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Cheap Break

Jet2 are having another flight sale.

I’ve just booked us an August mini-break in Amsterdam for £1 each way, plus taxes. 😀

It works out at less than £35 return. 😎

Work stuff

It’s been one of those rare weeks in work where everything seems to tick over quite nicely. Nothing major has broken, nobody has complained about anything significant, the team are on top of the workload and we’ve even had time to start planning ahead for the summer upgrade programme.

In fact, things have been pretty good since Friday 13th. I’m not superstitious but that was the kind of day you just don’t need:

  • Firstly, I messed up whilst editing the login script at about 8am. I blame this on the strong painkillers I was taking after twisting my ankle earlier in the week. A straightforward cut-n-paste operation went a bit wrong… well, the cut bit went OK but the paste bit didn’t happen at all. So about a hundred lines of VBScript went missing, resulting in no networked printing facilities for while. 😳
  • No problem, we’ll just restore the script from last night’s backup. It’s only a 10K file, shouldn’t take more than a few seconds, should it? Two hours later, having restored a full 8Gb domain state backup onto a spare machine, the file was finally recovered. 😕
  • We still experienced intermittent problems throughout the day and finally, after about 6 hours of head-scratching, we discovered that a “spare” DHCP server/domain controller had been plugged into the live network. 👿

It’s been quite amusing working with the Estates department again this week. There are numerous building projects taking place on campus over the next couple of months, many of which will require extra data and comms. But it seems that the people who are based in the locations where the work will be carried out haven’t been consulted or informed, so there have been a few surprised/annoyed reactions when I’ve visited the site with comms contractors. 😯

A couple of years ago there was a simple, effective system in place for planning and organising these sort of works but, following the appointment of a new Project manager, the process seems to have gone backwards. I’m sure it will all work out well eventually, but it’s nice to see people who, having ignored your views and claimed to know best, are now learning things the hard way. It’s just a shame that other people have to be inconvenienced along the way.

F.A. Cup Final

We’ve just got back from Cardiff.

We decided to try to avoid the usual traffic chaos in the Midlands by heading over to Chester and then making our way down through Wales, with a planned stopover at Brecon on Friday night. This proved to be a very good decision: traffic was light all the way and the journey through the Brecon Beacons was very pleasant indeed. 🙂

Brecon itself looked quite pretty when we arrived, with narrow winding streets surrounding the castle and cathederal, a bit like York or Chester. As we drove around the one-way system trying to find our hotel, we saw plenty of pubs, restaurants and cafe bars. Once checked in, we hit town and discovered, unfortunately, that Brecon is a real rough hole. Friday night in rural Wales is a real eye opener. Some of the pubs were the roughest I’ve ever seen, with the clientele of “The Punch Bowl” worthy of particular mention. It’s definitely not a place I’d want to visit twice. 😯

The next morning we continued on to Cardiff, only an hour’s scenic drive further south. Whilst the radio reports were warning of heavy congestion on the M4, our route down the A470 was hassle free. 😛

After a bit of driving around we eventually found our hotel, the Moat House, who were charging “special event rate” – a whopping £190 per night, nearly four times their usual price. 👿

We dropped off our bags and jumped in a taxi to town, heading straight for the bars in United’s designated half of town. The place was already buzzing with thousands of reds and the atmosphere in the bars and on the streets was superb. We settled in the busy Irish Bar near the Prince of Wales pub, one of the few places you could get in without queuing, and had a few drinks before making our way, via the bookie’s, to the stadium.

Although our seats were right at the back of the top tier, we were positioned almost on the half way line and had a fantastic view of the game. It was a thoroughly enjoyable game, Ronaldo and Rooney were absolutely outstanding, both having numerous chances. Rio Ferdinand had a goal disallowed, I don’t know why, and we also had two good penalty shouts – I haven’t seen any replays yet but I think the referee bottled out of those decisions. 😡

Somehow it remained goalless and went to extra time. I worried that some of United’s players, such as Roy Keane, would be shattered after giving it everything for 90 minutes, but Arsenal showed no ambition at all and continued to play for the penalty shootout. Reyes was sent off with only a couple of minutes to go; Vieira should also have been red carded. 😕

With no score after 120 minutes, the game had to be decided by a penalty shootout. I hate these things, bring back the days of the replays for me. You have to feel sorry for Paul Scholes, the only player not to score from his spot-kick. Arsenal won the game 5-4 on penalties but nobody can deny United deserved the victory. 🙁

After the game we wandered back towards the Marriott and stood under the marquees with a few beers, dishing out verbal abuse to any Arsenal fans daft enough to walk through the United zone, but it was all a bit downbeat. We decided to go for a walk around town and found ourselves in the dingy “Trader’s Tavern” pub, which was bursting with coachloads of reds having a good sing-song despite the result. After a few more beers we hopped in a taxi back to the hotel.

This morning, after a hearty breakfast spoiled by classless gooners in their brand new replica shirts, we headed back to Mancunia.

Summary: Trophies 0, Moral Victories 1, Miles 435, Alcohol Units 60+, Outlay £500+. Was it worth it? Every penny. 😎

Southampton 1 – 2 United

“We’ll be back to send you down” was the Red Army’s chant when we visited St Mary’s in the F.A. Cup 6th round and that’s exactly what United did today.

I still remember the 1976 F.A. Cup final and the grey shirts in 95/96. 😐

Cheerio Southampton, you’ve been a good source of points over the past 27 seasons but you flirted with relegation once too often.

Goodbye Graham Le Saux, goodbye Jamie Redknapp. I’m glad to see the back of you. 😛

Edit: And Robbie Fowler missed a last minute penalty against Middlesbrough that would have seen City qualify for European football next year. 😆

Domestic Applicances

Last week our fridge-freezer went on the blink. It’s one of those “frost-free” models that aren’t supposed to need any maintenance. Hmm. 😕

I noticed that the fridge part of it wasn’t working even though the freezer bit was fine, so, after freezing a load of bottles of water to keep the fridge cool, I phoned Hotpoint to arrange a repair. The bloke turned up the next day and said:

“It’ll be the flap thing which has frozen up with ice, that happens a lot on this model. If you’d have switched it off for a few hours and let it all melt, it would have started working again. While I’m here I’ll change this cheap part which commonly fails; it doesn’t need doing but you might as well get something for your £89.98.”

To say I wasn’t pleased is an understatement. 😈

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the dishwasher also packed in the other day. It works, of a fashion, but the dial no longer turns around automatically so the programme never finishes.

So that means our options are: a) wash up by hand or b) use the semi-broken dishwasher, remembering to turn the dial one notch every 10 minutes. But I keep forgetting to move it on, so it takes about five hours to wash up. 🙄

Seeing as the washer has also been dodgy for about… ooh, 4 years… we’ve decided to bite the bullet and buy a new washer/dryer and dishwasher. I can think of better ways to spend £500 to be honest, but needs must. 😯

Manchester United 1 – 3 Chelsea

The final home game of the season, a last chance for Fergie to show what United are made of. The starting eleven suggested a return to 4-4-2 and attacking football, with Ryan Giggs the only noticable absentee. 🙂

I ducked the “guard of honour” ceremony before kick-off, preferring an extra tin of Becks outside Ladbrokes instead. Unfortunately it turned out to be another night of boring 4-5-1, with the best young striker in the country pushed out wide on the left in order to accommodate Roy Keane and his carers in central midfield. 😡

United took an early lead through Ruud van Nistelrooy, scoring only his second goal from open play all season. Chelsea were soon level, courtesy of a long-range strike from Tiago. Second half goals from Gudjohnsen and Cole sealed the win for Chelsea. Our lack of spirit was quite embarrassing. 🙁

I’m ashamed to say that I was out of the stadium and back at the car before the final whistle. I honestly didn’t want to hear Fergie’s end of season speech or see the players do their lap of “honour”. I’ve had enough of their excuses this season. I don’t ask for much: I’d be happy for us to finish mid-table every year as long as we play good, attacking football and the players give 100% every week regardless of who we’re up against. I’ve seen very little of that over the last couple of seasons. 🙄

That said, I’ll still be there at the F.A. Cup Final next weekend giving my full support. My tickets are confirmed and extortionately expensive accommodation is booked. Hopefully a good victory against Arsenal will be the high point on which certain people can retire. Although I will forever thank them for what they have done for the club over the past decade, the last two or three seasons have used up all their credit. It would be better to see them go with dignity on a high note than be pushed out in a period of decline. 👿

Manchester United 1-1 West Brom

It was quite lively at the top of Sir Matt Busby Way before the game this afternoon. 😯

A small group of West Brom fans had gathered outside Macari’s Chippy and were enjoying a few drinks amongst the thousands of reds who mingle around this area before kick off. It was all fairly amicable at first but the mood changed completely when they started chanting their songs and soon dozens of beer cans were flying in their direction. A few Baggies took refuge in the United Chippy and the police were in there fairly quickly, but they weren’t best pleased about getting covered with beer and decided to bring in the horses to clear the whole area. 😕

Not wanting to be pushed down to the ground an hour before kick off, we made a dash for Ladbrokes and placed today’s silly bet: United to win 4-2. £8 to win £400. Unfortunately, at that time we didn’t realise that Fergie would be back to 4-5-1 tactics and would rest half of the team. 👿

United started with the same defence as last week. Alan Smith was picked as the lone striker, with Ronaldo and Giggs on the flanks. But choosing a central midfield trio of Fortune, Phil Neville and Kleberson showed a lack of ambition against a side who were bottom of the league.

Giggs scored united’s only goal with a quickly taken free kick after 20 minutes. Chance after chance went begging, with Smith missing at least seven or eight decent headers and Ronaldo having half a dozen decent shots saved by West Brom’s replacement keeper (whose name I can’t spell).

Rio Ferdinand popped up in the area just before the break and should’ve scored, but his embarrassing mis-kick prompted chants of “A hundred grand, you’re having a laugh” from the East stand. 😕

There were plenty more chances in the second half, including a golden opportunity for Kleberson to impress – but he blazed it over the bar from 10 yards out. West Brom were then awarded a dubious penalty when John O’Pie made a clumsy challenge on Horsfield; Earnshaw converted the spot kick easily.

Fergie reacted by bringing on Scholes, Rooney and Saha. I’m baffled… Why don’t we start with the strongest team and then take them off for a rest once we’re comfortably ahead, rather than bringing the “big guns” on when we’re desperate for a goal? This has happened too many times over the last couple of seasons. 😈

Cue a frantic last half hour with lots of attacking football. There were dozens of good chances, including Scholes hitting the woodwork, but we just couldn’t find the winner.

Right, I’m off to the Kings Arms. 🙄