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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Wednesday 18th July - New Album Wednesday

After picking up two albums from Wow and Flutter in Hastings on Saturday, and indeed having the new Beth Rowley album delivered over the weekend (and signed, too with a little heart, aww) I thought it'd be nice tonight to kick back a little and take some time out to listen to the new purchases. Certainly for me the first new Beth Rowley album since her wonderful debut "Little Dreamer" released back in 2008 (yes that long!) and that album was released just before The Love In My Heart and I met, and an album we both grew to love massively and have playing in her car on a nice sunny day - still great now in fact.

Having seen her live a while back we both knew that she had gone for a slightly more rootsy blues feel rather than have some of the songs with pop sensibilities. Did that make it any less listenable for me? Probably not, but I know that's going to divide opinion amongst those who have Little Dreamer I guess. A lot has happened in ten years though. What is for definite is that Beth's voice is on pretty fine form all round, notably in the distinct opener "Shut It Down" which sets the tone nicely (and thus tune of the day) - it certainly may take some time to grow on me, but grow I definitely think it will.

I next turned to one of my Hastings purchases, "The Bride" from Bat for Lashes. I've admired Natasha Khan's work for some time now, and indeed her 2012 album "The Haunted Man" is a thoroughly enjoyable listen even now, with the wonderful "Laura" still majestic from that particularly. And I wasn't surprised one bit to enjoy The Bride as well, with the haunting "I Will Love Again" beautiful, defiant and perhaps a real sense of being a late night listening piece. Whatever she does, she does well and it's not difficult to appreciate either to be honest.

I also of course had to sing along with one track from the other album I'd got, The Flaming Lips' "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots". I had wanted the DVD-Audio version of this as I suspect the sound effects and stuff would have sounded awesome, but trying to get that at a reasonable price wasn't happening, so getting it cheap at the weekend made sense. The Part 1 of the title track is the one I've actually sung on one of the Rock Band games (because it's such good fun!) and certainly all the nice wibbly sound effects just add to the whole thing well.

After raving about Little Sparrow's excellent "Just 3" EP the other day, I went back to the 2014 debut album "Wishing Tree" (my album of 2014 in fact) and that was just gorgeous to listen to again. Certainly the title track is particularly lovely, as is the opener "Polly" which just oozes class, and the lovely and haunting "By My Side" is a case of using the instruments to suit the mood rather well. Oh, you don't open this album as yet? Well, you really should, so here's a link for you to go and buy it. Sort of now.

Tuesday 17th July - All Sorted

It was a productive day, mainly spent on further getting some tweaks sorted in order that our planned upgrade to Firefox would work correctly. In essence, I needed to do some detection to ensure that any previously installed FrontMotion MSI release was spotted and then removed. I managed to get the product codes for the last few version MSIs that we had pushed out along with any configuration files. What I managed to get was a way of doing a check with a reg query, and if it returns an error level 0 (meaning it is there) that it removes that version with a msiexec /X <product code> /q - neat I know.

I then added some checks if anyone had manually installed the standard Mozilla install of Firefox (good going forward this too) and if so then remove the installs using the standard uninstall helper with /S, then pausing for a little while to let this settle, and remove the remnants of the folder - then use the new install with an .ini file passing all the installer configuration, and finally copy the preference files such as mozilla.cfg. It took a few tests but I've happily got that nailed now which is good.

One final thing I did spot was that in the config file, it stated that updates should be disabled, but the "updates" buttons in both the options and Help > About were present. So I made that a lockpref preference instead along with one for turning auto updates off at the same time - and this worked very well indeed, so you get a message "updates have been disabled by your administrator" instead. Neato. That'll help massively and I did a further deployment test before running as a user, and that all appears to be working pretty nicely. I was pleased to get that all sorted.

I had some time on my hands tonight so I watched the Blu-Ray "From The Ashes" which details the legendary 1981 Ashes cricket Series between England and Australia, with great interviews from the likes of Sir Ian Botham, Rodney Marsh, David Gower, Mike Brearley and the late Graham Dilley as well. Certainly seeing those fortunes change over time with Tom Hardy's narration is certainly still as memorable as when it was when I was little, yelling at the telly hoping Botham would smash another four at Headingley. It was definitely the right moment when the country needed a boost.

Along the way the makers of the documentary were clever enough to licence some 80s classics for the parts of that - such as the riots that preceded the 3rd Test with The Specials' classic "Ghost Town" and the Royal Wedding, with the 7" single version of New Order's "Ceremony" on there (make that tune of the day) and all of that added to the feel of being back in the day. I must admit too that it was good to note that where possible the original footage from BBC was used for the coverage, so plenty of iconic Richie Benaud commentary along the way too - and these things matter massively. Good job all round.

Monday 16th July - Humid and Helpful

It was another humid and muggy warm day today at work. I must admit the one thing I've been glad of is aircon in the office: and certainly for the new job one thing I had checked out on interview is whether the place did have that or not. It does make a difference when you can concentrate on the job in hand without feeling really overheated in a stuffy office. I think too that for me it's allowed me to get on with things properly and then sweat it all out at home later where there isn't aircon (and the sun sets on my side of the building so it's always warm with the sun coming in)

It was nice though to put through some changes together which would benefit everyone in ServiceNow too, including setting up a way of not having as much a timeout, so a 60 minute timeout across the board but also a way not to rotate the login authentication (primarily because you had already authenticated with a secure single sign on via ADFS anyway, so no need to have to re-send that auth again). I did have some changes to propose to put through during the day and so tried all those, and they submitted first go without any issues which was a positive thing.

I also spent some time checking over a possible way to look at removing the old Firefox MSI version releases before installing the new version with an installation script to do the job. I could actually pull off a registry key to define the MSI version installed, but each version has a different product code for the installation and a command to remove, so I'd need to do some checks if the key and values existed and only then look at doing a necessary removal. I need to do some more tweaks but I am getting there with this.

I headed homewards later and watched the second part of the BBC Four series on the Pop Map of Britain in the 1980s. It did have a good section on Glasgow including a bit on Altered Images (I still adore Clare Grogan now) - and Clare remembered the day that Dead Pop Stars was to be released as a single (tune of the day as it's a really good Goth track actually), it coincided with the death of a famous musician, so the single did have to be immediately canned on first release. Notable, that.

For me it was a real revelation seeing much more in depth to Kim Appleby than just in her Mel and Kim pop star days, having real musical passion for all sorts of music and presenting things well alongside Midge Ure. I've found a higher respect for her for definite, and she also chairs the Best Contemporary Song category for the Ivor Novello awards too. Impressive. In fact it was good in the first show when she'd been to Coventry and spoken with those who formed The Specials, and it was a real passion shown too. Respect indeed.

Sunday 15th July - Allez Les Bleues

It was a nice relaxed morning for myself and The Love In My Heart, and we were able to have a nice full breakfast and be able to enjoy the time together, all chilled out and relaxed too. It was good to watch the remainder of the BBC Four pop map of the 1980s opening episode, and it meant that it was nice to see some information about more of the cities on the pop map, including a good look at Sheffield including the likes of The Human League, Heaven 17 et al, which was fascinating stuff. They also played The Human League's early classic "The Path of Least Resistance" so that's tune of the day.

We also took our time to be ready to head out later as there was no rush, plus of course it also meant that we could head over to the Crown and Anchor, where I'd booked us a table for 3pm ready for the World Cup final later on. Of course I'd booked the table thinking to be on the safe side if England had got to the final, but still good to be sure of a seat anyway. In fact it was relatively chilled out when we arrived there later and the aircon was on also, so felt nice. They had the tennis on so The Love could watch Novak Djokovic (who had beaten Nadal in an epic yesterday) against Kevin Anderson. Djokovic was taking no prisoners and was well up in the second set when the TV coverage switched for the football.

We had Sunday lunch in there and it was nice to be able to have lunch together - The Love had the roast chicken and I had the chicken, leek and mushroom pie which was gorgeous, full of chicken also. It was good to have some nice gravy with it and some chips and vegetables too, epsecially the fab carrots also. We'd got a drink and were all set for the France v Croatia final, with The Love heading for her train at half time with Euston nearby.

The first half was entertaining: France had put in a free kick which Mandzukic headed into his own net, but Ivan Perisic later equalised for Croatia. France went forward, put a ball across which was haded towards Perisic and the ball hit his hands down by his side. France appealed, the referee said no but then had to go to VAR, and then a penalty was given. It was a crap decision to be honest, and not really the way to want to to 2-1 up at the break, but that was that. The Love gave me a hug and kiss goodbye and headed to the station.

The second half was more of France dominating and Paul Pogba scored with a second shot on goal after the first one was blocked, followed by Kylian MBappe scoring and being only the second teenager to score in a World Cup final after Pelé. Of course, then it would be a howler from Hugo Lloris to let Mandzukic in for 4-2 and that's how it ended, France winning their second World Cup and showing real team spirit with flair. I suspected the way that they beat Argentina that they could win it, and they did. So football is coming a la maison instead, which will mean Paris being a hive of happiness right now.

Saturday 14th July - Happy in Hastings

It was a nice relaxing morning with some breakfast and coffee served before we got ready and changed to head out for the day. The Love In My Heart and I had looked at going to somewhere by the sea for the day and I'd recommended a trip to Hastings. I'd booked the advance train tickets together with Two Together Railcard, which meant a mere £3.30 each on the way there and £5.60 on the way back, can't argue with that really. We'd booked on the 1003 train so it was off to East Croydon station and through the barriers, eventually, as apparently Advance tickets don't work on the ticket gates. Meh. It works for most other train operators that.

Anyhow, we boarded the 1003 and on the right carriage (the front ones go to Ore via Eastbourne and Hastings, the rear to Littlehampton) and after Gatwick Airport we got a seat, and was glad we did as it got busy when the train divided at Haywards Heath, and was pretty busy all the way through to Lewes and Eastbourne, where a lot of people got off. The train headed along by the sea towards Cooden Beach and Bexhill which was nice for The Love to see the view and soon arrived at Hastings.

We walked down the hill along to the shops and then turned right towards America Ground, and stopped off at Wow and Flutter for a little record shopping. Even The Love approved of the place, which was good, and lots of nicely organised vinyl and CDs. In fact I decided upon two CDs, "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" by The Flaming Lips (the title track of which is tune of the day) and the Bat for Lashes album "The Bride", both for a mere three pounds each. No complaints there and the weather was gorgeous as we walked west to the pier.

In fact on the pier we had lunch and a drink together, and that was really lovely actually - the restaurant in the pavilion had outside seats, so we could sit in the sun, I had the Honey Dew ale, and for lunch The Love had a burger, and I had prawn and salmon linguine which was stunningly nice, and not that expensive either for both meals. We were both pretty happy all round with that, and we walked around and explored the pier for a while admiring the little beach huts of shops and the view from the end.

We walked along the front and headed towards the Old Town, passing the likes of the trampolines and go karting as well as the crazy golf courses before heading off top the West Hill lift, the funicular railway that takes you up towards Hastings Castle. That was quite nice to head up hill and at the top the café offered some nice views over the town too. We walked around to the castle and explored the ruins of the old castle, which stood very close to the edge of the cliffs. A map showed you how much of the cliffs have been eroded over the years but was good to explore around and see the dungeons as well.

We had a cold drink in the café at the top of the West Hill, and admired the view before heading back down and exploring the old town, and all of its little shops with plenty of little gifts and nice places to explore. It was good to see lots of the old shops and be able to see how the narrow streets would be a perfect place to have a drink and also do some shopping too. We then headed back along the front and off to the crazy golf, where we'd play the classic course. The Love beat me with less shots taken overall and was knocking in plenty of 2s along the way, and only one hole in one from me. All good fun though it has to be said.

We headed to a nearby pub for a nice drink, which was all lovely, before heading back through the town centre and off to the train station in good time for the 1824 train back. It was nice to admire the sea views again and then pass by Plumpton and its racecourse on the way home, and got in East Croydon on time. We relaxed at mine with some tea and then settled in and snuggled up together, watching the telly and having the windows open to get some air in on a gorgeous and sunny day out together. The Love enjoyed her time there as well which was good.

Friday 13th July - Epic

Of course, many years ago at Wimbledon, I remember tuning in to BBC2 to see the evening events over two days (and then hearing about the final day) when John Isner played Nicolas Mahut on Court 18 in the first round of 2010. The final set was 70-68 in favour of Isner, and truly mind boggling on all counts - 11 hours plus playing time, over 100 aces from each player, and they only went off after the second day's play due to bad light, having gone on for seven hours or so as part of that second day.

Fast forward to 2018 and Isner had made his way to the Wimbledon semi finals today where he was playing Kevin Anderson, who had won an epic fifth set against Roger Federer in the quarter finals and had been used to a couple of long matches in this tournament already. Both had serve reputations and both of whom were willing to go toe to toe, but what would happen today I wondered. I was keeping an eye on the score periodically in the office whilst I was sorting out a couple of standard changes, and was not surprised that the first three sets had all gone to tiebreaks.

As I headed home on the train, with a delayed train getting to my station actually meaning I'd get home earlier, I went past the big screen that they've had up in Croydon High Street showing the tennis, and it was 7-7 in the final set. I sensed another possible epic and after a quick nip into Sainsburys for some bits I needed, it was on with the telly when I got in. And yes, still going on, and it was carrying on holding serve with each player doing what they could to keep going.

I really wished at this point that John Inverdale would just shut up though - he and John McEnroe were getting on my wick with their inaneness. I was enjoying the match without them going on about how a tiebreak should be at 6-6 in the final set all the time - just let the players get on with it. And so it battled on to 10-10, then 15-15 and then 20-20, and still going. Certainly for me that was gripping stuff and you couldn't be distracted from the television either whilst seeing it. It's now the longest semi final in Wimbledon history and passed that some time ago as it went past 4 hours 44 minutes of Djokovic v Del Potro a few years back..

It went on until a break of serve finally happened, and it was closed out by Anderson to win 26-24 in the end. It was so long that in fact the roof had to come on for Djokovic v Nadal, and it had just started when heading to East Croydon to meet The Love In My Heart. We headed back, had some beer and wine and relaxed watching the first three sets of the match before eventually it was called time at around 11pm with a third set tiebreak won by Djokovic to be two sets to one up.

As a final thing we watched some of BBC Four's "Smashing Hits: The 80s Pop Map of Britain and Ireland" which had Midge Ure and Kim Appleby heading around the UK locating home cities where the 80s were defined. It was notable that Coventry was mentioned for the home of 2-Tone and indeed of course The Specials' classic "Ghost Town" being synonymous with the era, so tune of the day obviously for that one. It was a really good watch but could only watch some of it before it was time to head to sleep for a nice day out tomorrow..

Thursday 12th July - Deflation and Inspiration

I must admit the general mood of everyone heading into work today was just one of feeling rather flat and deflated after the result last night. I think it was a reality of the Summer of football and cheering England on felt over, even though there is the third place play off on Saturday against Belgium to consider and also win, because that would mean the second best senior men's result (behind the 1966 win and would be better than the fourth place in 1990.) It was at least a case of heading to the office and getting on with plenty, as is my usual thing.

In fact it turned out to be a productive day for a number of reasons. First off, I was able to actually take some time out to look into how we'd get Firefox 61 out there. Previously we used the Frontmotion MSI version and that's been fine, but they've not had any updates since version 59 (60 was the Quantum release) and it was a concern that we needed to be up to date. As such, it was a case of looking at the installer and sorting out a different approach. In a way, I know you can set an .ini file with all the options you don't want the installer to do, and that also does that silently.

The piece of rubbish about that though is that the .ini file you reference has to be an absolute path, no variables allowed, so in essence I'd have to ensure that file was copied locally first and then referenced with the installation command line. The plus side though is that it ensures no installation of the maintenance service and also no desktop shortcut, so a pretty much epic win all round really. I need to do some further testing around how to ensure the old version is also removed at the same time, but will do so tomorrow..

Because something else cropped up which needed some urgent attention. One of the pieces of specialist software which is being used at the moment has an address lookup facility which uses a web resource to locate the address based on the postcode. That had stopped working for some reason and appeared to be a particular error, which was either something web related with out of date certificates or looking like .NET Framework related. I had a chat with my line manager and raised a support call with the software company, so hope they come back with something.

In the evening I spent time sorting out the flat for when The Love In My Heart comes down for the weekend, and also had the delivery from Tesco arriving with the food shopping too. It was really good to be able to have that arrive on time - using the four hour window means you get the delivery cheaper, and you do get a text to state on the day the time. In fact that arrived just before the start of the one hour window which was perfect really, I was then able to kick back and relax.

And with very good reason, as the new EP "Just 3" from Little Sparrow arrived a day early from its release date. A lovely three track EP too with the title track being a rather fab cover of Madness' "Baggy Trousers" but more stripped back with strings and a gorgeous vocal, and really wonderful for it, so tune of the day. There's also the song "Tender" from last year as well as the rather nice "Dry Your Eyes" as well, and really is beautiful. Seriously, go and buy it. Sort of now.

Wednesday 11th July - Gutted

So work all done, it was off on the train home. And as I expected, way busier than usual to be honest. I did sit in first class as it was declassified till the end of this week, so that was a good decision made because the train filled up massively by the time we got to London Bridge and on the way down to East Croydon. On the way home I stopped off at Waitrose and surprisingly they had a few good real ales on offer, so got some Bath Gem, Black Sheep, St Peter's Organic ale and I noted in one section that they had some world beers, including two Peroni ones I'd never tried. So I went for the Gran Riserva Rosso as well to have with the football later on.

Naturally everyone was heading home to either be down the pub or in front of the telly for the football as you would expect, so it was good to be home in more than good time, have a cold drink, and have something to eat and be all ready for the anthems and the start of the game with the mood still very cautious but hopeful that at least we'd put up a decent performance. Of course it was a case of singing the anthem with the folks and getting ready - and I felt very very nervous.

Those nerves went after five minutes on the clock as England had a free kick. Kieran Trippier stepped up and curled the ball gorgeously into the net for 1-0. Mental! I could see the scenes everywhere as the players were celebrating, the fans all round the country in the big screenings were going for it, and that feel good factor was good. The only gutting thing was that we didn't increase the lead further in that half - Harry Kane had a good chance but the keeper saved well, and a couple of other shots went just wide as well. 1-0 was good at half time don't get me wrong, but I did feel we'd need a second.

And I felt Croatia would come out much better in the second half, and that they did. They regrouped well and went on the attack, and it did feel like it was coming in waves at time which we rode the luck a little bit with. No such luck though about the way that Ivan Perisic met the ball from a cross with his outstretched foot to finish home well and to equalise. I'd opened the Peroni Gran Riserva by now and that was gorgeous but it was nervous sips as the game could have gone from us in normal time, but we dug deep and still believed something could yet happen.

In extra time Croatia did look still lively and it took a good stop from Jordan Pickford to keep out Mandzukic. John Stones had a header cleared off the line so England had recovered, but as the game went on I suspected it would just need one moment for the game to be won. Sadly, that did fall to Croatia as the ball came across, Mandzukic lost Stones for a second and that was all he needed to shoot the ball home for 2-1, and with ten minutes left and Kieran Tripper having to go off injured after we'd used all our subtitutes, an even more gutting feeling.

Try as we did England couldn't equalise with one final free kick coming in and being headed away, and that was then that, out we went. Admittedly Croatia were the better side from the second half onwards and overall, but England had done much better than I ever expected, and to get to the semis they all still should be proud of what they managed to go, and get the nation believing in the team again. The fans sang along to Oasis' "Don't Look Back In Anger" (that's tune of the day definitely) and it just was a gutting feeling really, but at the same time we should still walk on with the heads held high tonight.

Tuesday 10th July - The Calm Before The Semi Storm

It was another day I'd set aside to look at some documentation and to get things done. I had bounced some ideas off around some additional options for asset management in ServiceNow which we could achieve, and actually it was good to be able to try those out further and test them. In fact what I was able to see was that in fact by a few variable additions and a system property change, we could actually get sorted some information as to assigned users where possible for certain machines. That looked good and I'll be writing up the change for that tomorrow.

I must admit it was really nice to have a good chatter with The Love In My Heart without any fear of her phone battery on the house phone dying, which it had been for some time. She'd had her cordless phone for as long as we've been together, so she got a new one at the weekend and used her Nectar points on the way to saving some dosh off it. It's been better all round and I think despite the fact that it was a fairly lengthy day at work for her, the nice thing was that Brian the cat has been all lovely and cute and that's a positive for her to come home to as well. I do miss him.

But.. and a nice but, there's a cat around the corner from work who lives in and outside the White Bear pub not far from the office who's more than happy to have some strokes, attention and a fuss over, despite being an older grey cat. Bud is his name and there's nothing more that's liked than Bud sitting on the high stool people watching and looking for the next person to be drawn in by cat cuteness and have a love and fuss over. I must admit it was nice to see him all preened and proud and certainly the boss of the street where the pub is (on the way to Sainsburys where I can get lunch, so always good to note.)

I did see the France v Belgium game later and to say that was a tight and tense affair was an understatement. It was a very close run thing with no one wanting to give anything away and it all getting niggly in parts. I must admit that part of me wanted Belgium to win, especially for Vincent Kompany and Kevin de Bruyne, but it was niggly. And then France get a corner, the ball comes over and Marouane Fellaini misses the run of Mtiti, and it's in the back of the net. 1-0 France, and they held on from there to win comfortably in the end. Gutted, but I suspect that it was coming.

I'm trying as well to be fair not to get too excited about the semi final tomorrow night, primarily because I remember 1990 and how gutted I was, and to be fair, staying up till 2am watching the women in their World Cup semi final in 2015 and losing in the last minute of stoppage time due to the unluckiest of own goals. I know that was bad enough, so am being all low key in the hope that I won't build it all up too much. In the meantime, tune of the day is the ace "Dance of the Mad" by Pop Will Eat Itself - it reminded me a lot of 1990 and seeing them live for the first time a few months after said semi final..

Monday 9th July - Documentation Day

It was good to be able to spend some time at work today getting on with plenty of documentation, which is stuff I know I'd rather get done sooner instead of later. One such task was around getting a process sorted for how to create reports in ServiceNow, especially as the newer user interface for this in Kingston is much better, and so did a whole write up on creating a sample report, how you'd best share that and have visibility, and also how you could amend and modify to your content as needed. It was very good also then to have that to hand as a manager wanted a report schedulding.

That also involved writing some more documentation as to how to create the relevant schedule along with being able to amend that, show the prospective content of the email, but also see how that works. And it did. So I've got that sorted for a weekly report to go out to that manager and he was pretty pleased I sorted it. It was also good to document another process for adding a business service in as a configuration item and selectable change accordingly, so all good there.

It was nice later on to focus attention on Wimbledon for a change instead of the football. Their reluctance to put back the men's singles final from its start time of 2pm to be earlier is daft: if England do get to the final, there'll be empty seats, as there were on Saturday afternoon on Centre Court. They don't even show it on Henman Hill either, which is daft too - surely that would have also been a ticketed event for people to go in and see! Ah well, the good news in the men's draw is that the main top seeds are through and the remainder looking all good.

So with Federer and Nadal through, Djokovic well on his way and Del Potro two sets up, the women's draw has been shock after shock with none of the top ten seeds left in. This paves the way either for someone different to step up to the plate and have an inspired fortnight a la Marion Bartoli, or of course of a certain number 25 seed in Serena Williams to go and win her next title. That would be some story and as a fan of said player, I really hope she does it (The Love In My Heart is a fan too - one of the few women players she'd watch!)

With the weather cooling a bit here it was good to be able to sort out a ton of washing and feel like I could iron it and not break sweat everywhere before then listening to some classic football songs including of course the classic "Three Lions" by Baddiel, Skinner and the Lightning Seeds. Football might just come home and with that in mind I've booked a spot in a nice pub on Sunday afternoon ready just in case (and if not we'll be having lunch there anyway...!) so all should be good. Said classic song is tune of the day.

Sunday 8th July - Scorchio (again)

It was good to have some sausage barms for breakfast in the morning and chill out with some video clips of other classic football chants (including one from Buxton about one of their players) and also a real sense of having lots of other retro gaming mentions such as comprisons of some of the Last Ninja games, a feature on the infamous Cascade compilation Cassette 50, which is notoriously poor to say the least, and that really sped the time on somewhat.

We all left around 11am with a view that we would get together later in the year for another meet up, and for me that was good to know. I have pencilled in some dates for the diary already and my friend dropped me off at Doncaster station to get the 1139 departure back to London Kings Cross. It was warm going back down South and I knew that the weather was going to be mighty grand, but also knew the train would be busy (and it was). I had the iPod on and blasted out some classic metal, so Slayer's "Seasons in the Abyss" is tune of the day just for the pure escapism as the train headed a little delayed downwards.

From Kings Cross it was a walk across to St Pancras and get the delayed 1356 train back to East Croydon. Thankfully the air con was on and it wasn't too bad a journey overall, and once I'd stopped back at Sainsburys to get some cold drinks and also some milk, it was perfect timing to get Channel 4 Plus 1 on and start to watch the British Grand Prix. I enjoyed the pit line interviews with many people and it was somewhat sad that it was the last one to be shown on Channel 4 (from next year, only the British Grand Prix is free to air, and it depends on who gets the rights to do it). The intro from Murray Walker was superlative, he is still the man.

The race itself was dramatic as Lewis Hamilton collided with Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis had to battle back from the rear of the field, and due to some incidents involving going too fast towards turn one and going off the track, safety car came out, and then again when Romain Grosjean and Carlos Sainz Jr collided at Copse - two into one did not go there. It bunched up the field but as a number had pitted for tyres Valtteri Bottas had stayed out, and this was to be a downfall as Sebastian Vettel charged past to win, with Hamilton eventually finishing second - could have been a lot worse for him to be fair though.

Later on I watched, on recommendation from The Love In My Heart, a fascinating documentary about the 2008 Wimbledon final between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, often cited as one of the best tennis matches ever. It was great hearing them both chat about the game, both class in their own ways, and the journey that got them to that match too. It was also classic hearing John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg etc saying that those sort of rivalries drew you on to be better, and it was true. The match in 2008 had rain delays and at 7-7 in the final set, going past 9pm, there was a danger of them having to come off, and apparently it would have done so at 8-8. Nadal broke the serve though and won the next to win an epic encounter, and the respect both players have even now is plain to see - such a good thing and it's why so many of us British fans love and respect them too.

Saturday 7th July - Doncaster Weekender, Day Two

It was nice to wake up and feel more refreshed after a good night's sleep, and it was also cracking that my friend had made some superb sausage barms which went down very nicely with us all, and a good coffee too so that got us all sorted. We saw what was going on in the news and also were able to see some classic football videos of chants including the likes of the infamous Barnsley away game at Rochdale where the fans had a plant pot, were putting it on heads and singing "He's got a plant pot on his head / She's got a plant pot on her head" where applicable. Quite funny that was actually.

It was off on the bus into the centre of Doncaster, and we were surprised that the buses did take contactless payments (the 54 to the centre runs near our friend's house) - but also the fare was a massive £3 as well. Considering a day ticket is £4.50, may have been better doing that if we'd have known the price beforehand, although my friend did say a taxi would be cheaper coming back. In truth probablty cheaper getting there too! Anyway, we soon made it into the town centre and off first to the Tut 'n' Shive pub where they had a guest ale brewed by Chris Kamara, called "Unbeerlievable" pastiching his classic quote!

It was good then to head off through the town centre and head then towards the old market and the Red Lion pub - which had an outside beer garden, perfect to enjoy a nice porter in the good weather. Scorchio it was, as was the tables, so had to be a tad careful there. It was good though to chill out there outside and of course the prices weren't dear either so definitely a bonus there. We headed then off to where we'd be watching the football - the Hallcross pub. They do all cask ales for a mere £2.50 (bargain) and even the likes of Grolsch for £1.99 a pint. Can't argue with that one bit, and the England's Dreaming ale from Acorn was stunningly nice.

We got a table in good time and chilled out before we then had a massive amount of people in the pub all watching the screens for the England v Sweden game. We weren't sure how this was going to turn out overall, but as the game started we looked positive and went for an early goal with some good chances being created. I had a feeling that we needed to take advantage and with a crowd cheering the team on and with some lovely ale it did make for a very nice atmosphere actually.

And then.. it happened. England won a corner and I had a feeling that we might score from this given our record in set pieces. The ball came over, Harry Maguire met it perfectly with his head and the ball hit the bottom corner with some aplomb. Get in! And as my friend said, doing an impersonation of a famous Man City fanzone fan, "Take that Ulrika Jonsson! Take it take it take it!" which was pretty good. And of course as the game developed on England had some more chances but couldn't take them, and 1-0 at half time was pretty much all what we'd wanted really.

The second half started and early on Jordan Pickford pulled off some good saves, so all was good there, and we kept going. From another corner the ball had broken down, made its way to Kieran Tripper on the right hand side, he found Jesse Lingard who crossed the ball in for Dele Alli to head home from close range. Everyone went mental and it was 2-0 to England which was pretty impressive to see mass singalongs to the likes of Three Lions, and from there on in it was pretty much plain sailing all round.

The final whistle went, it was great, lots of happy faces, us four singing along to Three Lions, and everyone embracing and shaking hands, hugging, just a really nice place to be. It was good to see it with friends and we've not gone this far in the men's game in 28 years (props too to the women for getting to the semis in 2015 and getting third place by beating Germany) and that was ace. Later on as the pub got a bit quieter New Order's "World In Motion" was being played and we sang that en masse together, another ace moment, and tune of the day for obvious reasons.

We also headed off for some food later, and a couple more drinks before heading back in a taxi to our friend's place - and a mere £5 or so for the journey which was very reasonable actually, plus a nice friendly driver. I can see why my friend uses them actually. It was a relaxed rest of the night with us watching some retro stuff and also seeing the highlights of the England game later on, and it had been an awesome day and a really good couple of days all told, always good to get together.

Friday 6th July - Doncaster Weekender, Day One

It was nice to have a day off work (it always is of course) and it was a case of heading off to Doncaster to meet up with three of my friends for a weekend which would involve retro gaming and music memories, plenty of beer, and as we'd worked out a plan for the World Cup quarter finals, some football as well! Of course as all four of us are passionate about our respective teams and have been watching the World Cup and cheering England on. It was still really hot as well so we all imagined that having a few beers on Saturday was going to be order of the day but also in a nice relaxed atmosphere too.

I headed off to East Croydon station and even in the off-peak current timetable, Thameslink proved yet again that they were unfit to run a service - delaying one train too long meaning passengers had to head from Platform 2 to Platform 4 (and no working lift at East Croydon either) - just what you want. Thankfully I did get a seat despite the train being busy, although I did arrive at St Pancras International later than planned. I walked across to Kings Cross and could see my 1203 train there at the platform, so headed over, located my seat, all sorted. Or so I thought...

An announcement came over the tannoy that the 1203 was cancelled, and the train would form the 1233 instead, so reservations non-existent and I thought straight off that the train would be packed. It would have also been sensible for LNER to effectively declassify first class and so get those arriving for the 1233 on there, would have been sensible - but this didn't happen until the train was almost ready to go. Myself and the other passengers close by stayed where we were and it was all good as we set off, albeit it was absolutely packed as I expected. And warm too because the number of people outweighed the air conditioning available.

It was a relief therefore when the train eventually arrived into Doncaster, and I'd warned my friend beforehand so he knew it was late, and he was there at the station for us. We soon got through the shopping centre to the car park and headed back to his place, which was relatively speedy. We were there a few minutes and within that time the other two folks had arrived: one had in fact got there before my train arrived but had found a local place to have a drink in beforehand.

All was good and it was perfect to catch up with each other and watch the France v Uruguay game. France did the business quite easily in the end, and helped by a Uruguyan goalkeeping blunder of the highest order to say the least. It was good just to also have that on and be able to natter, and before too long the very nice ales were opened. I certainly enjoyed the St Peter's Plum Porter for a start (need to locate that sometime) as well as some of the dark beers, and later on the Belgium v Brazil game was on so we also looked to be watching that one as well.

And some game that was - Belgium went a goal ahead with an own goal from Fernandinho following a Vincent Kompany header. And later on Kevin de Bruyne scored a stunning long range strike to add a second, so both Belgian goals had plenty of Man City involvement. We also ordered food from a local takeaway which had been recommended by my friend, and that was ace - the barbecue chicken and mushroom pizza I had was gorgeous and well worth it, and that went down nicely as we were chilled out. Brazil pulled a goal back but Belgium held on to win and that was a well deserved win all round.

Later in the evening we watched some retro gaming videos and also used the online DeepSID player to play some classic Commodore 64 tunes. I had also mentioned some Tangerine Dream tracks that had been covered on the C64 as well, and one of those was the brilliant "Midnight In Tula" from the White Eagle album, so that's tune of the day for me. We definitely reminsced with other retro classics and before we knew it the time had passed towards 1am, and so it was time to head to a well earned sleep with a big football day looming tomorrow..

Thursday 5th July - Retro Dreaming, Part Two

So with the VGA cable all now sorted (managed to source one - hurrah) it was back to the Shuttle PC setup and to see what I could do. The Shuttle was connected to my standard PC monitor (I have DVI and VGA inputs so I use the DVI for the PC, so all good there) and then once done, all the keyboard, mouse etc plus the all important XA1541 cable was connected, followed by the disk drive itself. I fired up the PC and at first it needed to have a key pressed to set the BIOS back to default (most likely as it hadn't been on for some time) - and once done, I was able to check a few things and all seemed good.

Importantly, I remembered that when I did set the PC up to use with the likes of Star Commander some time ago, the parallel port card was set to LPT2 (as the onboard motherboard had a port but wasn't ever used because you needed a special cable to actually use it, such was the nature of the Shuttle boards back then.) So I checked that, all still set, and also checked the configuration, still good. I connected the drive, all switched on, and voila! I could read those disks happily and was able see the contents, copy the files and copy the disks.

So for a good few hours I spent time copying around a fair few disks, many of them were actually double sided disks so it was actually around fifty disk sides in total once I was done, but it worked pretty well actually. All the data was there, and only the odd disk came up with an error due to its age, so was good to get that done. As it happened I'd spotted a couple of disks what my friend had sent me, and wasn't sure if he had them or not, so ensured those were duly transferred and then emailed later.

It was good to check through the old stuff on the PC later and check the disk images were all archived nicely - it appeared that they were which was a positive. I even spent time checking over one set of disks which had some of the old work tunes and demo parts on I had made back then - nothing new I didn't know of but nice to have them safely archived anyway. In addition, I also spent some time checking through a couple more of what I'd transferred, and so good that a) everything still works and b) I can archive stuff if I need to. Awesome.

In the meantime I went retro with the football classics in preparation for this weekend and of course the classic "World In Motion" by New Order just has to be there and tune of the day - it's an all time classic New Order song anyway but of course having John Barnes rap on it, and indeed being able to still do that to this day. Barnesy even did a version for the Mars advert with him doing same rap, and it just for me gets the spine tingling every single time.

Wednesday 4th July - Retro Dreaming, Part One

I'd had an email from one of my good friends wondering if there was a chance I had one of his old Commodore 64 disks he'd sent out, with a special edition of a demonstration program (aka "demo" to those in the know) and possibly other things. I had of course wanted to make sure that I also archived anything I needed to, and in the past I had a little system ready to do the job, which I still have with me. I had built a little Shuttle PC with Windows 98, a working PCI parallel printer port card, and had all the cables for connecting up a Commodore 64 disk drive (the 1541 to it)

The Shuttle had come with a carry case and so the keyboard, mouse etc all fit into that perfectly well, as does the transfer cable, the XA1541. However, I was checking it all and realised that for some reason I had no VGA monitor cable. The Shuttle didn't do HDMI or DVI out, and had no little VGA to DVI adapter (or else that would have been very useful). As it turned out, I switched on the PC anyway and checked that it actually did power on, and all appeared to be well there. I'll have to check it out tomorrow once I get a VGA cable sorted and see what I can find.

However I did check the last batch of disks I had transferred as disk images and found something useful to send to my friend anyway which I did. I also noted of course that some of my work disks when I composed music more regularly on the Commodore 64 were there too so it was well worth me checking those out. In fact I did note some working in progress versions of some of the stuff, so I'll definitely have to check them out sometime. It's always good to archive this sort of stuff.

I was going to watch Wimbledon, but, unbelievably, it was chucking it down with rain there. I'm only a few miles away from there myself but it was dry and humid here, but instead it was raining and the covers came on, and matches were called off pretty much across all courts. BBC did though show a replay of the likes of Agnieszka Radwanska going out and struggling in the early part especially, and it was good to see the likes of Sue Barker doing her thing around the courts and being as consummate as ever.

Talking of professional presenters, I did see a superb documentary on BBC One later paying tribute to Barry Davies, who is doing his final Wimbledon at the grand age of 80. He for years was a superb football commentator too, with the classic "Interesting.. very interesting! Look at his face!" line to Franny Lee when he played for Derby against Man City as one example. He commentated on all sports but perhaps his finest moment was the 1988 Olympic men's hockey final as England scored to lead Germany 3-0. He famously said "Where were the Germans? But quite frankly, who cares?" and that epitomised the mood of the nation watching that final with him. Tune of the day is in fact "She's The One" by Robbie Williams, as Barry commentates on the ice skating during the video itself - neat eh?

Tuesday 3rd July - But We Don't Win On Penalties...

So after a warm day generally and glad at least to have some form of aircon in the office, it was onwards with the day's main event, the England v Colombia game on the telly. I managed to get home in good time and had some beer in as well as being able to have a pizza and get myself sorted before the kick off. I was nervous, primarily not because of the team per se but knowing how abysmal the record is on ITV when England are in the World Cup - we hardly ever win on there. Ever. So the odds were stacked against us it had to be said.

However, England had a sense of belief about them, inspired by their manager Gareth Southgate, to go on and do something. I suspect his experience of being there and done it is something to pass on, but also he just seems to have the team playing as a team - the last time that really happened was the late Sir Bobby Robson, so that puts it into perspective. And of course with Harry Kane banging them in for us, and being top scorer, it really did seem like we had someone up front we could rely on, the first at a World Cup since Gary Lineker to do the same.

So England started the game brightly, and it started to get a bit niggly with the Colombia players putting themselves about a bit. I have to say that Barrios was very lucky to stay on after he'd clearly headbutted Jordan Henderson as a free kick was ready to be taken, and Harry Kane was hauled over in the box but the referee didn't see it or else it would have been a penalty then. It was clear that disruption tactics were the order of the day and that wasn't good.

But England kept at it in the second half, and as a corner came over Kane was bundled over and almost ridden on like a horse to ensure he didn't get the ball. It was right in front of the ref, he pointed to the spot - a definite penalty. Then the Colombian players were scuffing up the penalty spot deliberately and basically doing what Man U used to do and surround the ref at all times. Kane walked away calmly, wasn't having any of it and slotted home the penalty for 1-0. Get in!

It wasn't to completely last though despite England's best efforts. Colombia came back at England and even though it looked like we were going to hold on, especially after a superb save from Jordan Pickford, from the corner it was headed in for a very very late equaliser and 1-1. Stuffing knocked out of us and during the first half of extra time it was a real sense of they could have scored and made it harder for us even more, but England held out and in the second period of extra time we had a couple of chances: Eric Dier's free header from a corner was one.

And so then to the dreaded penalties. We never win at a World Cup on penalties. Ever. So even as the likes of Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford slotted theirs home, it got to Jordan Henderson for the third pen, and the Colombian and Arsenal goalie David Ospina pulls off a superb save. Noooooo! Not again! But wait.. Colombia then hit their next pen against the bar, and Kierian Trippier did superbly with his, so 3-3 and pretty much sudden death. Up steps the fifth penalty taker for Colombia, and.. Pickford has saved it!! YES! Get in!

Of course I knew we still had to score, but we'd never get a better chance right now than this, and after his save in normal time, he deserved that save for the pen. Up stepped Eric Dier, and he went low and hard to the bottom left corner. It went in. YES! No way! England have won a penalty shoot up at the World Cup! I must admit I was going mental in the flat and I could hear all the fans in the pubs close by singing away and cheering, with "Three Lions" being belted out en masse everywhere, so tune of the day without question there. Hard to believe we'd done it but we had, so roll on Sweden on Saturday..

Monday 2nd July - Design Mode On

I had had a proposal from the team leader about something which they wanted to implement as a process, and having thought about it, I looked at it from a different angle and said "why don't we do it as a ServiceNow request with a workflow that works all round?" - and that surprisingly met with approval and a nod to make it so, in true Picard from Star Trek TNG fashion. So with that motivation, I set to work and planned to document the process as I developed it in the development instance, meaning it'd be a lot quicker to implement in the live system as well as all the work had been done in development - not daft me you know.

So it was relatively straightforward - we had a similar form we could copy and then change the bits needed, that was easy enough to do, and then from there work out a plan of action. So I needed an approval group for the IS Security people, and to place them in that, and once that was done, then effectively make sure that the workflow included a stage for that approval group to approve, with a path for approve and decline. In fact for that I added a reason code to the field in the requested item table so that we could effectively populate that as a decline reason too which made sense.

I got cracking on with the workflow and once done associated that with the new catalog item and gave that a run through. In essence, that worked nicely and I tested out the different workflow scenarios as to what would happen when you approved and when you declined at the new stages that I had added, and in all cases, they worked rather well actually. I was pleased and so am awaiting feedback before I implement that in live, and that's all good thus far anyway, so nice to achieve something concrete today as well.

Later on I headed home and stopped by to have a peek in the new Veeno place that's opened in the centre of Croydon. Actually it's really nice - good job done all round with the wood and the tables, and the nice little private dining area where you can have a taster menu and sample lots of wines and food. The manager Pedro also told me that they're looking to extend their licence so that some of their nice wines and beer can be bought to take home with suitable discount: it'll happen soon enough I think. The good thing was also that they had Menabrea beer on tap (nice Italian beer that) and everyone seemed really friendly - already noted somewhere that The Love In My Heart and I need to explore further. They actually have one on Brazennose Street in central Manchester too!

I also noted that part of High Street, which had been pedestrianised for a while, now has an area with green carpet, deckchairs and a large screen which is showing Wimbledon on there. That complete with some strawberries and cream for £2.50, and a Pimms and Lemonade for a fiver, rather not too bad actually. It did make me of course wish I was going to proper Wimbledon, but still, nice to have that on. No Andy Murray, but I did see Serena Williams win, and of course that was met with cheers in the crowd too. Nice idea all round, and of course the theme tune to Wimbledon - "Light and Tuneful" by Keith Mansfield, is tune of the day...

 

Sunday 1st July - Northern Quarter Sunday

The Love In My Heart and I had a well earned lie in, with even Brian the cat deciding not to meither too much and instead was having a curl up in the curtain and snuggle up to sleep moment, as he is prone to do. It was nice actually because we both woke and just were all snuggled and happy, and it's a feeling of contentment that I really appreciate. We had breakfast and Brian had a good play out, chasing any flies away in the warm weather before we got ourselves up and ready.

We were meeting a couple of friends for Sunday lunch and a nice excuse to get together and catch up after we'd both been on holiday (ourselves to Naples, they to Nice) - and so The Love and I headed to the Port Street Beer House first of all. It was good to have some rather nice Thornbridge Brother Rabbit ale, and that was nice and golden like the sunshine was outside. We sat outside and our friends joined us for a drink, so all was good there really, and we nattered about the holidays. In fact, the time was going too quickly (again!) so it was off round the corner to Tariff and Dale for lunch.

We'd booked a table but in essence we didn't have to: in fact we sat upstairs because it was that quiet, which seemed nicer all round - the exposed brick and a more utilitarian feel took getting used to, but they had decent ales on all round, so happy there. We ordered their little starters where they did five for a fixed price, so we had ham and cheese croquettes, some breasola ham, some cheese, haddock fish fingers and also some mackerel pate, complete with bread and balsamic. That did the job nicely.

The main was a tough decision for me: Sunday roast or pizza? Hmm.. In fact I went for one of their pizzas from the wood fired oven and was so glad I did, it was some air dried ham and cheddar cheese on top of a lovely tomato sauce base and a thinner crispier sourdough pizza. It was stunningly nice actually, as was The Love's Sunday roast ham complete with vegetables and all the trimmings. In fact the food was very good, and they had Meantime Yakima Red on as well so that was me also mega happy with that. It was a good meal all round and certainly good to go somewhere different for a change actually.

We headed back to the Port Street Beer House and had the Red Willow's Headless ale, a nice session ale which always goes down well. The Love had the Veltins lager and all was well as we sat outside and chatted some more before we left to head to Piccadilly Station so I could get the train homewards. It was a lovely afternoon all round though and a nice way to round off the weekend perfectly actually. The train journey home though was bloody slow because of a cancellation at Crewe meaning more people piled on to the train I was on, meaning that the aircon wasn't fully functioning either, and got into Euston a mere twenty minutes behind.

By the time I did get home I felt all warm and horrible, and needed to open the windows to the flat in order to try and get some cooler air in. I did though watch the F1 and that was pretty dramatic in Austria, notably as Mercedes ballsed up the strategy and also had both cars retire with issues, and that wasn't a happy Lewis Hamilton either. Was glad Max Verstappen won though. Needless as it is to say, I still adore "The Chain" by Fleetwood Mac as the proper F1 theme tune, so tune of the day is an easy decision all round really..