Dear Diary... April 2015

Thursday 30th April - Progress

Another busy day today and plenty for me to get my teeth into. In fact I spent a fair bit of time revising some of my testing documentation and actually splitting one section into another document which detailed about how some of the settings for the software we are looking at currently might be being deployed. It's always good to have some recommendations for how you'd be wanting to get things done the right way for consistency, but also what works best for the end user as well should they have a wish to change things over.

I also spent some time later in the day working on a few other bits, including looking at how the next few weeks were going to pan out for some planning. Ideally what I'd like to do is to try and get some of the requirements for the next year sorted for software, see what's needed to install those and then get them at least packaged and ready. It takes time, especially with very large packages, to be able to get all that done, but there is some methdology in there at least. We pulled our team meeting forward to this afternoon and that seemed to go pretty well. In fact there's a lot going on and I think on the whole it seemed to me at least that there is a lot of pulling together and getting stuff done, whilst at the same time being able to really get progressing nicely on a few things.

After work I headed on the bus towards my auntie's place, as it was her birthday today, but as I passed Mum's the two of them made sure I stopped there as they were both at Mum's. It saved me a bit more of a walk, and I was able to have a coffee and chat to them both, so that was all good. In fact my uncle came over as well as did my youngest sister so plenty of time for a bit of a catch up generally. It was nice really, and it's often understated that when you do spend time in a quality way, it really does seem to make a lot of sense.

So onwards then and homewards later and after having some tea, it was on with the second semi final of the snooker, and after a cagey start things started to pull together nicely in the fourth frame with a decent break from Stuart Bingham to level the scores at 2-2. In fact Bingham went further ahead and kept going nicely to be up 5-3 at the end of the session, and there's plenty of mileage in that match yet. I am at the third session of that on Saturday morning, and so that looks like it's going to be set up nicely.

I also had recorded the BBC Red Button from 11.40am this morning as they had the final frame of the 1985 World Championship final between Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor - in full. That might not mean a lot till I tell you that it lasted 68 minutes, was decided on the final black and indeed had over 18 million people watching BBC2 after midnight, and that should tell you all that you need to know. To be fair, the balls went awkward, there were some cracking safety shots under pressure, and it would have been massively different had the miss rule that we know today have been more in operation.

I had a reminisce last night and tonight too about old TV programmes, and notably The Superstars - the classic sporting contest of years gone by where you'd do ten events and pick the eight you either wanted to do (or were allowed to do as you weren't allowed to do your specialist event). They also had a teams contest, Superteams, and the 1982 final brought together the watersports team against the athletics team. The athletes had Daley Thompson, Lynn Davies, Paul Dickenson (yes, the same one who became a commentator), Brian Hooper (later to become World Superstars champion that year) and the shot thrower Richard Slaney, who'd come in very very handy for the tug of war event. The iconic theme tune is tune of the day - "Heavy Action" by Johnny Pearson.

Wednesday 29th April - Back In The Groove

Back to work and sort of back in the groove as well a bit really. Well, sort of. There were quite a few issues with some of our networks and so this meant that a fair number of services were not working quite as well as intended. We were able to log in, and browse external websites, but not much internal stuff appeared to be quite on it. We ensured we did a lot of ringing around, getting some of our people out there and keeping people informed, doing what we could to head off a number of calls during the morning whilst we waited to see what would be happening and knowing other people were beavering away getting things sorted out.

This did however allow me some time to write some documents up following the visit to Risual yesterday. First of all I needed to write an external visit report based on what we were able to find out there and what we'd been able to do in terms of networking and how that would help us in the long term. In fact looking at the external visit reports folder, four of the seven reports have been written by me, which does say a lot I suppose. I did at least get that done plus a document detailing the various risks we have for some deployments right now (nine of them in fact) which were pretty fair I thought.

Thankfully things were getting back to normal in terms of services back up and running, but then spent some time checking over our licence servers for some of the software we use in one department to ensure that everything was working the right way as it should do. I think for me it was pretty good to note that I was able to easily spot some things not playing ball, getting them alerted and working on a solution and carrying it out. Lots of to remember, lots to do and so little time (as per usual in fact)

I headed over to my local Tesco on the way home as I needed to get a gift card and a birthday card for a forthcoming birthday coming up, and with that all nicely sorted, it meant I could theoretically put my feet up and watch the last of the quarter finals from the World Snooker Championship. I was keeping an eye on both tables at once, and noted that Stuart Bingham was on a maximum break against Ronnie O'Sullivan. In fact he got to the 12th red before breaking down with the red hitting the jaws of the pocket. It didn't put him off though: he won the last five frames of the match to beat Ronnie 13-9 and I have to say I was most pleased for him.

On the other table the quality was no less high either between Barry Hawkins and Neil Robertson, and somehow it only seemed fair that the match went to a deciding frame, with both players having made four centuries each (two 140+ breaks by Robertson, meaning he had made four 140+ breaks in the tournament, I saw his 145 of course.) It was a tight affair as you'd expect but a 60-odd break from Hawkins made him the winner, and I have to say that with the high quality offered in that match, snooker overall was the winner really.

Sometimes it's good to acknowledge that, and Barry Hawkins' style of walk on music although not my cup of tea normally, kind of works for him - it's the 10 degrees below vocal mix of Kele le Roc's "My Love" so that's tune of the day for me. You might be hearing a bit more of that in the next few days as he will take on Shaun Murphy in the semi final, and in the other it'll be Judd Trump against Stuart Bingham, which really will be an intriguing test too.

Tuesday 28th April - Seminars in Stafford

It was an early rise this morning as I was off to Piccadilly station early, and for a very good reason - this time for work purposes. It was an all day event and a series of seminars held by Risual in Stafford, all about Skype for Business and what it could possibly do to enhance the way that people converse and interact at work. It used to be called Lync, but I guess with Skype being a popular application and that people know how to use it, it makes some sort of sense to do the rebrand and encourage more use in the corporate environment.

I was on the 0727 train to Stafford and pleased that I had reserved seats for both my trains, and took my trusty Hudl2 tablet with me in case I needed to make any notes. It was an on time journey as per usual with CrossCountry and I waited in Stafford station for my colleague who was coming on the train from our Cheshire campus in Crewe. Once he arrived it was a taxi ride through some pretty busy peak hour traffic and towards Staffordshire University, and the business and technology park that Risual were at was pretty close to that.

It was a really nice place to be actually - their main room where we had tea and coffee etc had a table tennis table, a pool table, a Sonos sound system and plenty of opportunities to break out and relax. It made me wonder just how different a place it'd be to work at and how much more productive you might be because of that. We had a coffee and was tempted by the little muffins but avoided them for now, and headed in for the first of the seminars of the morning.

In fact the morning went pretty well, we had lots of introductions as to what Skype for Business was about, the directional move to enhance Lync but with Skype friendly features (including the Skype voice codec that's good for low bandwith connectivity) and also people from Essex County Council and BDP Architects in Manchester explaining their own success stories but with using Lync as more of a Unified Communications solution, not just for video, voice and meetings.

We had a really nice lunch with some hot and cold food provided as well as cakes, and I had a good chat with a couple of people from the University of Bath and some other companies too, and they all faced similar challenges in the IT world to ourselves, which was a positive thing. I also worked out that some of the more specialised skills I have might prove to be useful elsewhere, so nothing wrong in my view with a bit of networking and making sure I get myself out there.

In the afternon there was more information on a technical level which would prove to be really useful, followed by a question and answer session, and both my colleague and I posed some tough questions and that helped us massively. I took a massive amount of notes in order to be able to make some recommendations tomorrow, and also managed to spend some time doing some more networking before heading on the train back to Manchester, my mind afresh with a lot of summarising and a lot to think about. Tune of the day for that reason is something that's very thought provoking - "Watch The Bitch Blow" by the mighty Pop Will Eat Itself.

Monday 27th April - Snooker Loopy, Part 4

So after the only Monday this month I'm actually in work (Bank Holidays plus annual leave taken saw to that one) it was a walk from work to Manchester Piccadilly train station, where I'd be joining a fair number of commuters and taking the 1720 train to Sheffield. Thankfully I had had the common sense to ensure that I booked the ticket in advance and indeed reserved a seat, as I know how busy it can get. In fact it was a good move because it meant I was sitting comfortably for the journey outwards.

The train did arrive in Sheffield a few minutes behind schedule but that left me enough time to walk up the hill and to the Crucible in more than good time for the 7pm session. Naturally with one match being 12-4 and the other 11-5 I was worried that there might not be many frames played, but it had been mentioned earlier in the day that there would be an exhibition match played if both matches did finish early. With that in mind I suspected I was still going to get a good evening's entertainment. As I entered the theatre, Rob Walker mentioned and confirmed that there would be an exhibition match on with Ken Doherty and Stephen Hendry. This at least meant that we'd get a decent evening's entertainment, and before long it was on to the intros and Rob getting the crowd warmed up nicely.

I had a good seat in Row C seat 13 (I was on telly according to The Love In My Heart, so may need to see if I can spot myself there) and Matthew Stevens at least pulled one back before a bad miss in the next frame allowed Ronnie O'Sullivan to clear up and win 13-5. That was almost at the exact time Neil Robertson pinched the first frame from Ali Carter, so he'd gone 12-5 up. The dividers were lifted so at least we were going to get at least another frame.

And what a frame too - Neil Robertson's clearance of 145 was as good as anything I've seen at the Crucible. Some excellent potting, but the second to last black to middle with the white tight on the cushion was a superb shot. You may not have seen it on camera, but Ali Carter, sat in his chair, was applauding the shot with the crowd, very sporting of him and lovely to see. Neil cleared up and that was some way to end a match - could yet be the second time I've seen the highest break of the tournament live (Mark Allen's 146 in 2010 being the other)

Jen Verhaas came out and reminded everyone that there was an exhibition on, and so after the interval Rob Walker introduced Ken and Stephen with Marcel Eckardt as the referee. It was all good fun, especially as Dennis Taylor had come in to the Crucible as well to share a good few jokes with the crowd. Ken was very jovial and funny too, and everyone bar Stephen Hendry appeared to be having a giggle. In fact I was thinking of having the classic snooker theme playing as they came out - tune of the day - "Drag Racer" by the Doug Wood Band - classic that is.

I have to say though that Ken was also playing pretty well too - a half century in the first frame, nicked an edgy second frame, and then in the third was on a good break when the white ran out of position slightly. He asked Marcel to clean it, and Marcel deliberately put the white back to make it easier for Ken's next shot! He had a good giggle with the crowd too and it was nice to see him enjoy it so much. Ken went on to make an assisted century (he picked up and moved the white himself after running out of position on the yellow) but by this time the frame was won and Ken won 3-0.

I headed out of the Crucible and headed to a nearby pub for a nice pint of the Saltaire raspberry blonde ale (gorgeous) and then off to the train station. Unfortunately Transpennine Express reverted to their usual rubbish selves and the train was half an hour late - in fact the local stopper service almost started in front of us which would have been a longer journey. And because of that it meant I got back into central Manchester around 11.30pm and didn't get home till almost midnight. A long day but yet a good one.

Sunday 26th April - Walking In A Didsbury Parkland

After having a restful lie in of sorts, I got up and left The Love to have a relaxing sleep, and watched most of the London Marathon coverage on BBC1. I have to say maybe they focussed a little bit too much on the fact it was Paula Radcliffe's athletics farewell in terms of competing or participating, and her time of 2:36:55 was still pretty decent, but it was overdone and I did feel some of the achievements of the other runners who were raising lots for charity, or even to some degree the men's and women's elite races, were overshadowed. As the Paralympic races were also World Championship events, they really did matter and Rob Walker was on hand for some great commentary (which meant those at the snooker this morning and this afternoon got Jason Mohammad doing the announcing - which was not so good.)

We decided later on that a nice walk with the weather set dry would be a good move. We hadn't been to Fletcher Moss for a while in Didsbury, and so thought it would be good to have a nice walk round there. The Love managed to find a space to park the car, and we headed downhill along Stenner Lane and to the line of poplar trees. From there it was then along the path to the River Mersey, and followed the path uphill along the side of Millgate Fields, and then at the bottom of the downhill section re-joining the river path, and heading back towards the way we'd came, before taking the other path to loop around the fields and then up and round Stenner Woods.

This took us nicely then to the very nice blossom trees and the rockery, which looked rather gorgeous with some work being done on it to make it look even nicer. I have to say too that it was good to see people walking and sitting in there, and enjoying the relaxing views from it. We then headed to the Alpine Tea Room and sat outside in the Spring sunshine with a bottle of water. It was good just to take it easy and chatter for a bit before we then decided to sit outside a pub would be even nicer later, and we did that too, cos we can.

Later on back at mine The Love headed homewards and I settled in for some more of the snooker. The afternoon session resulted in two matches looking a tad one sided - Ronnie O'Sullivan ended up 12-4 over Matthew Stevens, although he was warned by referee Olivier Marteel about an obscene gesture, and rightfully so in my view. On the other table Ali Carter was 11-3 down against Neil Robertson but battled to take the last two frames and make it 11-5. I can't see tomorrow night's snooker with those two matches lasting that long (I'm actually at one of them) but we shall see what happens..

I also have been doing some listening to the new Pop Will Eat Itself album "Anti-Nasty League", available now from their website in a plethora of editions. I've ordered the 3CD edition, complete with second disc of instrumentals and third disc of bits to remix, and bonus track. Once I ordered it, the album was available to be downloaded as well which was a very nice touch it has to be said. On initial listens, I am liking this. A lot. and suffice to say that "Director's Cut" really does offer a nice touch of the quiet loud quiet loud as well, so tune of the day for me there.

Saturday 25th April - Snooker Loopy, Part 3

And so another trip to Sheffield and the second Saturday of three that I would be on the 0742 departure between Manchester and Sheffield, which got me there in good time to soak up the atmosphere and even a bit of the sunshine before the start of the morning session I was attending, which was Ding Junhui against John Higgins - to a finish. I was thankful that the scoreline was 9-7 at the end of the second session and so if it remained close I should see a good number of frames, and always good anyway to see what's going on in and around the venue.

I had spotted a few people out and about. Mark Allen seemed pretty relaxed and headed in quite early, and a crowd was building for the arrival of Ding Junhui (although not many Chinese fans). In fact when he arrived, he seemed really relaxed, and spent a little bit of time with those outside before going in. Most people had already taken their seats by the time John Higgins had arrived, but he was very quickly in and ready to go. Maybe he didn't want to be waiting around and just wanted to get on with it (and it looked to me like his car was in one of the car parks ready to take him away should he indeed lose.

Inside it was a good session overall, Ding Junhui was getting on with the job nicely - the first frame in particular was the one to pinch and from then Higgins finally got one on the board only for Ding to be back on song and go 12-8 up at the interval. Although Higgins manged to pull one back after a massive kick on a pink that would have most likely enabled Ding to win the match, the last frame went on a fair bit, primarily because Higgins played on needing 3 snookers. Ding went in off, left a free ball which Higgins took, but after the final red, he went for a tricky pink instead of taking the black on at the top end of the table and then enabling him to get a snooker on the yellow.

It was already the final frame of the session of the Allen - Hawkins match (so I knew I wouldn't be seeing any of it as they normally lift the dividers at the end of a frame) so I headed out, had a bit of a walk around Sheffield (including a cycling protest taking part in the city centre) and then kept an eye on who was going in for the afternoon. A minibus had parked close to the Crucible stage door with a gospel band playing in the Victoria Hall over the road - and in all that of them getting out Neil Robertson arrived in a taxi - not ideal timing I guess. Still, he seemed pretty chilled out too.

I went to the Winter Garden on the way back to the station and noted that as part of the Disability Day for the snooker, a few of the groups of children were playing on the table at the studio. There was also another fan in a wheelchair who I think goes to the Crucible regularly, and in between camera takes the BBC2 presenter Hazel Irvine went over and spent some time chatting with him and being really lovely, and then heading back, composing herself, and going live to air. Absolute professional she is.

It was then back home on the train, and after sorting a few things out, The Love In My Heart then arrived. We decided to go out for a drink at first and so I ended up having a really nice Manchester Pale Ale in the Elizabethan, so that did feel rather good. It was then back to mine for tea, where I had some country vegetable soup to start, a gorgeous chicken with white wine and leek sauce, plus some fresh broccoli florets and carrots, with cheddar mash.

We had the nice strawberry and prosecco trifle for dessert later, with a glass of prosecco, and watching a DVD The Love had brought round. It was a film called Mud with Matthew McConaughey in it, and was basically a story of two teenage friends who had found a boat on a small river island, and the boat was in a tree (probably due to flooding etc). Anyway, they think the boat is theirs till they realise someone else is already there (the bloke called Mud) and they strike up a friendship of sorts whilst doing what they can to help his situation. It took a while to get going, but in the end was okay ish. Throughout the film there were occasional snippets of The Beach Boys' "Help Me Rhonda" so that's tune of the day - got stuck in my head for the rest of the evening.

Friday 24th April - Plethora

Another busy day at work, and with a plethora of meetings in the morning to go to first of all, and then a printer engineer to see to later, and on top of everything else happening, I'm certainly getting very busy and the time is heading by without a moment or two to think to be honest. I must admit though that I don't mind it like that either and I suspect that the next few months are going to be the same or more. Just going to have to knuckle down and get on with it.

I did spend a fair bit of time this afternoon on some project work though, and it was good to be able to really dedicate some time to testing out a few group related calls with Skype for Business. Interestingly of course, you could see that the potential internally for sharing screen, Powerpoint presentations or any other running program might be very useful indeed, especially in a conferencing situation. I really liked the idea you could select those, and that you could hand off control and get it back as required, thus if being the meeting organiser you could keep things nicely in control.

Certainly I suspect the take up of Skype for Business will be a lot more than Lync, primarily above all else becuase of the rebranding and that Skype to be fair is a familiar name with most people - and after all why would Microsoft have bought them out if they didn't think it was going to be a worthwhile effort? It was also interesting to note though that group conversations between Skype For Business and Skype users doesn't work - hopefully yet. I did manage with four test accounts and two laptops and two desktops to do a four way conversation though, that was pretty decent to test out.

Anyway, on the way home it was off to sort myself out with some stuff from the local discount shop, because it works out cheaper than any supermarket, so epic win there. I needed some of the Persil colour washing capsules, and at a box of 20 for £4, that's a fair bit cheaper. They also stock a certain brand of washing up liquid that The Love In My Heart always uses, but can't get it anywhere near her, so made sure I got her a couple (two for a pound, bargain that.) It was then homeward to keep an eye on the snooker and an epic final frame of the session for Ding Junhui to go 9-7 up on John Higgins - I'll be seeing that tomorrow so should be good.

And later on it was a pleasure to see Anthony McGill against Mark Selby, with the two best walk on themes in snooker now, Mark stays local to his Leicester mates Kasabian and their track "eez-eh" but Anthony goes one better with The Smiths' classic "This Charming Man" - tune of the day - and I'm sure that going one better was on his mind tonight as he kept his 10-6 lead from the morning over Mark Selby, and it was 12-8 at the mid-session interval, one frame needed. Selby made it 12-9 but then McGill made a really good break to clinch the match, and massively deserved too. Having seen him play live last Saturday and based on some previous recent form I'm not surprised, but shows just how open the World Championship is, and the Crucible Curse still exists!

Thursday 23rd April - Everything Stops For Tea and Indie Compilations

I had had a busy day at work, primarily because I needed to get some reports and emails written after doing some extensive testing yesterday afternoon with Skype for Business and its current beta. Obviously the live client isn't too far away, but it's pretty notable that for any commercial environment where you have locked down users with mandatory profiles, it'll cause you a massive unworkable headache. In fact, I found one article which clearly stated that its predecessor Lync 2013 and Skype For Business 2015 don't work with mandatory profiles - so well worth a read yourselves, I think.

I also then wrote up a lot more about what I'd found and had a good chat with the project manager about it. For me it was good to also see we were both on the same wavelength with a lot of things, but it also gave me some things to think about when testing things out. Ideally I may need a test machine or two where we're able to actually try and do video calls between contacts, and also see if that works well between Skype and Skype for Business users as well. The head says it should, but maybe just one to one instead of one to many.

I headed home later on and decided to play back some old compilation albums I have. One of which, The Hits 10, I mainly purchased on CD a while back because I used to have it on tape when I was younger, but also because it's the only place on CD you can get the radio edit version of Pop Will Eat Itself's "Wise Up! Sucker" as well (the CD single has the uncensored one.) The compilation does also though have the likes of "Pink Sunshine" by We've Got A Fuzzbox and We're Gonna Use It (shortened to Fuzzbox on the compilation), the awesome "Me Myself and I" by De La Soul, and "Wages Day" by Deacon Blue, plus "The Beat(en) Generation" by The The and "Cuddly Toy" by Roachford. There is admittedly some dross on there though too, but hey ho.

Then it was on to the Indie Top 20 compilation CDs. CD88 was a compilation of the best bits of the first five volumes and the last five tracks on the CD are all killer: "Mickey Way (The Candy Bar)" by A Certain Ratio, Sonic Youth disguised as Ciccione Youth doing "Into The Groovy" (as they re-titled it), "Forever Dancing" by The Beloved, "Jesus Loves Amerika" by The Shamen, and the 12" version of "There Is No Love Between Us Anymore" by Pop Will Eat Itself. Classics all of them in anyone's era.

Out of the four volumes seven through to ten in the Indie Top 20 series, there are some quality tracks. The start of volume seven has Pixies' "Monkey Gone To Heaven" and The Stone Roses' "Made of Stone" as the first two tracks plus "Ana Ng" by They Might Be Giants next. Just.. awesome. Volume eight has some early KLF in "Kylie Said To Jason", the first single "Tom Verlaine" by The Family Cat, the original Rough Trade single version of James' "Come Home", and the forgotten but wonderful "If You Need Someone" by The Field Mice. To this day if I get married I want that song played during the evening - it's just such a lovely tune. So there.

But it was on to Volume Nine before The Love In My Heart came over, and the first Charlatans single "Indian Rope", the original "Pro > Gen" by The Shamen (none of this "Move Any Mountain" re-release bobbins for me), "Sherriff Fatman" by Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine, the awesome "Blues For Ceaucescu" by Fatima Mansions, and the ethereal end with Lush's lovely "De-Luxe" and perhaps an oft forgotten but wonderful piece of ethereal indie pop, "One Of Our Girls Has Gone Missing" by AC Marias. Still awesome, so tune of the day to redress the balance a bit.

The Love came over and I decided as I didn't have much in for tea that I'd take her out to the pub for tea instead, which meant with the nice weather we could sit outside and have a nice chat, a relaxing drink, and some nice food too. In fact The Love had a lamb rogan josh, I had a chicken tikka massala and the nice ale I had, the Beartown Brewery's "St George's Bear" seemed appropriate because of the day it is today. Very nice to relax and do that actually, maybe something I should offer to do more often in the Summer!

We headed back to mine later and it was out with the Scrabble and on with some Swing Out Sister as well to chill out to during it. The Love played some really good moves it has to be said, playing ZEAL (and also making AA at the same time) to score 44 points, and later on seeing a chance to play ARIEL and AVOID (VOID was there in the top left) and thus make 45 points. Way to go! The only thing I could offer in reply was BASHER (with the blank as an A) scoring 42 points, but still, it showed just how much she's playing well these days. Excellent!

Wednesday 22nd April - Switcheroo

I had checked my bills for my broadband last night after The Love In My Heart had reported me a few days back that the cost of hers had gone up and without some warning either. I had checked my bank statement and indeed I had seen the same this month and last month. It transpired that when O2 Broadband was sold to Sky Broadband, at the time we were both given a pretty good rate, almost the same as the discounted rate we had when on O2 themselves. However, it seemed that the rate had expired. Rather than inform you that the rate had expired, or even send you a reminder nearer the time, they were quite happy to charge more just because you don't have Sky Talk or any Sky phone calls package either.

That's one thing that to a degree does get a bit frustrating - the fact that so many broadband providers now want you to take phone line rental with them, and be charged by them for all your calls, when many people I suspect are happy with whoever provides their phone service and doesn't really want to change, or doesn't want to feel forced into doing so. I had decided anyway that due to past issues I had with Sky when I used to have the TV service with them, now was a good time to migrate to another provider and so I sent them an email asking them if I could have the migration MAC code.

What I didn't expect was a phone call from Sky this afternoon. They were most reluctant to provide the MAC code, but instead they wanted to try to do all they could to keep me with them, explaining that it would be in my interests to switch my phone line rental and calls to Sky Talk and then they'd knock my broadband price down, or if I wanted to go down the fibre route, they'd knock it down for a time period, but I had to take the offer up there and then as it wasn't available online - in other words pressure selling.

I mentioned to them that the reason I requested the MAC code was that I wanted to go to another provider, and that when I previously had Sky TV etc, Sky Talk was awful and I basically wanted rid of it as soon as I could, so why would I want to go back. It was then that Sky's representative told a blatant lie, in that certain other named providers operate traffic management at peak times on their broadband provisions. I didn't say anything to argue on the phone at the time, but just politely requested the MAC code via email, which thankfully I eventually did get.

Anyway, as soon as I did my own research later on, my hunch (very Gene Hunt from Life on Mars) was correct. Most providers have signed to an Ofcom code of practice and have to declare any traffic mangement policies on their website. Sure enough, when I checked a couple of other providers which had been namechecked by Sky, they both clearly stated that there was no traffic management that they did. Now for me, I don't mind a little bit of persuasion to stay and all that, but aggressive pressure selling and lying are just not on. Therefore I was glad to have made the decision that I am going to leave Sky, and again, under the fact that their provision of customer service is below the standard that I would expect.

I made my decision and did some research, worked out who I wanted to switch to, and then basically checked around for any online deals, or any deals via TopCashback as well as seeing how good they're generally as a provider. I found a good deal for me, signed up (and yes I am going fibre in fact) and then with MAC code armed, all in place and it should all be switched nicely over the next couple of weeks. And for not much more than what I'm paying currently. In one word: result. Tune of the day in fact is "Switch" by Senser, which I had in my head as I was sorting all the paperwork out.

Tuesday 21st April - Decisions, Decisions

Lots of stuff to decide on, so little time. Well sort of. The first thing I needed to look at was to get the ball rolling on Autodesk Academic Resource Centre (ARC for short). Effectively for educational institutions they now get Autodesk products for free, which is a very good thing. However, you do have to wonder if there was an easier way to handle the licencing side of it - fine if you just need a maximum of 125 copies for network and standalone, with one serial number, but for more, a bit trickier.

And on top of that, you then have to decide beforehand which licence server you're going to use to install all the licencing side, plus make sure that you have the host name and the MAC address of the server concerned, so that the network licence file to be used can be correctly issued. This is even more crucial if you're going to use a distributed or redundant licence server model where you need multiple servers setting up first (and indeed for the former, there's different licence files for each - not ideal necessarily) so points to consider.

I also wanted to make sure we did have enough licences across the board for everyone so after asking amongst other sites I was able to get a definitive answer of sorts, which was very useful. That should allow for a bit of decision making and planning in order to get this done (and indeed from my own perspective to try and get things available as soon as possible) - and once I've managed all that, it's then a case of getting more things sorted on top which I need to do, including a fair amount of project work.

I had a good think about other things too and have decided that although getting another job would be nice, it realistically has to be within range of where I currently live. I think moving somewhere completely different would be out of the question currently, primarily because there'd be a need for me to sell my place or rent it out (and all the potential pitfalls that would bring on top) and also there's a question of if I'd feel comfortable in another town or city to live. For me it's not a case of being able to easily settle somewhere if I don't feel comfortable, it panics me. A lot.

It was nice to see The Love In My Heart, always a voice of good reason, and she had had a bit of a day herself, so good to chat and get that out of the way befoe snuggling up to watch last week's First Dates (good job I'd set these to record) as well as then seeing the final episode of the series of Ordinary Lies, which has been a really good watch. Jo Joyner was excellent in this episode going through the gamut of emotions and indeed heading along the seafront at Southport (hehe, been there a few times!) pretending to be Margate. Still ace though, and hoping BBC One do a second series. Tune of the day for that reason is "Liar" by Rolins Band - listen, and you'll work out why.

Monday 20th April - Snooker Loopy, Part 2

So it was another day of snooker and a day off work (always good) and this time around it was a couple more first round matches: one of which was to a finish and the other the first session. I also had Row B for the first match right close to the players so it was going to be interesting to see how the match would appear from being that close to the action and from a different angle. It was on the 0820 to Sheffield this time, and soon it was back in familiar territory, stopping off at the box office to pick up the afternoon session ticket that I'd ordered online very late on.

First off was Barry Hawkins' conclusion of his match with Matthew Selt. It was fairly even early on and starting from the 7-2 scoreline from the end of the first session, this then became 9-4 at the mid-session interval, so I was thinking that there'd be some more of the Robbie Williams - Stuart Bingham match to see. Not so. Selt started to really play properly and was going for the jugular when he could. 9-4 became 9-5 became 9-6, and then he started knocking in breaks for fun. The two centuries back to back under pressure were as good as anything I've seen at the Crucible and following that with an 80 odd to level it at 9-9 was really good. I have to say that I thought he might complete the comeback, and they only just about were allowed to start the final frame of the match (there is normally a cut off time that a last frame can start, and they were around 1 minute inside - so very tight indeed for all that sort of thing)

Barry Hawkins found some resolve from somewhere to win 10-9, but not without a major scare. Matthew Selt to be fair spent lots of time chatting to people outside afterwards, and he was quite philosophical about his defeat. I spoke briefly to Barry Hawkins later on as well, and he said that he thought it was gone at 9-9 and that Selt played pretty well overall, so good to see that they both were able to see it as the good match it was. For me it was all ten frames of a session and inside the time, although that didn't leave me much time to go and get some lunch before the next session took place.

So for me then, straight back in for Ding Junhui v Mark Davis. It was a struggle mainly due to the run of the balls as well as some good tactical play, but that did knock up the average frame time to 30 minutes plus for the first five frames. I left after the sixth thinking they weren't going to get a seventh in, but they did, and for Ding to pull it back to 4-3 from 4-0 down was at least a bonus. They're on tomorrow morning but if it's close they might have to come back tomorrow night to a finish - it just depends on the run of the balls I guess.

Ding exited later on and there weren't many Chinese fans around to see him (surprisingly). However in all the clamour for Ding for those who were there, Ronnie O'Sullivan snuck in to practice almost unsighted. Peter Ebdon also was supporting Ali Carter, and it looked like Hawkins had been practicing with Joe Perry, as they both left around the same time late afternoon. I think Neil Robertson has headed back home till his second round match from what someone said to me earlier. It was another good day though overall and certainly for me just adds to the aura of the place. Tune of the day is the iconic "Snooker Loopy" by Chas and Dave and the Matchroom Mob, simply because!

Sunday 19th April - Back To Winning Ways

After all the snooker, it was nice to see The Love In My Heart last night. We had a Chinese takeaway and then relaxed with some telly, mainly old school Escape to the Country as well as some other bits, and I got to see the conclusion of Mark Selby winning 10-9 over Kurt Maflin. I suspect this won't be the first 10-9 we'll see this week, or where one of the seeded players also has a major scare. It was very nice too to snuggle up at night so that was rather lovely all round really.

It was off to the Etihad Stadium with my friend later to see if Manchester City could get their first win in almost a month, and indeed it was the first home game for around that time. Since then we had lost away at Crystal Palace and a damaging derby day defeat at Old Trafford too, so back on home turf I was hoping for a better performance. It was pretty windy earlier in the day although this did clear up nicely by the time that it had got to kick off, and with a cup of tea handy, it was good to think about how we might be able to win this one against West Ham United.

The first half was a lot of possession by City but not always with the rewards, and the closest we got was the occaisonal good cross that wasn't quite converted. However we did look a bit more of a threat going forward, and later in the first half a cross from Jesús Navas was put in, and the West Ham defender not only connected with it, but the ball lofted over Adrian in the West Ham goal and in off the crossbar. It was already a contender for own goal of the season by the time the ball had crossed the line, and so fortunately it may be, but ironically I was saying to my friend just before kick off that I'd have taken 1-0 with an own goal or a dodgy penalty.

Later in the first half though we turned on the style with one of the best goals we've scored this season. Sergio Agüero broke and ran through the centre of the field, and saw Navas on the right, and passed, he drew the defender and passed back to Agüero and he did what he does best, score a well taken goal. His 101st goal for City in something like 159 appearances. Excellent, and 2-0 at the break sounded a lot better than the scoreline last Sunday, that was for sure.

The second half wasn't that exciting as we consolidated the lead and had a few chances which we didn't take, but the more worrying thing was seeing David Silva stretchered off. He had run for the ball and Kouyate in the West Ham midfield connected with his face, albeit possibly accidentally. He was on the ground for a good few minutes and I was fearing a head injury, swallowing his tongue or something similar. Thankfully later on after he had been admitted to hospital that it was a cheek fracture that shouldn't affect him massively, so huge relief all round there.

Later on at home I spent some time watching the Bahrain Grand Prix, with the strains of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" as the iconic F1 theme tune (make it tune of the day I reckon) as Lewis Hamilton cruised to another win. The drama was behind him though as some excellent strategy from Kimi Raikkonen meant he took second place with Nico Rosberg only third. And in a notable bit of holding off, Valtteri Bottas was also able to keep Sebastian Vettel at bay for fourth. As for McLaren, let's not even go there shall we?

Saturday 18th April - Snooker Loopy, Part 1

So it was up and early this morning for me, and with the strains of Half Man Half Biscuit's classic "The Len Ganley Stance" in my ears as I headed on the bus to Piccadilly station (make that one tune of the day) I was off on the 0742 train to Sheffield, and as usual it was the pit stop at Bread box for their rather good sausage barm and coffee for £2.50 deal. Inside a station that's a relative bargain, and the staff are usually very lovely as well, just helps the start to the day nicely I think.

Soon I arrived in Sheffield and walking past the Cutting Edge sculpture, past the Showroom cinema and up the hill to Sheffield Hallam University, then crossing past the Millennium Gallery and on to Tudor Square where the hallowed Crucible greeted me like an old friend. I had two sessions to see today, and it was going to be a good day's worth of snooker for me. I spotted Kurt Maflin, and he seemed really relaxed and ready to go (as was proven over the course of the day). Also, John Parrott was heading in for some media piece with the BBC but still found lots of time to chat to a budding youngster and giving him lots of friendly advice, which was ace.

In fact most of the commentators were quite chatty this morning with a common theme of a number of players could well win it, and to watch out for some of the qualifiers causing shocks. JV ended up with some fans wearing "where's the cue ball going?" t-shirts as well before the morning session started, good stuff. With plenty of people around, it was time to enter the theatre for my 10am session. Inside Hazel Irvine, together with Steve Davis and Ken Doherty were prepping for the BBC2 broadcast. As I was on Table Two, I was able to see them and how all the background stuff was working for them. Of course she was ready and professional as ever before handing over to Rob Walker to do his stuff (they had rehearsed the hand-over even to the point of which way Hazel would turn to Rob - so impressive stuff)

So first up for me was Jimmy Robertson v Marco Fu. Fu looked like he could be running away at 2-0 up and with Robertson struggling, but the respotted black hurt Robertson, especially as he'd cleaned up to force the respot and then could only watch in anguish later. In fact as Selby-Maflin also had a respotted, it's the second time I've been to a session where both matches have had a respot in them, after that happened to me last year as well. Funny how these things turn out this way I reckoned. After the mid-session Robertson came out battling. 10 reds, 10 blacks, and with just one good black needed to split three balls up, he went for the 11th red, and it rattled the jaws. Gutted! It was a great chance of a maximum. Nonetheless he kept the momentum going and in some tight frames that could have gone either way, 5-4 down to Fu before the final session wasn't too bad.

The session finished pretty late so it was just time to grab a sandwich for lunch and then head back in for Anthony McGill v Stephen Maguire on Table 1 - which I fancied McGill to win. McGill knocking in a 99 break in the opener was a sign of things to come as Maguire got frustrated, and at the snookers required stage and being out of position for a colour, yelled out "I cannae be bothered" and conceded the frame rather petulantly. After that I was rooting for McGill even more, and that final frame of the session was a massive turning point as he not only got the snooker required, but did so by escaping from one laid. It was a great shot and he bowed to the crowd after they cheered, ace it was. The free ball and then clean up to the black was good, and then Maguire's poor attempt at a double meant McGill potted it for 6-3. Massive, and well done him. Afterwards he seemed really relaxed and pleased with his performance.

With that all done, I also noted as I arrived back in Sheffield train station later that there's also a full size table in there, close to the ticket office and departure boards nonetheless, and on the Friday Ken Doherty had hosted a "fastest to pot the balls" competition and someone won 2 tickets for the final plus first class rail travel too. That table is there during the tournament with a few things going on, so might be well worth keeping an eye out for if you're around Sheffield too. All in all, a good day - and can't wait for more!

Friday 17th April - All Set

It was good to be able to get on with numerous things today, one of which was to respond to a fair number of emails and also make sure that everything as possible was in hand as much as it could be. I think too that it's a case of getting ready for the start of term and doing whatever we can to be sure that it was all plain sailing to a degree. We did have some time to secure down some PCs in one of the open access locations that needed some security locks fitting, so that was a worthwhile exercise. Bit sad you have to do that also, but you'd be surprised just how many thefts schools, colleges and universities have to be honest.

With the eve of the World Snooker Championship upon us, BBC One were broadcasting part of The One Show from the Winter Gardens in Sheffield. Of course I've been there on numerous occasions and it's always now part of the whole TV coverage as Hazel Irvine et al interviews and chats with players, pundits and so on. I have to say that she is the consummate professional when it comes to presenting generally, really knowledgable and clearly gets on with the legends of the game.

I also put together a quick play list via Youtube which has plenty of the classic songs to do with snooker, which included the proper snooker theme (of course) - "Drag Racer" by The Doug Wood Band, as well as the theme to the TV series "Skorpion" by the Limelight Orchestra, that became the "Shot of the Championship" theme tune in the 1980s (so tune of the day) - all you need is the late great David Vine introducing it again. Add to that some classic Half Man Half Biscuit with "The Len Ganley Stance" and you're pretty much there, as well as some Chas and Dave with The Matchroom Mob.

Of course I have the tickets for the event and the train tickets all sorted, and it'll be on the 0742 from Manchester tomorrow, to get into Sheffield nice and early to soak up the atmosphere. I might even bump into a few people along the way and the camera will be coming with me too. I think for me there's something special about the Crucible Theatre anyway, having seen theatre productions there as well as the snooker. The closeness of the crowd to the tables, the tension, the silence, it all adds up. And the 17 days of long matches, it's heavenly, and this year I'm seeing both semi finals too. Hurrah!

My one dream one day would be to save up and to see all four sessions of the final, which means a May Bank Holiday two night stay over in Sheffield. I for one would love that although I do know that it's not cheap to get tickets for (this year it'd be three lots of £57 plus one of £72) and there's the staying over in hotels too as the second session would be too late to get trains back. The earlier matches are cheaper, more frames per session and a fair chunk of drama, which surprises me that even tonight there are some returned tickets available for the first round. Get them bought and go! You won't regret it one bit..

Thursday 16th April - Special Duke Special

It was a longish day at work for a number of reasons, not least as I was going to do some extra testing for the forthcoming Skype for Business offering, and found out that the connectivity with the Office 365 accounts seemed to fail a tad, even for the student domain for various reasons (they can use Lync on the web, but assumedly not the Lync client) and so I did what testing I could with the account on one domain in terms of some screen shot grabs, and testing the hardware.

It was another lengthy day though because of the fact that there are still teething problems with our new call system. In effect there's some good parts to it, but unfortunately those ideas, no matter good they may be, are outweighed by the fact that there's a real sense of slowness about it all. I think that it would improve with time, but I suspect that there's a fair few issues logged which most likely are ones which we're all contending with at the moment. Time to bite the tongue and get on with it I think.

Anyway, it was then over to The Love In My Heart's place later on as we were both off to a gig tonight, Duke Special at Bury Met. The new album Look Out Machines came out recently, and that's a fair bit more electronic than other releases, which may divide some of the fans. The Love and I suspected he'd have his great old piano with him though, and so we gave the two cats a good fussing over, and then headed off in The Love's car to the centre of Bury. Thankfully after 6pm on street parking appeared to be free, so that was a bit of a bonus anyway.

We headed to a nearby pub for tea, which had a lovely original Art Deco type interior, and some nice real ale too. I had a chicken korma and some ale, so happy little me really, and The Love had a steak sandwich, so we were all good to go. It was a nice short walk to The Met, which for some reason was really really warm inside, and got ourselves a cold drink before we took our seats around 8pm just in time for the support act, and we had some very good seats as well.

So She Makes War was on first, and having seen her a few months back supporting The Levellers, I knew what to expect from her. It was a very good set from her, although The Love wasn't too keen. She did "Delete" which I saw last time and really enjoyed, so that was good. She also performed a song from her forthcoming album (via Pledge Music) which has Tanya Donnelly on vocals on it (of course I thought "woooo" at the time too) - and "Olympian" was also really good.

We headed back to the bar for a drink, and as we headed back to the seats I spotted one of my work colleagues from another site and his Mum - I had a feeling they might be going, but wasn't sure - they were on home territory even more than me. And it worked out they were on the same row as us, but across the aisle. How did that work out I wonder? Anyway, we were all set, and with drinks in hand (nice touch that you can take your drinks in actually) and with the old gramophone records playing as a backdrop, it was time.

And a great set from Duke Special to boot, too. Not just sticking with the new album, but playing a selection of his old classic, plenty of songs from Ivor Cutler, and generally enjoying the piano and organ he was playing solo. For me, when he's on the piano and singing from the heart, it's rather good, and The Love also really enjoyed it too. Opening with "Nail on the Head" complete with drum backing track and piano, it really did give you a sense of unadulterated joy for the next hour and a half to come.

I was particularly pleased with the likes of "Wanda, Darling of the Jockey Club" as well as "Wake Up Scarlett". "In A Dive" from the new album was really good, and he had a solo drum with single stick ready to bash in time at the right parts of the epic "Son of the Left Hand" and that came across the right side of intense. He also admitted his liking for Stephen Merritt penned songs (mainly as The Magnetic Fields) and so did a cover version of "Andrew In Drag" to boot - a pretty good version too it has to be said.

He of course did "Freewheel" but it felt really nice and loose and a little less emotional, but still really coming across beautifully. He switched over to the small organ for the Ivor Cutler songs, a lot of them very short and sweet that he sang, including "I'm Going In A Field" and "There's a Turtle In My Soup" amongst a fair few. It was notable too that the sound engineer had the piano really spot on, and that came across in the clarity of the voice (complete of course with Belfast twang). He ended the night with a storming version of "Salvation Tambourine" and a sweet and lovely version of "Cherry Blossom Girl" (make that tune of the day) to finish.

It was a great gig, we all agreed, and it hopefully isn't the last time I'll be at Bury Met seeing a gig, having seen 3 Daft Monkeys a few times, as well as The Durutti Column and also many years back a couple of other bands. I know we've booked for Vonda Shepard in the future, so we'll be sure to enjoy that one. Aren't gigs great? Well they are, but it did take us a bit of time to get back, so that was noted that it might actually be a bit quicker on the tram (well it would be for The Love for definite!) - and a long day was rewarded by a rather fab gig.

Wednesday 15th April - Rememberance

It's hard to believe that time passes so fast, but it was twenty six years ago today that the disaster at Hillsborough occurred with the loss of 96 lives. I had a think about it at around 3pm, and it made me think about how long it's taken for the fight for justice to get to the point where in the last few weeks there have been major breakthroughs in terms of an admittance of responsibility from some senior police officers, together with a sense of at last that there's a level of overall admittance of trying to cover up what was in effect a preventable disaster for a number of reasons.

From my own perspective, as a Manchester City fan, the 4-0 defeat my uncle and I experienced that day at Blackburn Rovers didn't matter. My thoughts turned to those in Sheffield and how the events changed not just the way that we watch football in mainly all seater stadia, but how the football world came together and one and showed their support for the fans affected. Even now in the days of social media, many fans today tweeted the hash tag #JFT96 (Justice for the 96) and I have to agree with those sentiments. Club rivalries are set aside for moments like this.

I did have a relaxing evening keeping an eye on the final matches of the World Snooker Championship qualifiers too. The last eight matches were played to a finish and a lot of them ended up being final frame deciders in order for players tom get to the Crucible Theatre. For those outside the top 16, winning the three matches and getting to the hallowed red carpet is something special, especially the first time debutants such as Craig Steadman and notably Kurt Maflin, who overcame Fergal O'Brien in a 10-9 classic.

All the players were interviewed by Rob Walker as they qualified, and you could tell the sense of pride of getting through the qualifiers. Notable was a comment from Robert Milkins in that once you've gained some momentum by playing through the qualifiers you want to push on and almost get going again - so an early draw might not be a bad thing in terms of keeping the momentum. He overcame Andrew Higginson in tense 10-9 final frame after being 9-6 up and seeing his lead clawed back.

So with all the qualifiers done, two days to go and then it all starts. Of course I can't wait and I will be at the Crucible myself for the eighth year on the trot to see the players in action live. It's not far for me to head over to Sheffield from Manchester of course, so that helps hugely. Naturally as well I suppose that for me being at the home of snooker is a very special feeling. With that in mind, Chas and Dave and The Matchroom Mob's classic 1986 single "Snooker Loopy" is tune of the day. Am I excited? Yes. Can I wait? No.

Tuesday 14th April - Back To It All

It was a busy day back in the office today, and I had a fair amount of time to spend in getting some software deployment finalised on one of the teaching rooms. I had one of our IT Assistants come with me, so we were able to log on to all of the PCs and then keep an eye on the SCCM task sequence deploying the software. It was quite a lengthy installation so it was good to ensure that if we spotted any failures, we were then able to make sure that the deployment was re-ran accordingly.

The majority of the day was also spent getting to grips with the fact that our new call logging system was live, and that was a case of remembering what I'd learned on the training plus seeing how that would respond in a live situation. Naturally there's always a bit of transition compared to a test system so it was noting some feedback and getting this into the spreadsheet provided, and make sure then that it was also constructive. It's very easy to sometimes get too bogged down and negative, but to be honest I can see it from both sides as well.

I arrived home later and it was a case of putting a load of washing in, getting it all sorted and then making sure that the tea was in the oven for when The Love In My Heart arrived later on. I had some pork belly in an apple and cider sauce complete with some mashed potato and hand shelled peas, which was gorgeous. I also indulged her slightly with an old episode of Don't Tell The Bride on BBC Three later on, which we'd both seen before. I wouldn't have married the woman full stop, way too "I want everything to be done my way or else" and not willing to compromise too much.

I had to giggle at the end as the groom had clearly tried to hire The Wurzels, but that failed rather spectacularly so he ended up with a Wurzels tribute band. That might have been fine but somehow the classic "I Am A Cider Drinker" by the West Country legends wouldn't be the same. I must admit I quite like that myself, so tune of the day definitely. Ooo-ar, ooo-ar! Not sure though that the bride appreciated the pig racing that was also part of the wedding reception.

We then settled in to watch Ordinary Lies on BBC One. It's been a good series and this time it focussed on the character that had an issue with gambling and debts but also a child to another woman, and the fact that she and the new boyfriend were basically trying to get more and more money out of him, and blackmailing him with the fact his wife didn't know. Staging a robbery of two cars in order to try and get some money from the sale of them to pay the debts off was also an intriguing sub plot too.

Monday 13th April - Judgement Day

Well today proved to be most interesting. Not least first of all because of a job interview I had this morning. It was actually quite good in that I was able to bring forward some of the skills and attributes I have but also some that I had recently learnt, so I was focussing where possible on keeping eye contact, making sure I could see reassuring head nods and acknowledgements, and not be too put off by the fact that plenty of notes were being written down by the interview panel at the same time. I had of course taken the suit with me in a suit carrier and that survived the journey well so I did look the part too.

I think overall these things are hard to judge, but I liked the environment of the building I was in, and generally I felt comfortable in it too. Sometimes you can get vibes the other way too, but this was mainly positive and I think if nothing else whatever happens I will have a bit more experience at handling these sort of situations, which cannot be a bad thing in my view. And learning from that is also a positive too - no matter what. If you aim for perfection you don't get it, but if you aim to do the best you can, you might find that there's still always room for improvement no matter what.

So with that all fresh in the mind as I headed back to the hotel room, was changed and back into normal clothes for checking out, it was the journey back towards Central London, still via DLR at first but then at Bank took the walk along the escalators to Monument and took the circle line around to Euston Square, and so from there headed to the Crown and Anchor, one of my favourite London pubs, for lunch. It was as good as ever with the rather gorgeous fish and chips going down a treat - and they had Tribute ale too. Yes and yes!

Once that was done and I was all chilled out with Air's excellent "La femme d'argent" in the background (make that tune of the day in the meantime) it was a gentle stroll back to Euston and soon heading to Platform 1 for the 1420 departure back to Manchester Piccadilly. I had a window view seat again (yaay) and indeed front facing again too, so no complaints whatsoever there really. It was a nice journey and on time this time, and on the way back The Love In My Heart had arranged to meet me at the station, so that was nice.

And even nicer as I offered to take her for a drink, so we headed to Sandbar later on so I could tell her more about what had gone on today and have a nice drink too. It was good to see her as I had missed her yesterday and last night - no doubt she would have loved to have a good mooch around the markets again and to take in the nice weather I'd had then (it was weeing it down in Manchester apparently) - I know that whatever happens I have her support and that really is a lovely thing to be honest.

Sunday 12th April - London Bound

So after a nice morning chatting with The Love In My Heart, having some breakfast and getting an overnight bag packed, it was off to Manchester Piccadilly train station and off to London. It was a mixture of business and pleasure this time around - not just the fact I had a meeting tomorrow but also because it actually worked out cheaper for me to take the train today, stay overnight (Sunday nights generally are cheaper in hotels) and then come back on the Monday afternoon. It also meant I could be a bit more relaxed too so there was an advantage to that.

I got on the 1155 departure from Piccadilly to Euston and I had a window view seat (hurrah.) I also noticed that the train was very busy, most likely with people who were heading back after the Easter holidays with their children and so there were a fair few families on, plus people coming back from Liverpool via Manchester after the Grand National yesterday too - there were a group of horse racing types further down the carriage from me and they were talking mainly about said sport.

The train journey was going well until we got towards Rugby and then it was a slow crawl through Long Buckby and Northampton before finally getting up to some form of speed close to Wolverton. It transpired after I tweeted Virgin Trains that this was due to over-running engineering work on the line and so they had to go slowly at that point. I was thinking Delay Repay might come into force as I thought we could be over half an hour late, but we made it to Euston around twenty two minutes behind schedule, so we had caught up slightly on proceedings at least.

After my usual stop to top up the Oyster card (there's a newsagents just outside the front of Euston which is never busy - much easier than the mass queues in the tube station) I was able to saunter through Euston tube, get the tube on the Northern Line Bank Branch to Bank and from there the DLR to Cutty Sark station for the centre of Greenwich. The Ibis hotel I was staying at was close by, and of course I was going to call on my loyalty card priveleges (as you do). This actually meant a free welcome drink on arrival, and unlike the Mercure last time, this included an alcoholic drink from the bar too (woo!) - so a Kronenbourg was mine a bit later in chill out mode.

Naturally I had a good walk around Greenwich Market, and that was as busy and vibrant as ever. I did spot that the old roof is coming off though, and some of the stallholders had been temporarily moved around whilst this work was going on. The plan is to remove the roof and replace it with new, so less corrugated structure and a much more modern glass feel, and that certainly will be a positive. I did have a nice walk around the former Royal Naval College too before heading back to my room for a bit and seeing that City had lost the Manchester derby 4-2 against United. The less said about that the better I think!

I headed out later in the evening and went to one of the local pubs for a meal - not only was there Doom Bar on cask but also a mixed grill which looked pretty good - so that was me well and truly sorted. It certainly was just what I needed, and I think it helped massively to stop any hunger pangs I might have had. As I knew I was sorting my own breakfast out in the morning, a quick visit to the Sainsburys local for some croissants did the job - I had tea and coffee in the hotel room already so it made sense just to get something to go with that.

I headed back to the room and settled in to watch the US Masters golf from Augusta, with the proper theme tune of Chase Side Shoot Up by Brian Bennet in the ears (make that tune of the day). It was as expected with Jordan Speith holding off the challenge of Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson, with a notable charge from Rory McIlroy in the final round which saw him jump up to fourth overall, his best finish at the event. It was good for Speith who had finished runner up last year to go one better although part of me wanted Rose to catch up also..

Saturday 11th April - Grand National and Grand Meal

It was a really quiet morning this morning for me, I had a bit of a lie in but nothing too late. I did know I needed to head out to get a birthday card and present for later in the day, and so I decided to stop by the local bookmakers first thing to put the bet on the Grand National. I went for Oscar Time, Balthazar King and Bob Ford, and sensibly the three were different prices with one a 100-1 outsider, so I was hedging the bets slightly to make sure that I had all bases sort of covered.

It was a quick jaunt into the centre of Stockport, I managed to get the present I was after pretty quickly and also found this rather good card in Marks and Spencer (in fact their card selections are usually quite decent actually) so with all that done it was then a trip back via the local market where I picked up some very nice lamb and herb burgers to have for lunch, and also a gorgeus bakewell tart courtesy of Neil at The Buttery to have with a coffee later.

I did see most of the Channel 4 coverage for the other races but was flicking between that, the Chinese Grand Prix qualifying highlights and so on, but on the whole the coverage didn't miss Clare Balding that much (she was hosting the Boat Races instead on BBC1 later.) When it came to the race itself, I thought early on Bob Ford might have a chance as it was close to the front for the first circuit, and at the final bend to the last two fences Oscar Time was in good position.

But it was a win for Many Clouds, and for jockey Leighton Aspell the first time the same jockey had won in successive years since Brian Fletcher on Red Rum in 1973 and 1974, and the first time the same jockey had won in successive years on two different horses since Bryan Marshall in 1953 and 1954, a long standing record that. Tune of the day incidentally is the theme to the film Champions, just a perfect theme (bear in mind the story of the film too)

Later on The Love In My Heart and I were picked up by one of my friends and the four of us headed out to The Ashlea in Cheadle for a meal, primarily to celebrate both The Love's birthday last week and my friend's wife's birthday which was later this week. It was a really nice meal and I have to say that the food was spot on as per usual, as was the ale I had too (the Pale Rider from the Kelham Island Brewery no less.) I had the rather gorgeous whitebait to start, definitely very fishy of course. I gave one for my friend to try - he wasn't too keen.

The main was a rather gorgeous chicken and ham pie, with some nice mash and vegetables, and did the job very nicely, and The Love's steak also looked gorgeous too. I had the eton mess for dessert, which looked more like a posh meringue, but still pretty good on the whole. It was nice to catch up and have a chat too, so all good there also. I then spent some time later with The Love watching Ninja Warrior UK and seeing just how bad some of the contestants were, bit of a giggle that..

Friday 10th April - Friday Feeling

It was a day of two halves at work today - first off was the final half day of the recruitment and selection course, and they had two actors in who played between them three different interviewees. To make it effective, each of our groups of four had to interview one of them and the remainder could observe and make notes as well. We also decided early on that it was good if the others in our team of four were note taking whilst we asked he question as well, made perfect sense in a lot of ways.

The two actors were really good actually: one of them played two types of interviewee: the first being way over talkative in his answers and also blaming everyone else other than himself for the shortcomings as well. The second time he came back he was pretty much the candidate you wanted to hire, with experience showing through and a real sense of achievement and going above and beyond the call of duty. It was really worthwhile and I've signed up to do the chairing course in late July (first one available) as that would be another string to the bow too.

In the afternoon I spent some time deploying the software that I had been testing out early in the week. It was pretty good on the whole because it meant that I could also check out the PCs in question and make sure that they were all behaving. I did spot that a few of them had a damaged WMI repository which was no good for SCCM type deployments, so I made sure that I did the necessary checks and repairs on those, and then once that was done, that all seemed to play ball. I need to finish a few off next week but on the whole pretty good I think.

It was then a case of heading homewards and sorting a few things out around the house before then settling in for the evening with Gogglebox. It was quite intriguing to see what they all thought of the Plaid Cymru broadcast, in that it was very different. When the bloke was going to make an announcement the two hairdresses Christopher and Stephen both went "I'm the only gay in the village!" which was a giggle, but it wasn't. Made me smile even more when the reverend Kate was like "I want to vote for them!" but realising of course she couldn't.

I also spent a bit of time as well working on a few things too: looking ahead to the future a bit and seeing what needed to be worked out. I have now booked some tickets in late July for The Love In My Heart and I to see the Audrey Hepburn portraits exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, and I for one can't wait - lots of unseeen portaits of the iconic film actress and a definite style queen at that. Tune of the day therefore has to be "Moon river" from the classic Breakfast At Tiffany's film. Well, be rude not to really..

Thursday 9th April - Recruitment Refresher

It was good to have managed earlier in the week to take advantage of a late cancellation, and after checking with my line manager, I was able to go on a day and a half course for recruitment and selection. The idea is that once you've undertaken the course and learnt the necessary skills required, so you can be part of and sit on an interview panel for a position that comes up, and be on the other side of the table helping recruit the best staff possible.

It was interesting as one of my colleagues from another site was on the course with me, as was one of our senior managers as well, so I guess the fact she saw the two of us wanting to develop ourselves was most likely no bad thing. In fact it worked out to be a really good day, the trainer Deborah was lovely, very Northern (no bad thing of course) and really came across knowledgeable yet approachable at the same time. It was good too how we got a different ice breaker to people as well, we had to interview each other and get that information out and that actually proved to be pretty useful.

A fair bit of time was spent on how the selection process works but also what legislation you have to be careful of, namely the Equality Act (which brought together other acts such as the Disability Discrimination Act and the Sex Discrimination Act under one roof) - in that you have to fairly judge the application based on the ability alone and nothing else. We had to also think of how people could be discriminated against on an application and unsurprisingly there were lots to think about. There was also a discussion about how access to certain listed buildings where the frontage cannot be massively altered may affect how you could make reasonable adjustments (for interviews and indeed for the position in hand)

We were also shown a dummy job description and person specification in order to deliberately pick holes in it. The lack of spelling or grammar hit straight away for me (I am such a grammar ninja!) but also the fact that there were too many acronyms too. I'm not a big fan of those: only use them if you've actually explained initially what it does stand for so that someone can then refer back and see what it is. Makes perfect sense of course, but amazing how often that doesn't happen in practice.

I also spent some time tonight with The Love In My Heart which is always appreciated. I made some chicken with a cheese and leek sauce together with some mash and baby carrots, and timed it so it was in between Emmerdale episodes. I did of course watch Top of the Pops on BBC Four and what was wonderful was to see Siouxsie and the Banshees performing "Happy House", still one of my favourites of theirs and a massively deserved tune of the day.

Once The Love and I had watched First Dates and that she had headed home later on, I put the World Snooker Youtube channel on via the telly and watched the last few frames of the World Championship qualifier between Reanne Evans and Ken Doherty. Ken was leading 9-8 but it looked like Reanne might force a decider, with Ken needing a snooker on the pink. He got that, Reanne sadly missed and Ken cleared up to win 10-8 - a lot closer than most of us had predicted however it has to be said.

Wednesday 8th April - Listings and Deployments

I had a bit of a puzzle on today in terms of deploying a specialist piece of software. There were various components to be installed which came on eight (yes, eight!) DVD discs. Not all of them were a full DVD worth of data capacity, but it still nonetheless was a considerable amount of data which needed to be looked at in terms of how to best package it all and distribute it in one rather neat fell swoop. As you can well imagine, the first thing first was to determine if the installer could be run silently, and it could.

However (and this is a big however) it wasn't as straightforward as you might think. The installer used the technology called InstallAware, and this for some reason, although relatively simple to actually use, had its own little sting in the tail. When you are deploying using Microsoft System Centre Configuration Manager (SCCM), any task sequence or package deployment runs as the high level SYSTEM user. Now, this user doesn't actually have a user profile as such, so any installation which refers particularly to the user accounts or user profile folders might be problematic.

Most install methods and programs know that you're going to be deploying via SCCM - in the case of Microsoft MSI instalers, this is why you have per system unattended (does what it says on the tin) and other installer solutions also realise you're going to use SCCM in such a way. InstallAware however, doesn't. In fact a bit of research shows that in some of their own website forum threads they were trying clearly to say that SCCM was at fault instead of looking at their own methodology.

I did however find one very useful article which explains just why the installer might have been failing, along with a solution. In effect, the installer in their case (and in mine) specifically mentioned the desktop directory. In user profile accounts that's fine, it's C:\Users\<username>\Desktop - easy peasy. The SYSTEM user doesn't have this, but you can tell the installer that you'd like it to use the Public desktop folder (ie: for all users) at C:\Users\Public\Desktop instead.

Flushed with that information, I gave that a go on one of the eight packages (they all used the same packager) and made sure the installer command line did that. And once I tried to deploy that in SCCM - hurrah! It worked. First go. Awesomeness. So I set about making sure that the program for silent install in the remaining seven packages were set the same way, and then knocked up a task sequence to do all eight installs. And I've set that off overnight, but I am pretty sure it will work as intended the right way. So in my case, the silent install command line was setup.exe /s DESKTOPDIR=C:\Users\Public\Desktop - and that was fine.

Later on when I got home and with Dream Theater's epic "Octavarium" in full flow (tune of the day) I set about starting off my birthday list, prompted by one of my friends and indeed one of my relations. I guess for me because I have a sizeable CD collection in particular, it's better that I receive something I actually don't have and would really like, and it saves them the hassle too - they can click and buy or visit a shop and buy, and all very good there.

In fact I know that there's a few things coming out in the next week or two so I could place them on there now, and people can order them - thus meaning job done and less for me to worry about. It's a good working system in place, and the only difficult decision was what to put on it, but armed with various different websites, and adding links where possible, it wasn't too bad. I was sorely tempted to put on various Blu-ray box sets but due to the expensive price, I declined - made sense really!

Tuesday 7th April - Surprises, Questions and Answers

I had a really nice surprise after a long day at work - I had a text message from The Love In My Heart who had finished earlier than planned at work and wanted to know if I fancied meeting for a drink - and her treat as well which was massively appreciated. Of course I wasn't going to say no, and so we arranged to head to Sandbar later on. Bizarrely they'd ran out of white wine, but the Phoenix Arizona ale was bang on good form for me, and we sat on one of the benches outside and chatted for ages. It was so lovely of her to surprise me like that and I think it did me the world of good too to have that. Thanks to her massively.

This evening was spent doing a fair amount of research and updating of my World Snooker Championship FAQ. In fact it proved to be a very worthwhile exercise, as I'd had some invaluable feedback from some snooker fans with regards to some of the questions, and also maybe listing some others as well. One I had thought of was the question of what happens if on a two table setup play ends early. Having of course had that happen, the divider does come up (normally at the end of a frame) so you can stay and watch. This can sometimes happen if one match finishes early (notably if final session) and the other has a full allocation of frames to play, so useful to add that.

I also very kindly had a tweet from one of the leading referees Brendan Moore, who confirmed all eight referees who were going to be there. I already knew he would be there (he lives in Sheffield, be rude not to have him!) as well as Olivier Marteel who is refereeing the final this year. I also knew from other conversations that Jan Verhaas had confirmed as well as Marcel Eckardt, a fairly new German referee whom I saw at the World Grand Prix in Llandudno last month referee one of the matches that I was watching.

One thing I did manage to dig out was the all important prize money. It had been announced by Barry Hearn mid way through the 2014 World Championship so it took a little bit of digging to find that information. Most notable perhaps that if you're a Top 16 player and so have qualified by right to get to the Crucible automatically, you still get the prize money if you lose your first round match, but this does not count towards your world ranking money. He stated that if you didn't win a match then why should you get any money at all - hence this has increased slightly the prize money for the qualifiers if they get past a number of rounds (but if they lose in the first qualifying round, they get nothing)

It's been a good exercise for me in terms of getting my writing back on track but also may help me in future when writing documentation, in that you have to be clear, concise and to the point whilst still answering the question. It did take a fair bit of time tonight but that actually worked out well because of the Easter extended weekend. And of course I'd had the added bonus earlier of seeing The Love In My Heart too, so no arguments there. In the meantime tune of the day is "The Len Ganley Stance" by Half Man Half Biscuit, with the immortal line of "shine your shoes and head to the Crucible.."

Monday 6th April - Drawing Easter Monday

My didn't that weekend go by far too quickly? Well it certainly did for me anyway. I left The Love to have a well deserved lie in whilst I did some washing that was needed in the house, and also then decided to look at potential birthday presents for myself next month and this meant that she could have a very deserved rest. I think having sleep interrupted by cats, as cute as they are, doesn't always mean you get a proper rest as you need to. Still though the weather was looking good at least, long may that continue for the next few weeks!

We had some sausges on toast for breakfast whilst Escape to the Country was on in the background - and the couple were heading around a few properties in North East Cornwall, notably one in the small village of Stratton, not that far from Bude. It all looked very lovely and I'm sure if I was able to have loads of money and also be able to retire then Cornwall would have to in my view be right up there as a choice to most likely escape to the country to. In fact being there right now would be lovely.

The Love headed home in the afternoon as I'm sure she would have plenty to sort out herself, and no doubt too that the two cats were also missing her lots especially after having even more time with her than normal over the course of the weekend. I spent a fair bit of time this afternoon updating the snooker World Championship FAQ I'd written a few days ago - notably because the draw for the qualifying rounds have been made - and some interesting match ups there.

In fact despite the invitations for former world champions to take part in the qualifers, on the whole no one actually took up the invites apart from those already offered to Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis (Hendry actually refused for the Worlds). Notable though was the female entrant Reanne Evans who would be up against former champion Ken Doherty in the first round, and perhaps for me tie of the round, Michael Wasley, who had a good run last year, up against Alan McManus. Might even see if I can possibly head over to Sheffield and see the qualifiers take place, although I can't see many free days to do so..

Still, it's getting me nicely set for the tournament to come, and so with that in mind tune of the day is of course the proper snooker theme, aka "Drag Racer" by the Doug Wood Band. Any self respecting fan of the sport knows that it just works as the theme, with the dulcet tones of the late great David Vine introducing you to the day's play from Sheffield. Of course that might be heard and played a lot over the next few weeks, but it's always special to go to the Crucible directly...

Sunday 5th April - Spring has Sprung at the Mill

The Love In My Heart had a long lie in, which was well deserved after having a couple of wake ups during the night, mostly because of the two cats wanting attention. We were both probably needing a good sleep anyway, and so it was good to just potter around. I had one eye on some telly whilst The Love was getting herself sorted out, and after a gorgeous breakfast with scrambled egg, bacon, sausages and muffins (I felt really spoilt) we decided with the weather being really nice then it would be good to head out for a nice walk.

So after dropping off both our cases at mine (me with the stuff I'd taken to The Love's at the weekend, hers with an overnight stay at mine tonight) we decided to head off to Quarry Bank Mill at Styal. There's normally plenty of family orientated activities on the Easter Sunday and so it proved: an Easter egg hunt with clues placed around the gardens which you had to solve and when you got back to the tent in the mill meadow, it was an Easter egg as a reward. It was a good idea as it meant a nice walk around for everyone.

We decided to go through the gardens, and so followed the bottom path alongside the River Bollin at first, and then from there took the zig zag up the hill and up several steps which took you to the terrace garden at the very top. The view down from there was rather lovely, but so was the fact that the old gardens up here were being renovated: the greenhouse looked in excellent condition now and you could see the potential for the lean-to greenhouses against the brick walls, very much like you see at The Lost Gardens of Heligan as well.

We then followed the path down to a view over the rockfaces and down to the mill, which was rather nice to look at, and then followed the path down the slope, noticing some new pathing as well which had had been laid down, before then returning over the bridge and via the mill meadow to the courtyard, where with the weather being lovely, a Snugburys ice cream was to be mine - and the real strawberry at that. Gorgeous it was, and well worth having.

We stopped off on the way back at The Gateway pub and the real ales were on top form,not least the Bedfordshire Clanger which I had, which worked out a real bargain, a mere £1.69 for a pint. Absolutely lovely and for the price especially, cannot argue whatsoever. We then were back at mine, and we had a nice tea together, with butternut squash soup for starters, some pork belly with stewed apple and cider jus with mash, carrots and peas for main, and then strawberry and prosecco trifle for afterwards. Gorgeous.

We then decided after catching up with First Dates that we'd watch Paddington together. And actually even The Love admitted it was better than she thought it would be, with Hugh Bonneville as Mr Brown being a marked departure from his usual Downton Abbey role. Sally Hawkins was excellent as Mrs Brown with a real sense of almost a hippy like lifestyle, and Nicole Kidman was suitably evil in her role as the daughter of the former explorer whom had first encountered Paddington's family in darkest Peru.

What was a lovely touch too was the appearance in key scenes of the calypso band D Lime, with Tabago Crusoe on lead vocals. In a nod to the film There's Something About Mary, where Jonathan Richman and band appear in scenes, the same happens here, and it just works wonderfully well. Notably so when Paddington first arrives and they play "London Is The Place For Me" with such a happy cheery feel, you can't help but have a big smile on your face, so tune of the day that most definitely is. Very nice film too, get it if you can!

Saturday 4th April - Wireless and Winners

The Love In My Heart and I had a deserved lie in of sorts: I was up a little earlier as I wanted to freshen up a little, but nonetheless The Love spoiled me with a nice breakfast of some bacon, egg and a couple of muffins as well, which were toasted nicely. It kept us going for most of the day and overall it was good just to be able to chill out, with both Jô and Brian the two cats for company, having a general fuss around and being their adorable selves. It's notable both of them are molting a bit as of late though.

Later on we headed off to The Love's father's place, as she had asked me to see what I could do to fix a laptop for her father's next door neighbour. He took me over and the neighbour explained to me what the issue was with the laptop. One quick diagnosis later and I'd worked out that the drivers were corrupted, so I made sure any existing drivers were completely uninstalled and removed, then installed the new ones from a CD I'd burnt earlier (they had given me the make and model of the laptop so it was straightforward to sort that out). And once that was done, and BT Home Hub connected, all sorted. Didn't take too long either.

We spent a bit of time relaxing at The Love's father's place and I ewas able to have a good chat with her sisters and niece too, with her sister telling us about her recent trip to Paris earlier this week. I think on the whole they really enjoyed it and I suspect will be going back there in the future: especially as the Eiffel Tower was closed at the top due to the high winds whilst they were there, and so they were a bit gutted really. It was nice though just to chatter and later on The Love and I headed off.

Initially we were going to go back to The Love's place but with the weather being dry and reasonably nice we instead decided to go to Dukes 92 in Castlefield and have a drink there - we even managed to get a balcony seat so we could view the squares and the canal below. It was just good to relax and chat and it was notable that one car park by the canal was charging £5, but we only needed an hour and a half or so and so the on-street parking was cheaper at £1-85. Not that daft me you know.

We headed back to The Love's place where she made us an excellent meal for tea: a fresh whole chicken which she carefully sliced, and that was with mash and roasted potatoes, fresh carrots and hand shelled peas, and some nice gravy. Even a Yorkshire pudding was present for me too and that went down rather nicely as we had a glass of prosecco with the tea as well. She'd even made a meringue nest and so made pavlova complete with fresh berries and some cream for dessert - which also went down rather well too it has to be said.

We snuggled up and watched the final of The Voice which she wanted to see. It was intriguing to see what songs they would attempt to sing well and Lucy the opera singer went for an operatic version of Radiohead's "No Surprises" which was a surprise. They did a song with the judges which meant Ricky Wilson had to sing twice: and certainly he and eventual winner Stevie had that passion in bucketloads when doing The Beatles' "Get Back". It did have me hankering after the classic original though which is tune of the day for that reason.

After four went to two and Lucy and Stevie decided to do their audition songs again as their memory of the contest, they both then had to do the winners' single, "Lost Stars", originally composed by Adam Levine of Maroon 5 for the film Begin Again. Two very different versions ensued but I think Stevie had it more like the original and a gritty rock voice to boot. The Love thought it was the winner by some way and so it proved too - with Stevie winning. And although we didn't win the lottery, after checking the EuroMillions numbers from last night, The Love had won with 2 numbers. Not a massive amount but a win on her birthday can't be bad!

Friday 3rd April - The Love's Birthday

Today wasn't just Good Friday, it was also the birthday of The Love In My Heart as well, and so we had planned to head out for a meal together in the evening. I had also made sure that I had purchased an Easter egg for her as an Easter present, namely a rather nice Lindt Lindor one with lots of little mini eggs to go with it in the box. I was also tempted by some Lindt bunnies too but thought that one egg was plenty anyway. I got up early, made sure all the house was nice and tidy and also spent some time ironing lots of stuff too, and then around lunch time The Love came over.

My mum and my brother had dropped off some presents for The Love - gift cards for Zara no less which I know she will use and buy some nice new clothes with - and she opened those and the cards first. Then it was on to what I had got her - namely a nice new leaf print top from Warehouse that she'd first seen whilst we were in London in February, and also some flat shoes from Zara that she had also been after. It was much appreciated and it's always good to get someone what they're really after. I could of course have spent lots more but I had to be good!

Later on we headed off and was going to go to the Elizabethan in Heaton Moor as the rain came down, but that was pretty full, so went to Plan B and went instead into Chorlton and to The Lloyds instead. And.. they had the Coronation Street ale back on. Not had this for absolutely ages, so had to be done. We went for a sandwich based lunch, and I had the pulled pork brisket flatbread - up to their usual lovely standards, and The Love had cheese and ham on sourdough. Continuing the Coronation Street theme a tad, The Love even spotted a former Corrie actress close by having a coffee, which was a bit unexpected.

We headed back to The Love's place as the rain still continued to throw it down, and spent a chunk of time in the afternoon with the two cats Jô and Brian, and they were more than happy to have a massive fuss over. The Love also surprised me with a present for Easter too - which didn't expect. Even more so that it was Paddington on Blu-Ray, which I had wanted to go and see over Christmas as well! I suspect that might have to be watched over the next few days somehow.

Later on we both got ourselves changed and ready and thankfully the rain had stopped. We didn't have far to go from The Love's place: in fact we could walk it to where we were going: La Delicatezze di Bruno on Ashton New Road. Word of mouth by favourable reviews have earned the restaurant a reputation of excellent food at not very expensive prices so we were both intrigued to see if that reputation has been earned just on its rather good prices but also with the quality of food to back that up as well, and we soon were shown to our table in the middle of the restaurant space. It's not huge in terms of its seating area, hence our sensible move to book early.

The staff were welcoming and friendly without being too obtrusive, and looking at the menu, most couples like us will look towards the meal deals for two. We decided to go for the 5 tapas starters, 2 main courses and 2 desserts - all for £22. That's not each - that's for the couple. When you add the prices of all of those individually, that's already a saving on competitive prices to start with. I think for what we eventually had it worked out as around another £10 or so off what you would pay seperately, so considering all of that it has to be a good move.

We had five different tapas starters: all on a large wooden plate above the table so you could delve in and choose - which is pretty much what we did anyway. The meatballs in sauce were well cooked with lots of meatbals crammed in, the garlic mushrooms very tasty, the calamari crispy and with a nice side dip (so much so that The Love who is not a renowned fish eater said that they were lovely, said it all really), the potato croquettes also crispy without losing flavour, and best of all the chicken wings, which were melt in the mouth. If that was the taste of things to come, we were both pleased.

The two main courses were plentiful, and full of flavour: the tagliatelle bolognaise that The Love had did not skimp on the meat whatsoever, with a very good sauce and you weren't lacking in the amount either. Seriously you could easily share that between two if you wanted something a bit on the lighter side. I had the lobster ravioli - and that was simply stunning. The large ravioli shells were completely full of lobster meat and you also had king prawns too, all put together in a really tasty plum tomato and mascarpone sauce which just matched the fish perfectly. I would more than happily have had that on its own, such was the amount you had for the money.

The desserts were also gorgeous: so nice to have a proper Italian tiraimsu made the proper way, with the soaked sponge not overdone, and a nice creamy top which just made it rather indulgent, but all in a good way. The panna cotta had plenty of fruit and berries to go with it, and the panna cotta itself was very creamy as well. I had a coffee with the dessert, a proper little Italian coffee with some milk, and that worked really well with the dessert - and best of all, just £1. Worth every penny that was.

We were both very impressed - it was a really lovely meal, friendly staff, beautifully presented and tasting food, and even with drinks it was just over £32 for the two of us. Hard to believe I know, but true. For us both, the reputation that the place has earned has been more than deserved, and I'm just wondering when we can go back to be honest and try some different dishes too. We were quite full as we walked back to The Love's place and settled in for the remainder of the evening with Gogglebox on Channel 4 +1 to see the night in.

Tune of the day simply has to be a Paul Weller classic, "You Do Something To Me" which somehow sums up what The Love means to me. It's not just one little thing why she is so lovely and adorable, but lots of little things which all add up. I think for us both having a really nice meal tonight really did have us both in a most relax and contented mood and it was therefore so nice just to have some quality time together as the cats snuggled up at the end of The Love's bed as we slept. I know. Awww.

Thursday 2nd April - Learning Pob

Most of the morning today was spent hands on with our new system for logging cases (not calls anymore), for the likes of incidents, service requests and maintenance tasks. Out will go our current RMS Service Desk offering and in will come RMS' successor, Point of Business (or POB as it's affectionately called). I do wonder whether of course those at RMS realised that Pob was of course an infamous character with his own programme on Channel 4, where he'd blow at the screen and write his name in the water vapour (note: he never spat, despite irate parents at the time) - and thus said theme tune is tune of the day as I had it in my head after the session.

It's hard to judge from an initial play around with some examples as to what to do with the system, but there's plenty I can see the potential of. Other questions are more to do with actual processes themselves instead the system, and it is important to differ between the two. That in itself raises some questions which I think might be a hot topic in the next few weeks as things go live. For me though, it's important to know that from a service point of view, we need to be sure that the quality is right, as that's what is always needed to be prided on.

I did spend some time this afternoon evaluating some software installations, and after the Skype call success yesterday, it was realising what the task was going to be to install some of the required stuff over the Easter period. For me at least it's been a good task to work out what is going to work and what isn't, and I'm sure that it'll get me in the right frame of mind for next week. For me at least it's going to be a busy next few months whatever happens and so I need to do what I can to ensure things work correctly across the board.

I also had my brother and his girlfriend visit tonight, they were still rather pleased with their enjoyable holiday in Cornwall and how for the first three days or so they mainly stayed in and around St Ives, taking in all the art and craft places, and even managing to find some lovely restaurants to have some meals (some of which I've noted myself for a future visit down there.) It was good to catch up at any rate and I have to say I think it's done them the world of good on the whole.

I did also see some of the Leaders' Debate on ITV1 tonight. I have to say that Julie Etchingham chaired it pretty well, keeping order where it was needed. It was perhaps also more notable for the performances of the women party leaders - granted most people will have been exposed to Nicola Sturgeon and her drive and passion as leader of the SNP, but it was notable too tonight that Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru really did come across professional and passionate also. The way she took apart Nigel Farage of UKIP's comments about AIDS patients from overseas really did show some mettle, and overall I think anyone who had seen her for the first time would have been impressed.

The clear winners though were in my view those who had most to gain - I think as for the main party leaders, none of them came across in a way that would convince you that they all had Prime Minister credentials for the next five years. It was perhaps most telling though that Nick Clegg was using this platform to prove that he didn't see eye to eye with his Conservative colleagues in coalition and that he was giving David Cameron a true grilling. I also do think however that he's worried that he could become the fourth or even fifth party in terms of numbers of seats after the Election.

Notably though was the sheer amount of instantaneous wishes for quick polls to be given and results to be handed out there and then - which was daft in my view. Allow people to think overnight, so that they can weigh it all up and give them an informed opinion of what they felt was the best performance of the night and who came out of it well. I think for me it's also notable that this is the only time all seven leaders will be on the same stage - so from here on in it's a real battle of hearts, minds and also who can spin their slight mistruths the best.

Wednesday 1st April - Training and Catch Up

It was really good to get my teeth into training mode again today and to be able to help train up three members of our team on a refresher course for SCCM 2012 and what it can do to make sure everything is as it should be. I made sure that I covered lots of the usual stuff, but also included more things about task sequences, how packages and applications can work well (including deployment types and when to use them) and also a detailed section on reports and queries, with the latter proving very useful indeed for them all.

In fact one thing which is often overlooked which gets pretty useful system information is the resource explorer, activated when you right click on a machine and select the Start tools (it's in the same place as remote control etc) and this can give you plenty of useful info about a particular PC should you need it, including for example serial number (often embedded in the BIOS these days), what software vendors have software on, lots of good stuff. Granted it's as up to date as the last full data discovery cycle is, but if that's every week then you do have a pretty good idea of what's going on anyway.

The afternoon was mainly spent testing, testing and more testing and this included a Skype call to one of our software vendors over in Greece to respond to an issue we had with installation. We soon found out what the issue was and was able to try a workaround, which seemed to work rather nicely, so I can hopefully push that out and get the software distributed where possible. For me it was also good to see where possible that we were able to work together to come to a way of resolving things nicely, hurrah.

I then headed home and spent most of this evening doing a fair bit of catching up - first off with Mum. I thought it best to do that before I get a call saying "I've not heard from you lately!" and so it was good to chatter anyway. I know she's looking forward to a short break in Cornwall with my youngest sister and my nephew, so she was explaining a few things about that, but it sounded like she was happy which was good. I also caught up with a friend of mine and it was a very quick hour or so as we happily chatted about all sorts, and how things were with her part of the world (and her partner's who had fought off a bad flu and I'd made their day when spotting the Barry Sheene documentary was on BBC2 the other night)

I also had a good chat with The Love In My Heart and she was explaining an issue that her father's next door neighbour was having with a laptop, and it sounded to me either a driver or hardware issue. Thankfully they had the sense to mention the serial number and model number of the device and so I was able to look it up and locate the drivers. Well, sort of. It could have an Atheros or Intel card in it, so to be on the safe side, I've snagged both and see what happens from there - simple really.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather excellent "Goodtime Girl" by the fab Donna Marie, who alerted me last night to the fact that she'd uploaded the radio friendly 7" version on her Soundcloud space. And yes, it is still as good as I can remember seeing it live back then. It also sounded like a cleaner re-master compared to the original version on the "This World" EP (I have that too) and so that really does rock out very nicely. Keep up the good work, miss!