Dear Diary... November 2015

Monday 30th November - St Andrews' Graduation

The Love In My Heart and I woke up reasonably early, and once we'd got ourselves showered, we put on some of the clothes we had on last night to head down to breakfast in the Holiday Inn Express. That wasn't too bad with cereal, toast, yoghurts, and even some mushrooms, sausages and scrambled egg too (mind you some bacon would have been nice) as well as tea and coffee and fruit juice. We can't complain too much as it was included in the price though so all good there.

Once breakfast was had we headed back to the room and got changed: me into my suit and tie, and The Love into a gorgeous dress complete with boots and her new coat and really looked beautifully lovely. With the rest of us all dressed and good to go, and her nephew now with us in tow, we headed to the hire car and after some negotiation with the traffic around the city centre of Dundee, headed over the Tay Bridge, and along the A92, A919 and A91 to St Andrews, and managed to find a free parking spot on The Scores, a hill next to the classic Old Course entrance to the St Andrews links golf.

From there it was a short walk onwards to the University of St Andrews and the graduation ceremony at Younger Hall. We'd got our tickets and were early enough to head upstairs to the balcony and get a decent seat with a view of everything. Upon reading the programme, quite a high number were graduating their MSc and so I spotted where The Love's nephew was, so I'd be ready to go with the camera (which The Love's sister asked me to bring with me - and photography was allowed by the way.)

The ceremony mixed tradition with a modern recorded live setting, with parts of it being read out in Latin, and the vice chancellor doffing a cap on their heads - with repeat graduands getting an "et super te" (including The Love's nephew). The Love's sister and I thought it'd have been funny if it was mispronounced "et SuperTed" a different thing entirely. However, it really did flow well as a ceremony, a choir was involved along the way and the procession headed down the road before going to St Salvator's Quad so people could mingle for pictures.

We had some time spare before lunch later so The Love and I headed back along The Scores and to the Old Course so I could see what it was like, and it really does seem a lot different when it's not on the telly. What you don't realise is how close the 18th green is to the road that runs alongside it, and the clubhouse isn't actually as big as you'd imagine. The course was closed off due to frost though and any puddles in the Valley of Sin had been iced over, definitely making it somewhat unplayable all round. We did visit the golf shops and The Love bought some presents before we went to the Golf Museum café which was quiet, had nice views over the links and to the sea, and a nice coffee too.

It was back to the town centre and to The Dolls' House restaurant, which The Love's sister had booked. Her nephew's two friends came along too, so seven of us had a lovely meal together. I would have had the rabbit pie but unfortunately it wasn't a proper pie (boo) and so had the oven roasted chicken supreme instead, which several of us had, and it was gorgeous, it really was. The atmosphere was lovely in there and it really did feel very civilised and a good way to relax.

In the afternoon we headed back behind St Salvator's Quad and Hall and a marquee had been put up in the back which had a little garden party for the graduands. It was ticketed too which we had tickets for, and you could have little nibbles, apple juice, tea and coffee or sparkling wine, and mingle too. A couple of The Love's nephews friends and fellow graduands and their parents came over: one set had come from Cornwall so I was able to talk to them about that for a while (The Love noted that immediately of course) and there was a brass band playing all sorts, even belting out Randy Newman's "You've Got A Friend In Me" from Toy Story (tune of the day - classic) which The Love's nephew and I also spotted very quickly.

Later on we said our goodbyes to The Love's nephew as he was staying with friends and heading out later on, and we headed back to the hire car, back to Dundee and as The Love's father was staying another night, we'd put everything in the other room so we could collect it all, get changed and then head back on the road for the three of us, and down the A90, M90, M9, M8, A725 and M74 and had a brief stop at a services there before on to the A74(M) and M6 back homewards. We got back into The Love's car to head home and she dropped me off around 10.45pm. It was a long day but a good one!

Sunday 29th November - Snowy Scotland

Being up at around 6am on a Sunday morning isn't everyone's cup of tea, but The Love In My Heart and I were up for a very good reason. We were heading off to Scotland with her father and sister, as we were off to see her nephew's graduation at the University of St Andrews on, perhaps appropriately, St Andrew's Day. The Love's sister had sorted out a nice comfortable hire car, and so once The Love and I had collected her father on the way, we arrived at her sister's around 6.30am, made sure we put all the stuff we needed into the boot, and set off.

First stop was the rather nice Westmorland Services at Tebay, which has a proper farm shop, lots of nice things to buy and even a really nice restaurant area with a little lake with ducks in (albeit in the pouring rain mind you.) It was nice to have a cooked breakfast there and be filled up nicely - the five items of choice for me were bacon, sausage, mushrooms, fried egg and black pudding, which was rather good all round actually. It was well worth the stop and soon we were heading up the M6 and then onto the A74(M) and the M74 (why they just can't call the whole of that stretch the M74 alone is beyond me!)

From there as the wind was howling harder, and the daylight didn't look much like daylight, just morning darkness, and we headed off the M74 at junction 5 for the A725, cut across the back of Bellshill to the A8 and the M8 before turning off onto the M9, coming off at junction 1A for the M90, and following that and the A90 over the Forth Road Bridge (woo, done the road and rail bridges now) and the M90 onwards, where we noticed as we approached higher ground that the snow was falling, and then some to be honest!

In fact we stopped at Kinross Services for a coffee, and the snow outside was settling and did seem quite picturesque in the wintry conditions. It wasn't ideal for driving though and after a refresh with a cuppa, The Love's sister drove very carefully along the next few junctions, and it was only when crossing the River Tay just east of Perth at the end of the M90 did the weather relent, being a little damp but nowhere near as bad as earlier, with the last stretch of A90 and A85 to the centre of Dundee being fine really.

We arrived at the Holiday Inn Express Dundee around 1pm, and the rooms weren't as yet ready so we had a drink at the bar and I noticed Andy Murray winning at the Davis Cup Tennis, and The Love's nephew had also come to see us too, so it was nice to chat and catch up. We were soon able to go to our rooms and they were all nice, clean and comfortable, with Freeview telly, a nice bathroom, comfy bed and from our 4th floor room a view to and over the Tay Road Bridge too, which we'd be crossing tomorrow. Pretty good that to be honest.

The Love and I had a quick walk over to the Discovery ship which is moored in the harbour and the museum next to it, and spotted the little penguin statues everywhere, before meeting up later on with The Love's nephew taking us on a little walk around the city centre, with statues of the Dandy characters Desperate Dan and Minnie the Minx standing proud in the city square. It seemed a relatively nice city actually, and we even did a bit of shopping in the Overgate centre and a nice coffee and lunch in Henry's Coffee, so all good there too.

We had a rest during the late afternoon and I even got to see the England women's football team win 1-0 over Bosnia-Herzegovina, and got ourselves changed for later on and the five of us headed over to the Discovery Quay restaurant, a nice little Table Table type place. Most of us had the Sunday Roast, and I had the fish and chips, which was spot on actually. One of her nephew's friends arrived (who shares the flat with) and he seemed a nice bloke too, chatty and intelligent, so all good there. It was all nice actually and felt it nice to be able to be out and relaxed on a Sunday evening.

We headed back to the hotel later and I must admit I did feel a little tired with all the travelling etc, and after seeing a bit of the Strictly result with Peter Andre leaving, and The Love watching X Factor (for her sins!) it was off to sleep for me and I must admit the head hit the pillow and that was it - me gone for the evening. It had been a nice day all round and was hoping for more of the same tomorrow. Tune of the day in the meantime is perhaps apt: "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" by Dean Martin. Granted it's not Christmas yet, but it did feel somewhat right as we approached Kinross..

Saturday 28th November - Saintly Win

So it was off to the Etihad Stadium this afternoon to see Manchester City up against Southampton. Admittedly it was going to be a bit of a test to see if the Blues could bounce back from being hammered at home against Liverpool last week, and with some fixtures coming in thick and fast including the Capital One Cup quarter final and the Champions League final group stage game, it certainly was a case of wanting to get back to form sooner rather than later.

My friend came over to collect us and we were soon having a well earned cuppa despite the rather colder weather, and we were inside (good job too as the rain was also bucketing it down and the pitch looked rather wet). Over a brew we had a chat about all sorts and we both agreed that if you had a chance from distance today, hit it low and hard and you never know what might happen. Generally slippy conditions like this are always ones that a goalkeeper dreads for fear of spilling the ball, so I hoped that was in the team talk before today's game.

The game kicked off in incessant rain and City attacked well, and nine minutes gone had the lead. The ball was robbed from the Southampton defence by Raheem Sterling, he ran down the left and his cross went straight to Kevin de Bruyne to finish from close range, and a well worked goal too. City looked a bit more upbeat (maybe scoring first was the confidence booster) and after a corner broke to the outside of the box, Fabian Delph hit it low and hard and skidded off a defender's deflection and into the net for 2-0. And to be fair, a low hard shot from range was always going to work.

It stayed that way till half time and the rain was eventually relenting a little, so it was a bit nicer to watch the team in the second half. Southampton looked like they'd had a good talking to at half time though and a neat cross found the head of Shane Long for 2-1, and definitely a little worrying. They may have had a penalty too later on but we also had a shout for one, but the referee was one of the worst I'd seen for some time, clearly making strange decisions for both sides to attempt to make a name for himself in the papers the next day. No wonder both sets of fans were confused by his actions.

City though pressed and a clever little chipped ball over to the left from Kevin de Bruyne found Aleksandar Kolarov, whose left footed low shot found the net for 3-1, and all good there. We had won and won reasonably well and with Leicester City drawing 1-1 with Manchester United later on, it meant City were also back on top of the league, and that's always a positive too so I did feel good, as did my friend. I made sure he managed to get out of the ground okay and headed over to see The Love In My Heart.

She made us both some lovely food for tea, a sausage casserole no less with lots of nice vegetables, and then I watched Celebrity Pointless, with an F1 special! Suzi Perry was on along with David Coulthard and Allan McNish from the BBC F1 team, plus Claire Williams and Christian Horner representing the teams, the ace Mark Webber and Nigel Mansell, but best of all (and teamed with our Nige) Murray Walker! Go go go!! In fact the best bit was when he and Mansell was knocked out second round and Mansell ended up in a Skalextric race against Alexander Armstrong, with Murray providing commentary with Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" (make that tune of the day) blasting out. Ace or what eh?

Friday 27th November - All Change

Another good day of getting things sorted, and writing of more documentation, first of all focussing on some specialist software that our Conference folks use and how to best make sure it all works correctly for them, including some auto groups that are added to a certain Group Policy setting in order for them to get all the bits that they actually need to do the job they need to do. After the team meeting took place, that was something I was going to go through with some of the folks in the team.

In fact they were pretty pleased that I went through it: it showed them exactly what bits that they needed to ensure that policy was going to be editable via Advanced Group Policy Management, and how then that they could effectively ensure that the shortcuts, registry keys and other file settings were brought down in a controlled fashion. For me it was definitely well worth doing because the two members of staff were very attentive indeed and really did show a lot of potential in being able to work with that in future (and development is a good thing right?)

In the afternoon I spent most of the time backing that up with some written documentation, and there's always an opportunity for plenty of screenshots to at least back up the theory so that you can see what you're doing right. In fact for me also it meant that I could be sure that what I was delivering was also backed up, and had informed the team during the team meeting of all the documentation I was planning which would hopefully help them out a lot in the future too.

In my view, it's all change for me but I do want to leave on good terms with everyone: it's a career challenge and that's the main motivation for me moving, but it's important that what I do is make sure that the team feel that I've been able to give them some of that fountain of knowledge so that they are able to carry on and provide the level of service that I know that they can do. It does frustrate me somewhat though that there are a few things work related, out of my control, which really in my view isn't good enough. I won't say any more than that - yet.

For some odd reason I had to wait ages for the bus home and this despite hardly any traffic today (maybe everyone took the day off to do Black Friday shopping - meh) and then for some reason three came at once, the proverbial bus joke and all that. I did a little bit of clearing out when I got home and found I had around fifty back issues of Retro Gamer magazine in pretty mint condition, and so if you're interested in taking the whole lot off my hands for a reasonable amount, do drop me a line via the contact page.

I also watched Gogglebox later and was intrigued to see their comments on a news item this week that leading cinema chains had banned an advert which had The Lord's Prayer recited with a backdrop of normal everyday people finding solace in prayer. Now I'm not religious at all but notable to see how some thought that allowing one religion to have their views advertised would allow all others and hence to stay neutral, but would other banning of religious messages also then be deemed censorship and offensive? Either way it was good to see the cross section of comments and debate actually.

Tune of the day is the rather good and under-rated in my view "Mum's Gone To Iceland" by Bennet. It's a classic single of the mid 1990s and one that really did work out that actually commericalism and certain adverts really do tempt people to buy stuff they can't afford, quite apt as a retort to all that Black Friday bobbins going on right now. It's amazing too how many bands from back then are back together actually: Lush have reformed, Echobelly played a set recently (in fact I saw Bennet supporting Echobelly back in 1996 so there you go...)

Thursday 26th November - Something Old, Something New

I spent a fair chunk of time today working on some documentation again, this time mainly dealing with a couple of more specialised pieces of software, one being DesignaKnit. The good thing is that it means that I was able to go through the whole process of network setup, getting who the contacts were, doing the installations, getting things to work and feeding back to the software vendor in one case. It's always good to keep abreast of what you did when doing it, and documenting a lot of that, but also then making sure that it's future proofed where possible.

I was on a roll and not only did that but also managed to sort out another piece of documentation later on, this time for another specialised piece of software: The Foundry Production Collective. The licence server setup was fine once I had a second file from the vendor to allow licencing to run virtually via the VMWare instance that the Windows 2008 server runs on. Also it was notable that the client setups were nice silent installers (two with InnoSetup for example) and then a case of run one of the pieces of software, tell it where the server is, and ensure that file is also copied to client machines. Pretty good stuff really.

Later on The Love In My Heart came over and we headed off to The Gateway pub in Didsbury for some food and a natter too. I thought it'd just be nice to head out for some tea and The Love had mentioned that she had her new work mobile phone, and as it was her first Android smartphone, she wanted me to talk her through some of the stuff it could do. It was good to be able to apply the IT skills in a different way but at the same time be able to get The Love up and running nicely.

We headed back later and decided to watch last week's First Dates, which we still hadn't seen from last Thursday for one reason or another. We had spotted parts of it on Gogglebox, but were intrigued to see the yoga teacher woman be instantly dismissive of the bloke, only for him to realise she was putting up defensive barriers and effectively tell her that, and turn the date round. It's always nice though when dates do work out and when one bloke said "I think I've found the woman of my dreams" with sincerity whilst summing up the courage in the loo to not screw it up somewhat, you do have to think a little bit with an "awww" element actually.

Later than that I got all the stuff packed I needed to get packed and hand it to The Love for a few days' time, and then she made her way home and I decided to have a good listen to the new Slayer album again. Admittedly the title track "Repentless" is rather ace and for me it really shows that they still have a bloody hard edge which rocks somewhat too with Tom Araya's voice being completely mental too. Definitely tune of the day and one of the tunes of the year for me personally.

Wednesday 25th November - More of the Same, With No Nuts

Another day, some more documents done - and in fact it made me wonder just how much documentation that you could do if you had the time to do it, as I was doing now. In fact I managed to sort out one which details all the weave looms in a specialist room, the three different types of them, the software that's used on each and how they are all configured. I ran that past the necessary people who use them on a day to day basis and they were really pleased with what I had written, so all good there.

The next one to tackle was SketchUp Pro and how that's handled - creating the MST transform is really easy of course, but it's how you get the activation code to go in a certain place so that the software automatically activates when run is the tricky part - but it looks like I was able to do that without issues, which is good. Of course being able to sort all that means that come next Summer when there's a mass of installs, all will play ball pretty much as intended, at least that's the plan anyway.

I headed into the city centre after work as I needed to collect a parcel via Click and Collect, and it made perfect sense to get that and also some other presents, so in the end I managed to tick off another three presents from the list of ones I had to get, so that was a worthwhile exercise to get done. I did have to nip to my local Tesco later on to get something else, and the local discount shop for some of the washing capsules, as I'd ran out, but at least that meant I was able to make sure I could get a shed load of washing done tonight.

I watched The Apprentice later and the party planning was a real exercise in how being too serious doesn't work but also not taking a concern seriously also doesn't work either. One of the families concerned mentioned a severe nut allergy, so any catering wasn't to have any nuts in at all. In fact they didn't convince the family and the Mum ended up spending time as far away from the cake as possible to ensure no reaction, which went down like the proverbial lead balloon.

It was also intriguing to see when a decision was made who to bring back one of them attempted to get up and leave, but Claude and Lord Sugar were having none of it, and Karren had her very cross face on too (not to be messed with basically) - and in my view said candidate after the deliberation should have gone - far too mouthy and up themselves to be honest. I did think more than one would have gone though and was surprised to see only one get their marching orders.

For old times' sake later I put on Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 on the PC, and naturally I had to blast out some classic Rage Against The Machine with "Guerilla Radio" that plays on there, always good to have that on loud when pulling off some killer moves, so tune of the day really. And yes, it's still a classic that somehow the more modern versions of the games just seem to lack so much in terms of content and detail really - and that has to be said.

Tuesday 24th November - Back To The Routine

So back to work and plenty to do, with a view to me writing plenty of documentation to ensure continuity for people within the team. I think for me it's important to get that right, so I went through the whole procedure of being able to ensure that other users could access our Autodesk licencing via Academic Resource Centre, and how from there to obtain the network licences, ensure the server is set up correctly, and also then from that what you need to do to package the client installation. As you can imagine, that was lengthy to do but I like to make sure that it is done properly - no point in cutting corners really.

I think too that for me it's given me the chance to try and pass the baton on in the right way - and if that means that people may have to step up a little in future, then so be it. I suspect there will be some contenders though so at least if the processes are there, they should be relatively easy to follow. I also noticed one of our servers hadn't started some services for the wide format print, and so with this in mind I investigated why and managed to get to a resolution. It turned out it had been patched and for some reason the services hadn't started on server restart - a bit odd that.

Anyway, I headed homewards a little later via Tesco as I needed to get some food in for myself and The Love In My Heart for tea, and once done and I got home, I started to wrap up a few Christmas presents before I ended up running out of Sellotape, but at least I had made a start which was something. The Love came over later and she relaxed with Emmerdale whilst I got on with some nice rosemary potatoes, chicken in cheese and bacon plus some gravy and mini carrots to go with it, which went down okay.

The Love wanted to get cracking with working out what stuff I needed to keep or remove, and actually when I evaluated the books I have, there's a fair amount that I do read but a fair chunk I don't anymore, so I was able to work out a plan - I'd either give them to my work colleagues as first refusal and then donate them to some of the bookshelves in the building I work on so that people can read them should they wish to. In fact it'll be good to see what takers I have - recycling is always a good thing.

The Love is pretty ruthless (but in a good way) for getting rid of stuff though and we had pretty much got a fair chunk of stuff into the paper and cardboard recycling later on in the evening, and I think for me it's a case of realising that I've got to get on with stuff and be able to move when I am needing to. There's still the option of letting out my place in any case, or possibly selling it, but I'd rather rent it if possible only to keep some form of capital in the property where possible.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather good "Killing In The Name" by Rage Against The Machine. As it approaches closer to Christmas I'm always reminded of the rather good campaign to get that single to number one instead of X Factor, and it worked really well. Plus to be fair the band stuck by their guns and said they'd play a free gig if they did top the chart, and they did (plus by all accounts it was an ace gig too.) See, we need more proper bands and less manufactured bobbins.

Monday 23rd November - Finally Found

So it was another trip down to London and the surrounding areas today to see if I could view as many properties as possible, and if I was able to get something sorted out before I am starting the new job in (eek) three weeks' time. It hasn't been stressful in terms of the viewings or anything like that, it's been more a case of wanting to get the right place I feel comfortable in but also at the right price, and what was stressing me out was the fact that I didn't want to start the new job without getting somewhere sorted.

I headed on the 0935 train from Piccadilly to Euston (the first offpeak train possible) and it was pretty busy due to that. I did have a number of calls from estate agents on the way down and that was interesting to note, and an email which was promising - a viewing hopefully to be arranged on a nice new apartment development that I had set my eyes on originally a few weeks back. I made sure I had a quick phone call with the letting agent and got that one arranged, and also as I arrived at Euston I fixed up another couple of appointments.

As I was focussing a little on Croydon today I headed on the Victoria line tube to Victoria, and then the train from there to East Croydon via Clapham Junction, and as I approached I arranged three viewings of properties from the same agent a little later on, so that was all good. I had however arranged to meet the concierge of the apartment block and so it was to there first I went. He showed me two of the apartments still available, both of which were really nice. I did like the second floor one with balcony but imagined that was more expensive, but the seventh floor one I liked just as much - a nicer view from the windows, and a feeling of a more open space with the living and dining areas, so all good there too.

I then went to see three flats with another agent. The first one was, in truth, absolutely horrid - and how anyone can even consider charging £850 per month for it only heaven knows. It just wasn't very right at all and in truth I was glad to be out of there. The next two were better: one had its own entrance set back from a commerical premises but pretty central, and that wasn't too bad (the glass walls to the bedroom though were a tad odd) and the final one was an old large Victorian house where you'd get the whole first floor, two large rooms, separate kitchen, and not bad, but yet more expensive than the apartment.

I headed over to Sutton later on to see two places there too - one was on the West Sutton / Cheam border and to be fair it looked like a lot of care had gone into it, and actually that was pretty good all round. The agent had been particularly lovely too, and that was good to see. In fact had I not seen the apartment, that was a clear next favourite as it felt good in there. I finally saw one in a block close to the centre of Sutton which was decent, and you could tell the landlord was still redecorating it, but I wasn't sure about the walkway you have to go to get to the place - even with the lights it looked a little uncomfortable to me.

Decision was really made then so I made a call to the letting agent for the apartments and wanted to secure one of them - and as it turned out it was a good job I did. I basically stated I'd be able to transfer the security deposit when I got back home later and the agent had emailed me all that over, and said all was good there - so that felt positive. I must admit it was nice just to be able to call The Love In My Heart and tell her that I really felt happy when I viewed it and thought "Yes, I could live here" so good to get things sorted there.

I headed back from Sutton to Wimbledon and then walked from there to South Wimbledon to get the Northern Line to Waterloo followed by the Jubilee Line (via a massively long walkway) and then to Bond Street, and hit the shops on Oxford Street. I did pretty well and within the space of around an hour had got four more Christmas presents sorted, so actually that wasn't a bad move to get plenty of that done at the same time. In fact it was just nice to relax a tad before getting one of those shiny new Routemaster buses back to Euston.

Unbelieveably when I booked the trains, first class was actually cheaper than standard for the 2100 departure, so no brainer, especially when you can relax in the first class lounge at Euston with coffee, soft drinks, nibbles etc and indeed take in BBC News, have much nicer toilets and not have to be waiting in the station concourse. In fact I had the rather ace "Going My Way" by Paul Weller in my head as I sat there relaxed, and it just seemed the right mix to be honest so tune of the day there.

And lovely was the journey too - with proper china cups for the coffee, and later on there was a choice of drinks, and I went for the real ale. It was the Wreckless ale from the Redwillow brewery in Macclesfield and rather lovely, and having that with the salmon and cream cheese posh sandwich with crisps was just the thing as the train sped towards Manchester on time. It was the perfect end to what proved to be a positive day and fingers crossed I've now got a new place to call home in a few weeks time.

Sunday 22nd November - Rail Fail

It was a really nice breakfast that our friend as host made for us, some nice sausages complete with some bread rolls to go with them, and some juice too, so really did set us all off nicely for the day. As it transpired my friend was very kindly giving me a lift back to Newcastle rail station, and we all headed off roughly around 11am. It had been another really good weekend and I was so pleased that it went well - and I was able to inform them of the new job and the move that was going to happen, and reckoned once I settled in that a weekend somewhere in London was going to have to be done!

I was dropped off at the rail station and all was good, and then got myself a tiramisu latte from Costa as I had some time before boarding the train to get one. The train set off at 1206 all on time and heading down towards York all seemed well. Unfortunately just before we got to York there was an announcement that the trains were being curtailed at York due to signalling failures between Leeds and Huddersfield, which meant said trains weren't able to go to Manchester, and that road transport was being organised instead to the various destinations onwards.

Nothing else was said as we all departed the train at York, and people were trying to get on till I mentioned that the train had been cancelled. Said train manager from Transpennine Express was nowhere to be seen, and I knew the bus stops for replacement services were at the front, so headed there. Thankfully staff from Virgin Trains East Coast were on hand doing what they could, but didn't see any staff from Transpennine on there - indeed considering the number of trains cancelled, you'd think they'd have had someone there for their services to liaise with customers, but no.

Also, here's the thing, and well worth a contrast. The other night when the train back from London was being delayed, Virgin Trains staff mentioned delay repay multiple times to their passengers, and even mentioned the automatic refund to debit cards for those who booked with them, and all the alternative options etc. Did anyone from Transpennine Express do this, either on the train, in the station or otherwise? That's a big fat no. So I did my bit to inform as many as possible including an elderly couple who ended up on the same little minibus as I did which was one of the replacement coach / bus services on for us.

In fact the minibus back didn't take that long in reality: we got through traffic relatively unscathed without issues, and the only minor hog was getting to Piccadilly Station: as it turned out a sinkhole on Whitworth Street had shown up, so not good there. I waited at the station, The Love In My Heart arrived to pick me up (aww bless) and after dropping some stuff off at mine we headed off to The Greenfinch for some tea: the steak and ale pie was particularly spot on actually.

It was also lovely to catch up with The Love anyway about her weekend and how that all went, and unfortunately some idiot in The Fort car park in Cheetham Hill had backed into the rear of her car and then drove off before she arrived back from the shops. The damage isn't massive but I know it still needs a body repair at some point, and she was gutted to be honest. We also chatted about looking at flats etc and showed her a couple which she seemed to like also, so all good there.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather epic "The Root of All Evil" by Dream Theater, the opening track of their "Octavarium" album. Ironically I was listening to this on the train in between Newcastle and York, and then of course all the fun and games happened. Are First Transpennine Express the root of all evil? Well consdering a comparison of their (lack of) customer service today compared to other rail companies, I'd say a highly qualified yes actually.

Saturday 21st November - South Shields Weekender, Day Two

After a good night's sleep we all felt refreshed, and so once I'd got up and got myself ready, and had a well earned coffee, it was good that we could all have more of a chatter and then have some excellent breakfast, with plenty of sausages and bacon and some bread rolls which we simply put inside whatever we fancied. It was all good, and tasted excellent, perfect for filling the hungry tummy for the day ahead. We sorted out what we needed to and at around 12 it was time to head on to the Metro station.

We stopped off at the local Sainsburys on the way for anything additional needed, and then on the Metro we went and got off at Newcastle Central station. From there it was a short walk to the Life Museum that had the Game On 2.0 exhibit as part of the admission costs. That for us had lots to admire: old computer games from the 1970s onwards, and plenty of themed parts of the exhibition along the way, including an early Pong machine, some classic Atari 2600 games such as Combat and Pitfall (I took on one of my friends on the tanks game on Combat and it was an excellent contest.)

Apart from all the old computer games like that, a whole section had original arcade machines to be played on too, all on freeplay so no need to put any coins in. The word "result!" sprang to mind as we all had a blast of the likes of Golden Tee (golf game I used to play in the pub in the early 1990s), Missile Command (albeit with the trackball not performing as it should), Mappy, Bubble Bobble, Pacman, Xevious, and best of all for me at least, Track and Field! Woohoo. Needless to say I got through all six events and in fact my hurdles run was second on the all time list for that machine, so my score should stay there for a few weeks, go me.

Not just that, but I ended up joining in on Rock Band 3 with someone on the drums and someone on guitar, and I took the mic up and we headed through Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. Granted it wasn't picking up all my vocals spot on, and played it on hard to be sure, but did reasonably well actually with it, so tune of the day. I also spotted Wii Sports Resort, so blasted a score on archery and then had a two player epic battle with one of my friends on Daytona 500 arcade version as well. Ace.

We had spent a very enjoyable time in there before heading out to the first of several pubs for plenty of chat and conversation for the late afternoon and evening, starting first at the Tilleys Bar on Westgate Road - with lots of good ales at a decent price plus comfy seating and a nice relaxed vibe in there. We then walked past the station and down towards The Bridge Hotel close to Castle Garth, and a place we'd been before. Again, cracking ales here so all good, and even Sky Sports News on to keep up to date with the football scores - although turning it over before the final whistles had sounded was a bit off - even if they were prepping for the Man City v Liverpool game later.

It was then a walk down the steps by the Castle to the Quayside area, and first stop was The Quayside pub, where we got a nice table upstairs and we were able to have food in there as well as ale, and indeed the chicken tikka massala was spot on here - as was the very nice amber ale I had too. It was good to see the Tyne Bridge from the window in the early evening darkness at the same time so an excellent move all round, before then heading further along the quays.

We visited three places around here, stopping off for a drink here in each: The Red House had some nice beer on and the little tiny cosy rooms, almost labyrinthine, were good to walk through and we found a nice spot to sit at and chatter, so all good there. Then we moved across to The Bridge Tavern, and they even brew their own ale in there too. We got a spot upstairs and outside with large outer heaters (toasty actually) and when you looked up, you were directly under the impressive and imposing Tyne Bridge, so even with some rain you may have been kept dry to a degree too. Liked the vibe and view here actually, perhaps the nicest place we visited in the evening.

Then on to the Crown Posada, narrow and thin but with tons of charm: we'd been here before too. In fact, the ale was lovely, we got a seat, and the DJ was playing on an old record player lots of old classic tunes. That was all cosy before walking up the hill to the final stop Bacchus, which had a good vibe and some good ales too, so everyone was pretty good there. In fact my friend's girlfriend came to join us (she was staying at a relative's whilst we were around) so good to chat with her too - and the five of us then headed up to Monument metro station and got the metro back, which was timed well all round for us all to get back to our respective bases safe and sound.

We watched Match of the Day later on and I saw how bad Manchester City were against Liverpool - but to be fair to my friend who supports them, they were by far the better side and indeed hit us on the break with stunning regularity. The only thing in my eyes was that we got off lightly with a 4-1 defeat, had it not been for Joe Hart, we'd have lost by a hell of a lot more. It was around 1am by the time we'd all watched and listened to what we needed to, and another really good day all round!

Friday 20th November - South Shields Weekender, Day One

Today was the start of a longer weekend and indeed a planned break that I'd planned for some time now. The little group of four friends that I am part of were going to have a get together, which meant lots of retro gaming, chatter, beer, and possibly more beer as well. My friend up in South Shields was doing the hosting this time around, and we'd all managed to ensure we had the time off for the weekend as well. I must admit it's always a great time when we get together so this weekend was I suspect going to be another cracker.

So it was on to Manchester Victoria (not Piccadilly) to get the 1251 departure to Newcastle, which came from Liverpool. It arrived on time and I found my seat easily enough, with a nice window view as the train sped through towards Leeds. Between Leeds and York you could see several flooded fields and similarly on leaving York, showing how bad the recent weather had been. It had been hailstoning earlier in Manchester so I'd like to think I was ready for anything that the weather could throw at me, and it was getting a little colder as the train headed towards Newcastle.

From there it was out of the station and down to the Metro station, got my ticket and literally had to wait around one minute or so for the next South Shields service (yaay), and counted down the stops via the likes of Pelaw and Jarrow before reaching Simonside, and heading off there, following the road down and turning off for the street where my friend lives. I was actually last to arrive, with the two others getting there ten minutes and an hour before, so a coffee was rather welcome all round it has to be said.

We had a good natter and catch up, and whilst we settled in with a bit of Pointless, some very nice chicken curry was being rustled up, and that together with some rice and poppadums filled the gap very nicely indeed, and was spot on. Our friend mentioned he had a bit of a surprise, and sure enough when we headed upstairs, one of the former bedrooms was now a real bachelor pad of sorts, with a leather sofa that was also a sofabed (I'd be sleeping there) and a PC hooked up to a projector and pull down screen. Very nice!

In fact it was really comfy up there all told, so we spent a fair bit of time with a Commodore 64 emulator and a proper joystick (connected by a 9-pin joystick to USB adapter, I have one of those too!) and played the reworked version of Ghosts and Goblins, which we all found pretty hard to be honest (and it mirrors the arcade version's difficulty too) as well as the revamped Commando, didn't do too bad at that. In fact it was quite good to knock up some of the old games and play that way.

My friend had also discovered the rather good Chipmachine, which had a front end which allowed you to search for any sort of video game music, MP3 remake from certain sites etc, and effectively play them to your hearts' content. I have to say it's really neat so will be definitely snagging that when I get home. We had a very good time listening to all sorts of classics, including the late Richard Joseph's intro tune to Cannon Fodder on the Amiga, bit of a classic that and we all sang along to it too, so tune of the day there.

Later on we headed out for a local takeaway and whilst my friends were getting pizza, I stuck with the small fish and chips, as it turned out a cracking decision, and for £3 mega worth it - it was more than enough for me to get on with and taste wise was cooked fresh too. We watched Gogglebox on 4Seven later on, and then headed up to listen to some more retro game music and have a good natter. In fact, it got to around 1am and outside, it was snowing, so much so it had settled. That was nowhere to be seen an hour before so felt quite Christmassy as we eventually all headed to sleep later - an ace time all round really.

Thursday 19th November - Handing The Baton

Another day in work, and this time one where I wanted to try and prioritise a few things, and mainly this was to start composing some documentation. I'm trying to make sure that some of the specialist software packaging and how it's all set up in terms of licencing is all done, and so made sure I documented the stuff for Toonboom Animation (both Harmony Premium and Storyboard Pro) - in terms of how to activate licences on the licence server, set that up, ensure the firewall rules are right, then set up the clients including adding a transform to one of the setup executables, and how to check it all works.

It'll be the first of many I try and get sorted in the next few weeks, and had a meeting with my line manager this afternoon to work out a plan of action to tie up as many loose ends as possible, ensuring that handover stuff can be as smooth as it can be. I do know of course that not everything will necessarily be doable, but by getting as much as I can sorted, it will mean that I can hand several batons over. In fact today was the last day that I'll be doing part of my role, and I have with my colleague defined what that part will be for the future too.

I had The Love In My Heart over for tea later, and I indulged her with some Emmerdale as I sorted that out - and it was nice to do some rosemary potatoes, some Hunter's chicken and indeed some giant flat mushrooms too. We had Top of the Pops from 1980 on BBC Four in the background later on and it was good to have a listen to the stuff around then including the classic "Embarrassement" by Madness (make that tune of the day - 35 years on and still a classic tune and no mistake.

Later on we saw Gogglebox as I'd missed it from last Friday evening, and it was a really good episode. The Love's favourites are Jenny and Lee from Hull and they always seem to be quite dry in their wit. It was noticeable too that when they were watching the film Billy Elliot how much the father of the Michael family from Brighton was welling up about it all. I also enjoyed the Rev Kate Bottley's analysis of some of the news stories, she's quite to the point with it but as a Northerner I approve of course.

So a day off tomorrow and a chance for some wind down time as I'll be meeting up with some friends and having a rather nice weekend of things together, hopefully with some retro gaming and stuff thrown in too. All of the potential moving etc has come in at a time of year when I've already got a fair bit planned, so hopefully I'll be able to cram it all in and do what I can to get it all sorted out too. So that's that so far this week then - and three weeks till I end my current job. Eeek!

Wednesday 18th November - Shocked Nicely

I must admit I didn't have that much sleep for one reason or another, and maybe I was feeling it a little during the day. I did however have two course committees to attend, and both courses I've know the staff at pretty well, so that was a positive. In fact for the first course, the chair was really good, keeping things moving and getting them discussed, and because we had responded to their points raised, it meant that we were able to be productive and proactive too. What I didn't expect was said chair to thank me for all my efforts and for the whole committee to give me a round of applause. Quite shocked actually.

In the afternoon in the second course committee, it was also a nice heartfelt thank you from three of the staff on the course itself for the efforts and indeed for being able to get them some new kit sorted out as well, and it was really good that they also appreciated me - and the chair wanted that minuted too, so that said a lot. In fact a fire alarm went off half way during the meeting so we had to congregate outside, and I had a chat with her about the move too - she was positive and gave me some ideas also.

With work done it was nice that The Love In My Heart suggested we meet for a drink, and although originally we were going to go Sandbar, it was impossible to try and find a space for The Love's car. Instead we headed to Fallowfield and The Beer Studio, which was really quiet, and I had a pint of Jennings' Bullseye (iiiin one! etc) and had a good chat about the day and a catch up too. In fact The Love looked lovely in her work outfit, and was nice to see her to of course.

We also went to Sainsburys later so I could get a birthday present and some wrapping paper for another present too, and that wasn't too bad as I found something good, and even some Christmas gift tags into the bargain (they were matching the 3 for 2 at Boots and I did have lots of paper already) - and as I've purchased a fair few presents I thought it'd be good to maybe start on wrapping them up sooner rather than later as well. It was especially nice to have a hug from The Love before she headed home later on too.

I settled in with a pizza and made a couple of phone calls: one to one of my friends and then one to my cousin in Bournemouth so I could tell them about the impending move - they were excited and happy for me and really saw it as an opportunity for me which I must admit was a positive thing. I suspect as well one of my younger relations wants a trip back up to the Etihad at some point to watch Manchester City, so we had a think about when might be a good time to be able to do that!

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather good "Implode" by Slayer - certainly does get me in the mood for rocking of course, but also because it really does feel like the last few weeks have been a large implode in my life, a lot of things are changing ahead and it's really a case of seeing how it all pans out. It's exciting, and I am nervous of course, but I do have the sense that it might be a real different move for me in terms of career development and personal development.

Tuesday 17th November - Having A Barney Darn Sarf

I had the day off today, and it was a perfect opportunity to head down to London for three reasons as it turned out: one was to have a meeting with HR of the new place and get all the paperwork sorted in one fell swoop, some of which I'd already filled out a few days back, two: to meet the members of the team I shall be working with, and three: to try and view a couple more flats whilst I am at it. So it was on to the 1115 departure from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston armed with a Costa latte, cos that's how I roll.

First stop after getting the 68 bus from Euston was High Holborn and to the office where the HR is based. It was a productive and useful meeting with the HR staff, who generally seemed really friendly. I had brought all I needed such as the passport, National Insurance card, all the forms they'd required and so meant that the wheels could be put in motion - and on top of all that, so I could actually get paid at the end of December, fingers crossed!

It was then back on another bus from there to the building I'd be working at, and my new office on the 12th floor of that buiding. I met with my new line manager and two of the team I'd be working with too, and they seemed a good bunch on the whole, all with similar levels of professionalism and it actually felt positive to sort some stuff out as well when there. No doubt I'll probably get a bit more of an induction and tour when I actually do start but it was good to do an icebreaker and actually get on board that way.

It was then off to view a couple of flats - well it would have been a couple, only it looked like some wires were crossed when I arrived in Peckham Rye and it transpired that I was unable to view it. I could see what it was like from the outside and I can imagine being on the balcony being quite nice, admittedly though with a price tag and that was something that I did have to consider a little bit. I then took the train from there via Tulse Hill to Sutton, and with the rain and wind coming down a little, it was a walk from there to the next apartment.

Thankfully the lovely woman from the estate agents was there, so she was able to show me around the place. it did look fine in terms of location, nice tree lined street and all that, but it just felt a little crammed in, as if the owners of the large property maybe should have split each floor into two one bedroom apartments instead of three. It was okay but didn't really give me the feeling that I could move in and settle, and obviously that is going to be important to be perfectly honest.

So it was back to Sutton and on the train to London Victoria, then the tube to Euston. I had a chat with The Love In My Heart about it all, and then was heading into Euston to get the 2040 departure back to Manchester. The train did depart on time despite all the bad weather around, but as we got further Northwards it was soon apparent that the bad weather (Storm Barney) had done some overhead line damage, and we crawled into Crewe after waiting for a platform what seemed like an age.

In fact by the time we got back towards Manchester we were over an hour late, so Delay Repay was going to kick in to that one to be honest. In fact the staff were informing everyone of that to make sure no one missed out, so all good there. I noticed between Crewe and Wilmslow that we had overtaken the local train back that stopped close to me, so I headed off at Stockport and swapped over, saving me the hassle of having to get a taxi at Piccadilly later on. With all that in mind, "Stormy Weather" by Pixies seemed appropriate as tune of the day.

Monday 16th November - On The Move

Well, now I've mentioned it to family, and of course work who already knew, I can now announce the big news - I have a new job. Not just that either, but it is in that London as well. Admittedly, I had been looking for a change of job and a career move for some time, and for me it was important to be able to get something which was the right position, and one which was a definite move upwards, where my skills could be put to good use, and where it'd be a fresh start for me.

I had had the interview a while back, and although an offer came through, I had to do a little bit of negotiation before finally accepting and having a written offer on the table. So I'll be working as a Client Configuration Specialist at one of the universities in London, and overall it's going to be all good. I think the interview had gone well but you are never fully sure of if you've been able to demonstrate that you are the right person for the job - particularly if like me you have doubts about if you've been able to answer the questions correctly.

So the next few weeks are about getting myself all sorted out, signing a new contract, getting all the finances sorted out, and finding a place to rent as well. I've thought about it a lot, and thankfully The Love In My Heart has been very supportive to be honest - she isn't moving with me as she has a really good job here and it'd be unfair to ask her to move, but that just means that the time we're going to spend together will be even more special than it is now to be honest.

In a way it will mean a lot of changes. I certainly am careful with money now anyway, so that's going to stand me in good stead. I am also quite methodical and do think about things a fair bit (again good) and on top of that I have a good handle on public transport (essential in London). One added possible advantage is that the job is close to a train and tube station that is a "border" station. These are great because you can either be in Zone 1 or Zone 2. Advantage of that is, if you come from say Zones 2, 3, 4 etc, you finish in Zone 2, so potentially cheaper costs of travel. Anyone who works close to Earls Court for example has the same joy with that, notably if coming from West London via the Piccadilly or District lines.

I definitely think that there's a lot to do, and certainly I do have the Christmas period to additionally tie up any loose ends as well, so I don't necessarily have to do everything at once. If I can get the majority of things all sorted out then there is at least potential to be able to have some room to get the rest all taken care of. It could even well be that I might have to do a move in between Christmas and New Year, and take it from there, but we shall see what happens from hereon in.

It does mean though that I might have to devote more time to that and so it might be that I won't be able to do diary updates as often as I'd like. I'm going to try but if I end up doing an entry every two or three days you'll know why - I'm busy sorting stuff out. The Love suggested that I cancel any direct debits where I don't need to have any of the money taken out anymore, so they were all done tonight. And on top of that it's a big sort out of what I actually need to keep and what I don't.

So exciting times ahead really, and one which I'm looking forward to with a mixture of excitment, nervousness and positivity. I think the way forward for me is to be positive, and so decided to blast out some Pop Will Eat Itself tonight with the classic "Everything's Cool?" a song I still adore even 21 years after its 1994 release. Why? Simple answer really - it kicks backside, and makes me want to bounce around, so tune of the day was a very easy decision.

Sunday 15th November - Christmas Shopping in Cheshire

The Love In My Heart and I were up pretty earlyish this morning, as she collected me in her car. We wanted to get a start on Christmas shopping, and so I thought that going to Cheshire Oaks was a good idea, maybe get some bargains along the way and on top of that have a day out together. We suspected it was going to be rammed though so we decided to leave around 0930, and once we'd topped up with petrol, it was straight down Princess Parkway, along the M56 to junction 15, off the M53 and then there. In fact we got to the big M&S first and got all the stuff for their dine in for two deal, and then headed back to Cheshire Oaks itself.

Bear in mind it was just gone 11am, and all the three main ground level car parks were full (you can start browsing at 10.30am but tills can't open till 11) and as we were heading towards the multi-storey, there are some parking spaces on the left as you head along the road. They had been closed off for a fireworks display earlier in the week but one of the staff was opening it up and invited The Love to turn off straight for one. Happy bunnies all round!

We did have a good look around overall, and I did get two presents at a discount rate, so really did feel pretty happy. The shops were busy, with queues outside the Ralph Lauren outlet, and it really busy in some others. The heating was mega hot in the Fred Perry shop, so much so that The Love escaped outside for some fresh air whilst I had a quick mooch in. It was a sign of things to come with Christmas shopping, and I think for me it showed that now was a good time (ish) to go.

We did also go to the other shopping centre round the corner, had a quick lunch in the Debenhams restaurant, and then energy regained, we had a look around the other shops. There was also a superb offer on in Boots that I had to snap that up (and a present indeed too so another one bought) so all good there. The Love was after a coat for herself and there were a couple that she did like, but I think had the Ted Baker one in the outlet had proper length arm sleeves, she might have been seeing if that was affordable, but it just spoilt the look in our view.

We then headed off to Mum's for a coffee for a bit and caught up with her holiday tales and indeed had a chat with my brother too, and then headed back to The Love's for a nice relaxing evening meal together, with the Dine in For Two going down nicely. I had the camera with me so the two cats kindly posed for some pics too (aww) and The Love watched the X Factor results with Olly Murs making a right balls up of it all - that'd never have happened with The Love's favourite, Dermot O'Leary, that's for sure.

Later on we saw a bit of the opening of "I'm A Z-Lister, Get Me On Telly" (my pet name for it, you know what I mean) but amazingly the powers at ITV had convinced the likes of Chris Eubank and Tony Hadley from Spandau Ballet to do it! Needless to say there was a clip of the classic track "Gold" (make that tune of the day if you will, 1980s classic that we both adore) - and it was fascinating seeing him lead a team against Susannah from Trinny and Susannah which was pretty mental. Still not keen on it though: the only decent thing normally on this is Ant and Dec. Enough said!

Saturday 14th November - London and Paris

As I got up early this morning, my thoughts were with the people of Paris. As I saw the news this morning, it was clear that the attacks were all linked, all by terrorists and affecting the lives of normal everyday people. It sounded as if the possible explosion at the Stade de France was going to be aimed at the crowd at the France v Germany football match and due to the fact President Hollande was there. And the number of casulaties at the gig was really off the scale. By all accounts it was also anti-semetic, the owners of the gig venue are Jewish. But does that give anyone the right to kill innocent people? No.

Words really do fail me to be honest. Having spent a fair few visits to France, I've always found the French people charming, hospitable and normally very friendly and warm folk, and relations between the UK and France since the entente cordiale over 100 years ago have always been good. We've stood together as friends and nations and stood up to be counted. I sincerely hope that the French authorities get to the bottom of it and serve justice to those who carried out the attacks, and reassure the people of Paris that they will slowly but surely be able to get back to normal.

With that in mind, heading for London might not have seemed an ideal idea, but at the same time you cannot live your life in fear whatsoever, that's definitely not the way that it works to be honest. So, it was on the 0635 to Euston for a day there, and as the fare was actually almost the same price in First Class, a trip down in relative comfort and indeed with free coffee and a Danish pastry to boot as well. No complaints from me there, but the weather did look decidedly dodgy as Euston beckoned.

So first off, a tube ride to London Bridge and from there a train to East Croydon to have a mooch around there. The train was delayed due to over-running engineering works and a backlog at Norwood Junction, and it was hammering it down as I walked around, getting a feel for the area and property there. I departed there after around an hour and then headed from there back to Blackfriars, and then out again to Nunhead, where I was viewing an apartment there. It was okay(ish) but to be honest the kitchen wasn't the best and thought that if I was the landlord I'd be sorting that out before re-renting.

It was then a quick train ride to Peckham Rye, changing there, and then on to Sutton. I'd heard a lot of good things about there and the area, and even with the rain hammering it down, I could see why actually. Nice little town centre, tree lined streets as you headed out of the centre, and generally all good there. I did view a place there too and it seemed okay in terms of size, but wasn't sure on either location or for that matter the fact that the entrance halls looked a little bit not so good really.

I had a tiramisu latte in Costa there before heading back up on the train to Herne Hill for a bit of me time, and had a nice time there looking around the shops there, and indeed nice little shops did make for a lovely feel of the place - almost village like in the way it was with the park not far away either. In fact I did like the look of it a lot to be honest - might have to head back here one day on a little day out at some point. It was then from there back to Euston as it was time for tea and I felt the need to indulge somewhat.

So it was to the Crown and Anchor, and a well deserved hearty meal. In fact they even had Tribute ale on cask - bonus! And so with that and a gorgeous steak, pancetta and porter ale pie, all was really nice, and the vibe in there is always a good one with friendly staff too. I must admit that for me it's one of my favourite little places in London due to all of that, and a couple I sat at a table with said they loved it for a drink and were heading off for curry before getting their train back to Euston.

I got on the 9pm train back, and even First Class was busy. This was though due to the fact that a large group of choir singers from Wilmslow were heading back after seeing Les Miserables at the theatre. They were a good natured bunch actually and one of them was attempting to recall a very famous Victoria Wood song (which I knew the title of) so I mentioned it and they were like "yaay!" and proceeded to play it via a web clip - so "The Ballad of Barry and Frida" by her is tune of the day.

Friday 13th November - Garbage? Anything But

It was a nice way to wind down the week at work with a gig, and my friend and I had booked tickets absolutely ages ago to see Garbage at Manchester Academy 1. It was part of their 25th anniversary series of gigs, but also tied in nicely with the fact that the band were playing their eponymous debut album, in full, some twenty years since it was released. I loved them a heck of a lot then: I have the early singles, and won the box set of the album which is 6 x 7" singles with one of the twelve tracks on each side - quite collectable these days apparently.

I had seen the band a few times live, and the last time my friend and I saw them was a few years back when they did the tour around their album "Not Your Kind of People" back in 2012. They've always been good and naturally there's some male testosterone towards Shirley Manson, who is a feisty woman not to be messed with, and she gives her all on stage too and has good banter with the audience. Certainly of course we knew we'd get the early singles from album and maybe a few surprises too, so all was good as we made our way to a good vantage point.

First up were the support band - and they were local too (they're actually from Marple!) Dutch Uncles did a pretty decent set of their songs, and the lead singer certainly had a way of dancing on stage that was a cross between Ian Curtis and Morrissey, it was somewhat hypnotic. The songs were good too - "Upsilon" had a real nice synth backdrop to some good beats and vocals, and "Be Right Back" reminded me of the likes of Metronomy at thier peak too. Really liked the sound overall so will have to definitely check out their most recent album I think.

So then it was Garbage - and my what a cracking set it was. It clocked in at around two hours or so, and wasn't just the debut album, but all the B-sides and a couple of cover versions in there along the way. They also didn't play the album in track order either, so that meant a nice juggling around of tracks. In fact, the set was fairly minimal - the odd projection (notably during the intro with clips of them around the time of the album) and some lights, but in the main concentrating on them really going for it.

The sound engineer had their sound right, Shirley Manson was in fine form vocally and when chatting to the audience in her Edinburgh accent, and the songs came at you well delivered too. Whilst it was good to have the singles, a thumbs up for some quality renditions of "Fix Me Now", "Not My Idea" and "As Heaven Is Wide" particularly, which really did have a driving groove throughout. The B-sides such as "Driving Lesson" (well explained by Shirley what it actually was about) also came across well, including their cover of The Jam's "Butterfly Collector" and the ace "Trip My Wire" also.

Naturally though the singles were the ones that the audience went mental for, including the likes of "Queer", "Milk" and "Stupid Girl", with the audience singing along en masse to the chorus of "Only Happy When It Rains" with a huge "pour your misery down on me" line when prompted by Shirley. Actually, what really impressed me was that when it got to "Vow" (their first single), everyone really went for it too, and tune of the day for me because it's also a bloody ace song. And although not part of the debut album, having the uplifting "When I Grow Up" at the end was simply wonderful and that left everyone on a high note.

Albeit, it would have done normally. As my friend and I left the Academy and put the radio on in his car, news started filtering through of events in Paris that didn't sound at all good, mass shootings, explosions and on top of that a hostage situation at a leading gig venue in the city. It made me realise, having just been at a gig myself, that having people in that situation who were just living life and then having it taken away must have been so awful. I count myself lucky as I could have been in central Manchester at the time of the 1996 bomb (I was going to go to the city centre that morning but didn't) so my heart goes out to the people of Paris tonight.

Thursday 12th November - Animation and Stitching

I had a couple of tasks to undertake at work today mainly based in one of the faculties which we look after. First off was that I needed to install one piece of art and stitch software for some of our technical staff. They required it on four of the trolley laptops, and so I got that sorted, and in fact having the trolley close to the room was useful as I had access to the software and also a nice large table so I could fire up four laptops at once and get everything done, so that was most pleasing to be honest.

I also then in the afternoon spent some time in our specialist animation suite, working with the academic there and ensuring that the Wacom tablets were playing ball. Due to the fact we have some new Intuos and Cintiq ones, we had to use the most recent drivers so get them working. The older Bamboo ones work, but they don't have the native Wacom drivers for those so some of the pressure sensitivity doesn't work with it - but the staff member concerned was fine with that, as the other ones were available for loan from students if they needed it to be anyway, so all good there.

It's good when you're able to move forward and be productive too, and that for me is a positive that I always take anyway. I think too when you have the human touch and are able to speak to people fairly and professionally, as I did when having a meeting with a senior manager earlier today also, that you do earn that respect for what you do. I think for me that's important: that you not only are able to feel valued but also that it's a two way thing in that what you bring forward is also dealt with the right way too.

The Love In My Heart came over later on and we settled in to watch Paul O'Grady: For The Love of Dogs. I must admit that although I'm not a big dog lover, seeing the good work everyone does do at Battersea Dogs Home does restore my faith in how we do treat animals. The little one who had his legs recovered and getting back up to speed was character, as was the bigger dog who ended up getting photographed by no less a man than Rankin: and that worked a treat for him getting a home too.

In the meantime then tune of the day is the rather excellent "Fire Lances Of The Ancient Hyperzephrians" (worth it for the title alone) by The Sword from their second album "Gods of the Earth". The intro is dramatic and then goes into full on rock mode, and having seen this live, the band do not hold back whatsoever playing it either. I definitely can recommend that album highly and I'd like to hope that more people over time will hear of this rather ace band.

Wednesday 11th November - Rememberance in Landscape

It is of course first of all important to notice the fact it is Armistice Day, and always poignant to remember those of you who have fought for their country and died in the great wars, and those who did so in the premise of serving their nation and eventually seeking peace. Somehow I think it's lost on a whole generation who maybe haven't done their history and understood the importance of such a day, and therefore good to see a fair few celebrities holding the poppy to their lips and indicating silence, a really nice touch that actually.

For me personally, remembering all those is a duty we should all perform. The reason that we in the UK live in a democracy and a country that we do is because of the sacrifices made, and that should always be respected. Whether you agree with war or not (and as a pacifist, conflict really is not what I'd want) an eventual freedom that was fought for just and should be rightfully respected. It's sad therefore that some sections of the media following the Rememberance Sunday commemorations were more interested in political points scoring about who did and said what rather than actually respect those who were there and fought for their countries.

I did have a programme committee to head to today for the Landscape course, and that went well. In fact it was good because the student reps are on the ball, they are constructive in what they say and actually when I explained just why student machines are auto logged off, one rep said to me "well if that means people aren't hogging PCs, that's fair enough" so it was a case of seeing the bigger picture. They were also pleased that as part of our wide format printer changeover, we'd moved the mono only device nearer to them too, so it was actually a really good thing.

It was then later on when I got home settling in for the evening and watching The Apprentice, and wow, were some of them just so appallingly bad. One of the project managers Elle was that worried about what to put on the flyer that she missed the print deadline, so they had none. Naturally this meant the team finding it difficult to drum up business whatsoever, and lost by a huge margin. Even before they asked which three were going back in the boardroom, Lord Sugar fired her, and even she admitted it was the right decision.

Somewhat baffling though was what job she actually did though - it seemed somewhat artificial and made up to me and I think when she was explaining it, it did make me wonder a lot. Still, three firings (and in my view it could have easily been four to be perfectly honest) and definitely for me seeing Manchester as a backdrop next week is going to prove interesting to see what will happen to the discount shops that they attempt to set up there. Could all be kicking off big time.

In terms of tune of the day it is perhaps somewhat right to think of something a little on the poignant side, and therefore I've been listening to the excellent PJ Harvey album "Let England Shake", namely the track "The Glorious Land" complete with trumpets resembling a call during the introduction, and the somewhat uneasy feeling of the whole thing. Absolute genius and if you haven't as yet got the album, you really need to purchase it as soon as you can - it's awesome.

Tuesday 10th November - Glory for Gail

Another busy day all told really, and one that had me thinking a lot too. I have been working on getting a printer moved over to another office where there was a requirement for it, and I had been able to get the move request form done, sent off to another of our teams, and they got it all moved same day. The only thing now holding it up is actually getting the network socket put in, which is going to be needed for the device to work, and the order's actually with the people who requested it to be authorised. I suppose at least I've done my bit which is a positive.

In the afternoon I had my one to one meeting and on the whole that was also positive too, with plenty of thoughts going in to the next few weeks but also seeing where there can be small improvements made along the way. I think on the whole that isn't a bad thing: if you're able to take small steps and do things right rather than leap over giant chasms at once and inevitably fail, then those little steps actually are more visible and give some good future guidance and practice.

I've also been keeping on top of some revised statistics for the printer devices, and overall that's been a good thing to do not least as I can then pinpoint which devices have been heavily used, and where there's been staff members who have been in my view using the multifunction devices as just a pure copier, not exactly the purpose for which they were intended. Evidence of course is absolutely everything though, so having that to hand will no doubt prove handy later.

The Love In My Heart came over for tea later, and I made some very nice Hunter's chicken with some little potatoes and a filled mushroom each, that went down very nicely actually. I also made sure that it was timed so as not to interrupt any soaps etc (had practice of this of course). One good thing for me was that we were able to snuggle up and watch some telly together and just be nice and close - and of course there was plenty on which we were liking the look of.

Such as the wonderful finale of Eternal Glory, where Gail Emms, Matt Le Tissier and James Cracknell battled it out. The first round was the chair pose, but this time a fifteen minute version - you could rest whenever you wanted to, but it was total time in the chair that counted. James did fourteen minutes dead, mental that was, and got the advantage into the second game - which was pulling crates of rocks in total double of their body weight across, and then waiting for the heart rate to slow enough before going. James did two lots of four - straight to the final. Matt tried two fours and failed, and Gail tried eventually with a three, two and three and that worked, so her advantage into the next event.

Gail won the event where they had to dive off, swim across and under and up a ladder, and then it was her against James in a best of three with different games from previous night duels. It went down to the quick draw decider, Gail won and the title was hers. I think she was pretty chuffed as she'd been the last woman standing for some time and had battled through lots of the events really well - good on her! To be fair James and Matt were both the sporting legends they are and were fair in defeat as you should be too, so double yaay.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather good "Clara Bow" by 50 Foot Wave, one of Kristin Hersh's little side projects over the years. I always like three things about this track: the killer bassline in the opening verse, the rather cracking chorus in which Kristin yells out "With sunburnt lips I can biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitch!" and sounding really mean with it, and some great guitar work along the way, the track positively belting along at frantic speed. What is there not to like, indie fans?

Monday 9th November - Winning

I rule, yet again. Well sort of. Allow me to explain this one. We have a specialised Oki printer which has been serving one course very nicely, and it transpired that for some reason the printer has decided not to print double sided anymore, which as you can imagine isn't good. My colleague had been doing some testing and it looked like some options had been greyed out in the driver when printing from a Mac, but also that when looking at a hardware config, it seemed to be disabled there. Rather odd.

Anyway, on a test Mac in the office, I tested out the latest Mac Postscript driver, all worked, the options for duplex were there, I then headed over to try a test print, still single sided. Hmmm. It made me wonder if the duplex unit wasn't seated correctly, so looked at the manual, located what I thought was the unit, and put it back, no joy. I then noticed that to get the fuser etc out, you had to remove the transfer kit drum from the front, then you could get the fuser and whole duplexer assembly out on the left side.

Once I'd got to that, I spotted something. Trapped in the duplexer and close to where it slots in was a sheet of A4 paper. Crucially this was blocking a connector from connecting to a mainboard, so that the duplexer itself would never be detected as this wasn't fully slotting in as intended with a sensor blockage. So we removed the sheet of paper, and after then giving the printer a restart it detected the duplexer again, and then tried some double sided stuff, all worked correctly. Bizarrely though the printer didn't give an error message for a paper jam, so that had obviously thrown people off, but there are times when you just have to really check everything out. As I said, I rule.

I also was looking forward to Only Connect tonight as it was the Children in Need Special with the two team captains being David Baddiel and Hugh Dennis, both formerly of the classic 1990s series The Mary Whitehouse Experience. I mentioned David in a tweet about the show with a made up quote referencing the classic "History Today" sketch, and didn't expect David himself to retweet that - nice one. In fact David won with his team, mainly due to maximum points in the connecting wall and then blitzing the missing vowels round well (notably the North East dramas opener.)

The FA Cup second round draw was also on before that and it had some tasty ties, not least there's definitely a non-league team in round three as Stourbridge and Eastleigh were drawn against each other. No doubt there'll be some banter at Sky Sports as Gary Neville, part owner of Salford City, take on Hartlepool United, a team championed by Jeff Stelling of Soccer Saturday fame. I must admit I think that the magic of the cup with a fair few giantkillings was on form this weekend, and more of the same next round would be ace.

Tune of the day in the meantime is "Mum's Gone To Iceland" by the vastly under-rated Bennet. It's a classic 1990s indie tune and massively unheralded, although it did hit the top 40. The band were really good live, and they had a positive vibe to their songs too, and you couldn't help but adore that. When my friend and I saw them at the now defunct Roadhouse, said single had charted, so they announced it with "This is our top 34 single.." and played it. Ace.

Sunday 8th November - Avoiding Twee

The Love In My Heart had a deserved lie in herself, and I got up and watched the Formula E race from Malaysia on ITV Player, having decided not to get up at silly o clock yesterday to watch it live. It actually was a brilliant race, full of incidents, and even a bit of the track breaking up which caused over-aggressive driving to be punished by a visit to the wall, and all sorts of different electricity power management strategies in the cars. With all the carnage, Lucas di Grassi won, Sam Bird was second, and Robin Frijns, despite knackered steering due to a little crash, still managed to get the car home third. It had more incident than the whole of this season's F1 which says a lot about how good Formula E is right now and how not so good F1 is in comparison.

Later on The Love and I thought it might be a nice idea to have a little trip out to John Lewis in Cheadle, and get some ideas for Christmas generally. I think as we approached the car park with the rain hammering it down that half of South Manchester and Cheshire had the same idea: the car park was rammed, but also the road that you drive down was flooded in parts and really seemed like some bad drainage was at fault. Eventually The Love got a parking space, but it was notable that in hatched areas (meaning no parking) it was full of idiots in Land Rovers and Mercedes cars - sort of "oooh we're posh and from Wilmslow, we can park where we like." I'd have loved it if a traffic warden was on duty and gave them all a ticket.

Anyway, John Lewis itself was pretty busy, no doubt buoyed by their latest Christmas commerical, which I have issues with. Yet again it's a case of take an alternative song which people do like, get another singer to do a really twee cover version of it, and have an accompanying advert to tug at the heart strings. When you consider the original song is the Oasis classic "Half A World Away" (as used on the theme tune to The Royle Family as well, so tune of the day even as a non-Oasis fan, it's the original at least) and it's a twee version, it's just wrong on so many levels. What's wrong with them getting someone do to an original song for their advert instead eh?

In fact as you walked around the store one section had a whole range related to the advert, even playing it on a TV screen on repeat as well which I'm pretty sure must drive the staff berserk after a couple of hours, if you're on that section of the shop floor. The good thing was that away from that, it was a decent selection of stuff for Christmas, even if some of it was a tad on the pricey side. I don't mind spending money on nice things, far from it, but you sometimes do have to wonder how much also then becomes too much.

We decided to head off after a quick visit to Sainsburys later, and even though we sort of fancied a late afternoon pub lunch, I had a bit of a brainwave and decided to do fish and chips instead, not just any mind you. We'd both passed Fosters Fish and Chips on numerous occasions and wondered what the take out was like, as we'd both heard the reputation was good. So we stopped there on the way back, I got us two lots of cod and chips, and we took it back to mine. And ooh yes, it was gorgeous. In fact possibly the best I've had since the fish and chips we had in Penzance at Fat Fish Café and definitely up there also with when we visited Graveleys in Whitby a fair time ago, so high praise indeed. Oh, and they do gluten free Sundays for those of you interested in the restaurant bit, a rather nice move that.

Saturday 7th November - Possessed To Skate and Cut Hair

I had a bit of a lie in, primarily due to the fact I've just felt a tad mentally tired. I think though it did me the world of good and I decided that a hair cut was well in order, so it was off to the city centre and to see my usual lovely people at The Northern Cutter. A father and his two sons were in there, and the two sons were getting their hair cut and excited about their two skateboards which they had picked as a Christmas present - and were more than eager to want to have a go (they were all shrink wrapped) but explained that they could already skate without issues.

It made me smile really - I can remember as a kid me trying it out and due to my rather rubbish balance (understatement) and when we used to holiday at one holiday park, to get to the sea you had to head up hill and then down through some sand dunes. There were chalets at the top of the hill too which meant a nice tarmac surface to try and skate down at speed, but inevitably I'd fall off (and obviously we'd make sure no cars were around when we made our attempts of course.) Happy memories actually.

Only one song to play when I got home later then - the all time classic from Suicidal Tendencies: "Possessed To Skate" (make that tune of the day) which really should have made its way on to a Tony Hawk game really, it's a proper classic. In fact when the band re-did it as "Go Skate!" as part of the Prime Cuts compilation, it kept up the frantic pace and really did make it all worthwhile too. Of course it's well worth noting that Robert Trujillo of the band cut his teeth here before joining Metallica, so there you go!

I spent the afternoon sorting the house out, and all tidy and nice for when The Love In My Heart came over later on. I set about making the tea in between keeping an eye on Pointless Celebrities, which featured Julie Dawn Cole (she played Veruca Salt in the proper film version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) and also Zammo and Roland from Grange Hill too, classic memories that. And then we'd had the starter just before the start of Strictly Come Dancing too.

I must admit that I was pretty pleased to see Peter André nail the charleston, not least because I do admittedly have a soft spot for Janette Manrara, and the two of them were ace together for this - best score and rightfully so. It does make me wonder who is voting for Carol Kirkwood though, I know she's giving it a go, but for me, just not quite there for some reason. You could say the same for Katie Derham too, although at least Anton du Beke is challenging her somewhat to try and do better (and you could see that in the routine.)

Of course Strictly does mean Claudia Winkleman too, and for me the chemistry with her and Tess Daly has worked wonders for the show as hosts. I do think though that maybe Tess gets first pick of the more glamorous dresses though, maybe just me. The Love insisted on watching The X Factor so there's two hours of my life I won't get back. The whole "re-invention" week was just lame, it really was. How about "heavy metal week" instead where they have to try out versions of the likes of Anthrax, Iron Maiden, Slayer, Metallica etc? That'd be at least a bit more entertaining - anyone who epically fails has to go before Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield of Metallica and apologise for being so lame at metal..

Friday 6th November - All The Small Things

I must admit I didn't sleep too well last night, and did feel a little low on confidence. I think there's too much in my head right now and I really do have to try and put some of the things I'm overthinking to the back of my mind - for my own sanity if nothing else. It didn't feel like I got to actually rest my head till around 2am, and to be brutally honest that's just not on. I suspect though that over the next few weeks things might start to clear up a little more and I can be more clear in what's happening. We shall see.

One little moment really did make me feel a lot happier though earlier today at work. My colleague had been to an emergency classroom call where the member of staff had deleted a file off the network drive, and couldn't seem to get it back. My colleague tried but when doing the restore previous versions (which normally works) it claimed that the path to restore too was just too long, and so wouldn't do it, and he asked my advice as to what to do.

I went up there and had an angle on it - the path to the file was 262 characters just to the folder, and on occasion I've seen a 260 character path length flummox Windows a bit. I had an idea though and in a command prompt, I did a dir /x to view the truncated 8.3 folder names (like in the old days of MS-DOS). With that information to hand we could browse to each folder in turn and then have a much shorter file name. I then did a dir and piped the output with > to a text file, and copied the full path from the text file.

Back in the command prompt, I'd then do a net use X: and then the UNC path where the network drive goes to, and added the truncated 8.3 paths, and once mapped, we could then use that to restore the files back, and because of the shortened path, it worked a treat! As my former colleague used to say, DOS rocks! And indeed, it still bloody does to be honest. The member of staff concerned was really appreciative of the hard work I'd done to sort it, and that was all rather lovely to be honest. Little things as they say mean a lot, and it's unbelievably true.

I got home (thankfully for once this week without massive delays) and settled back in to listening to some music to relax the mind before gearing myself up to watch Salford City later on. Tune of the day is very much a instrumental piece in fact, the excellent "YYZ" by Rush from their ace "Moving Pictures" album. In case you ever wondered, the three letters are the airport code for Toronto Pearson International Airport (no, I don't get it either) and the opening intro guitar to the track is in effect them performing YYZ in morse code form. Clever, and rather ace for it actually.

Thursday 5th November - The Slow Ride Home

I don't know if it was just Bonfire Night that was causing it, but for some inexplicable reason the journey home from work has gradually been getting slower and worse over the last few weeks, with traffic at a standstill on a lot of roads and the lack of bus lanes meaning that the bus home has just been taking more time than normal. I suspect a fair bit of that is down to the city centre roadworks going on, meaning that a fair chunk of traffic heading out of the city is now heading out on certain major roads, but still.

Take this evening for instance. I left work only a few minutes delayed from my normal finishing time, but the bus I take home was delayed by close on twenty minutes as traffic on Oxford Road seemed to crawl to a proverbial halt. In fact once the bus turned and headed towards one of its roads out of the city, you could see the crawling traffic for around a mile before it hits a traffic light where it joins with another road out of the city. For some reason too the way that the lights are on control there doesn't seem to be constructively helping.

As a result, what should be at worst a twenty minute journey took almost fifty minutes. Argubaly I may have actually been quicker walking to be honest, but it also seems to demonstrate how much the slightest accident or event seems to throw the whole Southern side of the city into a total go slow. Ironically once the bus got through one set of traffic lights, it was reasonably calm and empty and actually went much quicker than normal going home - which also to me says certain lights need re-aligning in terms of timing.

I later on watched the second part of the documentary about Salford City FC and how the "Class of 92" aimed to turn the club's fortunes around. They had to make the brave decision to sack the manager mid way through the season and appoint two new joint managers from Ramsbottom Town to turn things around. It didn't seem to all go their own way though, notably a get together for long term supporters and players meant they'd got drunk and then weren't right on the Saturday and lost their game 2-0 with two sendings off.

Then it detailed the run of games that they had, and how their striker, dropped to the bench after missing a game through modelling, then scored the winner off the bench in the 93rd minute and kept the run going. From then on it was a steamroller, and seeing them all together having a meal whilst attempting to keep an ear to the Darlington 1883 scoreline to see if they would either lose or draw to give Salford the title was pretty epic stuff to be honest.

After the real stresses of the day I needed to relax with some music, and I'd ordered something very nice on eBay which arrived today, namely the Deluxe Edition CD/DVD set of Rush's iconic 2112 album. In fact the DVD has full advanced resolution DVD-Audio 5.1, so naturally that went on and it sounded awesome. Even better was that during the title track (make it tune of the day) you actually had a comic book that you flicked pages with the remote, which explained the storyline really well. Ace stuff that.

Wednesday 4th November - Washing Wednesday

It was an evening of washing, drying and ironing plenty of stuff, mainly because I'd needed to get some washing tablets earlier on (I had ran out) and so didn't see the point of attempting to wash anything without it all being nice and clean. I had also wanted to try and blitz everything in one go, so get stuff washed, get it dried, get the next load washed at the same time, then iron the first load when the second load was in the dryer. It actually did work out pretty well but meant I'd used the time pretty constructively.

I also spent some time with The Love In My Heart earlier, as she suggested that we go for a drink together after work. I had been stuck in a fair bit of traffic on the way home and she had as well, but thought it was easier to get to mine and be able to then head out somewhere close to me. It was a little bit of clever diverting around some of the traffic and off to the Elizabethan in Heaton Chapel for a nice well earned cosy chat and a pint for me too - the Manchester Pale Ale was on top form.

I must admit I have been a little worried with regards to the amount of work that The Love has been taking on as of late - I know she loves her job to bits, but there is only so much that you can give, and it makes me wonder if that's actually doing her any good really. I think it's a very fine work life balance that we all need, and when that mark is overstepped, it's a stressful business really. It was therefore good to wind down and take things relatively easy.

I spent some time watching the Champions League game between Chelsea and Dynamo Kiev on BT Sport Showcase - as part of the deal that got them the rights, there had to be an agreement to show a certain number of games of free to air. So on Channel 59 on Freeview, there's transmission of one live game from this and one from the Europa League. Chelsea did reasonably okay and a goal from Willian was the winner with a pretty spectactular free kick all round.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather brilliant "Incomplete Without You" by Swing Out Sister. I was thinking for various reasons about The Love today, and maybe in summing up that life is a fair bit incomplete without her to be honest. I think too that no matter what I'm deciding about in future, it needs to be with her support and involvement, and some encouragement too. Would I necessarily feel the same otherwise? In truth, most likely not.

Tuesday 3rd November - Congested and Consumables

I must admit that the cold I'd had a few weeks back had resurfaced, and I was again attempting where possible to dose myself up to at least alleviate some of the bunged up feeling. Strangely though I do think that if you actually don't overdo dosing yourself up and try to do less, the body can often do more to take care of itself. I think the key issue I normally have is that I get a fair bit throaty and feel like there's something there - and usually if I can blow the nose or cough that out it's usually pretty handy (not pleasant to read that, I know)

I spent most of the morning getting the time to finally write a document and process I'd been waiting to do for some time, which was to extract some of the tracking data from the printing system, and then present that in a format which then allowed some data manipulation and processing in Excel to get all sorts of figures together. In fact pivot tables was very much the friend here, and once you got the hang of that, it was a doddle to get it all sorted. So documenting the whole thing was useful, not just for me but for anyone else who wishes to do the same.

I then spent time this afternoon in a meeting talking about consumables (or lack of) with one of our managed print suppliers. Now was the time to be professional and so I managed to put forward my points eloquently, without whinging, and being constructive. In fact it worked really well because it meant that I got more listened to that way I felt. Obviously we'll see what happens from here, but at least this way I know that I was able to feed back some positives (hopefully) and move forward.

I arrived home later after being stuck in some traffic, and then set about making the tea as I knew The Love In My Heart was delayed herself due to work. I had something new to try out: chicken with spinach and ricotta in the middle, and a crispy crumb on the outside. I did these with some mini potatoes with rosemary and these nice large flat mushrooms filled with cream cheese and a crumbed top. Actually it did go down pretty nicely and certainly made me feel better after eating it anyway.

It was then on with the semi final of Eternal Glory, and the second challenge, where you had to try and outbid the other contestants to take up the challenge and then see if you could meet the target was pretty good. In the first one Shane Williams was doing the squat thrusts a la Superstars, and managed his target of 64 by getting 69 inside 90 seconds. The blocks of wood were in operation, so no sliding a la Brian Jacks either, so pretty decent really. In the second one, the jump on and off the box, James Cracknell had to do 63 in the 90 seconds, and he did 64. Impressive!

Later on was the night duel with Matt Le Tissier edging out Shane Williams with an epic throwing of a small ball through a target, and both of them really wanted to win. I thought that the tense music was fine but maybe it needed something a bit more upbeat and mental, something like one of the tracks of the recent Prodigy album. With this in mind, I got that played and "Nasty" stood out as something to get them pumped up during some of the challenges also, so tune of the day was an easy decision there.

Monday 2nd November - Timings Change

I must admit I'd completely forgotten tonight that things were changing around on BBC Two, so instead of Only Connect being on at 8.30pm, it was now on at 7.30pm. I therefore was browsing the Internet on the PC and also thinking about starting my Christmas wish list (always a good opportunity to get started I reckon) and getting on with things, and also chatting to The Love In My Heart later on. I switched over to BBC Two and what did I see? Nigella Lawson. Aaaargh indeed.

It's at times like this that BBC iPlayer proves extremely useful, and on top of that, it meant I could watch it whenever I wanted, so I thought "put it on now and it's as if I was watching it live at 8.30pm anyway!" - and that's what I did. In fact it's always amusing when the dreaded gong appears heralding the music connection in Round One, notably when the connection really does stump people. The music sequence round in round two was a piece of easiness though: I'd actually got from the first clue it was Christmas Number Ones and so Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas" was the final one in the sequence.

The missing vowels round was as fiendish as ever, but was really pleased to have got a high number of them this time around: and the film titles with one less number in them was pretty ace, so for example it was nine hundred and ninety nine thousand nine hundred and ninety nine dollar baby (imagine that with no vowels and the words all closed up) and the six year itch, hehe. I must admit this is when the show gets pretty clever and actually once you spot how it works is massively satisfying.

I also went back to doing the Christmas list, and I must admit it does occasionally get more difficult to actually pick something that I don't already have, even with plenty of new music coming out and even some old classics missing from the back catalogue that I may not have either. I suspect that I'm also thinking more about practical things I'd like to, not necessarily just CDs either (although of course it's always good to get something new to play, especially when blasting out on the rig) so had a bit of a good browsing session there.

In the meantime tune of the day is actually going to be a B-side this time around. I got inspired about B-sides from a couple of tweets yesterday and it's very easy when I look back at some bands how their singles usually had pretty good B-sides which in some cases were just as good as the supposed A-side. The Buzzcocks were a case in point, I loved "Whatever Happened To..?" almost as much as "Orgasm Addict" and so that's my choice as an example.

Sunday 1st November - Christmas Starts Here

After a lengthy sleep, it was nice to wake up, get myself showered and ready, and then have a quick breakfast with The Love In My Heart before we were heading off and out early. We were picking up The Love's father and heading over to Astley Park near Chorley for the Derian House Hospice Festive Sparkle event, with the idea being it'd get people in the mood for Christmas with buying gifts and cards, seeing genuine reindeer and generally getting plenty of ideas and seeing lots of people along the way. We've been for the last few years and it's always been popular, hence the leaving early.

As we sped up the M61 all appeared quiet, but as we approached close to the park you could see plenty of people already walking from the car park to there, so it was good that we got a space and was able to head to there. The Love's sister was on her way too, so we had a good look around one large marquee that had plenty of different Christmas cards, and some calendars for next year which her father wanted to get some of (and he did, so all sorted there).

Later on we spotted the two reindeer outside who looked rather relaxed in company, and was allowing everyone to give them a gentle stroke and fuss over. We also walked around a few of the stalls that may normally be on a market, but felt that a one way system to get people round all the stalls might have been more beneficial. We had a coffee in the lovely café there and had a chat with everyone, and outside by the hall there was also a pink carriage with a horse giving people a ride round, a few little fairground rides, and even people dressed up as some of the cast of Frozen, which as you can imagine was quite popular.

It was a very nice way to spend the morning, and by the time we left in the early afternoon it was very packed out and you could hardly move around. We headed back down the M61, avoiding the traffic heading to the Trafford Centre, and dropped The Love's father off before then heading to hers, fussing over the two cats for a bit, and then picking up a couple of things and headed to mine to grab a couple of birthday cards, and to Mum's for a coffee. It was good to see her and chat and also hand her her birthday card and present before she went on a short break later this week.

The Love and I then headed out to the Parrswood for some Sunday afternoon lunch - she had the lamb hot pot which looked nice, and I would have had the steak and ale pie, only for the fact that it was sold out. I had the fish and chips instead and it all looked good, so that was nice. I didn't even have any ale due to my ongoing bunged up cold feeling, so it was an orange juice for me instead. Back at mine we watched First Dates and chilled out together, so that was all lovely.

Tune of the day is not something Christmassy, even I think 1st November might be a tad too early to start really thinking about that, but instead something which I've been listening to a lot in the last couple of weeks - namely the new Jesse Malin album Outsiders. It's really grown on me massively and so from that the lovely "Society Sally" - it has a more laid back funky feel than maybe some of his more guitar driven stuff, but none the less effective for it. Ace.