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.
Wednesday 22nd February - Wind and the Rain
I didn't expect to have to battle through wind and rain on the way home, but due to one thing or another and a later than planned finish, I did have to battle through wind, rain and indeed crowds when I got to Farringdon station. In fact because of the Southern Rail strike on today, and a Central Line and Waterloo and City Line tube strike, it was pretty packed, even more so than usual at that time. Thankfully I thought the safe way would be to head home and avoid the bad weather, and at least the station is fully covered with a massive glass canopy, so that meant at least for the time being I was dry, and the train home soon arrived.
None of that luxury once I got to East Croydon station though, mind you, the platforms were packed due to everyone attempting to get another train home, and on top of that a swirling wind blew the rain in from all directions. Once out of the station and the dry the wind blew towards me with driving rain as I passed Boxpark and then along George Street and homeward bound. It was at times like this I kept thinking it'd be nice to be a little bit closer to the station, but there you go.
I had a good chat with The Love In My Heart later on and she mentioned she appeared to have a weird email which we both suspected could be a possible phishing one. In fact when I checked it over, there were plenty of tell tale signs - a weird from address which looked like it was from Canada, and a link which would take you to some dodgy website hosted in the Netherlands. Of course, being able to view the message source gave some obvious clues to the dodginess of it all, and sensibly The Love didn't click any of the links, quite rightly so too. We're not that daft!
In fact I had a pretty productive day today, getting to the bottom of a potential issue with one of the installers for one piece of software we have, but also taking part in a little get together for the department, with a little activity where you link another person's arms and then try and untangle each other without letting go, which was fairly tricky stuff to be honest. It was hilarious though attempting to try and break free, although my neck might have taken some punishment during this time!
Tune of the day in the meantime is me going old school and listening to some dance classics, namely "Voodoo Ray" by A Guy Called Gerald, dating back from the late 1980s. In fact the 12" single I have on the Rham! label is an instant classic, and I'm sure those who frequented the likes of the Haçienda in the late 1980s will remember probably having a few drinks too many and dancing around like a mad person to it - very much of that whole acid house era too..
Tuesday 21st February - Monaco Magic
One of the disadvantages of working and living in the South is that whenever there's a midweek Manchester City home game, I can't realistically make it without having to at least take half a day off work for the train journey up, and most likely a half day at least for going back the morning after. Even when City do run a train, the late one back means I get a very late finish back home (night buses involved) so with an early start to work it may not be realistically doable, which is unfortunate but expected in a way.
However, I knew tonight was going to be a cracking game at the Etihad, not least as Monaco weren't exactly lacking in the goals department as well as ourselves, and with my friend heading there to enjoy the game, and me glued to the telly box at home, it was going to be exciting stuff. As usual of course the City fans booed the Champions League anthem primarily in protest at UEFA and the way that they always seem to favour other teams, refereeing decisions especially - and more about that as the game went on.
From the word go it was breathless stuff, with both sides seemingly intent on wanting to cross balls in to the danger areas and put defences under pressure, and no way was it going to end 0-0 whatsoever. When the goal did come I was pretty pleased it was City first, and Raheem Sterling was the scorer at that. Again, pleased for him that he was in the right place at the right time and followed on nicely from his goal against Bournemouth away last week.
City though weren't looking so good in defence and when Willy Caballero decided to hurriedly clear, the ball came back to the box and was finished by Radmael Falcao for 1-1. Then, controversy. It looked like Sergio Agüero had been tripped by the Monaco goalkeeper in the box and looked a certain penalty to me (and indeed the TV pundits plus Chris Waddle on Radio 5 Live) but nothing was given and instead Sergio was booked, and that got the fans' backs up. Even more so when Monaco dared to go 2-1 up before half time when Kylian Mbappe's drive found the net rather spectacularly. Cue more boos to the referee and a mountain to climb for the second half.
It could have got worse as the referee and official on the goal line took ages to decide that Monaco deserved a penalty for a push in the box, and more annoyed City fans because of it. However, we all know Caballero's record at saving penalties is decent, and he guessed right to deny Falcao. It was a game changer alright, and we all knew it. Even more so when Agüero's speculative low shot squirmed through the Monaco keeper for 2-2 and he won't want to see that again, that's for sure (the keeper that is!)
However, Monaco went up the other end not long after and John Stones lost his way defending which allowed a gorgeous chip from Falcao to hit home and loop over Caballero's head for 3-2 to Monaco. It wasn't good, and on came Pablo Zabaleta for not just more defensive bite but also some attacking options down the wing. In fact he got booked for giving the ref his piece of mind when the ref made another appalling decision - it was worth the yellow for him to say what all the fans were thinking and he got the crowd geed up and passionate behind the team as they clawed their way back.
And amazingly, City scored from a corner, with a sumptuous volley from Agüero making it 3-3. Wow, what an amazing game I was thinking, and was even more thinking how much I would have loved to have been there to see that one myself. Even more so when John Stones poked home from close range for 4-3, which sent the crowd mental. And rightfully so. And even more mental when the ball was played through, and Agüero passed it to Leroy Sane, and it was 5-3. Wow!!
It was an amazing night and my friend must have loved it hugely - granted it is only half time technically and of course the second leg in Monaco will still be tricky, but of course to have that sense of enjoyment is ace, and the City tannoy also played "Oh What A Night" by The Four Seasons, and that is tune of the day especially when the City fans sing it with the alternative lyrics: "Oh what a night, watching City on a Tuesday night, you play Thursday because you're [bleep] s***e, what a feeling what a night." Sang that myself before now too!
Monday 20th February - Sell Out Sutton
It was a Monday night game of football on the telly tonight as Sutton United hosted Arsenal in the last of the fifth round ties. With a tie with Lincoln City for the winners, who had performed superbly and beaten Burnley away on Saturday and became the first ever non-league side in over 100 years to make the sixth round, the onus was on Sutton United to try and get an all non-league tie, guaranteeing one of them a trip to Wembley for the semis in the process. Of course, the TV cameras were there and a packed house at Gander Green Lane.
Normally I'd be cheering for the underdogs in these sort of situations, as a big romantic story in the FA Cup is always something which captures the imagination. However, Sutton decided to have someone different for their shirt sponsor, so instead of having their usual company, they instead sold out and had on a betting company which is owned by no less than The Scum newspaper. Once I saw that shirt, I decided that no matter what, I couldn't possibly cheer them on.
Any football fan worth their salt or who has a dose of integrity knows all about Hillsborough and knows all about the lies that said newspaper printed as the initial days after the tragedy unfolded. It was only years later that some half hearted attempt at an apology was even attempted, and too little, way too late. Quite rightly that newspaper was mud in Liverpool, and the majority of the football family in support refused to buy it too - solidarity in numbers is always a good thing.
It was a decent game and Sutton did give a decent account of themselves, and Arsenal were dominant for a fair chunk of the game, with goals from Lucas and then Theo Walcott with a good finish scoring the two goals. Sutton hit the bar and maybe could have scored with another couple of chances, but effectively, you have to take the chances if you're considering a cup upset of any sorts. Arsenal go on to host Lincoln City in the quarter finals, which will be a massive reward for the Imps for all their excellent performances in the cup.
I also spent some time before the match going retro and listening to Ultravox's classic "Vienna" album. I can remember having this on tape, and was one of the first CDs I also bought too. The opening track Astradyne is a seven minute classic instrumental, full of sweeping synths and vocoder parts for Midge Ure too, and a definite tune of the day without question. In fact the whole of the album is an 80s classic, with the first three tracks on side two (Mr X / Western Promise / Vienna) segueing together very nicely to provide a common theme. And I love all three.
Sunday 19th February - Mooching Round Manchester
It was nice to be all snuggly up in bed, but also had the two cats Jô and Brian for company, mainly on the throw at the end of the bed which they're now getting used to and finding it rather soft and lovely, and Jô in particular really likes the feel of it too, and purrs rather contentedly when on it. We did eventually have to head up though and with that it was a nice breakfast from The Love, which was massively appreciated. In fact the cats were all relaxed and even had a play outside on the decking, spotting birds and scaring them off.
We had a thought and as we knew that Oliver Bonas had opened a large branch in the city centre, and as we'd been to several of their branches down South (including one in Windsor we went in many years ago, but also Greenwich, Richmond and Wimbledon) and the local press were a buzz with how nice it all is, we thought it good to check out, as well as have a wander around the centre and do lunch. The Love headed to her favourite car park just north of Oldham Street, but was fenced off, but located another one close by that didn't charge massively for parking, so all good there.
We walked through the Northern Quarter and stopped off at Oklahoma for a mooch around there - and some nice gift ideas in there. In fact they had a good card selection and the atmosphere seemed nice and chilled, which is just what we wanted. We walked through the Arndale, and The Love stopped off at Oasis and admired all the nice new season stuff, some of which I know full well she would look absolutely lovely in. From there it was along to St Mary's Gate and to Oliver Bonas itself.
And yes, we loved it. The store is laid out sensibly with two mezzanine levels, the upper one mainly having clothes and accessories (jewllery and indeed the sparkly cat socks that The Love already has) and the lower one having things like picture frames, books and so on. It really did feel light and airy too and also plenty of nice things to peruse and buy, and one book about vinyl albums which would look really good on the coffee table (although of course this is where you note the ISBN number and look at online booksellers!)
It was very nice, and so was heading around Waterstones on Deansgate later on. As much as The Love now has a Kindle from her sister, she does prefer a proper book to read if she has the chance, and it was good to see lots of books out there. We didn't spot the new Sophie Kinsella release though which means either a) it was sold out or b) maybe the branch's clientele is too posh for chick-lit that The Love likes. Still, it felt rather chilled out all round.
Later on it was off to The Bank and lunch in there, and both Sunday roasts we had were rather lovely - the ham hock that The Love had looked gorgeous, and a big chunk of beef in mine with gorgeous roasties all round too. And the Nicholsons Pale Ale from the St Austell Brewery too, so especially lovely to have that. And on the way back, we stopped at The Smithfield Market Tavern on Swan Street, which had lots of gorgeous real ale, and the Millionaire one I had was gorgeously dark and tasted of salted caramel, delicious it was. They had a live band on too playing some bluesy numbers and that was a good vibe all round, and tune of the day happened to be one of their numbers which just set a nice vibe going in there.
The less said about the journey home the better to be often, but suffice to say that a) it'll be the last time that I book Megabus instead of using the sensible option and booking the train and b) an email of complaint will be going in tomorrow. I was just appalled at their appalling lack of customer service, and was just so relieved to eventually get home and head off to sleep before the start of the next working week. Still, lesson learned I reckon - the hard way.
Saturday 18th February - The Man on the Train
So it was up pretty early and out of the flat by 7am, as I had a train to Manchester to catch from London Euston. It was surprisingly nice and quiet as I headed on the 0708 from East Croydon and then the tube from Victoria was nice and calm too, and more so as I exited Warren Street and took the short walk over to Euston, due to the fact that the escalators there are being refurbished and only one of them in order, meaning delays. Mind you, got to Euston way on time and so had plenty of time before boarding the 0820 train to Manchester.
I must admit I've got used to sitting in certain seats on the train now that I normally reserve, as I get a look out of a nice big window and usually sat on my own as well, as it was this morning. The train actually was quiet too, and a few got on once we hit Stoke on Trent and they were off to Manchester for the day, and a few spots of rain were in the air but nothing too bad. It was so nice to head off at Manchester Piccadilly where The Love In My Heart was waiting for me, and served me a nice sausage baguette for breakfast when I got back. How lucky am I and how wonderful is she?
We did the rounds of visiting both parents today, so we first headed off to her father's, where he was getting storage boxes for a new storage unit, and Wilko had them on offer. He got one, liked them and so sent us back for another four. Mind you, The Love also saw some new cushions for the bedroom, and one of them ended up being a mere £1, so absolute bargain to be had there. He seemed in fairly good spirits all round, which was nice to see, and was having a good natter with both The Love's sisters and I too.
Later on it was a quick check that my Mum was in and we headed over to have a coffee at her place. She kept me abreast of all that was going on (and then some) and it was nice to see that she had some good weekends planned with her friends, and we added one to that as we'll be taking her out for the day next Saturday, which will be pretty good. In fact my sister was there as she was a bit poorly, and I hope she does get well soon - by all accounts I wouldn't have wanted to go through the last few days that she had done.
After that we headed off to the Elizabethan pub in Heaton Moor for a drink, and the Atomic Ale was on top form that I had. We had a nice cosy spot and it was good to be able to cosy up and chatter for a while, before stopping off at my former local Tesco on the way back for a few bits and a lottery ticket, and then heading back to her place where the two cats Jô and Brian were all snuggly themselves. Surprisingly, Jô let me fuss over him and give him lots of strokes and fussing without him miaowing at me, which was rather lovely actually.
After tea we settled in and watched The Girl on the Train on DVD. The Love had read the book and of course enjoyed it, and said that for definite the book was much better than the film. I do think Americanising the film version and not having it set on a commuter line (for example into London or Manchester) detracted somewhat, but also The Love mentioned that the power of the narrative in the book was lost too. Still, killer score by Danny Elfman so the main theme is tune of the day, and at least the film had Haley Bennett in (she was the pop star in Music and Lyrics no less) which was good too.
Friday 17th February - Miffy Is Crying
So all good to go today and a bit of research being carried out by me generally during the day. It was good to finalise the write up of the use of the Client Center utility, written by Roger Zander, which a fair few of us use to diagnose any possible issues with any form of SCCM deployment, and especially as it has some nice new features which support the SCCM 2012 version rather well. I thought it useful to go through some of the features with some quality documentation, so am now awaiting feed back on that.
I've also been testing out a few other possible future deployments of software, not least as the next batch of security bulletins have come out for third party products (Adobe Flash for one) but also notable that Microsoft pulled out of doing their monthly updates via Patch Tuesday this month, apparently due to the fact that an error was spotted with one of the updates and it made more sense to pull them all and have a proper controlled release next month. I guess at least that does mean some opportunity for more testing of code to make it all work properly as you'd want to.
I must admit though when I got home I did feel quite sad, primarily because of the death of Dick Bruna, the illustrator and creator of may children's books, the most famous of which being Miffy (or Nijntje if you're in the native Netherlands, which means little rabbit) - and an iconic symbol of simplicity being the easiest way to appeal to children. In fact, Miffy was the mascot for when Utrecht hosted the start of the Tour de France, so large Miffy was on top of some of the tour cars when the Tour drove around Yorkshire to promote it too.
A few years ago when the Japanese tsunami had happened, Dick had written the book Miffy Is Crying, and did his bit by drawing a picture of Miffy's crying with a message "my best wishes to Japan" - the picture also helped to raise funds for the victims. Despite the prominence of the likes of Hello Kitty, Miffy had a massive fan base in Japan and they appreciated Bruna's gesture. More than that, The Love In My Heart mentioned that back in the day when you were allowed to draw licenced characters (Ofsted don't allow it) a lot of children's nurseries had drawings of Miffy and the like, due to its popularity and stories.
And that's it - even for us as adults now, seeing children still being enchanted by the little bunny and her tales is hugely heartwarming to see that the stories and images are timeless, and that the legacy will live on for many years to come, and how much of an unsung hero Dick Bruna was - he still lived in Utrecht, and was just himself. In a world seemingly obsessed by celebrity, his obsession was making people happy with his art and stories, and what a wonderful legacy to leave. With that in mind, tune of the day is the theme tune from Miffy and Friends, the nice animated series which kept to the spirit nicely, and a singalong chorus too. Awww..
Thursday 16th February - Breakdown II
Another day, another epic failure for Southern Rail. A few weeks back they had gone into long intensive talks with the drivers union ASLEF and had worked out some sort of an agreement, one which many observed was more to the liking of Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) than the drivers. The union had of course to put it to its members in a referendum vote before it was finally agreed to accept the deal. I suspected that it might be close not least as staff I'd spotted at stations talked of how some drivers felt they were sold down the river by those leaders.
I was leaving work today and saw on the BBC News rolling feed that they have in the reception that it was effectively a no vote from the drivers, and thus rejecting the deal. In many ways I know this may mean more strikes in the future (although ideally that should be avoided) but also it proves just how much that GTR are out of touch with the passengers, who are after all the fare paying public, and indeed how much they appear to be driving through their changes without a thought for the impact this will have on disabled passengers, and how much more difficult it will be for them to travel safely.
Indeed, having a member of staff at London Victoria station say to a disabled passenger that they shouldn't be out this late at night is like being back in the dark ages where people used the word "handicapped" a lot, which was deeply offensive. Clearly more awareness needs to be raised to ensure that all passengers can turn up and go and travel as they should be able to, but also how much that any disability can affect a person and the need to be able to travel is just as much a right as well. I can only hope that more awareness and a need to really step up and follow the Equality Act properly should be a requirement for all.
In work mind you I managed to make some very nice progress with using Direct Access remotely, and assisting one of our management team who was working from home with the laptop. As it transpired, they were after an application being deployed via SCCM, and even though I could see a deployment advertised to it, it wasn't downloading. However, the way that our Networks team have configured DirectAccess is that the external clients coming in get a particular IP v6 prefix.
So, it was a case of adding those prefixes into the list of boundaries in SCCM, then adding them to the boundary group that we have. And that sorted it. The external Direct Access client was able to see the content on the SCCM server, pull it down to the machine and then perform the installation of the software locally, and sure enough, he reported back it all worked and the software had installed with no issues. Quite pleasing really, especially as it could potentially mean better support externaly too.
I've been spending some time tonight watching the Welsh Open Snooker, but also listening to some of the Hacienda Classical album online, as it seems to periodically have tracks that feature in BBC2's The Great Pottery Thrown Down with the lovely Sara Cox as host. Of course, classics such as "Voodoo Ray" originally by A Guy Called Gerald just add to things wonderfully well, and part of me wanted to then play the 12" single, so I did (and yes I have it) - tune of the day no question.
Wednesday 15th February - Breakdown
As if you didn't already work it out, talks yesterday between Southern Rail / Govia Thameslink Railway and the RMT Union broke down rather acrimoniously. So much so that there is already another strike day planned for next Wednesday, which inevitably will impact some of the trains that I get on in that they'll either be busier due to other cancellations, or just have a mass of people waiting at East Croydon station in the hope of managing to get on a train at some point.
Mind you, there is something else that I'm attempting to get to the bottom of at the moment - the misleading advertising by Southern, Thameslink and in fact the whole GTR franchise over the revised Delay Repay arrangements. From December last year, any delays of 15 minutes or more were claimable on Southern, Thameslink, Great Northern and Gatwick Express, and so meaning that you could claim more money back more often. In fact over one week I actually made three claims under this rule, and have had confirmation of all three refunds to the bank account too.
However, I've noted at East Croydon station that their station posters still state the old Delay Repay time limit of 30 minutes, and on the Thameslink train I often get to work, the on-train poster also states the incorrect time. I have of course reported this accordingly, but as of tonight, some five days after not just me but other commuters have reported the same, the posters are still there. It does at least look like some of the trains have had the posters removed but not replaced, but still at least that is something.
In case you're wondering why I'm so bothered, then think this: those like me who are aware will claim, but if you see something in a station as high profile as East Croydon is, you'd expect it to be accurate. And more to the point, it seems some of the station staff aren't fully aware of the changes (bearing in mind this is two months ago) and this is a pretty poor show from GTR. Not only that, but bear in mind that the train companies get money from Network Rail if the delays are down to them, and not everyone claims, it's estimated GTR actually have around £20m or so of unclaimed Delay Repay claims - that's about the same as the DfT handed to them for supposed improvements.
So all in all, pretty poor. And of course maybe there's a deliberate plot to mislead passengers, so that they don't put a claim in and therefore the money remains unclaimed and in other people's pockets, but why should it? The amount you might get back might not be massive (three of mine didn't amount to massive amounts) but that's not the point - it's a failure to provide a service, and quite rightly you should be refunded accordingly for it of course. So with that in mind "Get Up Stand Up" by Bob Marley is tune of the day and as per the lyrics say, "stand up for your rights" and make it so.
Tuesday 14th February - Love and Loss
It's always a bit of an odd day when it's today - because I'm always of the belief that if you do love someone, you love them all the time, not just on one day and make an over the top effort. I for one was interested to see the queues of people at the local card shop near work, and infact when Subway had an offer on of a free 6" sub with any large drink just how many people would actually turn up and queue for one - and the answer was lots, from what I could see close to the office anyway.
I do know though that my love for The Love In My Heart does grow and stay strong, and that I think that we really do make the most of the time that we do have together. I think this is mainly because that we both are mature and sensible enough to know that as much as it'd be great to meet up after work (as we would often do!) and be able to have a moment to socialise as we would like, being together it also about how much it means to us both, and believe me, it's meant a lot more than I've realised over the last year and a bit especially.
Mind you, one of her friends and his partner have descended on London, and they were heading out to the Ivy Kensington Brasserie for tea - very nice as I of course know. They've changed the sundae to be more of a cherry one now, but needless to say on my recommendation he had it - and was suitably impressed all round. I think when you're in a place like that it's nice to treat yourself, and I'm sure that it was a rather good evening all round. I've noted some pub recommendations for them so hopefully that'll stand them in good stead too.
A day like today is also a good day to think about the ones whom you've lost too over time, and we've all had relations pass away whom we'd rather still be here. I think for me that it's notable that some of the larger influences in my life aren't here, and that in a way also drives me on because I want to make them proud from up above. I'm not religious in any way, but I do think that the good ones are always somewhere watching from somewhere above, almost being a positive influence even when they're not here, strange though that might sound.
So for me it's perhaps fitting that Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' cover version of "Death Is Not The End" is tune of the day - just because someone is gone, doesn't mean that you don't think about them or love them as much - quite the opposite in fact. It's never the end when someone passes away but perhaps a phase that becomes a part of you, in that how you deal with things, how you move on and so forth. I know for me that between Autumn 2006 and December 2007, my "recovery period" really allowed me to find myself and rediscover the person that I am, and also be able to realise that no matter what happens in life, you need to grasp the moments because you never know...
Monday 13th February - Form Is Temporary, Class Is Permanent
It was good tonight to be able to watch two sports that I enjoy, back to back and being able to relax and chill out after making a chicken and mushroom korma for tea. It was the Welsh Open snooker first, and although on BBC Two Wales the BBC do make it available via the red button and indeed online, and they picked a rather decent match to have an hours' coverage of - Jimmy White against Neil Robertson. Of course it was nice to see the former six times World finalist playing on proper telly, and Neil of course is no mean player himself.
And in fact the three frames that were shown were impressive, not least because each of them contained a century break - Neil Robertson scored 102 in the first frame, and Jimmy White matched that with a well compiled 102 of his own in the second frame, with the Thunder from Down Under then hitting back with a 111 in the third. It was a shame that the coverage had finished at 8pm, especially as Neil rattled through the next two frames to win 4-1, but was good to see the Whirlwind in play.
And then it was on with Manchester City's trip away to Bournemouth. Nice of Sky to think of the fans travelling and schedule it for a Monday night - they're so considerate aren't they? (sarcasm of course intended.) Still, the City fans did actually travel there in fair numbers, and were really pumped up to support the team, and although a pretty open game with Bournemouth having a good chance from Jordan Ibe saved by Willy Caballero, I always thought we might get a goal.
That we did - and after a deflected cross the ball fell to Raheem Sterling, who had gambled on getting in the box for the cross and was on hand to tap home from close range and make it 1-0, which despite a couple of decent efforts from Kevin de Bruyne, was how it stayed at half time. The other news was that Sergio Agüero had come on for Gabriel Jesus, and it was a case of seeing what he could do. And he didn't disappoint, was buzzing around the box and keeping the players on their toes.
In the second half Bournemouth did put City under the cosh a bit at times but we looked dangerous going forward, and so it proved. An excellent ball down the left found Raheem Sterling, who cut to the byline and put the ball across goal for Agüero to nip in ahead of Tyrone Mings and poke it home. 2-0. The City fans cheered for the Argentine and to the tune of the Inspiral Carpets' "This Is How It Feels" sang their version (with kudos to the departed member Craig Gill, a City fan too): "This is how it feels to be City, this is how it feels to be small, You sign Phil Jones, we sign Kun Agüero, Kun Agüero" - ace and so tune of the day.
Sunday 12th February - Slow Sunday
It was so nice to have a lie in to be honest, and even The Love In My Heart admitted that as much as she loves the cats Jô and Brian, having them not gently paw her to try and wake her up in the early morning was rather blissful, and it was peace and quiet as we just took our time and had a good long sleep too. In fact, being cuddled up was especially nice, and it's something that I appreciate too. Once up, I set about making a nice full breakfast for us both, so that was good.
In fact, having the mushroom, sausages, bacon and fried egg and some toast was just the thing really, and possibly the best fried egg I've done possibly ever, thoroughly cooked but with a nice softer yolk as well, great for dipping the toast into. That along with some pink grapefruit juice really did make the morning lovelier, and once we'd got showered, it was time to then watch the final day's athletics events of the Nitro Series from Melbourne with Usain Bolt and an all star team against Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and England.
In fact it was a really good thing to watch - and some innovation and some excellent different events really made it stand out, for example the 2x300 metre relay, the elimination mile where the last placed athlete gets knocked out, the mixed 4x100 metres relay (two men and two women) along with the javelin where you got bonus points for being close to the centre of the infield where you threw, and that was intriguing. I really liked the mixed pole vault too, with combined results counting towards the event win. Ace, that.
Later on we headed to East Croydon station and took the train to Victoria, then the tube to Warren Street (the escalator work at Euston means it takes ages to get out of there, so easier to alight here as it's also quieter) and then the short walk to the Crown and Anchor, one of our favourite pubs. The six nations rugby was on between France and Scotland, which had the worst conversion ever from under the post from Scotland, and that was not good to see someone really stuffing it like that.
We had lunch, and all was lovely. I had the fish and chips, and the fish was pretty massive, and the chips were also lovely too with The Love having the Sunday roast pork, and that was also rather luscious, complete with a massive Yorkshire pudding. And in addition, a trio of cask ale brilliance, with Mary Jane from the Ilkley Brewery, Black Sheep Best and St Austell Proper Job. Ace. As was the little half pint glasses that were the same as the classic pint glasses with handle, only smaller. Rather ace too.
It was a huge hug for a farewell as The Love headed from Euston on the 1705 train back to Manchester, but had been a lovely weekend of relaxation, nice meals out and in, and being generally chilled out. It's always nice when The Love comes to visit me as well as we can do different things, and I for one appreciate it too as it's me not having to travel as far. Tune of the day is the rather excellent "Lola's Theme" by Shapeshifters, just makes us both feel happy when we listen to it.
Saturday 11th February - Feeling the Love
It was especially nice to get everything even more neat and tidy in the flat today, as The Love In My Heart was coming down to stay for the weekend, and the two of us were of course going out for a meal tonight. As we wouldn't be together on Valentine's Day, we thought heading out tonight would be good instead, and meant we could have our own lovely day together instead. In fact it's well worth noting that we're both of the opinion that if you do love each other, you do so all the time, so we do get each other a card but don't go massively overboard.
That said, it was always lovely to see her arrive and so once I got a text to say she was at Victoria and on the way to East Croydon, I walked to the station and the snow was coming down, sort of made it a tad romantic in a way, and she arrived in good time. We headed back to my place and was glad that the heating was on and we were warm, but also out of the cold and able to just have some quality time together during the afternoon. I had got us a nice posh pizza so put that in the oven for lunch, which we had whilst watching the Nitro athletics highlights from Melbourne with Usain Bolt captaining an all star team.
We swapped cards and I had got her a little something - the Pete Tong Classic House CD, which happened to be something we'd seen performed live on the Graham Norton show close to New Year and loved, so knew that she would enjoy it. In fact one of her favourite songs of all time is on there, and they got the original singer to perform the vocals too, so excellent stuff that, but as we played the CD whilst we had a game of Scrabble together, the version of "Pjanoo" complete with strings sounded rather excellent all round, so tune of the day there for me.
We spent some time chilled out with some telly, and later on we both got ourselves ready to go out, with the rather nice view of being able to take the time out to chill and not rush, so all was rather good there. The Love had her really nice new white Biba top on, which together with some nice trousers and heels, meant that she looked utterly gorgeous. I had my new green Fred Perry check shirt on with some trousers, and so was looking cool, but admittedly it's at times like this I know I'm with a classy beautiful woman and that makes me feel hugely happy.
So it was on to the South End, a short walk from me, and off to Apatura, one of the many restaurants along that stretch. In fact we both liked the menu when I booked it, and the staff made us feel very welcome and content, and being really personable too, a nice touch that. Even better, they now had Greenwich Mean Time ale on tap too, which meant it was a pretty easy decision what to have - granted, not cask, but for any restaurant to have some form of ale is a bonus. The Love went for the pinot grigio wine, and we mulled over the menu and made our starter and main selections.
In fact the food was simply lovely - I had the potato skins to start, and they had plenty of bacon on as well as cheese, and The Love had the mushrooms with garlic, which looked well cooked and rather gorgeous too. The mains were ace too, The Love had the lamb shish with salad etc, and the lamb was really well done but soft inside, and was excellent. I had the pork belly, with some stunningly nice mash, and chorizo slices and peas in a really nice red wine jus. It was simply stunningly nice, and still had room for a sticky toffee pudding afterwards. We both liked the relaxed vibe in there, the staff were lovely, and they didn't rush you either. All the food was cooked to order (you could tell) and was all really nice and hot when it came out, so definite positives. I can highly recommend it.
We headed back to mine afterwards, The Love had some wine, and me some Funnel Blower porter, gorgeous dark ale with vanilla in it too, and she had brought with her High Rise on Blu-Ray, so we watched that together. I knew that based on a JG Ballard novel it was going to be rather surreal, and so it proved. Tom Hiddleston was excellent as ever, but for me Jeremy Irons as the Architect was really good, somewhat understated at times but deliberately so, and Keeley Hawes as Ann was also excellent, a gamut of emotions and darkness all at the same time. Brooding. And excellent too.
Friday 10th February - Freezing Friday
So another day in the office, and the end of the week too, which is always pleasing. I have to say though it was rather freezing outside, which didn't make me want to venture out to lunch to be honest, but stay in instead and keep warm with coffee too. Plenty to do of course, and worked on testing a couple of things: one of which was that for the laptop builds, ensured that the OneDrive next generation latest version client was added (a simple way of replacing one of the files in C:\windows\SysWow64) but then also adding a registry key for the default user so that when the user first logged in, it'd ensure the next gen client was installed in their account.
However, of course this is also dependent on the fact that the user doesn't have a roaming profile already, and was logging in for the first time, which worked fine. If you do roaming, then there's a possible further tweak you might need to with Group Policy, where you'd have to effectively push the installer as a run as a startup script, but only do so for the laptop users (as they have a separate policy) and so that way be able to work the right way. I'll do some further checking on Monday on this, but good to get it all done.
I headed home via the local Lidl, as I wanted to see what real ale offers were on, and surprisingly a couple too, the Hogs Back Blonde, which looked pretty good, but best of all, a vanilla porter called Funnel Blower from the Box Stream Brewery in Trowbridge, Wiltshire. That looked ace and for a mere £1.25 too, absolute bargain of course. I also then headed to the local pound shop as they have the decent shampoo I use for a mere £1, tons better than paying over the odds for it of course.
Later on it was on with the snooker and it was the first semi final of the World Grand Prix between Barry Hawkins and Liang Wenbo. I honestly thought it was going to be a closer semi overall, but well done Hawkins - he pulled off some quality breaks and was a hugely deserved 6-1 winner, and through to the final on Sunday, where he'll face either Ryan Day, who beat Shaun Murphy impressively, or the in form Marco Fu, who beat Mark King (hence the classic Fu - King encounter double entendre of course)
My food shopping from Tesco arrived much later than planned - they had kept me updated by text which was good but the driver then rang me to claim he couldn't find the address. Obviously if the drivers' sat nav systems haven't been upgraded for some time that is an issue, I've had my postcode for over a year plus and the whole building has had one for eighteen months plus too. It turned out he was at the wrong road name (there happens to be another road of the same name a couple of miles away) and when I directed him correctly, he eventually arrived, which was a relief.
Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather classic "Everything Counts" by Depeche Mode. After listening to the new single I decided to revisit some of the back catalogue and play plenty of the singles from the Singles 81-85 compilation, and of course this classic is on there. I must admit I would love to hear this done live when I go to see them in June, but we shall see what happens. In any case, any self respecting 1980s fan needs to have this compilation - at least.
Thursday 9th February - Where's The Revolution?
One of my friends had alerted me to the fact that not only was the new Depeche Mode single out (before the album next month) but also the video as well. And directed by Anton Corbijn, a long term collaborator with the Mode and of course the director of Control, the Joy Division film (he was a huge fan of the band too) - so I obviously had to take a look. I have to say that "Where's The Revolution" is classic Depeche Mode, gorgeous layers of synths with a pop sensibility, and Dave Gahan's vocals are totally spot on for this - so tune of the day for definite.
Naturally as my friend and I are heading to the London Stadium to see the band's only UK appearance thus far in June, I definitely will be looking forward to that. They are a band I've never got to see live before, and I'd have loved to have gone around the time of the Violator album in particular. A lot of my 80s growing up was with the band and their albums especially, and of course many of the singles today I can pretty much still recognise and even sing along to for most of it (Everything Counts, especially) so it'll all be good I am sure.
All this week too the snooker has been on ITV4 of course, so the World Grand Prix has been essential viewing. I saw the remainder of the epic Mark Allen v Liang Wenbo game when I got home from work, and that was a dramatic final frame. Neil Robertson, having overcome Ronnie O'Sullivan earlier in the day, was also battling Barry Hawkins tonight and that's been pretty good to watch too. I do like the way that the tournament flows, although I do also think that the best of seven format is maybe a little too short, good job it goes to best of 11 for the semis and best of 19 for the final.
In fact it makes me wonder though where the crowd are for this tournament? I have to say it was much better attended when it was in Llandudno, and Preston has certainly been a decent venue for other tournaments before, so I don't get it. Maybe because it's on the telly, but then again that doesn't stop people going to the Masters, the UK Championship, the Welsh Open, or the Worlds at the Crucible of course. I must admit I'd still love to head to Sheffield, but it is looking less likely this year unfortunately.
Still, I'm pleased that the week is progressing nicely and this weekend will see The Love In My Heart head here, which I'm excited about - it was before Christmas that she was last here with me and I think she'll be pleased to see that I've managed to keep the place all neat and tidy and add a couple of little touches to make it even more homely (she contributed to one of course, my Scrabble cushion with W4 on it, and that compliments the mug I have in the same design too.
Wednesday 8th February - Documentation Day
I spent a fair amount of time this morning writing up some documentation, which is what I actually don't mind doing whatsoever. My team lead had suggsted that we put together a series of document that explains some of the log files used by SCCM, especially at the client level, which should mean that some of our support team are able to then able to use those to delve deeper into any issues that they may encounter with things like task sequence deployment, client setup, package and application deployment etc.
In fact, I spent a chunk of time doing the task sequence one, primarily because the main log file uses (smsts.log) contains a lot of detail and sometimes is split up over multiple log files if they're over a certain size, but using that you can pretty much follow all the processes from the start to completion - so it's good to know what actually happens, where you may expect a failure and why, and what should be seen. In fact it was good to actually take some grabs of a live log file viewed in CMTrace for that reason, so I could see the whole thing easily and quickly.
I also spent some time this afternoon getting a laptop ready for testing out various SCCM managing out tasks when the laptop is using DirectAccess. In theory it means that the laptop, even if connected from outside, should be able to see our networks and be manageable from the inside out, and also be able to see in and get to network drives, authenticate correctly and so on. In fact during our team meeting yesterday the demonstration proved to be really good, so it'll be well worth checking all of it out to ensure it plays ball the right way.
I headed home and as usual the 1615 from Farringdon was jam packed. Now Thameslink, you would think that a train to Brighton would be busier than one only going to Three Bridges, so why not put the 12 carriage train on the 1615 and then the 1629 to Three Bridges make that an 8 instead? Same number of carriages overall, but wiht the order shifted to make it that more people get a seat, in theory. I'm just relieved I don't have to stand, but have often given up my seat for a pregnant woman so she can at least sit in comfort - it only seems the right thing to do, but amazing how many people don't. Annoying.
When I got home later I noted the BBC 6 Music Alternative 90s thing on the red button, and had to watch some of that. Some cracking classic music videos from the time there, including "Novocaine For The Soul" by Eels (make that tune of the day) - and the likes of Roni Size, Elastica, Suede, Pavement, Ride, Spiritualized and so on featuring too. Of course as I listened to and bought a lot of music during that time I could have very easily made it a four hour video playlist with no repeats. That's given me an idea...
Tuesday 7th February - A Very Nice Surprise
I was in my lunch break, resting outside with the free O2 wifi in one of the local parks close to work, and checking a few things out, when I noticed a tweet from one of my former colleagues, who was my manager back in the day. He was in London with his work, and so I responded, as he had mentioned to me a while back that it would be good to meet up next time he was in London. As it transpired, he was in Stratford and his company had put him up at a hotel close to Dalston Kingsland station, and so arranged to head out there later.
For me it wasn't too bad to get there either, a hop on the tube to Whitechapel and then on the Overground Northbound and heading through Hoxton and Haggerston before arriving at Dalston Junction, then took the few minutes walk around the corner to Dalston Kingsland. I had a text saying he was on the way, and so waited there at the Overground station - it was good to see him of course, and we got nattering away as we headed to the hotel so he could drop off stuff and check in - turned out they were then in Shoreditch tomorrow before heading back up North, so definitely a whistle stop trip out.
I had done a bit of research, and so once all checked in and sorted, we headed out and down the main A10 road south towards Haggerston, stopping off at The Fox, which did a very nice line in looking after their beers and ales generally, with plenty of craft beer and cask ale on too. In fact, there happened to be the Manchester Marble Brewery bitter, so of course no need to even contemplate anything else - and in proper pint glasses too. Win all round I reckoned, and so much so we both had another pint later on.
We also had the food in there too - he had the cottage pie which looked ace, and I had the haddock and chips - the chips were beautifully cut and seasoned and the fish was rather gorgeous all round with a crispy batter, excellent all round there. In fact it was nice to sit and chatter for ages, and asked how he and the family were, and his wife had actually been in London herself - and in Hatton Garden, a stone's throw from work (she works in jewellery by trade) - it was also really good to hear how his family were all getting on and of course the football and the rugby league got mentioned too (he's a Liverpool fan so was understandably despairing at their current form..)
The time went by quickly and it was really good to spend some time out catching up and generally enjoying the evening, and before we knew it, it was back to Dalston Junction and a farewell before I headed on to the Overground back to West Croydon. It was a very welcome and nice surprise, and definitely one that's given me a confidence boost as well - proof that after all the years of being able to achieve, it's good to remember those that helped inspire you - and he was one of them. Tune of the day is "Everybody's Happy Nowadays" by Buzzcocks, a punk classic and certainly one in my head as I headed home.
Monday 6th February - Snooker Loopy
And so this week on ITV4, snooker, all week too. And of course for a fan like me that goes down rather well to be honest, as the World Grand Prix from Preston Guild Hall is the next tournament in the calendar. In fact later this month they've also got the Snooker Shout Out from Watford Colosseum, so definitely showing that they're filling some nice gaps in the free to air calendar these days. Admittedly using ITV4 means that they're able to show lots of coverage without the need to go off air for other programmes, and makes sensible use of the schedule to do so.
And so to tonight, with Jill Douglas hosting, who does a decent job but isn't as good as Hazel Irvine, although to be fair no other presenter is as good as Hazel - she sets the bar very high. Where ITV do appear to be really well at is their choices in commentary: Alan McManus alongside Clive Everton for a start, and who doesn't like that - Clive to this day should still be doing the commentary on the BBC and why they decided he didn't fit in, heaven knows. Alan knows the game inside out (World Championship semi last year for example) and so the two of them together blend really well.
In fact it was a cracking first match too - even for a best of 7 frame encounter. It was Judd Trump against Tom Ford, a repeat of their German Masters clash last week as it turned out. Some of the frames got scrappy, with one frame lasting over fifty minutes as it turned into a tense tactical battle, but on the other hand, there was a century from Tom Ford and a pretty excellent 145 from Judd Trump in one frame too, so rather good quality there. In the end Trump won 4-2 but it could have very easily gone the other way.
More drama was to come as Michael White faced John Higgins, and not least in one frame when White looked to be on for a maximum 147 break, which would have been excellent. However, he went wrong after the 12th black but had done enough by that time to be able to clinch the final frame and win 4-3, a pretty good victory all round. The only thing with the roll on, roll off best of seven format is that when the evening session starts at 7pm getting a possible fourteen frames in can mean that the second match can over-run a little bit.
On the whole though, a positive, and so good to see snooker back on the telly. ITV don't have a decent snooker theme and they could very easily use the proper Drag Racer theme (make that tune of the day) or even bring back their 1980s synth laden theme that they did used to use for their coverage, which was rather good too. I am sure looking that up online should bring up old tournaments such as the Mercantile Credit Classic. Their late 1990s jazzy vibe wasn't that bad either actually..
Sunday 5th February - Lucky
After a nice breakfast and a bit of chilled out time with some telly, I was off to meet my friend at the Etihad Stadium and see Manchester City's game at home to Swansea City. Swansea had been in some decent form as of late, and of course my beloved Blues were doing well after a 3-0 and 4-0 win in the FA Cup and league respectively, so I was hoping for more of the same and at least some goals to go in. My friend was also optimistic when we met up, and it was a well earned cuppa that we both had and had the chance to catch up and have a good natter too.
The game got underway and City were on the front foot all half with Swansea sitting back and having zero effort to try and score really. A few minutes in and David Silva cut into the box on the left hand side, and the ball fell nicely to Gabriel Jesus to poke home from nine yards, and 1-0 inside ten minutes. A Yaya Touré free kick was well saved by Lukasz Fabianski, and another couple of good shots from Touré were also well saved. Near the end of the half Raheem Sterling should have had a penalty but the referee gave nothing, a pretty bad decision from what I could see anyway.
The second half though was completely different. Swansea came out with much more purpose and had the Blues on the back foot, with them creating chances and looking lively. We still were going forward but seemed lethargic and much less purposeful and weren't able to score a second goal, which was badly needed. And Swansea got an equaliser, thanks to Gylfi Sigurdsson's well placed shot, even if one of their players looked offside when the shot was hit.
Ten minutes left, some people sat near my friend and I started to leave. I wondered why, especially when I know City have a habit of scoring late on, and sure enough, the ball was played to the right by Pablo Zabaleta, and David Silva put in a gorgeous cross with Jesus headed towards goal. It was saved, but he was first to the rebound and scored in the 92nd minute to make it 2-1 to City. Relief all round and the classic "we're Man City, we fight to the end" was very true especially today.
I headed back to The Love's place and we had some well earned nice food, some chicken with a sauce and some vegetables to with that, and had one last fuss over the cats before The Love dropped me off at Piccadilly station, with hugs and a kiss to see me on my way, and had the iPod on playing the likes of Kraftwerk's "Trans Europe Express" (make that one tune of the day) - and due to engineering works, the train arrived late into Euston, and so eventually got home around 9.20pm. A long day, but a good one overall and three vital points for City thrown in.
Saturday 4th February - Cinematic
It was up early and out for me, stopping off to redeem one of the McDonalds vouchers we as apartment block residents got the other day so I could get a Sausage and Egg McMuffin and coffee for £1.99, and had that whilst on the train to Victoria, before then the tube to Euston and in good time for the 0900 to Manchester Piccadilly, where The Love In My Heart was waiting for me and we had a nice long hug before setting off for her place, where the two cats Jô and Brian were actually pleased to see me and allowed me to fuss over them both for ages. Awwww.
We headed off later to see The Love's father and he was watching the Chelski v Arsenal game, which Chelski won 3-1 in the end. Arsenal weren't playing too well, and we had a good chat about all sorts, and I think for The Love it's nice we both headed over and spent some quality time there with him. He was mentioning that he was off to the racing in the near future, which would be good, and how one hotel in Blackpool he's staying at also has a racecourse day out too, so that'll be good.
It was back to The Love's place, and a change of clothes too - I had a shirt to put on and The Love a really nice top, and it was off into the city centre, where we had a drink first and noted that a mass of people who had been taking part in a protest and rally at Albert Square were making their way homeward (some via the pub) and as we passed the square later, still some protesting going on although it was dying down a tad. It says a lot when there's so many out there with banners, even lots of parents with their children as well. You can probably guess what it was all about...
Anyway, we were then off to AMC Cinemas, and we hadn't been to the cinema together in ages, but both wanted to see T2:Trainspotting, so thought it a good idea to go. In fact, the cinema wasn't that busy but had been told by the council to close some of the screens, and we suspected with the odd bucket here and there it was due to water leaks, as it's based in the old Great Northern Warehouse and old buildings are prone to that sort of thing. We were in screen 5 (and never been in that one before) and was pretty busy but got a nice set of seats near the back.
All the trailers happened and took way too long, and then the film itself was on. And I have to say, very enjoyable it was too. I'm not going to give much away, but all four main actors were again superb, perhaps Ewen Bremner as Spud was the best of the four and played the role wonderfully well. I should also add that Anjela Nedyalkova as Veronika was also really good too, having the slightly sultry look in parts but also a common sense no bull approach in others too. And naturally, an ace soundtrack which includes Blondie's "Dreaming", the 80s classic "Relax" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and a remix by The Prodigy of Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life" which sounded ace, so tune of the day right there.
Lots of moments too to make you smile or cringe in equal measures, and some where The Love simply had to turn away including one moment of being sick (and you'll see why when you watch it) but seeing parts of Edinburgh throughout was pretty good (they even got the new trams in there) and definitely a well worthy sequel to the classic original. Go see it, and be prepared for moments of hilarity as well as moments of "ewwww" as well. Good fun that.
We went and had some food down the pub later on and that was all good, I had the chicken korma for a change, before then heading back on the tram to The Love's place, and caught up on some telly we'd missed, so saw Pointless Celebrities, with Nicky Clarke getting the Pointless trophy but not the prize money, and then The Love enjoying Let It Shine, with the contestants having guests to perform with including Kaiser Chiefs, Beverley Knight, Olly Murs and Melanie C. Not bad all round that really, but it was brutal if you were getting knocked out. And I have to say... Mel Giedroyc, she is ace!
Friday 3rd February - Go 8-Bit in Elstree
After a long day at work, it was nice to be able to do something different for a change, and so I was heading up North from my work station of Farringdon and taking a Thameslink train, but the other way from what I'd normally do, and so it was via St Pancras, Kentish Town and West Hampstead and onwards to the outer reaches of Zone 6 and Elstree and Borehamwood station and off towards the BBC Elstree studios so I can go and be part of the audience for Dara O'Briain's Go 8-Bit second series.
As you know, I liked the idea and certainly the two main creators Steve McNeil and Sam Pamphilon do deserve credit for that - but there were some things a little too gimmicky, and indeed also the title (albeit a pun on go ape s**t) meant that those expecting 8-bit gaming classics were certainly not going to have it all as you'd expect. On the plus side, it was a case of gaming at least being on the telly and having people make fools of themselves whilst doing so, so there is that.
As it was chucking it down, once I got to the station, I walked down the main high street and located a pub that also did food. A pint and some fish and chips later, and that was me all sorted. It was still not very pleasant out there but knew I may need to get in the queue, so headed across the road, down Eldon Avenue and left to the pedestrian entrance, where a decent sized queue was forming. I had to wait a while as they were letting in VIP ticket holders first (often those who missed out in the days before) and then the regular ticket holders all got in, which was fine (and warm at least as I wanted to dry off)
It was a case of following all the stewarding staff and making the way down to Studio D, where the recording was happening. Lots of signage for Holby City being filmed at the same time in other studios, and the corridors reminded me more of the basement of a primary school rather than a BBC studio. At the end, it was up the stairs and passing an image of Tess Daly and the lovely Claudia Winkleman (Strictly Come Dancing is filmed here incidentally) and then once in, I was at the top of the rows of seating. One of the crew guided me down to nearer the front as they had a spare space for one. Result!
Before recording and in between parts, there was a warm up man who was getting people to sing along to the main theme from Super Mario Brothers (make it tune of the day) before also progressing to Tetris, and also asking people for their favourite games. I smiled when people were mentioning the likes of Boulderdash, Impossible Mission and (for some odd reason) Spiky Harold, and the worst ones were also quite amusing to laugh at as well. It certainly helped in between parts to be done.
Essentially, Dara ends up chatting a lot with Steve, Sam and the two guests (mine had Sara Pascoe and Richard Osman from Pointless) about each game and their memories of it, which descends into Mock The Week-like banter (believe me, there's lots that get edited out here). The bits about the games are pre-recorded and narrated by Ellie Gibson beforehand to aid continuity, and the game playing itself is done in one take - no second attempts or retries if you happen to be bobbins, that's pretty much it.
In fact the game playing sessions appeared to be longer than on broadcast, so most likely I reckon they're edited out to make it seem quicker than it is. One game took around eight minutes or so to complete, despite it being rather fun with the audience picking a side and cheering on madly for them, and the longest wait was in between chatting about the final game and then playing it, primarily due to costume changes required for the teams (those who have seen the show will know what I mean anyway.)
So, do my faults with the show still ring true after seeing it recorded live? In the most, yes. The revolving the stage in between every game is annoying, primarily so that Dara and Ellie aren't in the way of the big screen that the contestants look at. Why not just have the stage set like that all show? And there's still a penchant for the new games a little bit too much rather than some of the old classics - who wouldn't like to see them take on the caber toss or barrel jumping events on the classic World Games for example. Still, whilst my criticisms hold true, it was at least good to see it all happen in real time, and after a walk back, it was two trains homeward and got home around 11.20pm, in good time to have a sleep before heading properly up North tomorrow.
Thursday 2nd February - Death in Croydon
As I was having lunch and seeing what was happening in the world, one news story, linked from the BBC web site, immediately got my attention. Within a minute or two I felt a little sick to the stomach to be honest. I had just found out that at East Croydon station, and at Platform 1, the platform I normally get on to get the train to work and indeed the train to Victoria to head back up to Manchester, someone had been hit by a Gatwick Express train and had died on the spot.
It must have been a rather unnerving moment if you were stood on the same platform and saw it happen, and indeed to then have to be taken away from the platform and to go elsewhere whilst it was going on would have also been unnerving and upsetting. I really do feel for the poor woman and indeed her family, who must have been going through a lot today. It's never nice to have an accident resulting in death, but to actually have one at a place I've frequented quite a lot in the last year or so.
I tried as I could to concentrate during the rest of the day, but noticably I did start to worry, not least when I boarded the train home tonight and it was packed, much more than usual, and so once I did get to the station, and at Platform 3, I took my time heading out of there, just to have a pause and reflect moment. I had indeed given a seat up to a woman pregnant with twins when I'd boarded at Farringdon so had stood for the whole journey, and so had many others too.
It's somewhat ironic therefore that today there appears to be a breakthrough between Govia Thameslink Railway, the owners of Southern Railway, and the drivers' union ASLEF, and a new proposal is going to its members with a recommendation to accept and vote that way, with a referendum vote on the agreement taking place. Understandably perhaps, both sides are keeping tight lipped about the deal, and although the BBC and other news websites proclaimed that the strikes were over, it didn't take long for them to realise there's still a much longer ongoing dispute with the RMT union to get sorted out.
Out of respect, no tune of the day today, but instead, I've paused and reflected tonight and thought more about how I myself wait and board for trains, and I do stand behind the yellow line, but even then that sometimes feels a little close. So I'm going to stand a little further back in future, and just exercise that little bit more caution. If people want to be more impatient etc, I'll let them. I value my life more than saving thirty seconds of time to spring on an already overcrowded train, thank you very much.
Wednesday 1st February - Another Hammering
Remembering that my BT Broadband subscription does include BT Sport 1 came up dividends for tonight. Manchester City's game at West Ham United was on that channel, and having been to the London Stadium last month to see the Blues do the business there in the FA Cup, I was hoping for more of the same. I had of course seen us win 3-0 at Crystal Palace at the weekend and so the Blues looked all good, and it was a case of more of the same would be rather nice.
I was half tempted to possibly go tonight, but didn't have a ticket, and with the journey home taking a lot longer than planned due to a train cancellation and the train afterwards being absolutely rammed full, I didn't feel the need to head out again, but instead have something to eat in the flat and then settle in and get the Hudl 2 hooked up to the telly. I have the BT Sport app on there, and so using a Micro HDMI to HDMI cable, I can then relay the screen to the big telly. Result.
And so it proved too. Manchester City were bossing the action from the kick off, and with Willy Caballero in net, a much welcome boost even before kick off. City looked like they meant business and Gabriel Jesus carried on from his good form on Saturday, so all well there. It didn't take us that long to score either, and with a one two between Jesus and Kevin de Bruyne, the Belgian hit home well. So 1-0. And that soon became 2-0 thanks to Merlin himself, David Silva, as he met a deflected Leroy Sané cross and shot home from close range. Excellent stuff.
2-0 was then to become 3-0 before half time, as the cameras panned to see former City boss Roberto Mancini in the crowd - he'd been at the Arsenal v Watford game last night and here tonight. Of course the City fans still love him and he loves us, so nice to see him actually. Some gorgeous play between Sané, Raheem Sterling and Jesus resulted in the Brazilian getting his first of hopefully many goals in a City shirt, and an easier one he might not get all season - excellent stuff.
The second half was more of the same, and Sterling was fouled and up stepped Yaya Touré to keep up his 100% penalty record when playing for us. Oh, maybe we should pay him some more then! Sergio Agüero came off the bench late on, and that was just toying with West Ham really, but a 4-0 away win? I'll have some of that thank you very much indeed. So it's definitely a big plus point all round, and one that I'm good to have watched. Tune of the day is Supra's version of "Blue Moon" as that definitely gets me in the mood - every time.