Dear Diary... July 2014

Thursday 31st July – Heligan Heritage

It was a change for us today as The Love In My Heart and I were heading to mid-Cornwall, and on a train too. We were going to visit The Lost Gardens of Heligan and so this was a train from Penzance to St Austell, followed by a bus to Heligan itself. Thankfully the bus and train station in St Austell is all as one interchange, so easy peasy really. Plus I also knew that discount was available when you travelled by public transport, so win win.

We got to the train station to get the Ride Cornwall ticket which is unlimited travel on bus and train for a day, all for £10. As it turns out, if you have a railcard (we have the Two Together One) you can actually get it for £8.30 with railcard discount (top tip number 1) – it's a third off the train part of the ticket, hence the discount. Added to that I had a voucher for £13 off the trains because of the refund I got on my last solo trip to London, so all in all we only had to put £3.60 together for the tickets.

We got on the train and arrived in St Austell in good time, and then perused which stand the bus left from before waiting in the station. In fact within the station is a local tourist office for St Austell Bay, and they sold tickets for Heligan for £10 each (as opposed to the standard of £12) so another top tip there as well – peruse the rates there and save having to faff around with money at the kiosks, meaning speedier entrance.

Soon enough the 525 bus arrived and we were heading past the Travelodge we've stayed at a few times before then going through London Apprentice and Pentewan and then turning off for the road to Heligan, where we arrived in good time. Once through the kiosk we then headed down the hill past the likes of the Mud Maid and the Giant's Head before arriving at the Jungle section, and walking through there seeing some of the sights of the plants was rather lovely.

The jungle section also had a new feature, the Burma rope bridge, which was very well built and placed to be easily walkable across. It was good to head across there and to the other side and continue our walk on, including spotting a new section where stepping stones led you over the pond and to the other side to head back on to the main path. As it was we saw the large private Heligan house in the background before heading over to the outer fields, and spotted the two emus that are now there. I think the emus quite liked the attention from the public but they also wanted to eat the wire fencing as well!

At the Steward's House and garden, there was a barbecue on so we headed to it and had some very nice lunch: The Love had the burger and I had the pulled pork bun which was very tasty indeed. In fact, it was a nice atmosphere as some outdoor games were on the lawns, so people were trying the likes of hoopla and skittles. I had a go of the skittles with large wooden pins and ball, and knocked all nine down in one go. Now where is that revival of Indoor League?

After all that, we then walked towards the walled gardens, which are simply stunning. Pineapples were growing in the Victorian beds, and the vegetable garden with its tunnel of apple trees looked magnificent: much better than when we have visited in Winter for sure. We did also head past the bee bole, into the Italian Garden with its lovely fountain, the large sundial in that garden and the Northern Garden with its Summer House view over towards Mevagissey and St Austell Bay, even with some slight cloud cover, still a beautiful view and a half.

With all that walking, we stopped off at the shop near the entrance and the staff were giving away little tasters of the Skinners Heligan Honey ale to try – I've had it before and it's really nice, so wasn't going to say no to that. Gorgeous, it was. We then headed via the farm shop next door, which had the Camel Valley and Polgoon wines amongst its collection, before then heading on the bus and into Mevagissey itself.

These days you have to get off the bus at the “Trevarth” stop where the bus turns around and then walk from there into the village, not a massive hardship but I preferred it when it headed right into the village and you got the bus by the Ship Inn. Mind you, the large long single deckers now on this route probably wouldn't allow for that! We soon headed to the village and lots of nice little independent shops, and whilst The Love took a bench seat to enjoy the view, I headed to the end of the harbour to see the boats there. We also went around the little museum which showed the history of the village and pictures of the 2010 floods, along with a former £1 bank note when the village had its own bank in the 18th Century.

After a nice walk around, we stopped off at one of our favourite haunts, The Sharksfin, and stopped off for a nice drink (Proper Job was on, so easy decision). It was nice to look out of the large open space and to the harbour with the tide coming slowly in, and just to take things relatively easy in the meantime. The Love also remembered, as well as I, the first time we'd been to Cornwall together and being sat there admiring the view of the harbour at night.

It was then back on the bus and via Heligan to pick up people on their way out of there (a couple with a little dog had got off earlier when we got on, they were now heading back – the dog was so cute) and then once we arrived at St Austell we didn't have to wait very long for a train back to Penzance, which was good. We stopped off to get some ingredients for a nice evening meal (chicken with a nice sauce and some mini jacket potatoes) and also enough to make some lunch for the train journey back on Saturday, and relaxed back in the apartment.

Tune of the day is the rather nice “Agnes the Giant Killer“ by 3 Daft Monkeys from their “Of Stones and Bones” album, which has songs based on Cornwall (so obviously apt!) - I think that it's also their strongest work because they have a connection with the area and you can tell that in their passion for the songs, notably this one. I really like the playing in this, frenetic and yet controlled, and somehow walking through the gardens just had this song in my head as I crossed the rope bridge.

Wednesday 30th July – Polgoon Perfection

The Love In My Heart and I had booked on the Polgoon vineyard tour this afternoon, and so with time to spare and the weather set fair we had a pleasurable jaunt around the shops in the centre of Penzance itself. In fact there were lots of little shops (The Love's favourite) which sold all manner of crafts and gifts that didn't look tacky or too seaside-y (if you know what I mean) and that certainly was good. In fact the number of independent outlets appeared to be on the up, with a couple of pop-up shops also selling local crafts as well, nice move that.

We walked down the historic Chapel Street, admiring the architecture of the buildings including the Wesleyan chapel opposite the Admiral Benbow pub, and then headed back up to the main streets, where I just had to have a Cornish pasty for a spot of light lunch (be rude not to) and then as it was all in good time, we walked out of the town centre and followed the road out towards Alverton, turning right at the pedestrian sign for the youth hostel and following the country lane till we crossed the A30 and arrived at Polgoon for the tour itself.

Our tour guide Ben was very knowledgeable and really gave you insight into not just the processes involved in running a small independent vineyard, but also the different types of apples (for their cider) and the grapes that they grew, and how each grape would yield a different type of taste to add to their wines. He also showed off the wasp traps which were cleverly made of some of their recycled bottles, and you could actually see them doing the job and getting the wasps inside!

We saw lots of the vines and also they were experimenting with growing the vines inside a large poly-tunnel to see how that would accelerate the growth or not. It looked like it was doing a good job but he did mention the warm Summer thus far might have had also something to do with it too. It was good to see though and as we walked back to the small building where they bottled and fermented the cider and wine, the time had gone quickly but in a good way.

All that was left was the wine tasting, and that proved to be rather lovely. We got to try one of the ciders too, which was lovely, as well as their recent white wine, a sparkling aval, and their elderflower wine which they now make for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and River Cottage, and that was gorgeously nice. It was actually in my view a better tour than the one of the Camel Valley – granted you didn't have views from the balcony, but you did get much more of an insight into what goes on, so that was excellent.

With wine and cider purchased (I treated The Love to a bottle of their Madeleine white) we decided to have a late afternoon stroll into Mousehole. It was nice to peruse the little shops and on the whole it was also good to see the harbour with the tide out, and people on the beach taking it easy. We decided to head to the Ship Inn for a drink, where the Trelawney ale was on top form, but eventually thought we'd stay for tea and have their catch of the day, a really nice battered haddock with chips and sugarsnap peas. It was lovely, and made an already lovely day that bit lovelier too.

Tune of the day reflects the calm and relaxed mood really, and “Something Every Day” by Swing Out Sister springs to mind – it is just a lovely piece of music, and a perfect starter to their excellent Beautiful Mess album. Somehow having the Polgoon Black cider (cider with blackcurrant) and The Love having the Polgoon Pink (cider with raspberry) and being on the balcony in the late evening somehow just made everything that little bit lovelier. Can time now please stop as the week is going too quickly?

Tuesday 29th July – Back Here in Porthgwarra Cove

The Love In My Heart and I decided to head to the beach today, and with a bit of a plan – we'd head to Porthgwarra Cove (a place I've always wanted to visit) and take the South West Coast path to Porthcurno, and also be able to head on the beach there too, so a mixture of walking and sunbathing – can't be bad. Of course we know just how beautiful Porthcurno is (my Mum in particular loves that place) so I'm sure that we'd be in good company there.

It was on the open top 1A then, and decided to sit downstairs and not be affected by the wind, which did look a little windy mid morning. The bus was packed and by the time we got to St Buryan, it was already standing room, but that cleared up once it got to Porthcurno itself. We stayed on and got off at the little village of Polgigga, which has the turn off for a narrow country lane with Porthgwarra about a mile and three quarters down. It was almost all downhill and past a few farms along the way, which made you feel in the country even more than usual. Once we'd got towards the bottom and into Porthgwarra, we spotted the little café and the toilets as well as the slipway to the beach and the cove. It looked even prettier than I'd imagined, and so we headed down to the beach and stayed there for a good while.

In fact it was much quieter too: families were there, but I got the impression this was a beach you'd only know about if you did research first: even the signs off the B3315 didn't exactly tell you what was there apart from the small village. It has a tunnel through the rocks that take you back to the village, many rock pools and the big stones to step over and amongst them. Plenty of people had little fishing nets for that reason to go and explore those pools and see what they'd have.

As if almost by fate, and partly what inspired me to come here, the iPod on the beach played “The Lovers of Porthgwarra Cove” by 3 Daft Monkeys (tune of the day obviously) and that was rather nice to enjoy with the sun cream applied and enjoying the lovely weather, with the sun out and proud. In fact I think we'd have happily stayed there all day to be honest but fancied taking the sun in when at Porthcurno, so we headed out of the village, grabbing a drink along the way, and on to the South West Coast Path.

The path in this section is up and down, and some clambering over boulders is required, but worth it for some of the views you get, especially St Levan's Well and the view down to the hidden gem that is Porthchapel beach. It looked fairly hairy to get down to, but the view when you got there and the lovely soft sand would of course be rather rewarding to say the least. Certainly as we headed up out of the rocks there and over towards Porthcurno itself, we wondered just how much we'd have enjoyed a day there too.

Porthcurno was busy but we got ourselves a nice spot on the beach and was able to relax there for a couple of hours, with the deep sand and crashing waves as usual making for an idyllic locatiion. The sun was out still and so we made the most of the time there, and really enjoyed just relaxing and taking it all in. I had my PWEI “Reclaim the Game (Funk FIFA) t-shirt on, and that track played whilst I was having a paddle in the sea as well. Fate struck again and I had to resist singing along to the words somehow!

We headed back on the bus from Porthcurno later, after a well earned drink at the Cable Station Inn (the Ginger Tosser ale was on fine form) and we decided to take advantage of the fish and chip takeaway right near where we were staying – having the cod, chips and mushy peas. I have to say it was really nice, and we both enjoyed that for tea and took in a nice peaceful evening together. I was still red on the feet and a little red on the back of the neck, even with the factor 30, but I was enjoying myself nonetheless.

Monday 28th July – Gardens and Museums

The weather looked fair but maybe a little more cloudy, so we thought that a visit to Trengwainton Gardens was a good idea. It's easily reachable by bus, and as National Trust members, a freebie too. We visited the gardens many years ago, so it was good to head back there. It was good also that we had a nice breakfast (thanks to The Love In My Heart) and had ourselves nicely filled up for the day as we headed to get the number 10 that would speedily take us to the gardens.

Walking up along the paths and seeing the many colours of the hydrangea was very nice, and especially as you walked up the hill and was able to see the many species of preserved plant life there – and in fact several of the volunteers were out there attending to the garden as well, so that was nice. We soon also arrived towards the top of the hill and on to the terrace, which even on this cloudy late morning afforded views over to the coast and beyond. The view was nice to take in from one of the many benches there.

We then headed back down and via the main driveway and towards the walled gardens, which were very pretty. Like a few years back, one of the local schools had also built scarecrows which were in the walled gardens too, and this time they resembled famous or historical figures, so you had the likes of Neil Armstrong, Florence Nightingale, Spiderman, Roald Dahl and even Usain Bolt – and in his trademark pose as well. Nice touch that. You could also vote with a little counter into various boxes to pick which one you liked, which was nice too.

After a nice sandwich for lunch in the very nice café with the sun beating down at last, we headed back into Penzance and then over to the Penlee Gardens and Art Gallery, which was very interesting – notably for the exhibition of many Cornish artists, some of whom the apartments we're staying in were named after. Of course the theme was mainly by the sea with lots of scenes resembling the fishing ports of Newlyn and Mousehole, as you'd expect, but also many other aspects of Cornish life too.

The permanent exhibitions upstairs also showcased many parts of the history of the West Cornwall area, and had many vintage railway posters showcasing how nice it would be for you to visit – certainly they increased the popularity of tourism back then, and even now some of them are available to buy from the shops as posters to put on your wall in frames, and looked very pretty because of it. After a stop off for a rather nice lemon curd ice cream from the café we had a walk around the gardens and saw the open air theatre, which would be the scene for some shows in the Summer – including 3 Daft Monkeys on one Friday night early in September. Darn, wish I could come back for that.

We walked back along the promenande in Penzance and noticed the closure of the Jubilee Lido pool. It transpires that the storms in February destroyed parts of it and they're awaiting funding to restore it back – shame really it wasn't open as I'm sure in the warm weather that would prove very popular for people to either swim at or sunbathe by. After a nice pint at the Dolphin (rude not to really) and spotting the gold postbox close by issued to Helen Glover after her rowing success at the London 2012 Olympics, it was back to the apartment for a relaxing evening and a gorgeous stir fry for tea.

Tune of the day is another nice and relaxing song, namely “Only One Cloud” by Beth Rowley – in which the opening line of “there's only one cloud in the sky” seemed quite apt considering the weather today – pretty much the odd cloud. However, that cloud would soon clear and we decided that as we had time on our hands, we'd head out for a drink together and soon concocted a cunning plan.

We headed to Marazion and went to the Godolphin Arms, and managed to get an outside bench by the sea and with a beautiful view of St Michael's Mount. The Betty Stogs ale was on fine form and seeing how lovely The Love looked and enjoying such a lovely view made me realise, as if I needed reminding how lucky I am to be with such a beautiful woman, in such a setting. The food looked good too and I can highly recommend it either way, for a casual drink or a hearty meal after seeing the Mount.

Sunday 27th July – On The Beach

With the weather still looking pretty good, it was an easy decision for us to head to the beach and spend most of the day there. In truth the beach in Penzance itself along the promenade is full of shells etc, so maybe not the ideal beach to relax on. After checking the times for the public transport, we decided that Sennen Cove would be preferable, and with good reason – it's popular with families and surfers alike due to the soft sands and the large waves that are good for riding. They have a couple of surf schools based in the cove, which should tell you all you need to know.

It was on the open top 1 bus for us, and the bus headed to Newlyn, up the hill towards Paul before heading to Lamorna and via the church at St Buryan, where one of the locals helped the bus guide through a narrow gap in the parked cars there. In one of the fields close to there, there was also a show of old vehicles that was part of a vintage rally fair, looked quite busy even at 10.30am. Before long we were heading down the steep hill and into Sennen Cove itself, the soft sands beckoning us to walk on.

We got a nice spot with the soft sand and with a good view of the sea and the surfers, and for the next few hours we just relaxed and took it easy on the beach, The Love In My Heart with her book and me with the iPod, which was playing the likes of 3 Daft Monkeys (apt of course!) and Pop Will Eat Itself. In fact I had my blue PWEI Product t-shirt on with shorts (yes, me in shorts, shock!) and was all happy as the sun decided to make a real appearance, beating down on the beach. The sea in contrast was very cold, but it did make for a refresher.

I got some lunch from the nearby café in the cove, and the Cornish pasty I had there was rather nice. The Love did have one, and she thought it was okay but not her favourite (fair enough) and it was back to relaxing on the beach for most of the afternoon. Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather nice “Days of the Dance” by 3 Daft Monkeys, which even though uptempo and usually gets you to dance, had me nice and chilled out as we were on the beach.

It was back on the 1 and then the 1A via Lands End later to head back to Penzance, with the warm weather making the open top bus journey much less windy. Mind you, there's always the low hanging branches to watch out for (something to take note!) so worth ducking on a couple of occasions heading through Treen especially. Still, we all arrived back in Penzance in good time to relax a bit back at the apartment before heading out into the town for the evening meal.

Our first port of call (as is normal) was the Dolphin Tavern but that was booked, so we eventually found a nice bar in the centre that was serving food. They also had the bottles of River Cottage EPA ale, so I had that along with a very tasty chicken burger, which had bacon and Cornish brie, and The Love had the fish and chips (the last one!) which looked rather good too. We also had another drink in a pub nearby where I had one of the local Cornish ales (was rather dark too!) and that made the evening just that little bit nicer. I had caught the sun a bit (my feet had gone a bit too pink for my liking but probably my own fault as the only place I'd not put sun cream on) and all seemed very well with the world.

Saturday 26th July – Cornwall Here We Come

At last, after a few months of waiting since it was all booked, The Love In My Heart and I were heading off to Cornwall. In a way it all fell into place once we knew that we couldn't get any hotels for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, and were able to resell the tickets that we had. That actually covered a chunk of the costs of the accommodation, and with the trains all booked, we were at Manchester Piccadilly station for the first of two journeys that would lead us to Penzance.

First off, Manchester to Cheltenham Spa. Sadly sat opposite us was a rather annoying woman who liked the sound of her own voice, proceeded to do her make up and basically be louder than anyone else. It's one of the perils of train travel in that you can't guarantee who you're sat opposite, but still annoying. I decided that the best course of action was to have the iPod on for a bit and just try and ignore it all.

Once at Cheltenham, we found that our train to Penzance was delayed, but that gave us time to sit down and chat to a couple of locals, one of whom recommended a very nice pub and restaurant in Marazion. It was then on the delayed 1052, in first class, and be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the view from the window, especially when heading alongside the Devon coast at the likes of Dawlish and Teignmouth, and then onwards over the Brunel's Royal Albert Bridge and into Cornwall itself. Of course from there that's still a good hour and three quarters, but it was at least the last leg.

Once we arrived and checked into our apartment, with the sun beating down outside, all was well. The apartment was cosy and comfortable, with every kitchen item you'd ever need, comfy sofas, Freeview telly and DVD player, small decked balcony (complete with little table and chairs), posh bathroom and a cosy bedroom with big bed and lots of storage space too. All the online grocery shopping had been delivered too and was all put away, so that was nice.

We spent the evening enjoying the view over the sea to St Michael's Mount from the balcony, and having a glass of wine or ale as appropriate. It was nice just to be able to do that and in a way be able to relax after a lengthy but rewarding journey into Cornwall. Tune of the day in the meantime is “Band of Gold” by Seth Lakeman, which appropriately played on the iPod as we crossed the bridge into Cornwall. Somehow that just felt right.

Friday 25th July - Finally!

It was a fairly long day today, primarily because I wanted to do what I can to make sure everything I could possibly do was done before I headed off work for a week. On the whole it has been a good learning curve of a week, with plenty going on and lots of things to sort out, but sometimes you just want the week to end on a positive note. I did some of that this morning as I had a couple of people test the new Skype install: it all worked, and so was able to push that out as needed this afternoon at an agreed and scheduled time. It's good when stuff works isn't it?

I also documented all the processes that I needed to do with the Autodesk Building Design Suite Ultimate, and effectively had it out there ready for deployment as needed. One of the good things is that it's meant that I've had to carefully plan ahead and be able to do some form of testing to make sure everything is right before we get to the mass deployment stage, and note down any possible issues along the way. What's good for me is that the experience will come in pretty handy for future reference, so that's good.

I also tested one of our core applications this afternoon and found that there's a prompt for it to want to accept a default setting at startup, and one which will probably make no sense whatsoever to the logged in user. I managed to work out which two registry keys needed to be set, and so have recommended that these be set accordingly for the Group Policy for users that log in, which one of my colleagues is very kindly looking at. She had also added the firewall rules I needed for three new packages, so I tested all three of those and everything worked properly too - hurrah to that!

So it was pretty productive, even with a meeting that lasted longer than I thought but enabled some of the ideas we had to be bounced around for a particular problem issue. In a good way it was nice to see that I was bringing something to the table and that the input was valued too: sometimes the common sense approach is the nicest approach to be honest, and that makes perfect sense in how I often think about things: make it simple, make it effective, and not to make that much of a fuss.

I headed homewards and sorted out the bathroom so it was all lovely and tidy as well as see to some of the other rooms a little bit, but all is tidy and all is prepared for the week off work now. To be honest I've been waiting for a while to take things relatively easy, and it's a reward for the hard work over the last few months. And in addition I'll be spending that time with The Love In My Heart, so even better. I think she's almost ready to go as well so we'll see what happens.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather excellent "Here Comes The Summer" by The Undertones, and it always reminds me of wanting to peg it to the beach when I was a child on holiday. Of course later on it also was used in the infamous Irn Bru advert with the goths on, and how they headed to Blackpool, went on one of the rides and ended up with a shed load of said drink all over their make up! Ace, I tell you, and even now listening to it, it brings a smile to the face.

Thursday 24th July - Winding Down The Hours

It was a productive and busy day today as myself and my colleague were taking on the task of re-imaging two of the postgraduate lab rooms in one of the buildings we look after. It was good to get out on the road to be honest and set off doing some imaging work, primarily to make sure that I can see the sort of issues that may have cropped up during the process. As it happened, we'd pre-warned everyone a bit in advance that these were the days we were going to blitz everything, and so the rooms were empty for us.

On the whole it all worked pretty well. We found that one machine hadn't been connected for a while and so had completely fallen out of Active Directory, and so when bringing in the laptop back into SCCM 2012, it was a simple import job (it imports into AD anyway as a matter of course once the task sequence step takes place) and so from there we were able to get that up and running - 12 in each room in all. In between starting them off I was also shifting kit back to a room where it had been completely re-carpeted to a nice grey colour, so getting all the desks etc back in had been done and we were ready to proverbially at least rock.

In the afternoon, after I'd had some well earned pasta salad for lunch, we went back to the two rooms from the morning, and found that the main OS deployment task sequence had been done, and so it was then off to distribute the remaining applications for the lab and take it from there. On the whole this was a positive thing, not least because everything actually worked (so hurrah to that one) and of course this meant that we'd finished pretty much ahead of schedule, as we'd allowed for errors and such like. Also good.

I actually beat my own record and managed to package three separate applications all in one day too: first off was DraftSight, a free CAD drawing program from the makers of Solidworks, Dassault Systémes. Thankfully each of the 32 and 64 bit installers had a nice MSI when extracted, so creating a quick transform so as not to install updates etc and then use the MST transform for the install meant that each package was sorted pretty quick, and I tested a 32-bit deployment to a machine this afternoon - which turned out fine apart from the fact that their onboard graphics adapter driver was way out of date, so needed to update that too.

I also looked at Skype. It turned out that the 6.13 business edition of Skype now won't let poeple log in, as attempting to do so brings up a window to explain Microsoft has blocked you. What the hell? So I set about gettint the 6.18 business edition (not that easy to locate the MSI, something Microsoft should really sort out) and thankfully I was able to apply the transform I used previously, which sets registry keys not to annoy users with udpates and start up when Windows starts etc. Once done, I created a task sequence to remove the 6.13 version and add the new one, which on my machine worked well. I'll just need people to test it tomorrow.

I also spent time tonight at home cleaning most of the remainder of the house up - and there's just the bathroom left to do, which I'll do tomorrow so it's nice and pristine. I also dug up all the weeds that were pretty much dead after my mass weedkiller spraying session on Monday night. It was a good feeling to be able to sort that out, and it just makes everywhere look nice and neat and tidy. Particularly now the new front door is on, I want to really now give the appearance of the place a lot more attention if I can!

Tune of the day on this rather balmy night in the still warm weather is the excellent "Low Happening" by Howling Bells. I have of course put their debut album on the iPod ready as it's one of the great debut albums, and looking back it's stood the test of time wonderfully well. There's something rather hypnotic about the lead vocal from Juanita Stein, plus some wonderfully gritty guitar playing, not just on this stand out track, but on the rest of the album. If you missed it, go buy it. Seriously!

Wednesday 23rd July - 88 Steps (and Still Counting)

So, after much deliberation and working out, I decided that ultimately the best way possible to cleanly and effectively deploy Autodesk Building Design Suite Ultimate 2015 was to use the scripts that Autodesk provide with the deployment, contained in a text file for SMS_SCCM scripts. Part of the reason to do it this way is that you can call a command line, but with the package source being the source folder for each command line run. In a way this works really well, because as all the sections are all command-line based, you can effectively run the task sequence direct from the distribution point.

There's actually another good reason you'd want to do that in SCCM 2012: the installation for the suite is some 35GB. Now, if you have the SCCM 2012 task sequence default of "download and run content as needed by task sequence" more often than not you'll find you have to wait several hours for the 35GB of content to download to the machine, and then attempt to perform the installation. In fact it would take around 8-9 hours in total, whereas the task sequence's direct run takes something in the region of 3.5 hours.

I counted though a total of 88 steps in the task sequence, primarily because of a fair number of pre-requisites that needed to be installed (thankfully NET Framework 4.5 is in our base image, so much less hassle having to do that on the whole). I also found when doing an initial run is that Navisworks Manage 2015 only seemed to want to run as an administrator, not a standard user. The good thing is that when I installed Service Pack 2 (which wasn't out at the time of deployment) that problem was resolved, so I was able to then add a command line near the end of the deployment to install that service pack as well. Hurrah to that!

So I felt a fair bit better as I've left a task sequence running overnight to see if all the steps are successful and on top of that are then able to be deployed, and tested fully as a user to be working. I've taken advantage of a neat script set up a while ago for AutoCAD, which effectively once I've made all my changes in AutoCAD and AutoCAD architecture, allows for saving the settings to a folder, which we can then re-apply for the user on launch. AutoCAD has an annoying Windows Installer-like interfact to do lots of configuration on first run, but it won't work for the limited user, so instead we script all the profile stuff in and then run it, as if it'd been run. A bit tricky to master, but so worth it.

With the heat still nice, it was good to get home and realise that I'd pretty much done all the stuff needed to get the clothes sorted for holiday, so definitely time to kick back, have a cold drink and listen to some tunes, and with that in mind it was time to listen to the rather good debut album from Garbage, and of course one of my favourites from there is "Only Happy When It Rains" - tune of the day and there's some obvious irony in the title considering what it's like out there!

Tuesday 22nd July - Feeling Hot Hot Hot

On the one hand, the weather being nice is a good thing - gets everyone in the mood for the Summer, and of course it's also meaning that if the weather holds for the holiday then I am sure that the break away will be pretty wonderful. On the other, I'm just massively thankful that we have air conditioning in the office or else I think we'd all seriously melt. In one of our old offices in a tower block building, the morning was much more bearable as the shade was on that side, but by the time it hit the afternoon it was pretty hard going, and we'd often roll down the blinds to a) be able to see the screens and b) keep the heat off as much as possible.

Today in fact I was in another building and getting things done, and I have to admit that one room in particular was massively warm - it felt like an oven in there and even with the windows open a bit there just didn't seem to be any air flowing through. I must admit the nature and design of the building is like that - it's been done up a lot but effectively is still a 1970s style brick fronted building, with all the fun and games that entails. Realistically it would make a lot more sense to be more energy efficient, but how is another matter..

Anyway, I headed home, and it was pretty warm inside, but in the back yard with the garden table and chairs it was nicely shaded, and so staying there was quite bearable, plus it meant I could be outside and chilled out. So much so that when The Love In My Heart arrived later on, it was a case of heading straight out there and making the most of the cooler air, and relaxing and chatting together. I think The Love appreciated it especially with a bottle of wine to be had!

I made us something nice for tea - chicken in a madeira mushroom sauce, together with some parmentier potatoes and some peas, which went down nicely. It was nice to dine alfresco too, and really meant that we could relax a lot and take the time to be together. I think we've both got a lot on and a lot to do at work, but at the same time we also know that being together and relaxed together is also nice too. We chatted a fair bit more after tea and sat outside, whilst I mentioned that I'd booked the vineyard tour as part of the holiday coming soon - oh yes. Massively looking forward to that.

We then watched something that The Love only caught a bit of on BBC Four but thought it worth seeing on iPlayer - Michel Roux Jr heading around France discovering lots of the origins and recipes of chocolate and then seeing some of the rather fancy chocolatiers in both Lyon and Paris, before heading to a school of chocolate and making his very own "Le Gavroche" blend, which he used to cook some nice desserts for his wife and daughter. It was rather good actually, and well worth a watch if you get the chance.

Tune of the day is the rather wonderful "Dehydration" by Pop Will Eat Itself from their 1996 unreleased album "A Lick of the Old Cassette Box" (which eventually got a release in 2013 as part of the "Dos Dedos Mis Amigos" 2CD reissue). It's a rather Industrial sounding track, with plenty of drums and lots of distortion, especially in the guitars and vocals department, and sounds just as good as anything classic PWEI. To me it always seemed a shame that their work then didn't get an outing till now for whatever reason, but I was so glad that it did!

Monday 21st July - Everything In Sync

I spent some time this evening deciding on which tunes to pack the iPod Nano with for my forthcoming holiday. Part of the reason that I do this a few days in advance is then I know what I've got on there, and can either shuffle happily to the heart's content, or of course select the album I want, press play, and off you go. It also saves any last minute deciding on what to have, and refreshes the content that I've got on there without too much hassle, also a big plus that.

Of course if you're like me, your music library is pretty big, and usually far outgrows any sized iPod that I might have. My first generation Nano was swapped last year by Apple as part of an extended agreement where they found issues with the battery, and so I now have a 6th generation little Nano, which is cute (and 8GB as opposed to 4GB, so bonus). Of course the amount of music I have, almost all MP3 transfers from my original audio CDs totals at least four times that if not more, so no way am I getting them all on there. So if I had an iTunes library, it'd be pointless as it'd forever try to be synching what it can't.

So it was out with the very good and trusty CopyTrans Manager, which does the job ever so well. I can choose what songs and/or folders I wish to add my music files to the iPod from, and you can happily at any time press the sync button (especially if transferring a lot) and the first batch will then sync, but if you add any in the meantime it'll also add them to the sync queue, so you don't have to press multiple times. That's quite handy when you've started almost from scratch and are adding around 1800 MP3 files in various folders, you can let it start off whilst getting the rest added. Very nice indeed that.

So with that in mind, I've now got my tunes sorted. Everything pretty much from 3 Daft Monkeys to Vix and her MsChiefs, and most stuff in between. In fact I felt the need to put the new Morrissey album on as well as plenty of other classics from the likes of The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Metallica, New Order and so on. I also decided that a fair number of the 2014 albums I have needed to go on there for some extended listening during the train journey especially, as I can look out of the window and adore the seaside and countryside (not daft me you know.)

I also thought about taking a book or two on the journey but then thought to myself "that's all very well, but often I struggle to get into them a lot". I might take the Morrissey autobiography and give that a good read, but I sometimes find it's better to read in a bit of silence instead of listening to tunes at the same time, so I'll see how I think I do with that and go from there really. In any case, I was pretty thankful that I'm quite near the end of ironing all the stuff that I'm going to take with me clothes wise (including some new stuff) so I don't have to do that in the heat this week.

Tune of the day is from the aforementioned Vix and her MsChiefs, the opening track of the band's "Live At Magic Garden" EP, recorded pretty much in a couple of takes. For me the immediacy and the simple but brilliant country folk of "All The Way From Birmingham" is a really lovely thing - it has nice verses, a singalong chorus and a part near the end when Vix can change the line depending on which part of the Midlands she wants to refer to - on the EP it's "I've got to get to you.. in Tipton" but that last place has been substituted for Walsall and Smethwick before now..

Sunday 20th July - Here's One We Made Earlier

On Friday I'd heard about a new exhibition at the Lowry in Salford, "Here's One We Made Earlier" which was a celebration of BBC children's television, with many of the characters on display complete with interactive things to do, along with a real history of the programmes as well, and all sorts. Naturally as a fan of the likes of the Clangers, Bagpuss, Morph, Grange Hill, Blue Peter and so many more, I simply had to head to it at some point, and the initial plan was to head to there from The Love's place on the tram, scuppered a little by the fact engineering work meant tram replacement buses from Piccadilly.

So instead The Love agreed to drive there from mine, via her place so we could say hello to the two cats and generally fuss over them for a bit, as well as make sure that they had food and water refilled up and stuff. They are getting very big now, and are generally playful once you have them close. They seem to love it when The Love heads to the utility cupboard where the washing machine is, as that's where their little cat treats are also stored, and let's just say that they quite like their treats!

We got to The Lowry and soon we were at the galleries, and the very kind person at the front said that it was free to get in and the BBC exhibition was to the left. I also asked one of the attendants if photographs were allowed, and she kindly responded that they were. I think she was pleased I at least asked first and didn't assume - as a lot of galleries and art places are strictly "no photography allowed" (and understandably so) but I think they realised that many parents and children would perhaps like a picture of their favourite characters close up to keep and cherish.

There were lots of things to see - some of the windows of the Play School house had been recreated for an interactive display, and next to that were all four life-size Teletubbies. As my little sister was into those, I instantly recognised them all of course (my favourite was Po!) and lots of children and parents were admiring those. In fact there were plenty of displays to do with Blue Peter as well, from the replice Blue Peter ship at the front to the kayak and bike that Helen Skelton-Myler used in two of her epic challenges for the programme, and the Tracy Island as made by Anthea Turner, along with some extracts from genuine letters that had been sent by children and parents into the programme, nice touch that.

One of the rooms was also dedicated to the future, with several tablets having CBeebies apps on (several also not working because they'd been probably hammered by the family fun day the day before) and another about tea time Friday evening television including clips from Crackerjack (ooh, I could crush a grape etc) along with the more recent offerings from Sam and Mark. And then it was on to one room where many of the characters were stored in glass cases, and wow, it was amazing, honestly.

Let's see what is in this room then. Basil Brush? Nice. Gordon the Gopher without Philip Schofield. Pretty good. And then.. Morph! My eyes lit up with a huge smile as the ever wonderful Aardman plasticine model was there sat eating a nice bun, and a big plasticine smile with the eyes to boot. When I used to watch some of the Tony Hart programmes, Morph was very much a part of that and his different world and the way he spoke I connected with in some way, so that was a pretty nice moment to see him there. Yaay. Would have been good to have Chas there too, but even so.

The next case had plenty of the Clangers in there, in fact all of the family, the rather strange orange carrot-like Froglets, and of course The Soup Dragon, looking all resplendent in its metal despite its age. And then.. the jaw just dropped when I saw what was next. Yes, they had Bagpuss! It was and still is one of my favourite chidren's shows, and ever in fact. I loved the innocence of it all, the mice winding up Professor Yaffle and the songs from Gabriel and Madeleine, and Bagpuss yawning and observing with all the cuteness a cloth cat a bit loose at the seams can provide. I had the theme tune in my head (make that tune of the day) and a lot of people were also giving the same case plenty of attention.

And with good reason. Not just Bagpuss, all on a cushion and cute, but Professor Yaffle at the end of his bookcase, Gabriel the Toad, Madeliene sat on her chair with one of the mice, and the marvellous mechanical mouse organ, complete with the mice astride it. I resisted the temptation to think of the episode where they trick Yaffle into making chocolate biscuits using bread crumbs and butter beans, but it was clear that even from the younger children, they all recognised Bagpuss, and that was good enough for me!

Also in the same room was Shaun the Sheep (yaay Aardman), Muffin the Mule and one of the classroom sets from Strange Hill High, where one of the Simpsons folks had a hand in making it. And not least a shot of Elmo and Cookie Monster who are joining the cast of The Furchester Hotel, making it the first time Sesame Street cast members will have been on the BBC in a programme. As we walked further on there was a nice display case with one of the former Grange Hill uniforms and a set of scripts (including one that called it Grange Park in its draft) plus some of the cast pictures and vinyl singles from the cast too, pretty impressive stuff all around.

I could have spent much longer in there, and if you're a parent, you need to take your children with you and enjoy the whole experience, there's something for everyone and I can highly recommend it. Plus the shop has lots of tie-in things to get, and there's a fun trail and quiz for the children to fill in and follow as they head around which increases the activities a bit. And of course, those iconic shows shown on screen with headphones to listen to whilst watching. Utterly brilliant stuff.

We headed to the Greenfinch for lunch later, and I had a very nice garlic mushroom chicken that reminded me a bit of the chicken in madeira sauce I sometimes get from Sainsburys. I had that with some new potatoes, carrots, peas and broccoli so it was a pretty healthy meal all round - was pretty pleased with myself there. I had lost some more weight this week so that's now 10lbs in total, and that's not too bad - I've simply cut down massively on bread (especially at lunch) and kept myself going and being more active too. In fact tonight I cleaned the inside and outside of the downstairs windows and also washed down the sills etc, so that soon burned more calories too!

Saturday 19th July - Bargain Hunting and Balmy Evenings

It was a nice day to be out and about, despite the incessant rain and thunder and lightning that happened overnight. The rain was constant but not a massive downpour which had mainly happened between around 4 and 6am this morning here, and the ground was pretty wet underfoot. I did though have an all weekend tram ticket so thought I may as well use it, and for a bit of a change decided that I was going to head to either Oldham or Rochdale and do some bargain hunting shopping there. I did also need plenty of toiletries and other things for the holiday, but also anything else into the bargain might have to be done.

So once I'd got the bus into central Manchester and with tram pass armed and ready, I headed to the Market Street stop and soon a Rochdale tram via Oldham arrived. I'd only been on this line as far as Newton Heath and Moston to see a friend, so heading through Failsworth and Freehold was different. After Freehold you could see the old train tunnel that used to go under the centre of Oldham to the old Mumps station, and where the tram tracks turn left was actually the old Wereneth station that I used to pass over on the old Oldham 10K from years back. Soon it was up around to Westwood and then crossing a busy roundabout towards the centre and off at Oldham Central.

I'd headed around the shopping centres that are Town Square (a fair few shops empty here) and the newer Spindles, which seemed to be decent enough. In fact I had a good look around a few shops and had some ideas about what to get if possible, before I headed out of the shopping centre and along one of the main streets. I did see a branch of Home Bargains (also called Quality Save for some stores oddly enough) and thought heading in there was a good move. It was. Not only did I get Nivea sun spray (factor 30) and after sun, but I also got all the other bits I was after, including toothbrush, toothpaste, sponge, shampoo and so on. They also sold nice real ales cheap too so I treated myself to Flying Scotsman, Goliath, Hogshead and Lightfoot, the last two by Theakstons, woohoo.

Flush with that I headed into Boots, as I'd seen a nice FCUK wash bag, complete with deodorant and body wash, and when I checked it was reduced to £7. Now I needed a new wash bag and getting it for holiday would be cool, and I also worked out I had more than enough Advantage points to pay for it without any extra cost. Job done, and that was me sorted with a nice new bag, and that will last me well for weekend and longer stays when I need all my stuff in one place. And with most of the remainder already purchased, it meant I could effectively pack it all in.

My bargain hunting wasn't quite finished there though, next to the tram stop was a Sainsburys and TK Maxx, so into the latter I went. Ten minutes later I'd sourced a really nice pair of French Connection jeans, in my size, for £24.99. They did have Levi 501s for £50 (albeit not in my size, but still a good price that) and it was good to head in there and get a decent bargain. I concurred with my friend last night that for the blokes, it's a good place as the racks are always organised and it resembles much less of a jumble sale than the mad scramble that is womenswear (hence The Love In My Heart isn't a big fan - but when we've been to one I've always got something and she admits the men's selection is often better..)

Back on the tram I headed towards the centre of Manchester, where the rain was coming down in buckets and the tram tracks at Shudehill resembled more of a small pond. I soon got off at Market Street and walked down to get the bus home, and some nice chicken stir fry was had for lunch before settling in for the afternoon with the Open Golf from Hoylake and then the Tour de France with the last of only two days in the Alps this time around (several days instead in the Pyrenees you see). Vincenzo Nibali did more than enough to keep hold of the maillot jaune and strengthened his position massively.

The Love In My Heart came over later and it was rather sticky and humid, despite me keeping windows open and one of the ceiling fans on in an attempt to keep the temperature down a bit. We had some rather lovely chicken in cider sauce for tea, with some vegetables as well, before later on having some raspberries and cream for dessert, which was pretty nice to have. We both settled in and also sorted out the online food shopping for the forthcoming holiday, as we can have it delivered to the apartment we're staying at before we arrive, saving lots of hassle all round really.

We did see a bit of the Live at Edinburgh Castle gig on BBC1, and I have to wonder what the hell was going on when Alfie Boe and Katherine Jenkins took on the Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe rendition of "Barcelona" and didn't come up with goods at all. I mean, if you're going to do Freddie, make sure you've got it right. And it wasn't. Sanity was thankfully massively restored with Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott though who made smile hugely with a great version of the Housemartins classic "Happy Hour" (tune of the day) and of course as Paul sang it originally, he's more than allowed to do a cracking rendition. Contrast and compare methinks..

Friday 18th July - Out and Up Front

It was a day off work for me today, and with a good reason. My new front door was being fitted, and it was one that I'd waited a few weeks before - you see, I was after one of the Rock Doors which are pretty strong and secure, and normally because they are manufactured to the dimensions of the doorway, it was waiting for that to be built and ready. I didn't mind so much because it meant I was then able to get a few things sorted around the house at the same time that the work was being done.

So at around 10am and with the Open Golf in full flow on BBC2 HD, the two workmen arrived, and pretty much spent most of the day there at mine. They had to take apart the old frame and remove the old door, and removing the frame showed that a few things needed to be done, so they set about to work in packing one of the recess gaps correctly, which then once secured to the brickwork allowed the door frame to be put on, and then the frame was put correctly into position so that the door would fit.

It took a fair bit of time primarily because the wood on the old door and frame was quite thick, and it was a case of them being able to ensure that what was put on in place looked aesthetically pleasing. I was keeping an eye on the Tour de France and the golf whilst they were working, needing my input only occasionally as they cracked on with the job. And after 4pm, all was done, and I got to try the new door. I have to say they did a really good job, there's now a double glazed window above the door itself, and all fits very nicely - with the door being in an English cottage style but looking modern and classy at the same time.

Once all that was done and my Sainsbury's grocery delivery had arrived (along with a DHL courier that shipped my new Fred Perry footwear at the same time) it was then into the shower and to get changed ready for the evening, as I was spending some quality time with The Love In My Heart and one of our friends. We'd arranged to meet in Kro Piccadilly and soon we were all catching up and having a good natter - and lots to catch up on too. It was very sticky and humid all around the city centre, but it was nice to relax with a pint of Deuchars.

We then headed out on the tram and off to Didsbury, getting off at the new tram stop in Didsbury Village. From there it was a short walk to Wilmslow Road and to Gusto, where we'd be having a meal for the evening. Not impressed with the bar prices though: two glasses of wine and a Becks Vier for me (no real ale!) for a mere £18. Ouch. Still, we did at least know we were getting 20% off the food bill, but still, it's clear where the money is being made in these sort of places these days.

We had a table close to the front which meant we got some air coming in, as near the back the heat was really warm (we experienced it when I went to the toilet, and it was pretty hot) and the food was very good. I had some garlic bread with rosemary to start, which was crisp and crunchy and really nice, and gave a piece each to The Love and our friend to try too. The spaghetti carbonara main was gorgeous too, our friend's burger looked fab and The Love had the gnocchi with shredded pork in pesto, which also looked good.

Once I'd had the panna cotta and our friend a coffee, we headed out and along Wilmslow Road and to the Stoker's Arms, a pub that had been recommended. And with good reason - they do real ale (even having Doom Bar on cask and the St Austell Korev lager on tap as well!) and they also have a nice atmosphere in there, with the background music having some 1970s classics on including Virginia Plain by Roxy Music (make that tune of the day) and it was good to sit, chat and generally catch up for a fair part of the evening.

As the skies darkened we headed back on the tram to the city centre, where our friend stayed on back to his place, and The Love and I got off. We very quickly headed over for her to get her tram home and then me on the night bus back to mine, and as I arrived it felt good to be home and see the new door all shiny. I headed in and virtually straight to bed only to be awoken by the very loud thunder and lightning storms that hit the city in the early hours...

Thursday 17th July - Humid Resolution

I had a busy day today, mainly helping out a colleague in the morning sort out one room where some software needed to be installed (some had failed, so had to do an uninstall first and then let SCCM run its magic and get everything installed as we wanted it to be) and I also spent some time connecting up the network scanners as well in the room. In fact it was pretty easy, a nice reset button on the back: press that and the configuration reset. I was then able to connect on the same LAN to the scanner, enter an IP address on it, set the network port to the static vLAN and then it all communicated happily every time. Good stuff really.

In fact there was one piece of software which interacts with another, and we found that there was an issue. Once I'd worked out that the new licence for one of the pieces of software required a restart of the licencing server software, it all talked to each other and everything registered the right way and without issue. I must admit I was really relieved and it was good to be able to report back on a solution not long after spotting a potential problem as well, allowing us to carry on with our work somewhat unhindered. All good.

In the afternoon I took some time to work on a task sequence to deploy some Autodesk software, and with it some configuration files so that when each user logs in, they'll apply when they run the software. Unfortunately Autodesk are notorious with AutoCAD for having to have a user-based MSI run which brings a shed load of settings to the user, and hard codes the registry with that particular user name for a lot of its settings. Without them and as a limited user, things don't work the way that they should, so the same tweaks I used a few years back would work, and found if they were stored on the machine it was a lot quicker, so sorted some ideas out for it too.

I headed home and the last thing I wanted on a really humid day was for the bus driver to stop at a stop not that far from home for around eight minutes. I eventually headed to one of my local shops near home to get a new dustpan and brush, and sorted out some dust accumulating on the path to my house, as well as tidy things up to a degree as well, which was good to do. I also realised I had enough ingredients in for a chicken with Chinese sauce stir fry with noodles, so I sorted that all for tea and that went down rather nicely, even in the heat.

After catching up on Countdown from today (4OD on the telly, easy peasy!) it was then time for the Tour de France highlights as the riders headed through the Massif Centrale and down to Saint-Etienne, the lull before one of the tough mountain stages tomorrow. There was a good feature on Tour legend and five time winner Bernard Hinault, who crashed near the end of a stage in Saint-Etienne inn 1985, and with blood pouring from his nose and head, rode home bravely. Even though he'd crashed inside the final kilometre and so would be given the same time as the group he was in, the rules then stated you had to finish under your own pedal power. Bit harsh that but it showed what a hard man Hinault was..

Tune of the day in the meantime is Pop Will Eat Itself's classic from 1989 "Wise Up! Sucker" which, for whatever reason, was criminally left off the Birmingham B-Side selection when it was finally decided yesterday. There were 21 tracks and The Wonder Stuff got in, but it made me wonder just if the judges actually understood the incredible PWEI and how far ahead of their time that they were then (and in many ways still are now). Time to play it loud and pretend to be Graham on the megaphone...

Wednesday 16th July - Eye Of The Needle

It was back to work and a rather busy and hectic day, as we spent a fair amount of time in one room getting all the PCs sorted with all their additional software, and on top of that my colleague was leading the charge to get the next room started. As it turned out and for whatever reason, whenever we made an attempt to try to start imaging a room it just all seemed to fail pretty quickly - whether it was network traffic, or something attempting to run at the same time, I'm not sure, but it did seem pretty odd.

I did spend a bit of time back in the office keeping an overall eye on things and making sure that where possible we got what we could up and working. I actually headed over early in the day to check that one of the new printers was performing at full speed, as well as then change over a network socket's speed and its virtual LAN back to the normal one where the printer had been before. All in a day's work of course, but still busy left right and centre to be honest.

I arrived home and spent some time sorting out bits around the house and was catching up on Countdown from this afternoon as The Love In My Heart arrived for the evening. I had already put some of the tea in the oven, a couple of pork belly roasts which had to be in there for ages. I did some nice potatoes with that as well as some peas and that went down quite well - the belly pork in particular was rather lovely all round. I've already made a mental note at some point to get that again if I need to.

We then watched Don't Tell The Bride on BBC Three as it was one that apparently she hadn't seen. The bride and groom were quite young and in the end the groom went for a ceremony in a converted barn and used all the gardens to turn it into a little fairground, with things like coconut shies in. The real panic was when the bride got the dress, eventually liked it and then saw the shoes (which he'd bought at Debenhams and were non-refundable!) and literally had a fit. It made me laugh somewhat to say the least.

By far though the best programme on last night was the first of a three part documentary following the building of the new Crossrail in London, and how the "eye of the needle" was getting the tunnel carrying the railway through a gap where there'd be less than one metre below an escalator and one metre above the station platform tunnel in Tottenham Court Road station. It was a brilliant piece of engineering and seeing how they had to try and make sure tunneling through the clay in London didn't disrupt the buildings above (such as the listed one in Soho Square for example) was really fascinating stuff.

The best bit though was getting a lot of historic cars that were up for sale at Bonhams auction house through a narrow gap, and one of the big bore holes had been partly covered by the construction workers to allow access to the auctioneers, and the staff were slowly pushing the cars carefully hoping not to have a single scratch. It was a really demanding exercise, but one that they passed with flying colours. Mind you, they did sell a vase for over £1.2 million in one clip, wowzers indeed there.

Tune of the day is the rather excellent "Neal Cassady Drops Dead" by Morrissey, from his new album. I've listened to it a couple of times now and it's growing on me somewhat to say the least. I think too that the influence of having a more relaxed flavour, from whether it being recorded in France or having one of the band who can bring in a Spanish flamenco guitar to the front, it just seems a nicely welcome change in direction and this could potentially be a rather good release..

Tuesday 15th July - Long Day To Loughborough

The town of Loughborough might not be everyone's first destination for business, but bear with me on this one. I was attending a seminar which had representations from a supplier we do business with and also one of our corporate companies whom the supplier supplies (if that makes sense) and the venue that they had chosen for it was Prestwold Hall, which is extensively used now for conferences and weddings as well as (according to the research I did last night) being the home of the Packe family for over 350 years. Unsurprisingly it's also a Grade I listed building (yes, Grade I!)

So it was up very early for me on a work day (5.15am in fact) and then it was getting myself up, showered and changed and out of the house before 5.40am to get the bus to Manchester Piccadilly, where once I'd got myself a bacon roll and a coffee from the usually fab people at Breadbox, it was time to head on the first of four trains I'd be taking today: the 0613 to Sheffield. The Peak District did look lovely in the morning it has to be said, and the mist uncovering the glorious fields and greenscape really did become enjoyable.

Not long after arriving at Sheffield at around 0710, I had a nice little wait and sit down before heading to Platform 8 and getting the 0746 departure to Loughborough. Once it got past Derby it stopped at Long Eaton and East Midlands Parkway, perhaps the most pointless of the parkway stations of all. Yes it serves East Midlands Airport a few miles away, but are there any shuttle bus services there? No. A bookable taxi at £6 each per person yes, but surely that defeats the object of travelling by public transport to the station in the first place? Or maybe the large car park is the other purpose: park and ride here for trains to London, as it's close to the M1.

Anyway, arrived in Loughborough and was soon locating a taxi of my own to head to Prestwold Hall, which was around three miles from the station. I was pleased then that I didn't actually decide to walk it there or else that would have taken me some time. I actually saw two of the folks from our suppliers as I arrived in the taxi so we headed to the hall where bacon rolls and coffee were awaiting, so I got chatting to them a bit, and then as people arrived chatted to them: two from the University of Lancaster, one from the University of Salford, one of my senior managers as well. In fact the representatives from our supplier matched our numbers!

The morning was mainly seminars, first from our supplier and to give an overview of where they're at and what they're doing, and a chance for us to get asking some technical questions as well, which is part of the reason I was asked along. I think too that I managed to give them some very useful information to feed back with, such as if their cloud based storage system meets Data Protection requirements by having servers exclusively based within the EU (answer: yes for their own, because the servers are located in Wales, hurrah!)

The second seminar was then from one of our manufacturers who we purchase things from via our suppliers, and that was a bit of a show and tell with some of the kit. On the whole, I can see the direction it's going, but there's several things that didn't seem quite right: the main one for me was to why go with a display port connector when most other laptop makers are going HDMI for an external source (and thus forcing you to get a display port to HDMI adapter if you want to connect to projectors and televisions) - sometimes, common sense wins hands down.

It did give a few things to feed back to, and the lunch was rather nice, it has to be said, some quality sausages, and a vegetable mash with carrots and peas inside the potatoes, with some luscious green beans. And add a panna cotta plus stewed apple side, and I can see just why people would want to hire the place as a wedding venue, the catering for the corporate clients was spot on and so I'd expect the same at a Saturday wedding breakfast too (and they have a licenced bar).

After a more relaxing afternoon (key word: adrenalin) it was then time to head back to Loughborough, where I shared the time and trains back to Manchester with the colleague from Salford, and that was pretty good, as we had plenty to chat about anyway. As we'd left the day earlier than expected it also meant I arrived back into Manchester an hour earlier too (thank heavens it was an anytime ticket booked by work so I had the option to be honest). And just nice to do something different and be out there networking but in a different and altogether more wholesome way.

I spent a quiet evening watching the latest episode of CSI, and it was pretty good. I really liked the way that Sara interacted with the bomb disposal bloke, and the two seemed to have a good working partnership first in defusing the bomb and then Sara enlisting his help into how the suspect managed to get where he was, and that really did prove a good plot on the whole, not least as it turned out to be a wider FBI based investigation that they had accidentally stumbled upon. I must admit I still like the fact that the classic "Who Are You?" by The Who is the theme tune so tune of the day it is then!

Monday 14th July - It's A Shoe In For The Morrissey Album

I did manage to get somewhere with some of the software configuration today, not least testing the Autodesk suite for the student use. I found that as an admin, Autodesk Inventor 2015 worked fine but as a user, it'd crash out every time. I looked at the crash logs in detail and realised that for some reason one of the Navisworks DLL that Inventor supposedly uses to be able to link stuff in some way was the culprit, and a rename of that DLL meant that all users could run it. I could easily do that at the end of the deployment as well, so well worth noting that.

It is frustrating though that AutoCAD and its variants (Architecture, Raster Design etc) still seems to have this idiom of wanting to be run as a user with a decent amount of rights, and that any user who runs the software gets an annoying MSI configuring type window as all the settings are deposited onto the user's profile. And still even more annoying, the registry settings are tied to each user account, so if you wanted to import them for another user, the answer effectively is no. This isn't good. I do remember there were some useful scripts I used for AutoCAD 2012, so I might be using those again and that'll work around it all nicely, but still..

Anyway, I headed into the city centre for two things after work: the first was to get the new Morrissey album, which Fopp very kindly had (and the 2CD edition at that) so it was good to get that and treat myself the day before pay day (I'm sure it'll be fine!) and then also pick up the train tickets for my business trip tomorrow, which is going to involve a day away from the office and lots of discussions and possible networking with lots of people, so might be a good plan ahead there.

But, I also wanted to see if I could get some casual type trainers for the holiday, and thought about what I'd like and what would look good. I had seen a pair of Fred Perry vintage tennis style plimsolls in a maroon colour that looked cool and that was my benchmark, but wanted to try on some Converse as well. Now here's the thing: I tried on a pair of size 8s, too small and tight, tried on a 9, too big, so realistically needed a 8.5. Could you get that in most stores? No. In fact when I went into JD Sports in the Arndale my cousin was in there working, and he told me that they were a weird size, and he has a 9s which don't fit right and realistically need an 8.5 as well.

Checking this out further, generally most shoe makers have a UK 8 as Euro 42, so all good, but oh no, Converse UK 8 is Euro 41, and only the 8.5 is Euro 42. Annoying? Absolutely. In fact the folks in Foot Asylum told me that they don't do half sizes, which makes me wonder just if they realise the different sizing that Converse use and whether in fact they should sort it out accordingly. I did try one of the Fred Perry pairs on though and the 8 was a proper 8, and it fitted correctly. Hoorah indeed!

That made my mind up, and I headed homeward later. In fact when I looked at the normal Fred Perry site (instead of the Fred's Threads outlet) they had a sale on, and the pair I was looking at in maroon in the outlet was in a dark green in the normal shop, but at half price, so £25. The words epic win sprung to mind, and needless to say, they were ordered straight off (and as it turned out the last pair of 8s, so double yaay indeed). If you're after a different size, it's these babies.

Tune of the day is a classic Morrissey track which I've listened to tonight along with several others in preparation for the new album, just to get back up to speed somewhat. It's the epic "The Teachers Are Afraid Of The Pupils", a swarming eleven minute epic just about the perils of teaching, somewhat heightened by Cathy Newman's excellent Dispatches documentary on Channel 4 tonight about some schools not teaching correctly and where some of the children, whose parents were governors, were telling teachers that they couldn't encourage certain things. Has Michael Gove and the Department of Education failed us? Has he ever.

Sunday 13th July - And I Would Walk Eight Chorlton Miles

And maybe not walk just eight more just yet! The Love In My Heart and I had an idea in that we'd walk along the former Fallowfield Loop Line all the way from my place to Chorlton, have a drink in The Bar near to the tram station, and then walk the four miles back,which meant a total walk of eight miles in all to be done. In theory it sounded like a good idea, especially as it meant it would keep us both fit and we'd both be able to really have a good time together in relatively warm weather.

The clouds looked a little on the menacing side as we left, but that soon changed to much brighter skies as we headed towards Fallowfield, diverting around Sainsbury's and the flats that were built on top of the former train line, so along Sherwood Street and then back on to the path, uninterrupted as we headed towards Princess Road, Withington Road and past the tram stop at St Werburgh's Road, following the line to Chorlton itself. It was a good walk all told and we both felt pretty good about ourselves at the time.

We had a drink in The Bar and the ale was on mighty form, so it was good to sit outside and chat for a bit, but seeing the food come out made me think that it was time we both had something for a late lunch, with the idea that we'd walk off the lunch in the four miles heading back. In fact The Love had the Sunday roast lamb, which looked gorgeous especially with all the lovely meat and vegetables, and nifty mash as well, and I had the rather well done battered haddock and chips with a little cute pan of mushy peas. In fact the haddock was gorgeous, the batter crispy and really deservingly being done that way.

I even put some tunes on the jukebox (well it was several plays for a pound) so it included the likes of Massive Attack's "Unfinished Sympathy", Depeche Mode's classic "I Just Can't Get Enough", the classic Jam sound that is "A Town Called Malice" (that's tune of the day as The Love adores it too), along with Roxy Music's "Do The Strand", the fab "The Caterpillar" by The Cure to finish things off nicely. The sort of stuff that's quite varied but also deserving of a Sunday afternoon relatively loved up and relaxed, yaay indeed.

We headed back and for The Love the going was a little more difficult, and I think it may have been a little muscle pull as we headed up one of the small inclines along. She was made of sterner stuff though and we made it back a little tired, but really felt good for it too. I think for me to be able to try and do more exercise is a delicate part of doing what I can to try and shed some more weight off before holiday, and I think that's the plan now to do one final push.

Talking of final pushes, well done to Germany for winning the World Cup final in extra time tonight. On the night they were the better team and had the more of the play, and Argentina will rue some missed chances that they had, especially one for Gonzalo Higuain in the first half. Sergio Agüero came on second half but should have been sent off in extra time for an elbow to the face of Bastian Schweinstiger, whilst the winning strike from Mario Götze was deserving to win any game, a chest down and volley that smashed home past Romero in the Argentine goal. Well done to them I say.

Saturday 12th July - Alfresco Evening

I did have a lie in, as I felt mentally drained for some reason. I think it was much needed, as I woke up feeling rather refreshed and ready for the day ahead. I was going into the city centre and get the hair cut, but was distracted somewhat by the England v India first test at Trent Bridge. England were 352 for 9 at the start of the day and yet Joe Root and James Anderson were staying in, and staying in, and still staying in. What seemed unlikely at 202 for 7 was possible as England passed India's 457 total, and before long they also passed the world record final wicket stand, surviving all the way to lunch with still the final wicket intact. Granted, it'd end soon after with a stand of 198, but it was impressive stuff to watch let me tell you.

I soon headed after lunch into the city centre and it was off to get my hair done at the usual call of the Manchester Cutter. It was as busy as ever on a Saturday but they worked their usual magic and one of them like me wanted Argentina to win the World Cup final tomorrow, which I thought was fair enough to be honest. Opinion was divided amongst those in the hairdressers with some saying Germany had been the best team, but also choosing which one to win was like picking two teams that they didn't really like. Being a City fan, I had to be biased with Zabaleta, Demichelis and Agüero playing for the Argentina side.

Once done, I headed into Sports Direct - not a place I head into that often, but I had seen a couple of pairs of shorts for holiday that were at a non-expensive price, even more so as it was two pairs for £18, so I got a navy blue and a stone pair, along with a nice new leather belt that was much needed, and a smartly stylish Airwalk t-shirt for a mere £6.99 too, so didn't do too badly all round there. It was good to go in, choose what I wanted, and head out of there and not have to worry about a thing.

I headed home and before long The Love In My Heart arrived, and as the weather was still nice and warm we decided to sit outside with the garden table and chairs out on the decking, and had a nice cool drink and chatted for ages before I got the tea on, which was a very nice chicken with a madeira mushroom sauce and some potatoes, red onions and such like, and to go with that I did some petits pois and carrots as well, so was quite wholesome and healthy at the same time. It was nice dining alfresco it has to be said.

And while I didn't win the lottery, we did settle in later for the evening and watch the programme I'd recorded from BBC Four last night, with plenty of songs that for one reason or another that the BBC had banned over the time. One of which is tune of the day - Heaven 17's classic "(We Don't Need No) Fascist Groove Thang" - which was taken from a 6 Music session the band recorded (with the rather lovely Billie Godfrey on backing vocals) and both Martyn Ware and Glenn Gregory on top form. It amazed us too just how clean it all sounded, showing they hadn't lost any of their verve whatsoever.

In fact lots of classic songs in there that had been banned too, such as Anarchy in the UK by the Sex Pistols, Atomic by Blondie, Lil' Louis' rather raunchy French Kiss (more understandable!), Ian Dury's brilliant Spasticus Autisticus, Lola by the Kinks (due to product placement!) and all sorts. I think it shows that sometimes even in an age before now, sometimes the powers that be were just a little bit too powerful in allowing people to make their own minds up...

Friday 11th July - Listen to the Banned

It was a good and warm day at work and it was quite positive that we got lots done today - especially as I think we're actually a little ahead of schedule in terms of imaging the batches of machines that we've got. I think we're almost done with one of the two floors in one building, which is good, and especially more so that I think that one of the pieces of software is a manual installation that takes time, so was pleased overall there. I spent time with a colleague setting up some PCs moved from one room to another due to the room having some building work being done, so it made sense for us to get started there too.

After all that it was time to do the weekly food shop and it was time to head to the local large Sainsbury's for a change, and did pretty nicely in getting some rather lovely stuff to cook for myself and for The Love when she would be around at mine, and got myself all the ingredients for a lovely stir fry should I need it, plus some nice chicken to dice up to have with it as well as the fresh noodles and sauce. I also saw a nice deal on the Pizza Express La Reine pizzas, £4.50 each (about usual price) or two for a fiver, win there. It's actually my favourite flavour of theirs so to get two decent sized ones cheap was good.

I headed home and put the shopping away and it was then time to settle in with the Tour de France coverage on ITV4. More drama as another rider crashed, and there were even crashes on straight roads as some of the riders were jockeying for position in the peloton. Two decent climbs near the end of the stage were critical, and the final one close to the town of Nancy was particularly telling: if only there was a bit more of a gap Peter Sagan could have kept it for a stage win, but he was edged on the line by literally the width of a wheel in the end. It's still the same at the top with the best British rider Geraint Thomas being inside the top 20, so not too bad without Chris Froome I guess.

It was then over to Channel 4 for the Million Pound Drop and Davina McCall looking rather nice in her red dress, and having two of the people from the award winning show Gogglebox on. They did okay till one question where they were asked which of these names only appears in the name of a country once? The choice was Guinea, Zealand and Korea. Of course the answer is Zealand (North and South Korea, plus Papua New Guinea, Guinea-Bassau etc) but the contestants misread the question and so went for the wrong answer. Duhhh indeed sadly - although the everyday couple afterwards were doing much better it has to be said.

I did watch 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown as I knew one of my managers and his wife were in the audience, and there they were in the front row with my colleague wearing a distinctive top so he was easy to spot on the whole. It was a good show overall with Bill Bailey being a contestant this time. I did get the numbers rounds apart from the final one where I was two away (it was 25, 50, 75, 100, 10 and 6 and you had to get 873 - pretty difficult I'm sure you'll agree) and the conundrum came to me eventually, the 8 letter anagrams before the break were doable too!

Finally it was on to BBC Four and to see most of the programme that showed BBC archive footage and performances of songs that were once banned by Auntie Beeb for one reason or another. Quite a varied selection including Lola by The Kinks, Anarchy in the UK by the Sex Pistols, the slightly risque I Want Your Sex by George Michael and, naturellement, Je T'Aime by Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin. I was surprised to see Ian Dury in there with Spasticus Autisticus, a song which would eventually get played in the 2012 Paralympic Games, so tune of the day was an easy decision.

Thursday 10th July - Alfresco And Amanda

It was really nice weather all day, and to be honest I was quite relieved that we have air conditioning at work to keep us relatively calm and be able to do the job that we do. I can remember the old office I used to be at getting really warm and just unbearable at times, so it was good to head out on a job and then return to the relative comfort of the office. On the positive side I tested an install of Autodesk Building Design Suite 2015, and this time around everything worked. I must admit that I was really pleased with how it all turned out and meant that it all worked as I wanted it to work - hurrah to that.

So it seems to me that there's at least four processes happening where you have to wait a long time: compiling the package with the deployment installer as it copies files to your source network server, then when the package is created in SCCM is has to create the content library, then when upping the files to a distribution point it does so over time (35GB remember) and then when deploying the software to run from a distribution point, it has to make sure the content is okay on the point before it starts to perform the installation. Joy and rapture and all that.

Still it meant that I was quite positive on the way home from work and wondered if The Love In My Heart would like to eat out for tea - she was really pleased because she'd had a tough day at work, and so once she arrived later in the evening we decided to quickly head to my uncle's first as it was his birthday (my nephew and niece were there too so it was nice to say hello) and then off to the pub, where we could sit outside alfresco style and have something nice to eat - she went for the barbecue pulled pork sandwich and me for a chicken korma, and a nice pint of the Ilkley Brewery's "Marie Jaune" ale to go with it - delicious I tell you.

We sat outside for a while and had a good chat and catch up, and it was just good to be able to wind down and relax together, not having too much of a care in the world - and sometimes we all need that don't we? I think for me especially that the last week or two has been fairly tough and it just means that we've been able to pull resources together in our office and do all we can to get things sorted out for the masses - which pleases me immensely. And on top of that, The Love is always smiling despite the toughness of her job at times and the fact we just can chatter about all sorts makes us both feel much more contented.

We headed back to mine later and Celebrity Masterchef was on, and I was pretty pleased because the lovely Amanda Burton was on. I should explain that back in the days when Brookside was at its peak in the mid 1980s, Amanda played Heather Haversham and was a rather beautiful woman then, and alluring to anyone she dated in the series. There was just something about her I admired, and when she then went to Silent Witness, of course I watched (in fact I always tell The Love that the show was only good with her in it, which in my view it was!)

I must admit I thought she was for the proverbial chop though after making some faggots which didn't impress the judges, only for JB formerly from JLS to have been given the starry-gazey pie and muck that up big style, sadly, and Millie from Made in Chelsea (I think) had a good go at her dish but somehow the components just didn't work the way that they should. Shame, but I do think Amanda was a little lucky and I think she'll know that herself - especially for the next round on tomorrow night.

It was finally Mock The Week with the classic theme tune by The Jam (make that tune of the day) and all seemed well with the show - it's not The Love's favourite but I get the humour of most of the people on there (notably Dara O'Briain and Hugh Dennis of course) and they were happily cracking some jokes about Wimbledon, although Dara had to remind them that it wasn't good to do any about Andy Murray, especially as said player is a big fan of the show (he's been in the audience, once after he lost to Federer in the 2012 final) and it was up to its usual witty standard.

Wednesday 9th July - Warm and Wondering

I was keeping on top of things as much as I could today whilst simultaneously managing to assist others at the same time. We had a room full of PCs that we'd started the main SCCM task sequence to deploy the operating system and core build to last night, and although most of them had succeeded okay there were some issues which my colleagues was sorting out, and on the phone to me to sort out at the same time as well, which was good. In fact I spent a bit of time over there with her in the afternoon and we nailed the final batch of software install task sequences across the board, which was excellent news.

I also spent some time with SketchUp Pro 2014, finishing off a bit of packaging work I'd done with this yesterday. On the whole it's pretty straightforward, the Windows Installer MSI is editable to create a Windows transform, and from there it's then a case of making sure all the settings are correct for the application and duly applied when a user logs in. After all the heartache and pain with the Autodesk suite, it was so much more easier to get everything done and made me feel a bit more back on track with things too.

I got home and watched last night's episode of CSI (which clashed with the football so I recorded it). It was a pretty good episode, all tied around the goods left for sale at a pawn shop including some old speakers which just so happened to have the winnings from a Blackjack table game the night before, and Morgan Broady (excellent stuff from Elisabeth Harnois as her) making sure that she was the one that had the upper hand ahead of day shift in solving the case (although I suspect day shift bloke was there for possible eventual romantic interest!)

I also noted that the judges had sat down today and selected their 20 tracks for the Visit Birmingham "B-Side Brum" as a representation of the great music from that city. My own selection if I were a judge is here, but it was notable that so many people from within music were sat judging away and it must have been a difficult selection process. I was pleased to see from the report in the Birmingham Mail that the mighty Pop Will Eat Itself had no less than five tracks nominated - I know "Wise Up! Sucker" was one of them (nominated that myself, so tune of the day) but was curious about what the other four would be.

I also spent some time as well listening to some of my own selections, which I thought were a decent cross section of what was out there musically, and wondered what a similar event was organised by the folks in Manchester to pick a string of what represents the city well. I must admit it'd be rather difficult to choose from, because not least that in my top ten singles of all time four of my top ten are from Manchester-based artists, and a fifth was from someone living in Manchester at the time of recording the song - so I guess most of them would have to feature somehow.

All that's left tonight is to cheer on the mighty Argentina in the World Cup semi final against the Netherlands. Admittedly I think the Manchester City fan in me is quite pleased that all three players have played for the nation during the tournament, and nothing would make me more proud than seeing Pablo Zabaleta lift that trophy and be amongst an elite few who will have won the Premier League and the World Cup in the same season, as well as being an all round top bloke. We might even have to invent a new song for him...

Tuesday 8th July - Brazil Battered

After a lengthy day at work it was nice to head home and pretty much relax, and have some tunes on. I thought it'd be good to have some Kraftwerk on before The Love In My Heart arrived for tea later, and so ended up aptly with the Tour de France soundtracks album. I really like that, especially as a number of the tracks were played when The Love and I saw them at Manchester Velodrome, which was a really cracking gig. So with absolute joy I whacked on "Aerodynamik" on full blast, just seemed right to - tune of the day was a simple decision there.

The Love came over later and because she headed out of work late, she headed virtually straight over. I sorted out the tea whilst she sorted herself out, and also headed to Tesco as well. I was glad I had all the ingredients in that I needed, so I set to work, wrapping some fresh chicken fillets in some bacon, and then cooking them in the oven, adding some potato gratin and having that with some petits pois and carrots. It was pretty filling and The Love was pleased too.

I indulged The Love with a double dose of Emmerdale on ITV+1, as to be fair we'd watched the fourth stage of the Tour de France and saw plenty of thrills and spills, a very brief excursion into Belgium before heading to Lille for the finish. The Love was happy that for once in the last month the football hadn't interfered with the soaps too much which meant that she could catch up. I did say to her though that at 9pm it'd be time for the Brazil v Germany semi final and so I'd be watching that.

And well, what a game! I was expecting it to be close, and even after Thomas Müller scored the opener I thought Brazil would come back into it. The turning point for me was when the Mexican referee correctly judged that Philip Lahm had timed his tackle spot on, and wasn't a foul for a penalty. Germany could see that there was going to be no home bias and were ruthless, with them surging forward at every opportunity, and the Brazilian defence looking as shaky as Shakin Stevens at his 1980s peak.

Miroslav Klose hit a rebound in to become the all time top scorer in World Cup finals (eclipsing Brazil's Ronaldo no less) and then it was just mayhem. Toni Kroos scored twice in two minutes to make it 4-0 (yes, four nil) and three minutes after that Sami Khedira had also hit a well taken shot home. The score was Brazil 0 Germany 5. After twenty nine minutes. Four goals inside seven minutes. Brazil looked awful, and how they managed to get to half time without conceding more goals was a miracle in itself to be honest.

And so it went on, Andre Schürrle came off the bench and bagged two himself in the second half and with a quarter of an hour to go, it was 7-0 to Germany. Honestly, I had to pinch myself that this was actually happening - but it was. Even a meagre consolation by Oscar was nowhere near what Brazil deserved - they didn't deserve a single goal to be honest. I can see the dust settling and the realisation that without Thiago Silva in defence, there was no defence for Brazil and it was too easy for Germany to pick them off. Even England might have stood a chance!

Monday 7th July - Two Wheels of Lies

So it was back to work, and on the whole all seems to be well thus far. I'm still having application issues but I suspect it's possibly down to a faulty deployment source, so I've asked a colleague to check it over to see what the state of play is. I'm also looking at a few other things at the same time so I'm attempting where possible to use the time constructively in order to see what can be done. I think managing time at the moment is absolutely key - it's a very busy time all told and important for us that we get things right where possible.

I did spend some time this evening in the company of mainly two wheels - as the third stage of the Tour de France headed from Cambridge, through Essex, and down towards the centre of London and finishing on the Mall. It was notable that the cyclists went through the Olympic Park, where I'd spent a few happy days during the 2012 Olympics of course, and that through the major landmarks heading towards the centre of London I could see the rain teeming down which was to prove to be a real test of courage when the bends were being taken at high speed.

The whole peloton were pretty much together by the time they hit the Mall and so it was another sprint finish par excellence for Marcel Kittel who edged it on the line for his second stage win in three, and a very likely contender to finish in the green jersey for points if nothing else. He really timed his run superbly again and I think only Mark Cavendish if he wasn't injured and out of the Tour would have had any possible chance of maybe winning the stage instead.

What was fascinating, even more so possibly than the BBC Four documentary I saw last night was a documentary film screened by Channel 4, "The Armstrong Lie" which went behind the scenes initially of the now disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong's 2009 Tour de France comeback, but ended up being a fly on the wall towards his eventual fall from grace. Even during the tour there were a few things going on which appeared to be rather unsavoury, such as him telling a rival effectively not to win the stage and let him take it, and the climb of Mont Ventoux (which was almost the beginning of the end because the blood tests eventually found EPO in there).

The film maker really didn't want to get too close to Armstrong and on numerous occasions held himself back from that situation, whilst trying to be objective. Key interviews with fellow cyclists, some of which used to be on Armstrong's team, was notable, and it showed just how much power he had wielded and how much influence he had, especially over the former head of the UCI, who seemed to want to make any excuse to cover up doping as much as some of the cyclists did - a bad seed and someone who clearly needed to leave (which they did.)

I also saw the final of Only Connect on BBC Four, and sadly the last ever time it'll be on there before moving to BBC Two next time around. I must admit I hope it keeps its intelligence and difficulty level for the masses that might watch it now - especially as the final produced some absolutely fiendish walls and some tricky missing vowels along the way. It is still one of my favourite things on telly, and the theme tune is just right for it (so much so it's my tune of the day) - I wonder who in the wardrobe gets to select all of Victoria Coren Mitchell's dresses for example?

Sunday 6th July - Le Grand Depart, Part Deux

It was early to rise for me, leaving The Love In My Heart to have a well deserved lie in - she hadn't had one for ages and so thought it nice for her to relax and just have some sleep. In any case the second stage of the Tour de France was on the television from 10.30am. I was half tempted to try to get to a place along the route, but seeing how busy the crowds were on the Saturday I thought it might be difficult to try and get a decent view without being there a few days in advance.

In anyc ase it was quite nice seeing the cyclists start from York racecourse, head through the centre of York, past the shops I've spent plenty of time in, skirting around Betty's Tea Rooms, then up to the square and past the Minster, and then leaving the city walls to head towards Knaresborough. One of my friends had camped out in Silsden near Keighley and so was going to be able to see the race later in the day once they had passed around the back of Harroagate and Keighley.

It was thankful at this time that the TV has picture in picture, so I can watch another channel in a little box in the corner of the main picture, so with the British Grand Prix looming I decided to watch that and have the Tour in the little window. It worked out very well, because during the first lap there was a crash involving Kimi Raikkonen and with the race being long delayed due to a guard armco rail being reseated and having to be refitted, it was back on full screen with the Tour and just in time for the riders to head up the hill in Haworth, and having been there with Mum, I know how steep that main street is!

The F1 resumed so it was back in picture in picture for that, and on the whole it worked well. I was pleased for Lewis Hamilton to win the race, and having a failure for Nico Rosberg meant that the title race had closed up nicely (good!) - also on top of that, it was good to see Jenson Button battling throughout and I think had the race lasted one more lap he might have had Daniel Ricciardo for third and a podium slot. He was pleased with 4th though despite the McLaren still being not that good, so it was good to see him do well.

The rest of the second stage was familiar territory on the tour, through Hebden Bridge, up towards Huddersfield, down to Holmfirth before then taking the toughest climb of the day, Holme Moss. I couldn't believe the numbers up there (it's really desloate it has to be said) and it really made for a good atmosphere. Down the Woodhead pass they went, turning off near Langsett for the climbs of Midhopestones, High Bradfield, and then Oughtibridge before heading towards Sheffield, then out to Meadowhall before taking on the Côte de Jenkin Road, a nasty little 800m climb with a section that's almost one in three in the middle. Chris Froome was pretty good here and won the climb before he was safely in the lead bunch at the end of the stage.

Following on from that, it was then back to BBC1 for the Wimbledon coverage, and The Love In My Heart and I watched the final three sets with much enjoyment. I am a bit of a Roger Federer fan and had said to my friend last week that if Andy Murray wasn't going to win it, then Roger would be my next choice. The Love likes him too but also prefers Novak Djokovic, so we were both rooting for one of the finalists. At 5-2 down in the fourth set Federer battled back from match point down and took five games on the bounce to take the set 7-5, and as I thought might happen it went to a final set.

It was a tense final set and I suspected one break of serve would be all that it'd take and it duly happened that way, with the break going the way of Djokovic and him winning the final set 6-4 to take the match. What was lovely to see though that both players were very sporting and were respectful of each other's efforts, and Federer said that Djokovic had played superbly and was a deserved winner. Absolute class from both of them particularly when Djokovic joked "thank you for letting me win this time!" which had everyone smiling. That's why both of them are so highly regarded, not just because they're ace players and all that, but because they act in a proper manner. Tune of the day is the proper Wimbledon theme "Light and Tuneful" by Keith Mansfield for that reason.

Saturday 5th July - Le Grand Depart

It was nice to wake up having had a bit of a lie in today, but I also wanted to get the housework done early as I was settling in for a day of cycling and Formula 1. The Tour de France started in Leeds today as home of the Grand Depart, and even though I wasn't heading up there to see it start, I wanted to see it on the television, and see the action unfold. I also felt it was a good time to get organised and clean up the kitchen and bathroom, get all the chores done and be up and showered, having done a shed load of ironing, ready for the weekend.

I noticed that the postman had arrived, but with two very nice packages for me, and they contained both Pop Will Eat Itself singles from this year: the Watch The Bitch Blow EP, complete with matching yellow badge featuring the logo, and the Reclaim The Game (Funk FIFA) single as well, so mightily pleased. Needless to say I had to give them both a good play and the title track "Watch The Bitch Blow" is still as brilliant as it was when I first heard it, so tune of the day just has to be done.

I then settled in with ITV4 (and then ITV HD, hurrah) for the start of the Tour de France. Off they went from Leeds to Harewood House at a slow pace, they stopped outside the house, had the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge there with Prince Harry ready to cut the ribbon to launch the event, the brass band played the French and English anthems, and then once out of the house grounds it was the start proper, and off they went with a few of the riders deciding to make a break for opening day glory.

Later on it was on to BBC Two HD to see the qualifying for the British Grand Prix, and unlike the sunshine in Yorkshire (and here in Manchester too) the rain was periodically coming down at Silverstone, making the tyre choice a bit difficult. It was good to see that Jenson Button, normally a meister in these changeable conditions, had got through Q1 unscathed and was 4th in Q2. The final qualifying was mental, it was dry at first, so out went everyone for a lap, but the final section was rainy, then it rained everywhere.

The final few minutes saw everyone attempt to head out on slick tyres and at first the first two sectors were still too slow, but Nico Hulkenberg's time came up and he was quickest, then Sebastian Vettel was quick too, and Jenson Button was also in there with a flourish, and second. Finally Nico Rosberg nailed it and the pole was his, but full marks for spotting the final section was quick with almost 2 seconds being made up for some drivers. I was pleased for Button especially, he always seems to know when to push and third in qualifying is a massive boost for him.

So back to the Tour as it heads through Yorkshire, and the crowds are really amazing everywhere. It's hard to put into context just how many people there are, some in the finish in Harrogate have been there since 4am in the rain at the time, and others in Leeds massed overnight, with the crowd being 20 or 30 deep in some places. On the climbs people have got a spot on the slopes to cheer the masses on, and it's really showing just how much the country has embraced cycling as of late. Cracking!

Friday 4th July - Born of Frustration

For all manner of reasons, it was a frustrating day at work today. One large package was failing to even attempt to get to its distribution point correctly, so I spent some time in one of our central offices with a colleague attempting to get to the bottom of it all and work out just why things weren't going the way that it should be. I think we found out the reason why, but all the responses I saw were a case of "just wait and see what happens" and allow the system time to play catch up with itself. With the install being some 30GB or so, it does make a lot of sense.

On the plus side, it was nice to head for lunch and to celebrate a couple of birthdays within the team: not least one of them whom I consider a good friend as well. We decided to head to a local Chinese restaurant not far from work, and they did a deal of a meal and soft drink for £5. And no skimping either: the portions were pretty sizeable. I went for the beef in black pepper sauce with rice, and it was a pretty sizeable bowl that came out with the rice and the meat in - and plenty of beef to be fair. Cracking value all round to be honest and well worth the money.

Once I headed home from work I tuned in to the France v Germany World Cup quarter final match, which in truth was rather dull to say the least. Germany took the lead early on and it was a case of a dogged stalemate from then on in with France running out of ideas to try and break the Germans down, and so it would end up being 1-0 to Germany and through to the semi finals where they'd face Brazil or Colombia who were playing later on. I used the time in between matches to head to the local Aldi to get some ale and some of their mixed berry cider, and also then to Tesco to get some food shopping in as well.

It was then back on to the telly for the Brazil v Colombia match, and that turned out to be a pretty good game overall. Brazil took the lead early on with Thiago Silva, and it was a tight match with plenty of hard tackling. Their plan seemed to be to stop James Rodriguez at all times who had been a main threat throughout, and the Brazilians roughed him up a lot with no protection from the referee - wonder if it was destined to be rigged by FIFA to give the tournament to Brazil I thought.

David Luiz scored a great free kick for Brazil mid way through the second half and then it was down to Colombia to battle back - they did get a penalty and Rodriguez scored his sixth of the tournament, which might be enough to land him the Golden Boot for top scorer. Colombia tried but Brazil held on and it was 2-1 to them in the end, so a Brazil v Germany semi final on Tuesday to watch. I must admit though that Colombia looked the better more fluid team and I can see Rodriguez being a transfer target for a lot of the top teams now!

Tune of the day in the meantime is an antidote to having had to hear some rubbish music played by a lot of teenage girls on the bus on the way home, seemingly not caring about the fact their tinny crap was all over the top religious rubbish. So a bit of Slayer to counteract that? Absolutely. So I played their Seasons in the Abyss album first, and the title track is still brilliant, an epic six and a half minutes of controlled metal that really does build up in to a ferocious assualt - their most under-rated track I reckon. An easy choice.

Thursday 3rd July - I Said Now, Silent Bob

After a long and arduous day at work it was good to have some down time, as my friend and I were off to our second gig in three days (go us eh?). This time it was off to the O2 Apollo Manchester to see Jay and Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie show, with Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith. I was unsure a little what to expect but I know that their humour as those two characters is something you either really get, or you really don't. My friend and I are in the "get" category, and I own the likes of Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Clerks the Animated Series and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Several of those are also region 1 DVD imports because they have more good stuff on them, so there you go.

We got our seat, right near the front as it happened, which was good, and before long Jason and Kevin came out and had a little bit of banter with the audience. Kevin was missing a friend's wedding anniversary tonight so he got a video message recorded, and they had the audience yell out a couple of phrases to really make it a bit more special - nice touch that. They also explained the running order for the evening: we'd be watching the hour long animation of the Super Groovy Cartoon Movie first, directed by Jason and based on two characters created by Kevin, Bluntman and Chronic (played by Jay and Silent Bob, nootch) - they'd then come back on for some of the "..Get Old" podcast stuff, do a Q&A etc, so sounded a fun filled evening.

First off then was the Super Groovy Cartoon Movie, and needless to say if you like the films above and the Jay and Silent Bob characters you're in for a treat. There's plenty of them idling around Clerks style (even the character Dante from Clerks is featured!) and as the super heroes it's quite clear there's a tribute to Batman, with even the butler having the same name (expertly voiced by Neil Gaiman no less). It was very funny, and also very rude in parts, when you consider the characters such as D**k Head and C**k Knocker as well as the sworn enemy Lipstick Lesbian, and you get the idea entirely.

All good fun, and even post-credits there was a little skit with Stan Lee voicing and playing himself in animated form (harks back to Mallrats that did) - and everyone headed to the loo whilst the interval was on. Before long there was a little bit of humour from the two, and one of Jason's sex tales with his wife in Paris involving a hotel balcony which was very funny indeed. What was funnier though was something Kevin mentioned before the cartoon itself, a song he wrote about Manchester whilst he was in a stoner moment from the hotel balcony, which had mentions of the likes of Morrissey and Joy Division, pretty good.

The Q&A session started and one of the first female fans was a proper diehard fan, asking some good questions and ended up getting a massive hug from her idol Jason Mewes afterwards, which was good. In fact one of the blokes was a real geek who had been to see them three times, had Vans Star Wars sneakers (and wanted Kevin to try them on!) and then was asking all sorts of geekish question. There's being a fan, and then there's being obsessive slightly.

The evening ended with the almost ceremonius game of "Let Us F**k" where Jason works out with a member of the audience a sexual position with a different name that they'd act out, and Kevin would speak to the next person whilst Jason and the audience member went backstage and worked out what they had to do. The final one was called out by the audience member at Kevin's suggestion, and was "The Manchester S**t Canal" - and that was hilarious!

The time had gone by and it was 11.15pm by the time we'd left the Apollo so it had ran on for a bit longer than planned, but it was a good night out too. We both really enjoyed it and I certainly had to go home and play some of the Clerks soundtrack to wind down nicely, namely the rather brilliant "Berserker" by the band Love Amongst Freaks, that even now fans chant along to the words and sing along - tune of the day and really did set the tone for what the whole night was like - pretty ace.

Wednesday 2nd July - Murray Mullered

It was the men's quarter finals at Wimbledon today but I had no time of course to watch that till I got home from work - just far too much to sort out at work at the moment to thik about much else. I had managed to allow the packaging deployment to happen overnight, and it was just now a case of making sure that the content was sent correctly to the distribution point as well. The good thing was that eventually the old package was removed, but the new one seemed to have an issue of being in the queue to upload. Boo. I thought in the end best to leave that overnight and take it from there.

I did quickly glance at the scores before I left work, and it turned out that Andy Murray had been beaten in straight sets by Grigor Dimitrov, who after his win at Queens the other week must like playing on grass these days, his game seemed pretty spot on. Andy Murray to be fair was gracious in defeat, and realised that sometimes on the day the better man will win, and that was the case. No one should be having a go at him though: he broke the 77 year old men's singles duck for a Briton to win, and he's still getting back to full 100% his self after the knee op at the back end of last year, and to get to the French Open semis and the quarters at Wimbledon must prove he's doing something right.

When I got home from work Centre Court and No 1 Court were both on, and on Centre it was an all Swiss affair with Stanislas Wawrinka up against Roger Federer. It was one set to Stan and a tiebreak in the second, which with some superb shots Federer won. You could tell from his roar with the winning point that it was a turning point in the match, and before long he'd gone up and was getting over the line after a few match points to take the fourth set 6-4 and win three sets to one. He'll be playing Milos Raonic who beat the hero from yesterday Nick Kyrgios, so should be a good match.

Out on Court 1 though, Novak Djokovic was up against Mario Cilic and it was a tense and tight affair. It was only when Novak was two sets to one down and news filtered through of the Murray defeat that he went for it, and ended up winning the final two sets by 6-2, so he'll up against Dimitrov in the semis. That sounded quite tasty and as The Love In My Heart and I were watching the Today at Wimbledon highlights this evening we both thought that John McEnroe was spot on what he said about the Middle Sunday - stop using it as a rest day and get some tennis on out there for the masses to enjoy!

I had made The Love In My Heart and I a nice chorizo sausage pasta bake, and once we'd had that we settled in for the tennis highlights followed by a really good episode of Celebrity Masterchef, where it was the likes of Kiki Dee, Charley Boorman, Tina Hobley (formerly of Coronation Street and these days in Holby City), the pantomime dame himself Christopher Biggins, plus Jason Connery as well. It was quite good to see them up in the posh restaurants taking that challenge on although all the chicken orders for Kiki Dee were perhaps a bit unfair!

It was really good to see The Love, and for many different reasons we had plenty to catch up on and chat about, so the evening went by far too quickly. By the time she was heading home I'd decided to put on some Gary Numan and namely the Splinter album and have a good listen to that after last night's excellent gig, and playing "Love Hurt Bleed" really did sound good in a darkened room for best effect, so tune of the day was a very easy decision to make. Cue football type chants of "Nuuuuuuuuuman! Nuuuuuuuuuman!" (etc)

Tuesday 1st July - 53 Degrees of Numan

After a busy day at work where it seemed that not everything was going the way I wanted it to (packaging nightmares due to distribution failures, meaning I had to set off a packaging wizard again for Autodesk Building Design Suite 2015) it was good to have something to look forward to, and for a while now my friend and I had been eagerly awaiting tonight's gig - Gary Numan at the 53 Degrees venue in Preston. It was about the nearest venue to Manchester to be able and go and see him, and with several songs from the recent Splinter album due an airing, it'd be good to get a good mix of the old and the new.

My friend came and got me from work which meant once we'd got out of the city centre, down the A580 East Lancashire Road and on to the M61, we were already past the worst of the traffic and before long it was on to the A59 off the M6 and towards the centre of Preston. We soon realised that it was supposed to be free parking in the small venue car park after 6pm, and confusingly perhaps all the car parks said permit holders only and no mention of what the venue had said. However the fact that the venue car park let us through the barrier without issue was reassuring and so it was good to be parked up and head for some tea.

We spotted a nice pub, The Guild, across the way, and being a Greene King Meet and Eat place they did food as well. And my friend was pleased: hand battered cod and chips for under a fiver, so he had that, and I had the nice steak and ale pie with mash and peas, which went down rather well. As of course did the apple pie, that was on the dessert menu, for under two pounds. Can't argue with the massive value there to be honest. I also had a nice pint of the Brasilia ale and we saw a big telly near our seats, and so saw the second half and extra time of the Argentina - Switzerland match, with Argentina squeaking through at the death.

It was in to the venue and it seemed to be good enough, with a nice spot for my friend and I to see the action unfold with a decent view. The support act Roman Remains were on first, and they were pretty decent. The lead singer Liela Moss and guitarist Toby Butler, both of The Duke Spirit, were the band effectively, and had a more electronic sound with some programming being done from a Mac. The more electronic sound with Liela bouncing around with her clear vocals were pretty good: quite a departure but in a good way. Not the worst band I've ever seen as support - far from it, warmed me up nicely.

It wasn't long before Gary Numan took to the stage and it was soon clear that the set was going to be a cross section of all of his career, and the band were going to be on top form. Tim Muddiman on guitars of course is good: second time I've seen him play because of course the other band he's in happens to be Pop Will Eat Itself! Together with the bass guitarist they really give the songs a more menacing dark edge, and with the synths and a superb drummer in full flow, plus the sound engineer having the sound really good for the venue, it really did feel special (my friend said it was the best Numan gig he'd been to for years, and he should know!)

So whilst we got the new stuff from Splinter (namely the title track, the superb Love Hurt Bleed and the storming darkness of Everything Comes Down To This) there were plenty of old classics for the diehards to really like. You want Metal with Numan on fine vocal form despite a sore throat? That's more than doable. Do you want the whole audience to belt out the verses and sing along to Cars? Well why not. And on top of that have a really long and powerful Down in the Park? Absolutely. It was really smart.

I was most pleased also to get The Fall (from the Dead Son Rising album) but best of all the title track to the Pure album, which for many people got Numan back into their consciousness. I still belt out the vocals to the chorus as well, it just seems wonderfully cathartic to do that to be honest. It was also good to get Films being played with some cracking synth lines too, and that went down a treat. Best of all though was a really wonderful rendition of I Die You Die, and I must admit that got everyone having a big smile on their face and clapping in time near the end of it - so tune of the day it simply has to be.

The gig ended with a long and extended piano intro to Are "Friends" Electric? which needless to say had the crowd doing the "whoa" parts in time, before ending with the closing track off Splinter, My Last Day, which now seems to be a firm favourite set closer. I personally would have preferred that as last song pre-encore, but that's me nit picking. All in all, a superb gig and one that my friend and I enjoyed massively, and if you've not seen Gary Numan live yet recently, take my advice and go, you'll be thoroughly glad that you did. So there.