Dear Diary... February 2016

Monday 29th February - Office 366

It was a different start to the week this week as I and a few colleagues were off to the ExCeL centre in London to attend a Microsoft conference on what they called the "Microsoft Cloud Roadshow" - the idea being that they'd give you an insight into their new technologies and how that's all integrating with their vision of cloud based computing, along with a chance to meet and mix with others if we fancied as well. So knowing it was a trip out to East London, I went to West Croydon to get the London Overground, the plan being go to Canada Water, get the Jubilee Line to Canning Town and change there for the DLR.

Unfortunately as the train approached Canada Water, there was an announcement that the Jubilee Line was suspended, but I had plan B in action thanks to my knowledge of the DLR - simply stay on the train, get off at Shadwell and then take the DLR line to Beckton from there instead. Actually that worked well as it meant that by the time I got to Canning Town, I had had a quiet journey and wasn't doing the change en masse that everyone else was doing, so that was pretty good really.

I got to the ExCeL station at Custom House, and once I got to the centre, had to walk all the way down the other end to Hall 11, where the tables and chairs were set out with coffee and some cakes, not much of a continental breakfast really (croissants would have been good) and so spotted one of my colleagues and chatted to him before the rest of the folks all arrived. It was good to see everyone before then heading to the large hall on the ground floor, which must have seated around 1000 or so, whilst Brad Anderson from Microsoft gave a keynote speech, and said the word "awesome" within around 30 seconds. No surprise really, but I guessed that it was going to have that sort of flavour. And his pronunciation of Glasgow was truly awful - good job some of my Scottish friends weren't there or else!

So then after a session which had some key partners and players giving an overview, it was then off to the individual breakout sessions and everyone piled up to the top level where the sixteen rooms were. First off for most of us was the Windows 10 overview in the Enterprise, which was pretty good, although it was rather busy to say the least. I then headed for a coffee and off to my next one - the Skype for Business one, as I still have an interest in that based on the project I was involved in previously. Frustratingly, the Android app is out and half decent but it doesn't allow you (yet) to share or view any PowerPoint presentations that might be shared in a meeting. Maybe this might happen later in the year...

After those sessions it was down to the main hall for lunch, and what they had was a bag, and inside the bag was a sandwich, some crisps, and some fruit and nuts, plus a cold drink - sort of a Boots Meal Deal but with less choice really (ironically the Boots Meal Deal for £1 deal with O2 might have worked out better value for me) - but it was palatable, and had a good chat with the folks at the table before then making our way back up. On the way down I'd discovered a lift which saved tons of time and I used the same one back with the team - and lots of time saved!

The afternoon was first of all about the nitty gritty of Windows 10 and deployment, and it looked like you could effectively have a configuration running to turn your OEM Windows 10 into your serialised enterprise one, although the hoster was stumped when my manager asked "What about education instutitions who get Windows 10 Education - can they use the same wizard?" - and that was concerning. There are some other good things to note for deployment though, such as the fact that the focus is moving away from wipe and load (as they called it, in other words a re-image) and to instead upgrading each time.

The final session was very much standing room only though, and this was to do with the likes of using Intune and ConfigMgr to not just deploy Windows 10, but other devices too such as phones etc. In essence this is the bigger picture - and part of the reason why one of the MS folks said "Group Policy will slowly die off" - the likes of Mobile Device Managment and Mobile Application Management can be applied on desktop PCs as well, thus ensuring a nice simple configuration all round really. And indeed also allowing you to neatly block any copy and paste from Office 365 or approved apps on the device to non-approved apps, and so avoiding data leakage. Ooh yes. Very nice.

I stayed back a bit for the Ask the Experts session, as there was beer and some little nibbles on, and it was good to talk data protection with one of the Microsoft security folks, and I think they have a real grasp on how important it was for the likes of ourselves where I work to keep the cloud based data wholly within the European Union (naturally this may change if the UK chooses to leave later this year) - but all in all a good day all round, and the only complaint really was the fact many people had to stand up in certain sessions with the numbers being somewhat underestimated.

It was a good move to get the DLR back from the nearer station Prince Regent, as at Custom House those exiting the fashion shows that were also on there were waiting for the train, and it was rammed till Canning Town. Not wanting to follow the madness it was back to Shadwell and back on the London Overground to West Croydon, so all worked out really well actually. Tune of the day in the meantime is the excellent "Everything Is Awesome" from the Lego Movie, reminded me of the speech earlier in the day and half expected that to be playing in the backgound for a bit of a giggle.

In all seriousness though, the vision for the future is very much with a view to working more mobile and less from a desktop, although that for me does have some flaws: if you've got some graphics intensive software such as Autodesk and Adobe suites, a laptop doesn't really cut it unless you've got one with a dedicated graphics chip (I specced up some HP Elitebook 850 G2s for this purpose last year) so there is still a few things that a desktop is just better for. And indeed add to that the number of thefts that happen in education establishments across the board...

Sunday 28th February - The Cup Is Ours

I wasn't planning to do much today as it was the Capital One Cup final between Manchester City and Liverpool, and in view of me not going (I would have possibly gone with my friend had I still been in Manchester, but it was too much toing and fro-ing to go back up, down, back up again and then back to London!) I wanted to get a few things sorted during the day and then settle in to watch the game on Sky later. I knew I needed some bits for the house mainly such as cleaning products and both kitchen and loo roll, so Poundland it was at first.

And right decision too - I needed shower gel and got the Original Source Lime one and the Coconut one, a pound each. I also got some Andrex toilet rolls and on top of that some Domestos extra limescale one, which smells really nice in the loo too when used. That all sorted, it was over to the Sam 99p store close to me and got some padded envelopes for future eBay sales, some kitchen roll and some Alpen granola breakfast cereal, which was pretty good all round for the price.

I had a quick chat with The Love In My Heart later and it was then a case of ensuring I was all set for the football. I was hoping for a City win of course, and naturally as you would expect the nerves set in as I started to see the game. It was indeed a tense first half, the best chance falling to Sergio Agüero who hit the post after a shot was well parried by Simon Mignolet. It was a real sense of each side sussing each other out and we looked a lot more solid at the back with Vincent Kompany there, that's for sure.

The second half started with the ball to Agüero down the right, and he held it up well to release it to Fernandinho, who tried his luck from a narrow angle. The ball squirmed under Mignolet and it was 1-0 to City. Happy obviously but knew we needed another one. We had two chances both missed from Raheem Sterling and I was worried they were going to cost us, and a penalty appeal from Sergio Agüero which looked a penalty all day to me (and indeed even the Liverpool related pundits in the Sky studio agreed) - but it just wasn't getting another goal.

And with a few minutes left after Adam Lallana had hit the post, the ball came back out to Philippe Coutinho, and he made no mistake for 1-1. Those misses had indeed cost us, and the extra time was especially tense as both sides had chances to win it, and Mignolet redeemed himsel and then some with a superb save from Agüero, and Willy Caballero in the City goal had also performed a point blank save as well to keep the score at 1-1. And so it was penalties, and my head did sink - as City's record in them is usually pretty bad.

Emre Can scored for Liverpool, 1-0. Fernandinho hit the post - still 1-0. Then Caballero saved from Lucas, so still 1-0. Jesús Navas scored bottom corner - 1-1. Then Coutinho tried to be clever with his penalty by stopping mid run up but Caballero had him sussed and saved well, so still 1-1, and then Agüero buried his in the corner, cool as you like, for 2-1 to City. Another penalty this time from Lallana was superbly saved by Caballero, the best of the three so far, and so if whoever scored the next penalty, we'd win. Yaya Touré stepped up and buried it bottom left, so City won 3-1 on penalties. Yes!! Get in there!

Understandably tune of the day is the Supra version of the classic "Blue Moon" which I could hear blasting out at Wembley once City had lifted the trophy. Our fourth League Cup win (the second in three years) and that also puts us joint fourth in the all time list of League Cup wins (Liverpool still have won it the most times with eight, Chelsea and Aston Villa five each, and we now join Man U, Tottenham and Nottingham Forest on four). A great time had by all at the game I'm sure too. Blue Moon, you saw me standing alone. I said Blue Moon!!

Saturday 27th February - Bournemouth Bliss

It was an earlyish start for me this morning as I was heading down to the South Coast and to Bournemouth to see my cousin and her family. We'd planned this so that her and her husband were both off work, which also meant that their Man City mad son could also have someone else to talk football to as well, so win all round really. And with South West Trains doing the £15 deal for a day return, it also meant a not expensive trip either, and so it was a quick trip to Clapham Junction from East Croydon, exit with Oyster, go to Costa and get a coffee, enter with train ticket and off to Platform 9 for the train to Bournemouth.

The train was pretty busy as a fair number of Chelski fans were heading early to Southampton to see the game there, and hence when the train got to Southampton Central the train relatively emptied. It was nice and chilled out though after that so the train wound its way through the New Forest and off to Brockenhurst before then arriving at Bournemouth dead on time. My cousin was waiting for me and so hugs were mine, and we made our way to the car which her husband was all set to go with the two children all inside - and it was particularly lovely that their daughter had a big smile for me too with her favourite teddy bear. Awwww.

We headed out to Poole for the early afternoon and after a little walk through the town centre we headed to the Slug and Lettuce for lunch. The children's menu was enough for the little ones with a quite good move from my cousin - she has the small kids dessert meaning the son gets an adult sized dessert. Mind you, her daughter's sweet tooth meant that the brownie was finished off relatively nicely. I had the fish and chips followed by a nice apple crumble for dessert, and it was good to relax and chat for a fair bit too - and the children I have to say were really really well behaved, a credit to their parents.

We then had a walk along the quayside which was really nice - lots of pubs facing the front, and some new apartment builds along with the ferry to Brownsea Island and the statue of Baden-Powell facing it, a local landmark it seemed. I got a nice pic of everyone there and indeed one of me and my cousin too, so that was good, and we wound our way back through the streets of the town to head to the car park - and as the car was at the top it was easy to spot. We were soon heading back along the roads to my cousin's place.

It was the first time I'd been since they'd had a ground floor extension built, and it all looked good - a more open space with dining table, wall mounted TV and plenty of the IKEA Kallax shelving complete with the Drona boxes to store all the children's stuff in. I ended up playing the Doc McStuffins matching pairs game with the daughter and then the son had me for the equivalent of Striker where you pressed the heads to kick the ball. It worked okay to a degree but I did win on penalties in the end.

In the back garden it was all astroturf laid down that they'd salvaged from a local rugby cup clearout, and so it meant with a small goal I went in net to save lots of shots from the City mad son. It was good stuff as he wasn't getting frustrated either, he wanted it more to put one past me (and he did) but I think it was good practice for him (and me) - I used to be a half decent goalkeeper back in the day and I was pretty pleased with some of the saves that I made - certainly kept us both keeping busy and exercised, that's for sure.

We then settled in to see some of the England rugby game against Ireland. It was fairly tight stuff, and there was a disallowed try which we thought was double movement (so it proved) and we also chatted a fair bit too and the whole day had just gone by way too quickly! At half time I got myself ready to head off and my cousin and her son came and dropped me off at the station in good time for the 1822 train back. It really was a lovely day all round, and just felt that it had gone too quickly. Definitely going to have to make the trip down again with The Love In My Heart next time.

The train back again got full of Chelsea fans at Southampton Central, but most of them were good natured and a couple of them sat opposite me were having a good chat and seemed nice blokes actually, and shook my hand to wish us well as we all headed off at Clapham Junction - they to go to Staines, me touching out and back in with Oyster and making the train to East Croydon relatively easily, and being home quite quick after that. Tune of the day is the excellent "There She Goes" by The La's, which was playing in the car earlier causing my cousin and I to remark how it was 1989 when it came out and it made us both feel old! (well, we are - my cousin is a mere 16 days older than me...)

Friday 26th February - The End of a Long Week

A few of us in the office today had discussed whether the week appeared to have gone on longer than anticipated, and the feeling definitely was yes. Only one thing for it then - eat out lunch and heading across to the local Wetherspoons, where soft drink and food costs less than a fiver. Myself and one of my colleagues had the regular hot dog, with a fair amount of chips, and a Pepsi to go with that. Can't argue really, and it was good to just catch up and chatter as well over lunchtime, which was a good way to get on with stuff.

I had been busy most of the day anyway due to the changeover of the student records system, with one of our colleagues who looks after it heading over whenever required to ensure that all the bits we needed to do were done at the right time, which I was in charge of doing now as my colleague had left last week. All was good though and in essence everything did what it needed to do and I ensured that I stayed back a few minutes to ensure that the final thing required was put in place and we were all good to go.

The train journey home was eventful: got to Blackfriars fine but it transpired that the train at Platform 1 for Sutton wasn't stopping till Streatham, much to the annoyance of passengers who had to get off and wait for the next one if they wanted stops before then. My 1638 to Three Bridges was fine as it's the East Croydon express from there (first stop) although the train was late getting in to Croydon, and we had the inconvenience of the tissue beggars coming up and down the train, which later on I texted a report to British Transport Police about, as it's apparently becoming a problem on certain trains.

For those of you who don't know what this is, allow me to explain: effectively two or three women get on a train and head up and down the carriage, dropping a small pack of tissues with a note. The note normally says that they have children to feed and buying the tissues will help them a little. A few minutes later they come back down the carriage to collect them. However it inconveniences a lot of people and by all accounts some can get abusive if you say no (although I haven't as yet seen this happen). It also makes me wonder if they're getting on at stations where you can walk on to the train (despite the fact there's Oyster readers you're supposed to use) so that you could effectively travel without paying. Granted they need to know which stations that they can do this at (some suburban South London ones for example) but still.

I managed to get home fine and had a parcel to post off - all three of my Rosina Wachtmeister cat figurines on eBay had gone - and all to the same buyer as well. It was therefore a doddle to get them all packaged and sent off, which I've just done earlier, and that's another thing done. I also picked up the train tickets for the next couple of trips back up to Manchester, which will be good, and am all set for tomorrow as well. In the meantime tune of the day is the rather nice "Friday I'm In Love" by The Cure - a classic of its time, and it still is.

Thursday 25th February - All Coming Together

On a positive note or two today, I had to attend our Change Advisory Board meeting due to a couple of changes that I had to do - one them was a minor change but with a major impact on log in times. I was ready for any questions and was particularly pleased that one of the senior managers backed me up and said that if it meant that we were able to show such an improvement by doing such a change, everyone would benefit. One of the support managers also voiced their approval too, so all was good there.

I also spent some time working on a couple of possible future solutions and the feedback from that was wholly positive: generally speaking I've been able to use some of the skills gained from before and apply them accordingly to the various tasks I am doing now, which is good - and one of them even sent my manager an email of praise which was an unexpected but also wholly welcome bonus too. I must admit it's been good to be able to feel positive.

I headed home this evening with no delay but did note this morning that one of the trains into the station I get off was delayed due to (unbelievably) disruptive passengers. I had looked and it was between Three Bridges and Gatwick Airport, and most likely because Thameslink (who are not that great to tell the truth) in their infinite wisdom decided to put a four carriage train on instead of an eight carriage one. Oh joy of joys on that score of course.

I did settle in as well and put on another of the classic albums of all time which I own in the DVD-Audio format - Fleetwood Mac's classic "Rumours". I've never yet forgiven The Corrs for their awful version of "Dreams" from said album but for most of us F1 fans, the classic track "The Chain" from this album is the one that sticks with us, with that bassline and rocking out, just so right. Tune of the day and even more so that Channel 4 are keeping the theme on when they start showing the F1 from next month. Get in there, a very very sensible decision all round!

I've also been working out what next to sell on eBay from the start of next month too, as no listing fees are chargeable for the first 20 items I list. I will be bringing some stuff back from Manchester though so there is a possibility of seeing what I bring back and selling that. I've got a couple of boxes of stuff left which includes possibly some sci-fi stuff but also some retro gaming stuff, which I would need to check is working first before I make a decision on it. We shall see.

Wednesday 24th February - Sorting Out Stuff

Nice to get plenty done when I got home tonight, including managing to sell some more stuff on eBay. I had decided a couple of days ago to put up some of the Rosina Wachtmeister cat stuff up, primarily because I have nowhere to place them on shelves etc anymore, but also because I know people do collect them and I thought it would make more sense for them to go to a good home and also for me to make a little bit of money as well - always handy to do that of course.

In fact two of the small plates complete with little stands were having an offer put on them by the same person, and so once accepted, it meant both of them were sold in one go. I did have to nip to the local Sainsburys to get some proper Sellotape though to ensure that they were all bubble wrapped and then put in a bubble wrapped envelope to get there safely, and as it turned out the proper stuff was a mere 50p for the roll. Bargain and result all round I reckon.

It was also good to be able to work out a few things in terms of finances as well and see how I was doing over the month. In truth I reckon once the house is sold and all is good with that I should manage even better than I am doing now and be able to spend a bit more on myself over the month. Realistically I'm ensuring where possible I don't go mental with money just yet and once the house has gone I know there's no other outlay to pay either. Realistically I always knew that it was going to be a case of managing for a while - if say one of the relations had rented the house for a bit, then the income from that would have covered everything there anyway so it's swings and roundabouts.

I did also help Mum out a bit later on too, she called me as she was looking to sort out a replacement gas provider as she and my sister both thought that British Gas were charging too much. I spotted some good deals for her but mentioned that realistically direct debit was the way to go due to the fact it'd be cheaper all round, plus as well a lot of providers want you to give a meter reading each month to ensure that they give you accurate bills (actually a good thing that.) I spotted something decent for her and recommended that, so hopefully she can get that sorted herself.

It actually was good to have a chat to Mum anyway and generally catch up, and as The Love In My Heart said to me later, it showed that if she still needs anything that has to be sorted out, then it's a case of she will come to me first which is sort of flattering actually. I did have a good chat with The Love later on and that was nice - although I know she is having a hard week and I do miss her lots. And tune of the day is the ace "Sad But True" by Metallica. Metal heaven!

Tuesday 23rd February - Acceptable In The 80s

It was a busy day all round today, and got my teeth into a couple of things to attempt to resolve a long standing issue with some printing, and think we've got to the bottom of it, and all to do with network locations and how that they're set for various types of network - wireless especially. It's now a case of putting through a suitable change tomorrow and seeing how beneficial that becomes in the long term, but I must admit it's also a tad on the frustrating side for a few different reasons, and I'd probably best for now leave it at that.

Anyway, it took longer than normal to get home primarily because I'd been delayed by a last minute query which I resolved, and as such it meant taking a less direct train going to Wimbledon and then the tram from there to Croydon and back to the flat. At least it didn't work out too bad for timing so it meant I could put on some nice chicken and mushroom udon chow mein for tea, and get all that sorted (one frying pan is all you need, result!) and then settle in with a coffee.

I did also have to sort out a couple of things for the solicitor in terms of the house sale, and so have got the ground rent company to confirm all is paid and up to date, along with when the next payment is due. And on top of that I spoke to the double glazing company who did the rear windows and doors and they've been able to sort out all the indemnity side and I've passed that information on too via the solicitor also. I'm hoping to get an appointment soon so I can head up to Manchester, get all the paperwork signed off and therefore be all good to exchange and be done. If that's done by the end of March then that would be good, as paying for two places is somehow not being that useful at the moment!

I settled in to watch the BBC Two series Back in Time For The Weekend, with the Ashby-Hawkins family embracing the 1980s and then some. It was fascinating to see the power dressing for the mum Steph, the Madonna hairstyle and look complete with lace gloves for the daughter Daisy, and the father Rob on the tanning tubes complete with wacky shorts - all very fun. The son Seth also had a Commodore 64 to keep him company but the programme was at 1985 when given a C64C - which fans like me know that model wasn't released until 1986. I know, I'm such a pedant!

That said, seeing all the 80s stuff including the top loading video recorder, the scary as hell film Threads, the breakdancing lessons at a skate park, the shoulder pads, the telly of its time, Roland Rat etc, and it was a little nostalgia trip for me to say the least. And of course proper tunes too, so the likes of "Jump" by Van Halen in 1984, and New Order's iconic "Blue Monday" from 1983 (tune of the day obviously, being a Mancunian and all) - and lots of other references to events such as Live Aid too. Well worth a watch of this and the rest of the series on iPlayer if you get time.

Monday 22nd February - Rain and Re-registration

It was incessant rain all night which kept me awake a little bit, and that wasn't too good, but was at least able to get back and have some sleep before then getting myself up and ready for work. It was a case though of braving the weather and heading to East Croydon station to get the train to work, which was a little bit delayed due to over-running engineering work (yes, again, come on Southern and Thameslink, can you for once get this sorted please?) - but made it in good time still so that was good.

It was a productive day as I'd been able to advise on some possibilities to resolve a situation that was to do with the online learning platform and the emails that it sends, so that felt good, and the response was appreciated by both members of staff as well so that was good. It's always useful when you are able to advise and that you can feel confident about the advice provided. I also was able later on to investigate further an issue that had been experienced with re-imaging a PC, and managed to get all that sorted so that did also feel pretty good as well to be honest.

I then headed to Autodesk's website, and transpired that as of 1st February, the way that education establishments register licencing had changed. No more Academic Resource Centre, but instead hello Autodesk Education Community. The login to ARC now redirects you to there, and your existing login still then works, but you have to tell them who you belong to and then you can head to the licencing and download page - and thankfully still able to select education licencing without issues.

The nicer thing now is that rather than have to get batches of 125 licences at a time and faff around getting them all combined (absolute pain let me tell you) by default now you will get 3000 network concurrent licences, and 1250 standalone licences (for example or laptops) which is just easier, one licence to register for each suite or application as needed. So much easier, let me tell you. I made sure that was all good to go as I'll need that for when the Autodesk 2017 applications come out.

Later on at home I felt in the mood to listen to some classic albums and none more so than Queen's 1975 epic "A Night At The Opera". I have the DVD-Audio disc of this and with the surround all set up nicely now, it really fills the room beautifully, not least on the rather superb opener "Death On Two Legs (Dedicated To..)" which has to be tune of the day. I've even sung that on Rock Band 3 back in the day which has to be something I really tried hard at (believe me it's rather difficult!)

Sunday 21st February - Morden Hall and Melbourne Machine

It was nice to leisurely wake up and have The Love In My Heart here with me I admit. I got up after a bit of a lie in and started the breakfast, and wanted to make a nice effort too, so had got all the ingredients needed for something lovely, and so put together a cooked breakfast with bacon, sausages, mushrooms, fried egg, and for The Love, some plum tomoatoes, as well as some toast and orange juice. Actually I was really pleased how it all came out and The Love was also suitably impressed.

Since getting my little desk for the PC etc, it's meant that the dining table is free of any clutter and so means that we've been able to have some food last night and then have some food this morning dining with a bit more style, which is lovely. The Love also appreciated that too and could see that it meant that the flat has a good flow to it. Add to that the new rugs in the bedroom as well as the curtains being up makes it all a bit more homely too, and that's good for us both I think.

Later on we decided a nice walk was on the cards and so we headed on the tram from George Street and along the Wimbledon line to Phipps Bridge, which has an entrance to the National Trust run Morden Hall Park. We're both members, but no cost to get in the park anyway, so that was good. We took a good walk around including a walk along the rose gardens and admiring the statues along the river bank, and then heading towards a small school in one of the former outbuildings, next to the old snuff mill with a disused waterwheel.

We also then walked through a brick opening and to the garden centre, which was massive and it had plenty of outside space including lots of plants, decking and paving for the garden, and a small café as well. We also noticed a little craft shop which sold children's stuff which looked good, and also then spotted the courtyard which had the second hand bookstore in there - and to be fair, plenty of second hand books at a very good price. I was tempted with a couple of items and so was The Love, but it was good to see the selection that they had.

We walked over the white arched bridge, with ornate decoration on the arches, and then headed to the Surrey Arms gate and walked around the perimeter and back to the tram station, and took the tram back to the centre of Croydon and back to mine, where we relaxed for the remainder of the afternoon, seeing Neil Robertson (aka The Melbourne Machine or The Thunder from Down Under) taking the final to Ronnie O'Sullivan, being 5-3 up at the interval by the time it'd finished. I'll be watching the rest of that later I reckon!

The Love and I then headed to East Croydon station and I took the train with her back to Victoria, headed across the station with shed loads of people going the other way, and then to the tube back to Euston. She managed to get something to have on the train, and I gave her a big hug and kiss before she headed down to Platform 2 to get the train back to Manchester. It always feels sad seeing her leave, but at the same time as she had said we did have a lovely time together, and long may it continue. Tune of the day in fact is the excellent "Sweet Pea, My Sweet Pea" by Paul Weller, which I had in my head as we walked around earlier.

Saturday 20th February - Rainy Richmond

It was an early-ish rise and a chance to get a few things sorted around the flat as The Love In My Heart was coming down to stay with me this weekend, which is always a lovely thing as you can imagine. I knew she was getting on the 0815 train to Euston, and so made sure the bedding was changed, everywhere was nice and clean and tidy, and that I'd had a good shower and got myself looking all good for later. She did alert me to a later than planned arrival in Euston and so texted me once she got to Victoria so I knew she would be on her way and I could walk to East Croydon station to meet her.

It was so nice to see The Love and give her a huge hug (and plenty of kisses throughout the day, as you'd rightfully expect.) We headed back to the flat and she had brought with her some of my Rosina Wachtmeister cat figures, some of which I'll be looking at selling on eBay in the near future I think. We got her stuff unpacked and then headed back out to East Croydon station and we were going to have an afternoon out together. Although Greenwich was a possibility I thought it'd be nice to have a mooch around Richmond, and in truth it didn't take so long - we got the fast train to Clapham Junction, changed there and from Platform 6 got the fast service with Richmond the first stop.

It was however raining quite a bit when we got there, so much so that it was lunch time or so when we arrived and not far away was The Railway Tavern pub, so we thought lunch was a good call. I had the scampi, The Love had the fish, and the Nicholsons Pale Ale (as made by the St. Austell Brewery in Cornwall, yaay) was on form. As The Love mentioned, generally the Nicholsons pubs are always decent, have a good beer selection for me and also the atmosphere is generally good. All three were very true here for definite.

We then nipped into the branch of Tiger, always a good place to get little bits of stuff from (none of these in Manchester as yet, which The Love thinks needs to be rectified) and we saw a nice brolly for her for £3, and with that done, it was then out and a bit more comfortable in facing the rain. There were plenty of nice little shops that were around, and even the farmers' market in one of the small squares, and all looked nice there. We could both imagine in sunnier weather now nice it would be as well.

We then walked down to the bridge and to the river bank and took a short walk along so I could show her a couple of places that might be good to relax in over the Summer, and then back along the front and under the bridge, and the view from the other side, and then headed up to the main road, and took another different view around some of the shops - particularly admiring the little side streets and one children's book shop which took The Love's approval hugely - lots of events, the staff dressed up as pirates for the day, and a real feeling of a community place too.

We took the train back from Richmond via Clapham Junction to East Croydon, and braved the rain to head back to the flat. It was just nice to feel nice and warm and relaxed, and we spent the remainder of the afternoon in chilled out mode. The Love also had a nice warm bath and I brought her a glass of wine so she could unwind as well - the least I could do. Once all good to go, later on I set about making the tea, and three courses at that for us both to enjoy.

I made the starter of a minestrone soup and some crusty bread to go with that, and the main was really nice from Sainsburys, a lamb casserole with potatoes, green beans and carrots, to which I added some chopped mushrooms as well and that added something lovely to it as well. We both enjoyed that immensely, and I then also had a lemon posset for afterwards too, with The Love all relaxed and with a glass of wine whilst we then watched some evening telly including the likes of the lottery draw and The Voice, where someone did a good version of The Smiths' classic "Ask" (I prefer the original obviously so it's tune of the day) and all was very well.

It was especially nice to snuggle on the sofa together and enjoy the evening in together, and just feel so close to each other as well. I think one thing I've missed massively is having time with The Love when being down here, and so the time we have will be especially savoured a lot more now. I think too that for us both we know that we're going to enjoy things differently too, and be able to be together a lot more when we do have the time (whole weekends rather than say Saturday night / most of Sunday) so it'll be more concentrated time if you will.

Friday 19th February - End of an Era

It was the last day for one of my colleagues today and I must admit I did feel quite sad. He's made a real effort to make me feel very welcomed into the team and has always been friendly and approachable for any assistance that I've needed whatsoever. I think too that he's also been a real asset to the place and it made me wonder why more wasn't done to be able to keep him there. However I also knew that he was looking at working elsewhere and extending skills and so knew also there were many benefits also. All the team had put a sizeable donation into the leaving card and present which we all thought was the least that we could do.

It was still a busy day though, not least as I was doing some research into being able to see if we could effect a change which would be able to have some safe senders added for receiving emails and also how they could be added in Outlook and in a Group Policy if required - although that would only be obviously for Outlook as a client, not necessarily the web access component of Office 365. I did have a chat with one of our Exchange administrators and the security aspects (which I had guessed would be an issue) were those overriding concerns, which I thought was fair enough.

I also effectively planned an emergency change in which that one setting for the auditing application that was being used would be changed so that it wouldn't do all the scanning on every boot that it seemed to be doing. My manager had approved for me to submit it and that I did, and so he then went to see the people concerned to express why this needed to be done. I know the benefits of it although I had happily have put it through as a normal change only for the manager to ask it to be done more urgently.

A lot of the team did head out to the local Wetherspoons for lunch though and so we were having the fish Friday deal in droves and having a good chat throughout and it was good that so many of us were out, and later on we headed to a really nice little ale pub, the Kings Arms just off Borough High Street, for a few drinks. They had three or four different real ales, although admittedly at around £4.20 a pint (ouch indeed, shows that the £2.45 in Wetherspoons is pretty decent value even for London) and it was good to chat with everyone during the evening.

I had good chat with my (now departed) colleague about music, as he's a big fan of music like me, and he did ask me my favourite gigs of all time. Naturally I did remember them with a suitable nod to Kraftwerk (in fact when I got home later a repeat of their Pop Art documentary was on BBC Four) and remembering how the British Cycling team careered around the Velodrome during the track Tour de France, and so that's tune of the day for sure. It was a good day all round and although feeling somewhat sad about him leaving, I know he's doing well and we'll be keeping in touch so that is good.

Thursday 18th February - Cold Calling Cowards

So it was all going well with another productive day in the office, and I was able to get quite a few wheels in motion with various queries, and then got a phone call. It was from an unknown London based number I knew nothing about, and the people claimed that they were from a company called "Lifestyle Surveys". Straight away I smelled a rat, particularly as they were asking for me by name which to be honest I had no idea how they had got. Anyway, I asked them how they got my phone number, and they said they were passed on by a company called UK Lifestyle Brands.

Naturally what they didn't realise was that I was close to the PC and so a quick Google search would prove that it wasn't the case whatsoever, and the number itself (as I'd already suspected was a number associated with scams). I again asked them how they got my details and clearly were trying to speak quickly in an attempt for me not to make out what they were doing. I then said that they were in breach of the UK Data Protection Act and I'd be reporting them to the Information Commissioner before putting the phone down. Hehe, I was in control of the call.

Naturally of course the concern also is how many people would have believed that they were genuine and would in fact have responded to their demands and given away their personal details. I am pretty much on the ball with privacy: my phone numbers are registered with the Telephone Preference Service and I only give it out to those that really need it rather than everyone. Also I make sure that whoever does call me is someone I genuinely would expect to do so.

Was that the end of it? Absolutely not. In fact there were another fifteen calls throughout the day, most of which I ignored or answered with silence. By the time I'd got to Sainsburys later to do some food shopping, I had decided that enough was definitely enough, and wanted to be sure that they got the message. So when they called again, I answered the phone as Croydon Trading Standards. They soon hung up as well. I also referred my complaint to the Information Commissioner, TPS as above and also went to speak to my mobile provider so that they would also keep an eye on similar complaints.

For me though it was also nice to spend some time to be able to relax and chill out as well once I had put the shopping away and so it was back on with the David Bowie Blackstar album and that epic title track still rings so true with me, so tune of the day it most definitely is. I think also that for me there's something about having a real soul bared and having a feeling of knowing what was going to happen but to express it all artistically, and that really does give it a bit more than I already imagined.

Wednesday 17th February - Evidently Weeing It Down

The weather was pretty horrid all afternoon and I did briefly leave the building I work in to go and grab myself a sandwich and have a mooch around the shops close to work. This was primarily so I wouldn't be still in the office and have any distractions there, but also to take a walk out (admittedly though it was weeing it down so it wasn't the best weather.) At least most of the places close by are covered though so I stayed reasonably dry before heading back to the building and then ensuring I'd signed in against the list of people seeing a rather special talk tonight.

As a poet and writer, I've always been fascinated by those who have done the same and inspired, and one such inspiration with me being a Mancunian and all is that of John Cooper Clarke, whose attitude to punk and poetry at the same time really set him out as an icon (and he still is.) The opportunity to see him in conversation with Ben Kelly (designer of the Hacienda amongst other things) was going to be one not to miss, and best of all, free and first dibs where I work. Happy? Absolutely.

And so it proved too. Ben came on and did an introduction before John came on, and the two of them were conversing not just about John's career but how Interior Design helped shape them both - from the corrugated iron structure of the Bernard Manning Embassy Club in Harpurhey, Manchester, where he always had paid John on time and in fact had the vision to quit the variety singing performances when Elvis came along, to the bollards and somewhat unique aesthetic of the Hacienda. John also recalled a house in Timperley that was attempting to be an automated house, and this was the subject matter for "The Day My Pad Went Mad."

Naturally if there was one thing above all else I really wanted to hear (primarily due to its use in Control and also an episode of The Sopranos as he pointed out) was the classic, banned on the telly cos of its swearing "Evidently Chickentown" and this did not disappoint one bit. The delivery was just brilliant and it really showed a control of passion whilst reciting it - tune of the day it has to be - even if it is spoken word. There was also a great rendition of "(I Married A) Monster From Outer Space" as well.

The two of them were chatting about all sorts and John's witty ripostes and memories were just really good - and a lot of it I could relate to due to my Mancunian heritage. The final recital was not just "Beasley Street" (as classic and as good as that is) but also a sequel "Beasley Boulevard" explaining the gentrification of some parts of the world and in fact how the same street would compare if it was now. A really good insight and delivered with gusto, humour and passion.

It overall was a great night and a very different sort of event to go to, but one no less that I'll really enjoy hugely and look back on as one I was glad to be at. I'm sure seeing him live would be just as good in terms of being able to see the recitals live but also see how much the audience interacts. Now excuse me as I recite along to the superb "Suspended Sentence" which was on the Factory Records compilation dedicated to Martin Hannett, from John's Innocents EP. My, that's still a classic...

Tuesday 16th February - Hug in a Rug

I had decided today that I needed to head over to IKEA after work and look at getting some small rugs. The Love In My Heart came up with a good idea when she came to visit me last month in that it would be nice to have them in the bedroom so when you get up you've got something nice and soft to rest your feet on instead of the wooden floor, as nice as the wooden flooring is of course. I did see her point actually and so thought about what would work and what would appear nice.

As the bedroom is admittedly quite plain in colour (mainly a mix of white and a mushroom colour) something to help brighten it up would do nicely, and so the bright green Hampen rugs that they do in IKEA was going to make sense. In fact the square one at 80x80cm meant I could get four and effectively have two rugs of 160 x 80 cm which would fit fine (having measured) along each side of the bed in the bedroom. I'd then just need their Stopp underlay too.

I got on the tram from East Croydon and off at Ampere Way, and I was soon indulging in the Family Card free coffee during the week, and why not? I didn't need to go through the whole showroom though, just the marketplace bit, and so was soon at the bathroom textiles section. I did see their Toftbo bath mats which were soft and microfibre, so they looked good and were functional. The lighter blue one matches the Haren bath towels I have, so an easy win for me there and I got that, before heading downstairs and then picking up the rugs and the underlay.

As it turned out the tram back into the centre of Croydon was pretty rammed and I was glad to get off at Reeves Corner and cut round the back of Church Street and to the flat, therefore saving a walk up and downhill as needed, happy days. Even more happy I was when I put the rugs together and noticed that the high pile meant it was very difficult to spot the join (even if I knew where it was) and the underlay really did hold things in place nicely. The bath mat looks the part too so I'll need to bin the other one (admittedly from Asda and a bit of a stop gap all round from about a year ago)

It was also good tonight to settle in and play David Bowie's superb "Blackstar" album with the title track (epic at that) being tune of the day for me. I think too that it's not just an epitaph to his life in the words and songs, but the way it's delivered with gusto and passion shows just how much he still cared about the music but also how personal it must have felt to him knowing that it was cancer and there was nothing that he could have done more about it. One day all albums will have that sense of feeling and emotion, and I wouldn't be surprised if this album is in my favourites at the end of the year.

Monday 15th February - Be My Boogie Woogie Baby

So back to work and a fair bit of time doing a chunk of testing. In fact it proved worthwhile as I was able to feed back some test results with regards to the inventory piece of software we use. It transpired that when carrying out an inventory for some pieces of software, it was taking an absolute age to do, and uninstalling it was a test to see how much quicker the speed was overall. And one thing for definite: Autodesk 3ds Max was a big factor. Removing that was a positive to say the least - there seemed to be a lot of improvement with that for sure.

So one good thing done - and another was a useful Powershell script I uncovered which allowed you to enter the compressed GUID file within a Windows installer and then from that produce the proper installer GUID. This can be quite useful especially when determining what installer may be unpacking itself and stopping working the way that it should. And good to see that when a Powershell script works, it really does work. It's something I need to look at a bit more, but nonetheless I felt pleased to have unearthed that one.

On the way home I decided to claim my second O2 Priority thing of the day (most of us head off to the Boots near work on a Monday to get the £1 meal deal lunch) and into WH Smith in Croydon for the free bottle of Pepsi Max Cherry. It tasted okay and to be fair considering WH Smith were charging £1.84 for it normally (compared to around £1 in a Tesco Express) not a bad freebie all round. In fact of course I could always use my personal mobile (also on O2) as well as the work mobile and all that, but there you go..

I got home and plenty of post was waiting for me including the train tickets for the trip to Bournemouth at the end of the month but also the well packaged 7" single I'd ordered on eBay for a low price at the back end of last week. Yes, I finally have the original of the theme to Kick Start, aka "Be My Boogie Woogie Baby" by Mr Walkie Talkie. It's a fine copy too and having played it on my Pioneer turntable before, it still sounds as good as ever so tune of the day it simply has to be.

I also got round tonight to updating the other website I look after for the 1990s Manchester indie band The Cygnet Ring - a task long overdue to be honest. I was able to work out some estimated valuations for the discography, although of course it's difficult to put an accurate value on a lot of stuff particularly as it doesn't often go on sale. I'm definitely having to check out the likes of some London record shops now and see what I can locate on my travels - and there's the big record fair at Olympia in November - must remember to save the date for that one!

Sunday 14th February - Love At A Distance

Although The Love In My Heart and I aren't together today, with the weekends just working out that way, it doesn't mean to say that we love each other any less. Far from it. In fact last weekend we'd given each other a little card to open on the day, and the one that The Love got me was lovely. It said it all on the front simply: "I'm madly in love with you. Simple as that." No soppy over the top red of a Valentine's card, just the right words needed to show that in fact we both love each other all the time, not just on one day and go over the top. I think that's important for sure.

I knew that several of my eBay auctions for old computer games had completed last night, and a fair few of them sold for more than I expected. In fact two of them were around the £20 mark and one of them was £16, so that was pretty good. In fact I knew that the Commodore VIC-20 I had for sale as a complete lot with games etc (and I tested it all and I know it all works correctly) was going to sell definitely tonight, so I worked out how to package it all up and had some bubble wrap to hand, but not enough.

I ended up making a quick trip out to Poundland and managed to get some bubble wrap but also spotted a double walled empty cardboard box that might just be the right size for what I needed, and it certainly was! I therefore did the recycling as well as get the bubble wrap, and back at the flat I checked it all out, and indeed it did pack inside there really snugly, and with the bubble wrap cushioning everything in sight very nicely. It'll also mean it shouldn't move so much in transit if I'm sending it by courier, and even if someone is collecting it, it'll be a more compact box for what they need, which is good.

I saw the Snooker Shoot Out this afternoon and wow, what a match earlier on! It was Joe Swail v Gary Wilson and with not much time left, Swail was 16-9 down. He potted the red and the blue and with ten seconds to go knocked the red in. The cue ball cannoned the red next to the pink and right on the buzzer with 0:00, he hit the cue ball and knocked the pink in. Amazing stuff and quite rightfully the crowd went absolutely mental as you'd expect. It was a really cracking highlight of the day and I'm sure that he'll have the crowd with him for tonight.

In the meantime, tune of the day is the excellent and somewhat apt "Valentine" by The Darling Buds, going way back from 1988. The days when I was a teenager and listening to their rather lovely indie pop and thinking just how much I adored Andrea Lewis back then. In fact when I saw the band last year, Andrea was actually really happy and lovely, and the band were rocking out very nicely too. One of those lovely memories of seeing live bands but a nice little quirky song too - and if you want it, you'll need one of their earlier singles on the Native label or the compilation CD "Shame On You: The Native Recordings" - highly recommended.

Saturday 13th February - Green Chain Walk

So with the weather not proving to be the best ever this morning, I spent a fair bit of time sorting out things around the flat - changing the bedding, cleaning everywhere down, making sure that it was all lovely and with minimal stuff to do over the rest of the weekend. I had planned to leave earlier to go for a walk but the weather wasn't great, and even when I did decide to leave around twelve noon and set off, the rain and wind still wasn't ideal. However a bit of rain wasn't going to stop me and so I headed off to the tram station at East Croydon.

From there it was on the tram Eastbound to Beckenham Junction, and then following the signs for the Green Chain Walk which took me to the nice private roads with really posh houses and to the pedestrian entrance at the South side of Beckenham Place Park. Walking up to the hill and the old mansion (part of which is now the clubhouse for the golf club) and noting the start point, it was to be another four miles or so following the walking route which would take me eventually to Crystal Palace Park via New Beckenham and Penge.

The walk started off exiting the park and then following the roads downhill and past the St Mary's Church which looked somewhat scary in the trees. From there it was a left right and towards New Beckenham Station, and the route normally takes you under the underpass so you avoid going through the station. However, the underpass was flooded and so I had to walk on to the station platform, then under the steps there and out the other side. Thankfully it didn't need me to touch in / touch out at each end with the Oyster card, but good to have an alternative route nonetheless.

A diversion from the main road took me along to Cator Park, where squirrels were abound in the trees, and plenty of people were out walking their dogs. From here it was back along the road and then a right turn towards Kent House, cutting through a path that dissected some playing fields, then another left right and through to the Alexander Recreation Grounds, and at the end of that and along the street I spotted another squirrel leaping between the walls at the front of the houses there. He was happy to stop and pose for me though!

It was then through the station at Penge East, admiring the mural that adorned a former pub, then along the side streets towards the centre of Penge and under the bridge for Penge West before getting to Crystal Palace Park, and I had a coffee in the café before then setting off and folowing the dinasour trail. Some of the statues date back from the 1850s when it was built as a permanent exhibit and it's still there today. I passed the athletics track and then ended the walk with an uphill stroll to Crystal Palace station, taking the train to West Croydon from there.

That was all lovely and I had the camera with me too, so the pictures came out okay despite the cloudy weather. I was pleased the most with the candid of the squirrel on the street in Penge - it just looked quite urban and natural. I spent the evening in watching the likes of the final of Ninja Warrior UK. Only three survived to the second stage and in fact none of them got beyond the unstable bridge. I suspect the rather difficult third obstacle in the first stage (the paddle bridge) caught a lot of people out and it proved to be a ninja killer to be honest.

I then tuned to ITV4 for the remainder of tonight's Snooker Shoot Out from the Hexagon in Reading. I still get annoyed at some of the idiotic behaviour from some of the crowd, but the snooker was on good form really (and using T-Rex's "20th Century Boy" as a walk on theme - inspired - tune of the day). Plenty of shocks on the cards but also some good and tense snooker too. The ten minute format and shot clock really adds to the tension but also the break building has been good too. I was pleased for the likes of Joe Perry and Mark Williams to go through and it'll make for a good final day tomorrow I reckon.

Friday 12th February - Touring and First Dates

So it was a good way to spend the last part of the working week by undetaking the building tour of the building I am based in, which actually has four distinct blocks on the whole. One of the ground floor Information Centre staff very kindly showed us around, and it was good to see so many of the facilities. For example: the photography students get a facility to develop their analogue film for free, which is rather nice, and the studios and darkrooms seem very well equipped, perfect for what they want to do really.

I also spotted things such as the print making studio, the lithography studio and perhaps best of all the rather nice Heidelberg printing press. One of the project folks who was also on the tour asked "is that one printer?" which made me smile. The press that they have was large, but in printing press terms it's actually really small but it does the job, and together with binding and stitching means that books can be well produced and the samples I saw looked really good. I might have to spend some time there in future seeing what the state of play is!

Once we'd also had the Health and Safety stuff done, it was then on to see the colleagues in the Darkroom Students' Union Bar, as one of the team had their birthday this weekend and suggested some drinks in there. To be fair, they weren't that expensive either: the dearest pint was around £3, which for London prices is excellent let me tell you. I also saw the pool table and the table tennis table was getting a considerable hammering all round from students and staff. It was a nice atmosphere in there actually.

I stayed till around 7pm and headed on the train home (much quieter thankfully although I did see one train at Herne Hill absolutely rammed!) and settled in to watch the Valentine's Day special of First Dates. I must admit it was good to see the staff seeing what would happen, and I do think that Cici should look at dating her colleague Sam - he seems a top bloke. Of course as it was the last of the series we didn't know if they would find love or not, but let's see what happens!

In fact earlier on The One Show they had had a section of the people who had been on the last series, and it was nice to see how the show had given them some confidence and be able to date others. My favourite of those was the lovely lady with long hair who used her wheelchair - she had that same sense of humour and smile as she did on the show, and someone really needs to date her as a lovely lovely person. Naturally I suspect plenty of blokes were happy to see Cici turn up at the bar mind you along with Sam and Merlin from the show!!

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather excellent classic from Tenacious D: "Master Exploder" at that. I was talking about playing the likes of Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero on the Wii earlier, and it reminded me of this from Rock Band 2, and how I could nail the guitars on medium but then the really hard Jack Black vocals on expert, even adding back the swear words where they were missed off in the original. Ah, the classic days when I had discovered the D years before anyone....

Thursday 11th February - All Systems Go

So another good day at work today and still spending time catching up on a number of things overall. However the positive has been that I've ben able to make progress on a couple of possible issues with PCs that were referred to ourselves to solve. One of them appears to either be a weird font issue with Acrobat Professional or it could even be licencing. When you invoke any of the web browser plugins an error message then appears to tell you that really you're not licenced at all, and yet when you launch Acrobat Pro it all seems fine. A bit odd that and I'll have to get some further investigations done.

I also managed to work on a few other issues as well, and I do generally think that I am settling into the team and fitting in reasonably well. I also know too that it's still a heck of a lot for me to learn and pick up a lot of what everyone else is also doing and get an overview of everything, so I can pick up more. It's actually also good that I can see plenty of what is happening and be able to spot a few things along the way. One thing I did spot though is the fact that there's plenty of things which seem to be delegated to the team I'm in when there sometimes should be more investigation done first. We shall see how that happens..

I headed a different way homewards tonight as I was taking the train to Sutton - primarily due to there being a Wilkinsons there. I wanted to get a couple of things and the main one I wanted to get was a collander - so I can drain my pasta properly! I wanted to have some bolognaise tonight with some rigatoni pasta, and so thought it best to head there as their collander (stainless steel one at that) was a mere £2. I got a couple of oven trays as well and a salt and pepper little pot, and just more little things to make the place feel even more like home, you know?

The bus back would have been quicker but I ended up getting off at West Croydon station and walking the rest of the way. As it turned out the Croydon Underpass had had a car set in flames underneath, and the police had closed the road off to traffic, so they were all taking the bus lane exit, causing tailbacks for both the buses and trams that normally have that lane to themselves. That wasn't great of course but at least it meant that the driver was alert and suggested we'd be quicker getting home if we got off there first, which made good sense to me to be honest.

So the evening was spent relaxing with a classic 1981 episode of Top of the Pops on BBC Four, and that included the rather good "It's a Mystery" from Toyah (make that tune of the day) and also some other stuff such as Bucks Fizz before they went on Eurovision (same song though and the same skirt effect mid way through the song too). I must admit the older programmes like that do have plenty of charm and in a way it shows the music from a different age in a different light too. Yaay for old classics eh?

Wednesday 10th February - Cleaning and Planning

So another day in the office, and plenty of stuff to try and test out. The majority of testing this morning for me was based around one piece of inventory software that we use, and to see if we could possibly improve the performance of it. The vendor had sent my colleague and I some suggestions and so I set up a little testing matrix for one machine, where I'd do four boots from cold boot, log in and then monitor the disk IO and see how long it would take for the relevant processes to end.

It was really surprising - one particular setting seemed to perform wonders and knocked down the total time taken from around eight minutes to actually around two and a half - so when you consider boot and log in is included in that time, that's a ton better than it has been. I suspect that the particular process involved is performing some checks that take time based on the amount of software installed and also the content of that software as well. It'd be interesting to do some removals of software and then test it out..

Anyway, I also spent time in a collaboaration meeting with the various support teams, and we have to be there to also give our representation as well. I didn't mind going actually as it got me more into understanding the on the ground issues, and how they'd be affecting the stuff that we do. On the whole it was good to get a overview of things, and one of our service analysts had spotted a similar occurrence of an issue, and I looked at her and went "isn't that..?" and she nodded and smiled, and brought it up. Good when you've got a good understanding with people I think.

I headed home and on the way stopped off at the Tesco Express. The shower I have now is over the bath and has a glass shower screen. Only thing is though that the hard water means some limescale and soap scum build up just had to go. Lots of people recommended Cilit Bang Limescale and Grime - and it was half price in Tesco. Sure enough, got it home, tested it out and I did have the tendency to be like the infamous Barry Scott in those adverts - bang! And the dirt is gone. I suppose as well I'd be wanting to take as much care of the place if I had bought it, not just rented it, but at the same time keeping everything nice and clean just makes perfect sense for me.

What also made sense was checking with my cousin and finding out that she and her family are free on a Saturday later this month. Especially more so as South West Trains are currently doing an off peak day return for the crazy price of just £15! So I got that booked and so all the way to Bournemouth from Clapham Junction (and back) for that price is a pretty good bargain. I looked and the cheapest single each way is normally £11, but they're pretty scarce, so all good to get the bargain! Tune of the day for that reason is the excellent "Shopping" by Barenaked Ladies - always good to bargain hunt.

Tuesday 9th February - Radlett and Testing

So a different day at work for me today, as after a short while in the office it was off to Blackfriars station to get the train up to Radlett, and from there a small bus ride up to the business park where XMA (formerly Viglen) are based for the South East. I made it to Blackfriars in good time and had already got my tickets from the machine yesterday at my local station, and so soon was on Platform 2 and heading on the train towards Luton. It was one of the older Thameslink ones but soon emptied once we got past London St Pancras and through the likes of Kentish Town, Mill Hill Broadway and Elstree and Borehamwood before then reaching Radlett.

And having never been there before, I have to say it was a pretty little village with plenty of indepdent shops in the centre, a Tesco Express for the food needs, and lots of small restaurants too. I could also see the amount of people with nice cars and suspected that property was not cheap to buy around these parts, and a quick look in one estate agents proved that beyond any form of doubt to be honest - not cheap was a master of the understatement!

Anyway, I soon headed on the bus up to XMA which dropped me off pretty close, and I was soon in their nice waiting area having a coffee from a pretty posh coffee machine, similar to that HSBC have in some of their more posher branches. It was good to see plenty of people from other universities including some from London and Bedfordshire, plus three all the way from Winchester, plus the staff from XMA including the really friendly and lovely Jodie, who was ever efficient and organising things nicely.

The event went well, it was effectively Malcolm and Steve from Intel giving you the lowdown on the vPro features including AMT (Active Management Technology that is) and what it could do for you. Interestingly they were pushing the fact that some of the AMT stuff works better if used with SCCM as well as the (now Intel owned) McAfee Deep Command as part of their E-Policy Orchestrator. That I took note of. What I also took note of was the fact that some of the functionality really did need a version of the AMT chipset (within the Intel boards) of version 8 upwards, and that the Intel Management Engine 11 driver worked on all version of this chipset, so you could have one install doing the lot. Pretty good.

Some more interesting stuff in the afternoon too, including a new feature for Intel Authenticate, where the hardware is going to help in your security layer of authentication - you can have multi factor authentication but choose what levels you want to lock down. So if you have a laptop with an Intel vPro chipset, and a Bluetooth phone is registered with it and is in proximity close enough, you could just tap enter to log back in as the phone's done its work for you. Or even a smart card reader or fingerprint device for that matter. Naturally it does still need some work though as for one person using the PC or laptop, fine - but for multiple users - not going to happen.

It was a good day and later on I got the bus back to Radlett, and as the event had over-ran a bit it was back on the train to Blackfriars. I then topped up the Oyster card once out of the station, as I could then get the train to East Croydon from there, with the net result being me home a little bit quicker than normal - now that's what I do call a result all round. I spent some time ironing a shed load of clothes later and blasting out the likes of the fourth Led Zeppelin album, so make "Black Dog" tune of the day really.

I then spent some time testing the Commodore VIC 20 that I had recovered from the house. It all worked wonderfully well. All the games worked fine, the tape loaded everything as intended, and the games were playable with the joystick too. In fact some of them were just a little too playable and I had to have more than one go of them. Needless to say though I can now make someone very happy with the whole caboodle and so have placed it on eBay for auction. We'll see what happens, but I was pleased everything all did what it was supposed to do.

Monday 8th February - Solving Stuff

It was a pretty good productive day all round today, and I spent most of the morning working on a possible fix for the way that Autodesk Mudbox and Maya launch on certain PCs. The thing was that the PCs in question had a second hard drive and the plan as agreed was to redirect some of their settings etc there, based on the fact that the default of My Documents going to the user's H drive meant that certain files would fill that drive really quickly to say the least.

The tricky thing was to ensure that if the user didn't have any settings where they needed to go that they were effectively copied from their H drive. I say tricky because of the fact that although the undo and redo temporary files should be deleted on exit of Mudbox, if their drive was full it wouldn't allow the user to delete those files, and so still be there. Also too even if you do redirect the data files elsewhere, there's still a paths file it needs to create within the user area to tell the program where the files are relocated to. And as one is created originally with the paths to the H drive, that has to get recreated too.

On the whole though and after some considerable testing, I managed to get it all playing ball and am now waiting for the go ahead from the colleague concerned to be able to use that in their rooms and see how it goes. It's been good to get my teeth into that as it shows that I've got a good understanding of what is going on and also to be able to show that I have knowledge of the software in question and can find suitable workaorounds. It may be a bit trickier with other stuff though.

I've also been helping a colleague investigate a potential issue we've both noticed where for some reason there is a slow startup on some machines with hard disk activity thrashing for several minutes or so. We both have an idea (and the same one) what it might be and I started off some tests to see if there was a consistent pattern of what was happening - and once I've got that nailed, I can then see what else could be done to try and rectify that situation somewhat.

I did have a relaxing evening back at home (and in the warm too, it was rather cold and windy outside) - and sorted out through some more of the Commodore 64 games to put on eBay and sell off - as much as I do have a C64 still and do make some music on it occasionally, a number of the games I just don't play so I may as well give someone else the pleasure of owning them and making use of them at least. Tune of the day in the meantime is Rob Hubbard's "Thalamusik" which was the iconic loading music to the game Sanxion, not least as I downloaded the synth version he did for the Zzap! 64 sampler back in 1987. Awesome stuff.

Sunday 7th February - All A-Loft

I decided to head over to the house today after a suggestion from my brother last week that there may be some stuff in the loft that I had best get organised and moved if possible before the house does get sold. In a way too it was a good exercise to be able to see if there was anything I could also sell, and get some further things cleared at the same time. I had texted my brother and he had a large stepladder available and could meet me back at the house later on, so all good there.

I got to the house and all appeared well, and my brother arrived later with the stepladder. We got to the loft and he opened the loft hatch, and used one of the sweeping brush handles to bring some of the boxes closer towards the hatch. There were some dust on some of them it had to be said, but the contents inside appeared to have survived without a hitch. What I expected were some of the boxes of the old PC games, which were just binnable really.

What I didn't expect was to find what I thought I'd lost several years ago and it was a joy to find them to say the least - a complete Commodore VIC-20 setup, complete with a fair number of games, 16K RAM pack, TV modulator and all - and I'm sure I could use one of my Commodore 64 tape decks (they're the same type) to check it all works, so all good there. And on top of that, three (for some reason) Commodore Plus/4 computers too, complete with power packs, cassette deck, two joysticks and games. Certainly something I need to sort through and check it all works mind you, as I don't need three of them!

I also discovered some other bits and bobs but it was a case of most of it being empty boxes and not really worth much and so thought it best to bin that - and then that meant that everywhere in the loft was all clean and tidy as much as it could be - bar possibly a couple of empty boxes, but that was pretty much it, so no complaints there really. It also meant once I'd got some plastic boxes from the local discount shop that I had got it down to two or three boxes tops with everything in, so all good there I reckon.

The Love In My Heart came to collect and we headed out to the Milson Rhodes in Didsbury for Sunday lunch - and the roast lamb was on nice form with a peppery sauce that tasted spot on so all good there. It was just nice to chill out and have lunch together, and even had a little walk around the little shops in Didsbury village for good measure. We then headed back to her place and fussed over the cats a bit, and I packed the case full of some Plus/4 stuff and then took one of the plastic boxes as well, and left for the station to get the train home.

Getting from Manchester Piccadilly to Euston was fine, and even carrying things up the stairs out of Victoria tube station to the train was fine, and in fact the 2008 was in to East Croydon so I got back there not too badly. However it was absolutely weeing it down with a strong wind so I decided just to get the bus two stops and then homeward, so I didn't get too wet. I tested out the Plus/4, it came on, games loaded, but the keyboard seemed a little unresponsive. I'll have to see if I can check the other two out in future but at least it did work to a degree so that was pleasing.

In the meantime tune of the day is the rather good "Stormy Weather" by the Pixies from the Bossanova album. Summed up the weather when I arrived back to Croydon and the wind and rain that was howling for most of the night (understatement). In fact it was definitely a case of attempting to get some sleep despite the fact that I could hear the gusts outside. Being on the 7th floor certainly makes you more aware of just how high you in fact are and also just how open to the elements you can sometimes feel up there.

Saturday 6th February - City Defeat and Snuggled Saturday

It was an early start for me as I was changing the bedding before heading out of the flat and to East Croydon station, where after a quick train and tube journey I arrived in London Euston in good time for the 0840 departure to Manchester Piccadilly. I was heading up to see Manchester City against Leicester City, albeit alone as my friend was heading off to Prestatyn to spend some quality time with relatives and to celebrate a relative's 80th birthday, so a good reason to spend some time with them too.

I arrived on time at 1049 at Piccadilly and it was so lovely to see The Love In My Heart, who came to collect me. Before long I was back at her place and so that meant lots of attention to the two cats Jô and Brian, and they were rather their own chirpy selves too. I waited in for a while as my old small turntable had sold on eBay and we'd arranged for the buyer to collect from The Love's place, and admittedly it was chucking it down, so they did well to get there when they did, and then I headed off to the Etihad Stadium to see if City could win.

My answer was pretty emphatic within three minutes - no. A free kick came over and no one tracked Robert Huth who shot home from close range. Throughout the half it looked like Manchester City had been on the drink the night before, looking lethargic, shy of work rate and not having any idea how to break them down. A couple of shots on target was about it and those around me in the second tier on the North Stand agreed with me - Yaya Touré needed to come off and we needed to bring on Kelechi Iheanacho.

The substitution did happen, but around ten minutes too late, by which time Riyad Mahrez had skipped past two City defenders and bamboozled Joe Hart to score a really good goal and three minutes into the second half we were 2-0 down. Curiously our best player Fabian Delph was taken off for Fernando - maybe damage limitation instead of pushing on? Didn't stop Leicester though and from a corner Robert Huth headed home for 3-0. It was no more than Leicester deserved to be honest, they wanted it more than City and worked harder, and deserved their win hugely.

City brought on Bersant Celina and within five minutes he'd shown what Aleksandar Kolarov had failed to do all game - cross a ball properly. In fact the cross met the head of Sergio Agüero and it was at least a consolation for 3-1, and when Agüero intercepted a back pass there may have been a chance for 3-2, but not to be. It was disappointing for City and I felt as if I had been let down badly by several of the players to be honest, but at least I had lots of love and kisses from The Love In My Heart to make up for it when I got back to hers after the game.

In fact we had a relaxing afternoon and evening in, and The Love filled out some of her work forms she couldn't do during the week and needed my assistance, so was more than happy to help - especially as she made a lovely tea of some chicken in a cheese sauce with some potatoes, carrots, mushrooms and broccoli - really good stuff. We were going to relax for the evening and it was nice that Jô especially wanted me to throw his tiny ball so he could chase it - bless him.

It was nice just to chill out and so The Love had The Voice on - and all sorts decided to come on it and give some popular songs a go. I must admit though it was a surprise having someone perform the Randy Newman classic from Toy Story that is "You've Got A Friend In Me" (make the original tune of the day) and even more so that someone actually did it justice with a good rendition - and a cool hat to boot! The folks from The Last Leg were also on Jonathan Ross too so that was me happy also seeing them have a good giggle all round on the show.

I must admit though it was so nice to snuggle up to The Love and just be together and be so close, it just felt really lovely and it's one reassuring thing that despite the distance from each other, our love for each other is just as strong. In a way too I think it's meaning that the time we do get together is actually some more quality time too, so there is a different way of being together that we're still having to get adjusted to, even if it's almost two months now since I moved.

Friday 5th February - Stocking Up On Points

I came across something in the help desk system software we use today that I thought "that's really useful stuff, I wonder if everyone knows about this?" In effect it's a flag which shows quickly and easily with a tick or a cross when the call has been updated by anyone other than yourself as the assignee. It meant that for me it would allow me to be able to then prioritise which of the calls would then be dealt with as I could see which ones needed my attention.

As it turned out I flagged this to the service desk manager who was actually really receptive of the idea and thought that it would be really useful to be able to share that, and so did so across the whole department, stating what a good idea it was. That did admittedly cheer me up and make my day considering that I'd had a phone call and had someone rather not so pleasant on the phone earlier on. Granted, you get that everywhere, but it does make me wonder how some people can be like the way that they are. Maybe it's just my Northern friendliness and the person I am which is different..

Anyway, I headed homewards first and after checking any post, I had noticed earlier an offer from Sainsburys where if you spent over £10 this weekend at one of their stores (not the local ones though, good job I read the small print) then you'd get a voucher for extra Nectar points (which naturally I could then redeem on shopping or the likes of discounts on trains etc too. I did need some food shopping anyway, so I thought a visit to the Purley Way store near Waddon Marsh tram stop made sense.

And it did, actually. I decided to stock up for at least the next week or so and so it made sense to get some basics that I could use more than once, so for example some pasta sauce, some fresh and dried pasta, and with Quorn mince on half price there's at least a fair few bolognaises I could make. In addition I added some stock to the freezer so that I could keep those for longer, as well as then get some Tassimo pods. I also realised I had around £5 left on a gift card for there so I redeemed that against the balance - made perfect sense to be honest.

I got home and had some chicken korma for tea, using some of the chicken fillets and mushrooms as well as the lower fat Korma sauce, which worked out really nicely actually. It was good to relax on the Friday evening and also get a small amount of stuff packed for my visit up to Manchester tomorrow to see The Love In My Heart. Don't get me wrong, I do miss her lots during the week and even miss the cats quite a bit too, but I also know that the time we do spend together is much more treasured because of that, so there is something to be said there.

In the meantime tune of the day is the rather excellent "Incomplete Without You" by Swing Out Sister. It does sum up my life when I'm here and not with The Love In My Heart, although I do admit that living here isn't too bad on the whole - I do at least have somewhere nice and comfortable to live, and that helps considerably to make the whole settling in process feel a lot more comfortable on the whole. I do feel though that if I could be with The Love In My Heart more that would be even lovelier, as my life really is incomplete without her it has to be said..

Thursday 4th February - Cats v Dogs

The Love In My Heart alerted me whilst on the phone tonight to a programme on BBC2 called "Cats v Dogs" with Chris Packham and Liz Bonnin, and based on the age old debate as to which of the two animals could do various things better. Admittedly I've always been a cat person, the fact that The Love has two of them who are utterly adorable only strengthens the case for being able to like them more. I've always had not the best experience with dogs, primarily as I was bit during a paper round many years ago.

It was notable when Chris was attempting to leave a scent around Manchester city centre and try to use lots opf tricks such as dropping some water, walking through the food market stalls near Piccadilly Gardens and also then head towards the Northern Quarter. The sniffer dog in question was having none of that and took around ten minutes to follow the trail and end up rather easily in the café where Chris was. That was quite good to watch and it did remind me of the city as a whole which was good.

Nice to see too that the cats had plenty of agility and that was the decider for this week in the end of it all, in terms of how much they were all being able to really jump around and climb for stuff, as well as of course have a really good sense of hearing anything. I does sort of explain how the likes of Jô and Brian are just sensitive to any noise and they can hurtle to the window at The Love's place with the slightest of possible things that we can't even hear, such is their sensory.

I also caught up tonight with Great American Railroad Journeys and I have to say Michael Portillo has been as excellent as ever, especially when detailing the excursion up the Hudson River and how following the Appleton's Guide made for perfect sense to get a good view (think of it as the American version of the Bradshaw's guide) and even reciting the famous horror tale that is Sleepy Hollow (think of the film with Johnny Depp for example) and that's pretty good to go really.

Tune of the day in the meantime is from Top of the Pops on BBC Four tonight, and no less than Ultravox's classic "Vienna" at that. Even some thirty five years after release for me it remains one of the quintessential songs of the 1980s with a song that like Bohemian Rhapsody possibly couldn't have worked, yet the synth and then the violins mix in the interlude really grabbed the public by the throat, and showed just that it was different and cool all at the same time. Still don't forgive Joe freaking Dolce mind you...

Wednesday 3rd February - Feeling Productive

It was a case of being productive but also constructive today, as I spent some time investigating some software related issues that had been raised, in view to having a meeting with the staff later on to try and work together to iron some further things out. It was good to actually meet them face to face too I thought, puts a face to the name for a start and means also that we'd be able to work together in order to be able to resolve things. In fact some ideas I had were welcomed and it showed that I had a knowledge of their specialist software and what they could work with.

I also worked on a few other things today too - and one of which was to try and test out a web page where you could submit print jobs to. In essence, it actually seemed to work reasonably well based on what I was able to test and I provided some feedback to that effect, with some more testing in the next day or so to take on board as well. For me it was important to get a grip and be able to be on board with what was happening, and that was good for me also to show that willing to want to learn new stuff all the time.

I headed home but admittedly went a different way tonight. I was going to check out the Iceland large foodstore which is more of a warehouse open to the public and along the Old Kent Road, so I took the bus along there and had a look inside. It was literally a warehouse with Iceland produce, and to be honest I could have very easily just massively stocked up left right and centre if I needed to, so that was something to take note of (and to bring some more bags next time around!)

I hopped back on the bus to New Cross Gate and then on the train to West Croydon, so didn't get back too late as it happened. I am guessing that there's possible other money saving ideas on food, but admittedly having both an Iceland and a Lidl close by is handy for when I'm only needing to do a less big food shop (for example if I am staying at The Love In My Heart's place over the weekend) so that's something to take into consideration. After all any saving on food is good, and as it's mainly me here, I don't need to necessarily buy lots of wine and other stuff too.

I did have a good listen to the Avenue Q original Broadway soundtrack tonight whilst doing some housework related tasks - and I freely admit it was just nice to be able to listen to some of the classic songs from there that I then saw in the shows in both London and in The Lowry in Salford, including the classic "It Sucks To Be Me" (make that tune of the day) as well as also "Mix Tape" and the rather emotional "There's a Fine, Fine Line" which really is delivered so well by both Stephanie D'Abruzzo in the Broadway version and Julie Atherton in the original UK one.

Tuesday 2nd February - Teatime and Tables

After work I decided to take a different route home, based on the fact that the next train to depart from near work was the one to Sutton via Mitcham Junction, which meant that I could get off at Mitcham Junction and get the tram from there back home. However, the tram also goes via the Ampere Way stop for Ikea, which meant I could head off there and pop around and have a look. Which is pretty much what I did with an idea that I'd be able to see the table I might be getting as a little mini desk to put the PC on and have that as a designated space in future.

But first of all, food. I thought I may as well have my tea in the restaurant bit there, and effectively one of the food offers was on where you got a really nice steak in a sauce, with dauphinoise potatoes and some green beans as well for a mere £3.50 due to Ikea Family card discount, compared to the more expensive price it normally is. And as the coffee is also free to members Monday to Friday that worked out to be pretty good all round, and I was able to rest and relax with that before then getting on with things.

I got to the tables and desks and noted the table system that they have where you get the top and then the legs and you can interchange them as needed. I noted the Linnmon table top 100cm x 60cm in oak, and the plain black legs to go with it - it all looked good enough but it was a case of seeing where that'd fit with the space. In essence actually what it meant was that when I looked at home later, it'd overhang where the fridge freezer is by around 1cm or less, so almost an extension of space if I put it there. Or I'd look at moving the two bookshelves elsewhere and then seeing how I'd re-arrange a couple of things, we would see.

I also had a good look at a few other things but resisted temptation to buy stuff and instead headed off back homewards on the tram instead. It was good to be able to get some ideas though and in fact I saw some little cushions that might go well with the sofa and they weren't even that expensive either, so a possibility in future to see how it pans out there. It was also good to be able to head home and watch Great American Railroad Journeys, with Michael Portillo heading around New York.

I was of course keeping an eye too on the football tonight and it was rather pleasing to see Manchester City get a 1-0 win at Sunderland with Sergio Agüero scoring the only goal of the game. We did hang on a bit admittedly but at least it meant that we kept up the pressure on Leicester City, who won 2-0 at home against Liverpool thanks to a rather good first goal from Jamie Vardy. Goal of the month contender, which made me hum the Lightning Seeds' classic "Life of Riley" which was used for ages for said award, so tune of the day is a very easy win all round.

Monday 1st February - Puzzles and Pound Lunches

It was good to get my proverbial teeth into a couple of puzzling issues, and overall it was good to resolve some of them too. One of them involved an issue where a specialist system couldn't be accessed, and after the call came to the team, I took it on and got back to the customer, and worked with them to resolve the issue. It transpired that the Oracle client needed to access some databases wasn't present, and as such this meant that even with the ODBC data sources merged correctly, it wasn't seeing anything as intended unless the client went on first. Got that sorted, it all worked, happy customer all round (hopefully!)

One good thing about the new job actually also is that there's a Boots close by, and on Mondays with O2 Priority, there's the perk of having lunch for £1. Yes, the Boots Meal deal at that, so a few of us headed there at lunch time (as we tend to do) and I got a nice sandwich, some muesli with strawberry and banana in a yoghurty form which was good, and the Naked blueberry smoothie for a mere £1, and I reckoned it must have been worth around £5.50 or so if bought individually. It's great when it works and showing the code on the phone is a doddle really. I wonder how much O2 pay Boots for this on a Monday, there's got to be some deal there I reckon!

I had renewed my monthly Zone 2 to 5 travel card yesterday when I got back to East Croydon station (saved me doing it this morning) and thus activated the card as I set off for work. Later on the way home I'd got to Balham station and the train to Sutton via West Croydon was the first to arrive (albeit delayed) and as an added bonus, straight to West Croydon too. In fact it seemed a similar length walk from West Croydon to home (or maybe even a little less) and so might be worth considering a morning trip from there to see what the options are.

Around lunchtime I'd heard the news that Manchester City had finally announced what was anticipated for some time - that Pep Guardiola had agreed to become the new manager from next season, and thus Manuel Pellegrini would leave at the end of his initial three year contract on 30th June. Whilst I can see both sides of why the club would want to end the speculation, I do think that Pellegrini has been a little let down by City. He's handled himself with good grace and his calm professional persona has endeared him to the fans for different reasons than the pure fiery passion that Roberto Mancini had previously. I hope we can win a trophy for him this season to give him the send off he deserves for taking us that bit further.

So what now for the club I wonder? I know that the transfer activity has been relatively quiet with a few people going out on loan, but keeping the squad as is till the Summer when I can imagine that change will be afoot and there'll be some new blood on the horizon. One thing is though that there is a core of quality players that Guardiola needs to ensure does stay with the club - the likes of Sergio Agüero, Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta, Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva for definite. I'd also add that promising talents like Kelechi Iheanacho need to feel valued too and kept because the likes of him are our future.

In the meantime though tune of the day is the rather cracking version of Black Flag's "Thirsty and Miserable" as performed by Lemmy from Motorhead with the Rollins Band on the album "Rise Above" - full of Black Flag versions sung by great singers and put together by Henry Rollins in an attempt to raise awareness of the West Memphis Three case. Lemmy's voice is in fine form and in a way it's also a tribute to the great man of rock that he could put his own stamp on any rock number, even one that wasn't his own, so there you go.