Dear Diary... July 2015

Friday 31st July - Chairing in Progress

The first half of the day today was taken up by me undertaking a course organised internally, which was a session on chairing skills - and what you'd need to do if you were going to be the chair of a recruitment and selection panel for vacancies that were coming up. One of my colleagues from another site was present, and so was one of the lecturers in Photography that I've known for a long time, so it was good to have some good people to bounce things off during the exercises that we had to do during the morning.

I must admit that it's an eye opener to see how many people have been getting on with this and the day and a half recruitment and selection course that precedes it - clearly it's a good step and something to have in terms of experience, and it also indirectly prepares you for if you have an interview yourself - you have an insight into what is expected to be done. It was also good to see the potential pitfalls as chair that you would have to overcome - how to stop them and to make sure you stay on track.

With that all sorted, I spent a bit of time this afternoon with a colleague working out some application packaging wizardry. One package he was looking at seemed to require a bit of InstallShield wizardry. If you tried to do call the silent install via the InstallShield's MSI paramater (normally /S /v/qn) that failed completely. The MSI when launched said "you need to use setup.exe to do so". Aha, I thought, and the light bulb appeared above my head and made me think quickly of the answer.

What you don't always see is the hidden ISSETUPDRIVEN=1 paramater. This basically tells the MSI that InstallShield creates that it has been driven and called from a setup.exe (but you don't actually call the setup, clever eh?). There's several good advantages to this: first of all, you don't need to make any modifications to the MSI using (for example) Orca, and you keep the integrity of that intact. Second, it means that you're just mimicking what the setup.exe does, apart from any sub-installs it may carry out (in this case, only one, which has its own MSI which you can call by the same way, clever eh?). Last of all, less hassle for you.

I think we've both made some good progress on this, and does mean that we've managed to get much further than we have before, and with a few tweaks here and there, we may be able to actually get some progress early next week. For me at least it's been good to actively help people out and pass on some knowledge, meaning that I become more independent and everyone is more autonomous, which is pretty good all round really. Just has to be done.

I also got myself a ticket for tomorrow morning's early session of Play It!, an exhibition at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, where lots of classic games from the 1980s onwards will be playable. For me it'll be interesting to see what games are picked, how busy the event is and how much fun people will be having with those games. Depending on the weather, part of me might just have to get the "Hey Hey 16K" t-shirt out.. we shall see - and said MJ HIbbett tune is tune of the day.

Thursday 30th July - The Joy of the New

It was another busy and productive day at work, and managed to get to the bottom of an issue with deploying a new piece of software to the PCs in one room, where it was the final thing to do after everything else, albeit slowly, came back with a good level of success. I had tried to do a silent install, but that seemed to fail. On closer inspection the installer was attempting to add a plugin to Adobe Illustrator but the plugin wasn't compatible with Adobe Creative Cloud so wouldn't play ball. Checking the installer, you could uncheck the plugin installation.

So, what I did do, as the installer is an InnoSetup one, was to record a manual installation using the /SAVEINF=setup.inf paramater, ticked all the boxes I needed to, and this created a file with all the settings in. I was then able to do a silent install but with /LOADINF=setup.inf so it'd play back the settings as the installer would run, and badabing! All good, everything right, and I would also then be able to do the second setup which adds all the additional content in the same way. Great when you document this sort of thing for future reference and are able to use it correctly isn't it?

I headed home later on and was most pleased to see a parcel through the door that had been delivered by Amazon, with two of the CDs that I'd recently ordered: The Staves' second album "If I Was" and the Of Monsters and Men album "Beneath The Skin". It's always good to keep your hand in with recent ish releases and to appreciate a bit of variety too - I'd heard good things about both bands, and wanted to try them out for myself to see what I thought.

I have to say, after listening to both back to back whilst I cracked on with a shed load of ironing, they were both good albums. The Staves are three sisters from Watford, and vocally you can tell that the harmonies are really spot on, backed with some good instruments too. There's also something about the vocals that reminds me of the rather lovely Jenny Lewis (from Rilo Kiley) - no bad thing in my book as particularly her solo stuff has a gorgeous voice too. There's some cracking songs on the album too - "Black & White" builds up from a lovely vocal and just adds layers throughout, and the epic six and a half minute "Damn It All" has some guitar crescendo in the latter part.

I'd say though that my favourite track from it is "Teeth White" which is the right side of pop to give it a really lovely sensibility - and some good guitars underpinning those hamornies in the chorus. Deliciously nice, so tune of the day - and they're on tour supporting Florence and the Machine this Autumn, so if you're going to those gigs, get there early and enjoy listening to the three sisters, you won't regret it. Part of me also thinks of another band with three sisters I like (Baskery) too..

So on to the Of Monsters and Men album, and no disappointments here either - I can understand why one of my fellow photographers on Flickr has enjoyed them for a fair while (and saw them live in their native Iceland last year) as they've got a real sense of musical craft, and the lead vocal of Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir really does bring clarity and a real sense of emotion to proceedings. Certainly the album opener and single "Crystals" is a perfect example of them in fine form. I suspect I might have to see them on their next tour now..

Wednesday 29th July - Mr Anderson, Welcome Back!

Well with the Third Test of the Ashes series starting today, lots for me to get on with. It did prove to be a frustrating day though work wise, not least because if anything was going wrong with imaging, it was going wrong. So I was going to set nine machines off today, but it soon became apparent that none of them were joining any sessions whatsoever and bombing out. I got our networks folks on to the case, and they were soon to find out possibly one of the sockets had bad cabling, so ruled that out, started again.

It did seem though that everything was on a go slow, and so was keeping a close eye on the PCs in question and seeing if they would image, and at the same time also seeing what was happening in the cricket at lunch time. And hang on a minute - we've got three Australian wickets? I'll have some of that, thank you. In fact just before I left work today, I glanced at the scorecard. Hang on, did we really bowl Australia out a measly 136? We did, and not just that either.

After a barren Second Test witn no wickets taken whatsoever, and a pretty bad England performance all round, it only seemed fitting that one of our best players, James Anderson, was showing what a quality bowler (and in terms of wickets taken, now our best ever) he was. In conditions that might be favouring a little swing, he got the ball moving all over the place and clattered wickets with some quality bowling. Six wickets taken for forty six runs conceded, and a real sense of taking the game by the scruff of the neck. A huge welcome back to him indeed and hugely deserved.

And talking of deserved, I was keeping an eye out via their Twitter freed on the Manchester City Women taking on Durham Women in the WSL Continental Cup as I was watching the cricket highlights (thank you Channel 5!) - and so as wickets tumbled, it seemed that City were scoring goals too - they were 4-0 up by half time, with goals from Nikita Parris (two of them), Krystle Johnston and Isobel Christiansen. In fact a few players were rested but the City women were really showing their mettle, and Johnston added a fifth late on for a really quality victory.

I think as well having such days like today does help you evaluate where you are in terms of that if you can't succeed or things are going slower, work on something else. In fact I sorted out a couple of task sequences where there was the odd step not working, one of which was down to a command line for a software install referring to an old SCCM server that isn't used anymore, and so when that was corrected, hopefully all will be well again. Good when the analytic eye can spot all that.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather full on and aggressive "Implode" by Slayer, which seemed quite apt during the day really, notably for the way things weren't happening with our imaging side at work, but then the Australian middle order, as James Anderson was ripping through them with some quality deliveries. It does make you wonder somewhat just how much of a turnaround all of that was since the shambles it was at Lords. Or maybe do what some of the England football team used to do, and play some punk to get them pumped!

Tuesday 28th July - The Next Day

And the next, and the next.. (etc) - and today was another day full of imaging and bringing down applications. In fact the stuff I set off last night did work pretty well, but did take around four hours or so, so a wise decision by me to leave things running overnight and without interruption as well. I knew too that one of them had had an issue with the OS deployment itself, so I made sure that all happened overnight last night and then today put on the additional specialist software, with a view of setting them all off last thing tonight with the Autodesk suite, again hopefully saving some time.

It was also a case of keeping an eye on several things at once and doing plenty of monitoring where possible - we also did have several deliveries of new kit, so for example we had a delivery of the new high end all powerful PCs for the animation suite, the plan being is that we'll manage to do something specialist with them and get a nice and neat all working build with the software on. We're still awaiting some of the software but at least we can then crack on with ensuring that everything else is done as much as we can.

I got home and just about avoided a fair amount of the rain that had been falling for most of the day, so was pretty pleased at that. In fact I also wanted to see if I could take advantage of CDBaby's offer of a mere US 1 cent postage if you purchased three CDs, as they were the only place that seemed to have the new Vonda Shepard album which I was after. The difficult thing was actually locating two other CDs, primarily because the search doesn't come up with either results you would like, or the fact that some albums appear to be download only and not a physical CD.

However, I wasn't deterred and so had a different thought process, to search for tracks I liked and see if the album came up that way. And it did. So in the end, and with a favourable exchange rate thrown in, I ensured that I got myself said Vonda album, plus Two Steps From Hell's "Invincible" album and Suicidal Tendencies' "Free Your Soul and Save My Mind" which would fill a nice little gap in my ST collection. That did mean I qualified for the virtually free postage, which works out pretty well (especially considering how much the US Postal Service now charges for overseas mailings)

I also had received in the post a gift card for Amazon for £10 that I had claimed as part of my O2 Rewards, so the plan would be with that to put that towards some more recent UK release CDs as well, so that also worked out nicely. I've ordered "If I Was" by The Staves, "Beneath The Skin" by Of Monsters and Men, and pre-ordered the new album from The Sword, "High Country" as well. Part of my reasoning for that little splurge (ish) was also that Amazon now require you to spend so much to get free postage, so better to do that and get what I needed at that time.

I suppose too that it's just good to have something different to listen to, and always good to try and keep on top of recent stuff as well as some older classics along the way. For me it's always been that music is an important part of my life, it helps shape me in many ways. In fact tune of the day is such an example of my somewhat eclectic taste, it's the under-rated "Wishing Tree" by Little Sparrow, which has been issued as a single and it's the title track of her ace album too. The video is well worth a watch online if you get chance to as well, with her and accompanying players wandering through a forest, very mythical in a way. And a properly good tune also.

Monday 27th July - Cracking On With It

The good news I came into work today was that I had looked at the deployment status for one of the large specialist pieces of software, namely Autodesk Building Design Suite 2016, and had found that although it had taken a fair bit of time, the new all in one powerful workstations we have were happy to accommodate it without issues. I must admit I was rather pleased with that as what it meant was that I could crack on with the next load of PCs to be re-imaged.

Well, so I thought anyway. It seemed that as they were joining the multicast session, one of them decided to become the master, and if that was on a normal speed network connection, everything else was using that, and hence became pretty slow. In fact one of our systems colleagues had to kick off a particular machine from the session to speed everything up, and then all seemed well. I spoke to our Networks people and they were able to check over one of the sockets, and with that done, everything seemed to fall much more nicely into place.

By the end of today, I'd got to the point where the OS was on, the standard student apps were also on and this meant that last thing before I left, I would be able to then send down a task sequence that has a lot of the specialist software on. The installs are pretty big too, so I knew it'd take time and always better where possible to do these out of hours and potentially save a wedge of time. In fact when you consider it has Adobe Creative Cloud 2015, Autodesk Maya 2016, Solidworks 2015 etc, you're getting the idea that they're all pretty big.

Undeterred, I headed home and decided to spend the evening taking it relatively easy. In fact I was more than glad to be home because of the admittedly rather rubbish weather out there, and it had been raining for most of the day. I was considering going for a walk but opted immediately against that, and instead made myself some very nice chicken chow mein stir fry complete with mushrooms and some nice Singapore noodles too. It went down nicely, and in good time for me to then do a bit of searching around on the web, mostly for my Mum's benefit to try and locate her a good travel insurance deal.

A nice surprise did also arrive in the post today - and a nice slab of vinyl at that this time around. For this year's Record Store Day, Heliospheric Records was able to release (with permission) two sessions by Kristin Hersh from BBC Radio Leeds, with Sundrops on side A (make that tune of the day) and her cover of the traditional Cuckoo on side B, and on a rather gorgeous shade of blue vinyl at that. There were apprarently only 1000 pressed, and I spotted it the other day thinking "I really need to have that" and so purchased it immediately. It came very very well packaged and protected too. Gorgeous, I tell you.

Sunday 26th July - My Own Sunday Grandstand

So with the rain teaming down in Manchester, The Love In My Heart and I had a good lie in, and after a long day out yesterday we were both a little tired, so the extended sleep probably did us both the world of good. I did decide to head out to Tesco as I didn't have any bread or bacon (I might have been staying at The Love's last night, but plans changed) and once I had got that sorted, I did us both some bacon toasties, and all was well with the world. The Love decided to head home as the weather was poor and we weren't going to be able to head out for a nice walk, which is what we would have both preferred.

So instead it was a full day's worth of sport for me to watch: almost like Sunday Grandstand used to be really. First off was the Hungarian Grand Prix, and that was incident packed. In fact the BBC had profiled Sebastian Vettel with a nice interview today, with the likes of "Aero Dynamik" by Kraftwerk in the background (make that tune of the day) and then seeing how the race would pan out, with Eddie Jordan making the bold prediction that Lewis Hamilton might lap the whole field. That would soon turn out to be the most stupid prediction possibly of the whole season.

First lap: Vettel and Raikkonen got in front in the two Ferraris, Rosberg crowded out Hamilton at the chicane and he had no choice but to take to the gravel and drop to 10th before the first lap was completed. Incidents were a plenty and more so once the unfortunate Nico Hulkenberg had his front wing collapse under him, sending him into the barriers at the end of the home straight. The safety car was deployed, some drivers changed tyres and others looked at the strategy calls as to what would happen after the restart.

And it was dramatic. Daniel Ricciardo and Lewis Hamilton clashed later on, with Hamilton at fault for the collision and serving a penalty for it. And then with a few laps left, Ricciardo came together with Nico Rosberg, which burst Rosberg's tyre and had him limp to the pits, and Ricciardo had to get a new front wing. Amazingly the Australian still ended up third, and with all the mayhem going on and even with a 10 second penalty, Daniil Kvyat finished second in his best ever finish, whilst Vettel was imperious to take a lights to flag win.

Then it was over to Channel 4 for the Sainsbury's Anniversary Games athletics, and the Paralympians showing their stuff. It was good to see a healthy crowd in the Olympic Stadium (around 20,000 I think) and they got to see two world records, as well as the likes of Hannah Cockroft really performing well in the 400 metres, some good practice before Rio 2016. The 100 metres T44 was a great clash with Jonny Peacock coming so close to winning, and also a great moment for Libby Clegg in her T12 race too, all good stuff.

Then over to ITV4 for the final stage of the Tour de France, and more than usual a procession into Paris, mainly because of the rain hammering it down during the day made the road surfaces of the cobbles rather dangerous. The organisers therefore decided that the time would be taken at the first pass of the line on the Champs Elysees, and so as long as Chris Froome stayed on his bike and finished the stage, he'd be the winner. He duly did with the team mates of Team Sky all joined together and crossing the line, so well done him - the first two time British winner of the Tour!

Finally, then to BT Sport 1 with the Hudl 2 hooked up to the telly via HDMI, so I could watch it on the big telly, as Manchester City Women travelled to Chelsea Ladies in a clash that City needed to win to keep the push on for the WSL1 title. It was going pretty well when Toni Duggan latched on to a through ball from Daphne Corboz and scored the opener, and City were playing well. However, Chelsea equalised early in the second half through Eniola Aluko, and they looked better in the second half.

City though were not to be denied, as late on in the game a tug on Izzy Christiansen from England defender Claire Rafferty forced a free kick. The captain Steph Houghton took it and it deflected off Rafferty's head and in the net for a 2-1 win. I can't see how Steph can claim it (even if she's trying to!) but nonetheless three points for City and three wins in the league on the bounce. And with a game in hand, right back in the title race too. See, told you it was all like Sunday Grandstand!

Saturday 25th July - Portraits of an Icon

It was an early-ish start to the day for me as I wanted to make sure I'd got myself up and showered, changed the bedding and tidied around the house before I was leaving and heading to Piccadilly station, where I'd be meeting up with The Love In My Heart for the first of two trips to London over the next few weeks, and in both cases to see exhibitions that are on. I expected the train to be busy today, and the 1015 departure certainly was that, with plenty of people with cases ready to go away on holiday and so on.

It was just nice to be able to have a coffee onboard (incidentally, it's Caffe Nero coffee on board Virgin Trains now, pretty good all round) and just watch the world go by as we sped onwards through to Milton Keynes Central and then to London Euston on time, excellent stuff. We made sure that The Love's Oyster card was topped up with what we needed, and headed out to the bus station and on to the 68 bus down to Aldwych, where we decided that a nice walk around the shops in Covent Garden was a good idea.

In fact, it was pretty busy all round, not least with crowds watching the street entertainers, as is the norm, but also the number of people going round the shops, getting lunch and so on. In fact close to the Royal Opera House, the Magnum shop that meant you could customise your Magnum ice cream had queues outside that were a good period of time long, so that was quite intriguing to see why you'd want to queue for so long and then pay £4.50 for an ice cream. I know, we both weren't doing any of that really.

In fact the other market that's not in the main square but just off it was a really productive market too, and some good arts and crafts there but at much less of a price than the apple market in the main area. In fact I'd say you'd be more tempted to buy stuff here than the other markets to be honest for that reason. It was good to mooch around there too, before we decided that it'd be good to get some lunch, so instead of sticking to the main streets, we headed down Maiden Lane and see what we found there.

In fact we located the London branch of the Porterhouse Brewing Co, and so headed inside, with all the rails etc made of copper piping. Unusual it may be but it did work, and seeing the menu was good enough, we decided to have lunch in there. We had one of their sharing platters, which had sausages, garlic bread, chicken goujons, onion rings, samosas, chips, meatballs etc, and that proved to be a good move. They even had proper cask ale in there as well as their own craft ales, and so went for a proper cask one, and that was rather good too. A good time had by us both in there for sure.

We headed towards Trafalgar Square and noted that the square was massively busy down to the Eid celebration day that was happening there. Atmosphere wise it was pretty good overlooking the square and seeing everyone just get on to be honest, but also notable how packed the stalls were for the likes of temporary hennas, face painting and so on. I could imagine later in the day it'd be even more lively and packed too, so we headed to the National Portrait Gallery.

The exhibition we were going to see, Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon was in that gallery, and ticketed (we'd bought tickets months ago) and we noted that all tickets had sold out for the day (£10 each too so it must be doing well for the gallery). We did walk around all the free parts too and noted too that BP Portrait of the Year award contenders were all on display in there as well as the recent acquisitions, and one of Princess Catherine of Cambridge as well which The Love was pretty pleased to see.

Our time had come for the Audrey Hepburn exhibition, and for me as a fan, it was really good. Lots of early images when was attempting to become a ballet dancer, and then on stage in London in the late 1940s/early 1950s with various poses of her in costume. In fact there was even a set of her ballet shoes on show, which was a nice touch. It then focussed on her 1950s career as she was starting to get more known and got some good film roles, with behind the scenes portraits from the likes of Sabrina, Roman Holiday and Funny Face too. Everyone was taking time to go around though so it was a relatively slowish pace to say the least!

We then got to a display which showed more of her late 1950s and 1960s output, which had a variety of film roles including the under-rated The Nun's Story, with a good series of stills depicting her role there. Naturally Breakfast At Tiffany's did feature, but with different shots including one with the guitar during rehearsals of the song Moon River (make that version tune of the day) and also one of her with the cat called Cat. Also good to see was the How To Steal A Million behind the scenes shoots as well as her modelling shots, plenty of which were unseen until this exhibition as well - and of course the various magazine covers with her on the front, all arranged in a square display. Rather good.

It was really good to see, and I'm sure the accompanying book for the exhibition, which features many of the portraits, including one I'd really like in print - the Norman Parkinson one from 1955 with her in pink and some pink flowers in the background, very naturally lovely that. The shop inside did have it, but a limited edition and not cheap (£450 if I remember). Lots of people in the shop were buying the little makeup purses, pocket mirrors, lipstick pens, cushions, all sorts.

We headed back to Trafalgar Square and on to St James' Park to avoid the crowds, and ended up having a nice walk around the lake, over the bridge in the middle and back to Horse Guards' Parade before then heading up Whitehall back to the square, and taking the 24 bus back towards Hampstead Road, getting off at Drummond Street and walking down there to one of our favourite pubs in London, the Crown and Anchor, for some well earned tea.

And what a lovely meal it was - it was still warm so we sat outside - I had a very nice East Lothian pale ale, and then ordered the food. I had the chicken, leek and ham hock pie, it was a proper pie, with some gorgeous carrots, mash and gravy. And the best pie I've had in a long time too, so much so it might just get into my top five. That wasn't all either, I even went for the dessert, which was a stunningly nice sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream, an even though the desserts aren't The Love's thing, even she said it smelt rather gorgeous (and it tasted so too, stunning!)

We then walked the short distance back to Euston and on arrival they'd just announced the platform for the 1940 train back so we were able to head straight to the train, and then take the journey home. It always seems to take longer going home for some reason, and the train was busy all the way to Crewe, but it was nonetheless a nice journey back, even with the addition of plenty of ladies on at Stockport on a night out to Manchester, and really being pretty loud. Just so pleased to have seen all the lovely portraits of the lovely Audrey Hepburn.

Friday 24th July - The Art of a Winner

I had two nice good pieces of news today. The first of those was with regards to the Buy Art Fair. It had been announced a couple of weeks ago via email that anyone could if they wanted to buy VIP tickets for the opening night, where you can mingle with artists etc over a glass of wine and some time to peruse the art before everyone else and be tempted to buy it. In previous years this had been free to a number of people including myself and The Love In My Heart, but this year it was £10 each, which we thought might not work out (my brother and his girlfriend who exhibited last year said the same thing.)

So you can imagine the nice surprise to get an email from them saying that effectively I could have a free VIP ticket for me and a guest. The Love was of course rather pleased with that and said "ooh yes please" and so I did the honours, so we'll be able to see what's out there, mingle with the masses and generally ask stuff about the artwork for sale in a much more relaxed atmosphere, and hurrah to that I say to myself. In fact I'm sure she would have received the same email later on.

I also arrived home and noticed that there was a little package in the post, and I knew what it was when I saw the size of it. After seeing The Darling Buds' rather ace gig on Saturday night, I realised that for some reason I didn't have a copy of their "Erotica Plays EP" which I might not have been able to get at the time of release. I looked up on Discogs and spotted a seller, who was based in Portugal, and one PayPal transaction in Euros later and all was sorted. In fact the single arrived in superb condition, and very well packaged. In fact the record shop was based in Lisbon and not very far from the hotel we were staying at! Darn, wish I'd have located that when we were on holiday there!

Anyway, the main reason for the EP being a bit more sought after is that one of the tracks on there, "Love and Death" isn't available anywhere else (and it's a pretty good track too, so that's tune of the day from me) and the opener of the EP is "It Makes No Difference" from the Crawdaddy album, so maybe more of that being the third single from that album as well at the same time. Nonetheless, happy bunny. In fact I looked at the 12" singles I had of theirs and realised I had the one sided etched single of "Let's Go Round There" and, like the 7" I have of it, I have the 12" of "Burst" also fully signed as well. Result!

I spent part of the evening then watching the Anniversary Games athletics from London's Olympic Stadium, and several good performances were in there: Jessica Ennis-Hill doing well in the 100m hurdles and possibly coming back to some sort of form, Usain Bolt running 9.87 seconds in the 100m against the wind, and running that in the final and matching the time was pretty good really. Mo Farah won the 3000m as well and so good to see the crowd behind him, nice positives all round there. Yaay.

Thursday 23rd July - Starting Over

So a more productive day at work today as the green light was finally given for us to start re-imaging a lot of the student kit in preparation for the forthcoming year. In fact I was ahead of myself in terms of some of the application packaging side of things, and so this meant that all the extra software that needed to go on certain machines was actually on there. As you can imagine this was a rather good plus point for me, and so this meant that I could head over to another building and start work on imaging the PCs in question.

Well, I started them all off, and all sixteen across two floors were playing ball quite happily. Or so you thought. They seemed to progress nicely but were showing a local admin logon screen a bit later on. A quick check of the deployment and I found what the issue was - the driver package it was supposed to apply to the PC in question wasn't doing anything. I checked further, and noticed that although the HP Elite 800 G1 ultra small desktop was there, and so was the all in one touchscreen version, the standard all in one wasn't. I then pulled off the necessary WMI query and ensured that was corrected in the main task sequence, and went again.

And this time.. they all worked. Yaay indeed. So much so that I was then able to layer on the next task sequence which added the remaining required student applications for every machine, and with that done it was then a case of setting off the task sequence for the bulk of the specialist Art and Design applications on them last thing before I went home so that the majority of the work would happen overnight. In fact that worked pretty well: it meant that I could set everything going nicely.

Flushed with partial success, I headed off home and later on The Love In My Heart came over for tea. I made some Hunter's chicken with a nice barbecue sauce and some carrots and mash to go with it. It actually really worked well, and I watched some of the Tour de France highlights at the same time, so that was good to catch up and see how things were progressing there with Chris Froome still in the maillot jaune (it sounds so much better to say it in French than yellow jersey I'm sure you would agree)

We then snuggled up later and watched some of the opening parts of the final of Celebrity MasterChef, with the final four a bit of a surprise: Scott Maslen, formerly in The Bill, Rylan Clark (ex X-Factor contestant and now hosts Big Brother's Bit On The Side), Sam Nixon (former Pop Idol contestant, one half of Sam and Mark on kids' telly) and Kimberly Wyatt (former Pussycat Dolls member). It was a very different two course menu from each of them to try and impress the really tough critics, and somehow some of them failed miserably, with Scott having a disaster, hence him leaving tonight and leaving the other three.

It was just good to spend some nice quality time together, always appreciated that. I did also dig out some vinyl singles tonight too before The Love came over, and was playing the rather excellent "If" by The Darling Buds, the closing track of their 1992 album Erotica. In my view it should have been released as a single rather than "Sure Thing" as it was far more catchy, the only thing maybe against that was that it had been on the "Erotica Plays" EP before that, but still.. a rather excellent tune. Tune of the day all round.

Wednesday 22nd July - Three Minute Warning

I decided tonight to go back and do something retro - and not the first time in the last month or so either. I had decided earlier this year to occasionally go back and compose a tune on the good old Commodore 64, something which I did a fair bit during the 1990s especially. In fact I knew someone who wanted some introductory tunes for his series of game hacks, and I'd already produced three or so in the last few weeks, which he really appreciated. I think for me too it's been good to do something different but also to test myself somewhat.

So it was on with the Commodore rig and firing up Music Assembler, one of the utilities I use, to make something new. I had some ideas in my head and one of which was to make a tune around three minutes long, as normally you don't need something much longer if it's going to be an intro tune. I had a good instrument set loaded, and just a case of being able to put together three channels (that's all you have to work with!) to make something sound good. I had a good idea for a bass line in the head, so managed to get that laid down first, and from that, worked out a good drum beat to kick things along. I interspersed some arpeggio along with that to make it sound like more than three channels in all.

The lead was a strong choice that needed to sort of tell the story of the song as it went through, and with some chord changes along the way, I used two or three different lead instruments to make things sound fresh but also reflect the different moods of the piece as I went through. In essence, having the option to swap tracks with Shift and S makes sense - you can effectively compose parts of a piece in the other one, note down the sequences you need and copy that to your live track, so when you play it back, you can check how it's all progressing.

I was surprised at the speed of thought overall, and had a good listen to make sure it was all just what I wanted, and indeed it was now pretty good. I timed it to see how I'd managed and it clocked in at 3:03, so about right. With that in mind I decided to name it "Three Minute Warning" as it does sound a little bit dark in places too, so all good there. It was then a case of saving it to the good old 5.25" floppy disks that the Commodore has, and then taking that up to a little setup I have upstairs, with Windows 98 loaded on an older Shuttle PC and with a suitable transfer cable and software connected so I can transfer the data to the PC. I can then either use a USB stick to copy it to the main PC, or copy it over the home network the same way.

It works pretty well really and did mean I'd be able to send it over later in the evening, and see what's made of it. Even though it might be something old school, it's something that I used to enjoy a lot, even during the early to mid 1990s when really it was the demo scene and memories of old games that were keeping a lot of older systems alive. It's also something where you have to work within certain boundaries, and strangely for me, even though my first reaction is normally to try and push against that, it often means you know what you can and can't do, and act accordingly.

With all that in mind I was listening to a fair few Industrial numbers to try and get the feel of the drums as I wanted them to be in the track, and so one example of where that really hits home is KMFDM's brilliant "A Drug Against War" (make that tune of the day) where the drum underpins the piece really nicely whilst the band start rocking out and kicking backside, notably with the accompanying animated video that really does come into its own.

Tuesday 21st July - Puzzle Solved!

So, I finally managed to see if I was able to solve a long standing issue with Autodesk Building Design Suite Ultimate 2016. I had a hunch, and wanted to see if I could follow that up. Effectively, I had noted that the MST transforms for the AutoCAD and AutoCAD Architecture components of the suite were incorrectly created by the installer, instead looking at part of the MSI properties and populating the MST, which doesn't work as intended. So the suggestion I had was to download the installers for AutoCAD and AutoCAD Architecture, create a deployment installer with the same options I'd used in the suite, and with the same serial etc, and then populate the MSTs created there over the top of the ones for the suite.

With some of that prep work done yesterday I'd arranged for the package to go back up to the SCCM distribution point, and the task sequence was also in place which would mean that I'd be able to launch it today and see what happened. So that's what I did. It got to the AutoCAD section and installed correctly, so all good there, and let it get through the rest of the task sequence for the likes of 3ds Max Design, Inventor, Revit, and then it got to AutoCAD Architecture. And it went through smoothly, so that made me a bit cheerier no end.

In fact, the whole task sequence did complete, so was most pleased to see that happen. It had taken some five hours twenty minutes though, so wasn't exactly a quick installation (the 2015 suite had taken around four hours or so.) Naturally because of the way SCCM 2012 works, most of the time the package downloads to the machine first before installation. The issue with that is it's some 38GB (yes!) to copy down first, and that often fails even before the installation starts, so instead you get a load of command lines from Autodesk, which you call in reference to the package, so you can run the whole thing directly from the distribution point.

I was really pleased, as that had bugged me for some time and didn't really want to go through the whole rigmarole of having to do it all again. I suspect though that in reality Autodesk do need to fix up their installer and make it work as intended so that the MST transforms would actually work, but thankfully having a workaround is proving to be most useful, so I should be thankful really. It also shows that sometimes you take a different approach and that can often assist.

Later on The Love In My Heart came over, and we had some nice beef in chianti with some potatoes, peas and broccoli, so that went down very nicely. And then we saw the second and final part documentary "Up In The Air" about Virgin Atlantic. it was pretty good actually as it showed some behind the scenes of when the new Dreamliner was delivered, how it looked inside, and also the shooting of the new advert to be shown which included a mock UN type setting in a studio in Hungary. Quite surreal that really.

As for tune of the day it's an easy one for me - namely the rather good "So Sublime" by Beth Rowley. Whenever I listen to it I think of The Love and I heading out for a nice walk somewhere, with the sun shining, and with us both having big happy smiles. I think also because the album was on a tape that I did, and we could play it in The Love's car (we both own it on CD incidentally!) and just listen to a generally happy tune. I'm sorely tempted to head down to London to see her live in September..

Monday 20th July - A Long Walk in Scotland

Well, not for me, but for those playing in the final round of the Open Golf championship at St Andrews today. Because of the bad weather the tournament carried over to today for the final round, and with the weather being reasonable enough, it meant that shooting a low score could get you rocketing up the leaderboard and putting some pressure on. The final pairing were Louis Oosthuizen and the amateur Paul Dunne, whom I suspected would crack under the pressure and scrutiny.

But in front of them lots of people were having good days on the course and shooting some low scores. In fact one of the Americans who went out early, Brendon Todd, shot a 66 (six under) for the round, and as the afternoon progressed, others were looking like shooting the same sort of score. Marc Leishman was doing the same sort of round as the Sunday and at one point he was two shots ahead in the lead as I arrived home from work to see the rest of the drama unfold.

At one point any one of five leading contenders could have won it, but the closing holes, with the wind up, were proving rather tricky. Even getting a par at the infamous Road Hole 17th was considered a huge plus, and those who got par there saw a chance to birdie the last and possibly jump up the leaderboard a bit. Unless you're Adam Scott of Australia who shot out of bounds and ended up taking a double bogey to send him downwards. The leading English players were Justin Rose and Danny Willett, the former parring the road hole in all four rounds - good job really.

So it was down to some of the final pairings. Zach Johnson started the 18th on -14, but holed a lengthy putt at the last to send him to -15, and I thought "hmmm, that is a good score to aim at methinks" and so it proved. Marc Leishman managed to par the last two holes after bogeying the 16th to also score -15, so unless someone scored better, a playoff. Jordan Speith and Jason Day were in the next group, Speith birdied the 16th with an amazing putt, but then he bogyed the 17th. Day hadn't dropped a shot all round, but only two birdies wasn't enough. They both had putts for birdie on the last to get into the playoff, but didn't happen for either.

This left the final pairing of Dunne and Oosthuizen. Dunne was way off the pace now and ended up shooting a bad round of 78. Oosthuizen had a chance though, and after holing some good par putts at 16 and 17 knew a birdie would put him in the play off. His chip to set it up was delightful, and so two became three an a four hole play off was going ahead, so that realistically meant a nice 8pm or so finish for tonight and most likely pushing the TV coverage over to BBC Two, which it did.

The four play off holes went the way of Zach Johnson to win it after he birdied the first two, all three of them bogeyed the road hole and then up the 18th, Louis Oosthuizen had a birdie putt to tie (after Johnson had putt for birdie to win) but he missed, and so that was that. Marc Leishman had shot two bogeys on the first and third holes and so was pretty much out of the reckoning, but in playoffs you still finish joint second if you lose (even if in this case he was the worst of the three over the four holes) so not too bad.

Tune of the day is the proper BBC golf theme, "Chase Side Shoot Up" by Brian Bennet. Sadly after 2016 you're not going to hear that much anymore as the rights to the Open have gone to Sky from 2017 onwards, which is hugely disappointing, and I think the take up of golf over here may suffer to some degree because of it. And somehow it just doesn't seem right without Hazel Irvine presenting it or the genius of Peter Alliss really calling it in only the way he can (albeit with the excellent Andrew Cotter really upping his game as of late though it has to be said!)

Sunday 19th July - A Walk In The Country

I had a reasonable lie in this morning, and once I was up and about, I spent some time sorting the house out a bit, having some coffee and toast for breakfast, and then playing some songs by The Darling Buds after their really enjoyable gig last night. In fact I decided to look at the 7" singles I had, which were nine in all. Most of those were limited edition versions, the cloth sleeve of "Hit The Ground", the yellow vinyl of "Let's Go Round There", the limited gatefold sleeves for "It's All Up To You" and "Let's Go Round There", the box set with posters and badges etc for "Burst" and "Tiny Machine" and indeed the signed 7" of "Burst" as well. So overall, can't really complain!

The Love In My Heart came over later on and we were thinking about heading out towards Snugburys near Nantwich for ice cream and stuff, but they hadn't as yet put up a new straw sculpture this year, so we thought it was a bit of a long way to go for just ice cream alone (fair enough really.) So instead we decided to head over to Etherow Country Park instead, which is close to Compstall village the other side of Stockport, going towards Marple Bridge. And with the weather being reasonably nice, plenty of people were out - in fact The Love did well to get a parking space!

So we decided to take the path closest to the café and visitors centre and follow that till it became a gravel road, and then it ran alongside the river until it reached one of the furthest points of the country park, close to where the River Etherow falls dramatically in a waterfall. It was a good point to then turn around and follow the path on the other side of the river, which would then take you around the lake where people would be driving their model boats on and competing for space with the ducks and their children.

It was a nice little walk and gave us the perfect opportunity to catch up and chatter about our respective weekends, and The Love looked ever so lovely in her Warehouse top as well. In fact it was just nice to be together in the nice weather, and really spending some quality time. We thought about where to go for a late Sunday lunch, and after heading through Marple we took the road to Hazel Grove and then to the Fiveways for a bit of Sunday carvery, and why not?

In fact it proved to be a good move all round: the carvery had honey roast ham, beef and turkey on, so The Love went for the ham and turkey, me for the ham and beef, and with plenty of vegetables too and gravy plus a Yorkshire pudding. That rather did the job nicely, and it was just really good to relax with a good meal. In fact I'd done the two courses deal primarily because the desserts are ace in there, and so had the Victoria sponge, which was super light, especially as it's a strawberry mousse instead of the jam sections in the middle, so a little twist that made it lighter and just as nice too.

We headed back to mine later and the golf was still on, and The Love was telling me all about when she visited St Andrews a while back, how the whole place is literally golf central, and how when the Open isn't on, you can literally walk along the road right alongside the 18th fairway. Naturally hotel rooms such as those in the McDonald Rusacks Hotel that overlook the course with a view aren't cheap (we checked online for a non-event day, shockingly expensive) so I can only imagine the scramble for rooms for the Monday evening now..

In the meantime tune of the day is from a CD I picked up yesterday and gave to The Love In My Heart as a little surprise for her - the Style Council's "Singular Adventures" compilation. It meant she could also use the in-car CD player and have a blast of some middle era Paul Weller (we differ on this: I consider it his less brilliant phase, she disagrees) but still, the likes of "My Ever Changing Moods" are good tunes, so that's what I'm going to go for. And as a paradox too: my moods don't change so much!

Saturday 18th July - Crystal Clear in Hebden Bridge

I was going to spend most of the day watching the Open Golf before heading off to my gig in Hebden Bridge tonight, but the bad weather put paid to that. I did however venture to the local market, and there were some good bargains courtesy of Analog Archives to be had. I picked up two 12" singles, namely "Hot Lemonade" by A Guy Called Gerald on the Rham label (same sleeve etc as "Voodoo Ray") and then A Certain Ratio's ace "Won't Stop Loving You" which has mixes by Norman Cook and Bernard Sumner on it. The latter mix is pretty ace and ended up on their acr:mcr remix album too.

Later on then I watched the Davis Cup tennis from Queens Club which had been moved to BBC One. Good decision all round as Andy and Jamie Murray took on the French pair of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Nicolas Mahut. A shaky start meant that the French took the first set 6-4, but an early break in the second set meant that the Murrays took it out 6-3. The atmosphere was really good, with the crowd adopting the whole Kolo/Yaya Touré chant but having Andy and Jamie Murray sang along to it instead.

The third set was a real tussle and could have gone either way, but it went to a tiebreak, and with the points ebbing and flowing, it then became 6-5 to the British pair. One point later and you could see Andy Murray going absolutely mental - possibly more so than he does at Wimbledon, and then closing out the fourth set 6-1 after taking a 5-0 lead with two breaks of serve. Impressive stuff, and fitting that Jamie, fresh from getting to the doubles final at Wimbledon, hit the winning smash. A gamble maybe to play them together, but it paid off handsomely.

That finished and it was literally out of the house, complete with t-shirt for the evening, and off to Manchester Victoria train station to take the train over to Hebden Bridge to see The Darling Buds at the Trades Club. I have all three of their albums on CD, all the CD singles and a big chunk of vinyl singles too, and their gig at Manchester International 1 back in 1990 was one of the first gigs I ever went to, so obviously something pretty good to see again. The successful reformation with Andrea Lewis being joined by original member Chris McDonogh and circa 1991-2 member Matt Gray and a new drummer and guitarist has been going down well, so a gig up North? Bring it on.

In fact I was admiring the new look of Manchester Victoria station before I left. It looks a lot better now with the impressive glass arch, new walkway to the Manchester Arena which means that for the trams and the trains it's easier to get to, and finally some decent ticket barriers so that there's no fare dodging all round. I got my day return ticket, which was £9.50. Annoyingly there were advance tickets for £3 for the outward journey but not the return one, otherwise might have been cheaper. Still, Northern Rail excelled themselves by putting on one of those horrid 2 seat / 3 seat combos on, not really suitable for the route and the traffic. The positive was I got to Hebden Bridge on time.

I decided to have a little walk around the town centre, and spotted something new which looked like it had only opened recently - Calan's, a microbrewery bar. Inside there were five pumps selling real ale, all at one price of £3 per pint (much more sensible to manage rather than charge individually) and they looked after it all properly. Most people were sat outside, including some locals who happily chatted to me for a while, and the conversation turned to real ale and music, so happy times there. In fact I'm definitely having to go back there at some point, a proper decent place that was.

I walked down one of the main streets to the Shoulder of Mutton Inn, and had a look at their Baaa Menu (haha!) for food. In the end I went for the fish and chips and this was a good decision all round - it came on a big wooden slab shaped like a fish, with two gorgeous fillets lightly battered, some hand cut cooked chips, and a really good sized dish of mushy peas to go with it. It was gorgeous, and I have to say, a good choice to relax and eat inside too. So that filled up the time nicely, and now to the gig.

So off to the Trades Club then, and I have to say I really liked the venue. You went upstairs and the bar was two sided so if you got there early waiting for the doors to the stage area to open, you could still have a drink and play some pool etc. The other side of the bar faces the standing area and stage, so well thought out. A nice size intimate venue, and on top of that, really nice staff. I went for their own ale, brewed locally, and a mere £3 a pint too - and gorgeous. The staff informed us as we entered that there was no support and so the band would be on around 9.30pm. I was able to sit and relax with a pint. What more could I ask for?

And bang on 9.30pm on came The Darling Buds - and it was really good. I have to say that Andrea Lewis actually looks just as good now compared to the late 1980s. She had a black outfit on which really contrasted the blonde hair, and glittery heels too. The drummer came out with the right leg in a cast, as he had injured his right foot. The solution? Play the kick drum with the left foot instead. What a pro! In fact it was mentioned during the show and everyone really saluted him for playing rather brilliantly.

Of course, it was down to business and with a set spanning all three studio albums plus singles, it was cracking. Starting off with the vastly under-rated "Fall", and then their first single "If I Said" which went down rather fabulously (and lots of us knew the words too, yaay.) "Big Head" went down really well, as did the opener from their Crawdaddy album "It Makes No Difference" with some really good guitar work complimenting the voice rather well.

Naturally, it was tracks from their "Pop Said.." album that had the fans really going for it, so doing the likes of "She's Not Crying" was a bonus, and "Spin" with Andrea spinning the flowers she had brought on stage and proceeded to throw to the fans in the crowd. I really did enjoy the track "Please Yourself" from the Erotica album (I had that t-shirt on as well) and they blasted out "Long Day In The Universe", "One Thing Leads To Another" and "Isolation" from that too, so a really nice touch. And then "Let's Go Round There" from Pop Said.. which I adored of course..

The also overlooked single "Crystal Clear" got a good rendition, even if the final verse was a little stumbly at the start, and also in the set the rather punchy should have been a single "Honeysuckle" was really good. It was notable to see that despite the not massive crowd, everyone was really enjoying themselves at a proper little venue. They also played an unreleased track from 1990 as the last song of the main set too, "Through The Darkness" which in my view should have been on the Crawdaddy album - it was really good of them to dig that out. When it was time to do the encore, the band didn't do the usual come off and walk back on rubbish, they just announced this was the encore, and we're getting on with it. They did that in London too a few months back and for me that made a lot more sense.

So on with the three song encore, and what a cracking three songs with everyone bouncing around and going for it. First off "Burst" which is short, punchy and poppy, and then after that the rather wonderful "Hit The Ground" with everyone singing along to the chorus, and then finally as the last song possibly my favourite ever track by them "Shame On You" which at just over two minutes is a slice of indie pop perfection (and tune of the day). It was superbly done, and lots of bounding around and everyone singing along with the "I know I'll get you back, I'll get you get you get you get you get you back!" lines of the chorus. Ace.

I headed back to the train station and got the final train back to Manchester Victoria, full of people on a night out in Todmorden when they got on next stop, but I just had the songs by The Darling Buds in my head. What a cracking gig and a cracking venue to boot. I'm definitely having to go back to that venue some time, and indeed if I was going to Indietracks festival next week, then the band would be a must see. A late night but one I hugely enjoyed a lot.

Friday 17th July - Sparrows in the Square

After work today I was heading off to Albert Square, site of the Pavilion for the Manchester International Festival. We'd been there on Sunday and had a nice drink and enjoyed the atmosphere, but I also had noticed that one of my current favourite artists was playing on the acoustic stage on Friday evening. Obviously the prospect of a free gig complete with reasonably decent ale (albeit at rip off prices though) had to be a good thing. In fact the act in question, Little Sparrow, released the album "Wishing Tree" which was my album of the year last year. So yes, it was a case of "I am there!"

The weather held, the deckchairs were out, and in the pavilion, no one was using the bar inside the tent but instead everyone using the one outside in the square itself. The bar was the same price either way, so I got served quickly and got the Festival Ale (£3.80 though, ouch!) and then stood close to the Acoustic Stage as there were no deckchairs available at the time - I would get one later on though so that was really good. It would be interesting to see the set being performed as the schedule said 5.30pm to 7.30pm.

Once Little Sparrow started up, that was me captivated. Katie Ware (who is Little Sparrow) was joined by her collaborators Jonny Nexus on acoustic guitar and the ever smiling (and scarfista) Sarah Dale on the cello. It was a nice mix of the tracks from the Wishing Tree album and some cover versions as well. Early on was the lovely "Struck Gold" with the crowd encouraged to do the little "ah-ah" moments at the start of each verse, which surprisingly some people did (me obviously as I love the song) but still..

"I Found A Way" sounded really nice and intense, with the cello from Sarah really adding to it and having lots of substance. In this first part of the set there were two covers too, Abba's "Super Trouper" but rather nicer, a stunningly acoustic version of Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights". And it was gorgeous, the voice was in fine form and it really did feel like a different slant on the original. I love Kate Bush anyway, so for someone to do it justice in a different way was special. That put the first of many big smiles on the face for the evening.

In effect the set was in three parts, half an hour each with a fifteen minute break in between. A stunningly lovely version of "Polly" was in the second part, and it's my favourite song from the album so tune of the day it is. There was also a nice version of "Happy Together" in there too, which had people singing along nicely. And on top of that a really beautiful "By My Side" too, with Sarah and Katie in vocal harmonious top form too. It made me feel rather captivated actually.

The final part had one really smiling moment, as they did an acoustic cover of "I Think We're Alone Now" (one such cover by Tiffany in the 1980s will probably be remembered by people of my age) and sad to say, because I know the original by Tommy James and the Shondells it meant I did know most of the words. Mind you, I wasn't the only one - plenty of people were singing along sat in the deckchairs, especially the chorus too. The set ended with the final track from "Wishing Tree", namely "The Swallow Flies" and that really was gorgeous.

In fact Katie had on the same green dress that is prominent on the pictures on the official website, and her stage presence really does captivate you, notably more so when she is on vocals only and moving around the stage very reminiscent of the likes of Kate Bush and PJ Harvey (no bad thing as I adore both anyway.) All in all, what a lovely start to the weekend and kudos to all three of them for really giving a great performance. Oh, and if you haven't bought the album yet, you should really do so.

Thursday 16th July - Take Me Out

And no, not the Franz Ferdinand single, good though it is (and something I still enjoy listening to, so tune of the day) - but a nice surprise from The Love In My Heart tonight. I was getting things sorted around the house once I had arrived home from work, and knowing I didn't have any wine in for her, I asked her would she like me to get some. Her response was that she was going to take me out for a meal tonight as her treat so not to worry. That was a lovely thing and I really was quite humbled by that. How lucky am I?

The Love arrived later on, and I'd got changed to look a bit more cool and casual. We'd thought about going to The Ashlea in Cheadle, as we like it in there (the food is good) and The Love had also been emailed some offers which we thought we may as well try to take advantage of. In fact one of them caught our eye: free sharer when two main courses are ordered, so we could effectively have one of their sharing plates as a starter and only pay for the mains. This obviously was a good thing.

When we got there we also noticed that on Thursdays they have a nice little deal too where you can have 2 nine ounce rump steaks, complete with the usual stuff of chips, large tomato, peas etc, for £15 (the steak is normally around £12 each). The Love asked the waitress if we could combine the two (ie: do the steak for main and the sharing starter) and so after checking, it was confirmed we could. So that was an easy decision and we both did fancy the steak anyway, so all good there.

The sharing starter we chose from the three was the Butcher's Block, it came out on a massive slab of wood (probably sending the We Want Plates brigade into a frenzy of anger!) which had two sausages, some roast beef in a little Yorkshire pudding, a nice paté with some bread, two little pieces of chicken in breadcrumbs, garlic bread, and even some pickle to go with the paté. Actually, there was more than we thought it'd be but thoroughly enjoyed that. The steak was good too although as I have mine medium it was probably more suited that way than the well done that The Love had - still it was pretty good all round.

That was really nice of The Love, and we headed to another pub for a drink which was really good as it had a beer by the Off Beat Brewery (note: the slogan says "great beer brewed by a chick!") - the gorgeous Out of Step at that. Always good when you can have something new to try. It was good just to chatter for a while as well and with the weather still being reasonably nice, good to sit outside and take in the last bit of the evening's nice weather before heading home. How lucky I am to have such a fab girlfriend?

Wednesday 15th July - Payday Is The Best Day (Unless It's The End of the Month)

I'm still getting used to being paid at the end of the month instead of the middle. The Love In My Heart thankfully when she moved jobs was getting paid at the same time (ie: the 15th of the month) so for her it was a good way of keeping things as they were without too much mucking around. I didn't need to do a massive amount of moving around for the change of pay day as my mortgage already went out on the 1st of the month, and when I renewed the buildings and contents insurance recently I changed the date of that to the 1st of the month too, so pretty good there really to be honest.

Gradually as time goes on I can phase in any changes I like, but money still has to come out no matter when it is to be honest, and for monthly stuff you know it's going to happen at some point in time. Ideally as things are renewed it's a good time to do them then, and I've also had it in mind to switch a few things around too. The upshot normally is that I'm usually pretty decent with money anyway and will always watch the pennies when I need to. An eye for a bargain I do have!

That said I did sort out the other day a little trip to London towards the end of August for myself and The Love In My Heart, as there's an exhibition at Somerset House in Aldwych which is about The Jam, and plenty of memorabilia from the band donated by all three members. As The Love is a Paul Weller fan especially it would be a nice idea to go down for the day, and so once I'd worked out what time tickets we could get, it was then a case of getting the tickets booked - and the discount we had with our railcard meant that the railcard had almost paid for itself in that journey (and in fact the previous trip to London we booked, due in a couple of weeks, will have done the same)

With that in mind I had to of course blast out some of the classic "Compact Snap" compilation by said band. It's a really good look into the singles and some of the B sides that were quality back then, including the theme tune to Mock The Week of course ("News of the World", sung by Bruce Foxton instead of Paul Weller incidentally), and the great early stuff such as "This Is The Modern World" (make that tune of the day), "David Watts" and of course the great tale of late night Underground travel, "Down In The Tube Station At Midnight". Even if you didn't buy the albums, this compilation serves as the perfect sort of introduction to a band that everyone should really own. Seriously.

Anyway, it was also good today to get to the bottom of a potential issue with a Mac that one of our staff dropped off with me to have a look at. It was intriguing that the moment you turned the wireless adapter on, not only did it not authenticate to the nearest wireless network correctly, but then decided that it would stop Safari browsing where it needed to go (Firefox as ever still worked of course.) If you turned wireless off, restarted and just used the wired connection, everything worked spot on. Strange, but I think I might have an answer to this which I'm going to try tomorrow...

Tuesday 14th July - Bastille Brainstorm

First of all, on Bastille Day, I was hoping for a bit of a shake up in the Tour de France. And a few mountain climbs later, and just like he had done on Bastille Day 2013 up Mont Ventoux, Chris Froome destroyed the opposition with a real attack on the final climb that left a lot of the rivals lagging behind. He and the team mates Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas had delivered the perfect riposte to the supposed hacking of data in an attempt to try and stain Froome as some sort of cheat - work together as a team, gradually wear down the opposition, I like that idea.

Of course it's notable too that on this day I was sorting out just why the installer for CelAction wasn't playing ball. Then I realised, it was most likely because I was calling the installer from SCCM and sometimes older InstallShield installers need the classic /w command to be told to wait. So eventually I made sure the setup.iss was in the same folder as the setup.exe (it was anyway) and then had the command line setup.exe /s /w /f2"C:\Temp\celaction.log - and all was good. As most likely your SCCM system user doesn't have full rights to the source folder for the installer to write a log file back (InstallShield's default behaviour) then you just tell it to write a log elsewhere, pretty good eh?

I suppose too that it's always good to have those sort of things documented (which I have) which helps remember the sort of thing that is needed to be done when sorting out an application packaging. The remaining steps in the SCCM task sequence were added, and gave it a full test, and yaay, working. Always good to be sure that everything you've worked for will be happily working and without issues generally, and so means less hassle when it comes to all forms of deployment.

Later on after I had ironed nine pairs of jeans (yes, really, they were all dried au naturelle after having used them on holiday and over the weekend) it was time to greet The Love In My Heart as she came over for tea. I had made sure I got some nice food from Ocado when I did my order, and so tonight was having some Hunter's Chicken with some parmentier potatoes and on top of that some little petits pois. It went down pretty nicely overall and as it was ready by the time Emmerdale had come on ITV+1, I let her have it so she could see the telly and have tea. Cos that's the sort of thing you do.

We also then decided to watch the first in a documentary series behind the scenes of Virgin Atlantic on ITV, called "Up In The Air". It was a fascinating look at the airline, how they were relaunching the uniform and getting their workers to be models for the magazine showing it off, as well as the logistics of bringing in a new Boeing aeroplane, all the stores with the many items including mock tombstones, all sorts. It made me wonder if it was a good place to work so and so put myself on any of their job alerts - well, you may as well!

It was also noticeable to see behind the scenes of Club Class, their premier class of seating and by far and away the nicest way to travel. Your own private arrival for check in (especially if you've been chauffeur driven there) and then a private way through security etc and onwards to the most posh departure lounge, where you can even have a massage or a spa treatment. The Love quite rightly said you'd want to get there hours before and just chill out there, and then depart nicely on your flight, with super posh seats, a reclining bed etc, and all that sort of thing. I eventually logged on to the prices later, and let's just say they weren't cheap. At all. Quite apt, tune of the day is the classic "Come Fly With Me" as sung by Frank Sinatra, a classic and all that.

Monday 13th July - Back To Work

So it was back to work, and gradually spending some time catching up on all of the last week and a half that I had been off work. I took the fair part of the morning to sift through the emails, read them all thoroughly and digest what had happened, plus then was able to make sure that I had got myself up to speed on what was happening by speaking to a couple of colleagues as well. On the whole it had been quite a good morning or so, and that allowed me to then really start to look at things in the afternoon.

One of the specialist pieces of software for Animation, namely CelAction 2D, had arrived. On the whole this wasn't too bad - the software came with a network licence dongle, so I spent some time with our folks in infrastructure making sure that the dongle was connected to the USB dongle rack, and that the drivers were installed and it was talking to it. All good thus far and it was then a case of seeing how the software would interact once I'd loaded it on to a test machine.

I'd already approached the vendor for a little bit of advice with regards to the way that the network licence needed to be detected, and in the end, it was relatively easy. As it was a SafeNet Sentinel dongle, you simple populated an XML file to be placed in the same folder as your application, and added to the file three lines to tell it you wanted to communicate via IP, the DNS name of the server, and the port (normally 7001). Do all that, and when the application runs, it detected the dongle without any issues whatsoever. Easy peasy.

Good when stuff works, and it was then just a case of tomorrow morning making sure that there's an SCCM task sequence created which will create a folder it wants with full rights, then installs the main software, then the patch afterwards by copying files over (and the network XML file for the licence could also be done then too - so relatively good methinks). However, I had recorded the install with the standard Installshield command but when it came to do a silent install and therefore play back that recorded setup.iss file, it failed with a weird error -12. Something for me to think on overnight maybe.

I had a pretty relaxed evening on the whole, mainly having a good amount of washing to do (oh joy) as well as having a good time listening to some classic 1980s tracks as well. I just felt in the mood for doing so and was good to play the likes of Ultravox's overlooked 1981 classic "Rage In Eden". From that, the second track on side one, "We Stand Alone" has long been a favourite of mine, and so thought it good to give that a couple of plays - definitely tune of the day without question.

Sunday 12th July - Home and Wimbledon

After a nice restful sleep, I got up and made The Love In My Heart and I some breakfast, as well as then put the telly on to see some of the build up to Wimbledon later on. They actually had the 2012 final between Roger Federer and Andy Murray, and even focussed on Andy's post match interview where he got really upset. Thing was, that turned some of the public around into liking him a lot more as they saw he was more human, and seeing the likes of Andre Agassi interviewed about it emphasised the whole "what it means to win Wimbledon" thing - a pretty good insight all round.

We had decided to venture into the city centre to see some of the sites of the Manchester International Festival but also pop around the new Home arts complex, that is basically a merger of the former Cornerhouse and the Library Theatre into one custom made building, and the square facing it is now Tony Wilson place after the former legendary head of Factory Records. The Love had remembered some car parks from her time at working at Number One First Street when she used to be based there, and in fact we found one on Great Jackson Street that on a Sunday charged a mere £1.50 for up to 12 hours. Result.

We walked towards Home and had a good look around - it was busy because of an event taking place as part of the International Festival, as were the bars on the ground and first floor, with people sat outside in the nice weather too. We also saw the art gallery on the ground floor, and although that was good to walk around, it seemed a little too on the pretentious side at times. I must admit though we both were impressed with how the building looked and hoped that if we do see a film in there sometime that it would work just as well as the Cornerhouse used to do. You do miss though the first floor old Cornerhouse bar and be able to people watch from it.

We then went to Albert Square and around the main pavilion for the Manchester International Festival. We decided to have a drink in the upstairs part, and be able to see over the square and generally chill out. It seemed though that the bars in the square had decided to bring London prices with them, absolutely ludicrous. I had the Thwaites Festival Ale, which was the cheapest real ale there at £3.80. Oh, and a mere £4.50 for Hobgoblin. What the proverbial hell? Needless to say as nice as sitting there was, the drink prices were shocking.

We then headed elsewhere for a spot of lunch (and a really nice pint of a dark cherry ale as well, gorgeous that was) before heading back down Oxford Street and then through the old entrance to what was First Street and to Home that way, stopping off for a nice coffee there and admiring the view outside. In fact the outside space had some deckchairs to sit in, but also directors chairs as well for the seating with the tables, which did work reasonably well. It was a good way to end our little afternoon jaunt in the city centre.

We got back, and Wimbledon was still on. We'd seen some of it in the pub we had lunch in, and watching the remainder of it was a pretty good move as Novak Djokovic triumphed three sets to one over Roger Federer to win his third Wimbledon title. The first two sets had gone to tiebreaks and they had been shared, but then Djokovic moved up a gear, much to the delight of The Love. They were both fair and sporting in their post match interviews and I think it was a fitting final, even if I'd wanted it a little closer than it was. Tune of the day is the closing theme from Wimbedon, "Sporting Occasion" by Arnold Steck. Well, it is the final day after all.

Saturday 11th July - Serena Slam

It was nice just to have a bit of a lie in but then sort out plenty around the house, be able to relatively get lots of little things done, and finish off the uploading of all the pictures from the Lisbon trip, and make sure that I'd emailed friends and family with a link to them. In fact it worked out pretty well as it meant then that the afternoon as mine to pretty much relax with, and I'd worked out a plan of action - get some dosh out for the remainder of the weekend, pop round the local market, and then settle in for the tennis in the afternoon.

And that did work out well. So on with BBC1 just after my lunch, and then watching the Wimbledon's women's singles final, with Serena Williams up against Garbine Muguruza of Spain. She wasn't a bad player and was in the top 20-odd seeded players, and indeed as the match started she broke Serena early on. Of course you have to keep up that same level of intensity throughout and it was clear from mid way through the first set that Serena was taking no prisoners, and fought back really well to take the first set 6-4.

That in a way demoralised Garbine Muguruza, who seemed to be in tears during one change of ends, as Serena Williams went on to then be 5-1 up in the second set and in complete control. She was unable to close out earlier on though and fair play to the Spaniard for making a bit of a fight of it to bring it back to 5-4 before eventually the second set was won 6-4 by Serena. Bit odd at the end though as no one quite knew if the point was going to be challenged, and I didn't even hear the umpire doing the whole "game, set and match" thing. Very very peculiar indeed.

Still, Serena Williams now holds all four Grand Slam titles, and if she were to win the US Open in September, it'd be a calendar Grand Slam. To put that into perspective, only three women have completed a calendar Grand Slam (the last being the great Steffi Graf in 1988, who also made it a Golden Slam by winning the Olympic title as well) so she would be in exalted company. Crucially now if Serena won the US Open she'd also tie on 22 of the Grand Slam tournaments won as well (ie: Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open) so both of those are massive to aim for. In the meantime the proper Wimbledon theme "Light and Tuneful" by Keith Mansfield is tune of the day.

The Love In My Heart came over later on for tea, and I set about making something nice for tea - a tomato and basil soup with a ciabatta on the side, followed by some chicken forestiere with hasselback potatoes, carrots, cauliflower and broccoli too, so pretty good all round there. I should add the cauliflower went to The Love and I had the broccoli - not a cauliflower fan really! It all went down nicely though and was just good to relax and even have a drink of real ale with too, not had one for a little bit.

We then watched the lottery Who Dares Wins show and had to laugh a little at the reigning champions: they had to name some of the top 100 watched TV programmes of 2014, and came up with the FA Cup Final, which was "not on the list". Hmm.. the World Cup was on, why not have gone for that? Or even as The Love correctly said, surely you'd go for the big three soaps (Coronation Street, Eastenders and Emmerdale) - three easy answers and the easiest £5000 you'd earn ever. One of the snooker questions had me keeping quiet but I could have rattled off plenty of answers for it.

It was later on about catching up the telly we'd missed when away, so I put on BBC iPlayer for the final episode of The Syndicate, and that was really good. It explained the whole circumstances behind Amy's disappearance, but also showed that one of the American guests had taken a shine to her, and he was the one ultimately who she was able to swindle the dastardly Spencer out of the £1m ransom money and therefore get away with the American to a new career. And it all sort of worked out well in the end for most of them which was a warm fuzzy feeling I suppose.

I had recorded the final two episodes of Black Work too, a recent ITV drama with Sheridan Smith starring in it. It was very good, and we watched both of those back to back. The good thing about using my Freeview HD recorder to do so - an easy fast forward past the commercials without having to fork out what ITV now want you to for ITV Player Premium where you can go ad free for a cost per month. Maybe some of the TV manufacturers might even want to see if they can offer it gratis as an incentive to go with their smart ranges!

Friday 10th July - Washing, Sorting and Ironing

It made perfect sense for me to have made sure I had taken this day off work as leave when I'd booked the holiday, so I didn't have to face going back in for one day. And I used that time to my advantage too. It meant I could do a shed load of washing, and then some ironing, and get a lot of the clothes I'd worn when I was away nice and clean so that my wardrobe was all sorted out. And on top of all that, it meant whilst the clothes were in the washer or dryer or hung up to dry, I could sort through the many photographs I'd taken when away.

It proved to be a productive idea and a good decision, as I was then able to see which of the images had come out well and which were worth an upload, avoiding where I could any duplication. It was good to see that a good number of them had come out well and was pleased with them - certainly think that the polarizing filter on one of the lenses helped to keep some of the sun off, that's for sure. I had then gradually during the day sorted them into what I'd taken during each day (or morning, afternoon or evening if I'd taken a lot) and uploaded them in batches across the day.

It was my uncle's birthday today too so I headed out into Stockport in the afternoon and wanted to get a second present on top of one I'd already got beforehand, and a card too. The card I got sorted no problem and found a good present for a not expensive price either, which made it pretty good all round. I was pretty pleased and headed home with a smile on my face knowing that I'd done well, and with the afternoon still relatively sunny, nice to have the windows open and watch the tennis.

And wow, what a match it was too. Roger Federer was in sublime form and even though Andy Murray did play very well indeed, Roger was just on another level. He kept his serve easily and then put pressure on the Murray serve, and even when he lost an epic game in the second set, which was a classic, he kept going and ended up winning in straight sets. Andy sportingly admitted that Roger was just brilliant and accepted his defeat with good grace, as all the top players do. Fair play to him really, and it sets up another Federer v Djokovic final on Sunday. That should hopefully be good.

I went around to see my uncle later and handed him his card and presents, which he really appreciated. I had got him the Sergio Agüero Agüero100 DVD that Manchester City had released recently, along with the Dennis Tueart autobiography, and they went down well. Something to watch and read with the hopefully nice Summer evenings still coming around too. In fact my auntie was there too with my little cousin, so all good there. And a good way to spend part of the evening too.

I did though have to wait up later than planned for the Ocado shopping delivery (which to be fair they kindly rang me about and told me they were being delayed) and then had a nice chicken tikka masala with some fresh chicken and mushrooms whilst watching 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, followed by (of course!) The Last Leg, still just as ace as ever. I wonder if that whole "leg up" thing will work wonders, but kudos to them for giving it a go. And still a great theme tune too, the excellent "Harder Than You Think" by Public Enemy, so tune of the day was an easy decision all round.

Thursday 9th July - Heading Home

We got up this morning, made sure we had a nice shower, got everything ready and changed. I went down to the little business area of the hotel and was able to print off the boarding cards for our online check in (much easier) and then after one final check, we were good to go. The computers in reception were delaying check out, but we were all good to go. It was one final farewell to that gorgeous smell when you entered the hotel and we both enjoyed our bit of luxury there.

We decided to take the airport bus on the way back, primarily to avoid changing metro lines and having to carry cases up stairs and so on. It was also a very short walk to the bus stop too and soon enough the bus arrived. It went through the North of the city and before long we were at the departures hall in Terminal 1. As we had checked in online (which almost everyone in the small queue had done) it meant we could drop our cases off and be good to go. The Love appreciated that.

We got through security and mooched around the duty free shops, even having a breakfast in McDonalds (which is served till later – 11am!) The airport had free wireless so I spent some time on the Hudl whilst The Love read her book. We then headed to gate 41A, and once through we were down an escalator, on to a shuttle bus and to the plane at the far side of the airport. The flight was a little delayed but we did pass over both Sporting Lisbon and Benfica's football grounds as we left.

It was a smooth flight and we were back into Manchester on time at around 4.30pm. We headed off and straight through the e-passport controls (everyone else was queueing in the other lanes despite having electronic passports themselves – daft people!) and then it was just waiting for the baggage to come on the conveyor belt – mine first, then The Love’s not long after. Once through and out of Terminal 1 Arrivals, it was on the train from the airport and back to Manchester Piccadilly, where our holiday had begun over a week ago.

I felt really sad saying goodbye to The Love In My Heart after such a wonderful week together, but I knew that it was a lovely holiday that we both really deserved after working so hard throughout the last year or so. I do want to go back there though, maybe for a long winter weekend and explore some of the museums and art galleries when the weather is less favourable for being outside. Either way, it was bloody marvellous, and tune of the day for that reason is the rather joyous "La Ti Da" by The Icicles, it’s just right for happy memories of being on holiday. Believe me!

Wednesday 8th July - Trams, Turtles, Torel and Tagliatelle

Our final full day in Lisbon, and one which was relaxed but lovely. After getting ourselves ready we headed to the Elevador da Lavra and took the funicular railway to the top, then walking a short distance to the Jardim du Torel. It's not the most well known view in Lisbon but the book we had recommended it – and for good reason. It was a relaxing view and peaceful, and we could see up to the Parque Eduardo VII to the North and the river to the South.

We then headed downhill via a couple of squares with large monuments and ended up at the Praça Martim Moniz – where there was a modern sculpture of a Portuguese cockerel amomgst other things. We also saw the queue for the 28E tram up to Graça and the castle, but ignored it and walked to the Praça da Figuera then along Rua Augusta to the Praça do Comércio, and for a very good reason – time to visit the Museu de Cerveja! (The beer museum)

It was a good visit as there was plenty of information about the history of beer, how it was outlawed in the 18th Century and how the brewers came together to form a society which still exists today. We also got a little ceramic cylinder pot with beer in to take around with us, with an exhibition of how old monasteries used to be places to brew beer. We had lunch outside with the steak sandwich being particularly good again. And I had to have another pastel de bachelau of course!

We walked back towards Sé cathedral but this time waited for the tram. We let a couple of full ones go by before getting a seat on the 28E. I had wanted to travel on this one especially and we passed through Chiado, next to the Elevador da Bica, then up and down hills till we arrived at the Basilica church in Estrela. The place wasn't open unless you wanted an accompanied tour of the tower, but it did look impressive and really white in the mid-afternoon sunshine too.

Instead we walked into the Jardim da Estrela opposite and this was a good move. We noticed a little kiosk which was a little library, encouraging people to read in the park. We also saw a pond which had large geese but also fish and plenty of turtles – with the baby ones swimming and attempting to climb on the side on to dry land. We had a drink at the café here (glass of wine and bottle of beer for a mere €3.50 – beat that!) and admired the turtles as they were learning to swim – so nice and relaxing. We both loved the park.

It was back on the 28E tram this time alighting in Chiado and passing the many nice shops. I stopped at Santini and had a rather gorgeous cone with two scoops of lovely ice cream – vanilla and raspberry at that. It was really good and made me want more – but the size of the queue I had waited in told me all I needed to know about how popular this place was – and with the locals too. I certainly wished I had had another scoop or two when I ordered!

After a good rest later and packing a fair bit of our clothes, we got ready and headed out. We noticed a lovely Italian restaurant on the Praça do Comércio, and so headed there to Mosolo. They had a table and we had a lovely meal there – The Love had a tagliatelle with lots of bacon, mushrooms and a gorgeous sauce. I had the salmon version and that was fab. In fact we shared a bottle of wine and admired the view of the square and the river. Finally, a coffee for me and a wine for The Love at Banana Café as the sun set over the Avenida da Liberdade. Tune of the day by the way is "Close To You" (the Paul Weller cover at that) as I've just felt so happy being with The Love and so together on a lovely holiday. Seeing her look so beautiful in her blue dress made me realise more than ever how lucky I am.

Tuesday 7th July - Thoughts on the Beach

It was a nice relaxed day today. After a bit of a lie in The Love In My Heart and I decided that it would be nice to have a walk around the shops in Chiado, and maybe stop for coffee. In fact that is how it worked out as we had walked up the Rua Carmo and Rua Garrett and passing lots of nice shops along the way. We noticed there were tables free outside A Brasiliera, a café I really wanted to go. And we got a table, together with a coffee and a nice ham toastie too. Really gorgeous and the waiter even thanked us with a handshake for leaving a tip – a really friendly gesture.

From the square there we headed downhill to Cais do Sodré and it was off to the beach – this time we thought Estoril was a good option. The train sped past Belém and Oeiras on the way and we soon arrived, right next to the beach. It was a simple exit of the station, underneath the railway and then straight on to the promenade. We soon had a spot on the beach and although a little windy at times, we really were very chilled out indeed and everyone seemed to be having a relaxing time on the beach.

In fact I was more than happy to chill out and relax and have the iPod on, and blast out some classic 1980s tunes including Cabaret Voltaire's classic "Sensoria" – and the 12" version at that, so make that tune of the day. It was nice too to have a paddle in the sea and chill out, so also good. The Love was topping up her tan too and she really did look more brown by the end of the afternoon. One of the shops close to the station even had large cans of beer for €2, much much better value for money than the beaches in Cascais.

We left the beach just before 6pm and took the 1806 departure from Estoril, which once it got to Oeiras was limited stop so it got to Cais do Sodré a lot quicker than normal. We also spotted that the 732 bus stopped here which would take us close to the hotel, so that worked out rather well too. We both got back and had to apply plenty of after sun – me more on the feet which despite me applying lots of sun cream after a paddle, looked a little burnt.

We got changed, with The Love looking beautiful in her gorgeous gold dress, and we walked down towards Rossio and headed to San Siro, a nice restaurant. And very nice it was. The Love had a turkey breast in a mushroom and cream sauce, and I had the bachalau (cod fish) done with fries and eggs and arranged in a cylinder on the plate. It was stunningly nice, the consistency looked like egg fried rice with fish. The tiramisu afterwards was cracking too. Those meals plus dessert, a half litre carafe of wine and a pint of beer for €36? Spot on. And with a drink in Banana Café afterwards, a nice way to end the day.

Monday 6th July - Steep Sintra

The Love In My Heart and I decided that today was a chance to venture out and off to the UNESCO World Heritage Site around the town of Sintra, up in the hills above Lisbon. We had had a good sleep and once ready we took the short walk to Rossio station. At the ticket office everyone was queuing for tickets, but as we had our Via Viagem cards, we could just zap straight on at the barriers, simple really. That allowed us to get the 1101 train to Sintra, going through Benfica and Amadora on the way.

As we left the station we noticed just how many tour people there were and as we walked along the road to the old town we could see just how many coaches and buses were making their way along. We soon arrived at the old town and the beautiful old palace, now a museum, in the main square. Lots of people were queueing for the 434 bus to take them to the Palacio de Peña and the Castelo de Mouros. As I thought the castle would offer some good views we wanted to head there. The Love suggested taking the bus up there as it looked very high up. The bus fare was €5 but she was right – the bus wound along a steep hill with many a 180 degree turn as it zig zagged up. We got off close to the ticket office and once we got the tickets, it was off along a path in the trees.

We followed the path and headed up via an old tomb and burial ground, and then saw the entrance to the castle itself. Inside was a small café where we stopped for a light lunch, then followed the path around the castle walls. The views were spectacular from here and we weren’t at the top yet. The Love waited a little bit below the top and I headed up to the Royal Tower, with a stunning view down to Sintra, the palaces and notably over yonder the Palacio de Peña. That alone made it worth the admission, and following another path down with us both took us on a nice little loop back to the castle entrance.

Once we left the castle, we followed the path down to the Guard House, which had a little café hidden away. We followed the path down, and down, and down. Lots of steps, lots of slopes and a tribute to a Portugese writer whose wish it was to be buried in the hills. We kept going and got to a road, following this down and past an old church, then to the old town's narrow streets and shops. They looked good but were overpriced – keen to cash in on the tourist trade here we reckoned.

We walked back along to the Parque de Liberdade, and had a stroll around there up and down the hills – even seeing a sport Summer School in what looked like a small tennis ground with a seating area built into the hills on the side. Parts of the park looked less well kept than they should be though, and that was a bit disappointing. We then walked back towards the station but we spotted a little bar on the street just off the main road. It was a good move – a half litre glass of Super Bock beer for €2.30 – miles cheaper than the other places in Sintra's old town. Some good tunes here too including "All I Need" by Air – tune of the day.

We took the train back later and it was a little nice surprise for me – double decker train! We travelled on these on the French Riviera to Cannes and to Monaco, and simply had to sit upstairs, admiring the view as we headed downhill back towards Lisbon – alighting at Rossio and then topping up our cards. It was a gentle stroll back to the hotel and we spotted that Andy Murray had won his match at Wimbledon today – that pleased us both too.

In the evening we took the Elevador da Glória up to the Barrio Alto district. We was going to stop for food there but The Love wasn't so keen – they did look nice and really felt like an old town feel should do mind you. After a stroll via the Largo de Chaido, we ended up at the O Adriano, where The Love had the chicken and I had the salmon. And what a salmon – huge portion, had to keep my eyes open for the bones as it was literally the whole fish. Gorgeous and not expensive either.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped off at the Aparthotel Eden and went to the terrace bar. It was a good move – a gorgeous view to the castle and Lisbon itself, even a pool to have a splash in. I had a little coffee and a cake which was nice to have overlooking the pool and the city. We both agreed that the bar prices were reasonable and it was a better view offered than the bar at the Altis Avenida hotel opposite. And chilled out tunes too - all in all another good day!

Sunday 5th July - Views of the City

One of the must do things on my little list for visiting Lisbon was to go to the Castelo de São Jorge, up in the hills of the Alfama district. As we had walked a bit yesterday I had an idea to save time and legs, and so after some breakfast we headed to the Praça da Figueira to get the 737 bus to the Castelo. It was a good move as it wound its way up the hills past the Sé Cathedral and then ended up going up really narrow and steep streets before arriving at the entrance. It really was good and showed why it was a little bus to take you up.

The castle was wonderful – not least for the views of the city of Lisbon below – but the history so well preserved. In fact the walls of the top the castle were walkable around in a circle – the towers dotted around offering many good views. We also saw the archeological sites as well as the museum exhibition which showed many artefacts including the burial tomb – called the Seupltura. Ah, I get the metal band's name now (they are Brazilian and they speak Portugese too.) We also spotted many peacocks around and close to the café in the castle, where we stopped for a drink. We also spotted a cat who was relaxing in the sunshine on one of the chairs in the outdoor space.

On leaving the castle we walked down the hills and towards the tram lines which took us directly to Sé Cathedral. There were prayers going on so we entered in silence and walked around. We also lit up some candles to remember those who had departed, which was a nice thing to do. The cathedral inside was an awe inspiring place – I may not be religious but I can also appreciate great architecture and a structure of beauty. What struck me was how much the silence added to the beauty too.

Going downhill we followed the road towards the Rua Augusta, through the arch and to the Praça do Comércio, stopping at the Museu de Cerveja for lunch. The Love had a steak sandwich which was really good and I had the bachalau – but their special recipe which used sheep's cheese in conjunction with the codfish, eggs and potato. I have to say it tasted great and when one of the waiters had spotted that onr had cheese missing, he replaced it for another free of charge. Really good stuff.

It was then up to the arch at the end of Rua Augusta which offered lovely views over the River Tagus, the Praça do Comércio, and also the street itself and the Baixa district. That was good, and we then took the metro from Terriero de Paco along the blue line to São Sebastião, and once exiting the shopping centre followed the road round (eventually the right way!) to the top of the Parque Eduardo VII. I have to say the view looking down to the Avenida da Liberdade and the city was rather good.

We stopped here to rest and relax with the fountain in the background before walking downhill and around the large roundabout at the Marques de Pombal statue before heading down the Avenida da Liberdade. We stopped off at the Banana Café at the top and had a fresh lemonade as well as relax and take in the sights and sounds. It was then a gentle walk all downhill back to the hotel to relax and keep an eye on the news of the Greek austerity vote.

In the evening we headed along a couple of paved streets next to the Rossio square. We had a nice meal at the Locanda Italia, with us both having good pizzas and a relaxed informal atmosphere. We also then took a walk to The George, which sold English ale. It was attempting to be more like an English bar, but the ale was all of the press a button variety – they did have bottles too but they were all in the fridge. I suspect that the owners haven't as yet worked out the room temperature rule of ale yet. I did though have an Old Speckled Hen and travelled surprisingly well. Tune of the day is "The Chain" by Fleetwood Mac – the bar had the F1 highlights but without the classic BBC theme. How I missed it!

Saturday 4th July - Hot on the Beach

We decided that today was a good opportunity to hit the beach. So we took the 736 bus from close to our hotel to Cais do Sodré station, and once we stocked up with two little croissants with cream and some drinks from the local supermarket close by, we topped up our Via Viagem card with more zapping credit, and it was to platform three for the departure to Cascais. The journey along the river front and then beside the sea was very pretty, passing the large casino at Estoril before finally arriving in Cascais on time.

We followed one of the pedestrianised streets from the station and this took us to the small beach at Praia Rainha and relaxed there for the day. We had the sun cream and beach towels at the ready so it was good to lie down and relax and just take it easy. I had the iPod on and considering what started today on at random came "Tour de France (étape 2) by Kraftwerk – so tune of the day that is. We both even went for a paddle in the sea and found that to be very nice indeed.

We later on headed into the town centre itself, admiring the shops and the little squares. We stopped off in the Largo de Camões and had lunch in one of the restaurants, which was rather nice. I had the spaghetti bolognaise which was lovely. Once done we then walked along the front to the old citdel and walls, and from the top it was nice to admire the harbour front, full of really nice yachts and sailing boats – not for the faint hearted and not unless you have lots of money either.

Later on we headed back to the train station and took the train back to Cais do Sodré. The city centre was at a standstill with traffic so we walked back to Praça do Comércio then up the streets to Rossio and along the Avenida da Liberdade back to the hotel. We had a good rest there and then got ourselves showered and changed for the evening. We thought it best to stay local though so had a plan or two in mind – and it worked well.

First stop was the Buffet Leao D'Ouro which was a good way of sampling the food from the original restaurant without paying top prices. A good selection of meats, lots of salad and plenty to try too? The sausages and the smoked gammon were stunningly nice as was the lamb which was The Love's favourite. It was also then a short walk to Banana Café where a nice cool beer awaited us both first, then I relaxed with a coffee and The Love had a wine – and we had a musical act on, one woman singer and two guitarists who were good. They did lots of covers including Stevie Wonder, Amy Winehouse and also got people sat in the crowd to sing along too. It was a good way to end a rewarding if tiring day.

Friday 3rd July - Beautiful Belém

The Love In My Heart and I had a very relaxing sleep in the hotel, and once awake and ready we decided to head out of central Lisbon and west to Belém. We had a few things we wanted to see and one place in particular was on my must do list, so thought it good to head out. We left the hotel and headed down the Avenida da Liberdade to the Praça dos Restuaradores where one of the little cafés there did a nice ham and cheese toastie with coffee.

We then headed to the Praça da Figuera and waited for the 15E tram. It was a longer wait than expected mainly because the tourist tram decided to stop there with the driver having a smoke. Once we boarded the tram was rammed and The Love and I did well to get seats. It was even more rammed by the time it reached Cais do Sodré and headed West along the coast, passing under the 25 April suspension bridge and then terninating in Belém close to the Mosterios dos Jerónimos, our first planned stop of the day.

We noticed as we queued for tickets that you can get a combined ticket for that and the Torre de Belém which we were going to later. Not just that but the combined cost was €12 compared to paying €16 separately, and avoiding the queues at the Torre later. Win. We entered the monastery and I have to say even for a non-religious person, the place was stunning. When we moved to the cloister and then saw the view below it was really awe inspiring, both inside the main chapel and outside in the square with the cloister arches. Definitely can see why there are so many recommendations for it.

After that we headed through the gardens opposite complete with massive fountain – a real place to relax and top up the sun cream – then from there headed in the underpass under the railway tracks and to the river front. The River Tagus looked wide and majestic, and we walked along to the stunning sculpture at the Padrão dos Descrobrimentos, set in stone and overhanging the river. Not too far we stopped off at a hot dog kiosk and had the "classic" – complete with potato straw! A bit messy but also rather lovely.

We saw the Torré de Belem in the distance and after navigating round the small dock, the tower looked stunning and due to our ticket, much less queueing time. Once we started getting to the upper floors of the tower, the views were gorgeous. As there is one spiral staircase to the top it is controlled by a set of screens and traffic lights so that only one direction is operational. Makes sense and The Love stopped in the small chapel near the top and I went to the top. Some view from up there it has to be said. Tune of the day is "Beautiful" by Barenaked Ladies, simple but right to describe that view.

We then headed over the railway bridge, along the street in Belém past the Cultural Centre and the monastery, then walked to the Pastéis de Belém shop, where their original custard tart recipe is the stuff of legend. There was a massive queue outside for the takeaway but when we entered the indoor seating area there were lots of tables free. We sat down and The Love had a beer, me a coffee and one of the custard tarts each. Wow. They were unbelievably good. In fact with a bit of cinnamon sprinkled on, even more so. It was very civilised and lots of people were getting takeouts from inside the seating area. We passed the bakery on the way out and saw lots of the tarts all in a row. They would all sell out I reckoned.

We had a very nice beer in the Banana Café close to where we had got off the tram – a good move. Nice tables, the bar was an old tram car, and good prices too. That was very nice just to chill there and watch the world go by. We then took the 15E tram from the cultural centre and by the time it hit parts of Belém itself, it was packed, so again a good move. We soon sped back to central Lisbon and after a stop at the local supermarket it was time to head back to the hotel. A cracking day really and one that we both enjoyed.

We headed out in the evening and went to a restaurant close to Rossio station. I had the chicken with salmon and cream cheese in a crispy batter, and The Love had steak with an egg and some sauce. They were both supposed to be with chips bug instead crisps came out with each one – highly unusual that was. We had a drink with it and the price was reasonable enough. We then walked back up the Avenida da Liberdade and spotted one of the little kiosks was in fact a Banana Café place we had had a drink whilst in Belém. Same prices too, so two pints of beer for us and they even had a DJ belting out some chilled vibes. An excellent way to spend the remainder of the evening.

Thursday 2nd July – Lisbon Here We Come

So after some anticipation and excitement from me, it was time for The Love In My Heart and I to head off for our Summer holiday – and to Lisbon. I had never been before but The Love's friend had and he loved it, so it did come recommended. We met at Manchester Piccadilly station and took the train to the airport, checked in (and found out we had to sit in aisle seats in two different rows – maybe I should have done online check in!) before going through security with no less than Sir Chris Hoy in front of us. It was the talk of the airport staff.

We then relaxed in the departure lounge and off to gate 28 for the 11.10 flight. It was a good flight and as TAP Portugal are a Star Alliance flight, it means food and drink even for economy. This fact was oblivious to a group of women sat close to us both, and they were very loud and annoying generally. In fact I put my iPod on and The Love read her book to not be so distracted. I had on the excellent "How Soon Is Now" by The Smiths (make that tune of the day) which summed it up – just wanted to get there and avoid those annoying people.

The plane landed on time and we were soon taking the long walk down the corridors and to passport control, where once the passports were scanned in, it was claiming the baggage and exiting the airport. I have to say the airport was really clean too. We followed the signs for the metro, bought our Via Viagem ticket and added some "zapping" value (basically works like Oyster in London – dead easy to use and cheaper than walk on fares too) and took the lifts to the platform, taking the red line from there to São Sebastião and then changing for the blue line to Avenida. We followed the Sul (South) exit and as we headed out of the stairs, there was our hotel – the Sofitel Lisbon Liberdade!

We checked in and the very nice staff on reception told me there was only one football team in Lisbon – Benfica! He must have been a fan. We got the keys to our room 605 – and what a nice room. Massive bed, big telly with lots of channels, posh bath products, bath and shower over, towelling robes, safe, fridge and minibar, air con, and they had even left us some little pastries to try too. Oh, and we could see the castle from our bedroom window. How nice? We both felt very posh and felt it was worth the money.

We had a walk down to Rossio and then to the Praça do Comércio, and had a beer in the beer museum too. I had the preta (a dark beer) and that was very nice indeed. We got ourselves acquainted with our surroundings and it all felt lovely. I could see me liking it here a lot as the old historic trams went by. It was also good to see the potential places we could go with the castle overlooking the city and the river, plus the 25 April suspension bridge further down river.

We got changed and headed up the Avenida da Liberdade, turning left and to Guilty, a nice restaurant I had spotted. I had a pizza in there and The Love a pasta, but it was the ice cream I had for dessert that was ace. The vanilla especially was stunning and spot on, with a real taste much like the clotted cream vanilla in Cornwall! It was a very relaxed vibe in there and treated The Love to the meal, before heading back along to the Tivoli hotel.

And for a very very good reason – the roof top bar! We took the lift to the top and even though there was a corporate event on, we could have a drink at the bar. It was not cheap but I have to say it was worth it for the view alone, looking down towards the Baixa and the river beyond. It also was a really good way to say hello to Lisbon and we both felt it was a good thing to do. We went back to the hotel and snuggled up, happy that everything was so nice so far.

Wednesday 1st July - Finally

And not in the Ce Ce Peniston song either by the way! Well today was the last day at work for some time, so wanted to do what I could in order to ensure as much information as I could process was sent to everyone, and that I was able to also be sure of doing what I could. I also spent some time packaging up Adobe Creative Cloud Enterprise 2015, now the fix is available which means that InDesign and InCopy actually work as designed for enterprise users without the need to have the Creative Cloud app (which insists on running on startup, searching for updates all the time etc) - so all good there.

Initial testing showed all was good to go really, so I have to say it was a definite plus. I also made a very important discovery for Autodesk Building Design Suite Ultimate 2016. You've done your deployment install, you've got all your deployment image ready, you have the folder with your SCCM scripts in which you've copied into an SCCM task sequence. You get all the way to AutoCAD, and.. it fails, spectacularly with an MSI error 1620 stating that the error isn't valid.

The command line includes an MST transform generated by the deployment installer, and in previous versions this transform adds the necessary values to your MSI so that it provides the serial number, the licence server location, all that sort of thing. However, for some reason if I use the MSI editor Orca, open the MSI for the main AutoCAD 2016 within the suite, then apply the transform, it only seems to delete certain Property values, not add or amend Property values as well as alter some of the other tables within the MSI.

If you use the SCCM command line from the script but remove the TRANSFORMS=<nameoftransform.mst> section, the thing installs, but obviously without the serial number or anything like that. Puzzling. I've fed that back to Autodesk. I did also have another idea - I could use the MST transforms generated from the standalone AutoCAD 2016 installer once a deployment is created (I checked them: they're correct - and match similarly how the transforms were done in Building Design Suite Ultimate 2015) and then overwrite the MST and see what happens. Might be worth me having a go of that once back in but will be interested to see what Autodesk make of it.

I headed home and spent most of the evening in 30 degree centigrade humid heat sorting out all of the house, and also having a bit of a 1990s retro music listening session, blasting out the likes of "Bloodsuckers" by Die Krupps with Biohazard, the ace "Eject" by Senser, and Renegade Soundwave's album "The Next Chapter of Dub" which includes the great track "Nightmare" which my friend and I still really like to this day (not least for sampling Arnie saying "nightmare" too).

However, it was back to a band I really liked circa 1994-96, Dub War. Their "Mental EP" was brilliant for its time, and although the EP was basically three mixes of the track plus "Dowit", it's one of the mixes on there that I really liked, mixed by Haggis from Senser. It made the track sound a little more edgy and Industrial rather than the riff heavy great original, and a different enough take for it to be cool. In fact the band deserve a check out if you get the time, so tune of the day is an easy decision really.