Dear Diary... February 2018

Wednesday 28th February - Muppets in the Snow

I woke up this morning, and there hadn't been any snow near my flat when I went to bed. But instead a lot of it had fallen in a few hours whilst asleep, and so when I left to head to the station for work, it was a case of crunching through the freshly fallen snow and off I went. In fact the trains were still running, but it did make for a very nice view passing all the trees and hills coming in towards Crystal Palace, and then seeing Brockwell Park in Herne Hill be somewhat white all over was something else.

Certainly it was a case of the train taking its time over junctions again and so arriving into my station around seven minutes' late. This in a way is why I always make sure I have some leeway so I'm not late for work in the morning, as that just gives me additional time, especially if I'm also collecting tickets for this weekend at the station as I was doing too. I am just hoping that everything will at least be running on the Friday night so I can head back up to Manchester and see The Love In My Heart..

Talking of The Love, she mentioned to me that Brian the cat was effectively working from home, as he was sat on The Love's laptop and all nice and snuggly. She had had to get the snow off the windows of the car for the last two days now, and certainly it seemed to have been falling a lot heavier than it was by me, although a flurry during the afternoon did make it seem all Dickensian, especially as some of the paths close by have old style lamps and lanterns. I was half expecting the cast of Muppets Christmas Carol to turn up..

And talking of said Muppets, as some of you will know, I do like them and have been a fan of Kermit the Frog for as long as I can remember, so when I'd discovered how much the tickets were, having been able to check with O2 Priority beforehand, it was rather upsetting to know that it was not going to happen and I wouldn't be going to the O2 to see the live show. But at the same time it's not just the face value of the ticket that's the issue here either - the official ticket seller, AXS, seems to want to put stupid amounts of booking fees on. So, for a £100 ticket, that's a mere £12.50 booking fee, ie: 12.5%.

I checked elsewhere too and Ticketmaster charging £12.75 booking fee for that £100 ticket, so again, absolute rip off. And if you want a £45 ticket, how does an £8 booking fee sound - a mere 17.8%! Not just that, you could do a whole VIP experience, where you get early entry, a meet and greet with Kermit and Miss Piggy, and a personal photograph of you wish them, and all sorts, but.. £300! Ouch. I can't justify that to be perfectly honest. But it also shows just what a rip off ticket booking fees are and why everyone takes that into consideration when thinking about a purchase, not just face value..

In the meantime tune of the day is the ace "I Want My Country Back" by She Makes War. With all the political interference going on I thought it was good to remind us all of a proper song that addresses lots of concerns we all have, rightly proclaims that people get their fake news from the Daily Hate, and how perceptions by the media really do wear people down along with the whole delusional agenda full stop. You need to listen to it, and then pre-order the new album, I promise you it'll be worth it..

Tuesday 27th February - Snow Is Falling, All Around Me

Minus the children playing and having fun bit a la Shakin Stevens' former Christmas classic, but yes, the snow. Even in Central London it was snowing the white stuff. It appeared to just be a little bit cold and windy during most of the day but come the early afternoon the white stuff came down in sufficient volume for it to actually stick a bit, and show the very nice bare trees off close to the office to be all branched with the snow too. It's all very picturesque and certainly makes the working day pass that little bit quicker.

I did venture out into another part of central London later in the day after work, and it was notable that the snow had fallen everywhere, and coming out of the tube station was a case of going from dry to either snow or slush where enough people had walked through. Certainly for me it was noticeable just how much snow had indeed come down in that last couple of hours, and I was later heading off on the tube to Victoria to get the train home. The train journey to East Croydon was slow to say the least, primarily as due to the number of track junctions before Clapham Junction, each had to be negotiated much more slowly than it normally would.

So once home I decided to kick back and watch something I'd been looking forward to - the final edit of a film I'd backed on Kickstarter and soon to be out on Blu-Ray too, The Commodore Story. It was a very good couple of hours, with plenty of history of how the company first got into the likes of electronic calculators etc before then coming up with the historic VIC-20, with its 32 x 22 character display and its chunky graphics, with massively loud sounds, before then the iconic (and still my favourite) Commodore 64 became the machine to own - still a massive seller of all time with around 17 million of them..

It was good to see not just the people behind Commodore itself but a wealth of enthusiasts who explained their love for the machine and were able to put their own points and passions across, making it a good mix of the two together. No doubt of course many C64 diehards were rather happy seeing the likes of Rob Hubbard, Ben Daglish and Chris Hülsbeck being interviewed, proper musician legends all three of them are. And they even got the guy from Budbrain who made some classic Amiga demos (the one with the ducks was remade on the C64 back in the day and that was ace!)

It'll definitely be worth getting on Blu-Ray for those of you who didn't pre-order it, and for any retro computing fan, being able to get into the back story of many of the decisions made, such as the Amiga CD-32, will definitely be of interest. I for one definitely was pleased to see some classic games such as International Soccer mentioned, and how owning the latest game made you the coolest kid on the street, most definitely in my view. And with that tune of the day is one of the soundtracks to the games featured, the first level music from Bionic Commando by Tim Follin - awesome stuff, even now.

Monday 26th February - Wind and Snow

The North wind doth blow in the morning, and we shall certainly have snow. In fact the snow was coming down a fair bit as I left the flat this morning and made my way to East Croydon station where the wind was blowing the snow across the platforms and bitingly cold. I was glad to be on a train where the heating actually worked to be a sensible temperature to keep the wind out, and it was also good to be in work where it appeared to be at least reasonably warm too.

On the minus side, it had been a long Friday due to issues that we had had with a power surge - it had also taken out several businesses further North. After carrying out some initial investigation it was confirmed that it appeared that one of the controllers for the building management system had died, a fact confirmed by an engineer visit earlier in the day. It was good to be proven right but also good to document what had gone on and keep people informed as well, the very least that could be done really.

It was then a case of making sure that no trains were delayed on the way home and this time the heating was off, so was rather cold to say the least. The only positive I'm taking is that there at least appeared to be a train on time and I soon took a very brisk walk homewards. I did check the post box but still no ticket for the Arsenal game on Thursday that I've purchased, I'm getting a bit worried now to be honest because I don't want it to be a match day and find I've got no ticket to go with.

On the other side of things, I did also note that for backers only, the final high definition version of The Commodore Story is available to those that backed it (like me). I spent some time watching it tonight, and it effectively was a pretty good watch overall, catching up with those in America who looked at inventing the likes of the Vic-20, to game enthusiasts who enjoy what they do, to retro game musicians who also played their parts, so the likes of Rob Hubbard and Ben Daglish are on there..

It was also notable that I looked at O2 Priority to see about tickets for the Muppets thing in July. Plenty of tickets left, but with good reason. We're talking a mere £85 or £100 per ticket if you want to be anywhere near a decent view, and up in the gods would be £45, and that's not even including the booking fees. Well, unless I happen to win a couple of tickets, I won't be going, as much as I like the Muppets too - and so I'll instead just hum the theme tune as tune of the day instead..

Sunday 25th February - Annie's and Arsenal Conquered

The Love In My Heart and I got up, with Brian the cat wanting a fuss, treats and food, and we had ourselves some nice lighter breakfast and a coffee as the final moments of the Winter Olympics were on the telly. In fact we did see some of the closing ceremony, with the music being played out including a rocking version of "Winter" by Vivaldi including some traditional instruments and some rock guitars which sounded rather excellent, so tune of the day for me there. It was definitely good too that we had the British athletes there and Billy Morgan carrying the flag too.

We got ourselves changed and ready later and headed off on the tram into the city centre. It was a rather windy and cold afternoon so it was good to head off at Piccadilly, avoid all the Man U fans who were heading off to Old Trafford to face Chelski, and then walk around the Northern Quarter, be in a few little shops and off to the Abel Heywood pub for a well earned drink - I had this dark beer called Prague which really did taste nice and that was a good way to set off the afternoon together.

We walked around the Arndale Centre, down Cross Street and then to Annie's, a restaurant at the side of the Royal Exchange that we had been at before. It was good to be relaxed with a Black Sheep ale as well (although at almost £5, you do have to think of their profit margin on that!) and then our friends arrived, and off to a table we went. It was the Sunday lunch menu for us, and I did of course fancy the main of the Sunday Roast beef, along with a possible dessert. The Love ended up having the lamb, and our two friends had the beef, the same as me.

It was nice enough, and especially the sticky toffee pudding that I had for dessert afterwards, nice and warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream too, so that went down rather well really. It was gorgeous. That was good, and it was then a short walk uphill to Brown Street and to the new Beermoth bar. We'd walked past it a couple of times but this time it was good to go in. They had 17 ales, ten keg and seven cask, so that was us lot well satisfied, and they looked after the ale too, so good to have a natter and catch up further in there as the wind outside was growing further.

The time as ever went too quickly and it was soon time for me to head off, so it was a case of being able to walk with The Love to Piccadilly station and thankfully manage to get my seat on the 1735 departure before all the Man U fans got on and packed the train out. Chelski had actually got their own charter train and so their fans were all on that (sensible move) so that was good. We had to divert via Wilmslow and Stafford as there was a person hit by a train just north of Stoke on Trent, so it delayed by about twenty minutes getting into Euston.

I got home just at the tick of 9pm and so Channel 5+1 went on so I could watch the Carabao Cup final between Manchester City and Arsenal. I couldn't get a ticket for the game but it was well worth seeing us do the business, with a great lob in the first half from Sergio Agüero to open the scoring, followed in the second half by an excellent finish from Vincent Kompany which was good to see, and then a wonderful flowing move resulting with David Silva scoring the third, and meaning City are Carabao Cup champions, and the third time in five seasons that the League Cup has been ours. In fact we're now joint second for most wins. Yes.

Saturday 24th February - Moz in Leeds

It was nice to have a relaxed morning with The Love In My Heart this morning, and with Brian the cat playing out and being a happy little feline. We had some lovely breakfast, and got ourselves changed and ready for heading out in the early afternoon. We were going to head to the Fort in Cheetham Hill as The Love In My Heart still had some of her gift vouchers from Christmas to use, and they were the One For All cards which could be used in a number of places.

So we headed to Outfit, which has the likes of Dorothy Perkins, Top Shop, Warehouse etc all under one roof. It actually had some of the stuff reduced too and we both checked that just in case there was anything that The Love fancied, and actually there were two things she liked - a pair of shoes which were reduced by 30% (although we had to make sure that the discount was applied at the till because it wasn't originally) and then a pair of trousers which looked very smart too, so that went well.

Later on The Love headed off to get her hair cut, and I was heading off with my friend for the afternoon and evening. We had got tickets ages ago to go and see Morrissey at Leeds First Direct Arena, and even though it wasn't so cheap we felt it'd be a good time to go, not least on the back of the "Low In High School" album being very good. We were soon off along the M62 heading over the Pennines, and at junction 27 we headed off for the A62 and to a retail park close by which had a Pizza Hut, so that was our stop to have some tea at.

And in fact that was pretty busy to say the least - primarily because of the fact that a local Showcase Cinema was down the road, so we did well to get a seat. My friend had his usual margherita and I had the meat feast with barbecue sauce, which went down very nicely indeed. We do miss having the potato skins that they used to have though, so be good to see them back one day. It was good just to relax and chatter there and that meant we were all fed and ready before heading back along the A621, A58(M) and off into Leeds centre for the car park for the arena.

We headed down to the Merrion Centre for my friend to get some cash in case he fancied any merchandise later, and then off to Costa for a well earned brew. In fact it was good to be in there as even though the doors had opened at 6pm, we knew that realistically Moz wouldn't be on stage till later. In fact we had arrived inside the arena just inside 7pm, and we thought that support would be on at 8pm. Still nothing at 8.15pm but one of the lovely staff inside told us that there'd be a half hour video playing at 8.30pm with Morrissey on at 9pm. Sure enough at 8.30, video played with music videos and Top of the Pops appearances from the likes of Ramones, Human League, New York Dolls, tAtU, and so on, just ramping up the atmosphere a tad.

Morrissey came on at 9pm and it was an hour and forty minutes' worth of set. The good thing was that the band were pretty much the same who had recorded the recent album with him including long time collaborator Boz Boorer, so all good there. Starting off with an Elvis Presley cover was different, before heading into the new album territory with the likes of "I Wish You Lonely", "Jacky's Only Happy When She's Up on the Stage" and "Home Is A Question Mark" to set things off well. The flow of the show felt better than the rather below par Manchester Arena gig last time out.

The mood was of course increased greatly with a rather excellent version of "Suedehead" before then belting out a Smiths classic "I Started Something I Couldn't Finish" with the crowd all doing the "Typical me, typical me, typical me" line wonderfully. It really did set the tone for the show well, and later on two B-sides too, "Munich Air Disaster 1958" and a long favourite Moz track of mine "Jack the Ripper" - and perfectly interlocked with new album stuff such as "Who Will Protect Us From The Police?" and "I Bury The Living".

The set built really well and plenty got everyone going. Nice tribute to Chrissie Hynde with a version of "Back on the Chain Gang" and then the ace single "Spent The Day In Bed" (make that tune of the day as it's his best single in ages and really did get the crowd going well) before then going into classic song territory. A version of The Smiths' "How Soon Is Now?" with Boz Boorer doing the guitar part really well? Check. A nice rendition of another fave of mine "Hold On To Your Friends" too? Check. And a crowd favourite in "Everyday Is Like Sunday" to finish the main set? Check. Although I do wish he'd sing the "Every day is silent and grey" line instead of the "Quando quando quando" bull.

It was then back on stage for the brief encore but a killer version of "Irish Blood English Heart" to rouse the crowds one last time, then the lights came on and time to go home. As the t-shirts inside were a mere £25 (!) my friend spotted some sellers outside the venue and got a green "The Queen Is Dead" album cover t-shirt for a mere fiver instead, which would do the job nicely. It was a bit of a delay leaving the car park but the motorways were all quiet and I got back just after midnight, having had an excellent time. Morrissey was much better than last time and certainly for me well worth seeing on this tour if you get chance.

Friday 23rd February - Up North

It had been a busy day at work and once the day was done, it was off on the tube to Euston Square, and as I had a bit of time to spare before heading on the 1820 train to Manchester Piccadilly, it was time to head off to the Crown and Anchor pub close by and it was well worth me having a drink - namely the Thornbridge Brewery ale "I Love You Will You Marry Me" - a strawberry blonde which you could really taste the fruit in, and that was gorgeous. It was a bit nippy outside and I was sat there because it wasn't so warm inside, and it was then heading off to Euston itself.

I noted that the concourse was busy, this was due to the 1800 being cancelled - so my 1820 train would have more people on it, although as it's still a peak time train, not as many as I'd hopefully expect. I had managed to get my seat though and was soon joined by a family making their way home from the capital after having a few days' worth of exploring London. The father was sat next to me and we had a good natter about what they'd been up to and all sorts, so that did make the journey pass by quicker.

It was a little bit delayed getting into Manchester Piccadilly due to the extra stop at Macclesfield (that the 1800 would have made) but it was all good in the end, and as I came out of the station, The Love In My Heart was at the car park and so it was a case of getting in and heading off. We were having Chinese tonight and so we headed to the usual one near The Love's place - but it was closed. I suspected that with it being Chinese New Year last weekend, the family who run it may have had a holiday, so it was up the road to the next nearest one, Golden Dragon.

Back at The Love's we had tea and it went down nicely. I had the crispy shredded chicken in a sweet chilli sauce, which was nice - and The Love had beef in satay sauce. In both cases, plenty of meat so no skimping, and generous portions of egg fried rice to go with it. And of course some prawn crackers to add, which was a bonus. Brian the cat likes little pieces of prawn cracker so he was happy having a little extra snack as we enjoyed the tea and caught up together.

We then snuggled up to watch Gogglebox on Channel 4, which very touchingly was in memory of Leon Bernicoff who passed away a few months back. It was good to see some familiar faces back passing comment on some of the TV shows, and also it was excellent that they did feature "24 Hours in Police Custody" which had an unusual twist - one of the police officers was actually doing blackmailing of the public from their desk! The gasps from the watchers were genuine. And "In A Perfect World" by Kodaline is tune of the day- it's just grown up to be the proper theme tune.

Thursday 22nd February - A Very Special Duke Special

It was nice to be able to go to my first gig of the year in the evening - and indeed this would be the first of two gigs in the space of three days. It was therefore off on the Hammersmith and City line from work - albeit it would be, apart from the fact that the tube platforms, even for the evening peak, were massively overcrowded with people. It turned out this was due to a signal failure having a knock on effect and causing all sorts of nightmare scenarios for people, so they had closed the barriers at the station to stop everyone piling on, and I was already on the platform.

Sure enough though I was able to get onto a tube and head west on the line, and via Edgware Road, Paddington and then across West London and seeing the remains of Grenfell Tower (always a sobering sight that) before then skirting round the outside of the old BBC headquarters and Westfield to Shepherd's Bush Market, which was closer to the venue of Bush Hall where I was going. I did feel the need for food and thankfully along the way there was a Domino's pizza with seats inside, so I got a deal for one with a pizza and a small garlic bread which did the honours nicely.

There was a queue at Bush Hall to get in, but once in I headed to the bar where they had bottles of ale, mainly from one local brewery and so I went for the Notting Hill Amber. It was actually pretty nice, although at £5 per bottle not exactly the cheapest either, so definitely well worth savouring the one. It was all set up with unreserved seats, with enough room for a grand piano along with an old gramophone on the stage, and all the wonderful decor that is a 1930s music hall, lovingly maintained that way and feeling rather intimate.

The support of Blue Rose Code were on first, and a mixture of songs either acoustic, or played by piano, and very nice too. Ross Wilson, who effectively is Blue Rose Code, had a really good voice and that certainly helped with the warm intimate feel of the songs. A fair number were from his recent album "The Water Of Leith" including the likes of "Ebb and Flow". He also had adapted some poetry to music which really did sound folky and nice in the room too. I'm going to have to check that album out I reckon.

Later on came Duke Special - and Peter Wilson (who is Duke) was wonderful as ever live. Concentrating in part from the new album "Hallow" inspired by the poetry of the Belfast poet Michael Longley, it was lovely to hear the new stuff played live such as "Grace Darling", "A Questionnaire for Walter Mitty" and "Lena" which sounded just nice with just a piano being played, and really cosy. Of course, it wouldn't be a show from him without playing some of the classics which the diehard fans would love, so it was wonderful to hear "Freewheel" with just the piano - very lovely.

In fact the whole hour and three quarters' worth of show was a lovely mix of the old and the new, with more tracks from "Hallow" as well, and the old stuff. What sounded gorgeous was "Last Night I Nearly Died" so that's tune of the day as well as the wonderful "Ballad of a Broken Man" too. At the end he absolutely hammered the piano belting out "Salvation Tambourine" complete with rather dramatic end as he went "I could go! I could go!" and that really did close the night with suitable aplomb.

It was a pretty cold back to Shepherd's Bush railway station as I walked along Uxbridge Road the green, then on the train to Clapham Junction and managed a quick three minute change to get the fast train back to East Croydon. I had the songs from the night in my head as I walked the remaining way homewards, and that was nice as I headed to bed, safe in the knowledge that I was going to see The Love In My Heart tomorrow and have a lovely weekend.

Wednesday 21st February - Hurry Hard!

It was nice to have had a good night's sleep, but even better having got up in the morning and found out that the British women's curling team had won their final group game 6-5 over Canada, which meant that they had qualified for the semi finals and had also dumped the Canadians out of the competition at the same time. It did boil down to the final end and the final stone, but Eve Muirhead was more than equal to the task to be perfectly honest, with the calls of "Line's good!" and "Hurry hard!" for the sweepers.

On the other flip side of that, the men's team were taking a bit of a battering at the hands of the USA, meaning that after a few bad shots and some tactical errors, they were going to have to face Switzerland in a play off to determine who would qualify. That would be tense overnight tonight and I can see plenty of people burning the midnight to 3am oil or so to watch it due to the time differences between South Korea and here. On a positive note though, the women's two woman bobsleigh team finished eighth, the best position ever by a female British team in that event, pretty good stuff.

I did have a pretty productive day at work, mainly sorting out a moving of things. Previously, the source folder for the SCCM based install was on the same server as our SCCM server, which was a decision made before I started. Realistically with a number of packages and applications residing well within SCCM, it was sensible to look at moving that source folder elsewhere, and than amending the packages and applications that refer the old location to refer to the new one.

In fact, a bit of research showed a nice Powershell GUI script written by someone to do the masses of that, which would just look at the source search text, replace with the destination text, and leave the rest as is, which worked really well. It did of course mean I did a few at a time primarily because that the content, especially for packages, would be re-uploaded to the distribution point afterwards, so far so good. Of course with a fair number of those, it was a case of taking the time out to get it sorted.

So.. one final thing. If you do move the source folder for your custom bootable media and WIM files, and it's not on your site server, make sure that the computer account of the site server has sufficient rights to the new folder. This is so that if you want to be able to add the boot images, or update them with the newest WinPE image from the ADK and all the other stuff, you won't get an SMS Error 5 or any other error. This worked really well for me so I could successfully use the current WinPE image but with its revised source location. Awesomeness.

I had a nice relaxing evening mainly sorting out the remainder of my pictures from my visit to Hampton Court Palace over the weekend. It was good to see that they turned out well, and I think the nice sunny Winter day we had definitely helped, which is something I agreed with The Love In My Heart earlier. It was nice to hear that the cat Brian was all well and having a play outside, and Squeeze's "Cool For Cats" sprang to mind, so that is tune of the day.

Tuesday 20th February - Hair Cut and Selling Well

It was time to get the hair cut, and checking the barbers' website, it appeared to be down for a remake. This is primarily as they now have a second branch of their business which has just opened up in Tooting Market, as well as having their existing base in Wimbledon Park. A quick tweet to them sorted out that they were open late enough for me, and so was going to be setting off on my usual tube journeys. Except... I wasn't. I got to Farringdon and there were huge delays on the Hammersmith and City, plus the Circle, so getting to Edgware Road might be a tad difficult.

So instead it was a quick Plan B - get the Thameslink train to Sutton via Wimbledon and then from there the District Line the other way to Wimbledon Park. The train was busy but did manage to get a seat, good job too as it was rammed all the way to Tulse Hill before emptying out a little and then a bit more at Wimbledon itself, and then going the other way to the tube platforms at peak time.. not always pretty. I made it fine though and arrived at the barbers around a similar time to my usual route, so all was quite well there really.

I had the hair cut with their usual excellence, and was nice to chat to the bloke doing my hair and his previous customer about the Winter Olympics, notably the likes of the curling, skeleton et al. The last couple of mornings the matches have been coming to a conclusion so I've been able to watch them before I leave for work, so that's good. There was only one member of staff in so took a little time, but was worth it as I felt better afterwards. And then onwards via Wimbledon to home, albeit having to switch trams at Mitcham Junction due to an early termination of the tram I was on at Therapia Lane.

I then was keeping a keen eye on some of the items I had put on eBay as part of my small clearout of band t-shirts that don't fit me anymore and DVDs I don't watch. In fact four out of the six t-shirts did sell, one of which appeared to have a bidding war and went for much more than I expected: not that I mind of course. I did thankfully have all the packing stuff available so was able to get all the postage paid for, organised and in the letter box for 11pm, so it meant it'd go the next day no problem. In fact, I can see a couple of potential sales tomorrow too, so that'll be good.

For me at least it's definitely good to be able to sort that all out, and although inevitably final value fees will creep in a bit, with it being free listings currently it was good to take advantage of that. I think too that for me a periodic clear out is good - keeps everywhere free of clutter and also means that I can ensure that I don't have masses of stuff to be hoarding round should I decide to move flat one day - I do love the flat I am renting, but sometimes as well less is more. Tune of the day is by one of the bands which t-shirt I've sold, "Just One Fix" by Ministry. That is still a bloody good tune.

Monday 19th February - Will Grigg's On Fire

It was a case of settling in front of the telly tonight as my Manchester City headed the short distance across Lancashire and over to the DW Stadium to play Wigan Athletic away in the fifth round of the FA Cup. I had predicted the draw and we'd get them away, and the last two times we played them in the cup, we lost the final in 2013 with them scoring a last minute winner, and then lost to them again at home in the sixth round. Omens were not good and of course Will Grigg likes scoring in this competition to say the least - you've probably heard the chant to the tune of "Free From Desire" by Gala (make that original tune of the day for inspiring said chant)

So it was on with BBC1 and the game kicked off, City attacking to the right. It was a case of coming at Wigan in waves with them defending heroically well, getting stuck in, battling for the ball and having Grigg up front as an outlet for them to use. It was a blow for them when Nick Powell went off injured, but his replacement I thought was doing pretty well. It got towards half time and City pressed forward, got a corner, and looked to attack it. As the ball was cleared, Fabian Delph went in for a challenge, and made contact high with Max Power of Wigan. I feared the worst.

The referee Anthony Taylor got out the yellow card, but then was using that to write Delph's name on before getting out the red card to send him off. Even though I know the challenge was daft and was only inviting the referee to make a decision, I think him getting out the yellow card first was what probably incensed the fans who were there - and indeed our manager Pep Guardiola who lost it a little bit and was getting heated with the Wigan Athletic manager Paul Cook.

So the second half, we bring on Kyle Walker and sacrifice Leroy Sané to make it a 4-4-1 formation effectively. City were still attacking but with no breakthrough, the final ball being defended heroically. We bring on Kevin de Bruyne and within minutes we can see what we might have been better starting with - defence splitting passes, taking players on and generally making the defending seem more last ditch. But I had a feeling that if Wigan had one chance, they would score, and that might be all that they needed.

And sure enough, it did happen. A ball was played down the left, Kyle Walker left it thinking it was offside but wasn't, and then was involved in a race which he lost against Will Grigg. To be fair, the Wigan striker carried on and remained the calmest player on the pitch to slot it past Claudio Bravo in the City net. Wigan were 1-0 up, the fans understandably going mental, the chant starts in earnest, buzzing atmosphere for them for sure. City were just not able to find a breakthrough despite all the efforts.

As time ticked into injury time part of me did think we might snatch one and get a replay, but as the corners came over with Claudio Bravo up to try and cause some confusion, and with defenders heading goalwards but with nothing doing, that was that. We were out of the FA Cup and Wigan Athletic had beaten us again - fast becoming a bogey team. It was upsetting but for me, it's about being magmanimous in defeat - they took their chance, we didn't take our chances, and it was a hard earned win for them. We'll move on to the League Cup final on Sunday and then back to back league games against Arsenal and Chelsea, going to be a tough week that. But fair play to Wigan.

Sunday 18th February - Shopping on Sunday

It was nice just to get up and relax a fair bit, and then make some nice breakfast for The Love In My Heart and myself, and that went down nicely. In fact I'd added more mushrooms and fried them nicely, and of course what went down well was the rather nice sausages, bacon and scrambled egg too, so that was a good start to the day. We got ourselves showered, changed and ready and after seeing a bit of the curling in the Olympics coverage during the morning, we decided to head off into the centre of Croydon for some shopping.

In fact we both had gift cards for various shops that we still had from Christmas. The Love and I first went into Debenhams and had a good mooch around there, and spotted a top that she liked from just after Christmas but wanted to see if it was reduced, and it wasn't, but still looked good. We then went into House of Fraser, which also had an Oasis concession, and saw the very same top, but all laden with hangers that said 20% off. That was good and so The Love got that one all sorted, so she was most pleased.

After heading round more shops later I went into HMV and used my gift card I'd had from Christmas to good effect - the new Franz Ferdinand album "Always Ascending" had come out, so got that, and also Midge Ure's "Orchestrated" album from the back end of last year, which was a case of rearranging some of his solo and Ultravox classics with string accompaniments. And does it work? Hell, yeah it does. I had a good listen to it later on and tune of the day is the awesome "Man of Two Worlds" from that album.

After shopping we headed back to mine, I saw the remainder of the two man bobsleigh second heat with the British team doing pretty decent in seventh place, and then we headed off towards central London. Because of engineering work between Clapham Junction and Victoria, we took a different route, so it was off to London Bridge and then taking the Northern Line tube to Euston. Once at Euston I collected the tickets for her next journey down, and we went off for lunch at the Crown and Anchor.

That was of course lovely, lots of nice food and drink there. They had the Skinners Porthleven Ale, so I could have Cornish ale, ooh yes, and they still had the beef and amber ale pie, so again that was rather nice for me to enjoy, so did so with suitable aplomb. The Love had the Sunday roast pork, all good there, and in fact I also had the seasonal Thornbridge ale, "I Love You, Will You Marry Me?" which was a gorgeous strawberry blonde ale, even The Love quite liked it when she tried it, and she is not an ale person.

It was a lots of hugs and a few nice kisses for us both when we arrived back at Euston, and I didn't want her to go really, but knew that when she got home she'd have Brian the cat to give her a love and cuddle. I'd had such a wonderful weekend and it meant a lot for us both to have some good times together. I think for me it shows too that distance doesn't block love provided you work at it, and we both really have shown that to be true. I can't wait to see her again and soon!!

Saturday 17th February - Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace

So today The Love In My Heart and I were off to Hampton Court Palace, a place I'd never been to but wanted to go to, and The Love had been when she was little. I'd booked the tickets in advance during the week as we knew it'd be cheaper booking online and would save queues at the ticket office on the day, and of course the hedge maze was one thing that I also wanted to do, so a good idea all round really. We'd got up and had some bacon on toast for breakfast and a coffee, and we were all set to head off to East Croydon and on to the train.

In fact we'd set of a few minutes earlier than planned and that worked out well - due to a level crossing accident further down the line, some of the trains were delayed and so we managed to get one to Clapham Junction that itself had been delayed. It was busy but we did at least get a seat, so that was good, and once at Clapham Junction we were on the same island platform - we got off at 12, 11 next to it on the same bit, so nice easy change, and although we'd arrived at Clapham earlier, it wasn't too long before we headed on the 1115 departure to Hampton Court station, all the way in Zone 6, which meant some of my pay as you go balance was used (I have a Zone 1-5 travelcard you see...) For The Love, not going through Zone 1 meant a mere £2.90 fare each way for the journey which is pretty good considering the distance travelled.

We soon crossed the bridge over the River Thames and followed the main path past the ticket office and off to the loo before then going in to the main entrance to Hampton Court Palace. The square was fascinating enough but there were various places to explore straight away, and so we went for the Henry VIII apartments, which were stunning, especially the great hall. It was good to walk through and get a feeling of how it would have been to have been king here. In fact other parts of the apartments were equally sumptuous. We did also pass through the upper part of the chapel where the crown of Henry VIII was on display, and no photography was allowed, which I thought was fair enough, especially as pictures without flash were allowed elsewhere.

We also walked through the changing times to the Georgian Story, showing how history in that era changed the decoration of parts of the palace, and that was really fascinating, especially the state bed, the Queen's Guard Chamber, and the designs of clothing that were on display too. We had also come down from there to the fountain court, and walked around to the chapel, which did feel rather grand and holy. We both lit a candle in there before we left, and in silence as befitting the place, and we'd also explored the chocolate kitchens as well which were fascinating.

All of that walking had meant we'd felt a little lunch was on offer so near the chapel was one of the cafés inside, the Privy Kitchen Café. We had a soup each which was actually pretty nice, full of vegetables and very hearty, with a drink, and it was good to sit and relax for a while before seeing more of the palace. It was next on to the William III apartments, which were also wonderful to see, especially some of the grand bedchambers, rooms with tapestries, and the long orangery which in fact felt more like a long gallery, and certainly a rather wonderful view with the light of the Winter sunshine shining through.

We headed back to the Fountain Court and it was through to the gardens outside, and we followed the path to the Privy Gardens, which were lowered so that the River Thames could be seen from the end of the gardens. That and the very large hedge tunnel were rather lovely, as were the rose gardens next door which included the world's largest vine, the Great Vine, which takes up the whole of a garden space with its vine twisting this way and that. We headed back to the Great Fountain Garden and spotted in Home Park beyond all the deer running around close to The Long Water, which was lovely to see, as was the fountain garden itself.

We also saw the Young Henry VIII exhibition which was good insight into the history of the younger monarch and how he developed over time with a desire to bear a son as an heir to the throne, and from there we also walked across the Clock Court and Base Court to see the Henry VIII kitchens, which were good to see preserved. It also seemed like they adored pies back in the day - everywhere seemed to have a pie in an oven of some description! In fact that was pretty good and we headed back out of the main entrance, and along the side gardens for a good reason..

The maze! We simply had to do it, and the palace ticket we got included the cost of admission to the maze into that (the maze itself is around £6 alone) and so we followed the tall hedges around, doubling back on ourselves a few times and following paths going round until after some time we then reached the centre, which had a good idea - a constructed frame you could stand behind and have a picture taken to prove you had conquered the maze - and of course I had to do that! It was excellent, and was a nice end to the visit for us both.

We walked back out of the front entrance and across the road to the Mute Swan pub for a well earned drink. In fact it was still quite sunny outside and not that cold so we had our drink outside - I had the rather gorgeous Binghams Macchiato Stout ale which was a dark ale with coffee and vanilla in it, and really did warm the inside of me nicely. In fact it was good just to sit and watch the world go by and then explore the little shops in the high street over the river on the East Molesey side before heading for the train back.

The train was very busy but we'd worked out where to get on and get a seat, and certainly by Wimbledon it was mega rammed, why only a four carriage train I have no idea. Still we swapped over at Clapham Junction and got the train back to East Croydon and that was nice and surprisingly quiet, so we got back and later on I made us some tea - the rather nice chicken in cabernet sauvignon with some dauphinoise potatoes, peas, leeks and pancetta, which went down nicely. In fact we snuggled up together, The Love caught up with Coronation Street and I indulged her further with The Voice too, which she enjoyed a lot. I did see Match of the Day later for the FA Cup bits.

However, the good news in the Winter Olympics which we saw the highlights of was that as well as getting bronze in the ski slopestyle thanks to Izzy Atkin, we'd also had the third and fourth runs of skeleton. Laura Deas did well on her fourth run, with then the German athlete Jacqueline Lölling and fellow Brit Lizzy Yarnold overtaking her, with Lizzy setting a track record. However, the Austrian leader Janine Flock had an awful fourth run which meant she lost bronze to Laura Deas by two hundredths of a second, so Britain had a 1-3 in that event. Three medals was pretty ace to be honest, and tune of the day is "Gold" by Spandau Ballet, which was played as the coverage went back to the BBC studio...

Friday 16th February - Friday Food Feast

It was good to be off work today and to get everything nice and ready and tidy for when The Love In My Heart would arrive later on. I changed the bedding, washed the other bedding, and had a general sort out. I also had time to head off to IKEA as I wanted to use the gift card I had. It was pretty busy in there overall and so I got some breakfast whilst in there (and free coffee as a Family Card holder) before then getting myself the Dragon cutlery set, so I've got a nice new set now which just looked the part and all stainless steel too.

I spent time watching the Winter Olympics including the first two runs of the women's skeleton, where the British women did well - Lizzy Yarnold was third and Laura Deas fourth after the first two runs but there was nothing in it, and some clean final runs tomorrow would help. I have to say that in terms of presenting, it's much better when Hazel Irvine takes over during the afternoon, she's the consummate professional and good to have her back on the telly - Clare Balding's getting a little annoying at times for me, and I suspect I am not the only one to think that.

Later on it was off to East Croydon train station to meet up with The Love In My Heart, and it was of course nice to have a hug at the station. She had had a good journey down, and we headed back to mine and had a chilled out afternoon. I'd printed off some information for her that she was after, as she is changing Internet providers and waiting for the new router, and also we checked out the train times for tomorrow's day out too. It was nice though just to have a coffee, take things easy and then see a bit of Pointless before getting ourselves showered and ready to head out.

The Love looked gorgeous in her Ted Baker jumper, lovely trousers and heels, and I had my new Pretty Green shirt on, and so we were off to Bagatti's in Croydon's Restaurant Quarter in the South End. I'd wanted to go here for some time and had booked the Friday night table as a nice meal out for us both - as I mentioned ealier, for us Valentine's Day is just another day and we love each other all the time, not just on one day where everyone goes over the top. It was a nice leisurely walk down and we were soon at our table, further back and away from some of the larger tables, with comfy seating and friendly attentive staff.

The food was simply lovely and both The Love and I really enjoyed the whole time there. I had the oxtail soup to start, with plenty of meat and seasoning in the soup, and The Love had the deep fried mozzarella with ham inside too, and that looked rather good. For the main, she had one of the specials, which was lamb in a lovely sauce and some mashed potato and really did look good - and the spaghetti carbonara I had was right up there with the best I've had - plenty of pancetta, nice creamy sauce and soft spaghetti too. In fact I even had a little combo of a capuccino with a small slice of tiramisu for afterwards and that was gorgeous. I can highly recommend going there if you live in the area - the fact that every table was full tells you all you need to know!

We headed back to mine later on and we had some beer and wine whilst relaxing with some Top of the Pops from 1985 on BBC Four that had been shown earlier in the evening. It was excellent, especially Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" so that's tune of the day. In fact it was good to be able to take things relatively easy and then settle down to sleep later with a nice day ahead of us tomorrow. I do like it when The Love arrives earlier for a weekend together, makes it just that little bit nicer...

Thursday 15th February - All Systems Go

So it was a positive and productive day today, as I managed to get some testing done in conjunction with one of my colleagues on one of the Azure AD instances and accounts. Effectively, we've been asked to ensure that they can communicate with our ServiceNow instance, and so it was sensible to carry out some testing on the test system first to ensure it works. Once we'd got the original config working from the Azure side, which meant that Microsoft's instructions weren't as good as ServiceNow was.

We'd managed to work to ensure that the Azure AD config for the single sign on provider is present, and then it just a case of ensuring that the Azure portal and apps, when you click on ServiceNow, was able to use that sign in accordingly and not the default one. There was thankfully a good way to do so - once the Azure AD configuration is set, there's a sys_id variable in ServiceNow. Use that along with the instance URL and the single sign on to reference the sys_id - so the latter part after your instance URL is as follows- /<sys_id of the sso configuration> - and once done, you can use that for when users click to ensure they use the correct sign on provider.

I got my Server Team colleague to ensure that the Azure AD side was amended on there, and gave that a go using the URL directly and also from the Azure apps portal, and both worked, really well. I have to admit that was pleasing to see and anything like that where the configuration needs to be set right and is done correctly always works well when done. In fact the latter using the URL was key, because it means that if you do use a default sign on provider (as we often do for our main AD domain users) you can still do so without issues, which is what we want.

I got home later and it was good to kick back and watch some highlights of the Winter Olympics on the BBC Red button, meaning I'm not up at stupid o'clock to watch it. I have to admit that the snowboard cross has been a favourite of mine for some time and the men's competition was a dramatic conclusion with the semis having falls a plenty and the final really showing off how much you need to be aware of the surroundings at all times - so well worth a watch that was.

In fact as the men's downhill had also been finally run after weather delays it was a wonderful effort from some of the leading skiers, but really good to see Aksel Lund Svindal finally nail a gold medal and really did a perfect run, taking suitable risks but carrying the speed down the mountain and showing what he could do. And with Kjetil Jansrud second it was an epic one two for Norway, and certainly well worth celebrating for them. Tune of the day is the theme from Ski Sunday, the classic "Pop Looks Bach" by Sam Fonteyn - the proper theme tune and indeed the presenter and skier Graham Bell has it as his phone ringtone!

Wednesday 14th February - Feeling The Love

Actually, I should make a very important point at the start of today's entry. It's simply this: if you love someone, you love them every day, and not just today. I for one am always conscious of the fact that it's not always about the huge grandiose gestures, the overpriced special "set menus" at restaurants, and how all of a sudden every supermarkets has an influx of flowers for you to buy everywhere (or posh chocolates and so on). It's in fact about all the little things that you do together as a couple that makes you both the couple you are, the little glances at each other, the holding of hands when you walk together, and plenty more besides.

The Love In My Heart and I are pretty good at getting a card which basically tells us how we both feel, without being over the top. In fact we'd swapped cards at the weekend ready to open today, and The Love's card was wonderful - it was a nice handmade card from a craft and design shop in the Northern Quarter in Manchester, with a simple message you could have sent at any time and looks unique and classy. That's all we do though, we get a card, but anything else we do at weekends etc are the stuff we do normally and have a nice time together, so there you go.

I actually decided instead to listen to some classic David Bowie, namely the album The Next Day, primarily because there is a track there "Valentine's Day" which is tune of the day - but of course being Bowie, it's anything but romantic, oh no, it's quite sharp and full of some gorgeous guitars from the band playing with him. It showed just how good the album was, and it's a track used in the Lazarus musical too, expertly sung on that. Definitely well worth watching the video to get more of the feel for it, and the way David uses the guitar almost as a weapon says how opposed he was to America's gun laws. A bold statement to make.

As for today, I was feeling the love for some tablets that I was looking at to see if they'd take our Windows 10 image and work with all the stuff such as Bitlocker. And, they did! In fact it was a case of for some reason it not liking the usual WMI criteria for Win32_Battery to determine a laptop during the WinPE phase, despite every other laptop and tablet doing so, so had to specifically add a WMI query in for that. That said though it did work rather nicely with pre-provisioning after that, and it was then just a case of testing out the driver package and other goodness. I'll do some more stuff tomorrow but in theory it should work nicely.

I had a good think about some planning for the next few weeks and so definitely will be looking at some ideas to go forward, but what was nice was that I had a couple of people commenting on a feature I did for our internal comms team, which was "A minute in the lift with.." where you answer a number of questions. I was surprised more so because some people actually have the same music taste as me, a definitely unexpected bonus that so that really does make me smile!

Tuesday 13th February - Upgrading

So today was the day that I got to do the SCCM upgrade to version 1710. All had appeared well during the testing with the test server last week and in addition, I had been doing plenty of maintenance yesterday so that it was all prepared and ready to go for the upgrade. It was a case of ensuring no one was logged on to the server, and then getting everything all set for 0900, and all was good to go. It's always nice to be able to do all the pre-requisite checks and know that all is good before hitting the "Install update pack" button.

Naturally, with a version upgrade, it's a considerable wait to get things done, and being able to keep an eye on the log files, follow the in-console update status and generally be able to monitor everything is always useful. It's more so when you then are waiting for the components to relaunch when sitecomp.log is being populated showing all of those being done. In fact the whole upgrade took just under three hours which was pretty good, and I then needed to update the slightly customised boot image that we use too.

I did do an OS deployment of our Windows 10 build and that went well, however two colleagues had an issue with laptops during the section that handles the BIOS to UEFI conversion steps for the disk and the UEFI BIOS settings etc. In fact the step we use sets the special TSUEFIDrive variable and formats the disk that way, with a small enough partition to mount the WinPE volume. Except because of the new boot disk it appeared not to be big enough and crash out. Soon managed to work out that and amend the step, all good.

So that as a positive, and indeed when I got home I decided to do some sorting out of my own: BT decided not to make the BT Sport Lite package free anymore and upped it to £3.50 for just the app access to BT Sport 1. For me it's not worth it because I'm often at the games that they show live involving Man City, and also their pundits slag City off a heck of a lot, so can't be meithered with that. I however saw nowhere whatsoever on the website to be able to click a few things just to cancel them so was massively annoyed by that.

So I decided instead to head to the live chat and managed to speak to someone online that way. Not only was I eventually able to cancel the BT Sport part of it all, but they also mentioned that most likely they could re-arrange my contract for the broadband and phone, and managed to do so for a fair bit less, which meant that overall I'd be saving in total around a tenner a month! Not too bad, and shows that if you are assertive and complain politely, then you are able to get yourself a better deal with less hassle. Result.

And talking of results, it may only be half time in the Champions League football, but what a first half from Manchester City, and yet another goal from Sergio Agüero thrown in, so 3-0 at half time and that's what I call a performance. As former City player Pablo Zabaleta said the other day, Sergio scores when he wants, and so true, it's now 198 for him and two off the magic 200 which would be awesome to get - and he may do so on Monday night at Wigan in the FA Cup. Tune of the day therefore is the classic Manchester City anthem "The Boys In Blue" - because they never give in. So true.

Monday 12th February - Clearing Out Clothes

It was a day to work from home today - I was asked to primarily because at work they'd decided to have a Bring Your Child To Work Day, and they wanted as many people as possible to work from home so that there was enough space in the office for the parents and children who were coming in to be able to work together. It did make sense and that also did mean an extended weekend of sorts because I wouldn't have to face the trains into work and also be able to get up a little later, so not really that much complaint from me really.

In fact it allowed me to do a fair amount of maintenance prior to the SCCM planned upgrade tomorrow, so was able to have a look at some of the things I wanted to do, such as run some reports and check over some of the running threads to see if there was anything causing issues. I also did run a report which found that some users were still using Dropbox where they shouldn't, so that has been suitably reported on. In fact it was good to also see the usage of some of the main applications and be able to get those sorted, so was definitely worth me doing.

I also had worked out a couple of whys and wherefores to do with one of the distribution points - it appeared to have two lots of legacy content for the same package and this was due to a distribution failure with the content library. Thankfully there's some tools to sort that so was able to get that all neat and tidy, and then do a cleanup, meaning nice smooth stuff for tomorrow. One final thing was that I'd discovered a couple of minor MP_Relay issues but also sorted that out because it was to do with one package being enabled for on-demand distribution in error - a simple untick, sorted.

Talking of sorting out, with some new clothes I've now got I thought it was a good moment to check the wardrobe and the cupboards and get rid of clothes that I don't wear anymore. It was a good opportunity to think "Do I wear that? No!" and decide on a plan of action. As some of the band t-shirts I have aren't easy to get hold of, I might even consider selling them on eBay as they're still in good condition,the print hasn't come off, and in some cases don't fit me because they're the wrong size.

I later on headed to Sainsburys in Selsdon as they have two clothes recycling points there, so had a bag full to put in, and once that was done I nipped in there and picked up some Tassimo pods whilst they were on offer - the Americano Grande, the Kenco Colombian and the L'Or Latte Macchiato with Caramel, all three totalling less than a tenner, which is pretty much a result all round really. It was good to get all that sorted too and have a nice rewarding coffee from the Tassimo afterwards, with Body Count's "Black Hoodie" tune of the day to kick some proverbial backside into the evening.

Sunday 11th February - Sunday Sort Out and Shoot Out

It was nice to have a relaxing lie in with The Love In My Heart, and Brian the cat was allowing The Love to tickle his tummy which to me says a lot - he feels happy and content. We got up and had a really nice breakfast before we got showered and ready to head out for the afternoon. Of course the Olympics were on which meant whilst The Love was getting ready I was watching the third round of the luge - which looked as testing as ever. What I didn't find out till later was that the leader and favourite Felix Loch had mucked up the final run and missed out on a gold medal!

After a quick visit to see one of The Love's relatives in their new flat and ensuring that some of the time was spent getting a few things sorted, it was then off via the city centre and to Mum's. Mum had done the Windows 10 new update as it had kept nagging her to do so, and afterwards the touchpad right hand side scroll wasn't working. She uses that quite a lot as she finds it easier with her hands, and so moving the mouse to the right and clicking the scrollbar wasn't ideal either.

So I'd done my research and found that a high number of users had the same problem, often with Synaptics touch pads, which was one on Mum's laptop. I therefore managed to go to Device Manager, change the driver back to the Synaptics one, restart the laptop and all appeared well, the scroll bar came back and that was rather nice. It meant we could have a natter with Mum and her friend, and it was a nice relaxed early afternoon. I always think it's good to get things sorted.

Later on The Love and I headed off to the Elizabethan pub in Heaton Moor for Sunday lunch. I had the steak and ale pie and a pint of the new JW Lees stout which was rather good to go with it. The Love had the Sunday roast pork which had masses of vegetables to go with it, which was a lot! It was good to enjoy the lunch and be chilled out together, and even more so as Manchester United had lost 1-0 at Newcastle United and so that meant my beloved City were sixteen points clear at the top of the league. Yes, sixteen points!!

It was a sad farewell at Piccadilly as I left The Love and off to the 1735 departure back to London Euston. No issues with trains all the way home and got home in good time for the remainder of the snooker shoot out on ITV4, with some very close games - especially the blue ball shootout between Joe Perry and Mark Davis in the quarter final. Michael Georgiou won his first ever ranking event beating Graeme Dott in a great final, really close and tense at the end, and that was mightily good to see. As for tune of the day it has to be something snow related due to the snow falling in Manchester during the day: "Into The White" by Pixies.

Saturday 10th February - Fourmidable

It was really nice snuggling up to The Love In My Heart and indeed Brian the cat too - he was lying down on the end of the bed all cuddly and was happy to have a fuss too. Later on when I got up he was looking out of the window so I went to give him a kiss, and instead he went for a swipe at me. Oops, timed that one wrong! He can get quite defensive where The Love's concerned but also I suspect he had spotted something outside that he was going to chase after. For a big cat, he does have a fast paw speed that has to be said!

We had breakfast and was keeping an eye on the Winter Olympics, so plenty of curling and luge were on. The luge to us both looked massively dangerous of course but it showed just how much you have to be accurate and that's something to behold - not skimming the edge by millimetres makes a massive difference. Of course, one of the British ones decided to go down at the start and hit the sides which was effectively game over before even the first corner. It did also look like they need more funding for a better sled to be able to get a reasonable time as the other British competitor had the right lines but just not the kit.

It was lovely just being with The Love and later on I headed off on the bus to my friend's place, as he wanted me to check over some stuff with their Internet and his PC. It proved to be a successful mission all round - we were able to identify all the devices on the network, ensure that the smart TV was able to connect to the Internet, and then also be able to see what if anything was affecting stuff. In fact I suspected that some of the websites he was using for streaming wasn't up to it, as the likes of Youtube, BBC News, iPlayer etc were all good.

I did also manage to sort out a Bluetooth headset issue - it was mainly due to a combination Intel card that has wireless and bluetooth - the wireless drivers were up to date but Bluetooth was using the standard Microsoft drivers, not the Intel ones. I got those updated, paired the headset up, and that was all good, so once you selected the device and clicked "use this device" it was the default audio device, all the audio worked, my friend was happy, excellent.

The two of us then headed off to the Etihad for the Manchester City v Leicester City game. Traditionally this has been a tricky fixture for us, and the main news before kick off was that Riyad Mahrez had come back and was on the bench after a proposed transfer to us broke down. It definitely was going to be an intriguing game and the wind and rain certainly might be playing a factor, which we discussed over a brew and got ready for the action to unfold before us.

And unfold it did! A Kevin de Bruyne through ball found Raheem Sterling for 1-0 inside two minutes, and then Leicester pressed and Jamie Vardy (who else?) equalised midway through the first half. It was of course a tense rest of the half to half time but we both suspected that there were more goals to come, especially as we'd had a few chances. The wind and rain had stopped for a while so I knew that it was going to be a case of taking advantage as we attacked, and so it proved.

Within three minutes, de Bruyne found Sergio Agüero with a gorgeous through ball and that was 2-1. The same two combined as a ball down the right found Agüero who blasted it past Kasper Schmeichel in the Leicester goal (he could have done better) for 3-1. And then a moment of hilarity that Schmeichel won't want to see again, he passed the ball to a defender not realising Agüero was going to intercept, and he chipped the ball cutely over the keeper into an empty net for 4-1 and his third hat trick of the season. But do you think he was done? No. In fact he saved the best till last, receiving the ball from Phil Foden and then smashing it from distance into the top of the net and at some pace - goal of the month contender for definite, and 5-1, a mightily impressive win!

I was obviously a little wet heading back to The Love's place later but mightily pleased, and she had got the Dine in for Two deal at Marks and Spencer, so we had that together with The Voice on in the background. The Thai fish cakes were rather nice, especially with the ginger and honey glaze, and then the main of the steak, triple cooked chips, vegetables and some extra mushrooms The Love had got was just gorgeous - we even had a glass of cava each. I also had the tarte au citron for dessert which was rather yummy too.

It was nice just to snuggle up and watch telly and we just felt that it was good to be together and all happy, having a drink and relaxing together. This is the sort of thing we've both missed for a time and what it tells me is that being together is a really wonderful and special thing, and the time we do have is quality time. Tune of the day is the lovely "So Sublime" by Beth Rowley, the title of which could have described Agüero's four goal haul, and also the happiness we feel being together. Just because!

Friday 9th February - Reunited

It's been a fair amount of time since I've been together with The Love In My Heart, and to say that I've missed her and Brian the cat is a master of understatement. My train was booked for 2040 tonight and that meant I could head home from work, have some tea, get my case, and head over to Euston later. That was the theory and normally that works pretty well - I was unable to book the 1820 or 1840 train which I'd prefer because of the cost in price, so that was something to note.

However, it seemed that Govia Thameslink Failway did everything in their power to stop me getting that train later. All trains Southbound from Thameslink from my work station were delayed. Admittedly this was due a passenger being taken ill at St Pancras, and I sincerely hope that they were okay, but there are crossover tracks before and after the station for trains to pass, so whilst some staff were seeing to the ill passenger, other staff could have helped direct trains through one track. As a result I got the tube to London Bridge and then got the train from there homewards.

This episode also shows the issues Thameslink have in general: their trains are fully driver only, no guards, so a guard could have got to the passenger quicker and administered some first aid, but also alerted station staff, control etc and made sure help was on hand when the train got to St Pancras. But also this does show the fragility of the "Core" as they call it between St Pancras and Blackfriars, one delay for any reason has a massive knock on effect all round and to try and increase the trains through here to 24 per hour will see more delays, I can guarantee it.

So I got home, had tea, all good, and set off a little earlier for the train to Victoria. Which of course was delayed heavily due to "congestion", most likely on the line because East Croydon station was fairly quiet. Everyone was then attempting to pile on a four car train when it arrived, and I just decided not to and get the train two minutes later, much quieter. This did mean due to 20 minutes or so of delays at East Croydon that I got to Victoria much later, and thankfully got to Euston in good time to be able to get my train up to Manchester. I felt mightily relieved to say the least.

It was a calm and relaxed journey on the train with the likes of Kraftwerk's "Trans-Europa Express" playing on the iPod (make that tune of the day) - and it was on time which was a good thing. I arrived at 2248 into Manchester Piccadilly and The Love In My Heart was there for me, and we had a hug and kiss in the car before she drove me back to her place, where plenty more hugs was on offer. Brian the cat was also sniffing around and unusuallly allowing me to stroke him and fuss which was nice. It had been a long day but finally getting to be with The Love In My Heart made it all worth it.

Thursday 8th February - The Bargain Clock Is Ticking

I had a productive day at work today, and diagnosed the SCCM test server issue. It transpired that the rights for the domain join account weren't right, which one of our server team sorted for me, and then once I specified the right OU for the machines to reside in, I ran through an OS deployment task sequence, and this worked - first go. Where possible I've made it similar to the live one, and installing similar apps and packages, so that in effect I know there's always the option of a good controlled test again before going live. I am mightily pleased about that to be honest.

My colleague was still in Cardiff so was keeping in touch with him and everything had gone well from there, especially the fact that all the laptop builds were all PXE booting from the local distribution point server, and indeed that they'd all completed first go. It's so nice when you have a stable build to work from and that the behaviour is as expected, and so from there it's a case of getting all the post-deployment bits completed and all was well with the world really.

After work, I headed to the centre of Croydon as it was late night shopping, and had some gift cards from Christmas which I hadn't as yet used. I had wanted to get some gloves as I'd lost one of my trusty pair in the windy walk the other week, and in addition wanted to get some bits from the pound shop such as shower gel. In the end it did prove quite productive - I went in Debenhams first and was going to see if any gloves were in there in their sale. They weren't, but with 70% off some stuff I found a nice camel and blue striped jumper from Jasper Conran, reduced from £50 to £15, and with the gift card I had, that meant I only had to pay a mere fiver. Result.

More of a result came later when I went to Sports Direct round the corner, thinking they'd have some gloves cheap too. They did, and some nice Adidas knit ones at that for a tenner. Fair dos, I thought to myself. I got to the till and they had been further reduced to £7, so that was all good. I do like a good bargain like that and certainly they're nice and snug, so definitely feel good about that. I'll be making use of those on Saturday when at the football, that is for sure.

I'm also watching the Snooker Shoot Out from the Watford Colisseum on ITV4, and that surprisingly was better than I thought this year. There's still some that insist on calling out "Bluuuuuuuuuuuue" when the blue ball is potted, but some of the games were pretty close, notably Jack Lisowski v Alexander Ursenbacher that pretty much went to the final little break to win the match. I guess with not much time to play the shot, it's different, and be interesting to see who wins that over the weekend (note: Anthony McGill's win in this was enough to make him top 16 for the Worlds). Tune of the day is ITV's snooker theme, it's not actually that bad!!

Wednesday 7th February - Brotherly Lunch

Today I was mainly on hand to support one of our colleagues who was over in our Cardiff office, sorting out some of the laptops and ensuring that they were all built and imaged with our Windows 10 build. Initially for some reason it was looking at a task sequence to be a required one, but once I got my colleague to correct that, it was all sorted and it was a case of being able for him to crack on and start off a number of laptops, which all worked spot on and first go. I was pleased about that.

I'd also upgraded the test SCCM server yesterday to version 1710 which went well, and the client upgrades to the pre-production collection all worked. I tried an OS deployment but it came up with an odd error when installing applications. I checked the task sequence and it looked like the Active Directory join was being attempted on an OU that didn't exist. In addition, you can't actually specify a container CN either (so for example the root computers container is a no no on that score) so it was a case of checking that over, and also checking the account used to join the domain to ensure that was right. I'll give that a check over tomorrow.

What was nice today was that my brother has been down in London earlier this week, working on a job and doing exhibitions around the Angel area, whilst staying in Camden - and the client concerned had paid for the hotel so at least he didn't have to fork out. As he had some spare time today we'd arranged to meet near my work for lunch, and it was good to head out to one of the pubs near me and have a burger along with a soft drink, and generally have a good natter about all the stuff going on at the moment.

He was also using his time to locate some bicycle shops and stock up on some parts for the bicycles he likes to do up, and even though he did have the tube map, I gave him some common sense directions - so for example Angel to London Bridge, get train to Lewisham, and later on he was going to East Putney so I suggested going via Edgware Road and down on the District - he'd get a seat on the tube that way, and he was appreciative of someone having some knowledge. The time went way too quickly but it was really good to see him and that was the definite highlight of the day.

And the other highlight was having a meeting with my manager this morning, the first of the one to ones that we have every four weeks under the new way of doing performance management etc. It all went well so felt pleased and he mentioned that he knew that I could just get on with stuff and ask questions if need be, which did make me feel better too. Always good to be positive I think and so that set me off on the right foot for the remainder of the day. In the meantime, having chilled out with some rock later on, tune of the day is the excellent "By The Light" by Obituary, a real grinder and proper metal - I do prefer that to the rock and rap "Bullitary" version that's at the end of the album "Back From The Dead".

Tuesday 6th February - The Flowers of Manchester, A City United

It's hard to believe that it was sixty years ago today that the Munich air crash happened, which killed many people and decimated the Manchester United team at the time. What should have been a return from an exciting venture in the European Cup turned out to be an icy crash resulting in one of the worst football tragedies of all time. When I was younger, my grandad told me the story of what happened, and how as Mancunians you stand together with your fellow fans at that time, even if they were rivals, and understand that there's always more to life than football and to stand strong.

As I grew up in the 1980s with hooliganism rife, an unfortunate section of a lot of opposing fans would sing derogatory songs about the said tragedy. I always believed it was wrong, and not just that, but that crash could have happened to any team on that fateful day, and to mock it was the lowest of the low. I often wrote in match reports I did for a Manchester City fanzine that those "fans" who sung such chants weren't football fans at all, but idiots. Lest they forget that the former City goalkeeper Frank Swift, by then a newspaper reporter, was also one of the many who perished on that fateful day, so mocking that was also mocking one of your own legends at the same time - and that also for me was never ever right.

I think the tone has noticably changed over time, which is a positive, and ten years ago the Manchester Derby was played close to the 50th anniversary. City really pushed home the message that said chants were wrong and not representative of the club, and the minutes' silence was just that, with both teams holding their scarves aloft, and together, a city truly united and a moment which I look back on with a sense that rivalries put aside and to do the right thing to think of those no longer with us. At the ceremony today, a city together united by the same grief, with a service of memoriam, and a sense of sharing that loss.

As a Mancunian, we as a city often rally round together when we need to. As one footballing example of this, United played their home games at City's then home ground Maine Road in the late 1940s as Old Trafford had been bombed heavily during World War II, and it was what you did - you supported each other. As much as I may have good banter with United fans over various footballing aspects, I also know that as a city there's more in common than what divides us, as proven by events last year when the whole city showed that proud spirit of not being defeated, being together and being defiant in the face of adversity. Tune of the day is Morrissey's "Munich Air Disaster 1958", his own tribute (Mozzer is a United fan) to those who lost their lives.

Apart from that, the other important thing of note was the historic 100 years since women were finally allowed to vote in this country, due to the hard and important work of the suffragette movement. For me, I would have loathed to live in that time and would have probably been ridiculed for suggesting that women should always have equality. With the controversy of the inequality of pay at the BBC, it's clear that although we've come a fair way already, we have a long way to go, and I for one support the fight for equality - it's only fair, and it's only right that we do.

Monday 5th February - Delayed In The Cold

The wind doth blow, but without the snow, but still rather nippy as I left the flat this morning to set off to work. Certainly for me it was a case of heading to the station and seeing all the delayed departures with times was a concern. In fact, a train had broken down at Haywards Heath which meant that most of the Brighton main line was on a perennial go slow and having to go up one line to get past the broken down train. This meant that in fact that everything was just delayed in East Croydon up the line, and in fact a later train was cancelled, so glad at least the one I was getting was still running.

I did arrive 14 minutes late into the station, just not enough for Delay Repay (15 minutes it has to be) but because I factor in these delays it didn't make me late for work thankfully. I spent some time in the morning working on a few tests to get to the bottom of an odd issue with some software, and eventually after some testing found out what the answer was - it looked like it was attempting to run after install and set the configuration up, so we no longer needed to call it do to the job because of the new version that was being used. That was pleasing to find at least.

I also then spent some time in the afternoon working on some documentation and getting some of the testing done for one of the Azure AD instances to attempt to talk to ServiceNow. Everything on the ServiceNow end was fine but it didn't seem to want to know about some of the communication side from Azure for some reason, despite everything being followed to the letter. I'm going to give that some time to settle and see how it all goes, so should be interesting to note.

I also was delayed leaving due to having to resolve a couple of urgent issues, and once that was done, it was really late, so didn't want to be further delayed on the train home, but guess what? I was. In fact it was gone 7.20pm by the time I did arrive back and felt like the day had just gone without much else happening, so wanted to just have some tea, speak to The Love In My Heart and catch up (I am missing her really badly at the moment) and then turn the attention to just not doing much and getting some washing sorted.

I suppose too that with the cold weather it was bloody sod's law that I had lost one of my gloves last week when heading out for a walk, so will need to at some point get another pair sorted ready for Saturday at the football, I have a feeling it's going to be pretty nippy all week. Tune of the day in the meantime is the ace "Long Live Love" by Sandie Shaw. I had it in my head on the way home and when I got home I decided to play it and have a good little listen - I remember seeing her with Jools Holland a few years back, she was barefoot as ever and it was a really nice version. Brilliant, in fact.

Sunday 4th February - Home and Dry

It was good for us all to wake up this morning, have a coffee, and watch Match of the Day followed by The Championship and Goal Rush back to back, so we could see the goals from yesterday en masse. City's game was a case of doing everything but score a second goal and then get punished by Burnley for not killing the game off, and in League One Doncaster earned a good 2-2 draw at Portsmouth, although at the end with Pompey down to nine men through injury and a sending off, the chance was there to win it. Our friend in South Shields did despair at Sunderland's ineptness with a 2-0 loss at home though.

We had breakfast, and all was good, and after one last coffee it was all time to say goodbyes and wait till the next weekend. We'd had a great time and it definitely was a case of being great company and all being chilled out which helped massively. My friend and host had kindly offered to drop me off at Sunderland station (I'd have happily got the Metro from Brockley Whins again, but he insisted) and so it was a nice leisurely ride whilst listening to some classic John Shuttleworth (including the ace The Toaster song, make that tune of the day) and said our goodbyes at the station.

It was on to the 1212 departure to London Kings Cross, and sat opposite me from Hartlepool to York were a nice couple of ladies who were heading there for a night out and staying over, and had their prosecco ready to have a drink too. They were chatty and classy and were chatting with two women on the opposite table also going to York, so that made that part of the journey speed by. Lots got off at York and lots got on, certainly the non-stop service to Kings Cross from there certainly made sense, and it was a case of then having the iPod on and being chilled out as the train sped through towards London.

Once at Kings Cross it was back to St Pancras, and the 1612 train back to East Croydon. It looked busy on the platform with shed loads of people heading to Gatwick, and due to engineering works, the train diverted from Tulse Hill to Streatham and then took the left via Streatham Common, passing the massed ranks of Crystal Palace fans at Selhurst after they had drawn 1-1 with Newcastle United, and then off homewards, where all was well and nice and cosy by the time I'd arrived.

I looked back at the photos and video from the weekend and realised what an excellent weekend it was, with plenty of enjoyable pubs to have been in, lots of banter and chat, and especially the time just whizzing by as if it wasn't there. I'm glad therefore we're already looking at heading to Doncaster in the Summer, so that'll all be good and for me it's a pretty quick hour and a half on the train (in fact that's similar time to as it was from Manchester) so definitely a plus point there...

Saturday 3rd February - South Shields Weekender, Day 2

It was nice to have slept well, and once up and changed it was downstairs and generally have coffee, chill out and have Sky Sports News on in the background whilst we talked football and looked at our respective teams' chances over the weekend, not least of all mine because City were at Burnley with a 12.30pm kick off. It was good to have some quality breakfast, with some sausages, bacon and barmcakes so you could make your own and have something tasty, and that was quality throughout.

In fact we were nattering away and seeing this odd programme on Channel 5 about how cats do odd and crazy things. Almost as if on cue The Love In My Heart had sent me a picture of Brian the cat and he was sat on the laptop being all lazy and cute, and we all agreed he looked ace. What we did find out today is that apparently cats get freaked out by cucumbers, which is definitely something to note for when Brian gets naughty! We got ourselves sorted and looked at the rain coming down before heading out.

It was off the shortish walk to Simonside Metro station and took that into the centre of Newcastle getting off at Central Station - it's been done up now too and the Metro looks much nicer there. Once we'd left the station it was over the road and off to the Newcastle Tap, which was very nice - lots of decent ales and some good cask ones too, I had one of the Yorkshire ones which was a good session beer and really nice all round. It set the tone off nicely and we were all chilled out.

It was then a walk under the railway station and then left and following the railway arches to the next stop, The Box Social. You could certainly hear the trains passing over as you sat in the upper floor, but was nice inside the arches with the quality ales, and they had The Stone Roses' debut album playing in full, so that meant all eight minutes of "I Am The Resurrection" (so tune of the day there) and the stout I had was really nice and dark. It was from there a nice walk back under the railway and to another pub inside another arch, this time the rather good The Split Chimp - some more excellent ales on here, and they had a badly out of tune piano, but the atmosphere was very chilled here too, definitely one place I'd happily go back to.

After finding out the City score (1-1 at Burnley) it was then heading towards The Bridge Hotel, a favourite of ours as the window views of the Tyne Bridge are pretty decent. Unsurprisingly the rugby was on, but I had perhaps the best named beer of the day - something space related if I remember, and that was a really nice amber session ale, so all good there. We noted that Scotland had been panned by Wales, and then from The Bridge it was the long walk of steps (The Dog Leap Stairs in fact) downhill towards the riverside area.

First stop was then Brewdog, which was decent as ever, and we got a good booth seat upstairs. In fact I had the Nanny State ale which originally had looks of "You're having a 0.5% beer?" and then realisation that, as I already knew, it was a decent ale and you wouldn't know that it was low alcohol at that. It was good to relax in there and then head off to the Crown Posada down the road, with its unusually thin long layout, but some quality beers on show there and it was good to take it nice and relaxed with the old record player playing some old stuff, all good.

It was then to our final pub of the day, The Bridge Tavern, and it was good to get an outside table with heaters on and shelter from the rain (and being right under the Tyne Bridge helped too.) In fact I had the most unusual ale in there, a pale ale but with watermelon. At first this may have sounded odd but one of my friends tried it and he actually said it was surprisingly nice, and so that proved. It was all good, and from there we took a taxi back to close to my friend's place stopping off for a takeaway on the way back to his.

In fact I had the fish and chips, as did one of my friends, but in hindsight we should have had the small portion, as the portion was massive and also very nice, but perhaps too massive. The fish was cooked fresh and was good, and the chips were decent. You also got a lot of the scraps of batter too, which again were pretty filling. More drink and nattering followed with funny videos of football own goals and the like before it was soon time to head to sleep, with another good day had all round!

Friday 2nd February - South Shields Weekender, Day 1

It was a day off today and with good reason - it was to spend a weekend with good friends and to have some nice beer, and generally relax and be all retro too. I think that sometimes we all need a nice break to be able to recharge the batteries and have a different view on things too. It also meant I could have a leisurely trip up to the North East, as wouldn't need to be heading through peak hour traffic to central London. And so it proved: the 0940 train was really quiet and meant I got to St Pancras International in good time to walk across to Kings Cross station, get a Meal Deal in Boots, and be ready to board the 1121 departure to Sunderland.

As usual, it was pretty nice on Grand Central. I had a window seat and table, plug socket for the mobile phone charger, and free wi-fi too, so was able to use that with the phone and also have the headphones in and listen to some quality tunes on the way up. It was non-stop to York although we were a few minutes late to there, then via Thirsk and off the main line at Northallerton, then to Eaglescliffe and following the coast towards Hartlepool and then up towards Sunderland. It was nice and relaxed overall, so definitely well worth the mere £14 or so it was!

I then got a ticket for the Metro and headed on the Metro to Brockley Whins where when I got off, all three of my friends were walking down to meet us, so that was rather nice actually. It was a walk over the bridge to my friend's car, and we soon were back at his place having a well earned coffee and generally being very chilled out. We had a good natter and catch up and later on we switched on to Pointless, which was good fun as we guessed some of the answers and did really well - the Beatles question I went for Free As A Bird and Real Love, which scored 1 and 0 respectively. I'd have won!

We had a very nice curry later on for tea, which really did go down nicely, and once that had been demolished we finished off watching Pointless, and then later on headed up to the spare room where the projector, amp and all the games stuff was at. We spent some time listening to some good Commodore 64 SID tunes, notably Tim Follin's suite from the game Ghouls 'n Ghosts (the title tune is awesome so that's tune of the day) and we also ended up playing some darts, with an alternative target board as printed out by my friend, with plus and minus scores on there.

I'm crap at darts but it was still good fun nonetheless, and was definitely a good giggle to set the night off nicely. We also had a slideshow of lots of old pictures of previous weekends, which was good to see, and later on my friend showed us this rather ace arcade table with proper joysticks, buttons and lots of select options. Effectively inside was a Raspberry Pi running various emulators, but really did work nicely, and so much so that I had to give Hypersports a good go, and got to the tricky as hell pole vault before not managing that, still all pretty good fun though!

We ended the evening listening to some more retro game themes and generally chatting with late night pizza and ale, and the rather nice chocolate orange stout from the Black Sheep Brewery was had by me, so mighty good to have had that one for sure. It was also a really good day just to take things easier, and tomorrow I'm sure will be more of the same - and that will be good. I slept really soundly on the spare bed in the spare room too, so that was very good.

Thursday 1st February - Working From Home II

I had plenty of things planned in terms of working from home today. In fact it's been a good experience to try and work out what tasks are best done where I can just concentrate on those in hand without too much disturbance. I therefore was checking and monitoring deployment of the new version of Firefox (in case you wondered, version 58 mitigates the Spectre and Meltdown issues) and that was going along nicely to say the least. It also allowed me to carry out some investigation into one issue reported and think I was able to come back with a more than suitable answer too.

One good thing about working from home is that of course you can have your music on without the need to disturb anyone else, and be able to make a brew whenever you feel like it, especially as it's from the trusty Tassimo machine also. So that meant I could get on with plenty and also just have coffee when doing it. I did also manage to work a few things out and put them together nicely, and formulate some plans for the next few weeks, so felt positive on that score.

I do though prefer being in the office instead though: there's all the equipment I may need for testing, there's a sense of being around if anyone does need me, and had to do a meeting via a Skype call today which did work once I'd changed around the default mic setting to be the webcam, but still, it was a bit of a pain really. There's only so much you can do, and the main plus side for me is that I can get up later, not have to think about taking the train to and from work, and so on. So it's a balance.

Listening to music though did mean I could listen to the original French release of MC Solaar's "Prose Combat" album. The UK release had three different tracks and a revised track listing, and I managed to pick up the original French release some time ago. It just flows better, and no annoyingly overlong "I'm doin' fine" that's on the UK release. Thankfully all the best bits are on both, so the likes of "Sequelles" and the classic "A la claire fontaine" as made famous by the Kronenbourg advert are still there, so tune of the day for definite.

It's all good for the weekend too as it meant that I can have an early start with me being off tomorrow. I'm off to the North East to spend some quality time with some friends, and it'll be a nice relaxing journey on Grand Central up there, especially when you get towards Hartlepool and beyond and are right by the sea as you head up. And the train is direct between Kings Cross and York too, so that's pretty good, I do like a nice fast quick train you know!