Dear Diary... September 2011

Friday 30th September - Madness

It was a pretty busy day at work today as myself and my colleague were heading over to one of the other buildings as one our departments had moved over there. He had spent some time setting up two rooms of PCs and it was left to us to image them and get all the software on to make sure that it was all good to go as soon as practically possible. We headed over early on and once we'd worked out which PCs needed the network address checking to be sure they were in our list to be imported into the ConfigMgr database, we soon started multicasting the core image to them.

It took a bit of time to do, but eventually all thirty PCs were getting going which we both saw as a good thing. It was then a case of labelling the PCs with the new names and keeping an eye on everything making sure that it would all be done in good time. As there's several shops close by, I chose to grab something for lunch from one of them which meant I could save time and effort later on, as I knew I'd want to set off the software task sequence as soon as possible - as there's a lot of software that has to go on afterwards (we're talking a mere 20GB plus of installs per PC)

The software install task sequence was going pretty well and I kept an eye on it as I know it might fail during one part of the sequence. If it doesn't fail at that point it goes all the way through, and a few did fail but I simply restarted them and that kicked it in nicely. So there I was with them all kicking in and I knew some of them had finished because of the fact that the screen goes into power saving mode (the last step is to turn power saving back on so it's a good indicator). However the advertisement report wasn't showing that they'd finished off. I did some investigations, worked out why and then managed to find a way round a problem.

Unfortunately this meant that I had to stay behind till 5.30pm to make sure that everything was completely working fine, but I'd rather know that was the case so I could crack on with things really. I went home and then headed off to Tesco to get the week's shopping in. It worked out pretty nicely actually as it meant that I could get stuff in for during the week and it was a little quieter in there too, so I could mooch at reasonable leisure but still get home pretty quickly. I made myself some tea and then it was time to whack on iPlayer on the Wii for a bit.

I went back a few days on BBC Four and watched a documentary about the 60th anniversary of Formula One, with plenty behind the scenes at the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix where a lot of the former champions got together with the current champions still racing, and the old champions went out in their old cars on a couple of laps of the track. The stories they all had to tell were really good and the cameraderie between them was excellent as well, really good fun. I loved the fact that you could see the eras change with the cars but also the fact that a lot of the old drivers still had that competitive spirit within them!

Tune of the day in the meantime is a perfect wind down and relax tune after a hard week - no less than "California" by Joey Ryan. I remember seeing him supporting Beth Rowley a while ago and he had some wonderful little songs with his acoustic guitar, and this stuck out a lot due to its simplicity but at the same time the happy feel of it all, how we'd all like to move to there and have the sunnier climes as well. Although we're due to have a scorching weekend right here!

Thursday 29th September - Cutting It

I had a bit of fun and games in the afternoon with one of the PCs which controls one of the laser cutters that we have. The cutter effectively laser etches through thin wood to make designs even more grand and also to really do intrinsic cutting work that would take you hours of effort otherwise. It's a really neat machine but not without its foibles - the software to run it does work but the PC itself really does need to know exactly what the device is in order to recognise it. With that in mind I'd imaged one of the Windows 7 PCs that had had a new motherboard fitted so I'd know that it would work.

I spent most of the afternoon testing, but despite installing everything properly the device ID wasn't being recognised whatsoever by Windows, which is not good. Yet the other laser cutter when connected to the same Windows 7 PC was being recognised, and the software that operates it did detect it and know how to play ball. So for me at least it's clearly the cutter that could be faulty - or that it could have different firmware from the other one which might be causing the problem. Hopefully that can be sorted out.

I headed to my sister's as it was her son's first birthday today. He's so lovable and cute really with a big grin on his face and he loves it when I do the hide and peep game with him too. My sister showed me around the house (still work in progress but pretty much there to be honest) and we had a drink and a chat. She liked the presents that we'd got for him, a Bluezoo blue padded jacket and a Bluezoo dinasour long sleeved t-shirt. They did look the part together in the same colour so that was good. A few of the family were around too so it was good to chat to them before heading home.

I watched Pointless on iPlayer on the Wii later on, and it was all good. The first question was Ewan McGregor films. Straight away I thought of his voice role in the film Robots, and that was a pointless answer - one of the contestants got it as well. Go me, I think. Later on too I would have had another pointless answer in the prize round that the contestants won - the Pet Shop Boys top 40 singles. I successfully guessed two - Se A Vida E - the contstants got this - and Left To My Own Devices, which I thought people might not remember from earlier in their career. I'll make the latter tune of the day as it's pretty classic even now.

It's still very warm and humid here, and I don't mind it so much if you're on holiday but when you're elsewhere and working in warm conditions, it can really get to you and be really close. I'm just thankful that tomorrow is Friday and hopefully we can get some things moving along nicely and see what happens in terms of the PCs that we'll be deploying. It'd be good to end the week on a positive note and go from there really, but we shall see what happens!

Wednesday 28th September - Swipe Me

It was another day in paradise for me today and plenty to do as well as all the normal stuff that I've had on. I've spent some time working on some swipe card readers that are used in conjunction with some of our PCs so that they can swipe the student's card, the number comes up and they can pay for materials easily enough. Now, the only thing is that by default the magnetic stripe encoding has three digits before and one digit after the number required. So what to do?

In the end I found a workable solution yesterday for one of the black swipe card readers we have. It's a keyboard wedge and after some intense searching it's made by Access IS who are based in the UK. I sent them an email asking them if they had any programming utilities for their card reader, and they did. I downloaded it and was able to amend the configuration so that at the end terminator of track 2, it sent a backspace, eight left arrow keys and a backspace, so it deleted the incorrect digits and left the number intact.

One of the terminals had a Cherry PS2 keyboard with integrated swipe card reader and I'd previously been defeated by this. However, I thought of the same method to apply it to this keyboard might work, and lo and behold, it did! I felt rather pleased all round and so managed to get around a few places and apply the configuration to get everything well and truly sorted out. Hopefully that should appease a few people and allow them to get on with their work happily - that's the plan anyway.

I headed home and checked my email and there was one from Debenhams saying that the items that I'd ordered had arrived and I could pick them up from store. As they were a birthday present for tomorrow, I went back into the city centre complete with print out of ther confirmation and went straight there, collected the parcel and headed home. It was still pretty warm so was glad to get back home to a relatively cool house and start preparing the cooking as The Love In My Heart was arriving soon.

The Love arrived and I had on PJ Harvey's "Let England Shake" album on as we chatted about our days at work and I made us a tagliatelle carbonara, which worked out pretty well, and especially with some crispy garlic bread to go with it too. I love "The Words That Maketh Murder" and that's tune of the day for me. We listened to the rest of the album as I had tea and I think that one day I'll convince The Love that PJ Harvey is an artist to be respected and loved. We had a relaxing evening on the whole watching Grand Designs and seeing a lifeboat station in Tenby get restored as a house to live in - and some house, too!

Tuesday 27th September - Champions League? We're Having A Laugh... (not)

After a long day at work with plenty to do and not enough time to do it I had two stops to make on the way home. First off it was to my Mum's as it was my brother's girlfriend's birthday so thought it good to pop over and see them both. My brother seemed in fine fettle and showed me the new display he'd got, which in conjunction with his graphics card allows for some very nice 3D display complete with glasses. Ideal of course for games that support it and he had a demo of Crysis 2 to show me. Looked rather impressive it has to be said, but I did find the 3D a little bit disorientating after a while.

After that I headed on the bus to my friend's place, as he still has Sky and offered to invite me over to watch City in the Champions League at Bayern Munich. On paper it looked a difficult game for us - Bayern haven't conceded a goal in the last ten games and won them all, so even a draw would be a good result for us really. I did however think we'd be hard pushed to try and get any form of result and I think that ultimately we can't do the same as we can in the Premier League. It was good to see my friend anyway and before the game we had plenty of chatter.

The game started and it actually looked promising, with City having a penalty appeal turned down when David Silva was fouled in the box by former City man Jerome Boateng, and to me it looked stonewall. However this didn't detract and for the first half hour we looked comfortable, knocking the ball around well and getting stuck in. Unfortunately that was as good as it got and after having a couple of chances that they should have scored, Bayern went 1-0 up as Franck Ribery shot on goal, Joe Hart did a double save but couldn't stop Mario Gomez burying home the second rebound.

Worse was to come though. Just as the board went up for 2 minutes of stoppage time, Bayern had a free kick. It was headed towards goal and Joe Hart saved brilliantly again but the ball went straight to Mario Gomez who buried it. He's scored eleven in the last ten games which is some bloody good going especially at this high level. The wrong time to concede really and at 2-0 a mountain to climb second half. With Mario Balotelli suspended options were limited. What would happen?

The events of the second half will live in the memory for us both but for the wrong reasons. Fifteen minutes had gone and Bayern were bossing the game massively, and should have gone 3-0 up. Roberto Mancini took off Edin Džeko (who didnt play well) and put on Nigel de Jong, obviously to shore up the midfield a bit and maybe use Sergio Agüero on the break. Edin had a bit of a strop at Mancini including a sarcastic thumbs up - not very professional. The next sub came on and James Milner was on for Samir Nasri, but what we didn't know at the time was that Carlos Tévez was supposed to be the next sub, but by all accounts had refused to come on.

The game wore on and we deservedly lost 2-0 and to be fair to Bayern it could have been more, but we at least showed a little fire near the end with Aleksandar Kolarov going close a couple of times. After the match though, Mancini was fuming. He was clearly narked off with Tévez's actions and he said categorically that the player had refused to come on when he was asked to. He also explained the tactic of putting de Jong on which made perfect sense to me (we were being murdered at the time) and that it would have been Tévez next.

Later on as I headed home it transpired that Mancini had later said in the press conference that he was finished with Tévez. Strong words indeed, but it's a case of I think having reached breaking point between the two. The fans unanimously have backed Mancini to the hilt (unusual these days for any manager to get backing) and clearly shown Tévez the finger for his actions. Quite right too I say. I never want to see him in a City shirt again if I can help it, and his antics since his transfer request back in December of last year showed that he clearly doesn't care about anyone except himself. This showed it beyond all doubt for me.

Tune of the day is a kind of semi epiatph if you like: "Blue" by REM. It not only describes how I felt after the defeat but is also REM's final act - their last track of their last album ever before they split up. Tonight I couldn't help thinking that it was Carlos Tévez's final act in a City shirt and that the similarities between song and player seemed very apt indeed. And if you've not yet got REM's "Collapse Into Now" album then perhaps you should - it's a more thoughtful intelligent release than a lot of bobbins out there right now.

Monday 26th September - Sod's Law

When things happen, they usually do for a reason. However when other things happen that's out of your control, then it tends to be that several things are happening at once. And it certainly was the case today - pretty much sod's law and nothing I could do to stop it. For example, I had a call to deal with in the morning with regards to one of the multifunction printers which had stopped working when copying. I rang the member of staff concerned and asked them if it was just when using the feeder or the glass as well. Thankfully it was the feeder only which meant that some speckle of print toner had got on the small piece of glass - got that removed and it was all good to go.

Then in the afternoon I found a few things out during the team meeting that weren't to all of the team's liking. One of which invlolves the new printing system we have in place and how there won't be that many terminals for people to credit their accounts with cash and that they'd be relying on more online transactions. All well and good but of course if the online stuff isn't always up at the moment then it's going to be a major nightmare for a lot of people to get things done. No one seemed happy with that and sod's law would be that we wouldn't necessarily be on the receiving end of any stick, but still..

Anyway, I still had one issue to resolve in the afternoon. Some of the PCs we have also have these PS/2 swipe card readers which read the ID card and are able to check the number on the magnetic stripe. All well and good, but one of the pieces of software has been rewritten so we want the card reader to just read the first eight digits of the card. The problem is per se that because there's no information on the card reader itself (it was pulled out of a machine with a touch screen that was custom built some time ago) it's hard to find the manufacturer of the driver and software. Aaargh.

Still I did cheer myself up on the way home from work by visiting the Academy box office. They've moved it now - it used to be in the reception where the Students Union building is which meant that it was easy to get tickets there, but now it's in the small box office as part of the Academy 1. I guess that works for them if it saves costs and makes the other reception more like a reception. Anyway, I got my ticket for Pop Will Eat Itself at Academy 2 in a couple of weeks time, which I'm really looking forward to and at least you still get your tickets at face value if you go direct to them - hurrah!

I spent the evening mainly catching up on Pointless but also chatting with The Love In My Heart and also listening to plenty of music to keep the brain ticking over. Notably of course I had to listen to some Pop Will Eat Itself too because of me getting the ticket for the gig, and so played their The Looks or the Lifestyle album from 1992. It has some of my favourite PWEI tracks on there, not least the virtually instrumental "Urban Futuristic (Son of South Central)" which kicks backside, so tune of the day it is then. No more, no more, no more Mister Nice Guy. And quite bloody right too!

Sunday 25th September - Victoria Baths

It was an early start for me this morning, and for The Love In My Heart as she was taking her parents to Preson so that they could get on The Northern Belle for the day and have a luxury train journey complete with food. I on the other hand was getting together with around thirty folks from the Manchester Flickr group and we were all heading to Victoria Baths, as we had the place to ourselves from 10am to 2pm to shoot whatever we wanted, and indeed get access to other parts of the building that we don't normally get either. So with my camera packed and clipboard at the ready so I could take note of who'd paid etc, it was off.

Well, almost. I left the house, checked the camera and then realised that there wasn't an SD card in the camera itself. Oops! Almost made a classic mistake there, so I made sure I got everything this time and headed on the bus, got off near Plymouth Grove West and walked down there and Hathersage Road until I got to the baths themselves. I got there around 9.30am to make sure I could say hello and have a quick chat to everyone before we made our way in.

Everyone pretty much turned up, which worked out well. In case you wondered, the baths charge £300 if you want the place to yourselves for a photo shoot and so with thirty of us that's £10 each. And when you consider that goes to their restoration funds, then that's fine by us all. I had a cheque ready for the total amount for them and everyone gave me the cash, it was easier for the Baths that way and meant that it was easier for handling money for exact change too. We made our way in at 10am and Neil, one of the staff, was there to greet us and take us on a short tour around so those who'd never been before got an idea of the history of the place.

Once that was over, tea and coffee was served in the café for those of us who needed it. During a normal open day it's manned, but he very kindly put the kettles on and we basically served ourselves with an honesty box for payment, and as the tea and coffee was normally £1 we all just put that in for each one we had, kept it simple really. It was great to go round and explore all the bits you don't see normally, and with the numbers we had it meant that we could all be comfortable in our own space and not get in the way, which was really good too. I think it worked well and certainly it was appreciated by all of us who went so that was a big positive.

Afterwards quite a few of us suggested that we head for lunch and I'd originally suggested the Rampant Lion which is up the road on Anson Road, as it's walking distance plus also the food and drink is apparently decent. It turned out to be an excellent move. Although there was not any cask beer in sight, they did at least have bottles of the stuff at room temperature (quite right too) and they had Hobgoblin, so that was me well sorted. And they even had a Sunday roast for a mere £5.95, or pie and mash for £6.95, and a proper pie at that! Well guess what I had? Yes, the steak and ale one, which was gorgeous. It's in my top five of proper pies already - that's how good it was. Everyone seemed to enjoy their food too which was lovely.

A few of us then headed into the city centre as apparently there was some 1950s style fun fair in the Northern Quarter. To be honest, it was rubbish so we decided on Plan B, and for most Flickr meets, that usually involves a pub of some sort. I thought as a few of us hadn't been there before that the Port Street Beer House was a good idea, and so it proved. I had a really nice dark mild from the Thornbridge Brewery in Bakewell who have guest ales there, and everyone seemed very happy with their choices of beer. It was fairly mellow in there too with some relaxing music being played, almost too relaxing. But hey, they had on Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' "Nobody's Baby Now" which I adore, so tune of the day was an easy decision.

I headed home afterwards reflecting on a good day all round and settled in to watch Sebastian Vettel win again in Singapore for the F1. At least Jenson Button pushed him hard and he's now the only person mathematically who can beat Sebastian Vettel for the title, although realistically it's all over bar the shouting of course. Jenson seems to have knuckled down and got on with it, and it's no surprise that him and Fernando Alonso seem to be the only challengers for Red Bull these days as their thoughtful but fast driving is reaping good rewards for them at the moment.

Saturday 24th September - Battling

It was an early start for me today as I had to do plenty of household chores earlier on. Part of the reason was that Manchester City's game against Everton at the Etihad Stadium had a 12.45pm kick off - as it had been moved for Sky Sports. Oh joy, oh rapture. Still, it meant that at least I'd then have the rest of the afternoon to do other things so that was the flip side of it. My friend came and collected me on the way and we headed over to see The Love In My Heart first for a cuppa before we headed for the stadium - and with the weather not being so good we hoped that City could do the business.

It was clear from the start of the match that Everton were just intent on kicking City off the park, in particular the likes of Jack Rodwell and Phil Neville (cue obvious pantomime style boos from the City fans due to his association with his former club Manchester United) were doing hatchet jobs on David Silva, trying to stop him playing. Not to mention their ten men behind the ball technique when City were attacking as well. It just seemed so negative but I suspected they were doing this to try and hit City on the break with the likes of Tim Cahill.

I went for food at half time with a chicken balti pie for me and a portion of chips for my friend, and we munched on and thought about what City could do in the second half. I said that realistically Roberto Mancini would need to make some changes if we couldn't score within the first fifteen minutes of the second half so the subs would have enough time to change things, and as it turned out it pretty much was what happened - there seemed to be more frustration growing as City tried to score, but on came Mario Balotelli. Could he change the game, we wondered?

We didn't have long to find out. After a Samir Nasri shot was well saved by Tim Howard, on one of the next attacks the ball came to Sergio Agüero who showed some wizardry and allowed Balotelli some space to rifle a shot from outside the area past Howard to score. It did take a slight deflection from Phil Jagielka but to be honest it was what we deserved - for keeping going. And later on Silva would have the last laugh as he intercepted a pass, headed forward and held the ball up well to release another sub James Milner to burst through and beat Howard for 2-0.

All was well with the world then and much more so later when Stoke did City a massive favour (cheers lads!) by getting a 1-1 draw at home to Man U, meaning that both Manchester sides were level on points at the top of the table with 16 from a possible 18. That's some going I'm sure you'll agree, and if anyone had said to me or my friend that we'd have taken that number of points and that Agüero would have 8 goals and Edin Džeko 6, I'd have bitten the hands off massively to be quite honest. It's how it goes in football I guess and I know that it could all still end in tears later on!

In the evening The Love headed to mine and we first headed to Mum's for a chat and a coffee whilst we had a bit of a catch up after the holiday we'd had and also was sorting a few things out with Mum before she's due to head away herself for a week. Most importantly of all I think is that she could tell we'd been there and had some lovely weather, and The Love had her camera with her and showed Mum some of the pictures that she'd taken, so was pretty good to see how it went from her point of view too.

It was then back to mine where I did us a lovely meal with some gorgeous wild mushroom soup to start, some sirloin steak with chips and peas for main and these gorgeous Gü cheesecakes for dessert - simple maybe but it did the job nicely, whilst The Love was happy as X Factor was on and so she was seeing how they all did there whilst I was sorting other things out. We ended up watching Million Pound Drop and I must admit I was pleased for the couple who won a considerable amount of money as they seemed lovely people. Can't stand Jack Whitehall though and really wanted him to lose, but he didn't. Darn.

Tune of the day though in the meantime is "Balo Dance" by DJ Van Goal, who's used one of the Manchester City chants about the City striker and put it to some dance tune. Okay so it's a little bit obvious and cheesy in terms of being a dance tune with the obvious happy hardcore rave components in there, but I guess at least there's some sampled commentary in there as well as the City fans singing for him and as I couldn't put a chant in as a tune of the day, this is the next best thing.

Friday 23rd September - Another Day In Paradise

Had a bit of a dilemma yesterday with a laptop from one of our staff which I finally managed to resolve today, and it was a mix of three things that was causing errors. If the user logged on to the network with the ethernet cable in, it was all fine, but if logging in workstation only it would be for some reason über-slow. I eventually pin pointed it down to three separate occurrences of errors happening and got rid of the problems. First of all the Novell iPrint client had corrupted, and so removed it (not needed now anyway), second, one of the standalone printers they were using had a job hogging memory in the laptop and so I deleted that, but most of all the wireless card driver was also corrupted so reinstalled that - and now the local login is mega fast again. Hurrah me!

The afternoon was spent with a colleague heading to one of the halls of residence and taking on several of the calls to try and resolve some issues with connectivity. One of them wasn't working and for a very good reason - the cable had been ripped out of the socketing and was just literally hanging off the wall which wasn't good whatsoever. We'll have to get our cable folks out to it to sort it, but at least it meant that we'd been and were able to advise what would happen next so did feel positive in a strange way. One other one we got to didn't seem to want to play ball whatsoever with getting a network address but we found bizarrely that manually setting the network speed to 10Mb/s on the card did seem to help a bit. Odd...

Anyway, the day was done and it was soon time to head home and then to Tesco to get the weekly food shopping done. I did notice in the news that Tesco and other supermarkets were trying to start a price war to kick start some form of economic recovery, and some of the prices did indeed seem to be cheaper than last time I was in there. I also noted though that they're eventually dropping the double Clubcard points so what you gain with one hand, you lose with the other.

I did watch Pointless on iPlayer later on and was really surprised at how the contestants really struggled with the round where you had to name Rod Stewart top 40 hits. I instantly thought of five or six (and I'm not even a fan) and after two of the contestants took the most popular choices, Maggie May and Sailing, everyone struggled. Dear me, had they not heard the likes of "D'Ya Think I'm Sexy?", "I Don't Want To Talk About It" and also "You're In My Heart" either? At least one of them got "Hot Legs" later on, so fair play to him for that I guess.

As for tune of the day well I've spent a lot of time this evening listening to some Pop Will Eat Itself as I was talking about it to a work colleague and the fact that I'll be there next month bounding around like a loon. Granted it won't be the same as the original line up and in fact only Graham Crabb is the original member left standing in the band, but still. The original 1990 version of "Axe of Men" gets my vote especially as it sounds quite dark even back then - the new remix is all well but it owes to the original's feel for its substance really. And of course it has lots of Industrial sounds even then...

Thursday 22nd September - Back To Work

Ah well after all the holiday time I've had, it only seemed fitting that I would go back to work today. On the positive side though at least it would be a two day week to get me gently back into things before a full week ahead next week. I was attempting (sort of) to be sensible and so spent the first hour or so catching up on emails and seeing what needed to be done sort of sharpish. In fact what was good was that I had spent some time working on a few things before I went away and they all seemed to go smoothly.

One of my colleagues did call me as they were a bit worried that some of the student PCs didn't completely image that needed to be done. However we checked the advertisement statuses in the ConfigMgr console and found that in fact the final step of creating a second partition was where it failed, and so we then created it manually and that worked pretty well anyway. We think that if the DVD drive didn't detect the step you take involves moving the CD drive letter and of course if none is present, it'd fail - but good to know anyway for the future I reckon.

Once everything calmed down it was then a case of us heading to sort out some of the connectivity issues that some of the halls of residence have been having. We found that in some of the rooms for some reason there had been two network sockets put in - one of them wasn't live whatsoever and had been the original one, and the new ones had been fitted with proper trunking and so that was the one to be used. Once we pointed this out to some people it all made sense and they were able to get everything up and running in a good way, so felt positive about that.

What I didn't feel positive about though was that it seemed to me that the building work taking place in one of the buildings was behind schedule and as such this meant that things weren't going according to plan whatsoever. It also meant too that there were lots of head scratching going on as to what to do for the best, and to be honest it's not pretty. I think personally that it's partly the fault of the builders whom to me every time I've walked past seem to be having some sort of break every half hour. Not pleased to be honest, and neither I can imagine are the heirarchy.

I got home later and spent some time working on some of the pictures to upload, mainly this time from Éze, which I really enjoyed going to. Maybe next time it might be nice to head to Cagnes-sur-Mer as apparently there's a medieval part of that too so that would be good. It also made me think about going away next May for a break too, so here's hoping that it can all be sorted out - it'd be lovely to go again, that's for sure. Tune of the day is "Wouldn't it be Nice?" by The Beach Boys as it makes me think of those sunnier climes and it's a gorgeous Summery song.

I have however booked a few things tonight, all to do with a jaunt to London to see Throwing Muses on 2nd November. I've booked the ticket for the gig at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire, and then booked the trains on Virgin Trains for a mere £10.35 each way (10% off with Virgin Money cards you see, and as I do travel to London occasionally it's well worth doing the discounted route) and then the Easyhotel in Paddington for a one night stay as well which I quite like actually. I would have booked a Travelodge but all the cheap rooms have gone, and some of the other cheap hotels have had horrid reviews on the web so didn't want to head there...

Wednesday 21st September - Cleaning and City

It was nice to take the extra day off after flying back from Nice yesterday. In a way I knew that I could use the time during the day to empty the suitcase and get lots of clothes washed and ironed, which would be a good thing, but also that I would be able to sort out the pictures I'd taken as well. As you can well imagine, I was like a kid in a sweet shop when visiting Monaco as I really wanted to take lots of shots of the F1 circuit as well as some of the lovely beaches, harbour and so on, so it was good to see how they came out and also work out which ones I was going to upload to Flickr (that was a tricky decision let me tell you).

In fact in between getting piles of washing done, I made a start on uploading some of the ones from Nice itself and in the end decided on three main sets - Nice itself and the surrounding bits like Cimiez, the lovely medieval village of Éze would be another set, and finally one for Monaco. It made some sense too as technically of course Monaco is another country (not that there's much in terms of border control mind you) and that means that I've now visited quite a few countries in Europe, although not enough as several people I guess. At the last count I've done France, Monaco, Spain, Switzerland, Denmark and Ireland. Still plenty more to go.

I thought about it more as the next lot of washing went in and I've actually visited only a small portion of parts of France to. I've done Paris obviously and had a wonderful time with The Love In My Heart last year, and I went to St Malo in Brittany on the ferry from Jersey one day which was also lovely, and then of couse the French Riviera recently. Lots more of course to explore and I'm sure that it'd be something worth noting for the future. Mind you, I do think I need to try and get out more!

With the washing and ironing looking good and me having caught up with Pointless on BBC iPlayer on the Wii, it was soon time for my friend to head over and for us to head to The Love's place for a well earned cuppa before we'd go and watch Manchester City take on Birmingham City in the Carling Cup. City played a much different side than in the league with plenty of players being rested, but I thought we still had enough to win, with Owen Hargreaves and Kolo Toure playing their first games of the season along with us having Carlos Tévez up front too, so thought we'd win comfortably.

And win we did, and what a pleasure to see Owen Hargreaves get through a game injury free, and indeed open the scoring with a pile driver of a shot from 25 yards. It must have given him great satisfaction to see that go in and I can imagine how happy he felt when the fans sang "Fergie, Fergie,sign him up" as of course he used to play for that lot over the way before injury ravaged his career there. It got better later in the half too as an excellent cross from Aleksandar Kolarov found Mario Balotelli in imperious form for a lovely finish.

The second half dipped a bit in quality but it was good to see nonetheless that City kept pushing and Carlos Tévez should have scored late on but for a good save from the Birmingham keeper, and Kolo Toure was unlucky with the rebound. At the other end Costel Pantilimon had a solid debut for us in net, and he kept a clean sheet too so nothing too wrong there, and Kolo also looked decent too. What was a surprise was that the likes of Wayne Bridge and Nedum Onouha got a run out and I guess it made sense if they're not in the squads of 25 for the Premier League and Champions League to use them here.

Tune of the day though has to be "Blue Moon" by Supra, which the club have rightly reinstated as the theme tune before the lads come on. Somehow it just seems better as it gets the crowd much more pumped up and ready to cheer on the team, and me and my friend happily sing along to that and really do get into it big time. I just wish it could be released again as a single and hopefully this time all the City fans would buy it and get it into the charts - it rocks folks!

Tuesday 20th September - Homeward Bound

It felt quite sad when The Sand On My Beach and I woke up this morning as I knew it was the time to head home soon and we both didn't want to really. We'd had a lovely few days away and Nice is a beautiful place, well worth checking out if you ever get the time to do so. We got everything packed and ready, and as we looked out of our hotel window, the sun came out and it looked like another gorgeous day on the Cote D'Azur. I settled the bill at the hotel, and I was glad we'd stayed somewhere like we did which was beautiful, clean and in a great location - everyone's a winner!

We headed to the bus stop and headed on the 98 bus back to the airport. If there's one thing that needs improving, it's the airport bus. It wasn't great getting to central Nice and not as great getting back to the airport. They should provide dedicated luggage racks and not overcrowd the buses with as many people as they can fit on. Or maybe even a double decker bus with lots of luggage space - that would do it all nicely I reckon. I feel an email to Lignes d'Azur is in order to see what can be done about the situation - as after all if it's a first impression people have of the place is being packed in like sardines, that might not be good.

We got to the check in desk, checked everything in that we needed to and headed to the departure lounge, which is pretty small. Thankfully we'd had a coffee and pastry in the Paul shop before heading to check in whilst in Nice airport, so didn't feel the need to spend massively. Soon enough we were able to board our Swiss air flights to Manchester via Zurich, and Swiss were just as good coming home. On the flight to Zurich as it was mid afternoon there was a nice freebie snack of Movenpick ice cream (ooh yes, yummy) and the change in Zurich itself was super smooth.

On the way to Manchester, it was a choice of sandwich with lovely baked bread - either ham or cheese. I went for the cheese as it was that gorgeous Swiss brie, and The Sand went for the ham which she said had a spicy sauce to go with it and gave it a bit of a nice kick. The Sand had wine and I had beer - well why not considering it was thrown into the cost and indeed kept us in the holiday mood for the last part of the trip back? The air got turbulent on the approach into Manchester and soon we were heading to land at Manchester Airport along with many others arriving at the arrivals at the same time.

No messing around for us though, it was straight through to the baggage belts, got our luggage and were heading off to the airport train station to take the train to Manchester Piccadilly where I gave The Sand one long cuddle before we headed on our buses home. It had been a wonderful time and what I needed definitely, and I think she enjoyed herself a lot too. Tune of the day in the meantime is "Love's Great Adventure" by Ultravox as certainly it felt like that for me but also because I had the tune in my head on the bus on the way home. I don't know why - I just did!!

Monday 19th September – Monaco Magic

Out of all the days out we’d planned when we were away in the Cote d’Azur, the one I’d been most looking forward to is a trip to Monaco. As a massive Formula 1 fan you can imagine that I wanted to walk the route that the cars go round but also to see the glitz and glamour of the place for myself. I am sure that both The Sand on My Beach and I could appreciate it from different points of view. Here was hoping anyway as we set off from the hotel and headed to the Station JC Bermond to catch the 100 bus.

On the plus side, the 100 bus is a mere €1 all the way to Monaco. On the minus side, it gets very busy and it’s not surprising that I was standing up most of the way there. Clearly at that cheap rate it gets everyone on the bus and ensures that those on a day trip pack the bus up massively, much to the probable annoyance of any of the locals who are just heading to Villefranche-sur-Mer or Beaulieu-sur-Mer. It’s also worth noting that even with a weekly Lignes d’Azur pass, Monaco is outside of the area boundary of that pass (it goes as far as Cap D’Ail, about two miles from Monaco.)

As the bus headed into Monaco, I noticed a very familiar road that we were on. Yes, we were going along the home straight. Even better was as it turned right onto the Avenue D’Ostende climbing the hill – right turn at Sainte Devote and everything! It turned left before Massenet and headed up to the tourist office where we departed the bus, but still, it felt rather good to have ventured up there it has to be said. We soon were heading through some lovely gardens from the tourist office.

This took us to no less than Casino Square which even at this earlier hour of the day was a throbbing centre for tourists left right and centre with the Hotel de Paris on the right and the casino straight ahead. After a while we walked down the Avenue D’Sepulgues which heads to Mirabeau, down the hill to what’s now the Fairmont hairpin before terminating at the roundabout at Portier. Along the way The Sand and I stopped off at the Metropole shopping centre which even had a branch of the CD shop FNAC – it was tempting to buy a CD on my debit card just to have Monaco on the statement! It was also good to walk down the hill and see the red and white markings there to indicate that you were indeed on the track. Mind you they did have Morrissey in there, so “Every Day Is Like Sunday” is tune of the day.

At the Portier roundabout we headed East along the beach and seafront, which actually looked very pretty. There was a walk which had famous footballer’s footprints and autographs close to the Grimaldi Forum (where the Champions League draw was made last month) which led to a very pretty beach with lots of people soaking up the sun, and rightly so too, it was rather warm to say the least. Not that The Sand or I minded, we looked pretty cool as we walked along.

Then it was back to Portier and after a stop off for a cold drink, it was through the tunnel. Yes, the tunnel. It seems longer than you think it is but you were soon out and heading down to the harbourside. There were lots of preparations for a yachting show later in the week though so you couldn’t walk fully along the track route, but we did manage to head by Tabac corner and walk alongside some of the harbour front bars and restaurants before following the access route to the swimming pool – and seeing how close the pool is to the track.

Walking further along we soon arrived at La Rascasse with the bar and nightclub literally on the corner itself. We walked along the harbour front on the other side before heading back to the home straight, up the Avenue Princess Caroline to peruse the shops and back down to the Boulrvard Albert 1er where the start and finish line is marked out on the road, so you can’t really miss it. At this point we thought that lunch was needed, so we stopped at one of the many places along the front and had a very nice lunch – the pizza I had was spot on and it was good to people watch and sit there all relaxed.

As La Rascasse was now open (it opens after 2pm folks!) I thought I could indulge a little and so The Sand and I had a coffee in there. It might have been €3 per coffee, but that’s still arguably a lot cheaper than some places in Monaco, and of course the feeling of being there was something else. I texted my brother who simply replied “Cool as f*** - pics please!” as I knew he’d understand what it meant to be there. I also noticed too how quiet it was – maybe at night it’s the place people go, and also because of the all the yacht show set up not everyone may have realised that it was open. Their loss!

We walked back along to Sainte Devote and stopped to admire the church before heading up the hill and admiring the views of the harbour and Monaco-Ville opposite complete with its royal residences and old town. We noticed the further that we headed up Beau Rivage you got a feel of how steep the hill actually is – bloody steep! There are some lovely gardens on the way up the hill which you can stop at though, and as you head to Massenet the gardens by the casino are also rather nice too. Once we admired the Hotel de Paris and the casino we walked up to the Boulevard des Moulins and admired some of the shops there – and some of them even had affordable prices! We also noticed how much of the local schools have school buses laid on for them to get them all safely home – understandable considering the amount of traffic on the main roads in Monaco at this time.

We walked back down to the Avenue des Sepulgues and walked through the gardens around the side of the Casino, and they were very pretty, as were the gardens behind which allowed you to overlook the Mediterranean Sea along with all the boats in the sea too. It was gorgeous and I knew how much it felt special to me to see all this. The Sand and I walked around a few more shops in the “Golden Triangle” full of expensive items before we then headed back to the Boulevard des Moulins to head on the bus. Thankfully being sat down on the bus back meant we could admire more of the sea and the little towns as we went through them and arrived back in Nice around 6.45pm.

We headed back to the hotel, got showered and changed and went out for our final night in Nice, and headed along the Cours Saleya to one of the many restaurants there. They had a three course menu for a mere €15, which was excellent value. I had the fish soup to start, a really nice hake fillet with sauce and rice for main, and ice cream for dessert, whilst The Love’s salad starter looked a bit good if you like salad, the escalope for main was well done and the little chocolate pot for dessert was very rich but by all accounts very tasty. We then walked along the seafront in the evening moonlight and that was rather lovely to do. I felt a little sad because it was almost the end of our time away but happy too because we’d had such a lovely time. Hurrah for holidays!

Sunday 18th September – Eze-y Does It

The Sand on My Beach and I woke up to find that it had been raining overnight and was still coming down! We didn’t expect that but as the morning wore on and as we got showered and ready, the weather lifted and the rain stopped. I remember one year that we were in Cornwall and it rained every night but was lovely during the day and we hoped for more of the same. The East of Nice looked the clearest and as that was where we were heading that was good! Tune of the day for today is “Early Morning Rain” as covered by Paul Weller for that reason.

The rain was still coming down as we left though, so we found somewhere for The Sand to grab a brolly, and we took the short tram ride from Massena to Garibaldi, and from there to get the 82 bus up to Eze – by which time it had stopped raining! It was pretty busy on board and as the bus wound its way up the middle corniche, you could see the valleys and the little seaside towns below. The road goes through little gaps in the rocks before heading across the Devil’s Bridge into Eze village.

It was a walk uphill to the medieval village but one that was worth it. Little shops with arts and crafts poked out at every corner, and there were also lots of little streets to turn to for different ways of getting to the top. We stopped to admire the church about half way up, which is still in use today and looked very ornate in its surroundings. After this it was past some more craft shops and further up hill to the exotic gardens. In my view it was well worth the €5 entrance fee as it looked lovely.

The gardens also have stunning views over the village and the coastline beyond as well as some gorgeous water features too. It also allowed for lots of cacti and exotic plants to grow here and that was nice to see. The old Notre Dame ruins at the top showed the ingenuity of building – it made you wonder how you get up there in the first place! On the way back down we passed the Chevre D’or Hotel, which looked uber-posh and expensive. The private gardens to the side of the hotel showed all you needed to know!

We headed down to the main village square, Place de la Colette, and had lunch at this little café and shop, which did the job nicely with a ham and cheese Panini for me. As it was still a little cloudy The Sand suggested we follow Nietzsche’s path down to the seaside town of Eze-sur-Mer. It definitely is worth doing if you’re a fan of walking but I would very very strongly suggest strongly going down instead of up! The walk down was pretty but also steep too, and a hour later we arrived by the seaside.

Once over the railway bridge we were on the beach and it was really quiet and peaceful, and The Sand had a paddle in the sea as well. In fact it was lovely just to sit here and admire the views of the sea and the unspoilt beauty of the place. We walked along for a while before heading back to the coast road and walked along a bit, got the bus to Beaulieu-sur-Mer before then getting the bus back to Nice, which was pretty full with people coming back from Monaco, as you might have expected!

In the evening it was back to the old town and this time stopping off at one of the lovely restaurants along the Rue de la Prefecture, going in Pasta Basta. Their prices were very reasonable and we had a pasta dish each – spaghetti bolognaise for The Sand and penne carbonara for me. Interestingly the prices were for the choice of pasta and the choice of sauce – so you could mix and match but know how much you were paying. After a well earned orange flower ice cream at Fenocchio’s it was time to head back to the hotel after another lovely day.

Saturday 17th September – Old Town and At The Top

Today was mainly a day to peruse the shops but also see more of the old town as well as possibly the port too. We headed for Place Massena after a light breakfast and into Galeries Lafayette, a department store of some repute. It was lovely window shopping and seeing the fashions that were around there, plenty of which were tempting! We even felt cosmopolitan and had a coffee at the restaurant at the top overlooking the Place Massena, which was a lovely thing to do. It felt relaxing.

It was then up and along the Avenue Jean Medicin which seemed to be the main shopping street in Nice. Plenty of designer names lined the route as well as a shopping centre whose highlight was of all things C&A. Yes, that one! We also headed to the Photography Museum which was well worth the visit too with local artists showing their excellent work, including one set that showed what it was like in Winter in Nice with massive waves. Further along the Avenue were more shops including Monoprix, the well known supermarket chain, and before long we were at the railway line and so took the tram to Opera Vielle Ville to peruse the old town. We went to the flower market in the Cours Saleya which was an abundance of colour and brightness with lots of floral displays that were tempting to buy for all who passed. We walked through the old town and arrived at one of the squares which housed an old book stall or several. From here it was further in to the old town and picking up a spot of lunch along the way before arriving at the Place Rosetti.

At the square lots of people were doing acrobatics and they had a group of girls swooning over their muscles, with lots of restaurants and ice cream places overlooking the square too. It certainly was a treasure trove of old items and tourist traps in the old town and before long we left and ended up in the Place Garibaldi with its market stalls that mainly were in antiques and even some old vinyl records which was nice. The square here was a busy hive of activity.

It was then on to the port to see the many boats for the nouvelle riche that all seemed to be moored here. There were even boats that had sailed over fro, the Caribbean too, as well as plenty of leisure cruisers. The port also has regular ferries to Corsica and Sardinia too, with queues of cars heading that way. We walked around the port before heading around the coast to the end of the promenade where you could take the lift to the Colline du Chateau, which affords excellent views over the coast. Also at the top you could see the old Roman ruins of what used to be a castle here as well as the waterfall which would splash down below to another walkway. We had seen couples getting married at the registry office earlier in the day and up on the Colline seemed to be the place to have the post wedding pictures too. It was nice to take the stairs down to see the views of the promenade but were glad that we had taken the lift up!

After a change later on we headed out towards the old town via the Cours Saleya and wondered where we would go to eat for the evening. Lots of the restaurants have a fixed price menu and this varies depending on what you decide to have. In the end we found a nice place right in the square at Place Rosetti, called a la Claire Fontaine. They did a three course fixed price menu for a mere €14.90 which wasn’ t too bad at all. The Sand On My Beach had the cured ham to start whilst my fish soup was gorgeous. We both had the steak for main followed by a lemon meringue tart for me and a chocolate cake for The Sand. She also had a half bottle of wine which went down lovely.

Just along Rue Rosetti we noticed that one of the bars had a happy hour till 10pm. This was good as the wine was €3 and a pint of beer was €4. And yes folks, it’s cheap for around these parts! Especially when you compare the cost to the supermarket where a 500ml can of Kronenbourg 4.2 oir Heineken is around €1.60. Most places charge €7 upwards for 500ml, so to find something not so expensive was a massive plus. This also meant I could indulge in the famous ice cream shop in Place Rosetti that is Fenocchio, with a massive array of flavours – maybe over 100! I had the raspberry (framboise) and that was heavenly to say the least – even The Sand, who is not an ice cream lover, said it was gorgeous. We walked through the old town whilst having the lovely ice cream and headed back on the tram to Place Massena and then walked back to the hotel. Another lovely day and it was going far far too quickly! I’ll make “This is Heaven To Me” by Madeliene Peyroux tune of the day, as it sums up my feeling certainly!

Friday 16th September – The Beach and the Art

We both had a very good sleep overnight, and with the air conditioning in the room this meant we both felt refereshed. The Sand On My Beach and I were thinking about what we could do, and decided to head along the promenade des Anglais in the morning, followed by a trip to Cimiez in the afternoon. The weather looked rather lovely as we left the apartment and headed to the Promenade, and of all places what was on the seafront? Yes, McDonalds! It was intriguing to go in and see how different it is for curioisity’s sake – a cafè that sold macaroons and also beer with the burger!

We headed west along the front stopping to admire the Hotel Negresco and its famous dome before heading further along to see the beaches, many of which belong to the hotels and are private, with public beaches in between. The sun was out, plenty of people were cycling along the paths and it felt very relaxed indeed. In fact a lot of the apartments overlooking the sea were stunning, and if I won the lottery I could live there methinks. Not resisting an opportunity, I had pre-registered for the Velobleu cycle scheme online before we left. This meant that I could use my mobile to hire a bike. The system was dead easy and I soon had a bike to cycle down the promenade. It was lovely feeling the wind in my face, and even The Sand had a quick go too! I docked the bike back and we headed back towards the Place Massena in the centre, sitting in the square and watching the world go by. It was then to a local Spar close by to stock up on soma ham, bread and cold drinks and crisps so we could have lunch when we got to Cimiez later.

We headed on the 17 bus and this was a nice journey, heading up hills that zig zagged up the slope and through local suburbs before arriving at the Arenes stop, close to the Parc des Arenes. The park was lovely – full of olive trees in full bloom and with walkways named after jazz musicians – turned out that Nice’s jazz festivals are often held here. We had lunch in the park and it was lovely to relax with lunch before walking to the gardens in the monastery. This was an inspired move – the gardens were stunningly beautiful and well looked after with stunning views of the hills around Nice.

We also walked through the park to the Musee Matisse, which was a real find – lots of art by the man himself and plenty of exhibits which showed it off – such as one piece which had lots of his blue work and a wall decorated with one of his final works. Across three floors it was well worth the walk – and free to get in! Also free was the museum of the Roman Ruins when Cimiez was called by its roman name – including baths and other gymnasiums too. Well worth it. After a well earned beer in the little café in the park, we walked to the Cimiez monastery cemetery where Matisse is buried – under an olive tree. As graves go it’s well preserved and showed the love the French have of their art by giving him such a beautiful secluded spot. It was back on the 22 bus to Nice, and after a freshen up it was on the beach for The Sand and a cycle for me up and down the promenade!

That was all very well, and in the evening we ventured into the old town – known as the Vielle Ville – and visited Wayne’s, which was an intriguing mix of an Irish style bar and a restaurant. It looked busy, always a good sign to me, and before long we had a table by the window. The Sand had this lovely chicken dish which had peppers, a white wine and cream sauce, and looked divine. The chicken supreme I had was superb too – well worth the visit there methinks.

It was nice to walk along the old town and back to the hotel where we listened to the sounds of the square nearby with someone having a penchant for Dire Straits – Tunnel of Love was played for example, so make that Tune of the day. It felt very cosmopolitan and lovely, and I couldn’t believe just how quick the time had gone by. Two days had gone and we had certainly enjoyed ourselves thus far with more to come too. Fingers crossed that the rest of the break would be as nice.

Thursday 15th September – Holiday Time

It was early to rise this morning as I was meeting The Sand on My Beach at Piccadilly Station. The two of us were finally heading off on holiday after everyone else it seemed had been on theirs. It was a short train journey from the train station to the airport and we got there in plenty of time to check in with Swiss Air. We had two flights with a connection – firstly from Manchester to Zurich, then from there to Nice. I had checked the departure times over the last few days and had noticed that Swiss flights had left Manchester a little late. It was the case today. But in a good move, they even had La Roux playing over the speakers before take off from Manchester, so “I’m Not Your Toy” is tune of the day.

However, the people on Swiss were lovely. A much better class of passenger than on Ryanair for example. Whilst in the air we had information about transfers in Zurich and also had free food and drink – a gorgeous croissant and a choice of tea, coffee, Coke, juice and water. We made up some time and had Zurich runway been cleared to land, we would have been on time. As it was we had enough time to transfer across Zurich and get to gate A75 well in time to get on the flight to Nice. Flying over the Alps was a very pretty sight, as was the brie sandwich we had for lunch too together with a cold drink. We arrived in Nice on time and after making our way through baggage claim and getting our cases, we headed to the bus station, got the weekly ticket and headed to the bus to Nice. The bus was rammed though and not the most pleasant of journeys. However we got off at the Jardins Albert 1er and headed to the hotel we were staying at, Le Petit Trianon.

We were greeted by the owners and made to feel very welcomed. The room is small, especially the wardrobe space, but you have a view of the square from the window and there’s some nice touches – such as the netbook which has Internet access and the bathroom, which is lovely with gorgeous fittings and a powerful shower. The air conditioning is also welcome too after a hot day, and in Nice it gets very warm but very nice too. We headed out for a walk down the seafront heading East. The Sand even ventured into the Mediterranean Sea, which was warm! We also headed along the Cours Saleya, and noticed lots of the flower stalls and indeed the outdoor restaurants as well. It was a nice leisurely walk along pedestrianised streets and felt very cosmopolitan too. It was nice just to get an idea of the surroundings but that proved to be rather lovely.

Back we headed to the hotel, and showered in a very nice and powerful shower – it was lovely. After a quick change it was time to head out, and we noticed that along the streets near us there were some nice restaurants, so we had our evening meal in one of those – La Pizza Cresci. They’ve been here since the 1950s with their wood fired oven. I had to have one of the pizzas which was gorgeous, and The Sand had the spaghetti carbonara, also gorgeous too. We ended the evening walking around the old town and having a drink in the Place Magenta near the hotel. A lovely day!

Wednesday 14th September - Champions League Here We Come

It was a busy day at work today just when I didn't want it to be. I wanted it to be quiet so I could go on holiday and feel all relaxed, but none of that seemed to happen. Indeed at around 4pm I got an urgent call from one of our admin staff as one of the PCs that they were planning to use for enrolment wasn't printing out the barcodes for the ID cards for some reason. I did some investigation and it turned out that for some reason even though that the badge design had the barcode there it didn't allow it to be printed, so one quick edit later and it all seemed to be working as intended, thankfully.

I eventually left for home around 5pm and so managed to get myself home and all sorted out for the evening, as myself and my friend were heading to the Etihad Stadium to see Manchester City's first ever Champions League game at home to Napoli. As it worked out it meant that I could go to all the home games after all and so as I'd packed everything I needed last night for the trip away tomorrow, it meant I could go and watch the football and be relatively relaxed. And of course with the prospect of some heavyweight European teams arriving in Manchester, who knows what would happen?

We got to the ground a little earlier so we could soak up the atmosphere and indeed around 7.30pm on came the Champions League theme. I was quite happy to even sing along at full pitch as I'd managed to remember all the words too - so that theme is tune of the day methinks. It just sends hairs on the back on the neck to stand up and really does get the mood going. And to be fair, so did City, replaying video of some glorious European nights and really getting everyone well up for cheering the team on. Of course Napoli like to counter attack so I knew it wasn't going to be easy.

And so it proved, with Napoli hitting the bar in the first half, as did ourselves, and both teams were looking to score but couldn't make the breakthrough. It really was end to end stuff and I was a little concerned with the defending even though up front we looked pretty decent and knew what we were up to. The flow between Samir Nasri and David Silva helped a fair bit, and with Sergio Aguero up front with Edin Džeko I thought we'd score sooner rather than later.

It wasn't all City's way though and a gorgeous bit of counter attacking from Napoli saw them get the opening goal and it sent their impressive travelling army wild with delight, and to be fair to them they were vocal and fair with their support. I had been screaming all night to let Aleksandar Kolarov take a free kick from outside the area, and a few minutes after Napoli had scored, the City bosses allowed Kolarov to do so - and smash! In it went for 1-1. Shame he was going off almost straight afterwards, but still it meant that we had got back into it, and that's how it stayed till the end.

On the way back my friend and I were thinking on the plus side that we had come back from a goal down but also that we could and should maybe have won the game as well - it's one of those that was difficult to judge really. All I knew was that City at least got off to a decent start and with the prospect of Bayern Munich away next time around, it wasn't going to get any easier, but still - we're here and have announced ourselves to Europe as Champions League competitors. Now to get some sleep....

Tuesday 13th September - Curtains!

Well it was a right sort of a day today. I got up and was about ready to head off for work, and pulled the curtains back to bring the start of a new day. Except I didn't just get the curtains pulled back, but the curtain track almost came off in the hand as well. Not good whatsoever. In the end I dug my screwdriver out and made sure that I'd unscrewed all the curtain track and made sure that it was all off the wall, so that at least when I put a new one up it'd be easier to do as I'd already done some preparation.

Work was a bit up and down too really. On the positive side I managed to get lots of work done which was good but I had to head up to our server room around lunch time as for some reason the backup server wasn't playing ball with actually doing backups. Not good. It turned out that the SCSI cable for some reason had been pulled out of the backup tape drive and so of course wasn't seeing the server properly. I powered everything down and reseated everything, and once I did a re-initialise of the tape drives that seemed to kick it all in nicely. Thank heavens for that!

I did notice though just how much of a building site that the building I used to be based in still is though - I had to have a hard hat and hi-vis jacket to even be allowed up to the upper floors where the server room is. There is still so much to do really and I am sure that it won't be ready for when it needs to be. It also shows just how much of a job there is to do to have the new build ready for when it's supposed to be ready next year, and that's of course if it actually all falls into play. We shall see.

I headed home a little later than planned as I had stayed behind to work on a PC image and get all that up and running, and also to make sure I didn't have to worry too much about tomorrow and get everything done when it needed to be done. I ended up heading to the big B&Q in Stockport and getting a new curtain track, which came complete with all the fixings (including the track gliders for the curtains themselves) and the only worry I'd have was that at a massive 2.7 metres long how I'd get it home on the bus - I was quite clever and managed it easily in the end.

I was half way through putting it up when The Love In My Heart came over, and once I'd got the fixings in place and managed to clip the track on to the fixings with a neat ingenious method that it uses, we'd got the track all on and the curtain didn't take too long to put back. It looks tons better now and considering that the old one was on there for over nine years in the house, it's not done that bad. Gradually I've replaced the old track with new curtain poles and this new track (it's a bay window so has to around a corner, can't just have it straight you see) and it makes the house feel that little bit nicer along the way.

After all that I'd ordered Pizza Hut delivery for us both and the Texan barbecue pizza I had was lovely, as was the pepperoni feast that The Love had. It made sense really and we saw the end of The Great British Bake Off after their attempts to make a pie, a pork pie and then a surprise dessert with meringue base, and quite rightly one bloke who'd been rubbish for week finally got sent packing - about time The Love and I thought. I also finished packing the case as well and The Love very kindly did some neat clothes folding for me - she's such a star you know!

The time went by far too quickly and soon The Love was heading home for a well earned rest. I know too that it'll be the football tomorrow so I wanted to have everything packed now so that I could relax watching City tomorrow night in the Champions League. Tune of the day is the excellent "Don't Say The Word" by Swing Out Sister, as it just has a wonderful blissfully happy vibe and reminds me of The Love and I seeing the band live as we've done twice now. The gig we saw in Shepherd's Bush Hall will live long in the memory - it was a lovely night for us both and a great weekend overall too, and we really do want to see them again soon!

Monday 12th September - Positive

Well I've had to change the priorities a little around this week. I knew that realistically due to one reason or another I couldn't get all the PCs imaged that I wanted to in one of the drop in rooms, and so focussed the attention elsewhere, such as enrolment for next week. It involves us getting plenty of kit ready, and so myself and two colleagues were down in the atrium of the building that we're in with a set of tables in a circle, a network switch, a large screen for displaying information and a suite of laptops used for assistance with enrolments etc.

It's quite an operation really, because you've got to work out where the live network points are and use them to their potential, and also how to get the best out of the network switch to ensure that the printer can be seen by all the laptops, and that it all comes together nicely. As there was three of us working on things it meant we got most of the stuff done by mid-morning, allowing me and a colleague to concentrate on the enrolment stations with ID card printers in the afternoon, and made some really good progress in terms of how the connection information works with the databases, and indeed the new version of the software which seems to happily play ball without any issues as well.

It therefore was a good day and made even better by a timely purchase on the way home. I wanted to get some scales so I could weigh the luggage before I head out on a trip later on, and knew that realistically I didn't want to go over the limit set by the air line. Thankfully one of the local discount shops near me had this really nice manual scale with a hook, so you hook the luggage on to the hook and the scale moves with the weight. It seemed pretty accurate too, because as I added stuff to the case that I knew roughly what the weight was, it played ball accordingly. Thank heavens for that!

I got some trousers ironed and packed too, and whilst I was ironing several clothes there was nothing better than doing some working out to Slayer at full blast. Well why not, if it gets me motivated then that's good isn't it? Tune of the day is "Black Serenade" as it seems to go along at a fair lick throughout, especially with the instrumental interludes but the chorus really hammers home the dark feeling of the whole of Slayer's "Christ Illusion" album and that has to be good.

Sunday 11th September - Reflective Sunday Afternoon

After a relaxing morning taking it relatively easy, resting and keeping an eye on the world news, it was good to see that everyone was thinking to some degree about events of ten years ago. I can vividly remember where I was at the time of 9/11 happening. I was at work in our old office in the building I normally work in with my manager and two of my colleagues, and we managed to get a video feed from the BBC News web site as all the drama unfolded before our eyes. We soon had three or four academic staff in our office and we were all dumbstruck and silent with fear as we had seen what was happening. It's one of those moments you don't forget and all work stopped when it was all unfolding.

It was good to see that remembering services were done in the right way, with a solemn feeling and a real thought for what had gone on then and what is still going on now. Just recently in Manchester we've had someone rightfully found guilty of inciting religious hatred from a local market stall, and recruiting and brain washing others to peddle the sick message in the sake of a religion which doesn't actually believe in the lies that these recruiters are spreading. It's a reminder that it's not just about ensuring that such awful moments don't happen again, but educating those around us to make them appreciate that we should all get on with each other, accept and respect our differences and live side by side in peace.

I had a really nice afternoon as myself and The Love In My Heart headed up the A580 and M61 past Bolton and towards Hunger Hill, just on the A58. There you'll find the Tavernfayre restaurant which is situated at the top of e hill, with a view of Winter Hill and the TV transmitters to the North and over the valleys and hills looking South. The location is rather nice but can be windy, and the food is normally pretty good. We were meeting up with The Love's mother and father, two sisters and niece for the afternoon to have a meal there together. It's always lovely to see The Love's family, they make me feel very welcomed which means a lot.

The difficult decision was to actually decide what to have as the menu was pretty good all round, and in the end I plumped for the gammon with an egg and a pineapple. The gammon was really thick, properly meaty and gorgeous, and all the gammon is apparently locally sourced from a butcher, so that made me feel good about supporting local produce at the same time. Everything really did taste good but I did miss some peas to go with the gammon though. The Love had the pork Sunday roast which looked lovely, one of her sisters had a prawn penne and the other sister the sea bass, both of which looked rather good, as did the fish and chips that the niece had too.

It was good to sit by the window with a view of the hill and have plenty of conversation and the only difficult decision left was to decide what dessert to have as several of them looked rather nice. In the end I went for the lemon sponge with ice cream, and the sponge was nice and light with lots of lemon curd around too to pour over, which really did add nicely to it all, and most of us had a coffee to finish off so it was all good. The price wasn't too bad either considering that we were all eating and certainly was good value as well, and the empty plates all around showed that the meal was lovely.

Later on The Love and I said our goodbyes and whilst it's always sad to see her go home, I knew that soon we'd have lots of time together and I knew I couldn't wait for that too, so I felt a little less sad. I watched the Formula 1 later and sadly predicted that Sebastian Vettel would win, and he did. Mind you, I was well pleased seeing Jenson Button take on Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher in the same lap and go from fifth to third, and he soon set about catching Fernando Alonso for second place as well - a great recovery drive after not such a good start. Mind you, Vettel was ten seconds plus ahead and it made me wonder had Hamilton not been held up behind Schumacher for ages, he or Button might have got closer to the win. Still, you live and learn.

In the meantime, tune of the day simply has to be PJ Harvey's "The Glorious Land" - which grows on you with every listen. It sounds slightly dark as the song feels more broody as it progresses, with Polly's voice sounding more resonant with despair throughout, and lyrically it shows plenty of thought too. Live it sounded excellent too which is always a good sign of a song that plays well as well as being listenable, if you know what I mean. It was good to see her album jump to 24 in the album charts after the Mercury success, but you'd think it was higher. Buy it folks - you really need to do so and appreciate proper music.

Saturday 10th September - Party On

I got up reasonably early today and headed for the relative calm of the city centre. I've always found that if you go early enough on a Saturday morning, then you don't have to face the massed ranks of people everywhere and it's much less busy - which is good really. I needed to get a couple of things, one of which was a birthday card for my brother. His birthday is later this week but Mum's organised a bit of a family get together tonight to celebrate his birthday, so myself and The Love In My Heart will be heading there later to see everyone and hopefully have a lovely time.

I also got my travel money organised for my forthcoming trip away. It's pretty good in Marks and Spencer of all places because their exchange rates are very good, and they also very kindly have a cash machine that lets you draw out US Dollars or Euros, up to the equivalent pound limit of your cash point card. It's quite good that as it means that you can just draw it out and the job's a good one. It was easy to do and I was in and out of there in less than a minute, my kind of shopping all round. Go in, get what you want, and get home. Simple.

Later on after seeing some of the F1 qualifying my friend came over and we headed off to the Etihad Stadium for Manchester City's second home game of the season against Wigan Athletic. City of course have had three wins out of three so far this season, and I was hoping that we could make it four, which would be awesome stuff. Wigan were doing reasonably okay but I felt at home that we should do the business. We were both a bit surprised that Edin Džeko wasn't starting, but I guess he was being rested for the Champions League game on Wednesday. Mind you I want him or Sergio Agüero to be leading scorer, so...

The game started and City were straight away up at Wigan, and David Silva was organising most of it as per usual. He receieved the ball from Carlos Tévez on the left, and put a lovely cross across the box for Agüero to place it in the far corner for 1-0, an excellent finish. And then to make it even better, we got a penalty as Silva was fouled. Well it would have been 2-0 but for a horribly bad taken penalty by Tévez who didn't put any effort into it whatsoever. We had plenty of chances during the half with Vincent Kompany heading against the Bar, Micah Richards lofting the Wigan keeper on a 1 v 1 but hitting the bar, and my friend rightly said we should have been 3-0 up at least by half time.

It was all going a little bit stale in the second half but Roberto Mancini did the right thing by taking off Tévez and bringing on Samir Nasri. Almost straight away he combined with David Silva and that put through Agüero who did the rest with another excellently placed in the bottom corner shot for 2-0. A few minutes later Agüero was put clean through 1 v 1 and showed Micah Richards how to finish it, and slotted it cool as you like into the bottom corner for 3-0. Not long after he came off to a standing ovation, and rightly so. He was being saved for Wednesday now and in the last ten minutes we were virtually playing keep ball with Wigan, toying with them.

Now normally if you've won four out of the first four, you'd expect City to be top of the league. But no. Manchester United went to Bolton later on and crushed them 5-0, and that meant that they'd be top on goal difference, with both teams having won four out of four. It shows how tough it might be for us to win anything this year but at least we're up there battling it out, and a well earned cuppa at The Love's place after the game for us both allowed us to relax and have a good chat.

The Love and I then set off for my place before I got changed and we headed to Mum's to see the family and to see my brother. It was pretty quiet when we got there with my brother and his girlfriend and my birthday brother and his girlfriend too - and gradually the rest of the family came over and we had plenty of chat and conversation. Mum did lots of nice food and even a chicken curry which went down very well, it has to be said. She even attempted a cheesecake similar to what The Love makes and whilst not as good as The Love's, it was still a pretty good effort all round and tasted very nice. I had to restrain myself from having another slice!

Tune of the day in the meantime is Supra's version of "Blue Moon" which I wish City would start playing again before the game instead of Liam Gallagher's rubbish version. At least with the Supra one it gets you properly fired up for the game and cheering on the boys, and full of rocking guitars and pure passion. I appreciate that lots and it really does get me going when I hear it. I'd like it reinstated please City, after all, I'd like to get nicely fired up before the start of play!

Friday 9th September - Pointless New York

It was another pretty busy day at the office today, as I knew that we had a meeting in the morning about our Windows 7 deployment and also later in the day we would be getting all the kit together ready for the enrolment sessions which would soon be starting upon us. The good thing was that the meeting went well and was shorter than planned, so we were all able to contribute well and put our views across as well as share some experiences of how things were going. One particular type of netbook seemed to be giving us the most problems of all, so I offered some useful bits of advice which might be worth consideration.

I also spent some time sorting out a couple of hardware and driver issues with one of the campus technology PCs that we use for one of our meeting rooms. The flat panel display has some weird connector which has to go through an old combination serial and video card, and getting the video drivers weren't that easy. It turned out that it was a Trident Cyberblade 9738 (or some similar number) and I seem to remember that those drivers were on the Windows XP CD of all places. I dug them out and then put them on a pen drive, and asked Windows 7 to look for those drivers when installing. It of course complained about an unsigned driver, but amazingly it worked, so at least that was one less thing to worry about.

I went into the city centre after work to get my hair cut, and it felt lots better afterwards having my hair all neat and sorted, and with a bit of tweaking of the eyebrows to make them all neat too. They're always dead good in The Northern Cutter and don't charge shedloads either, so it's win win all round. We were talking about music and she mentioned that she was more of a 1980s girl, especially Duran Duran. Of course in the 80s that was perfectly allowable, and I responded that really in the early 80s the women had it better as to who to fancy - apart from the lovely Clare Grogan, the men didn't have that much to swoon over really.. well not till the mid to late 80s anyway.

I got home later and whacked on iPlayer on the Wii to watch Pointless, as is my normal thing these days. The two people who got all the way to the prize round did find two pointless answers with Star Wars characters (more by fluke it has to be said) and then managed to win the head to head. The question on song titles came up and you had to guess song titles with New York in the title. I straight away thought of REM's "Leaving New York" as well as the Fun Lovin' Criminals classic "King of New York". As it transpired, both of them would have been pointless answers and I'd have won the dosh, so I'm going to make the FLC classic tune of the day - because I can.

Thursday 8th September - The Words That Maketh Magic

I was very excited all day today as I knew later on I was off to see PJ Harvey, a gig I'd been looking forward to for ages. But first to get through the day. I had a productive time of it, getting all the laptops on one trolley updated with the standalone licences for Solidworks that they were intended for, and making sure they all worked. I also helped a colleague with Adobe Premiere Elements 9 and got that packaged up ready for deployment. Of course it's a bit of a weird one really as there's no silent command line as such without having to play with a few files and of course make one of your own as per Adobe's guide. It's a shame it's not like their Application Manager for CS5 which makes corporate deployments much easier to do.

I also spent some time with a piece of software called PHP Designer. It looks good at what it does and we have a site licence for it, but it seems that for each different user that logs in, you need to activate the software again. Hmmm. I need to investigate that further so I've emailed the software company to see what can be done to accommodate us nicely. If there's a good way that it can be done then it'll make our life easier all round really. Fingers crossed that we're able to do that nicely.

I headed home and watched Pointless as is my usual wont at the moment. One of the questions had two parts to the round: top 40 Westlife singles first pass, and then top 40 Status Quo singles second time around. I was really surprised someone got a pointless answer with the Quo but it was one of their early singles so well deserved in my view. The prize round wasn't so easy though: naming films that Dame Maggie Smith has been involved in. Amazingly the three Harry Potter films she's been in were all pointless. The winning contestants did get an answer worth 1, but missed the jackpot.

After having some tea, doing plenty of ironing and washing clothes and then making a well earned cup of coffee, it was time to set off for the O2 Apollo. I knew that I didn't have to set off too early as I'd had an email that there was no support at all, and if doors were at 7pm I couldn't see PJ Harvey being on any earlier than 8pm. As it was I got there around 7.50pm and the notices said that she'd be on at 8.30pm so I got myself a cold drink just to keep myself nicely hydrated, and a nice sense of anticipation built up inside me. I wondered if she would be as good as when I saw her at the Bridgewater Hall in 2007?

The time came and on came PJ Harvey (official site) and she didn't disappoint. Together with the band line up that made the Let England Shake album including long term collaborator John Parish, a simply beautiful sound echoed around the Apollo, with the title track of the album starting things off rather nicely. You simply have to love the autoharp that Polly plays with such aplomb, and soon we had my favourite track on the new album, "The Words That Maketh Murder" as it has a really dark hook line to it that draws you in somehow. It felt a real sense of unease even more so live, so tune of the day without question for me there.

In fact almost all of the new album was played, so the crowd were treated to wonderful tracks on the album such as "England" with its initial sparse feel, "The Glorious Land" (and they even kept the bugle sample in played throughout, neat, complete with a sense of complete unease all the way through it), and "In The Dark Places" with Parish really giving some excellent backing on the vocals as well. One other track that really came across ever so well live from the album was "All And Everyone" with its brooding introduction giving way to Polly's dramatic vocal piercing the silent Apollo crowd.

And that was nice to see - a respectful crowd. During two tracks from her 2007 album "White Chalk", namely the opening two of "The Devil" and the beautifully sparse "Dear Darkness" you could hear a pin drop, and it's so nice when you can enjoy the music like that. The latter track just sounded so beautiful that you felt the emotions within, and that's how it should be. We even got "Down By The Water" and "C'mon Billy" as well so some nice older stuff to please the diehard fans (mind you, at the Bridgewater Hall in 2007 we got "Dress" which is my all time favourite song of hers, but still no complaints here tonight!)

The time went by far too fast and ending with the stunning "Silence" from the White Chalk album, it was then time to head home in the incessant rain. I had had a wonderful time and wished I could have convinced The Sand On My Beach to come with me so she could understand just what a wonderful talent PJ Harvey is - she lit up the night with band at the Apollo and made everyone realise just why she is so deserving of the Mercury Prize. And if you've not got the album "Let England Shake" yet then you should go out and buy it forthwith and show your appreciation of brilliant music for what it is.

Wednesday 7th September - Make Your Own Bleeping Tea

I felt quite productive today and that I was finally getting on top of things nicely with work and everything. Not least as I'd finally worked out just why we'd got some standalone licences for a piece of software, and it all made perfect sense when all the pieces of the puzzle fitted. I was then able to work out that we still had a network licence as well so for the PCs that require it, I was therefore able to upgrade the licence server so that it would accept the new version and serve licences, and package the installer for the network licence accordingly.

It was then a case of heading to two rooms that I know will have the software and deploying them accordingly to the machines. In essence it worked very well and I knew therefore that I would be able to crack on with things nicely for the rest of the day. In fact I dug out the laptops that we'll be using in the next few weeks mainly for enrolment and ensured that all the latest Windows updates went on them - as the last thing you want is to fire a PC up and find that there's plenty of updates to go on. In fact some of them had almost fifty of them so time done now is time saved later, that's the cunning plan anyway.

I got home and listened to some PJ Harvey in preparation for me seeing her tomorrow night at the O2 Apollo here in Manchester, and of course in celebration of her well deserved second Mercury Music Prize win (she's the only person ever to win it twice, fact fans). I did play the new album Let England Shake of course but there's also a fair chunk of her previous release White Chalk that I also love. "Dear Darkness" for me is still one of the highlights from that album - it's beautifully sparse yet haunting at the same time. Tune of the day wasn't a difficult decision to make there let me tell you.

Later on The Sand On My Beach arrived and after a coffee and a chat I set to making the tea, which was some free range corn fed chicken with potatoes and mixed vegetables. I even did some gravy for myself so that I could enjoy the chicken a bit more, and that worked very nicely. The Sand looked lovely as ever and we were able to snuggle and chat as she watched Emmerdale - two episodes back to back no less. Is it me or do the storylines just go on and on and never seem to have some form of natural conclusion. Maybe it's me...

It was then on with the DVD player as after myself and our friend mentioned the film last week, the least I should do is hire from Tesco DVD Rental the film "Rita Sue and Bob Too" so that The Sand could work out what all the fuss was about and why myself and friend like it so much. It was good for me to see it as I'd not seen it for a while, and when you think about the actors who were in it then they've all done plenty since. Siobhan Finneran (Rita) was last seen in Downton Abbey no less as well as Benidorm, Michelle Holmes (Sue) was in the likes of The Chase and Above Suspicion, and George Costigan (Bob) was in Emmerdale a couple of years back as well. "I thought I were great!" I chuckled to myself.

Of course perhaps the one who went on to even better things was Lesley Sharp who played Bob's cheated on wife Michelle. Lesley's done series such as Playing The Field, Clocking Off, and even more recently Scott and Bailey alongside Suranne Jones. She argubaly has the best line in Rita Sue and Bob Too as well when after an argument with Bob and with the two girls giggling just looks at Bob all straight faced and says "Make your own f***ing tea" and it's the delivery that really shines through. The film is of course still a classic, and the row outside the house when Michelle finds out Bob's been cheating on her is pure comedy as well as drama, it's just really well done, Northern and gritty. Sometimes you just have to appreciate the era that it captured.

Tuesday 6th September - Unpacking and Packaging

It was a day and a half today as we set to work on a long and necessary job. We had taken delivery of some 22" widescreen monitors to go with the new PCs for one of the PC dropin rooms that we have. The PCs had come in January but we had to use the existing monitors for now. There was then money available to upgrade them all so it was a case of getting a lot of us together and unpacking the boxes that they came in. It's more arduous because we have to recycle all the cardboard packing so we had a massive skip-like recycle bin for paper and card and as we unpacked the kit it was a case of then flattening all the boxes and skipping those in the right bin, then taking off the old monitors to be moved into storage for now, and then putting the new ones on.

I certainly felt rather hot after that work, and later in the day it was down to me to do a re-package of one application that we use - Solidworks 2011. I had found out that some standalone licences that we got were for one of the laptop trolleys, and that the network licences should be valid for the new release with the same serial number. So I set about packaging the network installer but for a network licence, and of course this meant ensuring that the installer knew where our licence server was - and that worked pretty well.

Once I'd got all that sorted, the installer packaged fine and from there it was just a case of testing it on one of our rigs - which worked pretty well. The only thing now of course is that I needed to update the licence server side of things so that it would talk with the client properly, but provided that all goes well I can then go round a room I did the other day, remove Solidworks standalone from there, re-add the network version and then once that's done go and do the install of the standalong on sixteen laptops, which thankfully I should be able to get to and do, fingers crossed.

But all that's for tomorrow - what's on tonight was England v Wales at Wembley for the Euro 2012 qualifiers, and I had invited several of the family around to watch the game with me. Including me, there were five of us, so I made us all a brew before kick off and offered some crisps to anyone that wanted some as well. The game kicked off and England were doing reasonably okay if not earth shattering, and it was good to catch up with everyone and have a chat to them all too. England's one moment of brilliance had Stuart Downing down the right, and pulled it back for Ashley Young to rifle it low and home for 1-0 at half time.

In the second half Wales were the better side, and England seemed a little turgid, and it seems to be the case more at home that we're like that. The Wales sub Robert Earnshaw will be kicking himself for missing a golden opportunity to equalise when it was easier to score, and there were another couple of good chances that they might have had too. England didn't seem as fluent and Wayne Rooney didn't have the best of games to be honest, but we did enough and won 1-0, so that means a point in the final group game in Montenegro will see us qualify automatically as group winners, or else it's the play-offs for us possibly. We shall see.

Tune of the day has stuck in my head because of the ITV coverage of the football and it's now their theme tune for England games - namely "Bittersweet Symphony" by The Verve. Even though chunks of it were basically parts of a Rolling Stones song originally, it seems to me that at least by using something reasonably contemporary, it stirs the emotions a little bit (and as much as I like it, it's not the well overused "One Day Like This" by Elbow).

On a much happier note too I was really pleased to see that PJ Harvey had won the Mercury Music Prize tonight, a richly deserved award in my eyes. Her album "Let England Shake" is a masterpiece of work and one that will be in my contenders for my own album of the year award. There's something wonderfully uncomfortable about it when you listen, and you can tell that there's been plenty of thought going on with the music and lyrics. And of course I get to see her live this Thursday, which I am very much looking forward to!

Monday 5th September - Legendary Evening

It was a good evening to be had tonight for myself and my friend, as we were off to one of the Manchester City supporter associations' meetings, and held inside one of the suites at the Etihad Stadium as well, so you can imagine the excitement we had of being in the ground and being able to meet with some fellow fans and indeed the guests that were there. It's quite nice inside the suite too as we get laid on some water and some biscuits, the kind of which we used to get for meetings at work but don't get any more due to cost cutting measures, a fact not lost on me I tell you.

Everyone arrived ready for the 7.30pm start and two guests arrived, one of which was Gary James who's written a number of books on City's history and is a man full of stats if you ever wanted to know anything, and the other was the most decorated captain ever for City - Tony Book. "Skip" as he was affectionately known by his team mates, was the captain of the great City side of the late 1960s and early 1970s. With him we won the league title, the FA Cup, the League Cup and the European Cup Winners' Cup. In later years he was City's manager for a few years and in 1976 became the first player to play and manage a League Cup winning side.

His pedigree knew no bounds, and as the questions were asked, he really came across as a knowledgable and warm humourous person. His tales of how we'd try to put George Best off his game by winding him up was great fun to hear, and at the same time he also respected the great player he was, and by all accounts they got on famously off the pitch. A few of the fans asked about some of the team mates he used to play with and what they're up to now, and Tony knew what they were all doing, where they were and had plenty of stories to tell about them all.

After the questions and answers it was good that he went around and chatted to fans and was willing to have their picture taken too - and I got a couple of decent ones, one of my friend and him and one of the three of us. It's always good to meet someone who you look up to when you were younger, and as we were leaving in the lift he was in the lift with us, so I asked him if it meant more winning trophies as a manager or a player, and he said without pause it was much more important as a player if you won things, which I can see the reasons why. The rain was still lashing it down as my friend and I headed home but it had been a good night all round too.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather good "The Modern World" by The Jam, in the days when you could imagine Paul Weller sounding a lot more punk like and angrier than he is now. I just thought about the song on the way home and imagined the band back then having all that feeling of angst and just getting the song played during rehearsals. And occasionally we all need a song that keeps us on a level, and this is definitely one of them!

Sunday 4th September - Sunday Stroll

After a relaxing lie-in, which to be honest after the week at work I really needed, it was time to get up and have a late but relaxing breakfast in the company of The Love In My Heart. I'd got up early enough though to see Mo Farah take the world championship 5000 metre race in the athletics, and he did superbly well in a top class field to win. Did feel a bit gutted for Philips Idowu in the triple jump but to come second to anyone who's done the best jump in the world this year (which was also around the fifth longest triple jump of all time) is no disgrace. At least he didn't drop the baton like the relay team did.

With all the athletics now finished, we headed out for the afternoon for a leisurely walk. We took the bus to Millgate Lane in East Didsbury and from there took the walk through Fletcher Moss Gardens and park, heading towards the tall trees that flank the path to the River Mersey, and from there walked along the river bank to Simon's Bridge, heading over that and continuing along Ford Lane as it wound its way around Didsbury Golf Club before heading alongside the Mersey again, past one of the most odd locations for a caravan park you're ever likely to see, before heading into Northenden itself.

It's a nice walk alongside the river and indeed almost feeling as if you're part of the countryside, and as we headed out of Northenden on the bus into Manchester city centre it reminded me of spending time here as a child when I'd go with my parents to see my grandparents who lived in Northern Moor. We'd often do the shopping in the Tesco in Northenden (today it's still there as a Tesco Metro) and also go into the big Woolworths that was there too (sadly gone of course). The bus was pretty busy as it wended its way through West Didsbury, Withington and Fallowfield before making its way into the city.

We headed to Kro in Piccadilly Gardens and rewarded ourselves for walking efforts, The Love with a nice glass of a wine and me with their coffee and cake deal for a mere £2.95. I had the St Clement's Cake which was effortlessly light and really had a subtle orange taste even in the soft sponge too, all gorgeous. As was the coffee, so no complaints from me there really. It was nice too to sit away from all the smokers outside and be inside by one of the comfortable seats and tables inside. We noticed that some of the sofas and cushioned seating had been done up and looked as lovely as ever.

It was then back to mine where later on I made us some penne pasta with meatballs for tea, which went down rather well. Time went by far too quickly today and I always don't like saying goodbye to The Love, because it's such a lovely time that we have together. It made me realise though just how lucky I am to have someone who doesn't mind a nice walk out and who wants to be out and about too, I really appreciate that. Tune of the day in the meantime is "Summer" by The Floe, as today felt more like Summer, and it's also a beautiful song with lovely piano and vocals. What more do you need?

Saturday 3rd September - Stonebaked

I got up after having a reasonable lie-in and headed into the city centre to pick up something I'd ordered online from Debenhams, a Mantaray orange check shirt. It's mainly white with orange check and thought it'd be well suited for sunnier climes, and at half price makes it a good bargain. The staff in Debenhams are normally really helpful, and collecting from inside the store saves me £4 in postage costs. As my travel into the city is covered by my monthly bus ticket, it doesn't cost me any more (I'd have to buy it for going to work anyway) so it works out rather well. Hurrah to that!

I then headed on the bus to Chorlton, as I wanted to have a look in Kingbee Records and also pop into Morrisons to get some bottled real ale for tonight. It was good to see that nothing much has changed in Kingbee really, it's still a real treasure trove of vinyl and CD. I concentrated on the vinyl and found some 7" singles for 50p and 12" and albums for £1, and so I bought three items in all - two 7" singles, namely John Foxx's "Underpass" and an early Human League single "Empire State Human" - this was before the two girls joined the band and they were more electronic. I remember seeing them do this at the gig at Academy 1 last year and loving it.

I also got a 12" single of Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" on the Harvest label no less. It looked like it was a re-release from the 1980s as other famous songs by them were also on there such as "Child In Time". When I got home I found out it was part of a four single re-release in 1985 by Harvest, which included the likes of "Black Night", "Fireball" and "Strange Kind of Woman" - a nice set to have the lot of I reckon. Might need to see if I can spot the other three. In fact the version of "Smoke on the Water" is a live version, possibly from the Made in Japan album - and definitely not the studio one.

I played all my vinyl and the condition was spot on, really nice and good to play nice and loud. Out of the three, "Empire State Human" by The Human League really came out of the speakers with aplomb, sounding fresh and lovely. Tune of the day there for me that one - it's just got a really nice mix within the song and the vinyl being in such excellent condition really does give you that feeling of being there. I was even half tempted to sing along but wanted to enjoy the single a bit more so I left it be. I did play it three times back to back though as I was rather enjoying that piece of electronica.

In the afternoon it was time to have a good clearout of my wardrobes. I do have a lot of clothes, but to be honest, I'd say a quarter of them I never wear anymore for one reason or another and felt it best to do the right thing and recycle them so that the materials can be used again as need be. I was pretty ruthless all round though and soon managed to work out what I needed to keep and what I needed to bin, and filled three black bin bags full of my old clothes. I was thinking that in a way I'm glad to have done it - many band t-shirts I don't wear anymore, so what's the use of keeping them? The Love In My Heart kindly dropped me off to the local recycling tip which isn't too far away and I did the right thing there.

Later on we headed over to Mum's as she was making a really nice meal for the two of us and my brother and his girlfriend. It's always good because the five of us are really chatty anyway, and I think that it makes life much easier when having dinner together. Think of it as Come Dine With Me but only one contestant doing the cooking and us scoring. The starter was really nice - for everyone else it was goat's cheese tart with salad, and I had a normal cheese and mushroom tart instead which really did taste smart. Nicely done Mum!

The main was massive, and to be honest that could have managed on its own without the starter, with lots of beef, new and herb potatoes, carrots, Yorkshire pudding, gravy and tons more. I enjoyed it and it really did taste spot on, and everyone else really did tuck in. Mum did ask but dessert but the four of us were like "Later, we're all full!" so we had more beer, wine and chat. My brother had bought himself some Fraoch heather ale and had never tried it, but I knew it was spot on and he found it to be just that. I recalled the pub in Birmingham The Love and I went in where we'd had it on cask. Oh yaay!

We eventually had dessert and I plumped for the lovely lemon cheesecake that The Love had made - good call all round. Mum had made this strawberry tart with a pastry case, but as my brother bit into it, he thought "the pastry was a bit hard" and we soon found out why - one of the stones that Mum had used as baking beans for the blind bake of the pastry was still there - inside the pastry. Ouch. That's what I call stone baked methinks. I was glad to be honest I stuck with The Love's lovely cheesecake (which my other brother also had a bit of and loved it). It was a great time had by all though and one of my sisters and her boyfriend came over for a drink and a chat so it was pretty busy at Mum's, but it was good to see everyone and indeed have plenty of chat and conversation. I'm sure that it'll be the same next weekend at Mum's as well when there's a bit of a get together, but always good to have some quality time out.

Friday 2nd September - Stress

Today was the sort of day that I really wanted things to go on schedule, but guess what? They didn't. It didn't help that one of the buildings I was in doing work on some of the student PCs had a fire alarm go off, and the timing meant that I couldn't go back in for over an hour. Granted, I did have a meeting over coffee during some of that time which wasn't too bad but even so. I headed back over to the building and thankfully once I'd managed to test an application to bits to ensure that it was correctly working properly for users as well as administrators, it was off I go with my work laptop and on to the next task in another building - a stack of trolley laptops which are used for teaching.

Knowing that I couldn't wheel them over to one of our buildings with a shed load of network points, I used the lift in the building it was in and used their smaller dropin room - this meant I could do half of the 16 at a time, and also then the other half later. I set the first half off - eventually, because the BIOS settings for AHCI weren't compatible with the way the imaging works so had to set it to manual instead of auto, and it worked fine then from that point on. The imaging took a while and I had my lunch in the meantime in an attempt to save some time.

Once I got back, most of them were almost complete with the first main part, and then it was a case of me associating the applications to go on the laptop to those ones and seeing how they would go on. In real terms it was pretty good actually, I had a few failures to start with but I suspected this was because either Windows or antivirus updates were running. Once I got those out of the way, it was then a case of restarting and kicking off the task sequence for the applications again and they all started to play ball. It did seem to take ages though, around an hour and a quarter for that which considering what's going on there wasn't good.

I had a decision to make: do I stay and do the rest, knowing I might be here after hours, or do I leave it till Monday? I thought hard but then realised that if I could get them done tonight, it's one more thing taken care of and we can go from there. So I set the other eight up and had them all going, and they seemed to be imaging well. The first part with the OS and other steps needed seemed to take a fair while, and it wasn't till around 5.30pm that I could even think about getting the applications on. One by one they all finished so by around 6pm I could kick off the application installs. This thankfully was much quicker (probably because no one was in so I had the network traffic to myself) and the applications took a mere half hour, so I had the whole trolley locked away and me out of there at 6.30pm. I did feel rather stressed during the day though but felt a bit better knowing that was one less thing to worry about now.

I headed home via Tesco and on the advice of The Love In My Heart, treated myself to a fresh ham and pineapple pizza, it was on offer in Tesco with a stonebaked crust and so that felt rather satisfying eating that and watching Pointless. The prize question on that today was top 40 Duran Duran singles of the 1980s, and I knew that if my friend was watching who likes their music a bit, I suspect he'd have won the prize. I would have done too, as I plumped for "I Don't Want Your Love" and also "Meet El Presidente". Surprisingly of all, though, "Is There Something I Should Know?" was a pointless answer. It was number one for crying out loud, surely someone would have known that!

Maybe I need to be one of the one hundred people that they ask on Pointless for these questions so that I might think of the obscure answers and scupper some possible wins along the way. I guess due to the nature of the show that there obviously has to be a pointless one so that there is a chance of the prize being won, mind you. It's still great to watch and I'm going to give the Duran Duran classic a bit of justice and give "Is There Something I Should Know?" tune of the day. I could only think that some people may think the song is called "Please Please Tell Me Now" as the opening has that as does the first line of the chorus, so maybe that was why people got confused. Top tune anyway.

Thursday 1st September - Nightmare Day

I must admit that sometimes being really busy at work has its disadvantages in that you don't want things to go slow or go wrong when you've really got plenty on that you want to get on with. And today was a case in point. I had planned to set the seven PCs in our 3D suite room off imaging, and they've got plenty of specialist software on there which is needed to be installed so of course that means one massive second task sequence via ConfigMgr with all the software on that's needed. As you can imagine that's not at all easy to do, so it's a case of set the first main sequence off, get that on, and then add the applications accordingly.

I would have got started earlier had I not needed to re-patch four network sockets that were changed over for some printers for some reason, and whoever did it didn't bother to update the documentation that we have so I thought they were still set for normal PCs. Once I set them all back and set the PCs up I did feel like a little behind schedule really, so it was a case of getting on with things and starting them off to be imaged, and the main OS task sequence worked. I started the applications one around 2pm and at 5.30pm only one of them had managed to complete the whole lot. I'm not surprised as there's around 30GB of application installers, but even so..

As it was pretty late and I needed to leave before the building would close on me, I walked up to The Sauce In My Pasta's work and waited for her to see if she fancied coming out for a drink after work. It was a nice surprise for her to see me anyway, and she had a big smile on her face which despite us both having a tough day made me feel tons better already. As she had driven in to work she didn't want to head out for a drink but did offer to drop me off, which was lovely anyway. We had a chat in the car on the way back about each other's day and I think because of the jobs we do, we're both looking forward to having some us time.

I got home and had some music on to let out all the tension of the day. Sometimes you just need to do that to let it all go and think "actually it wasn't always so bad after all" and it gives me a sense of realising that no matter what the day brings, everything could be a lot worse out there. Tune of the day is "Panic Attack" by Dream Theater, as that's perfect to rock out to on Rock Band 2, especially on drums and even more so on vocals as well as guitar as it's quite a good work out vocally to get that one nailed!