac had been stolen, so was most pleased. It was then after that doing some emails before heading to a halls of residence to check out a network socket and lastly to go to another building to check out a PC which looked pretty poorly and wouldn't no matter what you do get a network address, so we tried a BIOS update first which failed, so it looks like a motherboard change.

The afternoon had also seen incessant rain but I'd also received a text from The Love In My Heart, who wanted to know if I fancied meeting her at work before heading for a drink. I didn't need to be asked - of course I would! And so after work I headed to her work, which will soon no longer be where she works anymore - she's having to move to another place in the next week or two as the building she is in now is not operational anymore (well I should say just the bit she's in - the rest is staying as is). It did feel sad seeing where she works as it is now, rather desolate, lonely and not really that happy place it used to be.

It was time for a well needed drink and so we headed to Ra!n Bar, where she bumped into someone she knew and had a good chat with her before we got ourselves some drinks and cosied close to where the fire is, and chatted lots like we usually do. I think that it's always good that we are able to spend some quality time together and as the rain teemed it down as we walked back towards Piccadilly, I just felt like I'd been able to be there for her and cheer her up a bit, and felt massively flattered that it was me that she wanted to see and speak to most of all. Awww.

The rain had stopped when I got home, so it was off to Tesco to do the food shopping, and it proved to be nice and worthwhile as I planned to cook The Love and myself a nice meal tomorrow night for when she comes round to stay, so all well and good there I reckon. It was good to get everything in one fell swoop and even had a couple of nice ideas too - and had to make sure I didn't buy too much because of a couple of things happening next week as well. It was good to finally then get home, make myself some tea and settle in for the evening.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather excellent "Mengi Dem Disco Leggi" by Hey, Rube! - it just seems to work really well and reminds me of Cabaret Voltaire in their 1980s Industrial beats era. Not surprising of course because the two both feature the work of Stephen Mallinder, but it's still rather intriguing as is the whole album - well worth a search out if you can for the CD which you can play nice and loud on a proper system with some nice deep bass - which on an MP3 player just doesn't cut it for me...

Thursday 8th November - Doing The Intercontinental

I was glad to at least leave at a reasonable time at work, having had a tough day of it. A few things went on yesterday which meant that I had to spend the best part of an hour or so helping a couple of people fix a problem, and I was thankful that I'd backed up everything, kept all the documentation safe and sound and so was able to dig it out and be able to recreate a few steps to help out. I think though that ultimately there has to be a few things which all need to be learned massively.

Anyway, enough of that before I turn the whole day into a lengthy rant. It was much nicer to be relaxed at home, get all the housework done and then relax watching Pointless and seeing a duo not get the jackpot of a massive £11,000 or so, and in truth I know that The Love In My Heart would have done well on the question - actors in the Mission Impossible films. Knowing how much she loves those films (and a certain Mr Cruise shall we say) I suspect she'll have watched them a fair few times and knows exactly who was in them all, and got the obscure answers.

The Love did come over later whilst yours truly was rocking on bass on Rock Band 3. I had tried The Cult's iconic 80s classic "She Sells Sanctuary" on expert bass, and amazingly had managed to get through it with around 96% accuracy. Granted I can 100% it on hard, but I still felt pretty good about doing a song on expert no less. Sometimes you've got to push yourself, and this song is ace, and when you know it, it does help, so tune of the day was an easy one to accomplish there I reckon.

The Love settled in to watch Emmerdale and I made us some spaghetti with Italian herb meatballs which tasted rather nice all round, so that was good. We then watched the programme about the cake makers in Baltimore who make all sorts of really interesting and special cakes for occasions - with a massive one of someone's pet dog, a wedding cake with a difference, and it showed just how much fun that they had creating them - the sort of place you wouldn't mind working for really.

It was then on with Young Apprentice and it was a task and a half with them creating a cookery book. One team got the idea wrong when just targeting their book towards the professional woman only, despite their focus groups telling them otherwise, bad move in my view and how that Maria avoided being fired for basically forcing the issue I don't know. The other book for students cooking, with the #wheresmummy tagline straight out of Twitter did at least work although the spelling was pretty bad in places - and as I predicted all the panels were spelling and grammar ninjas and spotted it straight away!

It was then on with BBC HD and a series I'm recording just in case I miss one - it's Great Continental Railway Journeys. I've loved the ones around Britain and this time Michael Portillo goes across Europe on trains using the 1913 Bradshaw's Contintental Guide (which he carries around during the tour). I've always found him to be much better suited to be a presenter of this sort of programme than a politician and much more likeable too. As the journey was from London to Monaco, as you can well imagine there were parts that The Love and I recognised, such as the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe and Montmatre in Paris.

When he got towards the Côte d'Azur, plenty of places we spotted and some inspired us to want to go there, such as La Ciotat, with its ancient cinema and historic petanque courts, and a lovely bay and harbour that seemed so beautiful, and a bit close to Nice, Antibes, where the likes of Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso used the light to paint some wonderful works. Of course when he got to Nice we were like two happy little bunnies, spotting the Promenade des Anglais and why it was made, the Hotel Negresco, which looked stunning inside (the prices of a sea room were pretty scary though!) as well.

We've been to Nice train station of course when we visited Monaco and Cannes earlier in the year, so seeing the station again reminded us of those times, and when he was on the train he went through Villefranche-sur-Mer, Éze bord du Mer and the likes which we also recognised too. We didn't go in the casino at Monaco but with the insights from here we didn't have to, and it proved to be a completely fascinating watch. We can't wait till the next episode either!

Wednesday 7th November - Birthday Boy

It was a long and tough day at work today, so I was pleased to be able to manage my workload and leave on time, and be able to head to Mum's. We were all gathering there later for my nephew's eighth birthday get together, and as most of the family were getting there later it meant that I could go straight from work and join Mum for a well earned coffee before everyone else arrived. It was nice to catch up and chat and Mum was still really happy from the day out we'd had on Saturday, so that was all good.

My brothers arrived as well, and then so did The Love In My Heart, and gradually almost all of the family came, and of course my nephew, who looked really cool in his Indiana Jones outfit complete with hat, whip etc and it suited the day for him, not least as Mum had slaved away over a cake which had bits of chocolate spread in the sponge that looked like a cracking floor as in the caves that Indiana Jones would have explored, with some Lego and other mini figures on top, so it was pretty good all round really. There was also some nice food on too so everyone tucked in and had a good time.

My nephew had plenty of Lego presents from everyone, as he's massively into it at the moment. I got him the Lego City Brickmaster set, which basically is in a large hardback book with the box of Lego at the front and then at the back instructions for building as well as a cartoon storyline which you can follow when you build the various bits of the Lego set, so really interactive. He also got some Lego creator sets, a Lego board game and my brother had even managed to locate some Lego Indiana Jones stuff as well - quite rare apparently!

My sister's boyfriend had got some fireworks and in the front garden the two of them gradually set them off for some nice light displays, some rockets shooting up to the sky and some explosions, but it all was well looked after so everyone had a good time and watched the show without getting hurt. By this time Mum had finished off a massive hotpot which was perfect and warming for everyone after a long day, and that hit the spot nicely too - yaay Mum! We had a cold drink and relaxed in Mum's and I think my nephew was one very happy little boy, which was the most important thing of all.

Back at mine later The Love and I had a coffee and a chat about all sorts together, and it was just nice to snuggle up on the sofa together and watch a little bit of telly, but in the main the Paul Weller at the BBC programme I'd recorded last Friday for her, so she could see lots of Paul when he was in The Jam, The Style Council and solo. We both of course like the solo era, I'm more of a Jam person and she definitely more of a Style Council than me, but there you go. That said, I really love "From The Floorboards Up" so that's tune of the day as it's one we both like. See, compromise. It works.

Tuesday 6th November - Shout At The Referee

It was one of those frustrating nights being a Manchester City fan, where the "typical City" tag would have been mightily applied in days gone by and really would have applied tonight as well. It was a must win game for the team as they faced Ajax in the Champions League, and realistically only a win would be good enough to give City any sort of a chance to progress into the next round. It was with that attitude of needing a win that I was hoping we'd go all guns blazing and go for it, and show our mettle in the heat of European competition.

Well, you'd like to think that we would, but with a quarter of an hour gone it looked nothing like what it should have done. Despite some early pressure and a possible penalty that could have been given as Yaya Toure was fouled in the area, some sloppy defending from Mataja Nastasic gave away a corner. From it the marking was slack and Siem de Jong shot in from the narrowest of angles to make it 1-0. That was bad enough but from another corner a few minutes later de Jong was completely unmarked and made no mistake with a bullet header to make it 2-0. I felt very angry at the appalling defending but wanted to rally the team on to fight back.

That started a few minutes later when a ball into the box was chested down by Yaya Toure and brilliantly volleyed home with the keeper not even moving, so 2-1 down. We huffed and puffed for the remainder of the first half but the Ajax defence remained pretty solid, despite some terrier like runs from Carlos Tévez and some nifty footwork from Sergio Agüero up front. In the middle Javi Garcia was having a nightmare though and it was no surprise he was taken off and substituted for Mario Balotelli as City went for goals and glory.

We kept trying in the second half and as Tévez tired after putting another excellent shift in, he came off and on came Edin Džeko. The game did change a bit but the goal when it came was surprisingly route one stuff. Joe Hart cleared a goal kick, Balotelli headed it on and Agüero ran on to the through ball and smashed it home low and hard for 2-2. Still not enough with a draw maybe, but a win would change everything and Aleksandar Kolarov also came on to put some crosses in from the left and see what would happen if we also got a free kick close to the area.

A few minutes from time and Džeko was on the left, he passed it to Kolarov who put a perfect cross for Agüero to score - or did he? Turned out that Kolarov was offside although most replays I saw seemed to indicate that the linesman had in fact got it wrong and he was onside. That was bad enough but as City got a free kick in the very last moments of stoppage time, the ball was floated in by Hart, Džeko headed it down towards Balotelli and when chesting the ball to turn for a strike he clearly was being shirt pulled by the Ajax defence. The ref had blown and I thought for a penalty - but no, final whistle.

Wait a second! How the hell did the referee not see that? It looked worse with every replay and you can imagine my anger at the wrong decision. Roberto Mancini seemed to think so too as he came on the pitch to remonstrate with the referee. It might not have been the right thing to do, but I think it showed his passion if it was ever in any doubt with the players or the fans. A 3-2 win would have meant that qualification would have been in our own hands - as it is, it now isn't - we need to win our last two games and hope that other results go our way. Not good. The Champions League theme is no less tune of the day though - it is a stirring piece of music nonetheless.

Monday 5th November - Bonfire Buying

It was of course Bonfire Tonight tonight and as I am writing this there's plenty of fireworks going off and I passed a couple of small bonfires being set alight as I headed home with people watching them. I do think though that a lot of people would have gone to organised displays this weekend and saved themselves the hassle of course, but that's partially because of the fact that there's no school the morning after so if their children wanted to stay out at a reasonably late hour, they could do so.

Anyway, it was a busy day at work as plenty of the team were either off on leave or poorly, so it was a case of me making a few decisions and attempting where possible to co-ordinate the day as best I could - this even included seeing if one of my managers could head to a course committee I was going to go to as the time I'd have spent there was needed doing other stuff. That said, I was very productive, managing to get a Visual Basic script running where we could amend Firefox's configuration to effectively not use the proxy server anymore (which is being removed) and so testing that proved to be productive.

I also had to make some Windows XP Zenworks policy changes so that users will get a desktop bitmap which should prompt them to upgrade to Windows 7 as soon as possible. It's worked out pretty well in terms of getting that in the respective policy packages in Zen - not lost it there just yet, but it'll be seeing how many responses we get and if they'll take notice or not. We really need to where possible try to round up those staff who've been resisting for ages and just get them done now, not least as we're already on a pretty tight schedule to say the least.

After working a little late to ensure that one of the laptops I was imaging was finished and ready to go for tomorrow morning, I spent some time in the city centre getting some Christmas shopping done. I wanted to mainly get some wrapping paper and tags, and of course with Boots doing 3 for 2 it made perfect sense to head there and blitz it nicely, although I must admit the idea of bunding tags with the paper, although a good one, means you never get enough tags compared to the paper you get. Hey ho.

I went also to Wilkinsons as well to get a frame for the picture I got on Saturday and located the right frame too, the 16 x 12 inch (40 x 30 cm) frame for a good price in the same rustic effect that I've got some of my other pictures in too, and it came with a mount so that perfectly mounted the Audrey Hepburn picture I got, and once I got it home it looked good up on the wall. I was pretty pleased really because it just means I can change the room around in terms of pictures but also make it look classy with that pic too.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather apt "World's on Fire" by The Prodigy - which of course has a sample or two from The Breeders' "I Just Wanna Get Along" - a pretty good track to pick if you're going to sample the odd vocal here and there. Apart from the title, there's the "If you're so special, why aren't you dead?" line as well. I used to have the Breeders t-shirt with that song on with "IJWGA (bitch)" written on the back, happy memories of going mental to them and the Prodge, let me tell you.

Sunday 4th November - Festive Fun

I went to my first Christmas fair of the year today - and with The Love In My Heart and her father. The Love and I got up at a pretty early time, got ourselves up and ready before we headed across North Manchester and to her father's place, where he was ready to go and before long the three of us were leaving the city, heading on the motorways and to our destination, where even at 10am it was already packed and the main parking area already full, so we spotted another little car park nearby and went in there with no one in it - phew!

It was nice to head around the many stalls selling their wares, and one caught my eye as a nice gift if I wanted to get it. You got six real ales and the basket for £15 which doesn't sound too bad. I spotted that all the ales were in the 4 for £5 promotion at Asda, so six of those plus basket would be around £10 or so, so reasonably fair to expect a smallish profit for presenting it so nicely (that does take someone time, so understandable really). Lots of food stalls too selling local pies, sausages and other produce, so good to be able to try some of that and get some food ideas too.

We met up with The Love's sister and niece there too and the five of us headed around more stalls and we'd noticed that this year it was a bit more spread out so that there was more room to move around without having to delicately get past people. There was a chocolate tombola which out of the five goes for £1 The Love won twice (woo!) which was good. We relaxed with a coffee in the café on the site, with a nice view of the park behind, and overall it seemed much more relaxed and less hassle to get what you wanted - The Love got her calendar for next year and that was all good.

We relocated to a pub close by for some lunch later on and it was all rather nice - both The Love's father and I had the gammon (me with egg, him with pineapple) and The Love had this tomato and basil chicken with herb potaotes which looked really nice. It was good to relax with a drink too and catch up with The Love's sister, she's really down to earth and always really good to chat to - I can see why her and The Love get on pretty well to be honest!

After that we headed our own way homewards, The Love and I dropping off her father back home first before we decided to spend the afternoon taking a walk, so we headed to Abney Park in Cheadle and took a walk around by the little waterfall, crossing over to view the back of the house, and then once we'd seen how the inside of it seemed rather disused and somewhat spooky, it was then back along to the little lake and we took a walk around there before heading back to The Love's car, ending up in the Milson Rhodes for a drink afterwards, and it'd have been wrong not to.

We got back to mine and partaked in some Wii Sports Resort goodness - some bowling first followed by The Love's favourite of frisbee dog, which she was very good at as per usual, I think she just has the smoothness of motion when sending the frisbee off. Quite why she doesn't do the frisbee golf is beyond me, but hey ho, can't win them all. The Love headed home later on, I watched the F1 highlights followed by a programme on Felix Baumgartner's epic sky dive, which was fascinating stuff. I kept thinking of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" during it though and so that's tune of the day - after all Felix was virtually in space when he set off on his epic descent...

Saturday 3rd November - Happy Day in Howarth

It was Mum's birthday today, and The Love In My Heart and I had decided a while back that it would be lovely to take her for the day to Haworth, home of the Brontë sisters and their many novels, but also a picturesque village in its own right which would hopefully bring back happy memories for her when she used to visit there many years ago too. I got up relatively early and headed for the train station, as we would be taking the train to Hebden Bridge followed by a bus from there to Haworth.

The Love, Mum and I all met up, and we went to one of the little coffee shops to get a coffee to have on board the train. Because of the engineering work at Stalybridge, the station was busier than usual with people working out which way that they had to go instead. For us, it didn't affect the journey whatsoever but I suspected that people who were going to Leeds would be on our train too and so be busier than normal - and so it proved. The train left a little late as one of the doors needed to be fixed so it'd open when arriving at a station, and it was thankfully keeping to around eight minutes' delay by the time we got to Hebden Bridge. Thankfully for us the bus stop is at the station itself, and so it was a very short walk, on the bus, fare paid, and we'd soon be on the 500 to Haworth.

The journey on the bus was pretty breathtaking and you can see why the service doesn't run at night to be honest - lots of hills and bleak countryside moorland up on top before you head downhill and towards Oxenhope, and lots of train enthusiasts got off at the station there for the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, as you'd expect. We stayed on the bus as it headed out of Oxenhope up the hill and then down the valley and to Haworth itself, stopping outside the Haworth Old Hall Inn and at the bottom of the main street with its cobbled hill.

It was a leisurely walk uphill shall we say, with plenty of time for us to stop and admire all the little shops and peruse their wares. Mum spotted a nice bag in various colours, and I saw some very nice film posters and memorabilia in one place, so all was good there. The cobbled street and its shops and houses thankfully hadn't lost any of its charm that it seemed to have when I looked the place up on the web, and so it was nice just to take our time and head to the top.

We went in the Rose and Co apothecary. My, what a trip back in time it was, with all the old soaps and perfumes lovingly laid out, all the original fittings giving the shop a really nostalgic feel and with all the staff dressed in their lovely uniforms that made the era, it really did feel a special place. They even had a clothing session with beautiful dresses by Vivien of Holloway - which of course suited the era and fitted in perfectly with the shop's ethos and style.

After all that shopping and browsing, it was time for a well earned lunch, and so we went to the Kings Arms at the top of the hill and in the central square of Haworth. And my, it was worth it. Apart from the fact that there was an excellent pint of Landlord on cask, the food was spot on. Mum had the sausages and mash, The Love had the Yorkshire ham and eggs, and I went for the filled Yorkshire pudding with sausages and mash, which was totally brilliant. And all three meals for under £20? No complaints there, let me tell you. Hearty good food at a sensible price and a nice atmos, why can't all pubs be like this I wonder?

It was then a trip round the corner to the Brontë Parsonage Museum. Mum had been before so she happily walked in the church yard close by whilst The Love and I went around the museum - it was very nice to see the place restored so lovingly with lots of really good information, plenty of exhibits about the life of the Brontë family and even some replicas of the gravestones of some of the family. We Gift Aided the admission so we can come back any time in the next twelve months should we like, so that's at least something. And as you can imagine, the shop was full of everything book-wise to try and get the money out of you there.

We stopped off at a little shop and café on the way downhill, and they had some lovely cup cakes but also did a cake with tea or coffee for £3, very decent that, and so I had some carrot cake and a coffee in a twee but cute china cup. The tea that The Love and Mum had looked good, as did The Love's cupcake and Mum's choc fudge cake, and once we'd relaxed and had that it was back downhill where a busker with his guitar was playing no less than Seth Lakeman's "Lady of the Sea", so I'll make the original tune of the day and that'll only be fair really.

We stopped off at the shop where Mum had seen her bag, and she bought it in black to co-ordinate with some of her other outfits, and I got myself this lovely Audrey Hepburn film print with her looking rather lovely, head against a wall looking divine. I knew I'd hopefully be able to get a frame for it, and as we had some time before the bus back to Hebden Bridge arrived, we stopped in the Haworth Old Hall for a well earned drink, which was a lovely place dating back from 1612 and a really heavy front door to get into (seriously). It was nice having the Cocker Hoop ale in there too whilst Mum treated herself to a port and lemon (well it's her birthday you know?)

It was then on the bus and by the time we got back into Hebden Bridge it was dark, but the pottery shop she wanted to have a look in was still open, so we went in. The Love got this really cool earthenware chip and dip pot, where a small circular pot inside the large circular pots housed your dips, and the outer your crisps, breadsticks etc. Really smart actually especially as the smaller pot could hose the dip and its container so you didn't even lose anything. At Hebden Bridge station it was busy becuase of the fireworks display in the local park that people were coming to see, but we were soon on our way back into Manchester.

It did feel sad saying goodbye to Mum as we headed home back to The Love's place, but I knew that we'd all had a lovely time and coupled with the rather nice L'Occataine du Provence gift set that we'd got her as a present, it had made her day special which is what I wanted. The Love and I snuggled up with some crisps and dips and later on some pasta, as The Love watched The X Factor to see which cover versions would be ruined by them this week (and Lucy had apparently exited - illness but I think there's more to it than that.. but hey ho.) It was a long day and I think I'd slept very soundly at the end of it!

Friday 2nd November - Weller Weller Weller - Uh!

I had slept reasonably well and before I set off for work, I had ordered the 2:54 album from Amazon for a really good price as well. I decided that after them doing such a good job last night playing live the least I could do was buy the music and enjoy it on my rig, so that's what I did. I did make sure beforehand that I hadn't put it on my Christmas list though, or else I'd have waited till then just in case anyone had decided to buy it for me. I must admit I've ended up buying a fair number of CDs lately which I class as a good thing!

Work was a pretty lengthy day all told but it was also quite positive as I finalised the Conference Office's Windows 7 upgrade with only one laptop to take on and sort out, so in the end that was a worthwhile exercise. They all seem very happy with the speed of the upgrade and indeed the new kit which was due for replacement, so that to me felt positive straight away. I also managed to work out a suitable upgrade plan for some of the departments for the next few weeks as well, so also felt rather positive there and that was good to see.

I headed not straight home after work but instead to Wythenshawe Hospital to see my friend who was in having an operation to remove the gall bladder, and it's now done via keyhole surgery so a bit less painful than it might have been otherwise. He seemed in good spirits considering and was happy to natter about all sorts including the football, and generally speaking it was also good to see that he'd perked up a bit too, and I could tell that as he was asking the nurses for a cuppa as he hadn't had one all day and was getting a tad thirsty. Hopefully he'll be out tomorrow and see what happens from there - fingers crossed and all that.

I went home via Tesco to get some food shopping in, and once I'd had some spaghetti carbonara for tea and chatted to The Love In My Heart about her very emotional day at work (it was the end of an era and felt decidedly sad because of it) I reminded her that on BBC Four were a couple of shows related to Paul Weller. The first was lots of BBC clips of Weller through the years in The Jam, The Style Council (his bobbins phase if you ask me) and then him solo. It was good to see the fashions, the haircuts and how The Jam at the peak of their powers were (and still are) a great band.

That said, Paul's solo era should not be underestimated as influential either and listening to some of the solo stuff on that and the "Live at the BBC" show straight after showed that on his own with talented people like Steve Cradock working with him that he still is the Modfather. I'm going to give "Sunflower" tune of the day as it really showed his initial promise as a solo artist complete with some great guitar riffs. That for me is a perfect example of the talent that he has.

Thursday 1st November - 2:54 at 21:30

It would be nice if things were actually meant to go ahead as planned at work today, but nothing of the sort. I had planned to get in early and roll out Adobe CS6 to a room full of PCs, and the SCCM task sequence was supposed to uninstall CS5 and put CS6 on. However, on every single machine, the task sequence I had failed when CS5 was installed. I worked out why though - it turned out that when we rolled out the CS5 install it was packaged with an older version of Adobe Application Manager Enterprise Edition, which we updated since then, and so the MSI installer that uninstalls is therefore different from the original MSI - hence the no can do. Had to log on to 62 machines and do the uninstall manually. Not good.

And on top of that, three machines which I'd planned to image in one office didn't play ball first go - only one of them did. So what I had to do was use the old but still working Zenworks boot disk and perform the DD command on the disk so that when Windows was trying to reimage the disk to Windows 7, it thought that there were no partitions or zisedit data still present in the table. I made a note to actually try and do that before imaging all of a certain type of PC just to be absolutely sure that we've got it spot on - made perfect sense to me to be honest.

After all that excitement, I headed home, had something for tea, and even did a bit of rocking on Rock Band 3, managing to complete Dream Theater's "Panic Attack" on hard bass, which as anyone who has played that track will know, is not that easy to do even at that level. I struggled in parts but persevered because I knew that I wanted to really push myself. I even did some Pixies tracks on hard bass too and did reasonably well on them all, so was pretty pleased with my efforts to be honest.

It was then off into the city centre to meet a couple of people, one of which I've known for some time via their photography on Flickr and music related tweets, but never met as yet, and his friend, as the three of us were going to see 2:54 at the Soup Kitchen, hidden away in the Northern Quarter area of the city centre. Over ale and cider in Kro Piccadilly it was good to chat about the music in general and as that's one of my passions that meant there was plenty to talk about - always a good thing. The Dizzy Blonde beer was on form too so that cheered me up as well, yaay!

The three of us then headed not far from Kro along to Spear Street and then there it was - Soup Kitchen. You wouldn't know it was there unless you had some sense of direction in the city centre, but when you got inside at the ground level bar, the tables were laid out well, the food smelt good, and a great selection of cask and bottled beers too. I went for the Undertaker, which was beautifully dark and yet massively morish as well - I can see that being a future favourite of mine if the eventual two pints of that I had tonight were anything to go by. We headed downstairs to the actual music venue, and was rather pleased (I think we all were!) - the venue was small, say around 200-250 maximum, a small stage but also a good sound system, with flaking walls and a real cavernous feel to the place - felt right at home straight away in this proper gig venue.

The support act Deaf Club were on first, and they were pretty good. They reminded me a little of what The Cure might have sounded like with a female singer - and also a fair bit too of Howling Bells, circa their excellent first album (one which I still play massively now). It had that brooding feel that certainly drew you in but you could tell that they had practiced because musically they were bang on, really keeping things together and providing an excellent half hour set. I was semi tempted to buy one of their vinyl singles as they looked really well crafted too.

I headed to the bar, got the three of us a well earned drink, and it was good to natter some more before the main act 2:54 came on. One thing we'd noticed that during Deaf Club's set, no one was talking, but just listening to the music and taking it in - definitely my kind of gig audience that. I think there's nothing worse than when lots of people just endlessly talk over the top of the music and use it as a social excuse to be loud and not respect the bands, so just good to see it being a perfect way of enjoying a gig.

So on came 2:54 and were they worth it? Massively so. Mark my words, if there's any justice in the world, this band will become much bigger than they are now, and I felt rather lucky to have seen them in such an intimate venue. It was hard to pick a favourite track simply because they were consistent during their close to one hour set. I really enjoyed "Sugar" though as it reminded me of The Cure and also shoegazing bands like Slowdive at thier peak, so that's tune of the day. Mind you, they did throw in a killer version of "Killer" as well, which with guitars sounded massively different yet differently massive. I also loved "Creeping" as well which really did sound brooding too.

It all went by too quick, and I even bumped into one of our marketing people from work as well, so good to see her with a few friends enjoying the music. It was time eventually for us to head home, and it was nice to have met some great people with the same musical passions as me, and that as well as the great music had made the night great too. Isn't life brilliant sometimes when what you don't expect turns out to be better than expected? A yaay moment if ever there was one.