Dear Diary...

This is my diary. How things are. Or something. Please note that the diary is archived month by month, so feel free to click the links for the archives.

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Thursday 16th November - Click, Collect and Elbow

It was a nice and busy day and managed to get plenty done, and was good working alongside the newest recruit on our team, who had been promoted from within. In my view, deservedly so as there's been plenty of enthusiasm shown over the time that I've been there - and indeed knowledge of the business too. It's actually been a good example of working together and going through some of the tasks needed to get on with and complete a potential build for our admin machines, and getting through some of that with her ready to ask questions as needed.

In the meantime I've been ensuring all the regional sites we have are all set up with their SCCM 2012 distribution points and indeed have the PXE role correctly set up. In the case of one site today I got that up and running for next week, and two of our staff are at one of the sites each respectively getting things done there - and that's worked really well on the whole. The good thing is that it's meant that because of the work I put in, it's all gone smoothly and has meant less hassle and stress overall.

I headed into the centre of Croydon after work, and it was different to use the other exit out of East Croydon station which takes you past Ruskin Square and then past two of the hotels and onwards to the Whitgift Centre. It does save time going all the way round, so worth knowing of course. In fact that meant I could get a birthday present sorted for one of my relations, and I also had a click and collect Christmas present to collect too - and the staff in Next were very friendly and lovely too - always a good thing that.

I also watched on FreeSports tonight the final World Cup qualifying playoff between Peru and New Zealand in Lima. Of course, when Peru scored the opening goal the crowd went pretty mental as you would have expected, with it being South America and all. Peru scored a second goal midway through the second half and thus sealed the final place - and indeed it'd mean five teams from that continent, joining Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay, and it was a close run thing for most of the teams apart from Brazil all the way to the final group game.

I keep now seeing the John Lewis advert for Christmas on telly now, and slightly controversial due to a monster being involved. The only saving grace has to be the music, and it's a bit less twee than previous years thankfully, and instead having a Beatles song "Golden Slumber" but covered by Elbow, giving it a decent rendition. I'd still though much rather have the Beatles version but at least Elbow have done okay with it, so tune of the day it is.

Wednesday 15th November - Christmas Shopping Online

I must admit as much as I've made a good start on the Christmas shopping and was able to pick some good stuff up in stores for not that much cash either, being able to do so online has also proved useful for me for many years - especially if some items are less easier to get hold of than others. I for one always appreciate the simplicity of a lot of online stores, it's a case of purchase, checkout, await delivery or do a collect in store (if one is local) and the job is a good one - which makes things good for me.

I had in fact queried about one particular item which I really wanted to get The Love In My Heart for Christmas, and in this case I've used the online store before. How nice it was to get an email later that day to let me know that the item that I wanted to get was back in stock, and that I could order it whenever I was ready. That really did make things lovely, and the personal touch sometimes is often forgotten - so when you get that, it really does make you feel happy. Needless to say, present ordered.

And on top of that, plenty of the stores have already started their so-called "Black Friday" sales online over a week before. That so-called tradition is down to America and the day after Thanksgiving, but in recent years it's been more of a longer week or two of sales instead - with a view of everyone avoiding rushing around in December and getting everything last minute. It's therefore good to see that the discounts on offer have been decent in a lot of cases - and one such offer I took up to order a present and got 30% off. Win win all round for me.

I must admit though that for me it's been especially good to get cracking and I'm over half way there now. I shouldn't be too far off completing by the end of the month which then means I can also get the stuff up to Manchester when I head up for the weekend, and for friends and family, but also then send off stuff to friends and relatives who aren't in the city and so have padded envelopes ready to get packed and be all good. It's then quite nice to see everyone else run around whilst you have that feeling of having it all sorted.

I also spent some time tonight listening to the rather excellent new Swing Out Sister album "Almost Persuaded" - and that really is growing on me wonderfully well. One of the highlights for me is the track "All In A Heartbeat" (make that tune of the day) which feels bright and breezy and takes away the current cooler weather of Autumn and transports me instantly to warmer climes and the Summer in an instant. Which is rather nice isn't it? Well, I think so anyway.

Tuesday 14th November - Consultant Conundum

Most of the day, if not all of the working day, was spent with two of my colleagues and with one of the consultants from Accenture (formerly Focus Group) to see what could be achieved with ServiceNow, the system we use for help and support. It did look like we had a fair number of things to go through and to look at working on some potential solutions to some issues we were encountering. On the whole, I have to say, it's going to be looking positive, I think.

So one thing we did look at was the process flow for the way the workflow is working for application approval, and in fact the consultant had some useful ideas. We were in a meeting room which worked better because I could hook up the laptop to a screen and show the ideas off there - and we managed to work a suitable way to be able to set up the flow so that in fact if the waiting for approval request was there, then we'd be able to see how that would work in terms of the wait timer, and got that nailed nicely.

We also then moved to another area and to be honest, too much noise and distraction around and much less time to concentrate. However, we did look at how Azure AD integration would be for various other entities, and how that looks at importing users into users of ServiceNow. It all looks like it has to be done from the Azure AD tenancy point of view so we'd need to spend some time with our server team - and we'd then need the sys ID to see what the state of play was in terms of connectivity, which is good.

After lunch we brought in one of our Digital Transformation team, and looked into how we could possibly add a customisation for integration with JIRA which is in use for digital projects, and how we'd be able to effectively link the two together in some way. Of course a lot would need to be decided of course, but still good to know it is doable. And of course we then set to see about how we'd also be able to work on a few other things, including having the status update change show for each stage so that for requests, we'd know where the call is - ie: awaiting line manager approval etc, as well as displaying the call notes.

It was all in all productive, and with the encouragement to use update sets where possible because these would be imported correctly into the live instance with minimal effort from the development one, so all good there. I guess the only concern would be the sys_id used in some cases, so need to robustly check that where possible. In any case, all good, and headed home with Inner City's "Good Life" in my head, so make that one tune of the day.

Monday 13th November - Prophets of Rage

I had had a long long day at work, and the first time for ages I'd done a 9 till 5. And, wow, it was suitably appalling getting in. I had at least managed to get on the train but it was standing room only all the way from East Croydon to Blackfriars. And with the train already being a 12 carriage one it shows just how busy it actually is. The timetable Thameslink has doesn't help though: later in the day trains are every 15 minutes, but there's the 0723, then 0754 and 0824. And realistically the 0824 is no good for me to get into work on time. I'm already not liking this massively.

In a way that made my resolve to enjoy tonight's gig even more, seeing Prophets of Rage at O2 Kentish Town Forum. It was a hop on the train from work to Kentish Town, and then to the box office to collect the ticket and suitable guest list pass. You see, a few weeks ago I'd entered a competition on one of the O2 websites via their sponsor Carlsberg to be in a draw for free tickets for a forthcoming gig, and I put my choice as this one - and won! So it was nice to be able to head to another gig and for free, and I'm sure that I should look at entering more just in case I happened to get picked again.

Anyway, all done, the guest list person asked if I preferred upstairs or downstairs - I must admit I knew it was going to be intense so upstairs it was, and managed to get a seating spot with a decent view, and that was good overall. It was also good hearing many old school classics being belted out by the DJ in between bands, including the excellent "Waiting Room" from Fugazi, which set the tone nicely. I was excited as I knew there was a possibility of versions of classic songs from a well known band being played, and also the atmosphere was building nicely.

Up first were Blood Youth, who were from Harrogate no less (proper Northerners!) - and they were really good actually - plenty of anger and energy in their live performance, bounding around the stage with the guitars and bass, and the vocalist Kaya certainly was giving it some. Out of the songs that they did play, I really did enjoy "Parasite" a lot, and then also "Reason To Stay" which reminded me of plenty of metal bands in the early 2000s with suitable heavier vibe in verses and then a lighter part in the chorus. I enjoyed them!

So later on were Prophets of Rage, and a really good lengthy show. No encores. No bull. Just the band doing their thing. First of all, the DJ, DJ Lord of Public Enemy, did his thing and put together some neat scratching and with metal classics of all sorts, and leaving Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" to the masses to sing along to - add into that some Nirvana and Metallica, and the stage was set, and sure enough on came the rest of the band. It's effectively DJ Lord and Chuck D of Public Enemy, B-Real of Cypress Hill, and Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk from Rage Against The Machine. So you can imagine that this was going to be good.

Good wasn't even close. Awesome more like. Opening with their title track "Prophets of Rage" from their opening EP, it set the tone well, and led nicely into the first of many Rage Against The Machine classics, "Testify", which Chuck D and B-Real belting it out nicely. And add to that "Take The Power Back" and you were in for what was to come. New album stuff such as "Living on the 110" and "Hail To The Chief" also went down well, especially with the moshpit downstairs - it looked totally mental but in a really good way.

After a killer version of "Fight The Power" (classic Public Enemy that) B-Real and Chuck D belted out a medley of rap classics including "Bring The Noise", "Harder Than You Think", "Insane in the Brain" and "Jump Around" which had the crowd doing that of course. The band all came back on and a nice touch was a version of Audioslave's "Like a Stone" which Tom Morello dedicated to Chris Cornell, formerly of Soundgarden and sadly missed by the rock and metal community.

Two more killer RATM versions followed with "Know Your Enemy" and "Bullet in the Head" really getting the crowd going nicely, and two more Prophets songs including "Unf**k The World" which really did hit home. Interestingly Tom Morello's guitar back had a message saying "F**k Trump" on the back too, a real statement of intent. And once we had "Bulls on Parade", it was into the finale. And wow, what a finale. We're talking a totally killer, blow the roof off version of "Killing in the Name" (tune of the day without doubt) and that did absolutely kick backside, with Chuck D and B-Real belting the vocals out, and Tom on guitar being amazing as ever. And of course when it came to it, the whole crowd went for it yelling out the immortal line (you know the one) and that left everyone in a positive mood to end the night, me included.

Sunday 12th November - Remembrance and Green Chains

First of all this morning, after having some breakfast, I settled in to watch the Rugby League World Cup match between England and France. England scored with three tries inside the first eight minutes which pretty much set the tone for a relatively easy rest of the game afterwards and a win through to the quarter finals. I'm pretty sure that ther'd be a few mistakes that they'd like to iron out but overall it was pleasing to see the team perform better and that should be good going forward.

I did switch over at half time to catch the important parts of the Remembrance Sunday services from the Cenotaph live on BBC1. I did pause at 11am for the two minutes' silence and then noted all the dignataries, including Prince Charles having to lay a wreath twice, once for the queen and once for himself, and plenty of high commissioners from overseas too as well as the political leaders here. It's always a sombre and poignant occasions and will especially be so next year as it'll mark the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day too.

After all that, I decided that heading out for a walk would be a good idea, and so I looked at the first section of the Green Chain Walk, a relatively short (2.6 mile) walk taking in Thamesmead and Southmere Park (with its lake) before then heading to the finale of the ruins of Lesnes Abbey. As a number of trains were on diversion, I ended up taking the train to Queens Road Peckham and then heading on the 177 bus through Greenwich and Woolwich before heading through the vastness of Thamesmead itself - definitely more like a massive overspill council estate and having Brutalist architecture in parts too.

The bit where I got off the bus though, the very North part by the Thames, did seem a lot nicer, reminded me more of some Lancashire new build towns with green space, and it was there that the walk started, heading along the Manorway Green with the Autumnal leaves falling, and crossing the Crossway Lake (actually a man made canal that gives the feeling of a river running through the area) a number of times on bridges and seeing plenty of ducks and Canadian Geese along the way too.

Once past all that and crunching leaves, the route had two options: I took the one that went under the large road and then down towards a road running alongside Southmere Park. Once inside the park it was off to the lake and the many ducks and swans there, all being fed by local families, which was nice. You couldn't help but notice the Brutalist architecture of the tower blocks on the other side of the lake making this a real sense of contrasts as you did the walk.

On the other side of the lake was steps in the grass hill to look more like an ampitheatre, and once past that it was then following a path which went alongside houses in some green space, and some low rise flats at that as the architecture again got more Brutalist inspired. It was certainly more noticeable in the bridges that took you over the roads and the train lines - definitely with some concrete squares cut out they looked a little worrying if you were small and crawled through those gaps - they were big enough to do so and didn't bear thinking about to be honest.

Once across all the bridges, I arrived at Lesnes Abbey Park and at the site of the historic abbey ruins - one of the first monasteries to be demolished under the dissolutions. It was good to see the layout had at least been preserved, as had one of the mulberry trees in front - and even an arch survives so had to walk through that and get a sense of the size and scale of what would have been here. It was rather inspiring, especially as the excellent café close by did a really nice coffee with a lovely person running it. Little things, but they mean a lot.

It was good to get back into walking again and keeping myself fitter, and as I headed back to Abbey Wood station and got the train via Lewisham to London Bridge, and then the stopping train via South Bermondsey and North Dulwich back to Croydon, I reflected on a really nice walk and the time to myself just to relax a little too - which was good. Tune of the day in the meantime is another excellent track from the new Swing Out Sister album, namely "I Wish I Knew" which has a gorgeous sense of space and flow to it - much like the space and flow I had this afternoon too.

Saturday 11th November - Poppies on Patrol

Although I was out shopping this morning, it felt the right thing to do and pause in one of the squares in the shopping centre just before 11am, and at that time, a two minute silence fell with the place quiet for the mark of respect on Armistice Day (with the Rememberance Sunday being tomorrow.) It was good to see that everyone, no matter who they were, respected the silence impeccably and were able to have their moment. I just wish the shopping centre management had turned off the machines for kids' rides, as they were still blurting out the voices and sound effects during that time - a tad annoying to be perfectly honest.

With the silence observed, I had made it my mission today to get a hold on the Christmas shopping and make sure that I had some good ideas to get some items. In fact I did better than expected, and managed to tick several off the list. What did help was that I had some responses from some of my relations as to ideas what to get, and with a couple of new shops opening in the centre of Croydon this also helped considerably. I of course knew I had the money to spend on this (due to me saving up last month a bit) but even so, it really does make you think "I've managed to spend so much already?"

What I did also manage to do was to get some gift tags in Sainsbury's as well, hurrah. I have a shed load of wrapping paper left from the previous year so didn't have to buy it again, and unlike Boots, the gift tags are 3 for 2 so a definite bonus there. It meant that I can wrap up all the stuff I've got and that makes things much nicer. And indeed with gifts purchased, I feel like I'm finally getting somewhere with all the Christmas presents and that's a plus too.

I headed off to Ludoquist on the way back home, which is a new board game café that's opened not far from me. And I have to say it's very nice. The atmosphere is really good especially as lots of families are playing board games together, as a family, having coffee and a nice panini or an even nicer looking pizza. Staff are also on hand to help you choose a board game or understand the rules with you if you're not sure. They did have four Scrabble sets including the Harry Potter version, but no Super Scrabble, although admittedly that's really hard to get hold of now!

Later on I headed off on the train to Victoria and the tube to Warren Street, where I then walked down to the University of London's Student Central building (formerly ULU) as I was off to see Pop Will Eat Itself live there, and another opportunity to see them play some classics and kick backside. I must admit that the venue wasn't massive, but seemed the right size to be pretty packed (not sold out though) and the two bars, one of which led to a balcony outside, was okay, although no real ale and a mere £5 a pint for lager did not exactly appeal to me, it has to be said.

First up were Deadcuts, and after a sound problem with one of the guitars was ironed out, they were surprisingly decent actually. They were tight, the bass player Aaron Scars was coolness personified, and the vocals of Mark Keds really did hit home well. Their songs were short and to the point with a real sense of intent, and I liked them. I also liked the fact that they just put a lot of energy into what they did, and with a second album out soon, I'll have to check them out further.

Eat were up second, a band whom I had faint memories of in the 1990s mainly due to "Psycho Couch" being their main hit of the time. They actually played pretty well, and Ange Dolittle's vocals were spot on. Of course for many of us seeing Malc Treece (formerly of The Wonder Stuff) having a whale of a time with the guitar was certainly pleasing to see, and the songs were also tight. They didn't play Psycho Couch but did play plenty of their early stuff as well as the fact that they've had an EP out in the last couple of years. Surprisingly good.

The Jimmy Swaggart speech came on which meant that the incredible Pop Will Eat Itself were about to come on, and as per usual, an excellent show. It was mental front and centre so stayed right hand side away from the intense pushing about, and was able to pogo happily without a care in the world. It was an excellent set too, having the likes of "Not Now James, We're Busy", "Watch The Bitch Blow" and a storming version of "Everything's Cool" which really had the masses pogoing during the chorus.

Having "Can U Dig It?" followed by "Preaching to the Perverted" was very welcome too, and added to that a storming version of "Dance of the Mad" too. I suspect for some having the likes of "Oldskool Cool" and the vastly under-rated "Director's Cut" meant that they could slow down a tad, only then for an absolutely storming version of "Ich Bin Ein Auslander" later on, which was intense, and I mean intense. Mosh central and it looked like all the anger of what's going on in the world was being channeled into the pogoing, and as Graham rightly said afterwards, people need to realise just what's going on.

That was the last song of the main set, but an encore was to come, and very good too it has to be said. First up was "Get The Girl, Kill The Baddies" which really did have the crowd in a good mood, and if that wasn't enough out came the megaphone for a storming version of my all time favourite PWEI classic "Wise Up! Sucker" which really did kick backside in lots of ways. Finally a cracking rendition of "Their Law" sent us all off very happy (and indeed sweating too) off into the night.

Friday 10th November - Chickening Out

So, close to work, there is a now a branch of KFC. It was supposed to be opened yesterday but for "technical issues" it didn't open. I guess due to its close proximity to Farringdon station and indeed plenty of offices close by that it would be popular with office workers to get something warm for lunch - particularly as otherwise it's Sainsburys, Tesco or some of the more pricier outlets on Cowcross Street. I thought to myself today "why not get a little box for lunch later and give it a go?"

Of course, everyone else was thinking the same thing and at lunch time, there were queues. Not just inside the store either but all the way outside, snaking past the post office close by and all the way to Tesco Express. Which to be honest is where I ended up getting lunch from. I guess that the newness of the place is certainly one reason that it'd be so packed, but another I guess would be pricing - the snack box of either one piece of chicken or popcorn chicken and chips for a mere £1.99 is pretty hard to beat isn't it?

With the day done and the train being particularly warm for some reason, it was a case of getting home and having a relaxing Friday night for a change. No trains for me up North, and just a gig tomorrow night, so going to take it all relatively easy and get over the last part of the cold and cough bug - and got some additional stuff to dose myself up and get shut of the final part really. And with a nice email coming my way this morning, I had something to download too.

And that something was Swing Out Sister's long awaited new album "Almost Persuaded". It's been a journey and a half, started in 2014 as their PledgeMusic campaign "A Moveable Feast" which resulted in "Rushes" a CD based sampler sent out to pledgers, and also a free download of "Bande Originale" a concert they did specially at the Lowry in Salford doing versions of Manchester classics, sung in French (think Nouvelle Vague but the other way round) and the last track featuring a lovely rendition of The Durutti Column's classic "

Tune of the day is the album's opener "Don't Give The Game Away" which is classic Swing Out Sister, gorgeous vocals from Corinne of course, but a real sense that the whole tune could fit right into a film soundtrack with little effort, gorgeous instrumentation from Andy here, and a real sense of belonging and setting the album off perfectly. I'm going to be giving this a good few listens over the weekend, that's for sure, and it'll set the mind at rest...

Thursday 9th November - Moving On Up

Another day, but one where some things did happen, mainly a desk move. We've got a new person starting in our team on Monday (effectively someone who is being promoted from within) and as part of that, it was deemed to be a good idea to effectively have that person in the middle of the three desks our team have, with one of us in the existing team at either side. This effectively meant me moving from one end to the other, and so being closer to people who may walk up so I can redirect them accordingly.

It does make sense of course, and so moving was all being done partly yesterday but also finished off today, so and that at least meant that the desk was all sorted and good to go, plus of course I could make sure that I could adjust the chair height (the new desk is slightly higher) and to make sure that all of the necessary precautions were right for safety reasons. To me, it's just a desk and I get on with it, and as a fair number of people hotdesk anyway, it just makes sense to progress.

With that all done, I worked on some documentation with regards to packaging an application I'd been asked to do. The good news is that with a few tweaks of the MSI in Orca to generate a transform, it meant that actually it would be much easier to deploy the software concerned - as the necessary configuration files are pre-populated as needed with the values, rather than having to copy the file over later, much easier and much more efficient, and a simple transform of the MSI to do all of its work. Nice, I know.

I headed home later, noticably a little busier due to the current train strikes on both Southern and South Western Railway, and decided to chill out with some good music. And what better than She Makes War, and the excellent single "I Want My Country Back" (tune of the day and possibly one of my singles of the year to be honest with you.) She has commenced a new PledgeMusic campaign for her new album, which I have proudly backed, and for those of you who like good music, I strongly suggest you do the same!

I did also see some of the snooker with the Champion of Champions from the Ricoh Arena, Coventry, on ITV4 (on all week) and wow, Ronnie O'Sullivan demolished John Higgins. That doesn't happen often, particularly as O'Sullivan himself rates Higgins highly as one of his toughest opponents. It's been quality stuff and the venue does appear to be favoured by many, and announced it's going to remain here until 2021, which has to be a definite plus point!

Wednesday 8th November - Sell Out

Somehow, playing "Sell Out" by the mighty Levellers (make that tune of the day) at a decent volume sums up the feelings I have today, not least directed towards the trade union ASLEF, whose members decided to agree a deal struck between their management and Southern Rail - in that they'd get a 28.5% pay rise over five years in exchange for terms and conditions of their contract, including an imposition of Driver Only Operation (DOO), something which they were previously against and campaigned not to have.

Of course, the cynical of you out there would be thinking that combining the proposed deal on DOO and bundling it together with a salary negotation would mean people roundly criticising ASLEF and its members and stating "It was all about the money after all!" in the ongoing dispute over safety on trains. In fact closer inspection of the deal shows the so-called "exceptional circumstances" where trains can run without a second person on board (in Southern's case, the On-Board Supervisor (OBS), also called On Board Sometimes by many long suffering Southern commuters) and in effect this gives Southern carté blanché to run fully DOO whenever they're able to.

What this also does it hit passengers with disabilties particularly hard. There's already as it stands a number of incidents where a passenger has been left on the platform due to trains having no OBS, and the station being unstaffed so that the passenger concerned would have no assistance. That also means effectively the end of turn up and go for those passengers too, which is a blatant discrimination and a breach of the Equality Act. I would be horrified if that was my friend (himself a wheelchair user) and he would have wanted to board a train in those circumstances.

Of course, the train companies are rubbing their hands with glee. They'll know despite ASLEF's statement that this is their blueprint to enforce a similar deal with ASLEF on other franchises with the statement "Well, you've accepted this on Southern, so... " - and of course the Rail Delivery Group has weighed in stating that the RMT union are now outcast on their own. However, they haven't of course taken the strong feelings of passengers into account..

And talking of which, this is the same Rail Delivery Group who buried a report on accessibility on trains for 2 years because it actually argued that having a guard on a train was the better option for disabled passengers, the same Rail Delivery Group whose CEO insisted that if you didn't like your train service, you could move somewhere else (try doing that within a reasonable distance of London and see how hard that actually is) - and he made those claims on BBC's Panorama no less. And indeed, the very same Rail Delivery Group who are not supposed to send out any political statements but have done so for the last few months. So, Evening Standard, who are the actual hypocrites here I wonder?

And not once does the Evening Standard's editorial, clearly endorsed by editor George Osborne, mention what DOO means for passengers with disabilities. It's as if there's a case of doing what the Government are doing in terms of being discriminatory, demeaning them with a case of classing them fit for work when not, humiliating them with embarassing tests for fit for work, and all of this causing a rise in depression and in some cases suicide. One in five people in this country has a disability, I hope the Standard are proud of themselves.

All of this leaves me feeling rather narked off to be honest. I for one always worry what would happen if the train I take to work would crash in between stations - especially with the third rail being a live electric circuit right there. In the case of one train, it's already fully DOO with no guard. So who gets me off the train in those sorts of emergencies and who leads me to safety? If the crash involves the driver, what happens then? And so on. It makes me wonder if in fact I need to think about finding somewhere to work that isn't a train journey away anymore...

Tuesday 7th November - Getting There Slowly

I do feel like (finally) that the horrid cold is finally showing some signs of shifting. I certainly felt that when I blew my nose this morning and the sight wasn't exactly pretty. I did also think that the vapour drops of Covonia on the pillow may have helped me sleep and then be able to shift stuff too. On a positive note, I'm still getting there with getting better but I will be sure to finish off my course of the cold and flu drinks and also be a bit careful with having too many coffees with milk in - as The Love In My Heart mentioned last night that might not be helping the mucus shift.

Today was all about getting some meeting stuff done - not least having a discussion with our Service Delivery Manager with regards to the potential new request form we wanted to add in for one type of request. The good thing was that he had backed up what I had said already which was a definite positive for me, and he was able to inform the staff concerned that we'd be doing things as I'd planned and with a view to reviewing it later on if we find that for some reason it doesn't go according to plan - and it's a fairly straightforward thing to do.

I did spend some time at home later sorting out lots of washing and ironing and did feel better for getting that done, but also watched the first of a new series from Geoff of All The Stations fame - this time looking at the request stops on some railway lines. He went to Devon and visited Lympstone Commando, where you used to only be able to get off if you actually had any form of business with the army camp there. Nowadays there's a cycle path that runs alongside the railway so you can get off the platform and walk along the path, as he had proved...

He also did mention a rather crafty (and legitimate) ruse to save money on trains too. So, you want to go to places in Devon, and you know that the return fare is not cheap. So the way to do it is to get a return to a station just within Devon (so for example from London, Axminster's a good shout) and then get the Devon Day Ranger ticket. That ticket is £12, and you could potentially go from Axminster all the way to Gunnislake on the Tamar Valley Line (as that's included in the area) - and then stop off all the places in between - or even head back to Paignton or Torquay!

I must admit it's always good when you can go exploring and find somewhere different to go. It's one of the things I do appreciate even now with the Zone 1-5 Travelcard I have down here - it's not just about getting to work but also everywhere else around a lot of the London and suburban areas. It was really useful to get to and from stations for the Capital Ring walk for example, and even when heading to gig venues and stuff it's proved hugely useful to have that freedom. Tune of the day in fact is "Rover" by Jethro Tull - granted, the song's actually about a country dog, but the title is apt and the final chorus line of "You'll find me everywhere, cos I'm a rover" said a lot too.

Monday 6th November - The Return of the Manager

Despite feeling even more yuk and bunged up, the good news was that my line manager was fit to head back to work today, and it was really good to see him actually. He had suffered with labyrinthitis, a form of vertigo, for some time, and this meant although he could work from home, he had to be careful about moving the head too much or being disorientated. I think though he was itching to come back, so it was good to see him back and also good that everyone appreciated him being back too.

It meant a little bit less of people necessarily coming to me for everything as has been the case, allowing me to get on with some of the stuff I wanted to achieve for this week, and so started to set off another remote site for their distribution point role. All was working nicely there and I've got most of the things in place for everything to be able to have a chunk of content running overnight as well as being able to then have all the deployment stuff ready too, so felt positive about that.

We had a few meetings today and the line manager was in some, and good to see him back on form and offering positive suggestions. I think in a way that being off poorly for some time has given him even more focus (and to be fair he's very focussed) which means of course that we'll all be striving as a team to get better, as that's what we do. In fact this afternoon I spent some time getting some data exports out of our Active Directory and ServiceNow to see what wasn't in synch due to the LDAP stuff only being fixed recently, and will have something in play to sort that out.

Later on I headed home and was still massively bunged up, so stopped off at Poundland on the way home, and managed to get some Kleenex Balsam tissue packs (8 for a pound) as well as some Beechams hot lemon and honey powders, and finally some Covonia vapour drops - sort of like Olbas Oil but different, and hopefully some of those on a pillow and a tissue may help me sleep better and feel clearer later. We shall see how that pans out but I do want this cold to go away and do one!

In the meantime tune of the day is the excellent "Please Don't" by She Makes War - which for me is one of the highlights from her 2015 album "Direction of Travel". It is a lovely chorus duet with Mark Chadwick from The Levellers, but on its own with Laura's lovely vocals, it really does feel wonderfully haunting and lovely too. I can't wait to see what will happen when she launches her Pledge campaign for the new album later this week - I definitely will be having some of that!

Sunday 5th November - Arsenal and A Long Way Home

It was a case of waking up a little later, having some nice breakfast with The Love In My Heart, and getting ready to have a nice cuppa before heading off to meet my friend at the Etihad Stadium for the live Premier League game with Manchester City facing Arsenal. City were of course on some run of form, but we both knew that Arsenal was going to be a tough game and perhaps a toughest test of how we'd play at the moment. We got a brew and all was good, and made sure we got to the seats early, and with good reason.

On Wednesday of course Sergio Agüero scored the goal to make him the all time Manchester City top goalscorer, and so before the teams came out, a guard of honour was formed with some of the City younger squad, two of the women's team, and former players as well, including the likes of Dennis Tueart, Niall Quinn, and Colin Bell, but perhaps the two biggest cheers for the former players was for Uwe Rösler and then Shaun Goater - with Uwe particularly getting a big chant, and the guard formed as Sergio came out, along with a presentation accordingly.

The game kicked off and it was a little edgier as I expected, although for me it was a case of carrying on what we were doing. Chances came with some crosses across the box, but when one move broke down, Kevin de Bruyne played a one two with Fernandinho and the Belgian rifled a shot into the bottom corner for the opening goal and 1-0 City, with the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" (make that tune of the day) lending itself to a chant of "Ohhhhh, Kevin de Bruyne!!" et al. Arsenal had a good chance before half time but Ederson was equal to the challenge too.

The second half started well and City soon had a penalty after Raheem Sterling was bundled over in the box. The referee had no hesitation and replays showed he was correct. Up stepped Agüero and goal number 179 was his as he rifled the shot in off the post. Arsenal did come back into it when Lacazette came on and it was he who scored a low shot mid way through the second half and at that point we were all a little bit on tenterhooks wondering if we'd done enough.

That was soon to be resolved though, as the ball went down the right to David Silva, who looked offside but the ref played him on, and then he squared it for Gabriel Jesús to make it 3-1. It did look offside to me and those watching but we'd take the third goal and that proved to be enough for us to win the game and to stay top. And even better was that Chelski beat Man U later, and so we'd be a massive eight points clear at the top of the table, and this after 11 games. I'd have that thank you very much!

Later on The Love In My Heart made us a lovely tea, which was some nice roast chicken with vegetables and potatoes, and that went down beautifully, and a proper roast dinner to match too. We snuggled up and watched part of the results show on Strictly Come Dancing, and as I predicted Aston was in the bottom two (he'd go out later on) and then with big hugs and kisses to Brian the cat as he was all snuggly in his box, it was time for The Love to drop me off to the station.

The journey home was horrible unfortunately. My planned train, the 2021, and the train I'd paid to go first class on, was absolutely rammed, with all seats taken, all declassified and people standing in all the vestibule areas meaning that you wouldn't be able to get on. I wasn't going to risk it either, and they were waiting around for a train manager to turn up before the train left. I checked with staff and I could go on the 2055. I managed to get a seat in first class, although this was declassified too there was plenty of room so that was a relief.

What wasn't a relief was that they had to wait for almost an hour for a driver to come from a previously delayed service that he was rostered on, and then once that happened we were stuck behind a slow train at Macclesfield also. We got to Stoke on Trent almost an hour late and kept to time, despite a slow run at Wolverton just outside Milton Keynes Central. In fact we arrived at Euston at 0035, which wasn't really good at all, and knowing that no tube trains were running, it was still a way to go home.

In the end, I headed on the 59 bus towards Waterloo, and got off there and didn't have to wait too long before the N68 to Old Coulson via Croydon, and that was a route I'd done before - and it meant I'd be dropped off at the end of the road where the flat is too. I eventually opened the front door of the flat around 0145 and headed off to bed. I suspected I'd be compensated in full for the journey and all that, but I'd have much rather arrived on time and got home around two hours or so earlier..

Saturday 4th November - Bakewell Puddings

The Love In My Heart and I were up a little earlier than normal - but with good reason. Yesterday was Mum's birthday, and we'd arranged to take her out for the day and have a nice time in Bakewell, home of the pudding (Not the tart folks, blame Mr Kipling for that) and generally a nice town with lots of little shops to explore around - it's also a nice scenic road to get there too, and as The Love had very kindly offered to drive, it was good to get to Mum's around 9.45am and pop in her place first.

I was really pleased that she loved her birthday present! We had been in the Jamie Oliver restaurant Fifteen in Watergate Bay when we were in Cornwall in July, and we spotted the range of stuff to buy, including an apron. I know Mum loves nice aprons to cook in, and when we saw that we went "got to be done!" and purchased that, along with a Cornwall card from Whistlefish in St Ives. Let's just say she was a happy bunny and that set the day off wonderfully well.

Soon The Love was heading via Stockport and Hazel Grove to Disley along the A6, before turning at the Sparrowpit roundabout to head to Dove Holes and around the back of Buxton centre. The road here runs alongside a river, but also has the old railway line reaching overhead, with two or three times the road ducking under. It was nice especially as we arrived towards Bakewell that the pretty town did look just that, and the clouds were even clearing too for some nicer weather. Hurrah for that I thought!

The Love managed to get a parking space, and we soon headed along one of the main roads and had a good mooch in some of the shops. We did stop off at this lovely little bookshop which had a café - and the coffee there was rather lovely it has to be said. They even had some nice cake which Mum very kindly treated us to (I was buying us lunch later on) - and that was good to relax and chatter in there for a while too. I loved the fact you could browse the books and then have a coffee - really nice staff also.

We did have a mooch round plenty more shops including a little craft fair held in one of the scout huts, and ventured in plenty of gift places which all seemed to have scarves of all colours and ornaments a plenty ("dust collectors" as The Love puts it) and it was a little twee in places, but all good enough. We were getting a tad peckish though and so it was off to The Wheatsheaf for lunch, where the rear of the place was all being used for a wedding reception (we had seen the bride earlier on too!)

We did have to wait a little bit for the service, but ultimately it was worth it. Mum had the haddock and chips, and that haddock was lovely crispy batter and white fish inside - she couldn't finish it all because it was so big, but I tried a bit and found it nice. The Love had the ham, eggs and chips, although the ham was much more like a hock of gammon, massively thick and good. I saw they had pie, and the chicken, ham and leek pie was gorgeous, and the gravy that came with it was thick and good too. Oh, and decent ale on also which is always a good thing.

We spent more time in more shops, and some lovely places, and a fair few all laying claim to "we make the original Bakewell pudding!". Naturally I had to purchase one of them from one shop of course, and The Love also got the iced tart version (which ironically some bakers in Bakewell now also make) as something to take home for her father. We ended up later in Costa and I had the gingerbread and cream latte, which even Mum was keen on having in future - so she'll have to do that herself.

All in all it was all lovely, and so nice to see Mum happy and in her element too. Tune of the day came later on as The Love and I were watching Strictly Come Dancing on BBC1, and as the contestants danced and did really well, the classic "I've Got A Feeling" by The Black Eyed Peas was played by the band as Debbie McGee did her dance, and a perfect 40 as well. I must admit though I was worried that Aston Merrygold had taken too many risks with his dance, and that could well be his downfall...

Friday 3rd November - Idiots on Coach C

I had a good productive day today - lots of the changes I proposed were approved, which was good, and also plenty of the planning to do things for next week were also going ahead. I for one was pretty pleased with how it was all going and spent some time working on some of the requests and how they're handled in ServiceNow too. On the whole that was going well - just needed to look at the workflow diagram and make that happen nicely with some new changes for a new type of request. It did look good though so we'll see how that works.

I did feel bunged up a lot though so it was a case of dosing up and having some fresh juice, and then later on also heading off to the Crown and Anchor pub for a well earned drink. I must confess I was half tempted to ask for a hot toddy and try and ward off the cold and flu bug, but at the same time wanted a nice pint, and with Ghost Ship on cask, it just had to be done. I did feel a bit warm in there and it was something that The Love In My Heart and I had remarked on last Sunday, so noticeable to a degree. On the plus side though the music being played was ace, including the fab "Lola's Theme" by The Shapeshifters, so tune of the day for that one for me.

It was soon off to Euston and ready to board the 1820 train to Manchester Piccadilly, another of the £11 trains I'd managed to get on the Virgin Trains offer some time ago. It was good too that I still had the reserved seat as Coach C these days turns out to be the unreserved coach now. However, it was soon clear before heading off that a load of office workers who had been down to London for some function were on the way back, completely loud, completely obnoxious and right up their own backsides.

The next two and a half hours (longer than normal due to delays in the Milton Keynes area) were full of said idiots being just that: idiots, swigging Prosecco like it was a glass of water, being overly loud, getting in the way of passengers making their way to the onboard shop, having large balloon letters in the way, and so on. I just wanted them to get off and have some peace and quiet on the train (even though of course I had my earphones on I could still hear their annoying voices.) I can only hope I never end up a pretentious wanker like some of those people on the train.

I was relieved to get off in more ways than one, and The Love In My Heart came to collect me, and soon we were back at her place with Brian the cat being much more back to normal, which pleased me a lot. He had been poorly, poor thing, and was soon getting his little high pitched miaow back as well as wanting to play out - and having lots of cuddles with Mummy of course. We snuggled up and watched Gogglebox too which was the Stand up to Cancer Special, including the likes of Andrew Flintoff, Jamie Redknapp, Liam Gallagher, his son Gene and Mum Peggy, and all sorts - quite good too.

Thursday 2nd November - Bunged Up

This bunged up feeling isn't shifting, which isn't good, but at the same time it was a case of getting the proverbial head down and getting on with things today. And I had plenty to do, especially as I was getting the distribution point role set up on the remote site in Manchester (albeit not remote for me if I still lived there of course.) The good thing is that the procedure for the other one would be workable the same way, and so it was following all of that and ensuring that the role was active.

By default, there's normally around a half hour delay from the DP role being set up before any content is transferred (normally the client itself which you need to have as a local installer where possible.) Here's the thing: don't panic during that time, but just let that time span happen, so all the roles are correct, the IIS service is up and running, and sure enough, when it then starts to upload content, all the folders are created, and all does what it needs to do.

I also have managed to utilise this rather neat PowerShell script which ensures that all the content that you want to send can be done so on a schedule and indeed this means I could ensure a chunk of stuff would go overnight without me having to press the necessary buttons in the SCCM admin console to do so. I must admit that's worked pretty well so far and it does mean that all the time and schedule works as we need to, so getting content there in quick time when nothing else is going on.

I did arrive home later and did my best to decongest somewhat, and also had plenty of hot drinks to try and keep myself going. I must confess though that it's been the worst cold I've had for some time, with constant nasal congestion and also getting towards the chest and feeling like a constant need to cough up phlegm (nice, not, despite that word being a great word to play in Scrabble for obvious reasons.) I just know that I need to keep going and make sure that I can do what I can.

I also spent some time transferring some of the new albums to the iPod, including the rather wonderful "Music For People In Trouble" by Susanne Sundfør. It's much more of a return to her more acoustic more mellow roots, and better for it in my view, despite the fact I did adore the previous "Ten Love Songs" album. From the new album, there's something just so emotional about "Undercover", especially with the piano punctuating things throughout. Tune of the day easily for me.

Wednesday 1st November - Born of Frustration

It's been one of those days today, and certainly James' classic single "Born of Frustration" sums up the mood well and so is tune of the day all round. It's interesting that of course the line in the first verse has always been interpreted by some Manchester City fans as "Don't need no Stretford exorcist" - even though it isn't. I suppose it makes some sort of sense to assume that as some of the band are City fans after all. Mind you, I miss the likes of their earlier classics such as "Hymn From A Village", "Come Home" and the original version (not the re-release) of "Sit Down". I know my James, I do.

So, what has got me this way? Well, a number of things really. First of all, a cold that just won't budge. Decongestants have been taken, as has cough medicine, I've managed to cough up some stuff this morning that wasn't pretty, but it still feels like it's all dormant in the head and won't move. Part of me wants to deal with it as naturally as possible and let the body take its recovery, but the pain in the head really is bad, and it's making me feel down.

Additionally, I spent a chunk of time today resolving an issue where for some reason one of the PCs at a remote site wasn't connecting as it should. We had managed to work out that the network card was disabled for some odd reason so we re-enabled that, but then for some reason it wouldn't see the domain shares or anything like that and so wouldn't see user profiles, or for that matter be able to connect correctly to any mapped drives. I had a few ideas but needed to test them one by one to see what was up.

I finally hit the nail on the head a time later. It looked like, for whatever reason, the network adapter had lost its binding to NetBIOS, meaning that it couldn't resolve anything that used that protocol (which can be a fair bit.) As such, it did mean that to re-establish that, you had to work out the adapter's GUID, and then populate a series of registry keys in order to be able to see if the adapter would then be able to resolve its binding on reboot later on. And thankfully, it did, and I could do all the good stuff such as remote control and so on, so felt pretty pleased even though it had taken longer than I thought.

However, I had stayed late and due to trespassers on the train line near Harpenden, it meant that the train I get from work was delayed and many others before mine had been delayed a bit longer - and in the dark it just seemed to crawl its way homewards to East Croydon. Not particularly happy really, especially as I wanted to go to the loo and the person inside it hadn't locked the door, almost resulting in an embarrassing moment of sorts. Good job I had the sense to not fling the door open but realise they'd forgotten to slide the lock in place.

That wasn't all though - I then went to Sainsburys on the way home to get some more tablets, and the quick pay tills were anything but. One of them failed to accept any coins whatsoever, and the second one then decided not to give me any change after putting some coins in, meaning endless waits for the staff to sort it out. It does make me wonder whether the whole bunch of them in the store near me needs replacing - they hardly ever work and are always going down.. and that just ended the day!