Dear Diary... October 2007

Wednesday 31st October - A Million Ukeleles Tour, Day Two

Got up nice and early this morning so I could have breakfast (a nice hearty Scottish one at that including some rather delicious Lorne sausage, yummy) and then head over to the Glasgow School of Art to have a look around. It was nice to see that they were putting money into restoring the historic Rennie Mackintosh designed main building and it just seemed steeped in history as well as being able to show off students' work to its best. It also made me wonder about work and if decisions made there actually do make any sense whatsoever, but I left that behind as I wasn't in work this week. I did feel inspired by going round there though so that was rather lovely.

I met up with Mark and Pete and we headed to the 13th Note, a rather nice cafe and gig venue to the east of Glasgow Central station, it's also close to the Clyde, and for anyone who's not a meat eater, a really nice place - it is mainly vegan cuisine and they also to my delight do a rather good latte! As it was Mark and Pete did lunch there and I was going to get the trusty Boots meal deal at the station. It was just great having a lunchtime natter before heading to the station, and we even spotted Rowan from The Just Joans in there as well, so that was all very lovely indeed.

On the way down to Manchester from Glasgow Central the train got stuck between Penrith and Oxenholme as there were apparently sheep on the track. This didn't go down too well with the driver as it turned out because it's supposedly an illegal offence for farmers to let their sheep stray on to the train track. Also everyone was really needing a cup of tea as the aircon was failing in my carraige and the catering team had not boarded the train at Glasgow, rather daft that. So once we got a replacement crew on at Preston it was brews all round for Pete, Mark and me, and before we knew it the darkness descended and the bright lights of Manchester were there to be seen. I walked Pete and Mark to the Castle Hotel so they could drop their gear off, and then went home for an hour or so, plan being I could wash some of my stuff and repack the overnight case!

Headed back into Manchester later and all seemed well - The Castle had lots of real ale on which is always a good thing, and the Hatters mild was on fine form, so that was me all sorted. The back room where the gig was happening was very very run down to say the least, the walls had plaster cracking off, the ceiling looked a bit worse for wear, in other words it was a proper pub gig venue! I'm sure it would be fine for the acoustic only stuff going on, and I spotted a few fans as well so it was good of them to come along.

Mark did his ukelele set first which went down very well with everyone, and even did "Control Alt Delete", which I really enjoyed. Then on came The 10p Mixes (myspace) who were quite good fun. As it was Halloween, the two of them had dressed up, Danni in a witches outfit with fetching purple tights and Will in a shirt which he'd drawn on himself to make it look like Shaun's shirt from "Shaun of the Dead". With Danni occasionally doing keyboards and the vocals, and Will on guitar, it was a twee set full of songs about real life, such as "Cashflow Crisis" about having no dosh and having to go to cheapo supermarkets - and because that was really well sung, it's my tune of the day right there.

Pete came on and did his solo acoustic set and this time around played one of the highlights of his debut EP (buy it, you know it makes sense) - which was "The Ballad of Phil Jevons", a song about a former Everton and Grimsby Town player (Pete's a Grimsby fan you see) and the words just make me giggle in a nice way and if you've been a fan of one of the teams that Phil's played for, then you can see where he's coming from. "Share Your Kit" also went down very well. Someone was on their mobile phone to their friend and so Pete went to them and played their guitar very close to them to drop subtle hints about using the phone (he did apologise to them afterwards as he felt a bit guilty!) but good fun that was. Oh, and his song about how much he hates Myspace was just great fun, it's available for download on his site, so go get it!

Mark came on and did his set - and had asked me earlier if there was anything I wanted to hear, not least because I was in my home town, and so I plumped for "Hey Hey 16K" - not least because I had the t-shirt on! It made all perfect sense and it was played with such immense happiness that I had a big grin on my face throughout the rest of the evening. "Billy Jones Is Dead" went down very well and there was even some audience participation during "Easily Impressed" so that worked out all rather nicely. The time went by too quickly really but it was a really nice atmosphere as quite a few of Mark's fans had come along for the occasion and they were all really appreciative of all the bands - felt very homely actually.

Tuesday 30th October - A Million Ukeleles Tour, Day One

Up nice and early this morning and heading to Piccadilly station to get the 0958 train to Glasgow Central, for the first date of the three nights of the tour. I'd never been to Glasgow before, about the nearest I'd got was Edinburgh (which is rather lovely all round) so it'd be good for me to see what it was like and also to take in some of the sights if I had time as well. I've been looking forward to this week of touring for the last few weeks since I'd booked everything really, and so got myself on to the train and relaxed with a nice cup of Costa coffee.

On the carriage going up was a Persian band, they must have had about ten members or so along with their tour manager, some rather large guy. Because they were trying to put all their kit on the train as well it was a bit of a squeeze for luggage space so I was glad I'd travelled light. I could see some passengers getting fed up with them moving around the train all the time chattering away, but they were just on an up from having played Manchester the night before and so I just left them to it with portable player on the go and kicked back and chilled out.

The route's pretty much the same as going to Edinbugh, except you go left instead of right at Carstairs and then go through Motherwell (by all accounts from those I spoke to today, not the best place in the world) before arriving four minutes early at Glasgow Central. I'd printed off a quick map so it was along Hope Street, left at West Regent Street and up and down hills to the Ibis where I was staying for the evening. Thankfully their check in is quite early and as I'd arrived there around 2pm, it was all well times, so had a few hours to kill before heading out to the Captains Rest where the gig was.

I spent some time walking round the Tenement House, which isn't that easy to find but worth a look, and sauntered down Sauchiehall Street. One thing I noticed here: lots of pound shops, and I do mean lots of them! The classier shops seemed to be the closer to Buchanan Street that you got, with its galleries shopping centre and indeed the concert hall that's above that. I walked down Buchanan Street and then detoured left off to the Museum of Modern Art that they have there - which is actually a really nice place to visit. The art is contemporary but not pretentious, and one exhibit had music created by school kids using Apple Macs (namely the Garageband software) to go with the artwork, which was all rather nice. Had a wander around George Square and all the historic Scottish figures in statue form, headed along the River Clyde front before going back through the centre of the city and back to base.

I munched out at a local Wetherspoons round the corner from Ibis, as mixed grill and decent pint of real ale was a mere £6.99, fine by me, and then back to Ibis to meet up with Mark (MJ) Hibbett and Pete Green. As I'd done a reconnisance mission earlier to find the venue, and it wasn't that hard to locate, the three of us set off for the Captains Rest in Glasgow's West End, not far from the studenty area either. The room the gig was in was downstairs with a little hatch bar (all press a button rubbish, sadly, not a good thing!) and for some reason there was a table with two concrete slabs near the stage that couldn't be moved by anyone. However, with everyone sat at tables near the back there was plenty of room for everything to happen down the front pretty well.

So first off was Mark doing his solo ukelele set first of all, short and sweet and definitely good fun, not least as the likes of "Chips and Cheese, Pint of Wine" sounded rather cute like it does on the album. Pete Green (official site - no myspace here kids!) then came on after that and did his solo set, which sounded excellent - I'd not heard his stuff before so it was good to have a listen to it live, and with the guitar patched up with red masking tape it sounded fine from where I was sat. Mark even joined Pete in the song "Share Your Kit" which was written about when Pete was in Birmingham and how musicians who want to play Moseley can be so up their own backside with their kit..

That done, on came The Just Joans (myspace), and they were rather good fun! Their songs had some sad subject matter in them but was delivered with such fun, happiness and gusto that it was a pleasure to watch them in action. Notably, the likes of "Virgin Lips" and "Five Beer Bottles", examples of angst when growing up but just such happiness within them. Also cool was the fact that Katie the singer had a Smiths "Rank" t-shirt on, and Rowan (the drummer) had a Kristin Hersh "Learn To Sing Like A Star" t-shirt, and so that meant she went to see the recent tour. She told me afterwards that people looked at the t-shirt and asked her if it was a Travis one, and she could smile rather smugly after that knowing proper music fans would know the difference! Oh, I'd like to nominate "Bellshill Station" for tune of the day because it's just a gorgeous song. Simple as.

Mark came back on for his acoustic set and it was clear that kicking out time in the pub was meaning that it might be a curtailed set slightly - and with one eye on the clock he kept playing some good stuff - not least the likes of "It Only Works Because You're Here", which he still hasn't released on anything as yet (he really should!) and ended up having to do the last song outside the venue and everyone just gathered around to watch him do it, which was good. Not least as we all then headed to a pub just up the road which was open till midnight and had Deuchars IPA on as well, proper cask style. Hurrah for real beer, I thought to myself, as I downed one happily before Mark and I headed back for a takeaway. I wasn't hungry, but the takeaway we went in had deep fried Mars Bars! So they do exist after all and not just a myth!

Monday 29th October - All Ready To Go!

Well with the cleaning yesterday also came the washing so I could make sure that I've got some clean clothes at the ready for the week's extravagnaza of rock, as MJ Hibbett would say, it's going to be GRATE! As the middle date of the tour's in Manchester what it means is that I can just pack my overnight bag and put some clothes in there, which works out pretty well, so I can travel nice and light and not have to end up wheeling a case around, rather handy when you're going somewhere new that you've not been before.

With that done it was time to finish off bundling tracks onto the portable player - the little stick based one I have is perfect for the journeys as it has eight hours of battery life and actually does last that long - and as the journey between Glasgow and Manchester is some three and a half hours, it makes a lot of perfect sense to carry it - it's also much lighter too and I can just listen happily as the train makes its way through the countryside so all is well. I thought about putting some Prodigy on there but decided it'd be a bit too loud - nonetheless, the sound of "Spitfire" woke me up nicely this morning, so that's tune of the day for you. Not least also as the tune was used in the opening episode of Series 5 of CSI in some nightclub setting with lots of people dancing to it - which is exactly the point! Although I'd much rather mosh to some Prodge stuff, it has to be said.

I'm so trying to avoid the curse of daytime television today to be brutally honest, I can't stand it. Especially the Jeremy Kyle show - what the heck is all that about? It's just really trashy and awful and I'm quite sure that most of the people on there are paid just so it kicks off. it's so car crash and really doesn't deal with any issues in any level of sensitivity. No one wants to watch it in their right mind and it's a sign just why the powers that be don't want to make quality television anymore because they force feed the public the crap like this. Let's be honest: if the licence fee was worth paying for, it'd be for quality drama like Life on Mars where the focus is on excellent story lines, plot and some bloody good acting.

I'm with Philip Glenister (aka Gene Hunt) on this one, when he said a few months back that there was so much rubbish being made and because of their success it was always a case of battling with budgets shrinking to try and make something good - which surely isn't the point? Read what he says here, and take note: quality telly needs quality money pouring into it, and as for some of the trash on the telly these days, you can't polish a brown thing!

Sunday 28th October - American Football On English Turf

Well it was a day of Autumn cleaning (as opposed to Spring cleaning, hehe) and sport for me today. First off I decided that I needed to have a thorough clean of the house because there were some jobs that just needed to be done, such as a major bathroom cleanup. I got the house done during the day and also took some time out to paint the window sills in the office room and the bathroom, which did the job rather nicely, looks a bit more fresh now. Of course I had to be careful when painting the bathroom sill not to spill any paint in the bath itself and I think I succeeded. I'm useless at DIY or decorating but to do those two sills gave me a sense of some well being, which was nice.

I spent most of the afternoon watching the Premiership games - Bolton's draw against Aston Villa (and craftily switched over to the racing to see Kauto Star lose for once) and then the first half of Liverpool against Arsenal, which looked tight and I figued it'd end in a draw (which it did). But at 5, it was straight over for the first ever American football game in the normal season played outside of North America. Wembley was the place to be for fans of that sport and over 80,000 braved the atrocious rain to see Miami Dolphins up against New York Giants.

Now, only by watching a game live can you appreciate how long a game of American football takes. With four quarters of fifteen minutes each you'd think it would be quite a short game, right? Wrong! You're talking around three hours all told, which is a bit long really. Obviously some of this is down to when possession changes each time brings on their attacking or defensive players, and indeed when the field goals are attempted there's special teams for that and so on. Certainly also the conditions didn't help and it soon became apparent that the pitch was getting slightly muddy in parts, but there you go, it was clear that running would be the key here to getting anywhere.

So it proved with New York's only touchdown of the game - the quarter back was going to throw it but saw a gap towards the end zone and then deciced "well I'll run this one myself" and off he went for the six points. Interestingly, their field goal and extra point kicker was actually from Scotland, and so a Scot was the first person to score some American football points at Wembley - quite poetic justice, that, when you think about it. But I'm sure that lots of people were supporting Miami though, for a couple of noticable reasons: firstly, when Miami scored their touchdown (excellent pass too) with a mere 1:54 left on the clock, the whole place erupted, and once their onside kick from the restart failed to keep possession, the Giants ran down the clock, legally, and the whole place booed because they saw it as timewasting to make sure they won.

Mind you a 13-10 scoreline made it look closer than it was - Miami weren't that good and in truth it was because New York Giants took their foot off the pedal a fair bit (indeed due to penalties, they were 3rd and 37 on one play!) And as the game wasn't that exciting, I'm not sure that it would have gained the public attention enough to actually warrant a return visit. And despite all the NFL match reports claiming it was a sloppy mudfest, was it really that bad or are they just used to perfect artificial surfaces all the time? After all a lot of the clips I've seen were on surfaces far worse.

Anyway, after a visit round to one of my relations', where good giggles were had by all and plenty of banter, I went back to base to relax before bed. I'd decided that what I needed to do was start transferring some tunes to the small portable player (especially as I'd recharged the batteries as well so that they're ready to go) and amongst the stuff I decided to whack on there was the new MJ Hibbett album - only seems the right thing to do so I can listen to it on the way up. I still love "Hell on Earth" but what's also becoming a favourite (and no less because I've seen it live) is "Control Alt Delete" which is so darned true about all forms of IT support - it's amazing how many times pressing those keys to bring up the task manager fixes stuff! So that's tune of the day right there.

Saturday 27th October - Don't Talk To Me About Six Nil!

First things first, what the hell happened in the football today? To say that we got panned and thrashed at Chelsea is an understatement and I'm completely ignoring Match of the Day because I just can't see how embarrassingly poor we were. I'm hoping that it was just a glitch and a one off sort of result to be honest, because that sort of result can make or break a season. I'm not panicking just yet though and will just have to see how we bounce back during the week - that's the plan anyway. Worst thing was I heard the score coming out of the cinema and it wasn't exactly the sort of news I'd wanted to hear. Ho hum!

I did spend some nice quality time with one of my best friends though, which is always good to do. Spent a bit of time at him and his wife's place first keeping an eye on the sport coverage including some horse racing before mulling over what PC parts to plan a possible future upgrade for, before heading out to the cinema to see Control. He'd not seen it yet and I didn't mind one little bit seeing it again. My friend was suitably impressed and thought it was a lot better than he expected, and it worked really well. I could also hear the reactions of those sat behind us in the audience and a lot of them were impressed too. If you've not seen it, read the review and go before it's too late. You'll regret not going.

After that the two of us headed next door to Pizza Hut for something to munch, and their little meal deal for one works out great for me - normally wedges to start, small individual pan pizza for main (chicken and sweetcorn today) and thought "sod it" and had some profiteroles for dessert (my friend and I saw them and thought "we're having them!") - was just great to have a good natter and catch up as well as bang the world to rights over all sorts. Time as per usual went by far too quickly and it just proved to be a good day all round (well apart from the footy score obviously).

I got up this morning and decided that I really needed to listen to lots of The Wedding Present after their excellent gig last night, and remembered to my absolute delight that I had the CD single of "Why Are You Being So Reasonable Now?" - a great tune all round. After a couple of plays of that and indeed the French version that they did on the same single, the original one just won out for tune of the day - and if you've never heard the song or seen the video, then this might help you below:

I also spotted that there was someone on Youtube who does acoustic version of songs by The Wedding Present, and some of the ones he does were actually quite good - and his version of the above is pretty good stuff. Always good to see how often people get inspired by great indie bands of our time - and still going strong too.

Friday 26th October - Too Much Apple Pie

Well, today proved to be a day of two halves! The work day proved to be an exercise in sheer frustration, with so much going haywire that it was hard to keep pace, and that was including our technical group meeting which I go to. That was quite a long one because in essence we had plenty to discuss, but got back to the office and it was just rather mental. Then we discovered something - some staff printers were printing multiple pages on one page! One other team had experienced it too and it was down to the Microsoft XPS document writer being installed. Hm... don't remember installing that! As it turned out, it installs itself with .NET Framework 3.0 which got rolled out when it shouldn't have been. And as a side effect it also knackered anyone's connection to some Citrix services too - just double aaaaargh.

Well, again I had to come up with the solution - first of all, if you've got a HP PCL printer afflicted by that same syndrome, in the printing preferences, click the Advanced tab and turn print optimisations "off". Then it works again. As for Citrix, you need to re-grant full permissions to a registry key, and I was able to roll something out that would do that, but even so. It's rather annoying to say the least that because of mistakes made centrally (and they were big ones) that you end up cleaning up all the time. Moving on..

.. and tonight? Absolutely lovely. I was heading out to the Academy 1 building site (honestly, it's just so not finished yet!) to see The Wedding Present, a band I've always appreciated and got several of their CDs of, but never seen live. Shame on me! Anyway, as it turned out Tim, the drummer from MJ Hibbett and the Validators, had a spare ticket so I agreed to buy it at face value and meet him down the pub pre-gig. Headed to the Salutation pub and a good pint of Black Sheep was mine, and spotted Tim and his friend Rob - conversation was easy peasy (always is when it's blokes talking about music, football and stuff like that) and it was time to head off down Oxford Road to the Academy 1.

We would have got a drink in there but the bar queues were absolutely horrendous to say the least - it just didn't seem organised having the bar on one side of the venue nearest to where a lot of people were congregating to see the band - should be like Academy 3 where it's at the back, much easier. Also, I could see where the disabled enclosure on the first floor was going to be, and it looked a good little viewing balcony area to be honest. Anyway, the three of us got slightly left side which seemed much quieter and made the way towards the front.

And boy, did the Wedding Present not disappoint. What I didn't know that Tim was seeing them for the 30th time (!!) but for a first timer like me, it was all rather impressive indeed. It was twenty years since they released their first album "George Best" and at some point in the night were going to play the whole album in its entirety live, which I've noticed quite a few bands doing with their older albums now - a nice touch. But first up, a mix of new and old songs, and what comes on second? Brassneck, my possible all time favourite song of theirs (along with "Why Are You Being So Reasonable Now?") - and the crowd went absolutely mental down the front middle - I was glad just to be at the side of that so I could enjoy it, but it looked like someone had had too much beer and was starting to kick off a bit - idiots. Still, didn't stop me enjoying the track immensely and sounded powerful live, so that's tune of the day.

After a few more songs old and new, on came this person in a rabbit costume, with cards counting down 5 to 1 before the last card was revealed, the cover of the George Best album. And off they started playing the whole album, which was absolutely brilliant. Not least tracks on their like "My Favourite Dress" and "Give My Love To Kevin" which still stand the test of time now. But you can tell for the real diehards there who knew all the words that this was a special occasion and everyone was bouncing around happily. David Gedge's voice was starting to go a bit, he admitted, but he soldiered on without a care in the world, and with a mass singalong to "Kennedy" - with the whole audience yelling out "Lost your love of life, too much apple pie" en masse, and then the rather superb "Flying Saucer" to end things, it was just a bloody great gig.

Had a celebratory drink with Tim and Rob afterwards and found out Rob's favourite band was the Pixies - good man!! Rob was intrigued to find out that I was just a fan of MJ Hibbett and the Validators and not a band member, but appreciated the fact that I just enjoyed music full stop. I left them to get homeward but I'm sure they were planning a late night disco bop to CSS back at their hotel later on - Tim and I were rightly raving about how bloody good the CD is - and if you're reading this, then you should buy it too. I now have a sudden urge to listen to "Let's Make Love And Listen To Death From Above"...

Thursday 25th October - Larissa Doesn't Explain It All

Spent some quality time tonight basically relaxing after a tough day at the office - made more tough by the fact that some Windows non-critical updates were approved by the people who look after our Windows Update server, and so all of a sudden I spotted this rather annoying taskbar applet - Windows Desktop Search. Ugh. In fact a quick read of lots of online IT press revealed that in some instances, Microsoft were pushing this out even to people who didn't want it - that's rather naughty isn't it? But yours truly found the way to get rid of it - you need to do the following command:

C:\WINDOWS\$NtUninstallKB917013$\spuninst\spuninst.exe /quiet /norestart

And that takes care of it. Thankfully through Novell Zenworks I can configure this to run silently when the PC has booted up, so it will be pretty seamless indeed when done. I was quite pleased that I was able to find a solution so quickly but was also thinking how annoying it was that I had to spend time doing that when there was plenty of other things to be going on with. C'est la vie, I suppose.

On the way back from work, I went to my normal branch of Tesco's to do the food shopping, but as I passed the record shop Sifters on the way back I thought "well, let's see what they have then" as their second hand CDs section usually reveals good discounts on all sorts. And so it proved. Not only did I find Rammstein's "Herzeleid" CD for four quid, but also the rather excellent "15 Years" CD single by The Levellers. Hurrah! I quite like that song and one of the B-sides on that single is no less than a live version of "The Riverflow" - possibly my all time favourite song of theirs (the days of indie nights, you know) - and as the live version sounds so good, that's going to be tune of the day.

Did the food shop in pretty quick time, made my way homeward and then settled back to watch the UEFA Cup game on Channel 5 between Everton and Larissa, the Greek team who had knocked out Blackburn in the opening round. Thankfully Everton were too good for them and bounced back after their controversial derby defeat against Liverpool on Saturday. I'm sure many of their fans were glad to see Tim Cahill back in action (not least as he scored as well) and that despite the presence of ex-Newcastle man Nikos Dabizas at the heart of their defence, he was powerless to stop a good win. I do wish Chnanel 5 would get somene else apart from John Barnes though - he's so biased towards Liverpool that it's untrue, and not just that, his comments just don't make sense. Stick to the dancefloor, John!

Wednesday 24th October - It's Hell On Earth Sometimes

It was a rather busy day today at work not least as a couple of colleagues are off on holiday (they timed it well didn't they?) and so I was able to at least get plenty done and the day flew by. It was rather hellish though not least because I had to go over to other buildings and see staff and sort out their problems and issues, which has to be something. Thankfully, most of it was minor but it always makes me smile when you hear that people are on dial up still and wondering just why their anti virus update takes so long - well let me see, shall we?

Had to nip to the sorting office first thing this morning though to pick up some packages, and to be honest is was rather freezing. I think I might have to pack a fleecy top for next week to keep warm, or at least a couple of layers, so that's going to have to be something I note I reckon. It feels a bit nippy now as I'm typing this actually, thank heavens for the heating in the house or else I'd be really suffering. Anyway, the packages were a birthday present and a Christmas present, so that means it's another two I can cross off the list.

Even happier days were to come when I got home from work though, not least as the series 6 part 1 DVD box set of CSI turned up, so I can watch that now and see all the episodes in order, which is what I like to do. That's something for the long winter nights ahead if there's nothing on, I can immerse myself in some great drama and in full surround too, as they're all encoded in 5.1 surround. Excellent, not least with some of the gun shot fire effects and general ambience that they record with the show - just works, you know? I was tempted to get the series 7 part 1 box set as well, especially as it's cheaper now, but it's on my Christmas list so I'll behave myself and not get it. If need be I can always get it afterwards.

But the other package that arrived I knew what it was as soon as I saw the address label. It's the new MJ Hibbett album, "A Million Ukeleles" plus t-shirt thrown in to boot. Excellent, I thought to myself, and whacked that on the CD player forthwith and as I'm typing it, it's just ended. Might have to do a review of it actually, but suffice to say that the album's a really nice one, and any one who sings about how rubbish Birmingham New Street station is gets the thumbs up from me (so therefore "Hell on Earth" is tune of the day territory right there folks) as well as the classic which I still adore from when seeing it performed live, namely "Control Alt Delete" (and if you work in IT, these really are the only three buttons you need a lot of the time, be warned) and just oodles more. It's just nice to have the CD and not have to rely on download, even if it is a very limited edition of 200!!

Tuesday 23rd October - Packages And Presents

Well it was a rather nice surprise when I got home from work today - a package was waiting for me which was the series 6 part 2 DVD box set of CSI. I wondered where part 1 was, as I'd ordered that at the same time. How odd. Also the postcard that my friend sent me whilst she was in Florida arrived - a couple of days after she arrived back. It would have probably got her on time had it not been for the postal strike, but there you go. I've of course spoken before then anyway and by all sounds of it, a nice time was had which is always something isn't it? There was also a note that I needed to pick something up from the sorting office, which was probably a couple of birthday and Christmas presents that I'd ordered, at a guess.

Spent some time tonight watching the channel Dave (formerly UKTVG2) because they're now showing the UK version of Whose Line Is It Anyway? every night during the week, two episodes back to back. Hurrah to that I say, not least as it features the rather lovely Josie Lawrence a lot of the time. I've always had a soft spot for her really because she is just funny, and women who can make me laugh I do find attractive - comedy is the way to my heart, ladies out there! Anyway, it's great to see WLIIA back on the telly and having Josie along with Mike McShane singing a love song about a cat litter tray is somewhat inspired. Oh, and not to mention Tony Slattery's exasperation at not being able to guess all the quirks during the Party Quirks game - much fun all round there. I really like the fact that Clive Anderson sounds so deadpan throughout.

I also caught Dragons' Den tonight after missing the Monday night episode - silly me. Anyway, is it me or does Deborah Meaden really have a mean businesslike ruthless streak on set, and yet everyone who's met her in real life and not in business says she's a real hoot. Who'd think it eh? There were some rather daft inventions though it has to be said and you do have to wonder just how much time some of these people spend thinking that it's the next big thing when in fact the business idea and acumen doesn't really make sense whatsoever - which makes me giggle. I'm not sure what to make of the new Dragon James Caan though, sounds a bit too much like a film star - and I'm sure plenty of women who quite fancied Richard Farleigh were disappointed...

But I digress. All of a sudden work's been very busy and it's been a case of getting on with things and managing as best I can with stuff going on. I suppose too that's a sign that taking next week off is absolutely the right thing to do as well, so I can do something different. I think that I've needed a week off anyway, I last had one off when I went to Cornwall which was rather fabulous, and of course next week it's gig time for me, oh yes. I can't wait, you know. All I've got to do now is just sort out a couple of things and the job's a good one...

So what have I been listening to? Well, I rediscovered some of my old indie CD singles tonight, and amongst them I found the rather hard to find Poors of Reign single "Weird Scenes Inside The Cyprus" which reminded me of the days when me and some friends used to go to the Cyprus Tavern on a late Saturday night for drinks and indie tunes and you could go mental to them without some pretentious so and so being rather annoying. All the words of the song are just a reminder of those times, not least "The music is sweet as you step on Princess Street" which was so true, you could hear it as you went past even at the closing time of 2am when everyone used to get kicked out - so that's tune of the day.

Monday 22nd October - Turnarounds And Perfect Fits

Well after I wrote yesterday's entry, I went over to one of the local bars near me, as Donna Marie happened to be playing there early on. In fact she was doing two gigs in one day as she was playing M19 Bar first and then heading into town to play Jabez Clegg later for the In The City thing, so that was rather good. As the later gig clashed with the F1 (more on that further on) I thought I'd head over to M19. Two good factors were in order here: she was on first so she could head out later on, and before 3pm entry to the gig was free, so it meant a completely cost-free gig as well which has to be rather lovely.

I headed into M19 and a couple of her fans, one from London and one who now lives in Stoke, whom I'd met at the Amy Macdonald gig, were there. They were up for the weekend and had seen KT Tunstall at the Apollo on Friday night - which I'm sure would have been rather good. In any case, before too long it was on with Donna to do her thing and this is what she did, a shortened set but with her new bass player Mont in tow doing a cracking job:

Perfect Fit
Holiday From Myself
Just Words (off the forthcoming album, and sounding lovely - tune of the day that one)
A Little Time
Paint The Sky
Goodtime Girl

Short and sweet, but worked rather lovely. Donna looked really contented and excited and happy, and it was rather lovely to see her radiant smile glowing from her - she'd been to a couple of the In The City conferences the day before and had been able to network with people which sounded like it went well. Good for her I say, one of these days someone is going to notice her talents, and not before time either if you ask me. I'm telling you - watch this space.

Anyway, as I had time before the F1 started, I stayed around and watched a couple of other artists. Next up was one man and an acoustic guitar, who called himself Lions and Tigers and Bears (myspace) (quote from The Wizard of Oz if memory serves me well) He did a nice six song set and was even giving away a free four track demo CD of his work as well, which I've had a listen to. Indeed, "Still With You" which was on his live set, is very nice and the voice he has works well with it. Do check him out.

Next and last for me was Tim Lee (myspace) (official site), who had come all the way up from Crewe for the gig. He did a nice set too and even chucked in a cover of "Homeward Bound" along the way. And.. one of his tracks he played with a ukelele! I must inform MJ Hibbett that it's not just him playing with said instrument these days, I'm sure that the plot of his title track from the new album "A Million Ukeleles" is well and truly underway in the underground. Hurrah. Anyway, Tim did a good set and a couple of his songs sounded really sad and soulful especially as he mentioned that the day before the gig he would have been married but it all went pear shaped. Such beauty can lie in writing sad songs and he sounded good all round - good for him.

With that done off home and the excitement and tension was building for the F1. And what a race it was! My prediction of Hamilton and Alonso taking each other off almost happened at turn three as Alonso went past, then at turn four Hamilton went in too deep, went wide and I don't know if he did the car damage then, but seven laps later the electronics failed for some reason and he was stuck in neutral for thirty long seconds. And what was happening? Yes, ITV were on a bloody commercial break!! You'd think for something like this they'd have no breaks on at all or do what Sky do, have them in a window at the bottom or something so you can still see the race action. I imagine they're going to be taking a lot of flak over that.

Anyway, with Hamilton seemingly out of it but fighting his way up (although his resulting three stop strategy was the wrong way to go to be honest, with two stops he might have had a chance), it was a case of whether Raikkonen would need to get past Massa or let team orders dictate a bit. As it stood with Alonso in third, Raikkonen needed to win to be absolutely sure. And come the second pit stops, Raikkonen was out for a few laps longer, put in some blisteringly quick laps and after his pit stop nailed it in front of Massa. Now it was just a case of if anyone was going to take themselves off - Hamilton had to be fifth to win the title, and seventh wasn't good enough. I'm sure a few people were hoping that Kubica and Rosberg were going to have each other off and they nearly did in turn one, but they were clever enough to realise the points mattered for them and their teams, and as both Raikkonen and Massa had lapped Hamilton, once they crossed the line that was that - even if anyone had taken each other off in the last lap they technically would still be ahead anyway, so game over.

I didn't want my prediction of Raikkonen winning the race and title to be right as such as I'd have loved Hamilton to win it. But in 1986 Prost was third going into the final race and his race win beat both the Williams cars of Mansell and Piquet. Anything can happen in Formula One, and it usually does. And so it was today. Who'd have given Raikkonen a hope with him being seventeen points behind Hamilton with two races to go? But full credit to him - he kept his head whilst others lost theirs and the Iceman did the business. You can't begrudge him the title, at the end of the day he scored one more point than Hamilton and Alonso (Hamilton finished second on countback of results) and that's what counts.

Sunday 21st October - Tense Nervous Waiting..

Well it's going to be a tense day watching the F1 at 5, that's for sure. I'm going to be completely incommunicado during that two hour period, as you can imagine, it's only the right thing to do. I have to be completely in the zone, with the surround sound on at full pelt, the telly on, coffee at the ready and me absolutely looking forward to watching the race. I'm really excited about it as I got up this morning, there's not been a closer F1 finish to a title race for some time and the last time three people could have won it was 1986 where Mansell's blow out of his tyre in Adelaide was just a nightmare really as he was so close to winning it!

Far be it from me to say, but we really really need some Murray Walker commentary today. Imagine the start with Murray going "And it is... GO GO GO GO!" in his unmistakable excited mode. I can imagine any overtaking move he would be there absolutely ready for it. And it's going to be exciting later for sure. I just have a feeling that it's going to be unresolved until the very last bits of the race - as Murray himself would have said, anything can happen in Formula 1 - and it usually does. So we shall see.

Watched the Match of the Day recording from last night (although admittedly I could have watched the 9.30am repeat on BBC2) and I really can't understand what Steve Bruce, the Birmingham manager, was whinging about. As Alan Shearer correctly spotted, the tackle by Michael Johnson in the build up to the goal was fair - he got the ball - and so on went the attack and the goal. Full credit to Alan for that, I think, and correctly showing the nation that Steve Bruce has inherited all the qualities of his manager of old, Sir Alex Ferguson - the ability to criticise the referee at any point that didn't go for them even if the decision was a correct one. Birmingham did play pretty well to be fair and can feel a little unlucky not to get a point, but when you don't play so well and win 1-0, that's a sign, let me tell you.

Now here's a question for you: why the bloody hell have the BBC moved the Strictly Come Dancing results show to a Sunday afternoon? The whole point of enjoyment of the show on a Saturday is that you get to see everyone do their thing, and then later on the results show so you can see on the night who's made it and who hasn't. Now of course what it means that you've got to tune in Sunday afternoon to see if your favourite makes it, which completely disrupts proceedings. Okay, it might work for the American version, but we don't want to see pre-recorded "as live" results shows, oh no. There's been lots of disgruntled people on various web forums wanting it brought back to Saturday nights, and I'm with them. And the TV schedulers have even put the results show when the F1's still going to be on! That's commercial suicide isn't it?

Anyway, I went through a backup CD of some MP3s that I'd snagged, mainly for free off the web, and found to my absolute joy that I'd rather nicely got a backup of some vinyl that I'd transferred to MP3 format ages ago. That was nifty of me, and argubaly easier as the new turntable now has an inbuilt amp if I need it on, so I can hook it up to the PC if I needed to. But crucially I'd also downloaded some of Blacksmoke's EP, "F** The F**ing F***ers", which was rather loud and Industrial at the time, and still is great stuff. The title track of the EP is my tune of the day - it's just great stuff and full of loudness, perfect for waking up to. Any project involving an ex-member of the KLF's got to be worth a listen hasn't it?

Saturday 20th October - The World In Almost Union

I spent some time today venturing out to the Lowry Outlet Mall. I wanted to get some ideas for Christmas presents to get people and also because it was good to see what stuff they'd have for me as well - there's a Marks and Spencer outlet place there and they do have a clearance section which can often be good, even though 90% of the time all the best bargains seem to be not for me. Ah well. But thought it'd be a change anyway, and so it proved.

I headed off on the bus towards the city centre and then got off by the Universities to get the 250 bus towards the Trafford Centre - not that I was going there. I'd get off and walk down the road to the Imperial War Museum and then cross the Manchester Ship canal over to the Lowry Centre and the Outlet Mall there - not daft am I? And whilst crossing the bridge I saw an inspirational sight. People were doing an aerial slide down from the very top of the War Museum and the slide went right across the canal to the Lowry Centre, which was a real ride and a half especially as you were going over open water as well. They were raising money for Marie Curie Cancer Care, and that's very worthwhile indeed. Looks like the event's on for the whole weekend so if you've got nothing to do on Sunday, head down to the Imperial War Museum and cheer them on!

Anyway, made my way into the Outlet Mall, and noticed quite a few places had shut up shop, which is always a sign for me that everything wasn't quite so rosy. I located the Marks and Spencer Outlet, and that was pretty busy. There were some nice things for me on the whole but I wasn't quite sure - even though a very nice two tone black number plus these really soft black jumpers did look tempting. I even saw a shirt I liked in the clearance section but with one small problem: the size was all XXL. And I'm not that big! After a nice decaf latte at Costa it was time to make my way homeward, got plenty of good ideas though and I'm sure that I might have to venture back out there at some point to see what's available.

So a lazy afternoon of sorts in front of telly watching the sport unfold, the second half of the Merseyside derby, with a controversial end and a 2-1 result in favour of Liverpool, and then the big weekend started. ITV have been running good "big weekend" idents with either Jonny Wilkinson kicking the rugby ball or Lewis Hamilton stood in front of his McLaren, and sure enough when 5pm came round, just after the news that Man City had won 1-0 at home to Birmingham, it was time for the F1 qualifying.

And what a session it was too, with the lead and pole position swaying this way and that way right until the final minutes, with in the end Felippe Massa getting a home pole but crucially Lewis Hamilton second, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso. It could be rather tasty going into the Senna S bends at the start of tomorrow's race for sure as there's normally an incident there, and so I think everyone's going to tread carefully to make sure that they get round and then go from there. Still doesn't stop my prediction though which I'll reveal now: I think Alonso and Hamilton will take each other off, and then Raikkonen will win the race and with it the F1 title. The Alonso/Hamilton feud has all the trademarks of Senna vs Prost, and we all know what happened there don't we?

Still, more sport to come and the rugby World Cup Final. Now I must confess here I'm a much bigger fan of rugby league instead and had watched the centenary game at Warrington earlier in the evening, but it's the World Cup final, and after seeing England's epic semifinal effort against France, it was all to play for. No one had given us a chance weeks ago but the spirit and pride shown by the players (much more so than the football team on Wednesday) got us here. One thing to note straight away: every player sang the anthem. Now why can't to the football team do that?

But straight from the start it was a tense and tight affair and because of a couple of silly penalty give aways, the South Africans deservedly took their chances and so were 9-3 up at half time. But what was controversial was to follow, and it certainly changed the game. Matthew Tait went on an excellent run, the ball got recycled and Mark Cueto of Sale Sharks went over at the corner - definite try, I thought. But after the longest video referee replays in history (or so it seemed) the try wasn't given as they deemed his foot or knee to have gone outside the line, which it clearly didn't. Had that been given and we'd have scored a conversion, it'd be 10-9 up and all to play for. All we got was a penalty instead (as advantage had been played) and so it was 9-6. But it knocked the stuffing out of England a bit, and two penalties from the South Africans gave the final scoreline of 15-6.

Now I have to say I'm not taking anything away from South Africa, they were the best team of the tournament and deserved to win, and indeed their style of play throughout was just better. But you have to wonder what would have happened if we'd have scored that try - would nerves have set in? We'll never know. However, what was great to see was the players with the trophy holding aloft their president Thabo Mbeki on their shoulders. In a country that is still coming together after years of apartheid, the victory of their team might just be another spark needed. Indeed, their coach Jake White said "To see the president of our country sitting on the players' shoulders, it doesn't get much better than that" and their captain John Smit said "I certainly hope that being able to lift this cup and take it back home can create a scenario that everyone binds together and we start forgetting about counting numbers and colours." It made me realise just how much sport can bring a nation together and how important sometimes it can be. In Johannesburg, they celebrated with Nelson Mandela having his rugby shirt on - and definitely not a token gesture either (In the 1995 World Cup, Mandela often wore a replica number 6 shirt that at the time was worn by Francois Piennar) and it was great to see everyone, no matter who they were, celebrating.

Tune of the day has to be something F1 related, namely Apollo 440's "Blackbeat" off their third album. The reason? Well for a few good years ITV used it as the music to introduce their F1 coverage and it's certainly loud and raucous enough to be quite an anthem for the coverage - okay maybe not as good as Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" but then what is? And argubaly better suited than the current ITV effort, Moby's "Lift Me Up" which just doesn't invoke the F1 emotions in the same way. But still...

Friday 19th October - Controlled Friday

Been a bit of a good day at work really, after the manic fun and games of yesterday it was much better today - managed to get loads done and I've even got a laptop ready for our marketing officer, just needs some tweaks early next week and the wireless testing out, and it's all done. And because I did my shopping for food last night, it meant I could go home and relax a bit before deciding what to do for the evening. I planned to invite my friends round but as one of them was feeling a little under the weather it was a no go, so I had plan B go into action.

I'd wanted to see Control for a second time (read my review to find out why) and it made a lot of sense therefore to take some time out tonight and see the 8.35pm showing at the Cornerhouse. It meant I could leave at a reasonable time, get my ticket from the box office, and then have a latte inside the Cornerhouse's cafe on the first floor, which was really busy, before heading over to Screen 1 and seeing the film again. I actually spotted John Robb coming in as I was heading outwards, which was something. He may have been to the 6pm special chat with one of the directors and Peter Hook - must admit I was tempted to go to that one myself to be honest with you.

But nonetheless it was good second time around too, and lots of things I spotted this time around that I didn't necessarily see first time round: the fact that later in the film, you saw brief glimpses of Gillian Gilbert (whom would of course be the fourth member of New Order) and indeed Tony Wilson's partner Lindsay as well. The other thing I spotted was that during the bit that they play Transmission live, it's based on them appearing on Granada Reports - however video evidence shows it was actually "Shadowplay" that was played instead...

So that's intriguing. I wonder how that happened? Didn't detract from the film or my review score though due to the fact that the playing of the song was absolutely brilliant. And because the original song is so brilliant, "Shadowplay" is tune of the day, it just works superbly well even now. And as for cover versions of Joy Division, you really can't beat this one, it's Tim Gregory doing "Love Will Tear Us Apart" with just him and a piano, in black and white, it's absolutely superb!

Thursday 18th October - Heroes To Zeroes In Four Minutes

Well I woke up this morning (insert blues song here) and I still couldn't believe the events of yesterday afternoon's game to be honest. To think I'd taken the time and trouble to have the afternoon off so I could potter around town, go home, get everything sorted and then settle back to watch England hopefully do the business, and it just didn't happen like that! I got myself psyched up with a blast of World in Motion, had the national anthem on so I could sing along (although I do have a gripe with that, I'll have to rant about that sometime in my Thoughts page I reckon) and generally be ready to get behind the lads.

And for the first hour or so all looked well - we withstood early pressure, got forward a bit ourselves and really didn't look that troubled, and if it got to the defence, they all stood tall and kept things ticking over. Even with the Russians hitting the post it wasn't all so bad really, and just on the half hour mark a long punt from Micah Richards finds Michael Owen's head, he heads it on and Wayne Rooney chests it down and blasts it at speed past the goalie. It was a cracking finish it has to be said, even with a slight suspect element of offside, you still have to take the chances, and I think a lot of us would have been happy to take 1-0 at half time.

But the start of the second half, once we missed a Steven Gerrard chance he should have scored from an excellent Gareth Barry free kick, was all Russia. We just looked to break but defended way too deep and invited the Russians to come at us. This of course meant trouble, especially as they put on their plastic pitch goalscorer Roman Pavluchenko came on with half an hour to go and with his height and strength was going to prove a problem to us, I reckoned. I also wondered why Russia didn't play him any earlier, but there you go.

A few minutes later Wayne Rooney brought down one of the Russian players - it looked outside the area to me, but the momentum took him inside and the ref pointed to the spot. Even though you could argue that it was outside, the fact of the matter is that a) Rooney shouldn't be there technically and b) bringing anyone down that close to the area is a bit of a risk. In one swoop he'd undone all the good work he'd put in and Pavluchenko scored from the spot. Four minutes later and with England still shell shocked, the shot went in, Robinson did his usual rubbish goalkeeping and parried it straight into the path of Pavulchenko and Shaun Goater-like poached what proved to be the winner.

I was shouting obscenities at the telly at this point, and more so when the substitutions were made. When you see the likes of the absolutely bobbins Stewart Downing come on, you know it's game over really - he and Frank Lampard were useless and the shape all seemed lost. If anything, Russia would have scored a third had it not been for some good last ditch defending as we got caught on the break pushing for an equaliser that never came. And I refuse to use the plastic pitch as an excuse - it's the same for both teams and it was all down to the fact that the tactics were just plain wrong in the second half and Steve McLaren has to be the one to blame.

And today at work didn't exactly put me in a better mood either: it was deadline day for one of the courses, and we had quite a few stressed out students really being abusive. I can understand that some people do get a bit hassled and in a pickle, but at the same time, there's no need to take it out on those people who are trying their best to help out either. Usually we get the odd student come in and apologise, which is actually very mature of them indeed, and I always think that if you've calmed down and realised the error of your ways, you'll go far. Still, once it got to the afternoon and the deadline passed it seemed much calmer, and I was able to fix a few problems including a couple of scanners and also a font issue. Yaay.

Stopped off to see some of my relations tonight, and mainly to have a brew and drop off my Christmas list. You see, lots of them were wanting to get their shopping done early and so wanted me to have it done so they could pick something - and so once I'd split it I gave the necessary relations the appropriate bits of it, and job well and truly done. It also means that they know too I need some ideas what to get them and everyone then goes home happy (aren't I good eh?). I have managed to get quite a few already though so that's something, not least because I thought of some good ideas last night and hit the online shopping carts. It's so easy when you know how isn't it?

Well my mode of thinking this morning meant only one song could possibly be played - and so tune of the day is the song that is Morrissey's great B-side "Disappointed". The words are spot on and it's exactly how I feel after yesterday's let down. I love the ending, which live is even better as the words change to "This is the last song I'll ever sing.. errrr. yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes, good night, and thank you!" - and it used to close his set back in the day. The whole sound is a bit down but in a comfortable way, and certainly it just got the mode of feeling right now to be honest. In fact, I need to whack on the "Ringleader of the Tormentors" CD right now - it's still darned fine, that album!

Wednesday 17th October - Artificially Wednesday

Well I planned ahead and booked this afternoon off work, not because I felt the need to write lots in the diary for the last couple of days, but instead to refer to the fact that England are on at 4pm and as the game's on Sky Sports 1, I'd rather be able to be at home and watch the game in relative comfort and cheer the lads on. The artificial pitch it's being played on has caused a stir, although it's the same for both teams and indeed nothing that they shouldn't be able to cope with. In fact, other games have been played on there with UEFA clearance due to the Russian winter.

The truth of the matter is that if England play as well as when they dispatched Russia 3-0 last month at Wembley then really it shouldn't be a problem - the only worry is that the left back position doesn't look so good with Ashley Cole out and so whoever plays there is going to really have to be up to it. I'm also hoping Gareth Barry has kept his place too, because he's worked really hard for the team and done nothing wrong, and he and Steven Gerrard look much better in midfield than any combination involving Frank Lampard - he might play really well for Chelsea but he's not a team man for England and shouldn't really play. End of.

With the kick off an hour away or so, it's disappointing to see that once again hooliganism rears its ugly head. it seems more like the Russian fans who want to cause trouble instead of England and I can see some provocation coming on, which isn't really on. And yet as soon as anyone connected with England does a minor misdemeanour, it's immediately jumped on yet the behaviour of other fans seems to go unpunished, clear double standards with UEFA there. In the Under-21 championships earlier this year, several of the black players were being abused by the Serbian fans (and some of the players after the game) and yet all they got was a fine. Well annoying. I'm not suggesting for a moment that every England fan is now whiter than white and sadly some will go along to cause trouble - but are they football fans? I think not.

Actually the real fans have been showing their solidarity with the real Russian fans - laying a wreath in memoriam to the Russian soldiers who gave their lives during World War II for example, and showing that the true fan understands other nations' cultures and respects them. Yet these sort of acts don't necessarily get recognised or noticed, which in my view is a real shame. The England cricket fans, the Barmy Army, do similar things on their tour to promote friendliness between nations and passion in the cricket grounds, but always friendly banter and good fun, and it's those sort of things we need to see more of.

Well in the meantime I'm getting myself ready for kick off by playing the best football song ever written - and it's not Three Lions. Oh no. Us Northerners much prefer the all time classic that is New Order's "World In Motion" - the first really great football song and one that just stuck in the head during Italy 1990 all through the tournament. Plus any song that features a semi-acceptable rap by John Barnes (maybe he should dance to that tune on Strictly Come Dancing, that'd be a riot if he broke out into his rap part!) along with Keith Allen getting everyone going then it's just a winner full stop. Plus the England home shirt of the time was possibly the best England shirt of the last 20 years (I even bought one!), so it made you proud and passionate to get behind the lads. And they so nearly did it, too. So tune of the day is a no-brainer. Just hope the lads can do the business now!

Tuesday 16th October - Wrapping Up Warm For Winter

It looked a bit horrid as I woke up this morning, and the rain that pelted down at lunchtime made me realise that not only was Autumn here, but the weather fronts were looking rather cold. Hard to believe too that today was a mere twenty years since a storm brewed and BBC TV presenter Michael Fish got the forecast horribly wrong, despite the fact a woman had rung in and said that it was going to happen. Who was that woman, I've wondered to myself? Maybe the BBC should have appointed her to do the weather instead that day, ah well..

But still, I felt the cold on the way home today and later when taking the bins back past the alley gate quite late on after seeing the England under-21s thrashing the Republic of Ireland 3-0 at a canter, it seemed quite bitter but still, nonetheless the hat and gloves might have to come out soon though I reckon. I'm just thankful I've still got them at the ready and don't have to traipse around any shops on a Saturday afternoon getting a pair - that would be murder to be honest.

Talking of the weather, I suddenly remembered that there was a great novelty song called "John Kettley is a Weatherman" by the band A Tribe of Toffs, who came from Sunderland (it's true, fact fans) which was a minor hit at Christmas 1988, and was so popular at Oldham Atheltic that it would get played before every game with all the fans singing along with the chorus... great fun of course! Anyway, after much hunting, I managed to find a 90 second snippet of the song available here along with many other cult awful classics, and although the quality's not that great, it's still immense fun remembering the old days. So sod it - it's tune of the day and I don't give a stuff what anyone thinks!

Monday 15th October - Christmas Is Coming.. The Shops Say So Anyway

I spent a bit of time at work today configuring a PC which was going to be used for this new embroidery rig out, and one of my colleagues came over with the necessary software and hardware needed so I could install and test it all. Interestingly, the machine that they've got on loan takes these special cards made by the manufacturer, none of this standard camera card lark which would have been easier, so I spent time sorting all that out and getting everything to talk to each other - worked really well in the end so I was most pleased with myself to have achieved the task.

Went out into the city centre after work as I needed to get three birthday cards, all happening during the rest of this month! I thought "get them done now". Unfortnately in WH Smith the selection was severely lacking, because guess what was in there? Yes, you got it in one: Christmas cards. Absolutely everywhere in sight. And if that wasn't enough, in Boots they've already got the catalogue out for presents and indeed most of the stuff from it available on the shelves. However, at least they do 3 for 2 on the gifts and the wrapping paper is buy one get one free, and last year they did an ace Simpsons one - and they have one for this year too. Might have to snag that and some tags in the future to wrap up the presents I'm going to get for people.

Now I know what you're thinking: I plan a bit ahead and do try and get my presents early. However, that's my choice and the presents I normally get aren't necessarily Christmas-ish either, so I can just order them or buy them at any time - I don't necessarily want everyone else to be reminded of the December festivities so soon. It just makes me wonder whether I should campaign for a byelaw that says no one is allowed to put up any Christmas related stuff until 1st November so then it gives everyone a bit of a breather beforehand - would only seem fair. And if like me you've got friends who have birthdays in December, it becomes ludicrously hard to get a good birthday card because there's Christmas cards everywhere. And I steadfastly refuse to get a card that says "birthday in December" or anything else crass. It's just wrong!

Something else happened when I got home: my answerphone had a message! And it was a message that Man City had left with a recorded message from Sven-Göran Eriksson, saying that he thinks the team have started the season very well and would like me to come along to the game against Birmingham City on the Saturday and then a woman steps in and explains how to get tickets. Well that's fine, of course, but I can now idly boast that no less a man than Sven has called me up. Got no women for him though, rumour has it he's copped off with some refuse manager of some description - well he is the ladies' man after all.

Tune of the day is another Buzzcocks one - I don't care what anyone says but their "Singles Going Steady" compilation is perhaps one of the best A-sides and B-sides singles compilations out there, and it showed just how bloody good their 7" singles were, full stop. Anyway, the song that's tickling the fancy is the B-side to "Orgasm Addict", namely "Whatever Happened To?" - it's just so infectiously catchy and rhymes "Hi-fi" with "You and I?" in such a clever way that it warrants more than a mention. I even own that original single on 7" myself, a very worthwhile purchase.

Sunday 14th October - Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Well, what a day yesterday evening was. First of all the England football team did the business against Estonia, so much so that it was all over by half time. Once again the team played much more as a team and it didn't surprise me that Shaun Wright-Phillips scored again, did a great one two with Micah Richards before slotting it home under the goalkeeper for 1-0, and that was what the doctor ordered. More so when Wayne Rooney finally broke his three year competitive international duck, turning in a cross from Joe Cole via the Estonian defender's legs, but hey they all count don't they? Best of all was the own goal - the header was from 20 yards out and as Alan Shearer puts it, "couldn't have placed it better myself.

There were some good positives: Gareth Barry was again brilliant and a deserved Man of the Match in my eyes, he controlled the midfield and the understanding he has with Steven Gerrard is great - either covers for the other and it looks really balanced, allowing Joe Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips to get forward (notable that Ashley and Joe Cole on the left along with Micah Richards and Shaun Wright-Phillips down the right support each other almost telepathically) and it just seemed to work well. It was a blow with Ashley Cole's injury, nightmare that was, but we'd got the job done and a win against Russia on Wednesday means we qualify, so that's definitely something to aim for.

Opinion is divided amongst supporters and pundits for the booing of Frank Lampard that happened when he came on. The pundits want to see it stop, proclaiming his international credentials. Errr.. what credentials? A bit like Wayne Rooney, the last decent game he had for England was during Euro 2004 and is often way too selfish a player, seems like he's often more interested in himself than the team. I was discussing this with a couple of colleagues the other day (one who supports Man U, one who supports Liverpool) and they said pretty much as I thought. When you look at how Barry and Gerrard play together, you have to wonder what we've been missing. And.. at least Steven Gerrard gives a toss when he plays for England and has often rescued us out of the mire - not seen Lampard do that as of late. The fans are voting with their feet and if the players don't like it - do something about it, like play well and not just take the fat pay cheque. If Frank plays Wednsday and McLaren slots him in, it'll be a big mistake - don't change a winning side!

But then on to the England rugby union. After seeing St Helens capitulate against Leeds in the Super League Grand Final (the less said about that the better, it was their worst performance of the season at the wrong time - one game too far maybe) I needed a pick me up and the England v France semi looked rather tasty. I had a feeling it'd be edgy, and even though we managed to score a try with a minute gone, the game was going to be tough both physically and mentally, and so it proved. It yo-yoed with penalties being scored either way and with ten minutes left it was 9-8 to France and the game was on tenterhooks.

Then two moments of pure joy: Jason Robinson went forward and was absolutely high tackled disgracefully, and the ref had no option but to give a penalty. Up steps Jonny Wilkinson who makes no mistake and it's 11-9. Still though it meant that France could score a penalty or drop goal to win, and England surged forward with every sinew spent, and I saw Jonny make a move to the right, the ball came out and one absolutely awesome drop kick later and it was 14-9, which meant the French had to score a try and convert to win. Every England player gave their all and it was a real show of joy and passion when the whistle went for their win. I was really proud of them to be honest: everyone had written them off before the Australia quarter-final and with backs to the wall on both occasions, beat them and then the host. ITV's pitch reporter Will Greenwood (big City fan you know!) was absolutely loving every moment, and well might he should (he was one of the 2003 winning team after all) so that was great stuff.

I felt slightly happy today with all that going on and felt in the mood for some happy tunes to get me up and going for the whole day as I spent most of it out of the house, and so what better than The Buzzcocks' classic "Everybody's Happy Nowadays"? It's as close to three minutes of punk pop perfection as you're going to get, and so that's just got to be tune of the day. Ooh, and look, they even were on Top of the Pops, you know!

Saturday 13th October - Come On England!

Well by the time you read this England will most likely be on the telly. It should be a good game all round and we should beat Estonia but as you can imagine with the football team nothing is that straight forward - the injuries mean we can't play a full strength team and the same team as last time, which just for once played as a team instead of a bunch of individuals so that was something to behold, I can tell you. I was most pleased though to see that on the whole the changes are going to be minimised - my only concern is going to be the temperament of Wayne Rooney up front and if he can hold it together or not. Part of me is hoping that he can but he really needs to actually score today as his recent England record is rather rubbish.

I spent some time too answering a few emails and it made me realise that you spend so much time typing away and answering mails that the time goes by too quickly by half. I like to be polite and answer mails fairly promptly as it only seems the right thing to do after all, but it makes me wonder if I could speed up my time and effort by doing some voice recognition instead (indeed it'd possibly speed up doing the entries here for example) - I did try it once but it had trouble recognising my Northern twang and as such failed miserably to come across in the right way and had all sorts of wrong words everywhere. Maybe I should do one in Word and see how inaccurate the recognition is and publish the results?

But also of course there's the England rugger against France at 8pm tonight in the Rugby Union World Cup Semi, and a win there means a second straight final. Of course playing at the home of the French is going to be tricky, but of course they'll be under pressure too to actually try and win in front of their home fans. Indeed the day works out pretty well: England footy at 3, Super League Grand Final with St Helens v Leeds at 6, then the World Cup semi at 8. It could be a long day in front of the telly, but I'm going to see my friend to watch the England football with him so we can both scream at the screen in frustration, anger and joy.

I spent some time waking up this morning feeling a little worse for wear after the John Smith's last night, and so what better to get me up than some of The Prodigy? Oh yes. And if anything can get me up and rocking it has to be "Spitfire" from their "Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned" album. Not only does it feature the fantastic Juliette Lewis on vocals but the beats are massive, and it sounds really heavy and intense - all it really needs is some metal guitar and it would be bloody anthemic, but it's excellent all the same. The track was even used in the opening episode of Series 5 of CSI you know! So there's tune of the day right there.

Now off to my friend's to watch England, expect me to rant on a bit tomorrow if we play rubbish...

Friday 12th October - Validating In Sheffield

I decided to be spontaneous when I woke up this morning as I realised that MJ Hibbett and the Validators were playing Under The Boardwalk in Sheffield tonight. I had a think about it and if I couldn't take the afternoon off work then I would just have to take the train after work and go straight there, but if I could, then I could head over earlier, have a couple of hours to relax in whatever way I wanted, and then head to the venue for an evening of rocking, and why the hell not? And when I discovered that the last train back to Manchester was at 2247 meaning I'd get to Piccadilly just before midnight and so be able to get the night bus home, it all became possible.

It became even more possible when I managed to get the afternoon off work and as I had a couple of induction sessions planned for the morning, the day went by really quickly in terms of work. The students were a really lovely bunch too and one of them had her birthday today so it was over to Pizza Hut for them after the session had finished (well it's all you can eat for £5.99, bargain really) - but nonetheless they took in everything and were very attentive and even asked questions which was rather nice. I'd rather someone ask if they're not sure instead of fudging through, and I think it's only right.

So with work done, off home via Tesco to do the food shop and to get it out of the way, and whizzed round a relatively quiet shop and got all I needed done (including razor blades for the trusty Mach 3 cos I'd run out) and made myself a couple of cajun chicken burgers to keep me going. Then after a call to my friend who suggested we have coffee over at their place before I went to the gig, it was off on the train to Sheffield and over the border as I went through Totley Tunnel.

Had an enjoyable few hours with my friend, lots of good chat and conversation and coffee, and munch between us some cranberry and orange cookies I'd brought over from Tesco as a little treat, which went down rather nicely. It was a little bit of luxury and why not? Not least when the two cats were just vying for attention and a general fussing over, which was rather lovely. My friend kindly dropped me off in the centre of Sheffield in good time for the gig, and before I knew it it was getting past 7.45pm which meant the doors would soon be open for the gig, hurrah.

I got to the entrance of Under The Boardwalk and there spotted a fellow fan, Ellen, instantly recognisable in the "We Validate!" t-shirt. She had been to Leeds when I was there too so good to see a familiar face which also meant I knew I was in the right place too. Before too long Mark (MJ) Hibbett turned up with the bassist Frankie Machine, and it was good to chat to them too - mingled outside chattering away whilst at the same time checking on the progress of the rest of the Validators, who were stuck on the M1 due to an accident near Nottingham. One phone call later and they were on their way near junction 32 so they weren't far away. Because of the traffic though, the band on after them (The Fighting Cocks) were also delayed and so the gig timings were going to go a bit awry. I was just hoping for not too late a finish cos that would muck up the plans for the train home really.

The place opened its doors and we all went in. And.. what's that I see? John Smith's on cask? Well, better than nothing, and the rest was press a button stuff which as you'll know is not my drink of any choice no matter what. I was shocked when I saw the price of the cask pint though: one pound fifty! Now that is a bargain I thought to myself. Around ten minutes later the rest of the band arrived (Tom "Tiger" McClure the violinist, complete with Black Sheep t-shirt, Tim Pattison the drummer, with Joy Division Unknown Pleasures t-shirt, and
Emma Pattison the backing vocalist, and all round cuteness). Frankie and Tim were complaining about the lack of cinemas that were showing Control (none in Derby or Leicester where they're both based, boo!) but I did tell them that it was fab and they should go. Mark then spotted a couple of Sheffield fans who he knew were going to turn up too, so it was all good and ready to go, excellent.

So around 9.10 or so, almost 40 mins behind schedule, on came The Strands, a five piece from Hull. They weren't that bad and the lead singer blokey had a sort of arrogant cockiness but at the same time able to pull off some decent vocals. The drummer was really going for it, and I've seen a lot worse. A good start to the evening all round. The stage set for that place is a bit odd though, bars around the sides of the front and a small gap for bands to go in/out of at the centre, almost like you're caged in! Ellen joked to me that maybe the chains by the bars were for when Pete Doherty plays so that he couldn't escape and take drugs during the performance, hehehe.

Anyway, on went MJ Hibbett and the Validaors, and played a good set all round, including a couple of my personal favourites. So thanks to the power of the "notes" button in my phone, here's what the set entailed:

The Gay Train
My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
The Fight For History
We Can Start Having Fun
Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid
Do The Indie Kid
The Lesson Of The Smiths
Easily Impressed

As a couple of those are my personal favourites (no prizes for guessing that "The Lesson Of The Smiths" is one of them of course) it was a decent set all round. And we got some audience particpation during "Easily Impressed" which went down rather well to say the least. It was also nice to hear "We Can Start Having Fun" too as it's a relatively new one which mixed in well with the rest of the set. The "future of music" bit during "Do The Indie Kid" did have some people puzzled as to why it goes all weird, but for us fans it was just a giggle as we knew exactly where he was coming from with it. And it worked wonderfully well so for that reason alone it's going to be tune of the day - I even know people who do the actions during the chorus...

So it was time for me to say my goodbyes and head back to Sheffield train station. I made Platform 2C for the 2247 with around ten minutes or so to spare, so that was a relief all round, and the train sped off into the darkness, stopping all the way along the Hope Valley up to Chinley, then at Stockport and finally Manchester. I actually got off at Stockport and went home from there as it was just as easy for me to do that as well as get in Manchester and it also saves me a little time too, so I was back in the Towers for just before midnight, so a good day all round really. I must do this spontaneous stuff time again.

Thursday 11th October - Over The Mountain

I remembered to set the Sky plus box last night before I went to bed, as I knew they were showing extended highlights of the Bathurst 1000, which is one of the classic motor races anywhere. It's basically a 1000km touring car race for the Australian Touring Car series and is one of the rounds of that championship, but it's like no other track you'd race on. It basically goes up to Mount Panorama in Bathurst and down again, and the climb and fall up and down is one of the most iconic features. The bends on the way down such as the Dipper and Forrest Elbow are really well known in motorsport, as is the climb round the likes of The Cutting. I knew that in one of the support races, the drivers had something different to contend with - a kangaroo!

Wouldn't want to be dodging that eh? Well, with bottle of Black Sheep at room temperature it was time to sit down and watch the highlights and see how exciting the race was. And what a race! Due to the rain fairly near the end, three cars went off near the top of the mountain, the safety car was called out and then restarted with around seven laps to go. It was a struggle on slicks but the drivers tiptoed around and were really careful to make sure that they didn't take each other off. It was a very very close finish though, with the first four drivers seoparated by around two seconds. Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup eventually did win for the second year in a row, heading a Ford 1-2-3 which hadn't happened for years. For me it's one of the events of the year and to see them trying to desparately not skid off at Forrest Elbow was something else. Here's the last lap as proof:


See what I mean? Fantastic stuff, it really is. And if you ever get the chance to go, as a motorsport fan you should. I am so tempted one year to go myself you know, I'd love to be driven round there. Imagine the adrenaline rush that you'd get whizzing round that track and going down through the Dipper? Well let's just say it was an enjoyable two hours in front of the telly.

After that it was time to whack on some quality tunes to get me nicely laid back and relaxed a fair bit, so on went the likes of the Philip Glass "Heroes" Symphony. I think anyone who drives motorsport vehicles at insane speed are true heroes to be honest, they must have balls of steel and it has to be a real passion for you to risk going off at a pace that would frighten the life out of most people. The title track "Heroes" is my tune of the day and as much as I admire the original David Bowie classic (and that it is believe me) the orchestration is just rather wonderful all round - great late night listening that.

Wednesday 10th October - I'm A Family Man

I decided to spend some time with the family after work today as I'd not seen them for a bit and I also wanted some ideas for Christmas presents to get them - I have to start early you know, cos there's so many to buy for. In any case as my youngest sister has moved in to her new flat with her partner and son, it'd be a good chance to see the new place and them settling in too, always a positive thing as far as I'm concerned. First off though over to my Mum's to see my brother and the cat Mimi. Mimi was looking particularly cute and adorable and was happily letting me fuss over her like anything, whilst my brother was explaining about his forthcoming trip over the pond next month. He seems genuinely excited about it and rightly so.

Went over to my sister's (the elder of the two) after that, the three of them (her, husband and daughter) had got back from a small holiday in Euro Disney last week, and there were some lovely pictures up of the trip already on the wall, nicely framed. I asked my sister if it was her or the daughter who was the biggest kid, but in reality I know my sister would be - and no surprise when I learned she was. Her daughter (and hence my niece) was being an absolutely adorable little one, and even ended up giving me hugs a bit later on, which always make me feel pretty humble. My sister also had some good news in that she landed a part time job which meant that the work patterns of her and her husband would not be the same and so there'd always be someone to look after the little'un. Awwwww.

Popped a few doors down to see my youngest sister in her new place and it all looks rather nice. Her insistence on pink in the kitchen and bedroom was plain to see (pink kettle, toaster and microwave for example!) and they were just waiting for the fridge and microwave to arrive and be fitted and they'd be pretty much fully up and running. Whilst she was putting her son to bed, I had a good football natter with her partner. Despite him being a Man U fan, we get on fine (actually one of my best friends is also a red but that doesn't stop us being chatterboxes!) and we were discussing the England games at the weekend and next week as well as how well City are doing. He freely admitted that it was a surprise to a lot of people but said that in the likes of Micah Richards we already had the youngsters coming through and a match of youth and experience was the way to go. So there we are.

Got home a bit later on and decided that what I really needed was some soft mellow stuff to relax me this evening. I just felt like I needed to be able to put a few things into perspective I'd been feeling as of late and seeing some of the family really helped me to think about things properly and get my head back in gear, so it did an unexpected favour really. In the meantime I whacked on a bit of Seth Lakeman seeing as he was so brilliant on Saturday, and one song that I really enjoyed was "Lady of the Sea". It's growing on me with each listen and so that's going to be tune of the day. There's some footage of him on Youtube somewhere where he's playing it on GMTV and to be honest the presenter Andrew Castle hadn't got a clue who he was!!

Tuesday 9th October - A Million Ukeleles

Another long day at work as I had my head in Access databases for most of the morning - no bad thing per se but it does mean that you need to concentrate on what you're doing and also make sure that you don't make no mistakes. Thankfully because I made things quite modular and was able to remember just what I did, it means that any alterations were able to be done without too many problems and I could get on with other things. Did take me most of the morning to get sorted out though, so that has to be something. I suppose too that the coffee I got on the way in did help: I just can't hack Nescafe to be honest, it gives me headaches, whereas a nice mug of the Kenco smooth is quite handy.

I got an email from MJ Hibbett (as I'm on the mailing list) explaining that the limited edition CD release of his solo album "A Million Ukeleles" was available to order. There's only going to be 200 of them pressed, and some of those have found their way to radio stations and the like, and so I thought "well I really want one" and so ordered the combo of the CD and t-shirt for the bargain price of fifteen quid for the two. The t-shirt looks rather fab too and I'm going to enjoy wearing that one later in the month. That cheered me up no end let me tell you. I'd much rather support the artist and buy their products and mean that they can carry on making great music - it means more that way when they see a nice little payment for their efforts. Better to give than to receive, kids.

Which makes me wonder about Radiohead's concept of allowing fans to pay as much or as little as they want for a download of the new album - which seems a good idea. However, it's not all good. If you want the deluxe boxed edition with two CDs and two vinyl albums etc, it's forty quid - you can't choose how much or how little you can pay for the physical product. And that seems a little two faced to me, to be honest. Also, there's no guarantee that the digital download isn't full of DRM protection either (I can't see anything telling you otherwise), so if you use Linux for example and want to snag the new album and pay for it legally, you might run into some problems playing the thing. Nice idea guys, but next time please think about the execution a bit more - nonetheless if others learn from this and actually do something more in the vein, then at least it's a start.

I felt like whacking on some classic Moby before, not least the Come On Baby double CD EP. It's a great little effort, and I have the uber limited CD with rubber sleeve (embossed with Moby logos on the front and back) and on the first CD there's an absolutely stormingly fast version of "All That I Need Is To Be Loved" played at around 100mph in thrash metal mode. It reminds me just how people didn't get Moby during this time but it made me respect him much more as an artist. So that blistering effort is tune of the day - cos I can.

Monday 8th October - Boredom

And not the classic song by the Buzzcocks either, although one day I'm going to have to track down the CD reissue of the "Spiral Scratch" EP that Mute brought out a few years ago. I just feel a bit demotivated at the moment to be honest: I think it's because there's been quite a few unreasonable requests at work to be honest and I just kept thinking to myself "do they have any idea of what we have to deal with?" and thinking that in reality I'm getting bored and tired of being unappreciated. It just seems that the life and soul of the workplace has been sucked out by various things going on, and that's not good to be honest. Can't really say too much as I don't want to whinge as such, just wish that certain things could be reversed so I could go back a bit.. still, best get on with it and all that.

And I've got something nice planned at the end of the month! Basically, I'm going to be doing all three dates of MJ Hibbett's solo tour to promote his new album "A Million Ukeleles". As one of them is in Manchester itself, that's rather nice, but the other two dates are in Glasgow and Bristol. That works out great, because not only can you get cheap fares on Virgin trains to and from Manchester to both cities (booked them and it was £12 each way to and from each place) but it then means that I get to go to Glasgow, and it's one city that I've wanted to go to for some time to be honest - heard quite a few nice things about it. So a whistle stop tour of the country and some great music thrown in. Excellent stuff - that's cheered me up already!

I decided to go through some of my back catalogue of Joy Division stuff tonight, as I've got some of the CD singles, Peel sessions et al as well as the albums. One rather nice little thing I located was on the 1988 CD single of "Atmosphere", which happened to have the encore from their 1979 gig at The Factory, which was "Transmission". Simply that played live is absolutely fantastic and you can hear the raw energy and passion that is on throughout: I wish I'd been old enough to see them live in the day and this just shows why: so that's got to be my tune of the day really. And for those of you who have fond memories of old telly programmes, this live performance by the band should explain just why they were so good:

Sunday 7th October - A Pain In The Right Rear

It was the Chinese Grand Prix today, and as my friend and I are big F1 fans, and as I was staying at their place, we both agreed that we'd watch the 11.30am re-run instead of getting up at silly o'clock for the 7am start - which also meant we could have breakfast and be relatively chilled out with a coffee beforehand, which was just the job all round. It's nice sometimes when you're looked after by someone, and I'd do the same for any of my friends when they were here (as I did a few weeks back of course) so it's a mutually good thing. Not least as there was a nice raspberry yogurt too, oh yes, now we are talking.

We watched the F1 and whoa, what a race that was. The weather definitely played a part, and although it was intermediate tyres all the way, once the track started to dry out and a dry line was forming, it was really playing into the hands of anyone who could pit for dry tyres at the right time and then get out and get going. The one stoppers could have an advantage, I thought, but it all depended on the weather. Indeed as the front runners Hamilton and Raikkonen were two stopping, this ultimately meant that the tyre stops first time were crucial. Both of them opted to stay on their intermediates and only fuel the car, and it would be a question of tyre wear.

And that question really came to the fore later on. Raikkonen was eating chunks into Hamilton's lead by big margins, and we could see why: Hamilton's tyres were absolutely shot and he was having problems keeping the car in a straight line. It all seemed to be the right rear that was the worse off: it was delaminating badly and you could see the white marks around the car: and as he went to the pits to finally change tyres (the team should have called him in laps earlier!!) he went too fast into the corner to the pit lane, overshot it and beached the car in the gravel trap where he couldn't get out.

This of course meant that if Raikkonen and Alonso finished high enough in the points, it would be down the wire in Brazil in two weeks time - and they didn't fail! Raikkonen won, and crucially it also means he has more wins than Hamilton or Alonso which could be crucial in the countback scheme of things, and Alonso was second. Once the track was drying out everyone had switched to dry tyres and Sebastian Vettel in the Toro Rosso came off really well: got his change done at the right time and was one stopping and so finished in a superb fourth place. Jenson Button, although having to two stop in the end, was eating up those in front for breakfast and did plenty of overtaking as he found grip and confidence, and his fifth place was an impressive drive too: all credit to him for that.

But two weeks time, I will be indisturbable that's for sure. It's 5pm, Sunday October 21st, the Brazilian Grand Prix, and I am so there glued to the telly. It'll be full widescreen and surround for this, and indeed I'll have to play Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" on DVD-Audio at full blast to get myself really pumped up for this one: and indeed listening to it now it still rocks - so that's tune of the day right there.

Made my way back from my friend's place later in the afternoon and as luck would have it, the HMV in Piccadilly station was still open by the time I got back, so I checked in there to see if they had the Ben's Brother album in. Not only did they have it, but it was also a mere £7.95, so that was immediately purchased on the way home - can't argue at that price really can I? So I'll give that a spin later tonight I think - only seems about right that I do and it'll remind me of a great gig as well so no arguments there. Right, back to it...

Saturday 6th October - Oh, Kitty Jay!

Well after last night's bit of epic film, it was a complete change of scenery today and over to see a good friend of mine for most of the weekend - not least as we were both heading over to Leeds with a friend of my friend to see Seth Lakeman in the evening as well. I've appreciated the stuff he's done (he even wrote a song about the Penlee lifeboat disaster, and anyone who's ever been to Mousehole in Cornwall, like me, will know about that) and I thought it was about time that I went and saw him live. Originally, the Manchester gig was going to be at the Ritz, and as the sound system is a bit rubbish, I opted for Leeds instead - and sod's law, the week after the tickets were sorted out, the Manchester gig got moved to the Academy 2. Ah well, it's a Saturday night out, that's how I was looking at it!

Got to my friend's place and had a leisurely afternoon listening to plenty of stuff, including Seth Lakeman's early stuff on his "The Punch Bowl" CD. Apparently the song "How Much" on there has been a staple diet of his live set and there was a good chance he was going to play it tonight. I was pretty impressed: it sounded pretty good from where I heard it. We settled down and had a curry around five, nice chicken pasanda too, spot on that was. It would at least keep us going throughout. The gig was starting early by all accounts - I had a feeling it was because the venue would most likely have a club night on afterwards and they'd probably kick people out.

Anyway, my friend's friend arrived, and we headed in their car up the M1 and into Leeds itself. Leeds City centre is such a nightmare if you're driving: sometimes I'm just glad I can head up there on the train if I'm ever visiting. After a negotiation of the city centre loop and avoiding a multi storey car park that didn't tell you till you almost got in that it would be closing at 9pm (what bloody use is that?) we found another multi-storey quite close by and it was close enough to the venue to be a short walk up one of the main roads from the centre. Phew!

The three of us headed in the venue, and it was clear that despite the bar queue plenty were inside the venue, and with good reason. Ben's Brother, the support act, were already on and had started their set. We did get to see most of it and we were all suitably impressed by them. A colleague of mine at work had seen them in Manchester and said they were great, and they were here too. They even tried to get the crowd singing along to the track "Live" which some of them did, so that was nice for them. I might have to track down their CD, you know..

With that done, I went to the bar and did the honours, and good job I did - the queue was massive, and I got back just in time for the start of Seth doing his thing, so that worked out nicely. And Seth was absolutely great - he really was. Whether he was going for it with the fiddle, playing an acoustic guitar or banjo, he sounded in great voice despite being a bit bugged up with the flu, and the whole band really seemed to be enjoying themselves, along with a very chilled out and enthusiastic vibe in the crowd. Now why can't all gigs be like this I wondered to myself?

As it turned out, as it was getting on towards the end of the set, a master stroke was pulled out from all stops, first off, an extended version of "How Much" which sounded absolutely blistering, and much better than it does on record (which believe me is saying something) and straight after that, it was just Seth on his own and he started really going for it with the fiddle: and no wonder: he was quick to begin with as he laid into "Kitty Jay" (the title track of one of his earlier albums) and kept going faster and faster with the fiddle, which was rather impressive. I can't really give anything else other than this tune of the day - it just was mesmerising stuff and you could see that everyone was just in awe.

He then did a couple of nice numbers for the encore, including one which he called the Scrumpy set (cider links in there obviously) and it just seemed pretty freehand but all good fun nonetheless with a few of the audience even doing a little jig around in apprecation, which I'm sure that he noticed and had a big grin at. It just set the tone off for a really nice evening all round, and I think that worked very well on the whole. Just wish that he could have gone on for a bit longer and not be restricted by the 10pm curfew, but an hour and twenty minutes was a darned fine set anyway and I'm sure that the new EP out in a couple of weeks should sell well.

Back down to my friend's we went and chilled out by watching the Levellers live DVD from Reading Hexagon in 2006: it was great fun actually not least as during One Way I even got the bit right where the crowd all shout the particular word out - and that reminded me of the days of the likes of that, River Flow, World Freak Show and 15 Years being played at indie nights - oh how I miss them. In fact, I must get round to purchasing "A Weapon Called The Word" on CD at some point - listened to it earlier and didn't realise that it still sounded that good!

Friday 5th October - Love Will Tear Us Apart, Again

Well it was off out into the centre of Manchester after a long and arduous day at work to the Cornerhouse. It felt somehow right and bohemian enough that to see a film about a Manchester indie band, that I needed to go basically to a Manchester indie cinema to really appreciate it a lot more. It was just the logic that I have, and in essence it's also because I'd rather support the smaller cinema than necessarily give my money to some big corporate. As it stood, buying my ticket yesterday was actually a good move on all counts - as I headed to the Cornerhouse bar for a coffee pre-film, there were notices everywhere saying that the 8.35 showing had sold out. Phew!

I went to the bar and had a latte to tide me over nicely and despite it being rather busy I managed to get a seat close enough to a table so I could rest my latte there and take my time with everything, and it was nice to watch the world go past even if everyone and the world seemed to be in couples that night. I have no problems with that per se, just seems to be that for these sort of films it's like everyone is a couple except for you, and that did leave me feeling a little sad but also more determined to enjoy the film really.

And enjoy it I most certainly did! I'm not going to give too much away, primarily as I might end up doing a review, but I do want to see it second time around if that tells you anything. The black and white cinematography really worked well and it defintiely added to the whole feel superbly, but not just that, a full cinema engrossed for over two hours. I could go on, as you could imagine, but there was so much to praise it for. If you don't believe me for now feel free to read the BBC's review - they liked it too, as do the watchers. Must admit I did feel quite sad leaving the cinema actually late on at night: I did feel visibly moved and I really wanted to curl up in bed and go to sleep.

With that in mind, nothing else but a song from the soundtrack could ever be tune of the day for today - as not only do Joy Division's songs feature, but songs for the time of Ian Curtis' life and the capturing of the feel of the whole thing. And because it is one of JD's most under-rated songs, "Dead Souls" gets my vote. It was originally released on some obscure fanzine cover disc before getting a proper release on the 1981 "Still" compilation, and it's just so haunting and dark really. Do listen to it if you get the chance, or even better, buy the whole Control soundtrack!


Thursday 4th October - Control, I'm There!

I noticed from the forthcoming list of films on that the Anton Corbijn directed Joy Division biopic, Control, is on this weekend. And... if I'd have got off my backside a bit quicker I'd have been able to go and see a special screening at the Cornerhouse tonight, but no matter. For a film like this, I'd much rather see it at the Cornerhouse anyway, because it seems the right sort of arty place where less mainstream films get to be shown (I remember seeing the completely fab "Festen" there years ago) and give money to them instead of some multiplex conglomerate. Plus of course being a Mancunian and growing up with the likes of Joy Division's music, it means more to the likes of me too. By the look of what I've seen, the bloke who plays Ian Curtis seems to have him down to a tee, and that's saying something. Should be exciting.

With that in mind it was off to Tesco tonight to do the food shopping to save me some time and hassle tomorrow so I can get home, get showered, ready and out. It just seemed more sensible to do so and I broke my own record for Tesco food shopping and went round there in approximately nine minutes, this included fabric conditioner and loo roll which I'd run out of, so that was impressively fast. That also meant I was able to take an earlier bus back home and get things sorted out around the house, not least as the footy's on later and it'd be interesting to see if Everton can get through tonight against Metallist Kharkiv in Ukraine. I have a horrible feeling about it but I can tell you tomorrow if I was right or not..

In the meantime I've been working on a couple of future projects (well okay not projects as such but possible future breaks away) and I've come up with a really good idea: so good in fact that I hope it comes to fruition. Not going to give the game away too much at the moment but it does involve lots of gigs and lots of beer, in that order!! So that can't be bad. Just need to book the week off work tomorrow and that's all going to be rather lovely methinks. I like it when a plan comes together (in true A-Team tradition!)

Anyway, a quick tune of the day today as my brain is frazzled: and with the film coming out tomorrow, "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division seems only a right choice - still my favourite song of all time, even if on the single itself the band couldn't decide which version they liked best, hence two different variations on the 12" single, but the one that gets played the most is the one I adore to bits. So there!

Wednesday 3rd October - Asda Be A Bargain!

So another day at work done, and plenty of PC builds sorted out for next week when there's an open day of sorts going on, and rather than go straight home from work, I'm off to get some birthday and Christmas presents sorted out. First stop, the Manchester City club shop. Now I know full well I could purchase the present online, but.. and here's the kicker: there's a four pounds postage charge. And seeing as it's not that far from me I may as well just take the bus up there after work, save the charge and still get the discount that I get for being an Access card holder. See, there's method to my madness you know!

So got to the shop, found the item I was after (and the first choice present was in stock so that was me well and truly sorted out!) and then it was off to the tills to pay. Amazingly there's still no chip and pin facility there and you have to sign.. what the? I'm so used to chip and pin now, it's much quicker and indeed I feel a lot safer using it, so there you go. Still, that done, out of the ground and to Asda. Except the exit I'd normally use is only seemingly open on a match day. What a bloody own goal that is!! Had to end up walking the long way around the ground and then to the entrance to Asda Eastlands. Hmm... impressed, not.

Anyway, lots of people endlessly mooching around Asda and that really does do my head in at times: you know, just go in, get the stuff you need and out again. It's not that difficult to do really is it? In fact, once I'd found the section I was after and the present I was after (it's a joint Christmas present, good idea I thought) and I had gone through to the tills in pretty much record time, handily spotting a fast pay type counter with no one on it. And yet you see couples all the time arguing about which pasta sauce to get and what food to buy: I feel like saying to them that life's too short to argue and that it'd only eat them up emotionally in the end...

Got back home, chuffed with my present at a bargain price which meant I stuck within budget for Christmas presents, and indeed still had plenty of time to make a few phone calls, settle back with the new series of Watchdog, drink coffee and listen to some music. There's method in my madness sometimes you know! And talking of music, I felt in somewhat of a reflective mood today so it was on with some Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. "Nobody's Baby Now" is just wonderfully well delivered, and has that spark of emotion that other artists can only dream of, so that's tune of the day.

Tuesday 2nd October - Grow Grow Grow

Another day at the office and for the first time in two weeks, no induction sessions for the first years. I have to say I do feel relieved at that as I've been a bit cautious of my throat giving way during this time: there's only so much spiel that you can repeatedly say over and over again without you sounding a bit like a death metal singer. As my brother correctly observes, those sort of bands should call themselves Buttercup Syrup or Veno's, cos that's what you'll need after trying to impersonate their grunts of death. Hehe. Ironic considering right now as I'm typing this I've got Obituary's "Cause of Death" CD in the player - but at least you can work out their lyrics!

Went round to see my auntie and uncle tonight and spent most of the time with a nice cuppa and watching the Champions League on the telly. Just great to chill out and put the football world to rights with me uncle and the two kids (well not kids strictly but you know what I mean!) and then just generally have a catch up too. Sometimes it's just good to see family, you know? And as they don't live that far, it's always good to see them and have a nice time. I also got some birthday and Christmas present ideas while I was there, so in effect I can kill off a couple of presents in one fell swoop by the end of the week which has to be rather nice all round I reckon. I feel like I've got started now and when I'm in that sort of mood I just want to carry on and get it all done, busy me you know!

It's funny as well how things always seem to catch up with you as well: I realised tonight that in essence I've not actually stopped for a while because of one thing or another and I need a bit of a chill out at the weekend. In essence I'm having that cos I'm going to see Seth Lakeman in Leeds and spending time with a friend too, so that'll be rather fab and also I won't necessarily need to go so mental. Always nice when it's more mellow stuff that you can just enjoy, you know how it is!

Talking of chilled out moments, that new PJ Harvey album is really really growing on me. And so no surprise that tune of the day is from that album, namely "Grow Grow Grow" which just sounds so beautifully melancholy, and I love the way that the piano sounds a little slightly detuned and almost disturbed. Don't know about you, but sometimes production can sound too perfect and it's often nice to hear a bit of imperfection to make things a bit more real, so you rock, Polly!

Monday 1st October - Dedication, That's What You Need

After writing yesterday's diary entry in the afternoon, I headed out to one of the local bars as they were having an acoustic gig on, and it was showcasing quite a few artists out there. I got to see the last three as I'd got there around half four, but the main reason I was going was because Donna Marie was playing, and as regular readers of this site know, I've become quite an admirer of her music. And seeing as the gig was virtually on the doorstep I didn't have any excuse not to go really.

So, first up when I got there was Rob McCulloch, and he wasn't bad, although he could have done without forgetting the words to his last song and having to restart it twice before choosing another. He also admittedly wasn't helped by the mixing desk, or lack of quality of it, as the sound was either too much guitar or too much vocal and that certainly didn't help for my discerning listening ear. Mind you, after a breather on went Emma Ellis, and she wasn't that bad. Certainly her big voice made up for the lack of vocals on the mix, and she didn't sound that bad. As far as I know she's unsigned at the moment, but lots of her song seemed to be about love or lack of, and that I'm sure would be a chord for many people to strike in.

But of course the timing was all set for Donna Marie to do her thing, which was really nice in a mellow mid-afternoon setting. Bringing her own Shure mic brought dividends of course, as did all the other bits she needed. Oh, and one guitar. Gretschen (her other guitar) was in for repair so it was just Gracie today (and I'm sure she's not the only woman out there to name her guitars either) but nonetheless it still worked out very well, and if anything quite a fluid seven song set considering that she didn't have to change in between tracks. So as ever here's what the handy note bit of me phone said she did:

A Night Like This
Make You Mine
Perfect Fit
Like A Hollywood Film
Holiday From Myself
The Other Half
Goodtime Girl

Just really nice to hear them all, not least as it was good to see Goodtime Girl at the end! However, I felt really humbled as well. As she was announcing "Make You Mine" she dedicated it to me, saying "This one's for Warren, I think it's his favourite" which really made me feel all Ready Brek glowing inside, if you know what I mean. I didn't expect that (and I don't to be honest either) and it was just a lovely thing. And it sounded soooo good too. In fact I've not got that song out of my head at work either so it's for obvious reasons tune of the day. I just hope she chucks it on the album when she records it, but in the meantime, Donna, you are an absolute gem and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Actually what was also nice was that I got to meet her bass player who she's recruited and he seems a rather good bloke all round, knowledgable about the music and was able to see first hand just what I've been going on about to you dear readers for the last few months. I can see things taking shape and speaking from a purely me point of view, it's just good to see the whole embryonic process of someone making it and actually achieving something they've always wanted to do. It does inspire me in a way and that has to be a lovely thing, don't you think? Well I do.

And all day too I've been thinking about just how much I've come along in myself. It was tiring having to speak to a load of Architecture students in the morning, but also rewarding in the afternoon when I was able to help people on their way and be able to reassure them of any problems being solved. In essence that's why I like what I do: I like to help people and I prefer to give and not take, so perfect really. And with that in mind I know that although there inevitably will be changes in the months ahead, I've just got to take them on with a firm head and know that I can just be able to look after myself.