Dear Diary... July 2017

Monday 31st July - End of the Month

It's the end of the month, and certainly a busy day ahead too. It was good to be able to settle back in to the day job, resolve quite a few issues, spend time with a member of staff and get to the bottom of the issues that they were having (fingers crossed I've resolved it now) but also then be able to contribute to meetings and attempt to plan ahead and get things done too. It's definitely been a case of managing the time and working on things that I'd set ready for today too, showing that I do organise the time well.

That's on the one hand, but on the other hand it's also a little bit of a case of what I then do from here. Tomorrow and Friday I'm going through the stuff on our ServiceNow helpdesk system and seeing what can be done to make sure that the knowledge base stuff is not only done, but done properly, and also how other parts of the system are duly configured to get the necessary data off and so on. Obviously the course I was on last week will help with that but for me it'll also be a new challenge to get the teeth into.

I headed off after work on the train homewards, and then off to Tesco in Purley to get some grocery shopping done. In fact, I needed quite a bit really but got enough for the next two weeks or so, and in addition some other household essentials, so the likes of bleach, fabric conditioner et al were all put into the basket. They did have some good offers on so stacked those up too, although I do wish they'd have a decent real ale deal on to be honest, being in Aldi the other day where everything was £1.29 and with a cracking selection showed the difference, it really did.

I got home, had a chatter to Mum and then to The Love In My Heart, and settled down to watch the I Am Bolt documentary. It was pretty good overall and showed more of an inside story into the man as well as the legend, and how in the 2012 Olympic 200m final he advised his team mate Warren Weir (on the lane directly by Bolt) to say to run his own race and don't follow him as he'd be going off pretty hard. Of couse Weir ended up with a well earned bronze medal behind Bolt and Yohan Blake, making it a Jamaican 1-2-3 overall, pretty excellent stuff that.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the excellent new Nine Inch Nails song, "Less Than". Not just because it's the likes of Trent Reznor kicking backside with a great song, but also the video, based on the Llamasoft game Polybius, with of course Jeff Minter having a hand in that. And getting due credit where it is due on the Youtube video, and by Trent himself. Any retro gamer knows who Jeff Minter is and what a legend he actually is, so to have those two together, now we're talking...

Sunday 30th July - Ashton Afternoon

The Love In My Heart and I both felt the need for a long lazy lie-in, and that was actually really nice. Especially when both Jô and Brian were both snuggled together on the end of the bed, and all content and happy too. Aww. In fact I had noted over the weekend that although Jô did his usual mewing at me as he's prone to do due to him being a little possessive, he did also let me fuss over him a lote more than usual, which was good to see. We had decided that we'd head out and try and locate some specialist cat treats food we'd seen in Pets At Home online, and then grab some lunch later.

In fact once we'd had breakfast and The Love was sorting out a few things and getting the cats all happy as well as getting ready, Miss Potter the film was on the telly. I must admit I do love this film, about the only thing I do like Renee Zellweger in - and Ewan McGregor is decent in there too. I think for me it's because of its charm, and because it's a romance with tragedy and then a second chance of happiness and finding peace in the Lake District. And it does have a real sense of loveliness about it all. Aww.

Anyway, we headed off in the direction of Ashton-under-Lyne and the Snipe Retail Park, which was very busy indeed, much more so than usual. In fact it was a real nightmare to get a space but at the same time, once done, we headed into Pets At Home. We wandered around the normal cat food, and spotted the same brand that we'd been given a sample of yesterday at Fur Cats. Then we saw the price of said cat food and realised that even the small sample was a worthwhile freebie. On the plus side though, the good news was also that we found what we came for - some specialist cat treats that deal with the urinary tract, two packs for £2.50.

We then headed to the Sheldon Arms and had the Sunday roast carvery in there - which is ace, a choice of four different meats (or some of them all if you want), Yorkshire pudding, roasties, mash, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, gravy etc and all for £9.95 each, and that was spot on, as was the Epic beer that I had to go with it as a seasonal ale. It was, well, epic. And that went down very nicely indeed so can't complain there really, and made a nice afternoon of it all.

I did feel sad later when arriving at Manchester Piccadilly station and having to leave The Love In My Heart, as we'd had a lovely weekend together and made the most of it. I got back home and in good time to watch most of the England v France Women's Euro 2017 game, and have to admit that I was rather chuffed when Jodie Taylor scored what would prove to be the winning goal, and well done them for beating France for the first time since 1974, another barrier psychologically cleared. Tune of the day is the brilliant "Play To Win" by Heaven 17, as the team did that, and I listened to that on the train home too..

Saturday 29th July - Everyone Everywhere

It was a busy day all round, and it was a case of myself and The Love In My Heart visiting both our families and in between doing some shopping. First things first was to head to the local Asda, get some flowers and then some petrol, head off and meet up with her father and sister, and once that was done, it was then the first bit of shopping, and on top of that working out an alternative route to The Love's workplace that I'd suggested that we try out so she knows the route. That done, off to Chorlton for good reason!

The Love a while back had passed a little shop which looked like it specialised in cat stuff, and it turned out to be Fur Cats. The owner was in there when we went in and she was ever so lovely and helpful, suggesting different food ideas based on what she fed her own two cats. We noticed some nice different cat food that we'd give Jô and Brian a go with, and we got some of that, and she also provided us with a little sample pack of another dry cat food too, so all good there. I went to Carringtons to peruse the ales, but to be brutally honest, they've gone way too expensive for their own good now. £3 per bottle on average isn't what we want..

Later on we went to see Mum, and had a good natter with her about our holiday, and she was pleased to see us, and as a positive bonus my brother was still over from Japan too, so ace to chat to him also. In fact his wife and family had been over for a few days whilst in Cornwall, and by all accounts everyone had a lovely time together too, going to Liverpool and all that. I think certainly the time together has given Mum a real sense of happiness, one of the pictures when in Liverpool showed that and both The Love and I noted how much better it all was.

We then headed off in the direction of Levenshulme Market, picked up a nice little gift or two in there, and then off to Waitrose to do their dine in for two for £10 deal for tea later tonight. In fact we went to the one in Alderley Edge, as the Cheadle Hulme one didn't have what we wanted (it was low on stock), but we did well. The lovely assistant even reminded me I was entitled to my free coffee with the MyWaitrose card but didn't take it this time around. We did though get a Spanish platter to start, then pork with chorizo and tomato stuffing, some mixed vegetables for the side, and a bottle of white wine for The Love. The nice thing is you can pick the starter instead of the dessert as part of the deal, ace idea that.

We headed back to The Love's place, and Jô and Brian loved the new cat food (they scoffed it happily) along with us having the very nice tea from Waitrose - the Spanish platter was fab, two types of meat, little cheese cubes and some olives stuffed with a little filling also, really gorgeous. And the pork, wow, that was to die for, best thing I've had in terms of a supermarket meal deal main for ages, topping the epic Wiltshire ham gratin that you get in Sainsburys which is always quality.

We snuggled up and watched the Who Dares Wins show on BBC1, with the champions Jed and Aimee still winning and still racking up dosh, now up to £110K overall. We didn't win the lottery but we did put in Gogglesprogs from the other night, and it had them all watching Dirty Dancing, one of The Love's all time favourite films. It made us both giggle when they were not only commenting, but some of them attempted to mimic the Patrick Swayze epic lift of Jennifer Grey at the end, and "(I've Had) The Time Of My Life" by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes is tune of the day for that reason, made us both smile.

Friday 28th July – ServiceNow, Final Day

After trying to leave later, I had more to carry this morning, including my weekend case, so thought it more sensible to head off earlier and get a seat on the train – not least because of the fact that it was a bit more comfortable getting into Staines, but also as I noted there was a Wetherspoons, I could nip in there and use the order and pay app to get a sausage sarnie and coffee for breakfast. Well, it’s a Friday, I’ve been paid, and it would while away the time before the start of the course, so why the hell not eh?

We had got through a lot in the day before, so it was a case of today concentrating on some of the more in-depth topics to get us to a point where we’d done all the modules, so it included the likes of Service Level Agreements and how to apply them (including when to ensure that the total time is taken into account such as priority switching) but also policies and actions too. So for example if one type of category in an incident doesn’t need a subcategory, you can ensure that it doesn’t show on the form, and also ensuring that the UI and other policies work together with the roles.

The big thing was to do with the likes of user access control and how to ensure the appropriate rights are set up correctly. In effect you have to think of a whole table (table . none) and then a field within that table (table . value) – and noting down how and when you gave out those rights. In an ideal world you’d be assigning certain roles certain levels of access, and ensuring groups have those roles associated accordingly, so you only then have to maintain the group memberships. SCCM 2012 does that in a similar way with security roles so as I’ve got the head around that one it was fairly easy to sort out really.

We also touched on update sets, and not quite what I thought it was – effectively this was where you changed the config from a test setup and wanted to import those changed into the live one. The example we did worked well and showed what could be done, but it also re-emphasises the fact that we really need to ensure we keep paying for our test dev instance so anything we do try can be attempted there first, rolled back if not working, and then save a load of hassle with the live one, and that’s always worth consideration of course.

We did finish a little earlier but that worked out well, as it allowed me to head off on the walk to the train station, get the train to Clapham Junction, and then use the Overground and my pay as you go balance to get to Euston (if you go via Willesden Junction, and use the pink reader there, it’s a lot less than if you go via Victoria or Vauxhall as you’ve done National Rail and tube then, always more expensive.) It also meant that I had enough pay as you go balance to get back home on the Sunday evening, meaning I could restart a monthly travelcard from Monday onwards. Winner all round that to be honest.

Admittedly, going first class tonight (£28 deal from Virgin Trains a while back) proved a good move, as I had more to carry and had also arrived at Euston earlier so didn’t really want to have to lug everything around all the time. It also means I get some nice food for tea and can relax on the train too to see The Love In My Heart and the two cats Jo and Brian (I’m particularly hoping that one of them feels a bit better now after his visit to the vet the other day.) I must admit that when I head off to see The Love, I always feel happy because that also means a trip to Manchester and a feeling of being back in the place I belong. It’s hard to explain but honestly, that’s how I feel. Tune of the day is a Mancunian classic, “True Faith” by New Order, pretty much for those reasons. I still love the video even now!

Thursday 27th July – ServiceNow and Spread Eagle Gig

It was day two of the ServiceNow course, so it was back off to Staines from East Croydon. I did attempt to leave a little later to get the 0716 train to Clapham Junction, but to be honest the train was even more rammed, and even though I did make it in good time for the 0738 departure to Windsor and Eton Riverside via Staines, and that train was a bit more calm, it certainly was worth leaving earlier for less hassle all round really. It just had to be done.

Day two of the course focussed on quite a few things: not least some of the contexts around the configuration management database and how that because you can use ServiceNow as a tool not just for IT, it’s important to understand that the master cmdb table can include non-IT stuff, and cmdb_ci is your IT asset management. It was also perhaps notable that in the grand scheme of things, it was rather nice to be able to set some additional items and just in essence extend the existing table instead of doing everything from scratch. Nice.

It was all good on the whole and certainly aided by more nice lunch, in fact some noodles with duck and some nice little side treats too to go with it. I must admit that it’s been a nice building to learn in and the trainer Dan has been excellent so far. I think we’ve made good progress and managing to get another topic in and done and out before 5pm was very welcome, as it allowed me to get a slightly earlier train back and get on at Clapham Junction without too much hassle (good job really I know where to stand to ensure I get a seat really isn’t it?

Later on it was off out and not far to go for me, but to the Spread Eagle pub where I’d got a ticket to a gig as part of Croydon Comedy Festival, but in effect three artists I really do like for different reasons, so definitely happy about that one. For me, it also meant decent real ale to drink too and for a change I went for the Oliver’s Island ale, and that was on fine form, even though I always automatically think “Oliver’s Army” by Elvis Costello (most likely showing my age now, I am getting a bit old after all aren’t I?)

So on first was the ever delightful Gavin Osborn, and his set featured some brand new songs (handy as a new album is out soon which I will implore you all to buy when it is released) including one about how you struggle in a band and that you’ll still be doing it for years to come, even with a chance encounter from Suggs. He had spotted me in the audience and told me later that as he knew I adored “Another Bath With You” he snuck it into the set and played it with suitable aplomb (tune of the day for that reason) – and we both yelled out the iconic line of “I want my 96p back!” at the right moment (you’ll need to put it into context with the lyrics to understand that one, as well as asking “what the **** is jojoba?”

Next up was the lovely and funny Jenny Lockyer as ever. She pulled out a classic “Chocolate Cake” song to start with, which is adorable, and then the song where she goes all Scandinavian and sings a song about the dolphins and the fishes. Not just that, but she also did her own version of a classic and sang “Croydon roads, take me home..” – you get the idea. As someone who’s got used to the place now, the words make tons of sense. You can’t help but have a big smile on your face as she delivers the songs though, there’s definitely something about that!

And last on were MJ Hibbett (and Steve) doing one of the first shows of their new theatre / comedy show, this time called “Still Valid” based around the excellent 2016 album from MJ Hibbett and the Validators (see my review) – and effectively it was if they’d been transported into the future and the album was on a “Classic Albums” type show where the songs are played in turn. Well, almost, and rather pleasing for me too, as the fifth song “Burn It Down And Start Again” was written before recent political upheaval and even Mark doesn’t find it that apt now, but this allowed for the ace “It Only Works Because You’re Here” to be shoehorned in instead. No complaints from me, and Gavin Osborn and I did the “la la la la” backing in the middle interlude, and everyone was punching the air at the right moment of “(You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock”, which is always a good thing in my book anyway. I felt rather happy as I walked the very short distance home later after what was another rather excellent gig all round.

Wednesday 26th July - Service Now In Staines

So it was a similar sort of time that I would normally leave for work, except I was going a completely different way instead. I had thought that it might be still busier with trains and so on so felt it better to leave earlier instead of later, and so it was first from East Croydon to Clapham Junction and then change there for the train to Staines. Even better was that I was able to get the fast train from Clapham, so only stops at Richmond, Twickenham and Feltham along the way, not every single station (which the trains to Windsor and Eton Riverside do, hence they take a lot longer!)

I had a rough idea of where I was going and so walked along the path to the town centre, and then through the pedestrianised shopping centre, turning right just before the bridge over the River Thames and down Bridge Street, where the brand new Strata building was, and the company ServiceNow was based on the ground and first floors. It's a really nice new building too, proper air con (good), decent coffee machines with Lavazza coffee in them (also good) and even a fridge with cold drinks, water, Innocent bubbles, San Pellegrino, which was rather nice it has to be said!

The course effectively was a 9am to 5pm sort of thing, but the trainer did mention that if possible we may finish before then - especially handy for Friday I reckon as I'm heading back to Manchester then. It was a good introduction to the whole of the system, and as we'd each had to bring a laptop with us (I borrowed one from work for this reason) we were able to then have our own little instance set up, pre-populated with a few things so we could have a good look around with some sensible and meaningful data, all good there.

The trainer Dan was spot on and knew his stuff, and he invited questions where necessary to either clarify points or to be able to make sure that if it was a feature we needed something on, he would go and research it during breaks etc. In fact we noted that a few of the drop downs and modules don't work correctly in Internet Explorer 11, and he even stated categorically that it would only work on properly web standards compliant browsers (that means Chrome and Firefox to you folks) - so basically, don't use IE. I must admit that made me have a big smile on my face as a Firefox user especially (I even remember when it was called Phoenix and then Firebird back in the day!)

And get this - at lunch time, a proper lunch with hot food and everything, so lasagne and garlic bread, and little side nibbles of fish goujons, spring rolls, sausage rolls, some sandwiches and wraps, all sorts, and really gorgeous too. It's so nice for a change when effort is made to have something nice on hand for lunch and to make you feel more welcomed too - and as we finished a little earlier, I was able to get the 1659 train from Staines to Clapham Junction (the fast one) and head over to get the 1733 to East Croydon, and I was home around 6pm, not too bad either!

Tune of the day in the meantime is the excellent "Here I Go Again", another excellent track from Body Count's Bloodlust album, and the video for which is rather good as well, and the track focuses on how some people getting their kicks by all sorts of actions which turn them on, and the guitars rock pretty hard too. Certainly for me it's a different listen from what I'll be listening to tomorrow - some gorgeous indie pop is coming my way to the local pub nearby so it has to be done!

Tuesday 25th July - One Year In

It was this day last year that I started at my current job, and hard to believe to be honest how quickly the time has gone as well. In fact several colleagues said the same thing to me later in the day, as I had bought some treats from Sainsburys at lunch time so that everyone could have something nice after lunch. I only thought it fair really considering that a lot of people have been really good to me anyway, and as everyone else brings stuff in when they go on holiday, it would at least compensate in some way (well I hoped so!) - in fact one project manager said that she thought that IT was a nicer place with me around. I'll take that.

It was nicely reassuring too, and certainly I know there's challenges ahead, one of which is the rest of this week as I head off for a training course. Thankfully common sense prevailed and I've had the trains paid for in advance, meaning less faffing around for me actually having to buy them and then claim it all back, which is a time consuming process no matter who you work for, and as it was with our proper travel provider and all by the book, all was good there. Ironically the training site is just outside the London Fare Zones, or my Oyster card would have covered it and I wouldn't have bothered asking (I'd only have needed to pay for the Zone 6 part which would have been minimal in that case.)

I finished uploading the pictures from my trip to Cornwall, so feel free to have a good look at all 190 of them in the set if you like. I was most pleased with the way that the rainbow pictures from Friday night in St Ives came out, as well as some of the seals at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek. However, it was good to get a variety of countryside, coastal and different places to visit having been photographed this time around, so definitely worth doing something different for sure. And of course if you are planning to go, make sure you enjoy yourselves when there, as I love it.

I also sorted out all the remaining washing and ironing, so everything is clean, the washing basket is empty, and it definitely feels like it's all going back to normal now, sadly. I do want to go back and I'm even contemplating a long weekend in the late Autumn, maybe based around St Austell so we can take in the likes of Mevagissey, Fowey and so on (not least because we love the little harbour in Mevagissey with The Love In My Heart adoring all the little shops too) - and it reminds us both of the first time we went together and had a lovely time, even though it wasn't so warm!

But we'll see, the main thing is to really crack on with work, get back into the football season and see Man City do their thing (and with plenty of new signings too so going to be exciting times possibly) and of course then take it from there. Tune of the day in the meantime is the excellent "Walk With Me" by Body Count from the Bloodlust album, it rocks pretty hard with some manically fast verses and a chugging chorus that gives the fast pace a break and a statement of intent. It's fast becoming a favourite album of mine...

Monday 24th July - Back To Work

And so it was back to work after a week off - and the good news was that all appeared to have gone pretty well whilst I was away, so was pretty pleased with myself that all the plans I'd set in motion had come off, and indeed for that matter the sense of not having too much else to sort out. It's an odd sort of week in that I've got two days in and then on a course for three days in the delightful surroundings of Staines-upon-Thames (or not, depending on preference for the area of course).

In a good way the week off has given me time to evaluate a few things. I'll have been in the job a year tomorrow and I'd like to think that I've made a good enough impression in that time to be a valued team member, but it'll be interesting to see how it progresses, especially as one of our team is leaving in the next few months. I know that'll mean more things added to the workload so am prepared for that, but there's also an underlying feeling of that being down here is kind of getting me down a little. I love the job and enjoy doing it, problem solving, working with customers etc, all good, but it's not as if for example I could text The Love In My Heart and offer a drink at Sandbar for a little surprise catch up and chat.

I know that The Love is a hard worker and that in her own way she's settled where she is in her home and so on, so I wouldn't for a moment expect her to move to be perfectly honest. I do though think that the holiday made me realise just how much I love her (absolutely lots in case you wondered) and how much I also love the cats Jô and Brian too - in their own way, I do look forward to them too. It's always more difficult when you've done the brave thing and moved to further the career and also be completely at one in the surroundings all the time.

On the positive side today, I realised that in fact I had managed to budget reasonably well over the holiday (even allowing for a special treat for The Love and I in Fifteen in Watergate Bay!) and so should all be good for the next month too. I do believe that the security deposit of £100 which you always pay in case of breakages etc should be refunded back to the account, so that will be of course useful (having paid it out when the balance of the holiday was paid) and that may mean I can then use the O2 Rewards £10 Amazon voucher I got before I went away to get some new CDs possibly (minimum free delivery spend is £20, so you can see what I was thinking there..)

And there's plenty of albums I do want to spend time listening to as well, such as Moby's "More Fast Songs About the Apocalypse", "Other" by Alison Moyet, "A Kind Revolution" by Paul Weller, for example. And indeed maybe even get some back catalogue stuff I'm still after too - for example I still would love the Kraftwerk albums, but the German language version. I've heard some of the native language tracks, such as "Taschenrechner" from the "Computerwelt" album which is ace (make that tune of the day in fact) and always good to hear things as they were intended...

Sunday 23rd July - Back Down South

After a final night of being snuggled up with The Love In My Heart (nine nights in a row, always lovely as you would expect) it was a sad farewell later this morning as we headed to Piccadilly station. We had a massive hug at the station and to be honest, I didn't really want to get on the train, the only compensatory thing was that it was in First Class and that meant more leg room, and some coffee as well as a snack box to keep me going. I was more concerned about Jô the cat as he had been playing up a little, so The Love was taking him off to the vet's to be checked out. He was unused to being in the cat carrier and so was constantly wanting reassurances from Mummy. Awww.

The Love did text me later whilst I was on the way down to say that all was okay with Jô and it appeared that his urinary tract was a slight issue, but there's medication for it and he'll be back to his normal self soon. The other cat Brian must have known something as he allowed me to tickle his belly for ages before I left, almost as if he felt he needed some love and attention and didn't mind too much who he was getting it from. Brian though was a bit hissy later as there were different smells on Jô and that probably was something he wasn't quite prepared for - but he'll get there I am sure.

It was a nice enough journey on Virgin Trains, even with the slight delay coming through Tring due to a broken rail and a speed restriction. The Victoria Line tube was surprisingly empty, as it was terminating at Victoria and not going to Brixton due to engineering works, so managed to get a seat and be relatively quiet. But oh did Southern Rail not let themselves down by being poor - two trains cancelled, and the next one was the Brighton one, so of course everyone was getting on that. However, I had walked down to the end of the platform and got a seat and a luggage rack space for the case, so all was good there.

I arrived home and did two loads of washing (not too bad considering, thought it was going to be a lot more than that!) and then settled in to watch the final night of action at the Paralympic Athletics, with the British team doing really well again and scoring more medals. I must admit though I did have the cricket commentary for the Women's World Cup final on, and how did we turn that one around? Anya Shrubsole with almost a Botham-esque performance with the ball in those final overs (akin to the infamous 5 wickets for 1 run in 28 balls) and deservedly getting player of the match for winning that one for England - world champions we are!

I then watched the Women's Euro 2017 game between England and Spain, a game I knew was going to be difficult. I must admit I thought that Spain were going to be dominant, but England scored early through Fran Kirby and kept the defence tight. Aided by an appalling refereeing decision not to give Spain a penalty (the referee throughout was poor for both sides) England pressed forward late on and Jodie Taylor scored to make it 2-0 and top the group with six points from six, with a draw against Portugal all that is needed to top the group. Go the Lionesses indeed, and well done to them - tune of the day is based on that, the excellent "World In Motion" by New Order, which for me is still the de facto best England football song ever...

Saturday 22nd July – The Long Way Home

I'm sure I am not the only one who thinks this either, but doesn't it always seem longer in terms of distance and time when you're travelling home from holiday, even though the distance isn't? I thought about that as The Love In My Heart and I were finalising all the packing this morning, leaving everything neat and tidy, and making sure that all the check out checklist was done, so all the bins emptied, the bottles recycled, all that sort of thing. So it was one last look from the steps down to the sea and heading off at around 0750 this morning, in a bid to avoid a chunk of traffic.

We headed along the A30 and the projected bottleneck of Chiverton Cross to Carland Cross didn't appear, so all was good there, and we stopped at Cornwall Services for some breakfast. In fact, it was noticeable how many caravans and motorhomes were parked up in their particular section, and people with their nightgowns on heading in to the services to get breakfast. Either an early start to the holiday or to come back. Mind you, it was a case of plenty of caravans and motorhomes being present on both sides of the motorways and A roads on the way home too. We did have a little delay on the A30 later on near Okehampton as two vehicles had broken down on a hill, but once past that it was a breeze all the way to the M5 and along the M5 towards Bristol.

We did note that plenty of caravans were heading down the M5 the other way, but they weren't the only ones, it was a case of the traffic being pretty rammed, and this was at around 11am. I can only imagine it being busier later, and the first week of the school holidays certainly shows a massive increase in holiday traffic. I for one was pleased we weren't in it, and although the M5 went slow towards Bristol for a while, we did have some tunes on and Seth Lakeman at that to make us both more relaxed – the wonderful “Portrait Of My Wife” is tune of the day for that reason.

Once past the M5/M4 junction it was nice and quiet along the motorway for ages, and stopped at Frankley Services for a spot of lunch – to be honest I also needed the loo so was more than glad to be able to stop. Once we'd had something there, it was back on the M5, through the roadworks (the road Southbound here was queueing traffic so glad not to be in that) and once on the M6, it was actually plain sailing on there for a change, even through the new managed motorway works between junctions 16 and 19.

I had reckoned we'd arrive back at The Love's place at around 4pm, and we got back at 3.55pm, so not too bad at all really. It was nice to mainly chill out for the remainder of the day, fuss over the cats Jô and Brian (the former was particularly happy to see us!) and then nip out to Asda, get a bit of shopping, and then have a lovely meal together. We in fact saw a chunk of the Paralympic Athletics on Channel 4, and there were two world records in the British gold medals tonight – Sophie Hahn in the 100m and Aled Davies in the shot put.

I have to say Channel 4's coverage has been really good – with knowledgeable presenters and pundits (Danny Crates and Stef Reid particularly) and Lee McKenzie on track with the likes of Johnnie Peacock and Liam Malone (he was injured so wasn't taking part, but proved to be an excellent pundit) – really setting the scene for some excellent athletics action and some performances we should all be proud of. If it didn't clash with my holiday, I definitely would have gone and cheered them all on – at the time of writing, seventeen gold medals for Great Britain – and thirty five medals in all, third in the overall table behind the USA and China.

I will be heading home tomorrow but was really nice to snuggle up to The Love one last time for the holiday and break, and most of the night the cats were all cuddled up too, with Brian deciding to snuggle in the space by the side of the bed – looking hugely cute along the way. I know I won't have as much washing to take care of, primarily because I wore shorts and t-shirts a lot of the time, but will be good to have the case emptied and have some form of normality before heading back to work. I am so grateful to The Love for driving down this time and us being able to see different wonderful places, and she really did make things special too. I am so lucky really.

Friday 21st July – Fifteen Friday

The weather wasn't looking too good whatsoever but we were determined to make the most of the last day in Cornwall. So The Love In My Heart and I decided that we'd head out to Trerice, a country house a few miles from Newquay and see what would happen from there. The traffic was slow on the A30 primarily due to an accident with a Land Rover and its load tipping over on a hill downwards, and at Chiverton Cross we diverted on to the A3075, which was moving more freely. In fact we skipped around the back of Newquay to Quintrell Downs, and from there followed the signs to Trerice.

The house wasn't massive, but it was lovely, from the Great Hall to the gorgeous refitted sitting rooms that were home to the Elton family from the 1950s when they re-extended one of the wings. The volunteer there told us that the style of music was on play all day and they didn't mind a bit of Elvis Presley, but Doris Day drove them round the bend and wasn't their favourite to say the least. I wasn't surprised at that either, but still good that they were interacting – and pointed us to the photographs of the family then and now – they have a holiday cottage still as part of the agreement where the National Trust looks after the place.

We had a coffee in the Barn restaurant, which was a lovely open space and they even had musical acts on at certain times of the year. The gardens were lovely too, especially the lawned maze, the fruit growing on trees and the outdoor game of skittles being on one of the lawns (much in the style of Indoor League only with a wooden bowling ball instead of a counterweight on a string.) The rain was coming down again a fair bit, but even despite that, it was a lovely place.

As we headed back on the A3058, we saw a sign for Watergate Bay, and as it was a place that Mum loves we thought we'd head that way, so once we saw the road to Padstow, we went through Porth, past a hotel close by Mum used to stay at a lot, and then along to Watergate Bay with plenty of surfers on the beach and a really nice sense of it being a place to just ride the waves and enjoy the lovely Atlantic Ocean in all its glory without the overly touristy feel Newquay itself seems to have.

We also saw the Jamie Oliver Fifteen restaurant, and we thought we'd have a look, and ended up having a rather fabulous lunch in there. In fact considering we hadn't booked, it all worked out well – they had the St Austell Korev lager (win) and even better than that, we had a table which was by the front windows overlooking Watergate Bay itself, and we had a uninterrupted view of the sea and the beach below. For that alone it was rather wonderful, and I decided as a special treat for The Love that we'd have a two course lunch.

And wow, was it rather gorgeous all round! I had the duck fetuccine to start, and that was stunning, the duck was cooked gorgeously and the pasta was just melt in the mouth all round. The Love had the goat's cheese salad, with plenty of crispy fresh vegetables with the cheese looking rather beautiful too. For the main, I had the fillet of hake, which was crispy skinned, came with some mussels and olive oil, along with some mini pasta cubes and some chard. It was wonderful – the hake was properly white inside and felt like a really well cooked piece of fish. The Love had the lamb, and even though it was medium rare it was tender and well seasoned, and tasted really good too. It was one of those nice memories that we can cherish, and a lovely meal all round.

We left Watergate Bay with it still raining, which we got caught in a little on the way back to The Love's car. We headed off back along towards Porth, then on the A3075 back towards the A30. Once towards Redruth we headed off and located a petrol station with cheap prices so The Love could top up the car ready for the journey back, and then followed the B3300 towards the beautiful coastal village of Portreath (it was gorgeous) and followed this road heading towards Hayle, stopping off at Godrevy.

As National Trust members, it was free to park up (yaay) and then we headed towards Godrevy Point, and with the sun shining, the views to the lighthouse and across the water towards St Ives Bay was simply lovely. It felt really nice being here and certainly for us both it was a welcome surprise. It was then off to Hayle and under the iconic railway arches there before arriving back at the apartment in Carbis Bay, and got ourselves changed and ready for the evening out.

Just as we were leaving, the rain started to come down, and we got a little wet before sheltering in Carbis Bay station, and the sun then came out with a rainbow appearing, which was nice. In fact this also happened at St Ives when we got there too, with the rainbow over the lighthouse at the end of Smeaton's Pier, and that looked pretty. By that time we were in the Lifeboat Inn and got a table and with a window view of the beach and harbour too – absolute bonus!

The food here was lovely too – I had the steak and Tribute ale pie, and it was a big chunk of a big proper pie, with gravy to boot. It was gorgeous with big chunks of steak, and The Love had the chicken and chorizo fricassée – which was stunningly nice – the chicken and chorizo in a white sauce, and bread for dipping, as well as some chips too. The staff said it was the chef's favourite and we could tell – the love put into that was something else. Kind of wish I'd have had it too!

We had a wander along the front and I had the blackcurrant cheesecake ice cream – out of reach of any seagulls of course – and later on we had a well earned drink at The Castle Inn (they had the Skinners' Porthleven ale on cask, yaay) and so that was a good way to wind down before then heading back to get the 2137 train back to Carbis Bay, and it felt a lovely way to end the week. Tune of the day is the lovely “Civilised Debauchery” by 3 Daft Monkeys, sums up the day of being out and having lots of fun and with a smile on both our faces. I'll feel really sad when we leave tomorrow..

Thursday 20th July – Perfect Porthcurno

The Love In My Heart and I had brought the picnic basket with us on holiday this year (with The Love having the car, it meant we could take it). It was a nice idea and yesterday when doing my coastal walk, The Love had been to the local Tesco to get some stuff for the picnic, including some nice Italian meats, dips, crisps and so on, and so we had all that in the picnic basket, and made sure we took the beach towels, and with the sun coming out to play (we hoped!) we headed off.

We took a different route from Carbis Bay, which took you along the road traffic gets directed to get to St Ives, but then we turned left to go to Penzance, and followed the road through some nice little villages, and a gorgeous view of St Michael's Mount also. Once in Penzance we followed the coast road and then up to the A30, and went along that to the road to St Buryan, and then through Treen Hill and off to Porthcurno. We managed to park up and all was good, and walked down the small hill to the beach, and found a nice spot by one of the coves.

It was a chilled out afternoon and apart from one small tiny shower, we had the sunshine all day which was lovely. In fact as The Love was happily sunbathing, I took a walk along the coastal path and followed the path towards Treen cliff, spotting some Dartmoor ponies that were grazing there and looking beautiful. I walked back down and past the stairs of the coast path to the Minack Theatre and back down to the beach, and we enjoyed our picnic lunch together, and the sun had come out and was all lovely.

The shade was coming over the rocks we were sat near, and so The Love moved her beach towel further forward to the sun, and I stayed where I was and relaxed with some tunes from the iPod, including quite apt for Cornwall, 3 Daft Monkeys. I had the excellent album Of Stones and Bones on and I love “The Tale of the Lazy Pirate” on that one, and so it's tune of the day for me. It was nice to feel so chilled out, and we stayed there pretty much all day too.

We then left later on and headed back towards Penzance via the B3315, stopping off at the Merry Maidens stone circle along the way (and had plenty of German tourists there too) – and then down Chywoone Hill into Newlyn before stopping off at Penzance and having a drink at The Dolphin Inn, one of my favourite places – and it still was as lovely as ever. I had the Cornish Best ale and it was gorgeous, and that went down superbly well. We headed back to the apartment and felt like it was just really nice to be on the beach and in the lovely Porthcurno again.

Wednesday 19th July – St Ives and Coastal Walks

The Love In My Heart and I headed to St Ives, and we decided that going along the South West Coast Path for a mile and a half would be a pretty scenic way to get there, and once into Carbis Bay and past the posh hotel, it was back up the hill on the other side, over the railway line, and then following the path as it hugged the coast and had plenty of nice views overlooking the bay before the path dropped sharply, going over the railway line and then towards Porthminster Beach.

We made our way along the paths and narrow streets and into St Ives itself, which was pretty busy as it usually is. We did head along The Wharf and into the arcade there, and they had the Space Invaders Frenzy machine which I had to have a go of. It was absolutely mental, sort of the game gone into massive overdrive with power ups left right and centre, especially the cluster bombs that caused carnage and loud sound effects everywhere, definitely an assault on the senses without question.

We walked along the front and stopped in Whistlefish, a lovely card and print shop, and we got some cards in there for a really good price, and also took a walk down Fore Street with plenty of “little shops” that The Love In My Heart likes so much. In fact we walked back to the road to take us up past the Barbara Hepworth Gallery, and down towards the Tate at St Ives. We had thought of going up to the café at the top but as you had to pay the Tate admission to do that, we instead went down to the Porthmeor Café and had a drink each there overlooking the beach.

We walked back along towards the shops again and along to Smeatons Pier, and the rain started to come down a little bit, which wasn't nice. In fact it was on off rain for most of the afternoon from that point, so we managed to stop somewhere for a later lunch and once that was done, we headed back to the train station and took the train back to Carbis Bay and back to the apartment, so we could relax and take a breather before heading out for the evening.

Later on, with The Love all happy and chilled, I took a walk along the South West Coast path, but this time heading from Carbis Bay along the cliffs, hugging the coast and the railway line, and arriving at the lovely Porthkidney Sands with its dunes and really rugged views, and felt beautiful. In fact at one point you have to walk through a path across West Cornwall golf course, so it's hidden in some of the dunes a little bit, and then once there you arrive at Lelant Church, and follow the road to the village of Lelant.

I headed down the hill from the Badger Inn and to the small request stop station at Lelant, which only certain trains stop at. I knew that the 1750 was one of those and I wasn't the only one waiting for the train either – in fact a couple was also arriving in time for the same train too. I had to stick my hand out to request the stop (ace!) and felt like the two from All The Stations did back in May when they had to do the same. As such the theme tune to that by Steven Francis is tune of the day for obvious reasons. It didn't take long to head back to Carbis Bay and to the apartment.

The Love and I got showered and ready and we headed off on the train into St Ives – the conductor even recognised I'd been on the train an hour earlier which was rather ace! We arrived in St Ives and it was still a little drizzly in parts, so we headed off to The Wharf and managed to get a table at the Balcony Bar, with views over the beach and bay too. In fact their menu was nice overall, The Love had the Balcony Steak which had the steak well done, fries, eggs and mushrooms, which looked cracking. I had the barbecue chicken melt which was also really good, and as the only cask ale was Sharps Brewery ones I avoided that and instead went for the St Austell Korev lager, which I've had before and is rather lovely.

We didn't have far to walk to head along to the Lifeboat Inn and got a cosy table and chairs for us both so I could indulge into a nice pint of Trelawny too – my I have missed that ale a heck of a lot and having one here the other night wasn't enough. It's a shame you can't get it in bottled format really as I'd love to have some at home for when I feel like it. However, at the same time I felt treated, and we spotted the crowds outside as the lifeboat was being hauled in along the beach. We timed it perfect for the train back and snuggled up on the sofa after a lovely day even if the weather wasn't 100%.

Tuesday 18th July – Seals and Sands

It was off after breakfast out to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary at Gweek. I've always wanted to head there, and because I had a shed load of Nectar points, I redeemed them for two free admissions, so wouldn't cost us anything either. We headed off on the road down from Carbis Bay to Hayle, and at the roundabout we turned down the B road towards Helston, some nice country lanes too. At Helston we followed the road round the large base at RNAS Culdrose and then turned left, past the viewing area and down towards the village of Gweek, following the River Helford and on to the sanctuary itself.

A lot of the area of the sanctuary was based on the Helford River bank, with plenty of seals all being looked after and having a new lease of life – the common seals at the top of the hill were those which had been rescued from local beaches including Sennen Cove and Carbis Bay. The convalescence seal area had plenty of older seals and enjoying their feeding time, despite the attention of several seagulls trying to spot the odd fish. The large sealions were just that too – with them resting by their pool and having a relaxing early afternoon to say the least.

We walked to the Humboldt penguins and they were all content and having a waddle around and diving in their pools – and notably a protective net covered the area to stop seagulls pinching their food at feeding time but still allowing lots of light and space for them to have a good play. We also walked further down and spotted the otters in their little rockpool having a nice wander around their habitat – which was a nice surprise to see. We also saw some open fields with the likes of ponies and a family of goats who all came out of their huts when they saw The Love In My Heart, thinking she had plenty of food for them to be ready for!

It was nice to see that plenty of the staff really did have the best interests of all the seals at heart, and the seal hospital for rescued seals was being renovated in order to be even better – good to see that improvements are also being made as well. It definitely was good to see conservation happening and certainly the seals were just naturally swimming around, all in their own time, and having a good play when they fancied it. It's well worth a visit if you get the chance when you're in Cornwall.

We headed off back towards Helston and then took the left turn at the roundabout and off to the village of Porthleven, which I'd passed through previously but never stopped at. Once we'd got parked up we followed one side of the harbour which had the likes of a Rick Stein restaurant and a few other nice eateries, with the boats all moored up in the harbour, and the Ship Inn having a commanding view of the sea from its outside balcony. We then went to the other side of the harbour, and saw plenty of The Love's favourite sort of “little shops” which was nice for browsing around.

We stopped for lunch at the Harbour Inn, and they had the limited St Austell small batch brew called Steam. I had that, and it was mighty fine, along with a pasty for lunch, and The Love's BLT sandwich on granary looked very good too. The pub had some nice floral window boxes which were a nice view looking out on to the harbour. We later then walked up to the Institute with its iconic clock, especially as that was the one battered by some winter storms a few years back and had all the news coverage and pictures there. We saw the beach as we walked along the pier, before then heading back along the harbour front.

One final stop of the day was heading off to Praa Sands and having the late afternoon on the beach, which was really nice to be able to chill out and relax. The beach was nice and soft and the water of the sea clear and blue, and the wind was blowing the sand a little bit in our faces, which meant we went off to locate some rocks to shelter by whilst still being on the sand. It was relaxed and chilled out, and a good way to wind down the rest of the afternoon. It was also good to see families on the beach, some building sandcastles, and certainly was much quieter than the likes of Sennen Cove where we were yesterday. Tune of the day is the lovely “Pink Sunshine” by Fuzzbox, certainly the sort of happy tune that reflects my mood right now. Oooh yes.

Monday 17th July – Sun in Sennen

After a nice relaxing sleep The Love In My Heart and I were all good to head out for the day, and with the weather looking like it was going to be sunny, it was getting the sun hat and shades on, and going off to Sennen Cove. In fact we took the B3306 from St Ives, which meant a nice coastal route with some dramatic scenery including the likes of Zennor, Gunnards Head and then Pendeen and on the way to St Just, where we had a quick stop and a look around.

In fact The Love spotted a nice “little shop” in the main square and a little while later she had bought a nice slate heart with a cat on, courtesy of the ace Little Blossoms shop. In fact they had some gorgeous cards, a number of which looked nice illustrations of various Cornish places including Porthcurno, St Ives, Sennen Cove and so on, and some were even in mug form. That was a lovely thing and part of me would have been tempted to get the mug as well! I did go in my namesake bakery (that's Warrens Bakery!) and had a large Cornish pasty, which was fit!

It was then past Lands End Airport and as we were about to join the A30, we spotted some slow traffic. However it was a farmer with the cows and once they were off the road, traffic was back to normal, and we then headed along the A30 to Sennen, and turned right to head downhill towards Sennen Cove, taking the right turn just before the long downhill drop and off to the car park, and it wasn't too badly priced either. We then followed the road down into Sennen Cove and to the right and to the lovely beach there.

We spent all afternoon on the beach, and that was rather lovely, resting on the beach towels and generally sat there soaking in the sunshine. I actually had the iPod on and listened to plenty of tunes on that including some classics from the likes of Gary Numan, Cabaret Voltaire and so on, but it was David Bowie's ace “Where Are We Now?” which gets tune of the day – it made me feel like I knew where I was, a sense of belonging to being here in Cornwall and being together with The Love In My Heart too. It was getting pretty warm with the heat though, so was definitely catching the sun myself, even with some factor 30 on.

Later on we walked through Sennen Cove itself and off to the harbour before then returning back towards the beach and up the long pedestrian path of stairs that takes you past all the sand dunes and towards the car park at the top. It was a long way up though and definitely one which was a lot easier going down, and we then headed off along the A30 towards Penzance, stopped off at Tesco to get a couple of bits, then parked up at Marazion (free after 6pm!) and off towards St Michael's Mount.

In fact the tide was out so plenty of people were walking across the causeway towards St Michael's Mount, but of course it wasn't necessarily what we were going to do – instead we headed for the outside bar the Godolphin Arms and The Love had a Korev, and I had a really nice Lushingtons from the Skinners Brewery too, which was all good. We were going to go to a nice fish and chip place on the way back but it was closed on Mondays, so we had something nice for tea that we'd got instead and were able to chill out and reflect on a rather warm day!!

Sunday 16th July – Fabulous Falmouth

The Love In My Heart and I had a really good night's sleep and took things easy in the morning, and had a nice full breakfast together, and that was good. I think too that it was a case of seeing what the weather was going to do, and it looked okay, with some cloud cover, and it was time to head off somewhere for the day. We both had been thinking about Pendennis Castle in Falmouth, and as The Love had never been there before, it made good sense for us both to go and enjoy the surroundings.

It was off on the A30 and just East of Camborne taking the A3047 then the A393 through some nice villages, then on to the A39 itself, skirting around the back of Penryn and down towards Falmouth itself, following the road towards the town centre, past the Princess Pavilion and then to the scenic route, which takes you towards the car park for Pendennis Castle. It was a little walk from there across some fields and then down to the main entrance to the castle itself, which the gatehouse looked rather impressive. We paid the entrance fee and followed the map to guide ourselves round, seeing the Royal Artillery Barracks at first.

We then saw the various gun defences which aimed out towards the sea and to keep Falmouth safe, and followed the tunnels downhill to the Half Moon Battery, where two large guns pointed downwards to the sea, showing a sense of defence again. In fact when we walked back up there was an old World War II shelter, just below the main keep that was built in the era of Henry VIII, which was really well preserved, lots of towers and gun defences, and of course a terrace on the top with some lovely views over the town itself which was really lovely to see.

We both enjoyed the castle and as we followed the road round which is the scenic route, it then took us to a small castle by the sea which was Little Pendennis Castle. That was lovely, especially as one couple had their dog which wanted their tummy tickled, and The Love duly obliged. We then followed the road around which took us towards the beaches on the other side of the town before then heading down towards Discovery Quay so we could then explore Falmouth itself.

We had a good walk around including seeing the Maritime Museum and the squares in Discovery Quay, and also saw the lovely little shops along the main streets and stopped off for lunch too, having a really nice Sunday Roast in one of the pubs together with a view over one of the harbours as well. In fact later on one little ice cream stall was the Roskillys one and they had the orange and mascarpone ice cream, so that was me well and truly sorted, I simply had to have that one of course!

It was nice overall and good to see the Prince of Wales Pier with so many boat trips possible from there including one over to St Mawes, and lots of people had been over and back by the look of it. We walked back along the main street and it was good to see all the flags above the rows of shops making it feel all the more lovely. It was even nicer to head through Penryn on the way back, showing all the nice little shops and then the train stop for the University of Falmouth, and then we got back in good time and had a thought for the evening – we could go to St Ives!

And that's what we did, literally just about making the 1733 departure and off to St Ives from Carbis Bay – and we even had Two Together Railcard discount too. It was nice to walk into St Ives and familiar territory, having a mooch along the seafront before then heading off to a new place for a drink – which was called the Pilchard Press. It was a new micropub just opened, and although the entrance didn't seem that convincing, inside they had properly nice ales, and wine too, so I was able to have a nice Harbour Brewery Relax ale, and The Love a wine as well. In fact later we went to The Lifeboat Inn so that meant a St Austell Trewlawny for me. Ooooh yes.

We got the last train back to Carbis Bay (1950 is the last one!) and once back at the apartment we relaxed for the evening and I watched the British Grand Prix, which I'd recorded earlier. It was a good race with drama at the end and Lewis Hamilton won well, and had his former team mate Jenson Button doing the podium interviews as well which was ace. Tune of the day of course is the ace “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac, the proper F1 theme and a perfect intro for Channel 4 of course. It was especially interesting that the likes of Sebastian Vettel had tyre troubles which made for a good end to the race – more so if you were a Hamilton fan of course!

Saturday 15th July – Cornwall Here We Come

The Love In My Heart and I were up around 5am this morning, getting ourselves ready and making sure that the cats were all good too and fussed over a lot. Jô and Brian were particularly attentive and wanted some Dreamies as well as having a love – and of course because of the fact that they were going to be missed for a week, they were seeing the cases and going into “come on Mummy, give us some fussing” mode. Not that we minded, they are of course rather lovely and attentive, and we'll no doubt do the same soon.

So it was off out around 0615 in the morning and The Love had decided that driving down was the best way, as it meant she'd have the car for during the week. It also meant less buses and trains to get to different places, so there was that. It was therefore all good to go, and we hit Princess Parkway, the M56 and the new A556 dual carriageway (much easier) and on to the M6, and all the way down to the M5, and we passed the roadworks between junction 1 and 2 before it got too busy, so that was all good really. We also then worked out where to stop, and it was at Stensham Services on junction 8, where the M5 meets the M50.

All was good there, and we both had a McDonalds breakfast of a sausage and egg McMuffin plus drink and hash brown. I used the quick pay till to order which meant much less hassle all round (and quicker too for the food) so we had breakfast, and then it was down the M5 all the way to the end, and along the A30 once we reached the end, heading off towards the likes of Launceston and then skirting around Bodmin before then heading to Cornwall Services for lunch. And it meant that there were proper Cornish pasties to be had, and add to that a services with dual English and Cornish signage which made me feel really being in Cornwall. We even had some Cornish music on, so the likes of “Agnes The Giant Killer” by 3 Daft Monkeys is tune of the day.

It was then more of the A30 before we got to the roundabout for the turn off for St Ives, and off to Carbis Bay. As we had done really well in terms of time and because we had got there early, we were able to go to Tesco and get some food shopping done, so that was nice and easy to sort out. In fact when we got to the apartment we were able to get in a little early too, so that was good. And it was lovely – lots of nice little touches, including a cream tea in the fridge and a bottle of fresh Cornish apple juice, and really nice décor throughout, and from our little side patio, a view of the sea!

We unpacked and settled in, and we realised that we didn't get any coffee, and so it was a quick nip back to Tesco, but they had stocked up on Cornish ales again, so this time I also got the Skinners' “Hops and Honey” plus the “Porthleven” ale, having already earlier got their “Lushingtons” and two St Austell ales, “HSD” and the dark stout that is “Mena Dhu” which you can't get outside Cornwall, so good to get the local beers in. We also had a walk down to the beach on Carbis Bay, and The Love even had a little paddle in the sea. Awww...

We stayed in tonight and had a really nice little meal of some gorgeous chicken with a sauce and some dauphinoise potatoes plus some vegetables, and chilled out with some telly, and some ale and wine along the way, together with some gorgeous nice views out as the sun set. It really does feel like that we're both on holiday now and that we're sure that Cornwall will be good to us for the whole week. It was admittedly also rather lovely to be snuggled up in a really comfortable bed and feel really relaxed, and a good start to our week away.

Friday 14th July – First Class Friday

As ever, it was a case of getting lots done in too little time today in order to feel like I had finished work with everything done and not much else left to have to do, so I can then pick up everything once I come back from a well earned break. I have to say that there's always a sense of feeling like you need to make sure that everyone knows where you are with things so that it's not a surprise for everyone and that they can't necessarily say “you didn't tell us that!” when you come back.

I must admit though it was quite sad to find out that one of my colleagues had decided to leave, and at the end of next month by the sound of it too. I know that she does get on with things and generally is more of a quieter get things done person (no bad thing at all) but also that a change is as a good as the rest too – no doubt that I know she'll find her feet elsewhere and be a valuable asset to someone else. It does mean though that there'll be much more work piled on to me for example once that happens, so need to be ready and most likely prioritise a few things.

It was good to leave and head to Euston, and before I could head into the First Class Lounge it was off to the Crown and Anchor for a well earned pint of the St Austell Skipper Ale, just to get me into the mood for Cornwall as you do. It was luscious, and that plus a nice sense of relaxation helped me get into the mood. It was also good being in the First Class lounge at Euston, having a coffee and keeping an eye on the semi final scores at Wimbledon, with Roger Federer looking rather imperious to say the least.

Of course the staff on Virgin Trains were as ace as usual, with plenty of nice friendly faces and a really nice little evening meal – some crispy butter chicken with a corn fritter, and that went down nicely as did the dessert of a lemon and lime posset, and add to that some Wreckless ale too, and all was very well with the world in my comfortable seat – just seemed the right way to set things off and it was of course a bargain £28 in the Virgin Seat sale a few months back, so all was very good there as well.

The Love In My Heart came to collect me at Manchester Piccadilly, and we headed back to her place and relaxed with the two cats Jô and Brian all being sweet and lovable too. The World Para Athletics Championship was on, and we saw that things were going well there with Hannah Cockroft doing well, and once that had been on it was time for The Last Leg, which was as brilliant as usual (and with the likes of Liam Malone on too) – and the tune of the day was the excellent “Harder Than You Think” by Public Enemy, which is being used by the athletics and of course used by The Last Leg as its theme tune for years as well. A nice way to wind down too.

Thursday 13th July - Force Maejure Farce

A bit of a mixed day today, with first off seeing that a decision had been made on the "Force Maejure" claims of Southern Rail to the Department for Transport, claims which had been challenged by the likes of the Association of British Commuters (ABC) for the department taking way too long into making a decision. Two weeks ago the High Court ordered a decision be made or face judicial review, and so with the deadline looming, a decision was made. And a poor one at that.

Effectively the so-called "fine" was £13.4m but in essence it's a case of Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR, who own Southern) having to invest to make improvements from their own pocket, but that pocket is lined by a proportion of ticket revenue with the remainder handed back to the DfT. Although it's notable that there looks like there has to be a remediation plan submitted, of course this can be delayed being put into practice as long as possible while any form of dispute is still on, and with the drivers now planning three days of strikes in August, it's a real sense of having another miserable summer of poor performance across the whole of GTR's services, yet again.

It should perhaps be pointed out that it's very easy for the likes of GTR and the DfT to pin the blame wholly on the unions for strike action, because of what was mentioned in the Gibb Report. However, and something I noted in my own independent analysis, it's worth noting that the performance of GTR was already going very badly downhill way before any strikes took place, so to solely pin everything on that is just incorrect - all sides have to take some form of responsibility for what the current situation is right now. How it moves on from here - no idea.

On a positive note, being away from it all next week is going to be rather nice. Little nice branch line trains to the likes of St Ives, and with guards too. Ace! I must admit I'm really looking forward to being away, primarily because in a way I feel at home with the surroundings, the pace of life, and most of all, the rather gorgeous views everywhere. We're already doing things differently this time around, so I will miss the epic train journey down and being sat overlooking the sea at Dawlish, but on the other hand as The Love In My Heart will be driving, it does mean we can get to the likes of the seal sanctuary at Gweek a little easier too - although the little train into St Ives is much easier to get there, and will have to be done.

As some of you may have noted, I've also been following the epic journey of Geoff and Vicki from All The Stations (if you're not following them yet, you should!) and they've finally hit Manchester properly, not just the visit to Manchester United Football Ground halt a while back. It was notable to see them compare Navigation Road to Birkbeck. I've stopped at both incidentally, and it's notable that Navigation Road was the first to have one platform train, one tram when Metrolink opened in 1992. Once London Tramlink hit the likes of Croydon, Birkbeck had a similar split layout, but from 2000.

It made me smile as they went to Manchester Airport, Styal and Alderley Edge too - the Edge is a fair walk from the station and definitely one you wouldn't want to take a short period of time over, not least the hill up there if walking is pretty steep. I have a feeling they may be doing the once a week train from Stockport to Stalyvegas via Reddish South and Denton tomorrow (or next Friday) as it's the once a week service. In the meantime the theme tune from said videos, written by Steven Francis, is tune of the day.

Wednesday 12th July - In Vocal Harmony

After sorting out the majority of clothes to pack and take with me for the holiday (counting down the hours now I freely admit) I thought it was a good idea to kick back and get rocking on the trusty Wii, and so out came Rock Band 3 and also not one but two microphones in the mix. You see, Rock Band 3 has a thing called Vocal Harmonies where you can have up to three vocalists singing parts together, sometimes they're the same speaking part, sometimes it's a phrase with different pitches and so on.

So I thought to myself ages ago when I first tried this out "well hang on, what if I just held two microphones together and was able to sing the parts I wanted?" - and in some songs such as The Human League's "Don't You Want Me?" the verses are for each vocalist as needed (so you can be Phil Oakey or Susan Ann Sulley depending on preference) which works nicely, and with others, the vocal parts are one octave above each other, so actually you can sing into both, because as long as the pitch is right, it allows for going an octave above or below either way. Neato eh?

None more so is this apparent than the excellent downloadable song "Weird Science" by Oingo Boingo featuring the ace Danny Elfman (and my tune of the day no less). Apart from having to sing the phrase "bits and pieces" a heck of a lot, especially close to the end where there's some mad pitch changes for the lead vocalist, a fair bit of it is one octave apart, so you can hit what's called a "double awesome" (when two vocalists get an awesome rating on the phrase.) In fact in some songs that have speaking parts for all three vocalists, a "triple awesome" is also possible. I know, I've done it!

I also had good fun with the likes of The Flaming Lips' classic "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, Part 1", J Geils band and the classic "na na, na na na na" parts of "Centerfold" and if you really do want to go all kooky and weird, just try the B52's epic "Rock Lobster" (believe me it's all over the place in a good way.) It certainly got me thinking how many more of Queen's back catalogue was suited to this, and obviously Bohemian Rhapsody was included as part of the game - and they remastered some of the download content to include the likes of harmonies (Somebody To Love for example being a case in point.)

I must admit it's actually really enjoyable to hit that again, and indeed to have a go at some different songs too, the likes of Slipknot's "Before I Forget" works well for that bizarrely (and I can do the grunty parts by the way!) - so maybe the next step is to have two mics close by and play guitar at the same time in an attempt to ramp up the score somewhat. I wonder.. and to end the night off, I went back to do the likes of "Walk" by Pantera and equally as enjoyable but in a different way, "Seasons in the Abyss" by Slayer. And I nailed that massively. Get me eh?

Tuesday 11th July - Rain On The Plain

For the first time in absolutely ages, it was raining most of the day today and with the cooler breeze, it did at least feel fresher, which was good after all the humidity of the last week or so. The good news was that with the fresh air first thing in the morning, it had allowed me to sleep much better at night and that was much appreciated, as I felt like a good sleep was much needed to allow me to concentrate on the rest of the week and get as much as I could done before the holiday.

Of course if you were at Wimbledon today, Centre Court was the place to be at, as the roof was on so tennis could be played. Novak Djokovic won easily in the game held over from yesterday, so still on for a potential semi-final with Roger Federer. The women's quarter finals were on today and Venus Williams got through well, and then it was on with Johanna Konta, the British number 1, against Simona Halep, world number 2 no less. It was going to be an epic and I got home just before the first set tiebreak.

Halep won that one and was actually 5-4 up in the second set tiebreak before Konta won three points on the bounce to win the tiebreak, and after a break of serve in the final set knew that she could just hold her service games and win the match. It was what she was doing, so such a shame at the final point someone from the audience called out, Halep stopped playing and let the ball go past, and the umpire signalled end of the match. Bit unfortunate really but well played Johanna at any rate!

It's been a case of getting things all sorted for holiday and I must admit that I am looking forward to going. Primarily I think because it's been ages since The Love In My Heart went to Nice at the start of April last year, and for one reason or another it's just been a case of biding our time to get some quality time away together. I know for one thing that there might be plenty of 3 Daft Monkeys played whilst away - I love the band and they are Cornish of course, so the likes of "Civilised Debauchery" is tune of the day for that reason.

With that in mind also it was good that the Nectar points I redeemed for the tickets for Gweek Seal Sanctuary. I've never been there before and thought it might make a good double header day - head there first and have a good look around and then go back via Porthleven later on, which we both fancy going to have a look around (not least because of the pretty harbour and the beach too). We're also planning to picnic somewhere one day also and spend time on the beach, so lots of chilled out moments ahead.

Monday 10th July - Manic Monday

Well it was if you were watching some matches at Wimbledon, that was for sure. Of course if you were Andy Murray and Roger Federer, it was a breeze, cruise through in straight sets, no problem, come back Wednesday to get on with it. Nice and simple. However, an absolutely titanic scrap was afoot on Court One between Rafael Nadal and Gilles Muller, with Nadal having to come back from two sets down to force a deciding set. And some deciding set as well.

Not least of course because of the fact that you have to win by two games, and they kept holding their serve game after game. Muller had some match points earlier but didn't convert them, and as the set carried on into 8-8, 10-10 and then 12-12, you did think for a second about the epic Roddick-Federer final a few years back (Federer won 16-14 in the final set, and the only time he broke Roddick was in the final moments) and of course to the epic Isner-Mahut game on Court 18 (you know, the one that was 70-68 in the final set!)

As the match drew on both players still had chances, but it was finally getting to Nadal a bit and each time he held on you did wonder how much more he could dig in. Muller did look a lot calmer and more methodical about it and it was probably that which helped him a fair bit, and finally after close to five hours' worth of play, over two alone being in the final set, he came through 15-13 in the last set. As I said, epic, and I know The Love In My Heart is completely gutted about Nadal being out. Still I said, there's Andy Murray and Roger Federer, with Novak Djokovic playing tomorrow as well (he would have been after Nadal but no chance of starting realistically...)

It was highly enjoyable and a good job I set the iron and ironing board up so I could get some of the holiday clothes ironed whilst simultaneously watching the tennis. It did seem like a good idea at the time and the more I got into the tennis, the slower the ironing became. But I did get through it all, so all the t-shirts, shorts, jeans and shirts were all done, and it's just a case of getting it all packed and sorted out later in the week. I must admit I am looking forward to it hugely, primarily because it is Cornwall!!

In the meantime I also have been enjoying listening to some classic early 1990s indie songs again, somewhat reliving the youth a little bit. One of which was Northside's ace "Shall We Take A Trip" which those of you who grew up in the North West will know, was basically a minor hit and on Factory Records too no less. And the best plug it got was when an instrumental version of the said song was used on Granada Soccer Night as well as Everton Wellbiased (aka Elton Welsby) would report on the week's action. Tune of the day - although I do wonder if Granada realised the opening lines and song mention LSD?

Sunday 9th July - If You Go Down To Selsdon Wood Today..

I had decided that it would be nice to head out for a little walk and get some exercise today, primarily to be in good shape for being away on holiday where I might fancy doing some more walking (or having The Love relax on the beach and me head off and do a walk, we'll see.) I must admit though that it's good to go exploring more of near where I live and getting more accustomed to the surroundings, and as I'd heard of Selsdon Wood and how the nature reserve is well looked after, I thought I'd head there.

So it was off to East Croydon but the bus station, not the train station, and to head on the 433 bus as it headed down the back of South Croydon, past the former Croham Hurst school (the TV presenter Susanna Reid used to study there) and round the back of Croham Hurst to Selsdon itself, before heading down, up and down hills towards the entrance to the wood, and you get off the bus just as it turns left, with a 100m walk or so to the entrance. It looked like a little event was on as close to the car park you had two tents with the Friends of Selsdon Wood providing info and the local scouts had some refreshments too. It was busy too with people bringing picnics!

I decided to follow the green walking route of arond two miles or so as one of the recommended routes. It was very well signposted throughoiut, with markers placed at appropriate points to either turn, go straight on or go across (as you do from point 2.) What was nice to see was that the majority of the woodland is as it is unaltered, so plenty for you to see, including some squirrels, birds and even if you're lucky as I was the occasional fox wandering around there. At the Southern end of the woods there's an exit to another bus stop and route (the 353 to Hayes and Orpington - it starts here by the wood entrance) but the route was really nice overall - lots of nature and trees.

In fact the shade of the woodland showed how much you were under the shade once I came out at the top of the hill in the sunshine as I headed back down through the last part of the path from section 8 towards the car park - the sun was rather glorious and people were just lying in the tall grass taking in the rays and really having a good afternoon of it. It had indeed been a nice walk around and as part of section 4 of the London LOOP walk also takes part of the wood in (a 10 mile walk though, so best doing that when a little less hot I think) and so all was good.

I took the 433 back up the hill but got off in Selsdon, as I'd spotted that there was a possible different way of getting back home, and there was. At Selson Library the 412 bus that goes between Purley and West Croydon was there, and so I simply got on that as it went the other side of Croham Hurst, and then towards the centre of South Croydon before then heading towards the centre, and crucially closer to the flat, so less of a walk in the heat later. That was a positive result all round, must remember that for the future.

In the meantime, more rocking took place on Rock Band 3 on the Wii and I even managed to do a bit on vocals too this morning, breaking my own record and scoring #1 in the world on the Wii for KMFDM's "A Drug Against War" so let's make that one tune of the day shall we? I also decided to give a few more different songs a go too such as Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" (did well at that) and of course the classic Oingo Boingo track "Weird Science" from said film. She's alive, she's alive! (etc)

Saturday 8th July - Catherham Calmness

I decided to have a bit of a ride out on the bus to somewhere different today, and have a good look around Caterham. It's at the end of one of the train lines out of London, it's in Zone 6 (so for example is fully Oyster capable) and it's a gateway to part of the North Downs and the likes of places further afield such as Godstone and East Grinstead. One of my former work colleagues at my last job had moved there too so wanted to see what all the fuss was about to a degree.

Even better was that the 407 bus wasn't too far away from where I live so it was a case of getting to the bus stop and heading on the bus as it headed through towards Purley, and then turned left and headed along the A22 towards Kenley and then Whyteleafe. There was a bit of a queue of traffic but this was due to an accident in the centre of Whyteleafe itself - and once past there it sped past the Ann Summers factory just south of the centre and then took the road to Caterham as the A22 bypasses it.

It was a nice little place to head around, with a good selection of shops and restaurants (there's even a Pizza Express here for example) and a little shopping centre, plus it had a Waitrose and a Morrisons, so plenty for the locals to do their weekly shopping in. The train station itself is one of a few within the London fare zones that has some grass in the middle of the island platforms a bit of greenery and as a terminus, is usually a good place to start if commuting to London - except you have to use Southern services. Noooooooo...

I had a coffee in Costa and sat upstairs so I could look out of the window and admire the valley that I was in - effectively the town is in a valley and up on the hill is the other part, Caterham-on-the-Hill, which sits up there (a different bus heads up there too.) Once all done, I headed back on the 407 but this time got off at Tesco Purley to pick up a couple of bits of shopping before heading back home on the bus, and after a light lunch headed back out early afternoon.

I needed to sort out the toiletries for holiday and so I knew what I needed to get - so it was off to Boots first of all. I did have around £4.20 or so of Advantage Card points so thought that I may as well use them to be able to get some bits - and as they had Original Source shower gel, Loreal Men Expert deodorant and some Colgate toothbrushes, all for £1 each, I was well sorted there, and got two of the shower gels (needed one for home too) and that was effectively free. Add to that some other bits I picked up in Poundland later and it was a good bit of shopping all round. Result. Massively.

Later in the evening I watched the F1 qualifying and the Tour de France, all of which were good to watch, and then decided to get some rocking done on Rock Band 3 on the Wii. I must admit I do like rocking out a bit on that and it was a nice surprise that there was someone online to play with, and they were on pro drums, so it was a guitar and drum combo on the likes of "Roundabout" by Yes as well as the excellent "25 or 6 To 4" by Chicago (make that one tune of the day too) so that rounded off the day nicely. Still really muggy and humid though and I've been feeling the weather a lot...

Friday 7th July - Testing, Testing, One Two Three

So it was a day of mainly testing today to be honest, and a good way to be sure that everything that I'm working on is actually working successfully. In a positive way, the final bit of testing of an application I've helped to package up with all the pre-requisites meant that I could pass it as good to go, and it's been a really good sense of team working, a learning curve as well of course but a good way of knowing when to be able to put some useful suggestions and get them into practice.

I also worked out a suitable way forward too in some testing on what I was doing yesterday, so it's all coming together nicely. As it turned out, one of the particular things that needed to go on was a Cisco ODBC driver for connection to Information Studio, but the install parameters are different from the main program (namely install rather than --install) and in addition, it won't install correctly unless the working directory is set to the directory with the DLL file next to the executable. As one of my SQL database people said, it's a horrible and poor installer. He was spot on.

But the positive is that I've now managed to get a fully functional task sequence of just the extra applications that the developers use, it deploys cleanly without error, and of course should be nice and easy to insert into a task sequence for a full deployment of the OS, all the standard apps, and indeed the extra ones. I'm just waiting now for the developers whom I've been working with to give me the go-ahead, and once that's done, I'll then work with them to ensure all is well.

It did mean I could at least finish on time and get home for the tennis, which The Love In My Heart had got home for earlier and had managed to see some already. She did send me a lovely little picture of Jô the cat, who was guarding the television remote control as if to say "Mummy's watching the tennis - don't you dare turn it over" in between playing outside on the decking and of course munching some Dreamies along the way. They're so cute when they get into that sort of mode, both him and Brian to be fair.

And talking of fares, I also managed to book a fair number of much cheaper trains up North thanks to Virgin Trains' recent offer - so Manchester to London £11, result. Even more so as I've been able to book some Friday nights for home games up to the end of November and on the 1820 train in some cases too, meaning I get to Manchester around 2030 and can spend the remainder of Friday night with The Love In My Heart, so that's a positive really. So it's mainly Friday nights but also a few Sundays too, so all good on that front.

In the meantime, tune of the day is continuing the theme of listening to Fuzzbox, as I've tended to do as of late, and I've gone right back to one of their earliest releases, "Rules and Regulations" which really does set the tone what it was like back in 1986. In fact the chorus is belted out, almost punk style, and no surprise then that all girl punk band Maid of Ace do a really good version, and they've even had Maggie from Fuzzbox join them a few times, which shows how much she loves that version too. There must be more to life, there must be more, than this...

Thursday 6th July - Wombling Around Wimbledon

Another scorchio day and a day to be thankfil aircon in the office is on. In fact today I spent some time testing out some applications which we're going to include for the developers, so that they can have a Windows 10 build but with all their extra stuff added on - the idea being that if we need to adjust anything they have or need for future, should be easy. One particular icky application is Cisco Information Studio. The installer uses Bitrock InstallBuilder and isn't exactly the cleanest thing ever, but thankfully it looks like passing the unattended parameters as a system user (which is what SCCM will do) does work the way it was intended, which is nice.

I headed out of work later and onto the tube, not the train home tonight. I headed off first on the Circle line to Edgware Road and headed over the bridge there for the change to get the District Line towards Wimbledon. They recently changed the platform for the District Line Edgware Road branch, annoyingly, so you have to head over the bridge whereas before it was the other side of an island platform. In any case I was off to Wimbedon Park to have the hair cut as it needed to be done.

I passed through Southfields and of course with a certain well known tennis tournament being on, it was a case of the whole station decked out with astroturf grass for the platform, and the sides of the tracks having banners for the tennis, along with plenty of nice little bits of information for people as they arrive. Sensibly the station is part cordoned off to ease the flow (more noticably as people come in and head down the hill to the All England Lawn Tennis Club) but good to see it being nice and welcoming as you arrive.

I had my hair cut at the hairdressers I use next to Wimbledon Park tube and as ever they did their cracking job, with the cut looking tons better and much less thick after I'd had it sorted. In fact being on the other side of the park from the AELTC, it was relatively quiet and chilled, and even the tube to Wimbledon station afterwards didn't seem so bad either, which was nice to see. Of course the shuttle buses from there to the tennis itself wanted £5 return. Erm... get the 93 from outside the station to Wimbledon village (takes you up the hill) and walk down from there - and you can use Oyster/Contactless on it. Mwwwahahaha.

It was then into TK Maxx as I wanted to get some new bits for the holiday, and the good thing was that I managed to get everything I wanted, and actually pay less too so that was a bit of a bonus really. Part of me wanted to be sure that I'd then be able to put all that into the case ready to go, and be much less hassle all round in order to have nice new things to wear. In fact the four new pairs of jeans I got last weekend are all coming with me, so it'll be nice to wear some new stuff. In fact I'm going to check out what needs to be clothes recycled and do that at some point over the weekend I think.

In the meantime the tennis wasn't as good as yesterday but it did mean today that Roger Federer was on and being as brilliant as he usually is in the second round. I must admit if Andy Murray doesn't win, I'd quite like Roger to get an 8th title and stand alone above Pete Sampras - it might be a good way for him also to possibly consider retiring at the top as well of course, but he's still in great shape and the public here love him to bits generally. Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather good "Pink Sunshine" by Fuzzbox, just the thing for a warm sunny day like today has been - and many a holiday in the past has had that on...

Wednesday 5th July - Humid and Hardworking

It was one of those days today. Most of the plans I did have went out of the proverbial window (although not opening it as the air conditioning in the office would be affect) and it all started due to the lovely (not) Southern Fail. Again. The 0701 to London Bridge isn't running due to the overtime ban, and the 0702 to London Bridge was shortformed to 8 coaches. So in effect that's potentially 20 coaches for passengers down to 8, and it was already that busy that I feared for my safety if I boarded. So I headed across and got the 0705 to Victoria, which was absolutely rammed to pieces. Then the tube and just about got in to work on time.

On top of that, we had one of the executive assistants come down to see us because our CEO's PC wasn't playing ball. Thankfully it turned out to be a monitor which had effectively died with no power, and so I was able to get that replaced pretty quickly and get things back up and running, so all good there. That was all before I could even look at some application packaging and getting that done in due course. And then.. more problems, just what I like, but thankfully one I was able sort out.

In fact I'm having to package the latest release of Skype and get it out there due to a flaw that occurs in version 7.36 and lower, as reported by The Register. As such it means we're getting 7.38 out there (7.37 was released quickly, almost too quickly, to try and be a fix, so better to have a stable even numbered release) - which will be a positive I'm sure. It does mean though that I'm having to reschedule a lot of things around and try as I might to fit everything in when I can - not necessarily easy really.

Anyway, the weather was hot, humid and oppressively muggy, and if there's one thing I wish my flat did have, it would be air conditioning. The windows face West where the sun sets, and in the evening, it gets plenty of sun. Even with the windows and the juliette balcony doors open it does get rather hot to say the least - the two temperature gauges for the heating state around 30 degrees centigrade currently. It's going to be rather warm for the next few days although I kind of wish this was the weather in Cornwall soon...

And Wimbledon was an all round good British day wasn't it? Andy Murray won, Johanna Konta came through an epic, Heather Watson also won so we've got two British women through to the third round for the first time in absolutely ages, Aljaz Bedene also got through too, so four Brits left - more than normal. It'd be pretty ace if one of the women could win, although there's still plenty that fancy their chances left in the draw of course. We can but live in hope - and "Light and Tuneful" courtesy of Keith Mansfield, and the proper Wimbledon theme is tune of the day. Obviously..

Tuesday 4th July - Despair and Debate

I took note when I arrived home of the continuing debate in BBC Parliament with regards to Southern / Govia Thameslink Railway and the fact that Parliament was discussing the long overdue to be published Chris Gibb report (you can read my analysis if you wish) into the way that the operator was being run and how it could be improved. It was perhaps notable that there was cross-party determination to get things done, and notably as well as the usual good MPs who have been campaigning for their passengers for ages (Caroline Lucas, Peter Kyle, Andy McDonald) some of the recently elected MPs this time around also really did have a good say too, notably Stephen Lloyd and Lloyd Russell-Mole being very eloquent.

It was perhaps notable that both when Caroline and Stephen were quite rightly questioning what part the Department for Transport were playing behind the scenes of the current industrial disputes, the Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling had headed off. Even perhaps more notable and something that really did knock me sick was the fact that as Andy McDonald was quite rightfully asking what would happen to disabled passengers and that their rights to access should be important, Grayling was clearly laughing in the chamber. Not on. One little bit.

As Peter Kyle put it, humility is the key here - with an increasing sense of a brick wall being between the unions and GTR especially, and a sense that there are players willing to talk, but only if the real sense of heat is taken away. Notably Paul Scully (Conservative MP for Sutton) noted that solving the industrial action would only improve the service to a poor one, and then there'd still need to be improvements made to get it back on track, reminding those who just focussed on one page of the Gibb Report that actually Southern and GTR's services were already declining way before the strikes.

Meanwhile over on Centre Court things weren't any better in terms of despair as to what went on. The Love In My Heart had texted me on the way home that both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic were already through, and considering the time I thought "they must have been quick!" - and definitely too quick for me. It transpired both opponents had played around a set and a half and then retired through injury, and neither of which looked fit enough to start - clearly it was all about the prize money and what they'd get from it.

I felt sorry for Roger and Novak - not their fault really, they just play whoever they face and get on with it, but you do have to wonder if the money was the only incentive to come out rather than do what happens on other ATP events where if you do pull out, you get the money, but this is reduced if your replacement happens to do well (which is a pretty good way of doing it to incentivise the other player also) which makes sense. If Wimbledon were the first to do so, the other Grand Slams would follow. In the meantime, "Sporting Occasion" by Arnold Steck, the closing theme tune and the one Andy Murray likes is tune of the day.

Monday 3rd July - Come On, Andy!

Well, it's Wimbledon, the weather is pretty nice, the crowds are out en masse, and as The Love In My Heart had reported to me during lunchtime, Andy Murray was on Centre Court beginning the defence of his title. Naturally of course this meant Henman Hill / Murray Mound ws packed with those who had been in The Queue, and those who had been there since 1am Saturday morning queueing up (yes really) had the chance to get a ticket for Centre Court to see their idol play as well.

Of course work was to be had for me and so it was a good day all round really - I spent most of the day sorting out an application for SQL Developer Edition 2012 SP2 - and the developers had provided me with the info as to what options that they wanted to install. In fact it was useful to run through the graphical install as a configuration file is made - which you can then grab and utilise in a package. In terms of the detection rule if it was installed, I noted that several MSIs were called with the conditions, and so if all of them were present, the install would validate.

The only tricky thing was that the install itself was around 4GB, which meant that the default 5GB SCCM cache size wouldn't be enough (all applications are downloaded before install of course) and so had to work out a neat and tidy way of increasing the cache size. Once I got that nailed, I was then able to increase it first, and then see how the install would work, and it did. I had to remember to select the QUIET instead of QUIETSIMPLE switch, or else it wouldn't install as a system user, but it worked. Felt rather pleased with myself actually.

I headed home later and the telly was on Wimbledon of course, so lots to see, including Rafael Nadal getting through his first round match easily, and Johanna Konta getting through too as did Heather Watson. Normally of course most of the British contigent in the women's and men's singles apart from Andy Murray head out first round, so good to see some others through too. Of course at this time the likes of the proper theme tune (Light and Tuneful by Keith Mansfield in case anyone wondered) is tune of the day.

And of course talking of theme tunes, the best theme tune ever (in my view at least) is Johnny Pearson's "Heavy Action" as used in The Superstars. Really nice then see the likes of Aldi UK using it in its recent commercial with the Brownlee brothers (both of whom took part in the 2012 reincarnation of said show incidentally) and of course that meant I simply had to go and play the original tune again, naturally. Ah, the days of Brian Jacks, Ties Kruize, Keith Fielding, Andy Ripley, Brian Hooper, Brian Budd, and the often forgotten Kjell Isaksson. Ah, memories!

Sunday 2nd July - Sunday Shopping

It was a nice leisurely lie in for myself and The Love In My Heart, with the two cats Jô and Brian wanting lots of attention (and Dreamies of course) along the way. It was good to have some breakfast and then work out a plan of action for the day. I wanted to head to the Fort at Cheetham Hill and then the Lowry Outlet Mall in order to get some more pairs of jeans for holiday (and generally, I need some new pairs anyway) and so it was a case of heading off in The Love's car and after some patience, finding a parking space at The Fort.

I planned to go to TK Maxx first as I wanted to check there for some bargains but none were forthcoming - a bit disappointing really. In fact the men's section was hugely disappointing generally to be honest - the one in Manchester city centre and the branches in Croydon are generally better. I did however go in Outfit, which has the likes of Top Man in there and saw a nice pair of jeans and in my size. Even better when I got to the till they rang through as a mere £10 instead of £15 (reduced from the original £30) so a bit of a bargain really. In a word - result.

In fact when we got to the Lowry Outlet Mall later the sun was out and so it was nice to later on be out in the sunshine walking around Salford Quays. Even more so in the Next Outlet in there, I spotted a nice pair of jeans for me - and even better - the price was a mere £14 (there was no price label so I asked) - so those were mine too. In fact I checked later and the same pair did retail at £45, so mega result again there I reckon. Summer Sales are good for some things if you're prepared to look then!

We then headed off to The Dockyard for lunch, and their two course Sunday Roast for £10 deal was on, as was the Dockyard's own pale ale, which is pretty nice actually. The soup starter was good, and the roast beef I had really did hit the spot, as did The Love's lamb. We walked around Salford Quays for a bit before heading off to East Didsbury and having a drink at The Gateway, and we were able to sit outside and take in some of the late afternoon sun too!

The Love dropped me off at Manchester Piccadilly a little earlier than planned, but I was so glad that she did. The 1735 train I was booked on was not running, so after chatting to the lovely Virgin staff in the station, my ticket was validated for the 1715, so went to the unreserved coach F and got a seat on that one. It was a nice journey even though the train was packed, and had the iPod on playing some classic tunes (make "True Faith" by New Order tune of the day) and eventually headed home via the usual stops of Euston and Victoria and onwards to East Croydon.

When I got in I did watch the BBC documentary "Our Wimbledon" which was on as I had headed to the train. Presented brilliantly by Sue Barker (who to be fair was a very good tennis player in the day) - she caught up with legends such as Rod Laver, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer and naturally of course Andy Murray as they each had their own special memories to give. It was also nice to have the Duchess of Cambridge on, and she admitted her mum rather likes Roger Federer (to be fair Catherine, your Mum has good taste!) and talk about her own love of Wimbledon too. And bring it on tomorrow!

Saturday 1st July - How Does It Feel?

The Love In My Heart and I had a lie in, before then meeting up with The Love's father and sister, and heading back to The Love's place later on where a nice cuppa was had by all, and the two cats Jô and Brian were loving the extra attention they were getting - not least as Jô decided to sneak outside of the patio door by using his paws to help it open a bit more - and then was chased promptly back in by The Love. It tends to be Brian who tries that more, but still.. and The Love's sister was asking my advice on some train stuff, which I was more than happy to sort out.

Later on The Love and I headed off to the city centre on the tram, as Manchester International Festival is on currently, and wanted to mooch around plus see the exhibition True Faith in Manchester Art Gallery, which has plenty of things Joy Division and New Order on. In fact it was a short walk back to the art gallery from the stop, and so once we made our way up to the top, we had a good look around. Factory Records completists would have adored the fact that FAC 1 (poster for The Factory Club) along with FAC 2 (the first Factory EP, "A Factory Sample") was on display, along with plenty of original poster artworks, 12" record sleeves with Peter Saville Designs etc.

In fact there were various video rooms with footage being played: a Joy Division gig from Manchester Apollo (from the Here Are The Young Men video) as well as selected New Order videos to the singles including the classic True Faith and the more obscure but loved by me single "Run 2" - based on the album track "Run" from the Technique album. I love the video and the single, so tune of the day was an easy decision. Of course it was great too to see so many people enjoying it all.

One special thing was the original handwritten lyrics for Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" which was on display, and had two art gallery staff on each side, ready to pounce if anyone was attempting to take a picture of it - the family themselves had requested it that way to keep the original as preserved as possible. Yet still people were attempting to take pictures, which did annoy me slightly - if they want their own reproduction, it's in the opening pages of Deborah Curtis' book "Touching From A Distance" for example.

It was ace though, and well worth it for all the art works, the inspirations behind the conceptual art, and indeed as you exited, a portrait of the late great Anthony H Wilson looks down on you from above. "This is Manchester", he said, "We do things differently here" - and in the years since his passing, we still do. It's well worth a visit if you get a chance to get around Manchester in the next few weeks, and we also saw the photography exhibition full of 1960s and 1970s street scene pictures from the old parts of Manchester and Salford prior to their renovation - a fascinating insight into the inner city that Joy Division were most likely also writing about.

The Love and I even did a little bit of shopping, where a Gap sale meant two new pairs of jeans for me for holiday, and massively reduced as well to £20 a pair - and they had two left in my size, and in a dark shade of blue. It was a very easy win. We then headed to Albert Square and to the bar, where the very nice dark ale that is the Supernova was mine, and we got a spot up on the terrace above the bar enjoying the views of Manchester, which was all good.

We did stop at Ra!n Bar but they were serving all drinks in plastic glasses, and on top of that, no food either, and we wanted some tea, so went past the old Odeon cinema (which is now in the advanced stages of demolition - I have fond memories of that cinema!) - and to The Bank, where I cleverly signed up on the way to get 25% off the food, and we had tea there. It meant I could have the St Austell Skipper ale (yaay, obviously) as well as a gorgeous steak pie, and The Love had the fish and chips which also looked very good. It's always good in there, so nice to relax, have some tea and then take the tram home later.