Dear Diary... April 2016

Saturday 30th April - Chilled out in Croydon

It was going to be especially lovely this weekend as The Love In My Heart was making her way down to see me and spend the weekend here, and I made sure I was up early enough to get the flat tidied, get the bedding changed, do all the washing I needed to do, and then get some breakfast and a coffee before settling in to watch some of the third session of snooker between Marco Fu and Mark Selby. It was a bit of a struggle at times for plenty of frames, but I had a feeling that this may help Ding Junhui if he went on to beat Alan McManus, as he may be a little less tired, we shall see.

The Love had to head to Croydon a different way when she got to London Euston due to engineering works, so I had recommended she took the Northern Line Bank branch off to London Bridge, and then get the train from there to East Croydon. I knew it'd take her a bit longer as she'd need to find her way around the different route (so much easier via Victoria let me tell you) and so she texted me once she was leaving London Bridge so I could come and meet her at East Croydon station. Plenty of hugs were hers when she arrived, I was really pleased to see her that was for sure.

Once back at mine, she then gave me a little present - and one she wanted to give me now for my birthday so I could use it here - two coasters, with our names on, and both of them together formed a heart in purple. That was so nice of her and that just meant more hugs! We then made sure everything was unpacked as needed, and then headed off to the Clocktower Café not too far away for lunch. Actually it was a nice surrounding to chat, have a coffee and a nice tuna melt sandwich for me, and The Love had a BLT panini which looked the part too. I spotted all the photography in there and that was good to note, and the local camera club appeared to be involved as well so I might have to check that out.

It had been raining a little but the rain was easing a bit, and with The Love having some gift cards from her birthday, we hit the shops. It was a good move all round as in House of Fraser she spotted a really nice top from Coast, which had already been reduced twice. I then spotted it was 20% off the last marked price, and sure enough when she got to the till, that was the case, so she bought that, and I know she will look gorgeous in it. She also saw some nice casual shoes in Next and got those as well, so total spend = zero and still some of the Next gift card balance left. I'd call that a result.

We headed back to mine and then over to the Royal Standard pub close by for a drink, as I'd noticed it had been done up and reopened. It seemed nice with all the wood stained nicely and four choices of real ale as well, so happy bunny there. Some of the chairs were also good, and I suspect that it'd be a good place to take some friends in if they came down to see me as well. I liked the intimate atmos and everyone seemed nice enough, but always a bit worried about going in on my own and all that.

Later on I made The Love some tea including a nice tomato and basil soup, some Wiltshire ham gratin for main, and that was all washed down with ale and wine accordingly (thanks Sainsburys in the main). The Love and I then settled back for the evening and watched the film The Imitation Game, which I'd wanted to see for some time. It proved to be an excellent film and a good soundtrack too from Alexandre Desplat to boot (the main theme of which is tune of the day) and so it was nice to snuggle up and watch that together to end a rather nice day all round.

Friday 29th April - Pay Day Is Lunch Day

It was of course nice to know that I'd been paid today with it being the last working day of the month and all that, and so it was therefore good after a fair bit of work during the morning to have some lunch. In fact, I wasn't the only one thinking that either and in fact there were around a dozen of us who ended up at the Wetherspoons pub close to work to get some lunch. Of course with the fish friday deal on it made perfect sense to be able to get that and a soft drink, and have some well earned fish and chips.

I had spent some time today sorting out a few things and managing to get on top of how I was going to roll out a driver update to one piece of network hardware in a considerable number of PCs. In effect, because updating the driver would of course temporarily mean any network connections would be removed, what I worked out was that I could set the driver update to run on user log out, so that the files would be downloaded from the PC, and then run locally during the logout process. That when I tested it seemed to work nicely, so I'm doing a further test on Tuesday before then getting it through change.

I also wrote a fair bit of documentation in testing some of the Intel AMT stuff I'd been working on. Now I've managed to get all the pieces in place, it would be feasible for me to test each of them in turn and see how one machine then provisions. It all worked nicely - I was able to do a discovery and get the registry entries populated, and from that then be able to then ensure that the Intel Management Engine Interface full version (so it adds all the WMI repositories) were then included. After that I could then of course do the provisioning complete with the Intel ADN client to tell it where the certificate is. It worked, and I could shut down PCs too. Hurrah.

I headed home later and waited in for the food shopping to arrive from Sainsburys. That worked out well on the whole as there were no substitutions, but it did mean that the driver had to find the place. When I did the order online the post code still didn't exist on their system (despite Ocado, Tesco etc all having it on theirs) and so I had to enter things manually. Luckily the driver knew where he was going eventually and soon came through to drop it all off, so all good there really.

I was most pleased and that allowed me to chill out and enjoy the rest of tonight's snooker coverage with Ding Junhui against Alan McManus, and relaxed with that and Simple Minds' "Waterfront" blasting out as Alan came on with the tartan outfit. The tune is tune of the day and at the end of the session I think Ding was quite pleased to be up and looking reasonably comfortable to hopefully finish the job off tomorrow. And indeed as the sun set and the darkness fell, and I got lots of cleaning done, all seemed well with the world for an extended weekend too.

Thursday 28th April - Tassimo Time

I must admit I don't normally end up running out of pods for the trusty Tassimo coffee machine (something which The Love In My Heart alluded to last night when chatting on the phone) and so I decided to see what was the best offer for them at the moment, notably if I wanted some Costa ones at that. I had a look at all the major shopping sites and had already ruled out Sainsburys when I did my online food shopping the other day (it was too expensive).

Tesco, Waitrose and Morrisons were all no good either - charging full price, but thankfuly Asda seemed to still have their offer on which were three packs for £10, and this happened to include Costa ones as well. So it was a sensible move to head from East Croydon station, take the tram to Therapia Lane and get the 455 bus straight to Asda Beddington. In fact I was going to kill proverbially two birds with one stone and see if I could stock up on the beer deal as well, as it's 4 for £5 for real ales.

It was an easy walk around and a result - two packs of Costa pods, one pack of Kenco Colombian. Sorted. And the four ales included Black Sheep, a new Ringwood Brewery one (Circadian) I hadn't seen before, along with Honey Dew (Fullers) and Firkin Fox (Bagder Ales) as well, which I've had before and is fab. I figured if I was going to get some wine in for The Love In My Heart this weekend for her visit, I may as well make sure I get myself something nice to drink too in the evening, only seemed fair somehow.

It was later on with the snooker and on with the semi finals, and in the afternoon Ding Junhui made four centuries in a 6-2 lead over Alan McManus. The other semi starting tonight was Marco Fu against Mark Selby, and it always feels different with the one table there at the Crucible. I like the fact Mark's kept it local and kept Kasabian as his band of choice for his walk on music (so "eez-eh" is tune of the day) and he seemed in good form early on, storming to a 3-1 lead before the mid session interval. It may end up being close up to Saturday, but that'll be good to see.

Naturally too I'm already excited as the final episode of Line of Duty is on tonight, and a special hour and a half episode at that. I've been enthralled a lot with this series, and it's going to hopefully be revealing and with some twists along the way. It's an excellent piece of writing throughout and certainly if there's some awards going in the future for TV drama, this has to be right up there. I don't think anyone predicted the dramatic ending to last week's episode that is for sure..

Wednesday 27th April - Strike Day Two

I think after the fun and games yesterday, I definitely noticed more people on the 468 bus this morning, as it took a little longer to get to its destination. I suspect a fair number of people tried out the reduced train timetable from Southern, realised that the endless queueing and carnage wasn't getting them anywhere, and sought to look for alternative means today. For me it was just a good way to get into work and not have to worry, and for me it was noticeable that it was particularly snarled up with traffic around Camberwell Green too.

I did have a reasonably productive day, working on a fair few things but most of all getting the Creative Windows 7 image finished off. I had tried to install Adobe Creative Cloud 2015 on to the existing VM I was using, but a lack of disk space in the VM prevented me from doing so. Instead I managed to work out a pretty good trick, which is handy for any VMWare workstation users. Simply in the snapshot manager select the snapshot of your choice (preferably a snapshot where the machine has been powered off, as it tends to work better) and then click the option to Clone. It then goes through creating a VM for you based on the machine plus snapshot, but as it's a fresh VM you can then amend the disk space used, it'll reboot and then you can just extend the disk in Windows disk management. Win.

I did also look further into a couple of potential issues with some software installations, and together with a colleague we found out that a particular specialist piece of software had changed its installation methods, so all the icons within were available to all users, including the admin one which we didn't want. We found that simply removing one DLL also removed the admin button for everyone else, and reinstating it re-enabled it accordingly. This is more for our Citrix users as the full software suite would be installed on said servers, but needs to be accessible by both admin and standard users of said software. Again, win.

I headed homewards the same way as yesterday, so tube to Morden and then a walk across Morden Hall Park to Phipps Bridge tram stop to get the tram there. In essence, it worked well and I noticed that there was a sign for a country fair in the showground part of the park this weekend, so that might be worth a visit especially as it's not far to go for me. I noticed too generally that a fair number of people go for nice walks in the park itself, so I may at some point look at when I have a free weekend to do some more of the Capital Ring or Green Chain walks again - I really did enjoy those a fair bit.

So on with the snooker tonight (well, it'd be rude not to) and I saw the final session of the match with Barry Hawkins v Marco Fu. Considering the Hawk was 9-1 down at one point he had pulled it back to 10-9, Fu surged again to 12-9 before the Hawk dug deep and at 12-11 it could have gone either way, especially after the Hawk made a 60 break. Marco cleaned up the remaining balls with a superb break to win the frame (and match) on the black. Thoroughly deserved and a great response, and so his walk on music by The Script, namely "Superheroes" is tune of the day - and both of them to be fair deserve that accolade.

Tuesday 26th April - Beating the Strike and Justice for the 96

Today and tomorrow sees Southern trains on strike, which is not very good news for the likes of me. Effectively this means that most of the trains around Croydon were either not starting till 0730 or not running at all, and so as I saw it, it was a case of making alternative plans to be able to get to work on time. The main sensible idea was to get the 468 bus from Croydon to work as I didn't have to go far to the bus stop to get on, and not very far when I got off either, so it made perfect sense to do so.

It did take some time but I did arrive on time, so leaving a little bit earlier than normal made some sense too, beating the traffic and no doubt some very angry commuters at East Croydon station as well. It was also good to just look out of the window and admire the view of the likes of Brockwell Park close to Herne Hill and then on the way down towards Denmark Hill and Camberwell before arriving in work well on time. And this then allowed me to crack on with a few things.

In fact it meant I could bring down the image I created yesterday and test it, and... badabing! It all worked, no errors, so my hunch was correct and present. In fact this meant that I was then able to be able to test it out thoroughly, make sure it was all working as intended, and then be able to sign that off and then look at the next version which has Adobe Creative Cloud 2015 included as well (again for ease of use as a lot of people will use that of course..)

I headed home a different way too and it was quite a green space way of doing it - I got on the Northern Line and stayed on all the way to Morden where it terminates, and got off there. I then walked across the main road to Morden Hall Park, walked through the paths there and towards Phipps Bridge tram stop and took the tram to Croydon, getting off at Reeves Corner and walking home from there. It did feel quite a nice green way of doing so and taking in the views of the park along the way was actually quite nice - think I'll do that again tomorrow for the second strike day as I got home pretty quickly too.

Over lunch time I was also very very pleased to see that the verdicts were returned in the Hillsborough inquest, and the verdict of the fans being unlawfully killed was not only a victory for the families and their tireless campaign to have justice delivered for their loves ones, but also a victory for decency and the truth against the backdrop of not only a corrupt Conservative government and South Yorkshire Police, but also against the Sun newspaper, whose headline "the truth" with its gross inaccuracies has finally been laid bare as not just lies, but a smear campaign against those who had remained dignified, committed and unbreakable in their search for the truth and justice.

"You'll Never Walk Alone" is tune of the day and as one of the football family, any rivalry is put to rest when something like Hillsborough happens. It's instead backing their cause for justice and supporting their tireless efforts, and it's down to the determination, the backing of the club (and indeed their friends across Stanley Park at Everton who showed solidarity) and all the honest decent football fans who just want to go and see a game and not have to face anything like that was faced on 15th April 1989.

Monday 25th April - Build High

So it was almost done with the Windows 7 new build, and once I'd got to the point where I would be able to sysprep the image and have it done, all seemed well. Becuase I like to be thorough, I always wanted to bring down the image and make sure it was fit for purpose, and sure enough all the components came down fine when imaging, so that was all good there. However, I did notice that on restart it seemed to not want to do what it was supposed to during the sysprep process despite feeding it the correct unattend.xml file.

I had a think about things and the only new feature we'd introduced was Internet Explorer 11 across the board: we'd already distributed it via WSUS to all the existing PCs of course but it was now a case of including it in the build which would be sensible. I had a look into the way that unattend.xml is created with the Windows System Image Manager as part of the deployment toolkit, and all seemed well there, but there were a couple of Internet Explorer settings which seemed to be deprecated, and one of them was set. Also, from what I could see of the setup error log, it pointed to that too.

So with that done, it was a case of reversing steps a little (this is when having a VM to work on with snapshots pays off hugely let me tell you) and then being able to add a revised unattend.xml file in and go from there. Hopefully he says it'll work and so I spent time before I left work this evening starting off an imaging file upload to the main server and going from there - I can then test it first thing tomorrow and make sure it all works exactly the way that I want it to go. Fingers crossed and all that.

I headed home and for the main part of the evening did a shed load of ironing before then watching the evening session of the World Snooker Championship on BBC Two. Ronnie O'Sullivan was up against Barry Hawkins (make his walk on music, "My Love" by Kele Le Roc tune of the day) and Hawkins was two frames up. By the end of the first frame after the mid session interval it was 12-9 and Ronnie needed to do something special. He did. He almost was on for a maximum in the 23rd frame but missed the 12th red, admittedly tricky, but before you knew it, it was 12-12 and all to play for.

Full credit to the Hawk though - he kept going, and as the balls ran awkward in the final frame, he managed to do a very good 50 odd break and ensure that the balls weren't left for clearing up. O'Sullivan tried to come back, went in off and from there Barry Hawkins did his bit and clinched the match. It was a huge victory for him especially as he had been panned 10-1 in the Masters final by the same opponent and indeed was also the first time in absolutely ages he'd beaten Ronnie. Fair play though to both players - it was a cracking match all round.

Sunday 24th April - Rain and Palace

It rained. And it rained. And then rained some more. So instead The Love and I were pottering around, fussing over the two cats Jô and Brian (Jô couldn't decide whether to allow me to give him lots of fussing over or instead meow and just ask me to go away, as is his wont, whereas Brian is all chilled out and loves having the attention, go figure.) I did see a bit of the snooker this morning as The Love was sorting herself and the cats out and it was getting towards the last matches of the quarter final stage, with Ding Junhui making a good start against Judd Trump as well, with Ronnie O'Sullivan coming on later, and his walk on music is no less than "Monkey Magic" by Godiego (yes the theme tune from Monkey!) so make that tune of the day.

We also saw a fair bit of the London Marathon which was amazing in a number of ways: the woman who won the women's elite race had been involved in an accident heading to the refill station and had been tripped over and landed awkwardly and another athlete fell on her head. She got up, made up the ground and won quite well. In the men's race it was the second fastest time of all time as it was a mere eight seconds outside the world record. Two hours three minutes is pretty quick mind you - makes me wonder if we'll ever see a time below that magical two hour mark...

Later on with the rain falling The Love and I thought heading out for lunch would be good. We stopped off at the Tesco Metro near my old house so that she could top up on cat stuff for the boys and in fact we spotted that one particular type of Go Cat dried food was a mere 25p for the box! We got a box with the premise of if they like it, get more whilst it's cheap, and if they don't, well it's only 25p spent after all. It did feel a little odd going into my old little local Tesco though: I do miss the place somewhat.

So on to Chorlton and to a pub we've been a few times to: and actually it was all lovely. Especially the fact that the Sunday roast looked good (The Love had the ham) and the steak and ale pie was available, and on form too (well of course I had it). We still had plenty of time before me getting the train and so I thought I'd have a coffee and a sticky toffee pudding (again! I know) and The Love could chill out further as we chatted. It was nice and the vibe was good but it did feel sad that I'd be heading home later on, and she very kindly dropped me off at Piccadilly where hugs and kisses were required massively.

The train to London Euston was nice and quiet with the iPod on again and having some 80s classics play as I ventured down South in the still pouring rain, and getting across to Victoria on the tube was fine, and then I realised that as the FA Cup semi final had been played today, lots of Crystal Palace fans would be heading back the same way as me to East Croydon - and so it proved. I let one train go with a load of them on and got on the next one and got a seat before that train was full, so it was a sensible move really.

Saturday 23rd April - Four Nil and Three Courses

It was an early rise for me as I wanted to spend a little bit of time seeing the snooker on BBC Two. I was gutted of course I wasn't at the Crucible Theatre and all that, but at least I was able to imagine I was there as I was last week of course. I think too that for me it's always good to see how many of the regulars who turn up I can spot, and sure enough most of them were there such as Brian Wright the Coventry City fan and the bloke from Manchester who's a banker on the front row of Table Two.

The Love made some lovely breakfast including a toasted muffin, a poached egg, mushrooms, bacon and so on which was gorgeous, and that filled me up nicely before heading off to meet my friend and watch Manchester City take on Stoke City in the second last home game of the season. Of course with the pressure on to retain fourth place at least, we needed a win and a good win at that, and Stoke had been conceding goals for fun as of late so there was hope at least.

It was a little stilted in the first half as Stoke mainly came to defend but try and break City on the counter attack and almost came close a couple of times. At the other end Sergio Agüero was being his usual hard working self, and also Kelechi Iheanacho up front with him was really putting a good shift in as well. For me at least it showed that a goal was going to come sooner instead of later, but what we didn't expect was a corner to be headed in by Fernando of all people - two goals in the same month for him now!

Later in the first half some neat passing involving Agüero and Iheanacho resulted in the ball being fed to the Nigerian and was bundled over in the box by Ryan Shawcross. At first I thought that it wasn't going to be given but the linesman was flagging en masse and the referee eventually gave it, and Agüero stepped up and scored his 101st Premier League goal and indeed the 23rd of the season - now just one behind Harry Kane and one ahead of Jamie Vardy to finish top scorer.

In the second half Iheanacho was on fire and almost could have had a hat trick himself - that said he took both goals well - the first an excellent run from Pablo Zabaleta and low cross for Iheanacho to slot it calmly home, the second a run through when fed the ball and cool as you like rounded the keeper and into the back of the net. My friend didn't expect us to win so easily but I had a feeling once we scored the first it was only a matter of time before we then scored more - and we did!

Later on The Love In My Heart and I decided that heading out for tea might be a nice idea and so we thought that for a change we'd go to Kro in Heaton Moor as we'd passed it the other day and noticed an offer on. And it was a good offer too - two courses for £10 or three for £12.95 and this included Saturdays up to 7pm. We'd got there around 5.30pm and no one was hardly around, so it was nice to sit in the conservatory by the window and relax. I even had a pint of the Camden Pale Ale as well - ironically a London based beer being sold in Stockport. Go figure.

The three courses were lovely: I had the carrot and cumin soup for starter which had just enough kick from the cumin, especially nice with the bread dipped into the soup as well it has to be said. For the main (and for £2 extra which was pointed out on the board for the three courses) I went for the market fish: a whole sea bream with some new potatoes, green beans and a little caper oil as well to drizzle over. Of course being a whole fish meant that I ate one side first to avoid the bones, and then turned it over to get to the remainder nicely. It was stunningly nice actually, and The Love's main of the chicken with the cheese and barbecue sauce with chips an peas looked good too.

We both had dessert and all three courses with the music in the background playing some 80s classics as well, so definitely had that chilled out vibe around as we relaxed and ate, and the poached pears The Love had looked good, but for me, sticky toffee pudding was a very very easy win all round. And was it nice? Was it ever! It was gorgeous and really did set the tone nicely for a chilled out evening. The Love looked lovely, we had nice food and a really good evening all round - and we both really felt the benefit of it massively.

Later on back at The Love's place we saw the lottery show and realised that actually we didn't win the prize, but The Love at least got two numbers for a free Lucky Dip for next time, and the couple doing the game show with Shane Richie didn't get some of the subjects down very well in terms of questions and answers, with us both separately shouting at the telly. There was also a different cover version of "Get Happy" all slowed down, but it made me hark for the ace Jane Horrocks version from film Little Voice, which instead is my tune of the day as hers is joyous and just delightful!

Friday 22nd April - I'm Annoyed With Americans (Well, Two Of Them..)

So a long day at work but also one which proved to be pretty productive as I set about getting an updated Windows 7 base image sorted with the bits we needed to go on there. I had spotted a few things which in my view needed some amendment, so I noted down as I was going along to make sure I raised it at some point. For me at least, it's a good insight into how the processes are different and yet at the same time similar, in that everyone seems to end up with the same amount of clean up and other tasks to make sure that everything appears presentable.

It had been raining quite a bit though during the afternoon and so it was a case of attempting to time my exit out of the office and straight over to the 68 bus stop to head on the bus towards Euston. Yes, I was heading up North again for the weekend and most importantly of all to see The Love In My Heart, and I knew that it was a case of the weather being a bit wet and cold, hence the rain proof jacket was out. I'd much rather it be nicer out there and for me to be able to enjoy the weather, but it's been such a cold April thus far on the whole.

So, I headed on the bus and it seemed relatively quiet (ish) although by the time it was heading up past Holborn you could tell that the weather was getting a little worse, and certainly at Euston any plans I had to possibly head up to the Crown and Anchor were well and truly scuppered to say the least. I decided instead to make sure I had enough cash for the weekend, make sure I got something to eat for the train, and suspected that based on the arrivals time and last week's departure I'd be on the right side of the station for Platform 4, which indeed it turned out to be.

I must admit I was glad that I had the iPod on and listening on shuffle mode on the way up to Manchester, as on the table opposite were sat two American women from Hawaii. Loud and annoying was a master stroke of understatement, and seemed to over-emphasise everything in an over the top drawl to really be even more annoying. And they were just putting their coats and bags and stuff anywhere (although them putting a bag on the seat next to me meant I was sat on my own which was a relief!). Ironically of course I had on shuffle David Bowie's "I'm Afraid of Americans" so that's going to be tune of the day for obvious reasons.

The Love was waiting for me at Piccadilly and it was so lovely to see her, and so we managed to head back to hers where it was time for some fun at the telly with Gogglebox and as The Love predicted, Sandy and Sandra would love the gospel choir on Britain's Got Talent (she said to me last Saturday they'd be commenting on it and she was right too!) - and we also laughed our way through Two Doors Down as everyone does their best not to give the peace and quiet that Eric just wanted for himself. Hoho.

Thursday 21st April - Have You Seen Kimberley? She's Really Really Tall

So as I was settling in for the evening last night, the news hit home that Victoria Wood had died, and being a proud Northerner, and as Victoria was herself, I felt a rather large tinge of sadness. It was unexpected and it was a case of an outpouring of feeling for many people who enjoyed her humour, her wit, her songs and her series such as Dinnerladies and the classic Acorn Antiques sketch from "As Seen on TV" which featured Julie Walters as the classic Mrs Overall. Oh, how I have very fond memories of that.

Plenty of news broadcasts were showing one of her TV Saturday night specials with the song "The Ballad of Barry and Freda" (make that tune of the day - a natural choice) complete with the line "beat me on the bottom with a Woman's Weekly!" but from some of the same specials I also remember her perfume counter sketch ("Welcome to the world of Sacherelle" - pronounced so attempting to be posh and failing in so many ways) but best of all, one where she appears as a dowdy woman in a yellow mac.

"'ello!" she would say. "I'm looking for me friend, Kimberley? Have you seen her? She's really really tall" and then deliver a few minutes of witty anecdotes about her and her friend Kimblerley. It was so simple and yet so brilliant at the same time and a pure touch of genius at that. For me there's so many good memories of seeing her do her thing, but it was the self-deprecating wit and a real feel for what works without having to resort to mass swearing and delivering lines that only a Northerner could really deliver and get away with that made me so fond of her humour. So it's quite sad really.

In fact the theme of people leaving us early continued later today with the death of Prince as well. Two people in two days who clearly did a lot. In fact I was never a huge fan of Prince per se, but no doubt most people's 1980s would have had a lot of his songs as part of their overall soundtrack - especially the whole Purple Rain soundtrack album and stuff like "Kiss", "1999", "Little Red Corvette", "Raspberry Beret" and then the Batman soundtrack complete with the "Batdance" at full pelt. Rather good all round really.

My friend went to see him a few years back and little did he probably realise then that it would be for the last time, and indeed he also played Manchester City's ground Maine Road twice at his peak, which must have also been pretty good to go to. And I can only imagine how prolific he must have been overall though - thirty nine studio albums in around thirty five years of music - which is a sign of productivity and longevity. So overall a sad day and one which really made me feel lucky to be alive and well.

Wednesday 20th April - Home and Heated

So it was nice to be able to actually get up a little later from normal and be able to work from home today. I had arranged it beforehand as I knew realistically that I was going to be rather tired from the day before, and so if that meant me getting up and then being at the PC desk at home and being able to work but on time, all good. In fact as I knew all the connectivity was working successfully, it meant that I was able to do plenty without the need for people to necessarily ring me all day (although naturally the work mobile was on anyway.)

It was a productive day and the warm weather meant that I could open the windows and let the sunlight come into the flat. The flat is warm and cosy anyway and so it was good to have some fresh air mixed with the nice warmth all round. For me at least it's noticeable that I'm at my best once I've had a coffee, and although I have run out of Tassimo pods for now I do have some Azera (as The Love In My Heart likes that coffee) and so was able to at least have that and have a good brew along the way.

I set to work on fixing a few issues during the day, ensured that I replied to a fair few emails and then carried out some of the duties I was working on, including packaging up of a specialist application. As it stood, everything appeared to be working but in terms of what was accessible, it wasn't clear what was needed and as it was I'm awaiting the software vendor to come back to me. I've at least CCed the necessary people in the know so that was a positive thing for me to get done anyway.

Later on after I had finished work, I put on BBC2 and the Hairy Bikers programme about visiting places and pubs and the history behind them. As it was Manchester tonight it was of course going to be interesting, and they visited the Boars Head in Middleton, famous for people who took part in the Peterloo massacre, and some research behind the pubs in the city centre such as the Peveril of the Peak, the Britons Protection and also visiting the Robinsons Brewery in Stockport, and the Kings Arms in Salford. Great stuff and I'm going to be excited when they hit Cornwall of course!

It was then on with the snooker later on and was keeping a close eye on Martin Gould v Ding Junhui. At 7-6 up, Gould needed three snookers, but got one, Ding missed and gave a free ball away, and Gould snatched it on the black for 8-6. Ding could have folded but two centuries in the next three frames, and four on the bounce for an excellent 10-8 win for him. I was pleased on one hand as Ding has been suffering form as of late, but I do like Martin Gould as well (always nice to talk to in Sheffield actually) - and he does indeed have some cracking walk on music - no less than "The Game" by Motorhead. Tune of the day as it bloody rocks.

Tuesday 19th April - Crucible Calling Part 2

So up and early, but for a very good reason. It was a day off and off to Sheffield for my second (and most likely last) day of the snooker. I was able to wake up early enough to get the 0517 train from East Croydon direct to St Pancras, and then after grabbing a coffee, it was then time to get the 0632 train from St Pancras to Sheffield to be there on time for the 10am session. There were plenty of stops before Leicester and then Derby and Chesterfield before arriving in Sheffield, and made the familiar ascent up the hill by Howard Street and off to the Crucible all in good time.

So I spotted a few people beforehand. Surprisingly as it transpired, Jason Mohammad was great to talk to - he mentioned the winner of the Mark Selby v Robert Milkins game would have an "e" in his surname, but I suspected that Robert would come out fighting, and I said to Robert when I spotted him outside and had a brief chat that "get the first four and take it from there". Little did I know of course he'd actually do that later, but still the very least I could wish him well with. Peter Ebdon also spent a fair bit outside with two fans who had come over from Amsterdam for a few days to watch, and he seemed really relaxed and enjoying his commentary role (which I do think that he's doing pretty well at!)

So in for Selby v Milkins then, and I didn't think it would be the first four frames taken well by Robert, but so it proved. If anything the mid session interval came at the wrong time for him, as he was in the groove making 60+ and 70+ breaks to win the frame, and the flow was good. Mark was struggling a tad with shot selection but whatever he did at the interval (according to the MC Rob Walker, lots of practicing) did the job and he came out much better after that and took a little bit of a scrappy next frame before clinching the next two and making it 10-6. At least a game was made of it, and I got to see the last two frames of Neil Robertson v Michael Holt with the Hitman leading 6-3 at the end of the session.

As it turned out where I was sat (front row A7) I had a reflection of the other table in the commentary booth, so I at least could see most of the Hitman's superb 140 break. He looked in good form and being 3-0 up was always a struggle for Neil from then on, but at 5-3, a tense final frame for Michael to win was a major turning point in my view, and so it proved later as he would go on to knock out the Thunder from Down Under in the evening session, which I was able to see a bit of when I got home.

I went out to get some lunch and spotted Mark Selby in the Winter Gardens BBC Studio talking to John Parrott and Hazel Irvine, and he was there for some time even taking the 10 red challenge on at the table that they have in the background. All good stuff, and he was spending some time with some of the fans too there which was also good to see. I think he was also relieved to get through the first round and not be a casualty. I also noted that the weather was turning out reasonably nice and thus the Winter Gardens was pretty busy actually.

In the afternoon I headed in and in A24 I had a great view of the BBC2 feature with Parrott and Stephen Hendry about how it was like to sit in the Crucible chair as a first time qualifier. They rehearsed it first (my pic is from that), and then the World Snooker staff politely asked those of us on the front rows not to take pictures as it was being filmed live but just blend in as the audience watching - they asked nicely so I complied. Only fair really. It was noticeable later that where they were filming it meant I was on the telly quite a bit and The Love In My Heart had told me later that her father had seen me on many occasions!

John Higgins did the business against Ryan Day and compiled a classy century in the final frame to win 10-3. Even though Ryan had pulled one back he missed too many chances in the jaws and was getting frustrated with himself somewhat, and you could sense that he just wasn't there. Shame, as in the flow he's as good as anyone, but I'm sure he'll work on that. If he's also suffering personally (by all accounts he has depression at the moment) I hope he's able to get himself sorted.

The mid session interval was virtually at the same time but I knew the divider would rise so went back in for the Mark Allen - Mitchell Mann five remaining frames. Mark made a century in the first frame I saw (so again I saw two back to back centuries!) and at 6-2 it looked even then like an easy victory - more so as he'd taken four on the bounce. The final frame was going to be tense and unfortunately some absolute idiot had their phone going off as Mitchell was playing the brown (which he then missed) which meant Mark could clear to tie. It went to pink and black, someone else was chatting far too loudly in the audience (I suspect if Brendan Moore had refereed instead of Greg Coniglio, said offender would have been ejected) and Mitchell spooned his shot, only for Mark's next shot to bounce dead and give a chance for the frame win which Mitchell took.

All in all a quality day, and some good snooker played and briefly saw Barry Hawkins heading in for his match against Zhang Anda before walking back down and getting the 1849 train back to London St Pancras, with less stops this time around and a catering trolley that had Azera coffee, not bad at all in my book. I did have the classic song "Snooker Loopy" in my head for most of the day though, so that is tune of the day for definite. Once at St Pancras it was then down to the platform A to get the 2110 back to East Croydon and be home at a relatively reasonable hour, so that was good.

Monday 18th April - Just Another Monday

So up early, off to work, and you could tell that it was back to work for a lot of people, as the train was much busier than usual as I headed towards central London and definitely standing room only said it all really - I can usually get a seat without issues most of the time. I did manage to get in on time and had a bit of maintenance to do with one of the licencing servers and to add a new licence file in, and always best to do that first thing before everyone comes in, made sense that way.

In fact I spent time sorting out the opening stages of revising the Windows 7 build, as it was long overdue to be done. I had a lot of notes from previous efforts and my colleague said to evaluate that and to be sure that if I spotted anything untoward, to flag it. In fact I was going to really flag quite a few things and so I was writing notes down as I was going through the process. It all seemed self explanatory and clear though so it meant that I was going to be able to follow that well.

I managed to get to a point where I could know I'd be continuing on later in the week once back from a day off, and so that was a good time to then head homeward, and just about make the 1638 Blackfriars to East Croydon departure, so did pretty well there. It was good to just window watch and see the world go by and head homewards, and it was then on with the snooker as I went to see Mark Selby decide to step up a gear and go for a commanding lead over Robert Milkins. It's the match I'm seeing first tomorrow so it'll be interesting to see what happens.

Elsewhere at the Crucible though, it's all about some more shocks. As I'm typing this it looks like Sam Baird is going to knock out Michael White 10-7, and it was Sam's second only ever appearance at the Crucible. He has come back from 7-6 down too, and really just kept it tight and played some good stuff., and a century to boot. In fact there's already been something like eighteen centuries and we're only in day three, so the all time record set last year of 86 might just be broken - and yet there's been complaints about the tables...

In the meantime tune of the day is the walk on music for Ricky Walden as he came on against Robbie Williams (not that one!) tonight. He decided to go for a bit of Elvis Presley and a bit more of an obscure song at that: "(Marie's The Name) His Latest Flame" which was good to see. In fact there is a link between that and the walk on music that Anthony McGill has too, albeit a little obscure, but I'm sure someone out there would be able to work it out...

Sunday 17th April - Cheshire Chilling

The Love In My Heart and I had decided that today was going to be a day of relaxation but having a nice day out, and with the weather set cold but at least fair for the time of year, and with the sun out, it was good to decide to go to somewhere we'd not been for ages - Little Moreton Hall near Congleton in Cheshire. In fact we'd not been there since 2010 according to the pictures I took at the time, with the South part of the hall under scaffolding for repairs, so it'd be good to see it in all its glory.

We headed off to the house first and checked up on that, and all seemed well. It did feel a little strange being in an empty space and I made sure all the inside doors were closed and all good, and hopefully now I've had another offer which I've accepted, and the buyers seem a bit more keen to move and get things sorted, it'll sell and I'll be able to move on from that. With the house still not sold there's still some things I need to keep paying for now, so it also means financially less to pay out each month as well.

It was then straight down the A34, through past Cheadle and Wilmslow, skirting around Alderley Edge, passing Capesthorne Hall and some villages before heading through Congleton and then onwards to Little Moreton Hall. The car park looked busy but it was plenty of room and once The Love had parked up, and with new membership cards in tow, we had our tickets obtained and walked towards the moat to head across to the hall itself.

It was lovely inside as ever, but even more so now the whole building had been renovated. One of the floors looked a little suspect though due to its age and was fenced off, and the long gallery was stunning with its uneven floor but beautiful arches above. The gardens, especially the rather lovely knot garden really did look idyllic and relaxing, and then the walk around the moat, seeing the very tiny little ducklings swimming around with their parents was an awwwww moment. We even had a coffee and sat outside in the gardens which was a nice way to take in the nature and admire the hall.

It was all very enjoyable and a view from the mound towards the moat certainly gave you a different view, and sensibly steps have been put in so you can get up and down in all weather, a nice move that. The shop had the usual fare (notably those packs of biscuits!) and it was nice to mooch around - and The Love even bought a little something in there too. It was a really nice walk around and well worth a visit, notably the long gallery which with the sun coming through the stained glass windows looked ace.

So then on to lunch at the Cheshire Tavern close to the centre of Congleton. It's hidden away from the main road but it was a good lunch for us both - I had the chicken and gammon pie, and that was fab, as was the ale I had too. The Love had the Sunday roast beef and that was also rather lovely, and we were sat in the conservatory and all relaxed before heading back up the A34 and back to The Love's place for one last fuss of the cats before taking the train homewards later on.

I had found out that Steve Davis had announced his retirement from snooker, and after so many years doing the game a great service whilst playing, it was only right that he had his final farewell to playing at the Crucible parading the trophy around. I hope he'll still be doing commentary and BBC stuff as he of course knows his stuff, and for me his epic 2010 win over John Higgins has a special memory all of its own. It would be only fair to have a song he featured in as tune of the day so "Snooker Loopy" by Chas and Dave and the Matchroom Mob is said tune - and Steve himself thought "this is catchy" and thought it might do okay. And it did, number six to be exact!

Saturday 16th April - Crucible Calling

So an early rise, and in the lyrics of Half Man Half Biscuit's "The Len Ganley Stance" (make that tune of the day) it was time to shine your shoes and head for the Crucible, as the World Snooker Championship was starting in earnest. Now, I had booked the tickets for today and indeed Tuesday when the final was on last May, and at the time didn't know I was going to be living elsewhere. Thankfully staying at The Love's place means I can at least do the Manchester to Sheffield train today as I would have done had I been living here, so all good there.

I got to Sheffield nice and early (and had my free coffee using my MyWaitrose card for the train journey) and noticed the large hoardings that guide you all the way from the railway station to the Crucible. I know my way, but nice to see that for the first time fan they've got some clear direction. I did spot a rather nice bit of sculpture in the Winter Gardens (a painted elephant snooker style) and also in the Mercure St Paul's opposite Shaun Murphy casually chatting to Dennis Taylor - Shaun seemed quite relaxed actually. Before play I spotted a fair few people heading in, both Alan McManus and Anthony McGill for practice, Ali Carter was his usually good self, as well as refs Zheng Weili and Jan Verhaas. Willie Thorne also spent lots of time with fans too before going in to commentate, although Stephen Hendry arrived late-ish and literally sprinted in!

So to the morning session, Ebdon-Fu. I was sat next to the players and The Love had spotted that I was front row and said I was on telly a fair bit, and got a good view of the table and an insight into the feeling of what it was like as a player to sit there as your opponent made century breaks. Fu made two 80+ breaks that could have been centuries, and seeing two on the bounce (first two of the tournament) was good, notably the 138 total clearance which is a marker laid down. Fu was in superb form and even Ebdon's methodical methods with two 40+ min frames didn't stop the 6-2 lead. In the final frame of the session (as it turned out) it had got down to the colours and referee Brendan Moore had a word with both players to say it was the last one aa they'd passed the cut off time of 1.45pm to start the final frame of the session.

Incidentally the piece Hazel Irvine filmed with her holding the trophy was around 9.45am - and so wasn't live as such - only the bits of her chatting with Ken and Steve (and later John) were. Also when you heard on the telly her chat about Ali Carter, she was at the stairs where the players come out after mid-session and had her reading glasses on, still looking rather lovely as well. I only had time to grab a quick sandwich in Boots before the afternoon session, although Terry Griffiths was three people in front of me in said queue and either no one recognised him or everyone was doing what I was and letting him enjoy his lunch break and relax before going back into commentary.

So front row for Alan McManus against Stephen Maguire, and both players seemed unhappy with the table (as did other observers, seemed too bouncy on the top cushion and the jaws especially). Maguire went 3-1 up but after that McManus started to play some super shots, especially the accuracy of safety play and pinks to the middle a lot of the time. Maguire was doing his usual petulant frustration, especially in the final frame where he banged the rest on the table. I think Olivier Marteel was close to giving him a warning - he did not look pleased. On the other hand, I was happy McManus won five on the spin though.

One thing being front row was seeing the two camera men on the floor at work with their trolleys and camera. They're the ones who line up the shots close up and do a superb job. I was able to see McManus line up a black to bottom right corner and the cameraman's picture in line at the same time, with the lights on his display going red when the producer had moved to him to be the live camera. It was fascinating to see and another angle on how it all comes together. If photography was allowed during play, I'm sure there'd have been some crackers to capture from there...

So onwards home later on the 1837 train back and then the tram to The Love's place, and we relaxed watching the lottery game show and then later on First Dates from the other night, which was rather good. We do enjoy that and seeing if the couples do get on or if it's going to be a spectacular crash and burn, which one of them was - although The Love seemed to indicate that the woman involved really seemed quite up herself and not really going to be easy for anyone to date either.

Friday 15th April - Fact Finding

So a day of sorting out a few things, and indeed I managed to get a few things sorted. I managed to spot the script that I needed to amend to get the drivers being picked up on imaging, and the syntax was fairly easy to manipulate to get what I needed done, so all good there. In fact that meant I could see if the imaging worked and also if all the drivers afterwards would work too with a little bit of testing. I quite like that side of it, making sure stuff actually works out of the box, always good.

I spotted that although all the drivers had worked, one device was showing as not present correctly in Device Manager. I found out that this was due to the fact that even this desktop PC had a TPM version 2.0 chip in it, which Windows 7 64 bit needs a hot fix for (KB 2920188 if you're interested). This allows for the TPM to be supported correctly and has the correct drivers as well, so once that was on, all was good. I've made a note to include it in any future builds and indeed that should be useful anyway.

It was then off from work and off to Euston, so the number 68 bus came in handy again, and once I got to Euston I decided to head out of the rain, first of all to Calumet to check out the cameras and indeed the fact that they had some rather nice lenses and full frame cameras which were tempting me. In fact I definitely do need to have a mooch in there if I am looking at upgrading, primarily because there might be a part exchange opportunity on the cards - and I do have some full frame lenses already (my 50mm and my 28-80mm for the film camera would both work..)

I then walked up to the Crown and Anchor for a drink before setting off on the train, and wow, they had the Black Cat Special Reserve ale in. I was naturally very happy and I think the bar staff also recognised that too, so it was a good opportunity to relax with a lovely ale, and it was just as dark and yummy as the original Black Cat ale is, and all is good there. It was nice to not be rained on but knew I had to do so eventually and so walked back to Euston and took good advantage of priority boarding to get my seat for the 1820 departure to Manchester Piccadilly.

The Love In My Heart came to pick me up and we headed back to hers where the two cats Jô and Brian were looking cute as ever. We watched Gogglebox as we usually do and then Two Doors Down, which we've both been enjoying as of late. We also then switched over to Graham Norton on BBC1 and Keeley Hawes was on and looking rather lovely, and her chatter about cooking with stuff from Tesco Metro made me giggle. Also the Eurovision entry Joe and Jake were on with their song "You're Not Alone". It's far too indie guitar friendly for Eurovision to be honest and could be a single without that, so tune of the day it must be.

Thursday 14th April - Booting and Blubbing

It was a bit of a day and a half today. I had plenty to do and was tasked with getting drivers sorted out for a new PC that we'd had delivered so that it could be effectively Zenworks imaged. The manufacturer had kindly provided a nice download with them all in (good) and this meant that creating an add-on driver image for Zenworks with those drivers in was a doddle (ah, the good old days of Image Explorer revisited) - so all good there. I also added the relevant script lines, all good too.

Well, I thought so, until I realised that for some reason the Zen server wouldn't be PXE bootable. The new PC's BIOS was fine, and you could PXE. However, I knew that the network driver didn't appear to connect (Intel I219-LM) and in the old days, that pointed to the e1000e driver that ships with the Zenworks boot stuff. So I burned a new boot CD, used that, it detected the network adapter, and badabing! All good there. It at least allowed me to get to a point to use the imaging stuff and then see what happened.

I also was spending time evaluating a possible thing we're going to look at working with Microsoft with, which is to do with the BootXRay. The idea is that the data from the initial boot of a PC is sent to an internal server, and the data can be analysed to see what is taking the time up for booting. Naturally the client itself being present is adding another layer to what's already happening, however in some of the documentation I read it seems that certain Group Policy settings or policies can actually slow things down anyway, one of them being folder redirection - which a lot of education places use. Umm.. great.

I headed home later and it was good to be able to relax a bit and catch up with a little thing on BBC iPlayer, namely the Fighting Talk Snooker Loopy special with Josh Widdicombe hosting and the likes of Hazel Irvine, Richard Osman, Steve Davis and Barry Hearn discussing their favourite moments (apart from the 1985 black ball final which Josh had ruled out as he knew everyone would choose it!) - Hazel went for the Ronnie O'Sullivan 5 mins 20 seconds maximum in 1997, Steve for Cliff Thorburn's 147 in 1983, Richard for Jimmy White losing his sixth final to Stephen Hendry in 1994, and Barry picking Alex Higgins' 1982 win and him wanting his baby child and blubbing all over the television.

I must admit too I've got into Line of Duty a lot as of late mainly thanks to The Love In My Heart steering me in that programme's direction - it's gritty, full of drama and you really want certain characters to get their comeuppance too. Keeley Hawes is also in it and has played her role superbly this series as well, and I've always liked her as an actress. The theme tune and music throughout is excellent and by Carly Paradis, who plays piano when Clint Mansell tours his film scores, so definitely tune of the day for that.

Wednesday 13th April - Spring In The Air From Home

Spring is (finally) in the air, and the weather's certainly getting warmer, that's for sure. I had decided to work from home today and see how that panned out in terms of being able to get things done and not have any distractions. Granted it does mean working alone and all that, but there are some advantages to this in that you're not necessarily going to be bothered mid-stream of doing something (good) and also that you can still do all the main things remotely you need to do.

One thing I was helping a colleague with was getting Office 2016 all sorted on the KMS server for issuing licences. Due to some Microsoft nuance, you have to activate five licences manually with it detecting said server before then it allowing you to just contact it and issue - quite why that is is unknown but it's to do with ensuring that it's actually the one you want to use. It looked like the previous serial number we had wasn't quite right, but once I inserted the new key and activated it, all appeared to be well on activation side, and indeed my colleague was then able to get us past the five machine mark too, so all good there really.

I think too that I got quite a fair bit done, and when it was lunch time I took a little walk outside with the weather looking nicer before then heading back to the desk and getting on with things. My work mobile also has an internal phone extension, so effectively anyone calling that calls the work number, but at less cost. It works really well actually and I didn't have a phone call to deal with, but I suppose that's mainly down to the fact that a lot of people who speak to the team I work with are usually not that far from us anyway, that's just how it works out.

I also then in the evening settled in to watch West Ham United v Manchester United at Upton Park, the final ever FA Cup tie there before the Hammers move to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford and the atmosphere was really good - with lots done by the club to commemorate it properly. In fact the only thing missing was the performance on the pitch as the Man U youngster Marcus Rashford was a nuisance all game, and his goal was really well taken too. In fact he was a deserved man of the match and West Ham only seemed to want to get into the game at 2-0 down, they did pull one back but it was too late.

I also was watching the final session of qualifying for the World Snooker Championship. World Snooker streamed it on Youtube so it meant I could see the remainder all sealing their spots including the likes of Ali Carter, Kyren Wilson, Ryan Day, Liang Wenbo and Peter Ebdon. What it did mean after Michael Holt battled past Mark King 10-8 was that in total 28 of the world's top 32 would be at the Crucible, really befitting that and shows that the qualifiers really did sort out the good players well as a whole. The ones outside of that are first time debutant Mitchell Mann, Sam Baird, Zhang Anda and Robbie Williams. Tune of the day is therefore the iconic "Drag Racer" by Doug Wood, the proper snooker theme and one I'll be hearing more of over the next few weeks I suspect..

Tuesday 12th April - Drama and Tension

So another day in the office, and good to get a few more things sorted out nicely. I spent a fair bit of time with one of my colleagues adding the Office 2016 product key to the KMS licence server, and that seemed to go well. The key had been provided to us and all was good there, and the commands we had found were able to activate the key no problem, or so we thought. However when we looked at a couple of Office installations on our test machines, we found that they weren't showing as activated. On one I tried entering the key directly - not valid apparently. Ah, might be why then..

I got home later on and kept an eye on the Youtube thread for World Snooker at first as the final round of the qualifiers got underway, with the last sixteen places at the Crucible Theatre up for grabs. It was quite well done how they did it and switched between tables throughout, with some good commentary and anecdotes from Rob Walker and Neal Foulds along the way. Ali Carter looked rather ace as he was demolishing Dominic Dale 8-1 during the first session - and Dale is a decent player too.

Of course a place I'd rather have been tonight is the Etihad Stadium but the distance was too far and the trains weren't running that late either, so it was a case of watching it online and keeping abreast of the action. I was head in hands like every other City fan when Sergio Agüero earned a penalty and then contrived to hit it wide from the spot - normally in those situations you would have backed him to score. Thing is he has scored so many important goals that one had to go wide at some point.

The longer the game went on, and the nerves got worse. Joe Hart pulled off some cracking saves, and kept out Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and at the other end City pressed and were earning corners and some shots, but nothing too much. However as one attack got forward, the passes were around the edge of the area and one quick turn and shot from Kevin de Bruyne and... YESSSSSS! GET IN! The stadium erupted in absolute joy as the shot curled in beautifully and a really wonderful goal.

And so it stayed till the end, so a 1-0 win, 3-2 on aggregate and the semi finals of the Champions League for the first time ever, another milestone reached really. We'd not got past the last 16 stage till this season but to get past that and the quarter finals, epic stuff. As the version of Blue Moon played loud around the ground (make that tune of the day) it truly was an electric atmosphere around the stadium and I'm sure my friend would have enjoyed himself massively!!

Monday 11th April - In The Groove

So back to work and back in the groove, as I was spending some time investigating further into the network driver issue. It looked like though I would be able to sort out a driver distribution and to effectively have it so that the driver could copy to the PC first and then run dpinst to do the install. I also did a check to see if the driver was originally present as well as part of the conditions before the application could run, and took it from there. All seemed well during testing and so it was a case of seeing if we could get someone to test it on some live kit.

I also spent some time looking into another issue we'd seen reported and that was also resolved well - it turned out that the user just needed to reset the Internet Explorer settings and wasn't anything that we necessarily needed to deal with. I suspect too that it's not the only time that we would get something referred to us that actually needed to go elsewhere, but it's always interesting to see how things can be resolved with the minimum of fuss too.

In the afternoon my colleague and I were looking into some changes on the Windows Deployment Services to do with MDT, and found that when one of my colleagues next imaged a PC, it seemed to work fine but for some reason it came up with an application installation error. It transpired that it seems to be an application that was removed from the WDS server for installation, but still seemed to be carrying out an install anyway. A quick check of the customsettings.ini file and we located the offender, so all good there.

I headed homewards and at least managed to get the early tube and train so was in East Croydon relatively early and indeed that meant I could head to the large Tesco at Purley and get some food shopping sorted. I also needed to get some dishwasher tablets as well and the ones I got last time (almost four months ago) was able to be purchased for not much dosh. In fact I was pretty good at spotting offers left right and centre and so I was able to spend not too much and get a fair bit to keep me going for the next week or so, so all sorted there.

In the evening I decided to relax a bit more and watch some telly and some catch up stuff, as not much was on I watched the really good documentary with the battle between Niki Lauda and James Hunt for the 1976 World Championship, with Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way" (make that tune of the day) playing as Hunt went and won in Canada and then closed the gap further in America too. It was great to hear the former McLaren team boss Alastair Caldwell as well describe the season - he really was up front!

Sunday 10th April - Carvery and Chill Out

It was nice to relax in the morning as The Love was taking it relatively easy with the likes of Escape To The Country, and I had All4 on earlier and watched the Grand National race that I didn't see yesterday due to me being at the football. It was definitely a test of endurance due to the rain and it looked as wet in Liverpool as it did in Manchester as well. I also had the two cats Jô and Brian having lots of attention and fussing over as they were out and about the flat as well.

We got ourselves changed and ready later and were off to take the tram towards Ashton Moss and to meet some friends in The Sheldon Arms. With The Love's birthday being last week and my friend's birthday being duirng this week as well, it made sense for us all to get together and indeed swap presents - I had brought some presents with me up this weekend including the one that hadn't arrived on time for The Love, and she loved it - it was a beautiful silver bangle and she was wearing it today and a nice outfit.

So we got to the Sheldon Arms early and had a drink and got a table, and our friends arrived too. It was good that the specials board looked like all stuff that was just as nice too, and on there was the mushrooms in garlic on a toasted bloomer. Gorgeous it was too, really well cooked mushrooms and the garlic sauce was stunning to go with it. In fact not having the toast buttered helped a lot we all thought, The Love had the pate and that looked cute too with the pate in a ramekin.

Three of us went for the carvery and my City supporting friend went for the cod and chips, and indeed when it came out it looked a cracking choice - the batter was really crispy, the fish well cooked and it all looked lovely - and the empty plate was proof of that. I had the rather gorgeous ham and beef as part of the carvery, and they were ace, and the dessert was also spot on too, the lovely sticky toffee pudding that oozed loveliness. My friend had this sweetie cake and it looked really soft inside, and the cream to go with it too was an added touch of niceness.

All in all, a really good time and a good way to wind down before heading back to The Love's place, picking up the case and then later off heading to Piccadilly to get the 1755 train back, with lots of marathon runners who had run the Manchester Marathon earlier all heading back too. It was nice and quiet though and indeed the darkness only descended once I had arrived at Euston. Some engineering work delays at Victoria had meant I had got to mine later on but at least I was home.

And so finally to the golf, with Brian Bennet's "Chase Side Shoot Up" (make that tune of the day) playing as the Masters golf was reaching a dramatic final round. At the end of the 9th hole, Jordan Speith was five shots clear, but by the 11th, Danny Willett had birdied the 13th and 14th ahead, and Speith dropped a shot on each hole. Then the 12th, and.. it's in the water! And a second time too. Speith took seven and dropped way down, and after a superb birdie on the 16th Willett parred the last to post a -5 score. Speith did get back to within two, but a bogey on 17 meant the green jacket came back to England for the first time in 20 years.

Saturday 9th April - Lucky City

So it was up early and off to Euston to get the 0840 departure to Manchester. It was good to head back up so quickly and see The Love In My Heart of course after having such a lovely week with her in the French Riviera, and with Manchester City playing West Bromwich Albion later it meant that my friend and I would get to cheer on the blue shirted heroes as well, so all was definitely good. The sun was even attempting to come out after the early morning rain seemed to just hang in the air on the train towards Euston.

I took the tram from Piccadilly and then walked to The Love's place, and her and the two cats were all pleased to see me - even got a more friendly meow from Jô than normal, so that was good. We had a coffee and a catch up chat before we headed out to her father's place for a while. He was sorting out most of the family's bets on the Grand National - I had done mine at the Ladbrokes in London Victoria station before I left for Manchester.

I also managed to get some issues sorted with his PC whilst I was there, and had a good chat about all sorts with The Love's two sisters as well, so all seemed good with the world. Later on The Love and I headed out for lunch and went to Kro in Heaton Moor and the tuna melt sandwich I had with some chips was spot on, just the thing to keep me going until I was having some tea later on. The rain was coming down though and I suspected it was going to stay around for the match later.

I went over and met my friend at the ground, and we got a nice cup of tea and relaxed in the ground, having a catch up and doing our best to avoid the incessant rain that was hammering it down (and there was thunder too, quite scary.) We did though at least know that we were at least under the roof for the game itself, and there wasn't much wind blowing anything in, so all was good as the teams came out, we found out who won the National (whoever decided a 5.15pm start to that should really need their heads tested) and then on with the City boys.

Or maybe not. Slack defending and a Stephane Sessegnon shot later and it was 1-0 to West Brom in five minutes. City didn't play so well through the whole half either and even the penalty gained by Aleksandar Kolarov looked weak at best, and for me it wasn't a penalty. Sergio Agüero did finish it though so that was pretty pleasing all round really. For me anyway 1-1 was a relief at half time rather than a good performance, and we simply had to improve second half.

And improve we did - and with a lot of input from Samir Nasri too, and he was certainly influencing the outcome of a lot of Manchester City attacks. Mid way through the second half the ball broke down the right thanks to sub Kevin de Bruyne and the cross should really have been finished by Jesús Navas but wasn't, and after some work from Agüero, Nasri scored and that proved to be the winner despite some very late scares, including the West Brom keeper Ben Foster coming for a corner and almost causing some chaos.

Back at The Love's place later we had some really nice chicken with cheese and bacon and some potatoes, and we relaxed as The Love was glued to the final of The Voice, with Ricky Wilson and one of his team Kevin Simm (the bloke formerly from Liberty X) doing a version of The Killers' "Mr Brightside". I like the original, so that original is tune of the day and certainly might have been a bit more rousing to get City playing better from the start of the game today..

Friday 8th April - Meowing Not Roaring

It was good to have a Friday in work and with everyone virtually in, and be able to catch up a bit with numerous members of staff. In fact I spent some time this morning working with a colleague who wanted to find a way to have a mail merge that would save each individual letter. No problem I thought: Acrobat Pro has an add-in for Word's mail merge, and it does exactly that when I tested it. I even sent along to the staff member some instructions to check for the add-in being enabled, which she followed spot on but still no joy. An uninstall and reinstall of Acrobat Pro worked, but I worked out why as well.

It turns out that according to Adobe, when Acrobat Pro XI was released, the initial version (11.0.0) wasn't fully compatible with Office 2013 and so the add-ins, even though there, wouldn't actually show themselves correctly. A later update for that version then enabled it all correctly, so obviously when I added it back and the updates had also been included, all good to go. It's also a reminder too that for anyone considering a move to Office 2016, it's worth noting that Adobe themselves reckon only Acrobat Pro DC (either standalone or bundled with Creative Cloud 2015) is going to give you that same functionality to Office.

And back to the driver issue I mentioned yesterday - the way forward here is clearly dpinst. If you don't know what that does, a lot of vendors use it (and it's part of the Windows Driver Kit which you can download) and this allows for drivers to be installed silently to a PC, and with certain switches you can see if that hardware is there and only install that particular piece that's referred to as well. For ease of use, place dpinst in a folder along with your driver .inf file and the other files it references, and then call dpinst with the following switches - /se /sh and /sw. All three ensure a silent installation and a detection takes place to ensure that the drivers only install if the hardware is there.

I did a test using a different network card on one of my test PCs and a suitable correct network driver for that box. I saw the dpinst do its thing, saw the network adapter show briefly disconnected and then reconnected correctly after the driver installed. That of course made my day rather good really, the proof of concept is right and that of course shows that if there's a way of rolling that out, it may make some difference. I ended the working day with a nice bit of scripting for one of my Mac colleagues too, so felt good for that.

I headed home later, had some tea, and then watched the England women's football team, the Lionesses, up against Belgium in their Euro 2017 qualifier, live on BBC Two. England played badly first half and the howler from Manchester City goalkeeper Karen Bardsley was one she will want to forget, a real comedy error and a giveaway for the Belgians to be in front. England did improve second half and seemed a lot more lively later in the game as the substitutes, notably the wizard that is Karen Carney, changed the game in England's favour.

I was hoping we'd at least get an equaliser and when the ball broke loose in the box, Manchester City's Jill Scott pounced with her third England goal in three games, which salvaged a point. Still not a great result and I had a feeling the women meowed rather than roared tonight, and I hope that they can put it behind them and get a result in Bosnia on Tuesday. Also, the 10,000 plus crowd tonight was a decent turnout, it's good to see that more people are supporting the women's game, a positive for me really. As it was being played at Rotherham's New York stadium, BBC decided to play out with Alicia Keys' "New York State of Mind". Nah... give me Goldie Lookin' Chain's "Newport State of Mind (You're Not From Newport)" any day as tune of the day - such a fun parody and a good way to wind down for a Friday night.

Thursday 7th April - Back To Work

So it was an early rise (I haven't missed waking up at 6am when being away let me tell you) and getting myself ready to face the work after a week off. I did make a deliberate move to not take the work mobile with me and indeed to not read any work emails whatsoever, so I could truly switch off and not be able to think about it. I think for me it's something I've learnt over the years, in that you need your own quality time to switch off and to be able to do your own thing, and so it was definitely a fair bit of time this morning catching up on emails and the like.

On a positive note I did manage to get to the bottom of one licencing issue with a piece of software. Despite me asking the question if the serial number was valid and if it did allow serialisation, it seemed that for some reason that wasn't the case and after some more testing here in the office, it seemed that other users of the same software had similar complaints, and I referred that back to the staff members concerned so that they could evaluate just why this was.

I think too that it was good to hit the ground running and to be able to crack on with a few things along the way as well, and I've now got to also look into how we may be looking at having to update a network card driver on a lot of PCs. Bear in mind of course that any form of updating it would have it temporarily disconnected from the network but it also does appear that for some reason it's tending to send some weird traffic out and in theory cause the PC concerned not to play ball as well as it should.

My original idea was that using Windows Software Update Services (WSUS) you can choose to deliver drivers should you wish to do so, and the network card concerned would have digitally signed drivers. However.. (and this is the big however) when I got that particular update for the catalog, it seemed that it wouldn't automatically do an install and that user intervention would be required, exactly the sort of thing that we're looking at avoiding really. I do have another idea though, so more on that tomorrow once I've got some testing done.

I got home later and it was a case of ploughing through not just a lot of washing, but a mass of ironing too. I reckon I did something in the region of thirteen short and long sleeved shirts (not just the ones I took away but some I had here that I didn't get time to sort out before I went away too) and that was just good to see the back of them all and be ready for the next few days ahead. It helped considerably having the Enter The Dragon soundtrack in the background too, and the theme by Lalo Schifrin is therefore tune of the day - kept me going that did!

Wednesday 6th April - Back Home

So after a good night's sleep, it was up and reasonably early too, as The Love In My Heart had the whole day off and she was going to spend that time resting, doing some washing and no doubt fussing over the two cats too. For me, it was a train journey at 0915 back to London Euston, helped considerably by the fact I was going First Class, so breakfast on board and everything. In fact the cooked breakfast was spot on, it really did make me feel a little less hungry and with coffee and orange juice plus a very very quiet train, it was a good chilled way to head back down South.

Even the tube was peaceful (ish) as I made my way from Euston to Victoria, noting too that the planned escalator works there may make the return journeys on Sunday evenings a little bit less bearable as well, but we'll see how that goes. At Victoria I managed to make my way over to Platform 18 and get the fast train back to East Croydon too, so all was good there. And when I got to the station, the 312 bus was in so I took the short journey from there back to the flat, so that meant I was back just after noon, so not too bad really.

I did still not have any post though, and it had been almost two weeks since I received any. I spoke to the concierge after I read my emails, and he had been to the local sorting office to see what could be done. It took them until 6pm tonight to have a van turn up with a couple of sack fulls of post. So that's where it's been for the last two weeks then I wonder. In fact both the presents that I had ordered weeks in advance for The Love's birthday had turned up as well as other bits of post including the renewal of the Two Together Railcard as well. Shocking and scandalous behaviour from Royal Mail, it really is.

I am not going to let it rest either. I think over the next few days I am going to monitor post and see if I get any or not, and see if other residents also get any. If the situation does not improve then there will be a serious complaint going in. Regardless of the fact that the block of flats I live in are pretty secure, the post people have relevant access to get in to the post room (the concierge is there during the day and they also have their own access fob as well, what more do they really need?) - and so for me, excuses are just not good enough really.

I did however have an Amazon delivery which unlike Royal Mail had turned up spot on, so I was able to listen to Clint Mansell's impressive soundtrack for the film High Rise. I'd of course had a sneak preview of it listening to him and orchestra play in Birmingham a few weeks back, but it was especially good to hear it on my rig at home as well. The opening really does set the tone perfectly well, so that track "Critical Mass" seems very apt to be tune of the day not least as I am back in work tomorrow..

Tuesday 5th April - Back to Manchester

So it was up and having some nice final breakfast, with me having some nice croissants and cold meats and ignoring the egg, bacon and sausage, and we had one final little coffee together at breakfast and we could see the sun attempting to come out, but the sea was also looking a tad choppy with the wind, so we knew it was going to be nice but with a breeze along the way. We also had a good view below of the bus stop to the airport, so when one came, we could head down, check out, and then not wait too long for a bus - that was appreciated by us both I think!

We arrived at Terminal 1 and found the check in desk fine, but some people do faff around at airports don't they? We had everything ready and were sorted with bags dropped off in no time, the attendant marking ours as "hot" as we had a 50 minute changeover in Munich on the way back and so they needed to ensure our luggage was off earlier to make the other flight. We went through security, did all our essential passport controls and then were relaxed in the gate A section before going to Gate A05 and taking an airport bus out to the far end where our Lufthansa flight was ready.

We headed for Munich and we got a small cake each instead of a sandwich - The Love didn't like hers that much as it was a bit heavy, but mine was nice with cherries in. It wasn't that long a flight, so we soon arrived in Munich and then followed the walkways (once we'd got off a transfer bus!) and then to the gates for Terminal 2, noticing the Bayern Munich official shop in the airport (Manchester City, take note!) and then on to gate H40, where there was a fair amount of people waiting. In fact, the flight was fully booked.

We went through the quick check in gates quickly and to our seats, and the flight was all good - sandwich this time and some wine and beer too, so all good there. In fact it was good to be able to spot the likes of IKEA Ashton, Stockport and even bits of the city centre as the flight was making its descent into Manchester Airport around 1640, bang on time. We landed well and once through customs (no queues for us, e-Passport gates - win!) and I spotted both the baggage items on reclaim so we got out of there quickly too.

It was back on the train to Manchester Piccadilly and on the tram to The Love's place, and let's just say that the two cats Jô and Brian were pleased to see her, as she fed them and gave them treats, and also they snuggled up whilst we had something to eat for tea and then watched some telly too. We watched the third episode of The A Word, which was good stuff, and I couldn't help but admire the music taste of the little boy Joe, with Julian Cope's "World Shut Your Mouth" being one sang along to (make that tune of the day) - it was also fascinating to see Christopher Eccleston more as a grandfather but still attempting to pull all the family strings mind you...

So back to Croydon for me tomorrow, and I have to say that does make me feel sad. I think spending so long with The Love and then having to be apart again is difficult sometimes. I know we wouldn't see each other every night during the week when I was in Manchester, but our quality time we had was special and we knew if we wanted to go for a drink after work or something we could do, but now we can't. I suppose too that it's just the thought of us being so far away that I'm still getting used to..

Monday 4th April - Shopping and Cycling

The Love In My Heart and I thought it'd be nice to hit a lot of the shops in Nice today and see what nice things she could get with her birthday money, and I knew that earlier in the holiday she'd seen some lovely shoes at a shop called Bocage, which seemed a posher shoe shop (they had one in Antibes and we'd been in). We also wanted to venture in a lot of the shops along the Avenue Jean Medicin, and so once we'd had breakfast and got ourselves ready, we had a leisurely stroll along towards Place Massena.

First stop was Galleries Lafayette, a really nice department store and a place we'd been before. When we had been in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat the other day, we picked up a discount voucher for 10% off so had a good look around there at first to see if there was anything there. Lots of nice stuff, but a little on the expensive side it has to be said. But still lovely. I was tempted to stop off in the café at the top but we did have breakfast earlier, so thought it best to head along for now and on to the Nice Etoile shopping centre.

The place has C&A (yes, it still exists in France and it's just as cheap and horrid as it was in the UK) and other shops too, and plenty of independent places. She didn't see anything there but we did notice across the road a branch of Bocage, so we went in, and they had in the shoes that she had loved in Antibes, and in her size too. I said to her "you won't get these back home plus you can look all French chic!" and she agreed, and got them. They were a nice fit when she tried them on and they gave her a nice box and posh bag, which I knew full well she'd be taking on the plane back to look all cool!

We also went in a fair few other shops and whilst I was CD browsing in FNAC, she had gone to Pull and Bear, and picked up a sleeveless top and another top for not that much either, and they both looked lovely on when she showed me them later back at the hotel. It was nice to venture out and the sun was even attempting to come out, so we dropped off our shopping at the room and then we had a walk along the Promenade des Anglais and to the lift which takes you to the Château de Nice, and the views from there are stunning. In fact we stopped off for lunch at the café up there which was pretty reasonable, the sandwich I had was massive to say the least!

We walked down past the lovely waterfall and taking in views over the Vielle Ville (old town) and the Baie des Anges before heading down to the Cours Saleya, and an antiques market was in full flow. We had a good look around and she commented that her friend would love all this and be here all day, and we had a good look in the shops along the way and via the Opera theatre, and then back to the hotel. The Love was going to relax with a glass of wine on the balcony and I headed out to hire the Velobleu bikes, and The Love gave me a wave as I cycled past!

I went to the port along the seafront and then to the Place Garabaldi first, then got another bike and cycled through the Cours Saleya and the narrow streets of the Vielle Ville, climbing towards the top to see some of the old churches almost built onto the hill, and descending to the Place Rosetti before then going back through towards the Jardin Albert 1er and to the seafront. I dropped off the camera back at the room and hired another bike, cycling to the airport along the promenade and back.

We got changed and The Love looked beautiful in her outfit and nice pink top, and even though some rain had arrived, we took a walk through the Vielle Ville and to the Place Rosetti, having the three course meal option at the La Claire Fontaine restaurant there. We'd been there before and it was good, so we went for their deal for €17.90 for three courses. The Love had the salad niçoise which looked gorgeous and so it was, and I had the fish soup which was beautiful. The Love had the steak for main, and I had the spaghetti bolognaise with chicken escalope - it may have seemed a weird combination but it was really good, and the creme caramel for dessert. The Love tried one of the local speciality desserts, but it wasn't to her liking - seemed it had spinach in it!

Still, we headed across to Fenocchio's and I had one final ice cream - the tiramisu flavour at that. It did what it said on the tin and was stunningly lovely and on the way back, hand in hand, we just felt happy we'd had a nice time but sad as we knew we'd be flying back tomorrow. MC Solaar's "A La Claire Fontaine" is tune of the day (as we were there of course) and that French chic of rap just sounded a nice background soundtrack as we headed back and had one final look over the balcony at night - and we both just felt a little sad.

Sunday 3rd April - Happy Birthday, My Love in Monaco

It was the birthday of The Love In My Heart today and one of the main reasons we were going away, so she could have a lovely time in one of our favourite places, and something dear to both our hearts. We had thought that even though no shops were open, we would go to Monaco, and go to the Royal Palace and head around there, and maybe take in the sun on the beach if the sun came out too. The Love had taken her cards with her, and a fair few of them had money in Euros from her relations, and some gift cards too which was nice. She liked my card, and I had got her a nice scarf from Greenwich Market and the Luther Vandross greatest hits CD, as I noticed a bit of him was missing from her collection (and she likes his stuff lots so only seemed right really - so much so that "Never Too Much" by him is tune of the day)

We had a nice relaxed breakfast in the hotel and got ready. The Love had a beautiful blue dress on and she looked so gorgeous - it made me realise how lucky I am to have someone so special. I looked all good too, and we noticed a few drops of rain as we walked down the Avenue Jean Medicin and to the train station. I was hoping the rain would go away, and got the tickets sorted for the train, had a coffee in the Paul kiosk at the station front, and headed to platform D, where that four note SNCF jingle was playing a fair few times to announce trains before we got on the 1130 departure.

We got an upstairs view seat and so The Love was able to see the sea and the bays as the train line hugs the coast and goes through tunnels similar to the Exeter to Teignmouth route back home, before then entering a long tunnel and into Monaco Monte-Carlo station. From there, you can take escalators down and through a passage which takes you to Sainte-Devote, a place I know well from F1 of course. We knew we could get a bus up to the Monaco-Ville old town and to the rock itself, and so the bus came almost straight away which was good, so we soon arrived at the terminus and walked through the narrow streets to the palace square.

We got our tickets, which was combined with another museum, the Private Collection of Antique Cars, as it was discounted that way, and had a nice walk around the state apartments. Security was very tight, everything was searched, and we had a good walk around with the audioguide giving you lots of information. Most fascinating was the throne room, with plenty of historical information, and it included a picture of the late Prince Rainier and Princess Grace with the son Prince Albert (now of course the ruler in Monaco) - plus lots of information about the throne and the ceremonies that have taken place here. The rooms were all beautiful, and no photography was allowed so I respected that (some American had to try and be sneaky but security were on them - good!)

It was nice to walk around the old town and rock in Monaco-Ville, and we also went to the cathedral, where Princess Grace and Prince Rainier are both buried side by side. Lots of flowers were adorning Princess Grace, and for The Love it was nice to see that bit of history, and she took it all in and lit a candle in there too. We also saw the Oceanographic Museum from the outside with its view over the sea, and then back at the main palace square we took the Rampe Major down to the Place d'Armes and followed the signs towards the district of Fontvieille and to the museum of Private Collection of Antique Cars.

And wow, some collection it was too. Not only did it have plenty of early 20th century historic cars and limited models of some such as early Jaguar and Rolls-Royce executive cars, which looked stunning, but also later on some Formula 1 legendary cars including a 1984 Renault of Patrick Tambay, the 1989 Ferrari of Nigel Mansell, a 2007 McLaren of Lewis Hamilton, and one of the original Ayrton Senna helmets too. Naturally as Senna won six times at the Monaco Grand Prix, it only seemed right that it was here.

We walked back the way we came and to La Condamine, following the harbour and noticing that already some of the grandstands for the Formula 1 race were being built, notably by the swimming pool and the redevelopment work close to Tabac corner too. Round the corner the harbourside had some restaurants relocated with a view of the yachts in the harbour, and we stopped off at one of them, Le Pattaya, for lunch. It was gorgeous. The Love had a really nice toasted sandwich with plenty of salad and accompaniments, and I had the La Reine pizza, nice and crispy and cooked well. The Love had wine, I had beer, and it was just so nice with chilled out tunes and the harbour side as our backdop too. It was just perfect, and I insisted on paying for us both as an additional treat for her. I can't even begin to tell you how nice it was.

We took one of the lifts up to the road to the really posh shops, noticed that the Hotel de Paris was still having work done, and around to Casino Square, with plenty of flags and banners for the forthcoming Monaco tennis tournament in a couple of weeks. We also spotted some of the rather nice shops being relocated temporarily in nice buildings that reminded us of parts of the new Bull Ring in Birmingham with geometric shapes and the sun reflecting rather nicely. The casino area was of course really busy, and we walked down past the Hotel Metropole, down to the Fairmont hairpin and then to the portier, and followed the path along past the Grimaldi Forum and to the beaches in Larvotto.

It was especially nice to be sat by the beach here in one of the bars, and The Love and I had a drink there with the sun fully out and The Love in her shades looking uber-cool as well. It was just a gorgeous moment too as we both just relaxed, and indeed we'd timed it well as the bar was closing so we got our drinks in good time as well. That felt lovely and it was great to chill out and take it all in. And the beach even looked sandy and nice, and I'm sure in the Summer it would have been really busy too (it was pretty busy even so)

We walked back through the tunnel and along the harbour back to Sainte-Devote, and then up the escalator to the train station. The original 1805 departure was delayed so we got the 1819 but this stopped at less stops, so we got back to Nice pretty quickly. The Love suggested we head straight out for tea when we got back, so we got to the tram stop and headed on the tram to Opera-Vielle-Ville, and we thought that as we both liked it, we'd go back to Wayne's Bar. It was a good move once again, as The Love had the Sunday roast chicken which was all rather gorgeous, and I had the Mexican Chicken that The Love had had the other night. It was happy hour on the beer and cocktails too, so The Love had a cocktail and I had a pint of beer as well, and so that was all good. The staff were lovely, we had a nice meal, and it just felt rather lovely all round.

We headed back to the hotel room and had a wine and beer overlooking the sea on the balcony as the sun set into nightfall, and snuggled up with the telly on later on. It was just a lovely day and I wanted to make it feel special for The Love and a day we'll both remember - I think it was and she was just really happy to be away from it all and in a place that we both adore for different reasons. Being sat by the harbour and beach with a drink and being relaxed was wonderful, and I'll remember this day for a very long time. I am so lucky to be with such a wonderful woman and I remind myself of that constantly because she is so special. I love her - lots!!

Saturday 2nd April - Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

Another day and another new place to visit for us that we hadn't been before - Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. By all accounts the cape was the home of the uber-rich and famous, with the village of Saint-Jean below with its port and harbour and nice surroundings. It's also home to the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, which looked a fascinating place to visit and one which harked back to the first real era of the belle epoque of the time. It was doable by bus as well so we thought it would be nice to go.

We walked along the Promenade des Anglais, along the Quai des Etats-Unis and along the coast road all the way around to the port, and as the port is having some work done due to the tram works there at the moment for the new line 2, we had to follow the road slightly uphill to the next stop and wait for the bus there. It arrived on time and we paid the €1.50 each, and the route followed the coast road to Villefranche-sur-Mer and did a loop around Beaulieu-Sur-Mer before then going along the cape road. We got off at the Passable stop, which was right by the entrance to the villa too.

We headed up the hill to the entrance, and the villa itself was a fascinating place, a central square of marble and columns, and two floors of beautiful rooms with large windows. The first floor had a terrace to overlook the gardens, and we watched a DVD of the history of the place (English subtitles thankfully!) which explained that the Baroness Ephrussi de Rothschild was very particular, with furniture being shipped to Beaulieu-sur-Mer station and she picked what she liked on the platform to take back with her! The villa was also painted pink on the outside, in recognition of her love of the colour and of roses, one variety of which now bears her name.

The gardens though were gorgeous - different sections of garden and different views of the bays below. Nine different distinct sections, with the Japanese and Spanish ones being lovely, the rose garden would I imagine in a month or so be full of roses, and the temple of love overlooking the main garden with its symmetrical paths and features. In fact we paused here as the water fountains all come up in sync with a musical interlude every so often, and with the sun out to play, it looked rather lovely all round to sit and watch.

I really enjoyed it there as did The Love, and the gardens themselves were really nice - there's even a way marked with arrows which we followed so you get to see all of the gardens and take in all the viewpoints that are recommended spots to pause and take a picture - one of which veered over the road below but you could see the bay of Villefranche in the distance, so that was nice. We walked through the shop and back down the hill, and then followed the road towards Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat itself.

As we wound down the street with the nice houses, we didn't expect to find a really nice little village feel of a small port at the bottom, but we did indeed. We stopped to have a drink at one of the terrace bars overlooking the port, and the Monaco beer I had was lovely, even had a kick of cherry in it too. It was nice to relax with the sun out again, and we had a nice walk around the port and indeed the many harbourside restaurants all looked really good and inviting too. I can see this being pretty busy with the rich and famous in the Summer it has to be said, and we enjoyed our time there - and timed it well for the 81 bus back to the centre of Nice.

We had lunch in the Place Garabaldi, but noted that one side (and one place we'd had a gorgeous pizza years back) was all under development because of the trams - in fact it looked like part of the square was going to be lowered to accommodate it and make an interchange with the other tram line. Intriguing but at the same time a sign of progress at the expense of local business there. The unspoilt side had some nice restaurants and we had a nice toasted sandwich with some wedges each for lunch, and the sun was still out so we admired the little artworks on display in the square before walking back to the hotel for a while.

We went out for the evening and this time walked along the seafront, stopped off at the nine column monument and through the new Esplanade Georges Pompidou to the Cours Saleya, and had a nice evening meal there at La Storia. I had the rather nice spaghetti carbonara, The Love had the lasagne. I was tempted by the fish but had had fish last night, but the fact that it was very busy compared to others along there said a lot to us, and it was good to have a nice meal there before relaxing on the hotel balcony with some wine and beer. Tune of the day simply has to be "Saturday" by Vonda Shepard, a really lovely piano piece that just seems to be a perfect background piece to a relaxed day.

Friday 1st April - Antibes

The Love In My Heart and I woke up, and we headed down to the first floor of our hotel to have breakfast (the deal I got included breakfast for us both every morning so that was nice.) It was a buffet style selection, and meant that you could have cold meats and cheeses, some croissants, pastries and pain au chocolate, fresh fruit, cereal, fresh fruit juice, yoghurt and also some hot scrambled egg, bacon and sausage. There was also a Nespresso and a normal coffee machine, so all good there really. In fact it was almost too much choice, but we settled on what we had and could see out of the window by the corner towards the sea too.

We decided that even though there was rain in the potential air, we would go and venture out to Antibes, as we'd not been there before. I wanted to see the Picasso Museum there, and the old town looked a really nice mix of little shops and places to visit too. Even better, the 200 bus there was around the corner from the hotel and a mere €1.50 each to get there, so no complaints. We got the bus and as we were on first stop, we got seats together, which was good, as the bus was soon full as it headed down the Promenade des Anglais.

We went past Nice Airport, and through the pretty Cagnes-sur-Mer and Villeneuve Loubet before heading along the main road and coming off close to the train station before descending into the centre of Antibes, where we got off the bus. We had a nice walk through some of the main streets and shops before hitting more of the old town, with its much narrower streets and independent shops. In fact one of the shops that faced the Place Nationale had the best selection of Rosina Wachtmiester cat stuff I'd seen in a long time - and even The Love was impressed.

We carried on through the narrow streets and ventured to the old market, the Marche Provencal, which was rather nice - lots of little food stalls and plenty of different things to try out. Lots of the stalls sold lavender too and that was nice smell from the stalls as we walked past too. We also went round more of the old streets and located the harbour, and from there also spotted a little beach too, the Plage de la Gravette, which seemed quite sandy and not many pebbles there.

It was lunch time and we walked back through some of the old town and close to the little square with the petit train and some nice shops, we spotted a little side street with an inviting café - the Coffee Co'Co on the Rue Fourmilliére. It was very cosy, and they did nice coffee plus some really nice toasted bagels - both of what we had was gorgeous and really did fill us up nicely. In fact the staff had explained to us that this was only their third day of opening and so were the newest place. I hope they manage to remain open as we both agreed it was a nice stop and a perfect time to chill out.

The rain was occasional though so it was a good idea to walk towards the Promenade Amiral de Grasse and head to the Picasso Museum, which opened at 2pm (it opens 10am to 12pm then closes for lunch). It was worth the wait in the queue, as the museum not only had plenty of his original works, but a series of photographs taken of him in his Antibes studio in 1946, which gave a real background into his mode of art and the way he styled it. We appreciated it a lot and the view from the terrace over the sea was lovely - even a little cat was there getting all the attention of the visitors too, so that was lovely.

We headed to the little beach and The Love went for a walk and paddle in the sea as the weather had dried up, and we also walked around the harbour. Unfortuntely the Jamie Plensa art at the end was inaccessible despite it supposedly being open, but it was still nice to see from a distance. We walked back through the old town and decided that we'd get the train back instead, so using my little French knowledge I was able to sort us out two tickets in the machine (card payment only mind you) and then ensure they were accepted in the yellow machine before boarding. It was a double decker train too so we sat with a view of the sea on the way back.

From Nice station we walked down the Avenue Jean Medicin, and stopped off at Monoprix, got some wine, beer and other food for not that much money, and that meant too we shouldn't then need to visit again for the rest of the break, a sensible move I reckoned. We got back to the hotel and relaxed for a bit, and then decided to head out for a walk, firstly along the Promenade des Anglais before then cutting through the Cours Saleya and to the old town, and we thought it would be nice to go back to Wayne's Bar, where the food is good, and the staff are lovely.

I was pleased to note that everything was still brilliant - The Love had the Mexican chicken with nachos, chips etc and the chicken was well cooked to be tender, and a nice slightly spicy sauce too. I had the fish and chips - totally spot on, and the fish was freshly caught too. It's always a good vibe in there, and even heard some good music being played by a live band, and their rendition of several classic songs went down well with the crowd and was a really chilled out way to spend most of the evening.

The last stop was Fenocchio's, not far away, as I fancied some ice cream, and well, it just has to be done - and from here (cue "Ice Cream Man" by Jonathan Richman in the background - tune of the day obviously) - and I had the amarene (Amareno cherry) and citron vert (lime) flavours. The lime one really did cleanse the palette superbly and even The Love tried a bit and said how gorgeous it was (and it was) - and that has to be right up there with my favourites, with possibly only the Roskillys of Cornwall orange and mascarpone one beating it. It was nice to walk back and enjoy that and we were two happy folks having had a lovely day, with the weather even looking like it would brighten up. I hope so!