Dear Diary... September 2003

Tuesday 30th September - Decongesting..

Urgh! I can always tell when the students are back at work, and for one reason alone. There is always a bit of a flu bug going around them all (probably because they haven't realised summer is officially over) and I always seem to get it no matter how many precautions I take. So I'm a little bunged up at the moment and taking some decongestants to try and keep myself breathing well and taking on plenty of hot drinks (which I normally do anyway with all the coffee and lemon and grapefruit tea I have at home). I was really shivery yesteday so downed the decons and went straight to bed for a very long sleep and some recovery, which seemed to at least do something to get rid of the shivers, I felt awful though. Even the fact City had thrown away so many chances to win against Tottenham didn't even make me feel as bad as the wretched cold seems to do. And sod's law it has to be the week that I'm off to the Academy 2 (tomorrow in fact) to see Frank Black and the Catholics. I guess I'm in the middle of my cold period so hopefully it'll die down a bit by tomorrow night and I shouldn't be too bad. I so want Frank and the guys to rock and kick ass to make me feel better, might just be the therapy I need.

Not to mention because of the excessive amount of PC inductions I seem to be doing for the first years this year, it's pretty good though as we get to know who they are and also what they need to do to get on. Whenever you show them the trick of using quotation marks around a multiple word search in Google to find what you want, they really are amazed, but it's an excellent tip and something everyone should use. Either that or at least try some of the other tips mentioned on there. And just for the record, using Google with Swedish Chef from the Muppet Show language is highly recommended. Bork bork bork! Of course we have to remind students what they can and can't do, and this includes any installation of dodgy warez software et al. If they want to do that on their PCs at home, it's up to them and to face any consequences but they'll soon realise that there's always good alternatives you can find. For example, you hate Microsoft Office? Snag OpenOffice instead, pretty good considering it's free. Hate Spam? Check out SAProxy and so on.

Anyway, had a good weekend which included all you can eat Chinese with a friend of mine. I can very heartily recommend Buffet City to anyone, it's another all you can eat place that's opened on Portland Street, conviently positioned close to the hotels like Ibis and Travel Inn too, which is rather neat. The menu and food is pretty similar to that No 1 Oriental Buffet do, but Buffet City also have Thai stuff like Thai pork toast and the addition of crispy won tun, which is a big definite plus. Oh, and the prices are the same or better than No 1, which means £5-50 for all you can eat lunch (but to 6pm!) and still £6-50 all day Sunday. Now all they need is a Mr. Whippy ice-cream machine to complete the set, and everything's rosy. I did try a couple of excellent new things they had too, like pork with lemongrass (words cannot describe how nice this actually was) and beef in oyster sauce (also quite divine). And they kept my favourite crabsticks in tact, oh yes. So, well worth checking out if you're in Manchester. And even if you're not, go there anyway for a meal out. You won't regret it.

Interestingly, after hitting town on the Saturday night I noticed something: students are on the whole rubbish at playing pool. I went to The Pub on Grosvenor Street (no kidding, the place is actually called The Pub, confusing eh?) and to be honest the standard was non-existent. Good job it wasn't winner stays on the table, or else anyone half-decent have probably been on there most of the night, hehe. But compared to how that place is in the summer (they don't even open till 6pm when students aren't here if that tells you anything) it's an amazing turnaround. Not to mention the queue for Holy City Zoo (or The Zoo as it's now called) around the back of there. Shame it actually doesn't play any decent mixes, but that's another matter.

Anyway time for more decongesting - see you all next month!

Thursday 25th September - Some things never change

Last night I was off to the City of Manchester Stadium to see my beloved Manchester City play their first first round UEFA Cup tie in twenty five years. Quite frankly we were a bit lucky to scrape a 3-2 win after Lokeren exceeded all expectations and went 2-1 up at half time due to some right defensive howlers at the back that really need to be sorted. Even early on I could see what was wrong and yet it took Kevin Keegan a fair bit longer to recognise that we had no right wing - and that every time the ball was in midfield this left Jihai Sun exposed on the right on his own. My simple solution was to bring on Shaun Wright-Phillips and let him run at defenders. Not exactly rocket science you might have thought, and when he came on straight away he gave everyone a lift that ultimately changed the game in our favour (thankfully). However, the two away goals conceded means it could be a tricky time in Belgium in just under three weeks time. It's not that that upset me though, it's a couple of other things.

Firstly, if us City fans are supposed to be the most loyal and devoted and all that, I'd love to know just where they were last night. An attendance of just over 29,000 is frankly nothing short of embarrassing considering we have 36,000 season ticket holders of a 48,000 capacity stadium, it really is. Although you could argue that UEFA regulations of not being allowed to sell any tickets on the day don't help, and the fact that the tickets were charged the same price as a normal league game may have indeed priced the fans out a bit, you still have to turn up and support your team if you can. The league games sell out, and for heaven's sake, this is the first time City have played a European campaign since the 1978-79 season, a long long time ago, and it shouldn't matter either who the opposition is. At the end of the day there's too many so-called supporters who can't be meithered for the cup games when they're a perfect opportunity to get a couple of tickets and take the kids along if they've not been to a game before.

Secondly, not to mention the silence from most of them with the only real noise and support coming from the Lokeren fans. I should note that being in tier 2 of the South Stand near the Lokeren fans allowed me to see and hear them supporting their team all the way through the ninety minutes. Now why can't we do that? I started to try and get a chant going only to get a few funny looks from some people lower down in the tier. For crying out loud, this is a game of football, chanting and singing and cheering your lads on is part of supporting your team and getting behind them, rather than just sit there silent and boo them at half time for two bad mistakes and not for the fact that they at least had tried hard against a side who were happy to put ten men behind the ball most of the game. I dunno, it's really odd being at the City of Manchester Stadium and not experiencing any sort of atmosphere like I was used to at Maine Road. Maybe I'm being a bit nostalgic here, but grounds survive on atmosphere. An independent source who has their grounds guide website used to rank City highly at Maine Road in terms of atmosphere and so on, and compare the ratings of Maine Road the City of Manchester Stadium for yourself at his site. See what I mean? I have to agree. Rant over, I think (for now). I love my team, and every time I see them I enjoy the game on the whole. I just guess I wish that we could once and for all prove that we are the good loyal fans that everyone else seems to think we are.

But some things never change: and one of them is that the first week of term is just student mania everywhere. If they're not enrolling, they've forgotten their computer password, if they've not forgotten their password then they're trying to locate a lecturer, and so on. It must be pretty daunting for some of them though, coming to a new city, learning where to go (and just as importantly, where not to go), the bus routes to their halls and so on. I can always tell as the bus I get home from work doesn't go past one of the main student areas, but when you don't know, you get on and ask away and then know next time not to get on that one. It's all a learning curve and it's something that they do over time. I wouldn't like to be a student myself though, far too much debt that you'd be getting into. Bearing in mind there's up to £1,125 tuition fees per year, plus possible course visits, rent for your accomodation (and no way does the £3,500 student loan per year cover that and the basic cost of living!) and other such items and it's a pretty expensive do. Lots of people still wish to do it and the best of luck to them, but I would be far too worried about the debts appearing over my head now to do a degree.

Monday 22nd September - I got a supermodel on my D..

Well, although today at work has been officially hellish (students are back the first day, and not everything in terms of what the students are doing is actually going to plan) it's not that I'm going to dwell on - instead the first two concerts I've been to since November last year. Ironically, the last gig I went to at that time was Fun Lovin' Criminals at Manchester Academy, and guess who I was seeing again? Yeah, Fun Lovin' Criminals. Not that I was complaining of course, I've seen them around five or six times before and they rocked every single time.

Friday night was not going to be a disappointment, oh no. It was one and three quarter hours of enjoyment as they played through a high chunk of their new album "Welcome To Poppy's", and a fair bit of their classic old stuff, needless to say the whole crowd went a bit mental when the likes of Scooby Snacks, King of New York and The Fun Lovin' Criminal were played, and I did feel a little smug as some of the audience cheered at the false end of "Baby", which made me have a wry little smile. I guess if they haven't heard the album they wouldn't have expected the song to kick back in like it does. And last song before the encore, Big Night Out, and unlike the album, they redo the end bit at 110mph on all cylinders with the immortal line "I got a supermodel on my D".. which just makes the whole thing work really well. I did feel a little sad when they played Love Unlimited though, because the main focus of the chorus is the line "Barry White saved my life.." and of course the Walrus of Lurve sadly isn't with us anymore, which is a great shame. I know a few of the women were they as they fancy the ass off the singer Huey Morgan, I think it's his attitude and the way he is as much as the looks which gives hope to us all non-perfectly tanned or skinned men out there..

Saturday was a different kettle of fish, and I was in black to look the part as it was Gary Numan on only one of two dates at the moment. This concert was also being filmed for a forthcoming official DVD release of the man live, so as you can expect word got around and the Academy was pretty busy as well. It turned out in the early hours of Saturday morning his wife had had their newborn, and so when he announced it to the masses everyone flung him some soft toys for the baby and went mental, it was such a nice atmosphere. Needless to say although he concentrated on his newer darker Industrial stuff (which I really respect him for too) the old classics like Down in the Park and Are Friends Electric? really got the crowd going, and anyone who can survive twenty five years in the music industry and all its rubbish pop stars who can't even play instruments must be pretty good, and he is. Live, he and the band rocked the house with so much energy and passion - and even the support act Nylon Pylon were good too. Result!

And that isn't all - I've got Frank Black a week on Wednesday (which I am so looking forward to) and then at the end of October Kristin Hersh is doing a solo acoustic gig - but it's in London. Aaargh. I am so seriously tempted to go, but it's a case of how much it'd cost to get down there, stay over etc, and I'd need the time off work as well. But then again it is Kristin Hersh, so anything's possible.

Now, back to the grind...

Wednesday 17th September - Hooray, Hooray, I've been on holiday

Well, what a week I had last week as I had my first proper week away holiday for ten years. It's something I'd been looking forward to since January (yes, that long ago) and once I'd nominated where I was going and found a nice little cottage to suit, all I had to think about was what I'd get up to during the week and how to best plan it in case the weather turned a little. As it happened, the weather was really good all week with only one real half hour burst of rain. There were a few showers overnight, but they were at 2am in the morning and I was well in the land of nod by then anyway, so it didn't really affect me.

So, Saturday 6th, off I set to Whitby, changing trains at Middlesbrough (with a view of their footy ground from the platform, oh joy. Not.) and then along the scenic Esk Valley Line all the way to Whitby, single track line all the way along, too. Got to the cottage and realised that as nice as it was the spiral staircase was just too steep for my case, so I unpacked downstairs and just took things up to the bedroom bits at a time. The layout was rather different, you step into the kitchen at ground floor level, upstairs to the first floor lounge, then up to the bedroom with ensuite shower and toilet. Small, but cosy and very nice to stay in indeed. And, sheltered away from the main streets although nestled nicely in the old town and the abbey not too far away either, complete bonus.

On Sunday I did a little bit of exploring the two piers and looking out from the end of them over the lovely blue sea, and then headed up the 199 stairs (and I did count them to check, sad aren't I?) to Whitby Abbey. The view from the top of the stairs is something, but when you're actually in the abbey words can't describe how actually awe-inspiring it is. Just stood against one of the walls looking upwards and realising the sheer size and scale of the place really makes you wonder how the hell these sort of places were built with such fine craftsmanship back in the 6th century. Incidentally in 664, there was a meeting at the abbey which decided what day Easter falls on every year, a rule we still follow to this day believe it or not.

Monday - and off to Scarborough. The town is pleasant enough with quite a plentitude of pound shops (bonus) but certainly along the seafront I felt it could do with freshening up a little. I did discover Anne Brontë's grave, and as a fan of literature I paid my respects to one the three sisters. I also discovered a distinct lack of pinball machines as well - in every arcade I went to bar one there wasn't a pinball in sight. And even when I found it, it was a pretty knackered WWF Royal Rumble machine. But that was made up by going in Olympia Amusements and finding a still working Track and Field machine, oh joy! Ages since I played that one so I really had to go and smash almost all the World Records on the game (8.77 in the 100 metres too, close to my personal best!). I went on the harbour as well and saw lots of boats come in and out giving pleasure cruises to the masses. Unfortunately there seemed to be a lot of the older folk around the place, almost making it quite a surreal experience.

Tuesday was mostly relaxing, but I did take in the Dracula Experience, pretty good it is too. Winding your way around a three storey building in Whitby centre, you take in all the history of the story of Dracula, how it is linked with Whitby, all the costumes and realistic effects, and a few parts that made me jump as things came at you from all directions. The fact you walk through it in almost total darkness with a few lighting effects here and there really makes for a different experience - although it'll only last you 10-20 minutes maximum. Not bad for less than two pounds. I also took in the Captain Cook statue and the whale bone arch on the West Cliff, and noted they even had an Arnold Palmer putting thing (not that much cop, but still it was crazy golf). One of the arcades in Whitby had an indoor crazy golf thingy and I had a go, pretty good fun and I got a low score of 54, not my best but pretty decent really. Oh, and the local TV company were filming part of an episode of the show "Heartbeat" in one of the antiques shops as well...

On the Wednesday it was off on the little bus (minibus actually) to Grosmont, to link up with the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and off to Pickering and its castle. The railway is a line that's been preserved by enthusiasts, and it shows, with really old nice carriages, steam trains and all that. The moors it cuts through are just stunning as well - really beautiful and plenty of room to explore if you're into long distance walks and all that. Pickering Castle was really good as well - really historic and intriguing to see just how and why the stone walls were built, the defences made and all that. On the way back I had some spare time to I hopped off the train at Goathland, a good decision. Not only did I explore the village made famous by "Heartbeat" but again the TV company was filming. Because of this, massive crowds were around and so I escpaed by having a well earned pint at the Goathland Hotel - otherwise known to fans of the show as the Aidensfield Arms! I did that just to be so one up on my mum rather than anything else, but you may as well go in while you're there, you know. Got back later and watched the England game and wished I hadn't bothered, we were so boring.

Thursday saw more exploration abound as the intrepid traveller me went on a boat, a replica of Captain Cook's ship called the Bark Endeavour. This isn't the one with the sails on currently touring around the country, but nevertheless the ship here offered a 30 minute quarter mile cruise out to sea, and all with the history of the ship, Cook and Whitby giving you an essential guide to the area and such like. In fact coming back inland was when I experienced the only rain of the week - and that actually added to the boat cruise in the end. Explored more of the harbour marina too and went into one of the pubs there - only it tended to be more for locals, and I got some right dirty looks from some. Shame that, but I can see their point - it is their home after all, I'm just here for the week.

I felt sad on Friday, it was the last full day before I headed off home on the train ay 8-45am Saturday morning. So I made the most of it and took the three mile walk on the beach from Whitby to Sandsend, where they have a little café that does home made ice cream, so gorgeous and well worth the walk for. I opted out of the walk back and headed on the bus instead, and then into the Captain Cook Museum, where lots of exhibits of the great man, the ships, the letters explaining the voyages (no wonder they didn't let you take pictures, these were the originals!) - really nicely done. Ate out on the Friday night and then felt sad the moment the train left the place on the Saturday morning. I'll be back there at some point again I'm sure, it's a place you can so easily fall in love with. The pace is so slow and relaxing, most of the shops open at 10am and some close at 4pm every day, there's no overcommercialism in the old town, indeed a lot of it are still houses, and what's more it has a lot of history and heritage. Next time I go I'll have to try the ghost walks as well, I think, must make a mental note of that.

And so back home and had to do lots of washing - yawn. And back to work where it's been boiling and I've felt really hot and bothered shifting PCs around. The week away I had seems like a long time away now, but I'll forever hold memories dear of the place in my heart, it's inspired me to write more so maybe I'll go headlong into it at some point, definitely. Now back to the grind...

Friday 5th September - Thank Crunchie it's Friday

It's been one of those intense weeks at work where we've really got a lot done: I've been running around like a chicken (thankfully not headless though) in an attempt to get everything I need to do sorted. It was manic, but definitely not like the Bangles song either. I guess everything is pretty much there for when the students return in two weeks' time, I hope so anyway.

I spent some time tonight checking my CD collection against a master list I have on Excel, and to my surprise there were a fair few CDs I'd not noted down on my spreadsheet - lazy me! I guess I should get into the routine of actually updating the information when I've bought the CD. While I was doing that it gave me a good excuse (as if I needed any!) to listen once again to the excellent new Frank Black CD (see the reviews section) which really was the perfect CD for the mood, followed by The Crow soundtrack CD, just because it's a kick ass soundtrack from my favourite film ever (mental note: must do a top ten films at some point - there'll be a few surprises in there). It's great sometimes how listening to a CD can really just put you in the mood to do stuff, even boring stuff like using the Dyson vacuum cleaner and getting everywhere around the house clean (shock and horror and all that).

I noted too that Manchester City midfield dynamo Joey Barton got his first cap for the England Under 21-s today. Sadly David Platt has turned the U21s into a laughing stock, and we really need a change of management. He refused to pick Joey Barton's team mate, Shaun Wright-Phillips, for ages even though SWP was in superb form, and he openly admitted before the game today that he hasn't picked the team based on club form. Like, that is not the way to manage a national side! The U21s didn't play well today either, and Joey was the only bright spark in an otherwise awful performance, to be honest. I only hope the national team can play a bit better when they take on Macedonia in Skopje tomorrow. Make no mistake about it, it's not the easiest game ever (as Turkey almost found to their cost recently) and we'll have to be professional. I am sure I'll be tuning into the game on BBC1 somehow.

The next diary update won't be for a few days, but it'll be a large one. Stay tuned!

Monday 1st September - Not a case of the Mondays

Well, a new month already. Really, the year is going by far too quickly for my liking and it doesn't feel eight months since I started the revamping of my webspace. Officially from today I'm now Information Systems Officer, so I had a feedback meeting early in the morning. It didn't last long and on the whole was positive although I did note some room for improvement in places, so it was good to know where to be able to turn that into a positive thing and act on it, hopefully. I am sure the coming months will be able to give me more experience and in turn improve my skills, so here's hoping.

Over the weekend I've been busy trying out a couple of things: first off is Spam Assassin POP3 Proxy for Windows, a little program that basically checks your email for spam before it hits your email program's mailbox, and flags offending spam accordingly, so you can set a simple mail rule to throw away all the rubbish spam email that you get. And believe me, you get loads. Anything from penis enlargement to generic Viagra and other such rubbish. The beauty of the program is a) it's simple to set up, b) it works, c) it can be configured and tweaked slightly so you can accept emails from certain domains if you wish to, d) it's a free download for the basic version which does all you need to, and e) it makes my life a lot better without having to deal with lots of rubbishI don't need to. One of my friends has also tried it too, and they're impressed with it on the whole, so why not give it a try? You never know, it might make your life better as well (unlike the Atkins diet).

Second, a mass of washing and ironing clothes ready for my forthcoming holiday. I hate both chores, so decided to blast through it on Sunday while I had the chance, saving me less stress for during the week when all I really want to do is chill out and relax in front of the TV or listening to some CDs. It gave me chance to watch the World Athletics Championships, as I've been doing most of last week, and it really made me think about why the British didn't do so well this year. Well, shockingly, I hate to admit it, but the desire and passion wasn't there in a lot of our athletes. When they were interviewed post race about some of their poor performances, they often shrugged their shoulders and said that they weren't prepared or ready. Like, duh, this is the World Championships, of course you should be ready and be prepared to give 110% for your country. I'm only prepared to make two exceptions for the whole of the British team: Darren Campbell, who stormed to an unexpected bronze in the 100m, just missed out on a medal in the 200m, and did a good job in the 4x100 relay, helping us to silver and almost a gold against the USA, and Hayley Tullett, who gave her all in the 1500m final and beat her personal best by over a second, clocking just under four minutes, to get a gritty and determined bronze. Full credit to those two. They had what it took - desire, passion and that will to win of "I will win a medal today". Most of the rest didn't try and it was so disappointing for me. And don't even get me started on drugs scandals and athletes who stage on track protests, bah.

And if only City could have held on to their 1-0 lead against Arsenal yesterday, top was for the taking after Man U lost earlir in the day. Still, considering our recent record against Arsenal, a 2-1 defeat isn't that bad to be honest, and we probably deserved a draw at least, but never mind. Fourth in the league at the moment is still good, and I'm sure most of us fans would have taken seven points from the first twelve to be perfectly honest. It was nice seeing the stadium full and everyone making the most of it - certainly in terms of attendances and hopefully atmosphere, the move is a good one. I will have to see if I can get to see us against Lokeren in the first round of the UEFA Cup. You never know: it might just be the start of something big..