Dear Diary... October 2004

Wednesday 27th October - Born of Frustration

I was at the City of Manchester Stadium tonight watching my beloved City against Arsenal in the Carling Cup. Normally if this was a Premiership game this would be a mouth watering fixture, but seeing as both sides played lots of youngsters instead of the first time, I did feel a little cheated (especially as City had charged a massive twenty five quid for the privelege!) What upset me even more was that certain players didn't even look that bothered to try, and that some of the youngsters on our side, who at least looked like they had nothing to lose, tried their hardest which just wasn't good enough at the end of the day. We deserved to lose 2-1, and in reality when it was 2-0 in the first minute of stoppage time most of the fans had got up and left - they'd seen enough to know that, despite scoring an injury time free kick, Robbie Fowler is a lazy get who should never play for Manchester City again (well if I had my way that's what would have happened), Sylvain Distin cannot organise the defence properly and we were way too square most of the second half, leading to the leaking of goals, and that you can't play Shaun Wright-Phillips as a striker. Every time defenders hoofed it up to him I was thinking how stupid that idea was.

And another thing - sorry fellow Blues, but before we start bleating loudly about being the most loyal fans and all that, we need to take a long hard look at ourselves tonight. Too many people didn't want to go and watched in on Sky who had the game live (and must have regretted showing it) and too many couldn't be bothered. Now while I admit the club could have pegged the prices down a bit for this game and reduced them so that it would be affordable for people to take their kids to the game and get a look at the boys in first team action, at the same time there needs to be enough people who fancy the game and want to go. Regardless of the competition, if it's the first team you should show your support. Just over twenty one thousand was an utter disgrace and it felt empty, cold and almost funeral like in the stadium tonight. It's at times like this it really does make me wonder if we were better off leaving Maine Road or not (which now lies demolished and a big empty void with terraced housing around it) I only hope things improve for the visit of Norwich on Monday night's Premiership game (which is again live) - not least as we really must win that one.

Rant over (for now) - work's been really busy as well and if anything can go wrong, it will. Although at least I managed to find a couple of spare CD writers and placed them in our drop-in suite so that people have a few more machines to back up their work on, which felt like an achievement to get done given the stop-start state of the last few days. And, on top of that, I actually think I've found a virus that our anti-virus software at work doesn't yet detect. Not sure yet, but it seems to be more than coincidence when certain users have logged on and the PC is crashing around them with continual error messages. If it is, then at least I've managed to report it and hopefully that'll help other people.

And the really good news is that I'm off in January to see Henry Rollins do his spoken word thing live - yaay me! It's the day after the PWEI gig, so on the Sunday I'll be heading back from Birmingham to Manchester, and then on to the Lyric Theatre in the Lowry Centre to see one of the true masters of spoken word performance. Yes, he's very funny with it too, but it's really intense and thought-provoking at the same time. Once I found out he was on I just simply had to get the tickets sorted out, and I'm near the front, with lots of leg room (I cleverly picked the row that has the legroom, hehe) and also within good photographic distance if I want to try and get a shot (which I might just do). I've already seen him live twice at Manchester Academy doing the spoken word thing, and both times were lengthy and entertaining (we're talking two and a half hours, folks). I've alerted a few Rollins fans I know and they've already got their tickets for the gigs closest to their towns. In short, if you have the chance to see him, go. You will not regret it one bit. I'm so excited, already!

Sunday 24th October - It's Grim Up North

Well, not grim, but it's just turning to be quite cold. And also with there being no light until around 8am, quite bleak too. Of course, the clocks go back next week, but that's still no consolation as that only confirms to me that the winter is setting in. And that's okay in one sense, as I can dig out all my comfortable jumpers and start wearing them (plus they hide a multitude of sins of course) but of course it also means that it's quite nippy out there and doesn't exactly give you the incentive to go out. However, I did have to traipse out yesterday as I was on a bit of a present hunting mission. Didn't find anything, but came up with some good ideas what to get people anyway so I'm sure that'll prove to be useful.

Went to see Lenny Henry on Friday night at the Bridgewater Hall - pretty good fun, really. The first half was a mixture of stand up and him introducing the new characters to the show, and the stand up bits were especially good, not least tracking down current music habits and translating them to the fact that we're all ageing now, and when we're sixty, we'll be saying to the kids "F you, you ho" was the lyrics they'd sing back then to a certain number one at that time. Ironically when he starting mentioning Spandau Ballet's "True" the whole audience joined in - gosh, I must be showing my age now or something! Anyway, the second half was wholly devoted to the new characters, all inter-linked with each other somehow. It worked well because of the variety of the characters and was still pretty funny, although I imagine that if he'd have done a stand up show instead no one would have minded. It was good nonetheless, although you do think whenever you're in the Bridgewater that you're just not posh enough. Well, it might just be me.

Thursday 21st October - Can You Dig It?

No, not that horribly bobbins Mock Turtles song that got reissued because of the Vodafone advert. I can dig the fact instead that the incredible Pop Will Eat Itself (PWEI) are back, and not just that, playing live. Once I found out the news about them reforming, I was ecstatic. Normally I'm not so sure because of musical and personal differences, and whether the magic will still be there from beforehand. I think in this case I won't have to worry too much. Clint has been doing film soundtracks a lot of the time, even guest vocalling on a Nine Inch Nails album along the way. Graham did his ambient Golden Claw Musics things for a while, and their "All Blue Revue" album was vastly under-rated. And on top of that, Richard formed Bentley Rhythm Ace who ended up with two ace albums and a tune used as the music for a Lynx deodorant advert. So at least musically they've still been pretty much involved. Even though it'd have been ace to have them play in Stourbridge, the next best thing for them - Birmingham Academy. They once wrote that "In the satisfaction stakes it's like sitting on a number nine bus". In case you wondered, that's the bus from Birmingham to Stourbridge, no less. So I suppose not being too far from home, and a rather excellent home crowd plus fans from all over the UK, including me. Yes, I thought "Damn I might not get to see them play live ever again, I simply have to go on the Saturday night". And ticket purchased over the web later, which arrived today, and overnight stay booked at the Travel Inn, and I'm done. It's not that far to go really, and I've got many happy memories of the place (not least the first Back in Time retro game music shindig in a place which now is a Spearmint Rhino for some bizarre reason) so it just has to be done.

Plus as well I dug out the back catalogue for re-evaluation purposes, and it hasn't aged at all. It still sounds exciting and each album is a reflection of the times, not least their 1994 album "Dos Dedos Mes Amigos" which was much more dark and Industrial and showed a real different side to their music from their grebo/rap sort of thing towards the late 1980s. It also showed how serious a problem racism was at the time, hence the Amalgamation tour, which was one of the best concerts I'd ever been to. Four quality bands (Dub War really gave it 110% as well that night), everyone getting along no matter who they'd come to see, and the fact money was going towards good causes dealing with the racism problem. And PWEI were bloody awesome, really rocking the place. As they always were live, I should add. I know that come January everyone's going to be so wanting it to be a great memory. I'd love to see them do the classics like Def Con One, Wise Up Sucker, There Is No Love Between Us Anymore, Ich Bin Ein Auslander, Karmadrome, Dance of the Mad, and so on. But I'll take anything, as long as it's enjoyable. And just somehow, I think it will.

Moving tack, I was very touched by a documentary on BBC3 tonight, which featured the story behind the Band Aid "Do They Know It's Christmas?" record. Not least because Midge Ure (ex-lead of Ultravox) himself narrated the whole thing and really told it as it was behind the scenes, the pressure of having the whole record done and mixed inside twenty four hours on a Sunday, Boy George flying in from New York hopelessly late to do his bit, how everyone wanted to make sure that they did well, and not least the cameraderie there - no egos, just musicians trying to make sure the record was as good as it could be. Interspersed with footage of Geldof's visits to Africa, him telling Thatcher where to stick the VAT charges for the record (not many people got to do that in their life time) and so on. Funnily enough one of the opposition party members canvassed about the issue was a very young looking - Tony Blair! That was a bit of a surprise. If only he wasn't as arrogant as he is now, but that's for another time. Anyway, what really showed was that spirit of togetherness, and how Bono really didn't want to sing his line as he felt uncomfortable with it, but ended up really getting it right in Geldof's eyes, and Phil Collins doing two takes on the drums, even though his first one was superb. Midge cuts in "the second one was unbelievable". Says it all. And at the end, a sign of some hope as Midge visited the place where Michael Buerk filmed his report back in 1984, and now it's more green and lush, with families who live there, while still not perfect, are managing, and there's definite hope. What was the most spine tingling moment was at the end where Midge sat down by his piano and played the song solo, just him and the piano. It was really emotional, and if the confirmed rumours of a re-recording by the likes of Coldplay, Travis, Keane and The Darkness are true, then get Midge to do solo piano on the B-side as it would make a real reminder of the emotion of the piece that all the cynics should listen to. Sorry if I'm soapboxing a little, but when you see sycophants on the BBC's pages spit vitriol sort of "oh no not again" when they don't understand that Africa still needs help just makes me sick to the stomach. Have we become that cynical, that pathetic, that we complain about everything without seeing the wider picture?

Sunday 17th October - One Nil Suddenly Sounds Exciting

Well, normally a one-nil game can be boring, I admit. Especially the England game on Wednesday. Went to the pub for that one and really wished I hadn't have bothered. Even the Man U fans inside the pub were asking the same as me: "Why didn't Sven start with Wright-Phillips?". I'm sure somehow he'd have had an impact on that type of game and really gone forward providing chances for the strikers and even maybe a goal for himself. True, we got the job done in appalling weather conditions, but it wasn't that exciting - the fact that I made a pint last all of the game is testament to that, methinks. Only good thing is that we still top the group and we are unbeaten, and no games till March when we play Northern Ireland at home, so here's hoping.

Contrast that to yesterday's nail biters I saw. A friend of mine is an Everton fan so I went along to see their game against Southampton - utterly dominant the home side were and did everything but score. The relief around the ground in the 88th minute was something else, I can tell you. And no more than the side deserved as they played well and are third on merit. Got back into Manchester on the train, and headed straight to the pub to see the remainder of the Manchester City game against Chelsea. That last half hour or so was horrible to watch - it was a case of could we hang on, grab a second, or concede and lose? It was really gut wrenching stuff as the boys in blue did everything they could to make sure they kept their noses in front, and all of them worked 110% and tired themselves out to the maximum giving it everything, but when that final whistle meant you could tell it meant a lot to the players and the fans to really get a good scalp, particularly as Chelsea haven't been beaten all season in the league. We pushed Arsenal and only lost 1-0 (no disgrace there) and a win against Chelsea shows that we can battle with the top sides if we play like we can. Only thing is, we need that same level of commitment against everyone now and so it'll be good to see how we do at Newcastle next week. We don't exactly do so well over there.

It's throwing it down outside at the moment, not exactly the weather to want to do anything right now. I did however nip into the city centre this morning and pick up the new Morrissey single. At last Moz actually puts different B-sides on every single, so that you as a fan doesn't feel ripped off. Indeed, "Don't Make Fun of Daddy's Voice" (b-side of CD1) was played at the MEN Arena gig I went to, and the two b-sides on CD2 are also quality stuff. It's something that, even not as a fan, I praise the likes of Oasis for - value for money. Contrast that with the record company putting out Robbie Williams' greatest hits CD. Two completely different sleeves for the album, so most fans will buy both (and feel deceived, as Morrissey once sang.) What a swizz. Surely the focus should be about the music, not the presentation? That should matter more than anything. And not using samples off someone else's good song and turning it into a totally awful one that somehow was number one for three weeks recently (the original song being Steve Winwood's "Valerie" in case any of you wondered - at least he'll hopefully be making some royalties.)

Also, after a nice meal last night, I was heading home - and it was chucking it down. So you'd expect people out for a night out to wrap up sensibly, wear trousers and a nice top, and enjoy themselves? Wrong. Slappers blooming everywhere in skirts that just about cover their backsides, boots or high heels and basically the shortest top they can get away with. It's a bit much to be honest, especially if you just wonder what's going to happen to them at the end of the night. It's their choice, of course, and I don't mean to sound a prude either, but you do think that there are other ways of being sexy without wearing next to nothing. For me personally, feminine is sexy and that can be achieved by looking smart with a nice outfit that they feel comfortable (and warm, given the current weather!) in. A nice trouser suit or jacket blouse and reasonably long skirt also looks pretty good too. A bit of imaginaton required rather than just go for the shortest skirt possible.

Tuesday 12th October - It All Happened On A Tuesday

Everything seemed to happen that could happen today, and it was such a stop-start sort of day. I had a meeting in the morning with staff from other faculties which went pretty well and was quite productive. Thankfully I knew a few people there so that helped enormously in understanding and appreciating the whys and wherefores of what goes on and what we can do. Don't really want to say too much about it because it's something for the future, but nonetheless two hours soon went by in a very productive manner and it was soon time to munch on some lunch.

In the afternoon, a different kettle of fish. A PC wasn't booting up and it kept coming up with a Windows XP blue screen of death and an error message. Although not entirely the same answer as what the knowledge base told me, I knew that a method I used a few weeks ago to repair a damaged Windows XP registry and restore it back to life might do the trick (Knowledge Base article 307545) - and it did! Albeit, after I started up in safe mode I couldn't access the system restore folders because they'd been corrupted somehow but a full chkdsk on restart eventually sorted it so I was able to continue. Also, the amount of free space on the hard disk was reported correctly now, so they shouldn't have any problems with lack of space for programs on the hard disk - nifty or what eh? It took its time, but it seems to me like for some reason the PC had crashed, XP got into a tizzy about the disk space it took, and reported it wrong. After that it appeared the hard disk got full so the restore points and registry hives were corrupted. Ouch! Still, got there in the end eh?

Also, been working on a couple of things, firstly working out if I can afford to upgrade the PC to a much more modern specification than what I have now - which in truth is getting a bit old and crumbly despite me getting near on six years' use out of my current rig. It's a humble AMD K6-2 500, and it needs to really be replaced by something better. I know the motherboard, processor and case I want, which is going to be around £120 or so, and that should do. I have all the other parts ready, and some of them I can just swap out of the old box as well although ideally if money was no object I'd really like a top of the range Shuttle. Well, I can dream can't I? However, my thought is that if I get something now that's fairly up to date at least I have a good chance of that lasting me the next four to five years, which is really what you want so that it's quite painless really. Here's hoping!

Sunday 10th October - Lowered Down

Well I'd firstly like to say many congratulations to my good friend Chris and his now wife Mo, who tied the knot yesterday in a small yet intimate ceremony in Manchester's Registry Office. It was a special day for the two of them, and I know they're both made for each other. Everything was really cosy and intimate and it just added to the relaxed feel throughout the service. The staff in the registry office were very friendly and helpful, and it all went well. It was their day and it made me think that it's not often in the world that you get two people who are really made for each other - but these two are. It also made me think how big of a commitment marriage, even in this day and age, actually is. My parents have been married for almost eternity now, and it's not the big romantic gestures that keep you together - it's all the small things that only you notice and not anyone else. Thankfully I've seen that in a few couples now, and yesterday was another example. It's all the tiny things, the sense of humour, the little gentle reassuring touches and hugs, and they all add up to the love that is shared.

Anyway, the weekend was busy for me generally too as my father and brother today came around and now the bathroom is adorned with a much lowered wooden ceiling, and it looks the part. The ceiling, being in an older style terraced house, was 9 feet 5 inches from the ground. Ouch. You can imagine the fun and games you'd have trying to paint the ceiling, right? Well, exactly. Plus as well with the new bath suite going in soon, it'll also mean that it'll look a bit more classy than before, and also it feels a lot warmer in there now. Add to that a new light set as well. Originally my father found one that I was going to have for nothing, as it was one that wasn't used on a job, but it didn't work so well, so one quick dash to Argos later and I found this really nice light fitting, with three spotlights built into it, all done in a silvery chrome look. And a mere £6-99! My father was suitably impressed as well - for the dosh we couldn't complain, and it looks very nice and classy now it's up. Also proved to me that you don't always have to spend a fortune to get a nice look going - just takes a bit of careful shopping.

Oh yes, and the wedding yesterday, although this wasn't known at the time the date was set, clashed with the England game. Thankfully when munching later on someone very kindly told us the result and it was 2-0 to England. That was good, and the goals were well taken, although Beckham should have really not got himself booked and injured like he did. Playing with three strikers was a brave option but it seemed to work quite well, plus we did have an advantage in that the Welsh were really missing Robbie Savage - badly. Without him the midfield seemed lightweight (Mark Pembridge was particularly useless for them) and it didn't seem to contain the attacks of the English. Their goalkeeper, Paul Jones, was man of the match and there was nothing he could do about the two goals either. He played really well and this at least bodes well for their future chances of qualification. Ideally I'd like to see England go through and Wales through the playoffs (here's hoping) and on Wednesday when we're in Azerbaijan the Welsh can do themselves and us a favour by beating Poland..

Thursday 7th October - Tired and Emotional

It's been a tough week, to be honest, and one that I'm really glad is almost over as well. It's been one of those times where everything's come all at once and time has been at a premium. For example, I spent all day Wednesday re-configuring a master laptop image with all the software on it for this PC trolley of laptops, simply because now the goalposts have moved and the users aren't going to be logging on to the network whatsoever, so I had to set up everything ready for a local user to use it instead. Not just that, but then it was actually getting them all ghosted (techie word for cloning, used becuse of Symantec's "Ghost" software) that was more time consuming. Not least when one of them developed a fault with its internal DVD/CD drive and refused to work, rendering it pretty useless for ghosting off a boot CD. I'm waiting to have it collected and sent off for repair from our laptop suppliers. Oh joy.

Mind you, at least there has been stuff on the telly to chill me out. Tuesday's been quite good at the moment, as there's been Bank of Mum and Dad on BBC2, where someone who's really struggling financially have their mum and dad live with them for a week so that they can try and help their son or daughter sort their financial mess out. This week's episode for example had a hairdresser from Manchester who frittered his money away on clothes, taxis everywhere, meals and nights out every night in the Gay Village, shedloads of money on make up etc. The reckoning was that he was some £25,000 in debt because of the frivolous ways. I really liked it when the Mum took him to Asda and managed to show him he could make a decent cottage pie for not much money (albeit with some of the goods being Asda Smartprice, I could tell on the label!) and also that he could work as a fashion stylist to the stars (he dressed up some actress from Emmerdale really nicely, actually) and also as a Beckham lookalike (not that I'd personally want to do that, especially with Rebecca "pig masturbater" Loos around ;) It was entertaining though and I think he did realise that he needed to grow up and show that there are different priorities in life than just debt all the time. Be interesting to see what happens with next week's, looks a good one.

And on top of that, the series on BBC1 A Thing Called Love goes from strength to strength. It's well written, it's funny and also very down to earth. I think also there's a spark between the characters and you can't always tell that in some dramas. Of course those of you remotely familiar with Nottingham will spot various places where the scenes were filmed, but it's been really nicely done. The second episode featured on the main character Gary's brother, Michael whom despite cerebal palsy wants a woman like everyone else. It was very touchingly done and Gary's attitude change when he realised Michael's needs were just the same - and doing all he could to ensure that Michael's date for the night that came purely for a sexual spark on his 18th birthday was really well done. It also hit home some of the prejudices that exist, but the brotherly bond went beyond that, and with the help of Gary's friends, Michael and his date got it on and enjoyed themselves. A real heart warmer, and somehow you think that Gary and his close female friend Paula are going to get together, and they're excellently played by Paul Nicholls (yes, really!) and Liz White. Watch it if you want a nice slice of real life with hope, happiness and warmth in your heart. Aww.

Anyway I guess due to the week, I'm getting a little tired and emotional at the moment. I think the tired bit I can appreciate, but the emotional? Well I guess as well that there's been so much going on that sometimes I just feel if I go to sleep and think about things, it helps. I guess I'm feeling a bit introspective and also a bit guilty that despite efforts, I'm still nowhere near really started deep into the novel I was supposed to start a while back. Call it writer's block, call it amnesia or whatever, but it's quite difficult to motivate myself when I get home and really feel a little bit like I want to hit the bed and just sleep, basically. But I'm sure it will happen. I've named the three main characters too, although I'm not going to mention who they are. I have it all thought out how the story's going to develop (well, sort of) and I do know I want there to be a scene with melted ice cream in there that would make a heck of a lot of sense when you'd read it. But at the same time, I do want to actually have a life, which always amazes me therefore how these authors can rattle out 200 page plus novels without even thinking about it. I guess it's a lot of patience and a lot of imagination that does the trick - something I need to discover in between writing for the site...

Sunday 3rd October - Solaar Power

Had a really good time Friday night, as none other than French laid back and funky hip-hop dude MC Solaar was playing Manchester Academy 2. I must admit I was worried the gig wasn't going to sell out, as ticket sales had been slow (mine was numbered 118 and I bought it two days before) but by the time the man came on, it was pretty choc full of people and anticipation. The support bands, I hear you ask? Well, Ivory weren't too bad, having at least live instruments and a singer at the front who really projected his voice well - they kind of reminded me of Senser (anyone remember them?) Check them out if you get the time, or view their website. The other support act, Dynamite MC, was really late as he'd got held up in traffic from London, and only therefore could do a three song set. I was actually quite glad as it was just him and a mate on the mixing desk doing the tune, and he was just far too obvious in the way he did his songs, and even turned junglist to please the massive (which some at least enjoyed, I suppose.)

By this time it was 9-45pm, and after a few minutes' delay behind schedule, on came Solaar, cool as you like, with his band. Yes, a live band!! The drummer, bass and electric guitarist and keyboard player really helped make the tunes funky and really palatable live, and the Academy 2's sound system managed to cope fine (tons better than Academy 3, you know) so that was a bonus. There were also two other rap dudes who also feature on the albums with Solaar (and they were both really pumped up for it, good to see) and a female singer as well who went through quite a lot of costume changes, including a belly dancing outfit. Oh yes. Very nice indeed and certainly got the male testosterone flowing, as did Solaar for the women later on when he took his top off - you could see all the women swooning!

The set though was top notch, plenty of stuff from his latest release "Mach 6", but also a nice bow to his earlier albums, like "Nouveau Western" (from "Prose Combat"), the title track of his first album "Qui Sème Le Vent Récolte Le Tempo" (which had everyone yelling "Tempo!" full blast at the right points, and "Bouge de lá" which really had everyone getting down and grooving full time. For me, plenty of variety and styles throughout the set kept it very interesting, and "La Vie Est Belle" (just released as a single in the UK - if you can find it) really got everyone in the mood - although the end guitar solo bit was missing, there was a reason for it. You see, the Academy venues have a 11pm curfew. He and the band played till 11-20pm before the lights came on and everyone went home, not that they minded. It was a really enjoyable time, nice atmosphere (well the people around me were nice and getting into it) and also thoroughly laid back and cool at the same time. Excellent!

Well today it's off for me to do some more Christmas shopping, I think. I know what I'm going to buy for a few people and often it's just good to be able to get them done and out of the way so that by the time Christmas itself comes around you can treat yourself to something you'd really like (and why not?) so that's good. Sometimes too when you're out shopping you see something that you didn't expect as well, so you can improvise a bit and act on that impulse. I remember once that I went out to get one present, but actually bought three because I saw items I thought people would like. And I must admit, shopping on a Sunday is far less hassle than a Saturday ever is, less people and also more chance to browse without a million people walking down the main roads around town the other way (doesn't that always happen to you?) so I'll have to see...