Dear Diary... March 2016

Thursday 31st March - Flying and Arriving

So it was nice for both The Love In My Heart and I to be able to get up at a pretty relaxed time and have a nice croissant for breakfast with a coffee before saying our goodbyes to her cats and heading for the tram to Manchester Piccadilly. As it turned out, the train tickets after 0930 are off peak so I deliberately waited three minutes before buying them from the ticket machine so they were cheaper, and then got on the next departure to Manchester Airport direct, and from there taking the walkway over to Terminal 1.

We were flying with Lufthansa, and that meant a change at Frankfurt on the way down to Nice, but it did mean food and drink on board and also a relaxing flight too - they're a Star Alliance airline so usually anyone we've travelled with under them (Swiss and TAP Portugal) have always been good. We checked in and dropped the cases off, got through security and then spent time relaxing with a coffee at one of the coffee shops, being able to see out to the planes in the centre of the terminal before then walking down to the far end of Terminal 1 for our 1230 flight to Frankfurt.

That flight was all good, and in Frankfurt it was then walking to the transfer area, going through customs and another security check, although as we both have chipped passports, we could just use the electronic gates and breeze through (and avoid the mass queues as well!) and then walk along a long travelator which seemed to go under one of the runways and locate our gate. There was even a nice little coffee and beer shop at the gates, and we had a nice beer with time to kill before then boarding a bus to the plane, and setting off on time from Frankfurt. It seemed a nice airport actually.

We flew over and it appeared quite cloudy on the French Riviera as we headed towards Nice, and landed a few minutes behind but nothing untoward. Once we got through customs it was off to the baggage reclaim, and we spotted both our bags virtually off first, so we got them and headed for the exit, miles ahead of everyone else, so that was pretty good. We got to the bus station and noticed it was deserted in terms of people and open windows for ticket sales. We then realised why: the French general strike was on today, which thankfully didn't mean air traffic control was suspended for Nice, but did mean no buses.

That did mean a taxi, and believe me, it was not cheap - I did insist on paying though as I thought it was unfair on The Love to have to do so. The bonus was we did get dropped off outside the hotel entrance, all good, but I suspect a lot of the taxi drivers were also adding on fares because they knew that for most people, it was the only way to get from the airport. There were no trains running either which I think also meant that the taxis knew they could rake it in. Put it this way: the fares are on a par, or if not more expensive than a London black cab. I'll let you work it out.

We checked in to the Mercure Promenade des Anglais and got to our room. It was as promised: a sea view room with balcony, and the balcony wasn't wide enough for a chair, but you could stand and enjoy the view. The room had a nice big bed, Nespresso coffee machine (woo!) and also masses of wardrobe space, nice bathroom with shower, bath robes, and plenty of power sockets, plus a little lounger too. It felt lovely and the TV as we found out later even had BBC One and BBC Two, so we could watch normal telly should we wish to - an added bonus we didn't expect.

We were both a little tired from travelling but wanted to eat something, so we went out to the Pizza Cresci close to the hotel, a place we'd been before. The Love had the spaghetti bolognaise, and I had the Pizza Reine, which was also lovely too. A lot of the eateries had heaters so you could still eat outside, and some had some shielding at each end to keep the wind and rain off too, so a good move for the out of season months we reckoned. We also ventured to the Spar and got some wine and beer (the hotel room had a fridge, so useful to take advantage of) and got some milk also for the coffee.

It was nice to snuggle up in the room and admire the view outside later on as the sun set and darkness fell over Nice. I was just happy to be with The Love as I knew that missing her so much has been really hard for me - it sounds daft I know, but being miles away really does hit sometimes and I am going to make the most of our time together. Tune of the day is "Crazy" by the Icicles from their Arrivals and Departures album. It sums up how I feel about The Love, crazy about her really, but in a really nice warm and loving way, and what The Love herself calls a "happy happy song". I know what she means.

Wednesday 30th March - Reunion

So a long day ahead at work, and I got in earlier than normal (how does 7am grab you?) for good reason. I wanted to try and finish all that I could today knowing I was going to be off for a week after today for a much needed break away. I also wanted to test out a few things and feed back to one of the staff at Intel with regards to a possible way we could implement Intel AMT correctly. In fact that bit went well and I was able to get some useful information which will assist me greatly going forward, so that is a good thing.

I did also feel strongly that having to try and package an application in record time for distribution wasn't exactly going to be easy, and so it proved. I did manage it in the end by a combination of determination and working through the lunch break (and thus also meaning an early finish should be doable) but on the whole I have to say that being fed information last minute isn't really conducive to a correct way of working - you really need time to test things properly and not doing that means a lot of extra work required. One of our contractors had it spot on - it's always seemingly reactive rather than proactive.

There's no guarantee of course that anywhere else will be different - far from it, but there's definitely an air of feeling that there's a lot of political pressures that seem to be the case of demanding everything now without having a real sense of communicating with those that are doing the work and considering their workload to see what is doable and when. I am hoping that the interviews for another colleague to join our team will have been successful when I have been on holiday which should ease the burden a tad, but we'll see. I suppose too that there's an added pressure on when you're on a one year probationary period - you have to prove yourself somehow.

Anyway, with all that done I had time to head home and see on the off chance if there was any post. Sadly not, and the concierge had told me he'd not seen a single postman for three days solid either. I have already tweeted therefore to Royal Mail and to express my dismay - not least as one item I was waiting for was a present for The Love In My Heart. I had forewarned her of the rubbish post, but it still doesn't look good when something you've bought for her, despite you ordering it way in advance, doesn't arrive. I may have to look into compensation even.

I headed from East Croydon via Victoria to London Euston, and there headed to relax in the First Class lounge before boarding the 1820 to Manchester Piccadilly. I thought that holiday plus Man City discount meant that first class for me was a nice option to do, and so it worked well. I had some nice hake and sauce on a bed of potato rosti and some minted mushy peas too, with a bread and butter pudding after that, plus some beer too, so that went down nicely. I was just wanting to see The Love In My Heart as I had missed her so much, and so it proved - a huge hug for her when I got to Piccadilly was just what I needed.

We headed back to her place, and the two cats Jô and Brian were even a little nicer to me, Brian particularly wanting lots of fuss and snuggling on the sofa. Awww. We had a coffee and a chat and The Love was pretty ready for our holiday tomorrow. I thought it was easier for me to come up and then us fly from Manchester, as it's her break too and her birthday, why should she be the one traipsing. Tune of the day in the meantime is the lovely "Stay (I Missed You)" by Lisa Loeb, which just got into my head during the day and made me think of The Love even more.

Tuesday 29th March - Back To Work

And so it was back to work for me today, albeit for a couple of days. In hindsight I could have taken a day or two off, but I thought that it would be better to save the holiday leave for another time. In fact I was spending a fair bit of time today sorting out an effective change which I was undertaking, which was to roll back some of the printer driver revisions on one of the print servers to ensure that the correct older version was being delivered to the clients. That took some time but I managed it on time and was able to really then progress with the day's work.

In fact I had also worked out a plan of action for a few things, and one of which was to do a provisioning certificate test with one of my test machines for IntelAMT. In a sense it was a good test too because I was able to show that I could be able to do some proper provisioning with a certificate doing all the work to be trusted, with a workaround suggested by one of our Intel engineers whom I've been liaising with. And it worked too, so was most pleased to at least get that sorted and progress onwards.

I did manage to just about avoid the wind and hail that fell during the lunch break, but it was a bit iffy with the weather later as I headed home, especially when I got to East Croydon station on the way back where the rain was effectively lashing it down somewhat. I did manage to remember to get the train tickets sorted for the trains to and from London when making my way back up to Manchester tomorrow (and then back again after our jaunt away) and that was good to get sorted.

What was not good though was no post, and no sign of what I had ordered. I was most gutted and had to really feel horrible, and apologise to The Love In My Heart. I do have some presents and card to give her for her birthday which will be good, but I just feel disappointed that what I had wanted to get didn't arrive in time. I can't really risk heading home tomorrow for fear of missing the train back up, as I'd have to go home, check post, and then make sure I could get back up to Euston. That'd be touch and go to be honest.

So I do feel a little low to be honest and even the prospect of England didn't really cheer me up that much either. We did play well against the Netherlands (I do wish ITV would actually use their proper name) and that showed plenty of promise following on from the win over Germany the other night. Jamie Vardy scored again for England, so 2 in 2 for him and that was a positive, and so "Bittersweet Symphony" by The Verve that plays during the coverage is tune of the day - kind of sums up my mood too.

Monday 28th March - Through the Wind and Rain

It was horrible weather overnight, and I was glad to be inside in the nice and warm surroundings of the flat, as I could hear the pitter patter of constant rain and howling wind from Storm Katie (seems too nice a name to give a storm to be honest with you) - but it did do a lot of damage not far from me, so was pretty pleased to be able to at least be safe. It did look like it was starting to calm down a little bit so thought about possibly venturing out later, and so was going to head for some shops.

In fact I took the 119 bus which goes from near the flat and winds through West Wickham and Hayes on its way to Bromley, and to the shops there. In fact the main shopping centre has been rebranded as an Intu one, similar to the ones in Watford (always see that from the train) and the Trafford Centre as well. It seemed pretty good all round but best of all was a branch of the independent music shop Head. This was a good place, similar to the one I visited in Leamington Spa many moons ago, but had lots of bargain deals on CDs and DVDs as well, meaning that buying music wouldn't necessarily be expensive (a good thing)

I had a good mooch around and managed to get some bits I needed for the holiday such as some hair shampoo, shower gel and a new toothbrush, so all was good there. I think too that it just made sense to get as much as I could all sorted out now so I was able to be more relaxed as I headed back to work tomorrow before heading away. I think for me too that it was noticeable that the weather had made things pretty quiet in the morning, and even in the early afternoon with the bad weather gone, people had just decided to stay at home.

I headed homewards later and set about making sure I had my travel insurance sorted too, another task taken care of, plus ensuring I'd printed out the flight confirmation email and the hotel confirmation, and all was good to go there at least. I think too that I had got all that organised and so I could just relax a bit over the next day or two. I was concerned that at least one present I'd ordered way in advance for The Love In My Heart had not arrived as yet, and it may not do so before we set off, which would be not so great. The Love's been good about it but I feel really bad..

I did however kick back later on and watch the F1 2007 DVD review that I'd been meaning to watch for some time. It was an epic season with three drivers in contention to win the world title at the final round in Brazil, and Ben Edwards providing excellent narration and commentary duties for this too. It seemed as well that the racing was a lot better - none of this artificial overtaking with DRS, those grooved tyres that needed some serious looking after, and plenty of races in the rain too. Tune of the day though is "The Chain" by Fleetwood Mac, chosen by the legendary Murray Walker during the Suzi Perry BBC Radio 2 F1 special earlier, an excellent choice by an excellent legend of commentary.

Sunday 27th March - Easter at the Royal Albert Hall

It was a leisurely day of sorts today, as I've done for the last few years now, no chocolate. None. It was actually around Easter several years ago that I gave it up as I was eating far too much of the stuff, and these days I do feel a lot better for it. I guess as well that if you wanted a willpower test with lots of chocolate around you, it'd be the perfect time to do so. I had a nice bowl of cereal and a coffee for breakfast, and spent some time relaxed in the morning before deciding to get a few things sorted.

I thought to make best use of the time that I had and spent a chunk of it ironing all the clothes I wanted to take with me on holiday. In fact plenty of them needed a good ironing over and it means that when I do get to pack the case, it's all sorted. In fact I've packed the jeans and stuff in the case already as I know what I'll be taking, so made perfect sense to put those in and work out the space I have for the shirts etc. In a good way though I've mastered folding of shirts a lot better so I should be able to get that all sorted and be ready to go.

Later on I braved the wind and rain and headed to East Croydon station, taking the slow local stopping train to Clapham Junction (all services between there and Victoria are suspended currently) and then from there heading on the number 49 bus which took me through Battersea, parts of the Kings Road and then South Kensington before heading past Gloucester Road tube and on to Palace Gate, where I departed and took the short walk from there to the Royal Albert Hall.

I think there was some classical event for families and children, as lots of people were milling outside and with instruments too before all eventually departing around 6.30pm ish. By that time I'd gone in the little café bar close to door 12, and had a very nice americano (£2.10 too, reasonable) so I could sit down and relax with a coffee. I saw the price of the glasses of wine and I'm sure that even The Love In My Heart might have thought twice about paying the price that they charged for it!

Eventually the ushers guided us through an entrance door and up the two flights of stairs to the top floor and to the Elgar Room, where seats were all laid out and I managed to be there early enough to be front row for tonight's talk with Clint Mansell. The bar looked inviting but was being good, and plenty of Clint's soundtrack work was being played in the background beforehand to set the mood, including a montage video early on which showed the likes of Noah, The Fountain, Requiem for a Dream and so on.

On came Clint Mansell and he had an engaging chat with the panelist, who had said that BAFTA had tried to arrange such a talk for several years, and it was a really good insight into the whole composing process and how sometimes less is more - turns out he is a big fan of the cello and not overswamping a score with tons of orchestra when you don't have to, akin to putting a hat on top of another hat. Lots of good questions from the audience too, and clips from the films with the Moon score being particuarly spot on - so tune of the day for that - I do have that film of course.

It was also good to hear him say how that he was called up to do the Mass Effect 3 game soundtrack but then the producers moved the goalposts, so he left the project, and how working with someone who understands you as well as you understanding them really helps - and how the director of Stoker was just known as "Director Park" to everyone. And in addition a notable nod to some of the films and musicians he was inspired by too, so a really good conversation and one that I was pleased to say I was at.

Saturday 26th March - Wet and Windy Wimbledon

I had a bit of a leisurely wake up, mainly listening to Maryanne Hobbs on BBC 6 Music, amd her morning show at weekends is always good to be able to guarantee some quality tunes, including a live version of "Everybody's Happy Nowadays" by the Buzzcocks (make it tune of the day) and even better after my tweet, she even gave me a mention. Woo! That was a nice surprise really and made the day lovely even before it started in earnest. It was good to be able to have breakfast and just chill out with the radio, and why the hell not eh?

Later on in the morning I decided to head out, and so walked down to Reeves Corner tram stop where the trams were starting for Wimbledon, due to the engineering works with the relaying of tracks in Croydon town centre. It didn't take long and soon I was arriving and heading to Centre Court shopping centre (ho ho!) and having a little mooch around there, with some nice shops and a really light and airy feel. Along the main high street too there were plenty of nice little restaurants as well which made it feel rather a good place to be, with plenty out despite the horrible weather - lots of wind and plenty of rain too.

I later on walked up the hill towards Wimbledon Village, and usually I've only walked past here on the way to the All England Lawn Tennis Club (ie: the sporting Wimbledon) but thought it nice to have a look around the shops there too. It all looked quite calm and serene - plenty of restaurants here too, and some of the road crossings even had warning signs to look out for horses due to the closer proximity of Wimbledon Common not that far away. I must admit it was a nice calm place and I had a coffee in Costa and just people watched by the window as the rain proverbially lashed it down and kept doing so for most of the remainder of the day.

I headed on the bus back to Wimbledon station, took the tram back to Reeves Corner and then got my holiday money sorted out. There's a really good little independent bureau de change in Croydon called InterCash, and they're spot on. Most of them are offering between €1.18 to €1.22 per £1 at the moment, but InterCash were doing €1.24 - and that meant more for my money too. I also prefer to support local more independent businesses, and the staff are always friendly in there too, so all sorted. Isn't it good when that happens?

I did later on watch the England v Germany friendly and during the first half I thought England played decent, but it looked like Jack Butland was down with an injury when the Germans struck a low shot and went 1-0 up just before half time. And when the Germans scored a second and went 2-0 up in the second half, I thought "here we go again" and showed that missed chances thus far at least were proving to be costly, and at this level (take note Jordan Henderson) you have to take them.

However England were not going to lie down, oh no. A superb swivel turn with the ball and low shot in to the bottom corner from Harry Kane made it 2-1, and when Jamie Vardy came off the bench one of his first touches was to flick home, brilliantly, a Nathaniel Clyne cross to make it 2-2. It was nothing more than he and England deserved, and to be honest I'd have taken 2-2 especially after Delle Alli's miss with six minutes left. But England were not finished, a corner came over in stoppage time and Eric Dier headed superbly for 3-2, and that's how it finished.

It showed some determination and skill and even German legend Lothar Matthaus in the ITV studio was waxing lyrical about how well England played. It also showed to me that we do not need Wayne Rooney, nor should we take him to the Euros either. A lot of the players showed heart, passion and desire but also skill, and you simply cannot substitute that with someone overhyped by the media as England's supposed saviour, but up till Roy Hodgson had a word with him couldn't be meithered singing the national anthem. In contrast, I'm hoping that some of the younger members of the team have taken heart from the women's performances of late and felt inspired to do just as well, and in true Man City style, fight till the end.

Friday 25th March - Clangers, Bagpuss and Co

I decided with the weather being pretty nice that heading out for Good Friday would make a lot of sense, and so once I got the flat all neat and tidy, it would make sense to head over to Bethnal Green and to the V&A Museum of Childhood to see the exhibition Clangers, Bagpuss and Co, and revisit a fair bit of my childhood with the likes of Bagpuss in particular, but also Ivor the Engine, Pogles' Wood, and lots of others too. I'd also never been to that museum either so wanted to see what it was like.

Due to some of the trains not running due to engineering works, I had a plan B route. So my plan A would have been West Croydon to Whitechapel and bus from there, but plan B was West Croydon to Canada Water, Jubilee Line from there to Stratford, and Central Line back to Bethnal Green. That didn't work out too badly, the main delay was navigating at Stratford station from the Jubilee Line end to the Central platform. It was also noticeable that Mile End was closed for repair work and so it was non-stop from Stratford to Bethnal Green.

The Museum of Childhood was actually a really nice building - sky lights and a glass ceiling to let lots of natural light in, and big windows at the sides too. The staff were lovely and I politely asked if I could take pictures of the exhibition - they said no problem, just to make sure they didn't feature any children in them, which was a very reasonable request really. I made my way to the Bagpuss, Clangers and Co exhibition, and literally it was being transported back to my childhood - and I wasn't the only forty something to do so either, lots of parents with their children were saying how this was their television they grew up with.

The highlight for me of course was seeing the original Bagpuss, complete with full supporting cast (the mice and their marvellous mechanical mouse organ, Gabriel the toad, Madeleine the rag doll, Professor Yaffle the woodpecker book end.) Noticeably too they also had one of Emily Firmin's dresses she wore as Emily in the series, and some original sketches for Bagpuss, including a professor they didn't use before Yaffle as it was deemed too scary. It was also good that you could see the inspiration behind Professor Yaffle too - a philosopher who knew Oliver Postgate's parents.

Not just Bagpuss either, the Clangers got a very good representation with almost all of them there, plus the rather cute and not scary Soup Dragon, the Icon Chicken (made from Meccano at that) plus the orange aliens that were the Froglets too. They even had one of the whistles used to make their noises. Also on show was the original viewfinder, microphone and camera equipment used to record the stop motions scenes, lots of drawings and cartoons from Ivor the Engine, and perhaps good for me and others, the original Pogles characters plus the Witch who was withdrawn after six episodes of The Pogles due to being too scary, and the programme being renamed Pogles' Wood later on. The squirrel Tog looked especially lovely and cute too.

It was a really nice reminisce and the Bagpuss theme of course has to be tune of the day - just made go "awwww" a lot seeing the original old saggy cloth cat (and a bit loose at the seams). The shop in the museum had plenty of merchandise including some limited edition illustrations which looked good but I wasn't paying £85 for them. I did have a wander around the rest of the museum and lots of childhood memories came flooding back including the likes of wooden train sets, rocking horses, trolls, my sister's favourites the Care Bears, and just tons more stuff - even Granstand's old LCD games like Astro Wars too. Really intriguing stuff and well worth a visit for those, never mind the special exhibits - and all free too I should add.

I did have a wander over later to Greenwich, so took the Central Line to Stratford and then the DLR from there, changing trains at Canary Wharf. The good weather did mean that the market and the Cutty Sark area were really busy, and lots of people were sat outside close to Cutty Sark, eating stuff they'd bought from the additional outside market stalls located near there and the Greenwich Foot Tunnel domed entrance. I had a nice mooch around the shops and market so that was really good, and a nice way to wind down a bit in the afternoon. I headed back via DLR to Lewisham, train to Elmers End and tram to East Croydon, so completing a little loop of sorts going back. It worked out okay although I could have done bus to New Cross Gate and train from there to East or West Croydon too.

But definitely though if you get chance betwen now and October, head over to the V&A Museum of Childhood and see the Bagpuss, Clangers and Co exhibit. It'll give you a good reminisce, but also show the behind the scenes making of the shows themselves and showed just how much the Smallfilms company did for me as a child, really enchanting me and taking me away from my younger self - and that in itself was a good thing to be honest. I will always have an affection for Bagpuss though - just something about it which makes me feel really lovely and warm inside. So go!

Thursday 24th March - Busy Homeward

Apparently this day is supposed to be really busy for travel, most likely due to a raft of engineering works happening over the Easter break. I was glad I had booked my seat on the 1030 departure from New Street and was still buzzing after the Clint Mansell gig last night. I headed up out of a very comfy bed and a good night's sleep, and had a really nice Nespresso before heading across to the Wetherspoons for breakfast, with a sausage barm and a filter coffee with free refills for two quid. Can't argue with that really.

I packed up and checked out of the very nice Novotel, which was lovely all round. I must admit I could have taken advantage of another gold perk and done late check out, but I had already booked the 1030 train, so instead took a leisurely walk along Broad Street and noted that some of the Walk of Stars along there had been moved due to works - so now there's five together including the likes of Jasper Carrott, Lenny Henry and Murray Walker all together, quite easy to spot once you find it. It was a downhill walk to New Street and I could again admire the rather lovely Grand Central.

The train was very busy so glad to have got on a little earlier, get a space for the case sorted, and then a comfortable window seat too. It was a nice saunter towards London Euston albeit that from Harrow and Wealdstone onwards we had to go in the slower track for some reason, which meant a delay of around ten minutes getting into Euston itself. I thought some fresh air would be good, so took a walk along Euston Road and crossed over to get the tube at Warren Street to head to Victoria.

The tube was busy but lots piled off at Oxford Circus, so once that was all done, I was able to relax a bit and get to Victoria, and the train on platform 19 to Tonbridge via East Croydon was empty, so was fairly chilled out getting to East Croydon, and with me now not in work till over Easter, a nice time to relax, put the feet up, and then get the snooker on over on ITV4 as coverage of the Players Championship from Event City continued with the second round matches all being played today.

And it proved to be good too - Ding Junhui thrashed Michael White 4-0 and as it provisionally stands, he overtakes Liang Wenbo and is in the top 16. A good showing in the China Open or even moving on to win this tournament might just be what's needed. In case you're wondering just why it matters, the top 16 after the China Open automatically qualify for the World Championship at the Crucible Theatre as the top seeds, with the rest having to go through three rounds of best of 19 qualifying...

Tune of the day in the meantime is the excellent "Eat Me Drink Me Love Me Kill Me" by Pop Will Eat Itself, and with good reason. One key line in there is "In the satisfaction stakes, it's like sitting on the number 9 bus" which is actually the main bus route between Birmingham and Stourbridge. As I came out of the hotel earlier, what bus passed me by on its way out of Birmingham? Yes, the number 9. The song then entered my head and I was humming it all the way back to New Street..

Wednesday 23rd March - Uneasy Listening in Birmingham

I had a busy morning in work and managed to get a lot done in a lot less time, so it was pretty good to be able to knuckle down and crack on with a few things. I did have some disappointments to cope with though, such as the fact that one course I wanted to go on, I can't, well not until the next training budget in the next academic year. It's frustrating really as I want to be able to get on and develop myself, but it's also important to have the same opportunities as the others as well. I might also have to be able to see what the state of play is in terms of how the land lies with other options for training and development.

I left work in good time (so I thought) to be able to get the 68 bus to Euston and be on the 1323 departure to Birmingham New Street for tonight's Clint Mansell gig. However, I got to Aldwych and one part of The Strand was closed off, so traffic was all heading up Kingsway to Holborn, where the lights were out of order. I ended up running virtually from Holborn station all the way to Euston and made it with three minutes to spare on Platform 1 for the train. I was rather warm and sweaty after that and so a nice cold drink on the train was a much needed energy boost.

I arrived in Birmingham New Street, and, oooh wow. Once you get away from the platforms, the lovely open space that fronts Grand Central shopping centre is really nice, and the glass roof allows lots of light in (lots of us know how dark and horrid New Street used to be) plus it just feels so much nicer. When you see how Manchester Piccadilly improved with its glass everywhere, I'm so pleased that Birmingham now has a central space and station to be much more proud of - long overdue. And outside the work on bringing the trams to the station is well underway, and I can see that being of huge benefit.

It was a walk up New Street, and in the past through the building in Paradise Circus and over to Broad Street. Not anymore, as the whole horrible 1960s building is well on its way to demolition. So instead, cross over and walk under a building, then under the slip road from Smallbrook Queensway and on to Broad Street that way. And you can see that and the water works going on there really helping to eventually transform the centre even further, which is good to see.

I walked up Broad Street to the Novotel and checked in. They had been expecting me and all the room cards and everything was ready, with VIP treatment too thanks to my Accor Hotels Gold card membership. This meant amongst other things that the room was upgraded, and not just one upgrade this time, but all the way to executive room level. When I arrived in the room there was a little letter for me with a bar of white chocolate, complimentary water in a fridge, bath robe and slippers, Nespresso coffee machine and as well as a bed, a sofa to lounge and watch telly on. That was rather lovely, and had a Nespresso coffee before I headed out later.

I decided to have a walk around the centre of Birmingham so walked along Gas Street canal basin, over the bridge to the Mailbox, and walked through that (the Harvey Nichols shop in there looked posh) and then under towards Grand Central and the Bull Ring. I had a good walk around the many shops and some of the little independent shops in the Piccadilly arcade just off New Street, and all was good there too. It was especially pleasing to see that so many of them were doing well as well - it's not all about the big names in a city centre, variety is absolutely key.

I headed back to the hotel and got myself showered and changed, and my grey long sleeved Pop Will Eat Itself skateboarder number was on and ready for tonight's gig. I had spotted a Wetherspoons pub The Figure of Eight earlier, and had a nice drink of ale in there along with a hot dog, all a decent price too, and that kept me going nicely for the evening. It was a relatively short walk along Broad Street to the Symphony Hall, and plenty of people milling about the ICC as well as a conference was also on this week. I was getting excited though and ready to enjoy tonight's show.

6 Music radio presenter Maryanne Hobbs had travelled down and had the pleasure of introducing Clint Mansell on stage, reminding us it was 2005 since he played Birmingham (with PWEI, I was there!) and explained that Clint was someone she loved dearly, "with all my heart" and you could tell it was heartfelt. On came Clint and ensemble, and he was so pleased to see a home crowd, although it wasn't full which was a shame really. He spoke about how long it was since he played here before starting the evening off with some of the suite from Noah, which was very well received all round.

The sound in the Symphony Hall was spot on an d this certainly helped make it a really enjoyable gig all round. He then kicked proverbial backside into Pi, and that really did come alive hugely, my favourite of the night and tune of the day - so much bass in there and yet dramatic violins to the fore too. We also got some of the new High Rise soundtrack, which certainly was quite in your face, and added to that a suite from Moon, Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream (with the violin players really making parts of it sound darker than normal) and The Fountain, with "Death Is The Road To Awe" being the closer.

He indulged us with his tale of meeting Madonna and having a chip on his top following a drive through burger meal on his way to meet her, and was reminiscing the venues he had played in Birmingham before, including the likes of the Hummingbird and Aston Villa Leisure Centre amongst others. It felt a really nice warm atmosphere and certainly although a fair number of the crowd were more classical music buffs, they seemed to get it and enjoy it, which was positive. I did spot a few other people in PWEI t-shirts though so it wasn't just me thankfully! But a great gig, and one that's set me up nicely for his talk at the Royal Albert Hall this Sunday, which will be intriguing...

Tuesday 22nd March - Selling and Snooker Loopy

Another day of more eBay sales today, and so it was another trip to Southwark Bridge post office with an item, this time my Rosina Wachtmeister cat clock, which I'd had for several years but decided didn't quite fit in with the new flat. I'm always of the thought that giving someone else a chance to own something like that and give it a good home made sense, and it sold on eBay to someone in North Wales. Naturally for these sort of items I'd prefer Royal Mail as the sender, so a recorded delivery drop off it was, and fingers crossed that'll get to them safe and sound. I did wrap it all up massively with tons of bubble wrap and extra card inside the box to keep it in place too.

Back at work I had a bit of a situation to deal with as it transpired that a printer engineer had arrived, and expected everything to be dropped so we could get everything up and running with four new printers, that possibly weren't even standard with the systems in place. However I took a look at what was doable and there may be a way to be able to get it sorted out, but we shall see. It's the sort of thing (last minute stuff) that I know The Love In My Heart is currently having similar sorts of issues with her place currently, so it's a case of us both sharing those experiences.

Mind you, it was good to be home later and note that ITV4 had all week long coverage of the Players Championship Grand Final snooker from Event City (which technically is in Trafford, not Manchester!) - and seeing Michael White come back from 2-0 down to bear Luca Brecel 4-2 was good, but then Judd Trump also played really well in brushing aside Martin Gould 4-1 in the game after that. I also had spotted Ali Carter getting through on the other table, so it was good to see that happen as well.

I also noted too that Stephen Hendry no less was on commentary tonight too, which may be a considerable coup if ITV have pinched him from the BBC, unless he's freelance in which case he can commentate on a number of tournaments for both channels. Many pundits and broadcasters are freelance these days so that they're not tied to a channel, and it makes sense for all involved to allow it to ensure they keep a good roster of staff - for example Lee McKenzie, the F1 pit lane reporter, does her thing for Channel 4 now, but also she still does plenty of BBC stuff. Epic win all round.

As it's also the Easter weekend this weekend, I suspect a bit of time might be spent seeing some of that tournament - I am at gig for the final, but will possibly record that and see how that pans out. I must admit it's a passion of mine, and it's a month to the Crucible and that's always special too, so the tune of the day just has to be the proper snooker theme, ie: "Drag Racer" by the Doug Wood Band. Now if only the BBC could actually listen to the masses and put that back as its proper theme rather than the naff remix, and all would be well with the world...

Monday 21st March - Selling Out

So all systems go today thankfully, and plenty of things to be getting on with to be honest, including an evaluation of where I might need to submit a proposed change to be able to downgrade the printer drivers. I had planned the change nicely and had written out the documentation, and may need someone else within the team to effectively go to the change meeting and be able to facilitate that, but we shall see. It did show though that at least they were taking the change seriously.

I also headed to the Post Office at lunchtime to be able to send off a recorded delivery parcel. I had printed the postage and label via eBay, but you still have to drop it off at the post office so that the bar code can be scanned and go through the tracking system. It was good though to be able to get that sorted which meant one more item was on its way, and later on tonight I had sold some more, so that's another visit to the same post office tomorrow lunch time. I have no scheduled end of sales till the end of Wednesday, and the only item to be sold I've got ready to despatch on Thursday afternoon.

The estate agent has been in touch and had said that I'd had more viewings on the house, but the feedback has been that it's either too small for them or that they probably need to do some work and they might not wish to do so straight away. My only main concern is that it might not sell as quickly as I'd like, despite the positive vibes from both The Love In My Heart and the agents themselves. I think realistically I know that it might be a tough ask to find someone to buy it, and the longer it goes on the more money I feel that I could have spent elsewhere. I might have to consider other options but I will wait on those I think until I return from holiday.

In the meantime, I spent some time tonight watching the Channel 5 documentary on The Tube, which was fascinating stuff. I saw the staff do the experiment at Holborn where both sides are standing, and that actually seemed to have a better flow of passengers exiting the station up the escalators, and I believe that the trial there is continuing with some promise. All too often though we see overcrowded stations as people en masse try to get to places all at once. For me I'm quite lucky as I avoid most of the peak rush due to my working hours, and I'm glad that I do to be honest.

I've also looked at what else I may be able to sell that I don't use anymore and might have some possible future auctions coming up. Mind you, I think for me it's also a case of seeing how the downsizing works in practice: if I did move in future, how much less hassle it might be compared to the previous move, but also seeing if I am able to live more minimally. I shall see of course, but it's notable that I do feel that I'm able to live in a smaller space and feel okay with it (although my bedroom is actually bigger than the house, so that's at least something I suppose!) Tune of the day in the meantime is the ace "Going Underground" by The Jam, for obvious tube related reasons..

Sunday 20th March - F1 Is Back

It was a leisurely lie in for both of us this morning, although The Love In My Heart's two cats Jô and Brian were doing their best to wake us up, Brian being particularly hyper and running across the bed a few times. Jô normally tries to gently paw The Love to wake her up, but as it turned out she was awake anyway so after an early feed, it was back to sleep for her for a while - can't say I blame her really. I was also avoiding the news as well as I didn't want to know who was winning the F1 race in Australia until I saw the highlights on Channel 4 later on.

So I did my best to avoid the news, The Love made a lovely breakfast, and then on came Channel 4, with The Chain by Fleetwood Mac blasting out - yaay! And on came Steve Jones with Mark Webber and David Coulthard for company. All in all, as a first effort, Channel 4 are doing things right. They had the most rubbish qualifying session ever to deal with and having got both Christian Horner and Toto Wolff to effectively say "it's rubbish" a move back to what it was before was sensible, and that broke the news nicely before the race even began.

In terms of actual coverage, Lee McKenzie still did her ace stuff in the pit lane (a wise move for C4 to retain her) and the excellent Ben Edwards with Coulthard doing their usual spot on commentary job. I must admit though it did unnerve me a bit seeing adverts during the highlights which spoilt the flow a bit - I'd rather have less breaks if possible. Thankfully if there's a promise of no commercials during the race that is good - effectively doing what Sky are currently.

The race was okay but in essence Nico Rosberg got ahead of Sebastian Vettel due to a tyre change at the right time and the safety car was well timed due to Fernando Alonso's spectacular impact, which he managed to walk away from - even more dramatic than Martin Brundle at the same corner in 1996 in fact. Elsewhere Lewis Hamilton charged from seventh to second which he seemed to enjoy, and Daniel Ricciardo was unlucky not to get a podium with a determined drive. Notable too that Webber was the interviewer on the podium and was actually quite nice to his old team mate and rival Vettel!

So all in all, it's back, and Channel 4 did pretty good. The live races will be where we see the difference I think, but I must admit that it'll take some time for Steve Jones to bed in, but once he does, I can see him fitting in (similar was aimed at Jake Humphrey, a former kids TV presenter as well and he didn't turn out too badly) and all was good there. I had to head to the train station whilst the Manchester derby was on - due to the late kick off I couldn't go to the game or else I'd have had not much chance of getting back.

And so I was able to only follow the live text updates, but all wasn't too good and City lost 1-0 with Marcus Rashford scoring the only goal of the game. City have now played three games in a week and not scored once, which is a great worry - it's almost as if the team have dried up and not managed at all to be able to find a cutting edge. And add to that both Joe Hart and Raheem Sterling getting injured and we're really seeing a bare thin squad now. I can't be the only one who wished we'd kept Edin Dzeko eh?

The train back was fine and I arrived in Euston, hopped on the tube to Victoria and then onwards to East Croydon on the train. Thankfully a fair number of items on eBay had sold, so spent some time packaging and sending them off, including my Frank Sidebottom Radio Timperley tape, which I'd not played for years, so thought it best going to a good home. It does have "Guess Who's Been On Match of the Day" on it though, so definitely tune of the day for me. We could have done with his humour to make the derby defeat a tad less miserable mind you!

Saturday 19th March - Sauntering Saturday

It was a relatively chilled out day today, with The Love In My Heart having a bit of a lie in whilst I headed into the city centre to have my hair cut. I'd not had it done for a while and wanted to get it sorted before we headed off on holiday. I was most gutted however to find that my usual hairdresser, The Northern Cutter, had closed down! I didn't know when it had happened but I know that the two lovely ladies Joanne and Michelle will be sadly missed - always really nice and friendly and charged a fair rate for their excellent work too.

I headed up to the second floor of Affleck's Palace and visited Palace Barbers as well, and the two blokes in there were sound. I got speaking to one of them who was cutting my hair about the numerous framed 7", 12" and LPs of Blondie and Debbie Harry, and found out he was a massive fan who idolised her and wanted to collect lots of the singles and albums. He had done quite well too with a few Japanese imports (and a few he still was after too) and we had a good chat about music all round. With that in mind, my favourite Blondie song "Heart of Glass" is going to be tune of the day - who doesn't love the "soon found out, he was a pain in the ass" line after all?

I headed back to The Love's place and we then were off to The Love's father's place. He wanted me to check over why his video recorder wasn't recording the stuff from Sky, despite the fact I'd set it all up and working. It turned out he'd swapped over the TV cabinets for some reason, and when he did so, the SCART lead had gone from the Sky box to the TV, and bypassed the video recorder entirely. One additional SCART lead and re-wire later and all sorted, so SCART from Sky box to video L-2 input, and out from L-1 to the telly. Sorted. He was most pleased for me to be able to do that. And yes, before you ask, even though it's a Sky plus recorder box, he still likes to record to video for his friends that might have missed something and aren't as au fait with technology and all.

Later on we went to check on the house, and all was well there, although I had noticed that the curtain rail had been pulled off at one side, so reseated that and all was well. We ventured to the local market, which was good but nothing special, and then managed to get a few bits of shopping, and I managed to get a couple of boxes which will be ideal for shipping some of the items that I am selling on eBay at the moment. All was well there, and it did feel different to really be back in my local area too.

We then were off to the Elizabethan for a later lunch, and that was really good, especially as the messy chips were just that - some thin chips, complete with melted cheese and some barbecue pulled pork brisket, and the combination was rather awesome it has to be said. It was nice to chill out in there together and The Love was really lovely in her outfit, and so there's a real bonus too. We then headed off back to The Love's place and we spent the evening in relatively relaxed mode.

There wasn't much for The Love on telly because of the England rugby game against France, so we watched last Tuesday's First Dates on All4. That was good, especially as a few couples appeared to get on nicely, and some lovely banter with the waiting staff Merlin, Sam, Laura and of course my favourite, Cici. Naturally The Love likes Fred Sierix (I can see why) and his certain je ne sais quoi also endears people to the show too. Maybe we'll go back and have a wedding special when Scott and Victoria from last year tie the knot!

Friday 18th March - Back Up North

It was a good day all round today - managed to get lots done, and it was quite a nice atmosphere in the office too, probably helped by the fact that a lot of us were managing to get past points we hadn't done previously, or were able to progress some issues. I had managed to do some investigation into a possible issue with the print system and found that for some reason the drivers that we had rolled back to an older version had for whatever reason reverted to the ones that we didn't want. I wasn't sure if this had been done without good reason, and a colleague suggested to me that it wouldn't have been anything done by ourselves. Bit odd, but at least that meant a sensible explanation for what was happening at least.

A few of us did decide to head out for lunch at the local Wetherspoons, and primarily as it's not expensive and also means we can be away from the office too - sometimes sitting in the rest / kitchen area really doesn't always cut it if you bring something back, so makes perfect sense that we're able to occasionally head out. The Fish Friday deal was on so that with a soft drink - bargain, and we were quite relaxed as well which was good. It certainly made for a good afternoon.

I'm glad I did hang back a bit before heading off though, as for some reason the swipe cards on the printers didn't work all of a sudden. A quick check and I found that the gateway server service used for them to talk to the print system had gone down, so a few minutes later and getting that back up, all appeared to be well. It certainly made for a good end to the week to be on top of the situation, and it was therefore a relaxed me heading on the 68 bus from work to Euston.

I was on the 1820 departure to Manchester Piccadilly, and after getting a Meal Deal in Sainsburys, it was time to head to Coach C and get my window seat. That's one good thing now about booking direct on Virgin Trains' website, it does at least allow you that choice of being able to select the seat you want. So if you want a full window view, all is good, and means you don't feel so isolated if you've got nothing but the interior of the train next to you. These little things do matter a fair bit actually, it has to be said.

So it was a nice journey and especially nicer when The Love In My Heart was at Piccadilly to come and collect me, and she soon had me back at her place with the two cats Jô and Brian being around - Jô yet again doing his odd little squeal if I fuss over him - maybe he's jealous, or maybe he knows I'll be sleeping where his usual spot tends to be and that upsets him somewhat, despite my best intentions of being all nice and sweet to them both.

We did watch Gogglebox, as good as ever, and we did notice that the two hairdressers from Brighton were missing this week - maybe they were away. I also spotted that the Michael family from Brighton had another sister other than Alexandra, who didn't say too much but you could tell she was a younger sister. I know that The Love's favourites are Jenny and Lee from the static caravan in Hull, although I like the Siddiquis from Derby - intelligent and funny, and also Leon and June from Liverpool - they seem the sort of older couple I think we'd all like to be to be honest!

Mind you, we did also watch The Last Leg (make "Harder Than You Think" by Public Enemy tune of the day) and that was a surprise and a half when it was announced literally almost live that Ian Duncan Smith had resigned as Work and Pensions Secretary following the proposed cuts to affect the living of disabled people. Whether that had anything to do with Alex Brooker's rant last week I don't know, but it certainly was pretty good to see that he was at least not prepared to take any more of the likes of George Osborne robbing the poor to pay the rich with tax breaks. It was also quite interesting with Louis Theroux on as well, as he's really intelligent and also funny too.

Thursday 17th March - Getting On With It

Lots to be getting on with today as well, and plenty to get the proverbial teeth into, which is going to keep me busy for the next few weeks or so for sure. The good thing is that a couple of potential issues look like ones I might have been able to resolve anyway - one of which was a long standing potential software installation, but won't be going ahead as the software does not work correctly in a managed environment - it asks you to activate the software for each and every user that wishes to use it. To be honest, not what we want to do.

I did also spend some time this afternoon working on a few things too - and one of them was a complete removal of an older version of Rhino 5 plus some plugins, and it was a case of being able to effectively remove everything in one fell swoop and completely clean up. The good thing was that some of the MSI uninstallers were straightforward, but didn't want to particuarly leave behind any stuff so that when we do the new installations, we would be able to crack on.

I also spent some time later on boxing up the Commodore Plus/4 with plenty of bubble wrap for everything which I got from Poundworld. They also had an empty box which I commandeered which was just the perfect size to fit everything in too, so once I had some brown wrap all around the box it all looked good to go, so when it does sell (and it will) it means that I can just get it addressed and sent off, all good to go. I also made sure I had enough packing material to pack other items that are also going to sell too, makes sense.

I must admit that it'll be good to downsize and to sell the things I don't need anymore, and what it has told me is that I really need to think about acting too impulsively with buying stuff in future. Ideally as well it should mean that I won't need to move as much if I did decide to move again, and I'd be able to at least make life a little easier in terms of that too. I suppose for me though the key thing is that I would be able to comfortably live in a smaller space. My flat is smaller than the house, but still feels quite roomy (the bedroom is actually bigger then the bedroom in the house!) so no complaints there.

I did also watch the Speed F1 special with Guy Martin taking on David Coulthard in a series of challenges. I expected them to be close, and they were - with the standing start drag race showing the bike had a good start but was overtaken, and the F1 car clearly had the braking power to show. What was definitely more decisive was the slalom, where I suspected that the bike would be much more suited, and so it proved. I think though the two of them really got on well and showed that no matter what motorsport, once a petrol head, always a petrol head. We just needed a blast of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" to make it all complete.

I did watch Top of the Pops from BBC Four on iPlayer, it was from May 1981. Notably too how many rockabilly acts were making an impact in the charts, and indeed the likes of Hazel O'Connor with the epic "Will You" complete with saxophone solo on there too. I have to admit though that the superb "Stand and Deliver" by Adam and the Ants was a classic of course - but to beat them all, the Vangelis theme from Chariots of Fire. In a word, epic! Tune of the day obviously.

Wednesday 16th March - Accidents Will Happen, Too Often

Mid-afternoon at work and the sound of police sirens were blaring out. Not an unusual occurrence as traffic often heads around the likes of the junction at Elephant and Castle usually with police all around, but it seemed somewhat a little more serious, as the traffic had been stopped, ambulances were on site and the police were also attempting to do what they could to make sure that traffic was diverted around and avoiding the junction. I must admit though it was concerning as the air ambulance also made an appearance later on during the afternoon too.

I was heading over to the post office on Southwark Bridge Road later on to drop off a parcel due to an eBay auction that someone had won from me - one of my Rosina Wachtmeister cat things as that. I could see the traffic building up getting back to Elephant and Castle too, which wasn't good, and I decided it might be easier to walk back to the station but maybe walk towards Vauxhall. This proved to be a good idea, as with no buses moving people were resorting to the tube so that was going to get busy, and I could see that the road had still been closed off with police and ambulances all around.

Later on I found out that it was two motorcycle riders who had collided - I assume one was pulling out at the lights and another one was on the road and hit. It was also especially sad to hear that one of them had died in hospital later on, making for the second fatality around the junction in less than a month. This was also despite Transport for London's best attempts to actually try and make the place safer, by not having a roundabout anymore but instead one road trunking around to another, with then other roads at lights crossing on to this main road. Eventually a public realm space and level crossings should make it easier and safer to navigate, but clearly it's still a bit of a mess really.

I got to Vauxhall after a brisk walk and took the train to Clapham Junction and one to East Croydon - I had been delayed home but I did expect that really. I also then checked out one of the Commodore Plus/4 computers I'd brought back from the house, and wow, it was all working, and with plenty of games too. The good thing was that in fact I had tried a number of games which all loaded fine, but also the fact that they were playable with the joystick also was really good. I couldn't resist a few games of Icicle Works and also Kikstart mind you.

Talking of which, the Kikstart theme is still the same on the Plus/4, ie: a cover version of the TV series which in turn of course is a cover of "Be My Boogie Woogie Baby" by Mr. Walkie Talkie, which I've covered at length in this article - needless to say tune of the day. Incidentally the Commodore 16 and Plus/4 version is different from the Commodore 64 one, but still in its own way very playable, with some neat obstacles and some tricky levels too. Shaun Southern - Commodore game programming legend, that is all!

Tuesday 15th March - There Are More Questions Than Answers

So back to work then. And I must admit as well that I can sense a growing amount of frustration amongst some of them, and with good reason. All became clear in a meeting this afternoon. I did think as well that whatever had happened clearly had left some people rather miffed and for me that's not on. I also had my own probation review after three months moved to tomorrow, so I'll see what comes up then and be ready to be able to ask some questions.

I also spent some time today investigating into a software licencing issue for a new piece of software we've been asked to distribute - Realflow made by Next Limit, who also do Maxwell Render. As it turned out, it's the same method of licencing as Maxwell is, complete with a licence file that needs the vm_enabler switch in the file itself so if you're running your licence server virtually, you'll still be able for it to issue licences out in the right way that you want to. Fingers crossed all is well there.

I also investigated another issue as well to do with the way that one piece of software runs. I suspect this is more down to the vendor's settings for some reason, but nonetheless it was good to dissect a few things and be able to report back accordingly on what's going on. For me at least it was able to use some analytical skills to be able to see how I could move things forward, and then present that in an email too. I suppose for me it's getting on with it all.

I did see the Manchester City v Dynamo Kiev game later in the Champions League, but to be honest it was a pretty dull game overall. For me it's more a case of making sure that City were able to get through to the next round and especially after losing Vincent Kompany to injury earlier on, and that did mute the atmosphere somewhat during the first half especially. Mind you, I don't mind as long as we got through, and a last eight for the first time is a genuine sign of progression, so that has to be good.

In the meantime tune of the day is the excellent "Don't You Want Me" by The Human League, a 1980s classic but also one that as of late has also inspired some football chants as well, and having seen the band live a few times, I can tell you that it's all rather good. Maybe we need some City chants with the chorus of that one - I'll have to think of a few things and see what I can come up with. It did make me giggle hearing the City fans do the Head and Shoulders remake of 2 Unlimited's "No Limits" (ie: "there's no dandruff!") to Joe Hart as he is in said advert mind you...

Monday 14th March - Acquaintances

So after a nice little coffee and orange juice from The Love In My Heart this morning, it was off to the city centre for me and off to work for her, and I was going to be heading to have a coffee and toast in Costa Coffee before then heading out of the city to Cheetham Hill, where the solicitors were. I had made the appointment for 9.30am to make sure I could get what I needed sorted, and that went well. In fact I showed my passport and the solicitor was all good there, and made sure they had my bank details for transfer when the sale goes through eventually, and she mentioned to me that now the contracts could be emailed, so wouldn't have to visit again. Hurrah!

I then headed back to the city centre and had a good mooch around the likes of Fopp and HMV, and I must admit it was good to be able to just peruse the record shops a bit and have some leisurely time browsing the racks. I did have some ideas gathering as well as I went around the city centre for some possible ideas for future birthday presents, but the main thing was to just spend time enjoying listening to some quality sounds and being able to just see what bargains were there at leisure too, all good.

So just before 12 noon I headed to the Footage pub close where I used to work, and had arranged to meet my former colleague Chris for lunch. We spotted the hot snack Cornish pasties for £1.50 each and had one of those, and caught up and had a good chat - it was really nice to see him and he's been one of the main folks who had kept in touch too. One of my other colleagues Graham also came in as he was meeting his mum (whom I also know) for coffee, so good to see them - and colleague and friend Michelle I met in there later for a drink and a chat as she was on a late lunch.

I had one final pairing I wanted to go and see, whom are two of our knit and weave technicians. I've always had a good bonding with them due to me helping them out with IT and equipment stuff but also because they are really nice people, so as they came up the stairs to the first floor of the building and saw me, it was hugs all round and a good chance to catch up with them all. It was so lovely to see them and I think for me it was really nice to see that they were all good and indeed all still being so admired by the students too - they're a good two people they are.

I then had another surprise lined up - I went to see Mum! She wasn't aware I was coming up this weekend and so when I popped up at the door, she was massively pleased and gave me coffee and a lemon slice, and we caught up and had a good chat. It was nice, just the two of us, and I also helped her out locate some of the things for a forthcoming break she was going on, plus also ordered her the Carole King "Tapestry" CD (from which "You've Got A Friend" is tune of the day) - she was thinking about heading to Hyde Park to see her in concert but it's just too dear, so she instead decided a CD was the best option - and as it was cheap, I treated her to it, only fair really.

I walked up towards where The Love In My Heart works and met up later on, and as we had some time together, we headed to Sandbar, again one of our old post work haunts, and it was nice to be sat in there with a nice real ale and a chat together. She had had a hard day and it was nice for her to do what she used to do before I moved jobs and home, and be able to catch up and be together. I must admit having those old times was so nice today, it did make me miss Manchester a heck of a lot to be honest.

The Love very kindly dropped me off at Piccadilly later, and gave me lots of hugs and kisses as I left, which was rather nice actually! The train back I was going in First Class too, as it was only around £2 difference between that and standard class, even with my Man City discount, so I thought "sod it, why not?". It was a good move as I had a hot meal on the train too - a very nice piece of hake in parsley sauce, with a bed of potato rosti and crushed peas. And some bread and butter marmalade pudding for dessert with cream, plus coffee and some Wreckless ale too. Happy bunny!

Sunday 13th March - Back To Manchester

I had a relaxing morning basically tidying up the flat, getting all the washing and ironing done, and also making sure that I had enough clothes sorted for the remainder of the week. I do have tomorrow off, but I am sorting things out with the solicitors for the house - even though the buyers didn't decide to go ahead, I want to be sure that when the next buyers come along, all will be good with it. I did also manage to at least book a mid afternoon train so I could head up to Manchester in the daylight, and The Love In My Heart was going to get an added bonus of seeing me too (as were the cats Jô and Brian!)

So it was off to East Croydon station, then to Victoria and Euston and made it in good time for my 1537 departure to Manchester Piccadilly. It was relatively calm and quiet, and I made the arrival with a couple of minutes' delay, resulting in The Love In My Heart being there and waiting for me in the short stay. We headed off and first stop was the house, mainly to check if I had any post but also to see what was happening in terms of the for sale sign. It was back for sale already so the estate agents were on the ball (good) and it looked like they'd had some viewings too.

We decided to visit one of our old haunts for tea and so headed to the Elizabethan pub in Heaton Chapel. It was still as lovely as ever - the ale was on top form, as was the steak and ale pie I had for tea, and The Love had the Sunday roast lamb which was also gorgeous too. It was good to catch up and it just felt nice being back in one of the places we've spent many a happy time in together as well, so all is good there. I was able to also just admire how gorgeous The Love looked in her outfit too.

We then headed back to The Love's place and relaxed for most of the evening, although I suspect Jô wasn't too pleased as he knew that I'd be sleeping in his spot overnight - and even a little stroke of him cause him to give me a little whimper. The Love reckons that he is jealous in some way (but he shouldn't be really) and we spent a bit of time with some evening telly, and occasionally I flicked over to see what was happening in the snooker before The Love settled in to see her drama serial The Night Manager at 9, which I watched and found to be actually pretty decent.

It was back to the snooker after that and a tense final frame ensued at 9-9 before Shaun Murphy defeated Stuart Bingham 10-9. It was a good if a little tense final overall and so good to see them both back on good form a month before the Crucible. I think too that it was also good to see the crowd appreciate it and be nice and quiet, really makes a difference, and I just wish ITV could use the proper snooker theme "Drag Racer" (make that tune of the day) and all was well...

Saturday 12th March - Norwich, Let's Be Having You!

So it was an early ish Saturday start and off to East Croydon station, taking the train to London Bridge and then from there the bus to Liverpool Street station, where I was going to get the train via Cambridge to Norwich. Normally I would be taking a direct train but engineering works prevented that, so it was a two train journey: Liverpool Street to Cambridge, Cambridge to Norwich. The resulting price was still cheap, and on the way there as first class was a pound dearer, I thought to myself why not, so it was nice at least on the first train out to get free wifi access and relax as the train stopped at all the stations virtually along the way.

When I got to Cambridge, it was a walk from one end of a long platform where the train stopped, to the other end and a little side platform for the Norwich service - three carriages only and the smallest first class compartment ever. Also, no hot drinks or anything on either, so good job I picked up a coffee in Cambridge I reckon. And with plenty of Norwich fans getting on the train at Attleborough and Wymondham I was pretty pleased to be on a comfortable seat in a separate section, it was absolutely rammed. It makes you wonder why Greater Anglia don't do something - either have a longer train with more carriages or extend the platforms so the demand can be met as needed.

I arrived at Norwich station and a few minutes later I was at the ground, and picked up my ticket from the box office as Manchester City had instructed. It was all good and I noticed the entrance to Delia's restaurant inside the ground. I kept thinking of that classic moment when she went on to the Carrow Road pitch at half time, and was demanding a twelfth man and all that, hilarious it was. I suspect that she may have had one too many sherries seeing Manchester City come back from 2-0 down to be 2-2 at half time (and win the game 3-2 as well!)

So I got in the ground, and found my seat (not that I was going to be sitting down mind you as everyone was standing) and all was good as kick off approached. City went for it in the first half with Sergio Agüero coming close a couple of times but to no avail, and Norwich did hit the bar with an excellent shot too. It took around ten minutes or so for the City fans to reference Delia Smith, with the classic chant of "Delia's right, your fans are *****" and then straight after, "Norwich, let's be having you.." hoho. Best moment of the day that.

At half time I went and did one of their meal deals, which puts Manchester City's vastly over-expensive catering to shame. Pie and a soft drink (500ml bottle of Coke at that) - four pounds. Pie and a bottle of beer - a fiver. Sensible pricing and a nice chicken balti pie as well. At City, I'd be looking at four pounds for the pie and three pounds for a Coke, which is why I normally just go for a cup of tea as that's not that expensive. Kudos to Norwich City for their very fair pricing - no wonder there were food queues!

The second half was much of a muchness and as much as City went forward and tried to score, Norwich City held out well and defended as if their Premier League lives were on the line (which it is) and did what they could to stop the ball getting to the six yard box. Try as City might, nothing was happening, and even with a switch to bring Fernandinho down the right side and Raheem Sterling down the left, we simply ran out of ideas which was a bit of a shame. 0-0 it finished, and to be honest, not the most exciting game ever, but away games are at least a decent atmosphere with the fans getting behind the team and really giving it their all, which is what I can remember from the last time I was at this ground back in 1991!

I headed back to the station and as I predicted, the 1535 departure to Cambridge was rammed, and just about managed to get on. Again Greater Anglia were rubbish here, and the train was also delayed into Cambridge so Iiterally had to peg it from one end to the other and just about made the 1704 to London Liverpool Street, and that was a quieter journey with less stops too. I did have a good chat with a fellow City fan on the first train, so that was nice, and it did feel like a good day out all told despite the football not being so good. I may have to venture back to Norwich when there's no engineering works, and see what it's like, especially if it's £9 advance single each way.

I headed back to London Bridge and to East Croydon then home, and settled in to watch the remainder of the semi final of the World Grand Prix snooker, which was pretty good. The finalists were decided and a repeat of last year's world final as well it'll be, so good to see how that pans out later on I reckon. Tune of the day in the meantime simply has to be the excellent "Blue Moon" as performed by Supra, which the City fans were belting out full pelt today in the Jarrold Stand at Norwich City. A really good day all round though and I have missed doing a league away game (last one I did was Blackpool a few years back) and next season when tickets are capped at £30, I might have to see if I can do more!

Friday 11th March - Crisis of Confidence

First of all, it's my brother's birthday today, so I'd like to wish him a very happy time. As I was back in Manchester last weekend, I was able to drop off a card and present for him and be able to see him then, and I know that his girlfriend will probably be planning something nice for him after work today. It's also a sign that we're all growing a bit older (albeit at least disgracefully in both our cases!) and so from that we can take some form of comfort (sort of)

However, I can't help but feel a real crisis of confidence at the moment. The whole house sale thing has hit me pretty hard and I even confided in The Love In My Heart that I was struggling a bit with that. In fact I am: yes I am enjoying the job and getting to learn plenty of new stuff as well as use my experience with issues and resolutions I can already deal with, but at the same time I do of course feel a little distant from The Love especially, even though I know we're doing what we can to see each other as much as we're able to, and indeed be there for each other on the phone.

I also am of the feeling that the last three months have flown by and it's still a case of being able to get on with it as much as I can too. I've got used to the new flat (which admittedly is lovely and warm and cosy) and made the effective use of the space nicely, and I've got used to the commute and indeed the different places I can go and do things. I suppose as well that it's still a case of getting nicely settled and being used to the people and places too - and all of that can take time, especially when it's the first time ever I've lived away from Manchester as well.

I did have one slightly good piece of news though: I had to ring the Manchester City box office as the ticket I'd ordered myself for Norwich City away tomorrow (which I'd bought in advance of thinking the house sale was going to complete - aaargh) hadn't arrived in the post when I got home from work, and so they have made arrangements for me to be able to collect the ticket in person at the ground tomorrow, thank heavens for that. It should be interesting, although I do have to go via Cambridge on the train from Liverpool Street tomorrow, so see how that pans out.

In the meantime, it's worth me drawing your attention to the rather excellent "Wishing Tree" by Little Sparrow, but filmed in 360 degree vision in Salford! It's great to see Katie Ware and the band playing it this way, and I have to say that both Katie and the cello player Sarah look rather beautiful in their dresses. See folks - classy and feminine = beautiful. Tune of the day as it's the title track of one of my favourite albums in the last few years (and my album of 2014 no less!)

Thursday 10th March - Everything On Hold

I had a phone call at around lunch time today from the estate agents, and I'm pleased to say that they were at least as much cheesed off as I was when I got the contents of the call. As you'll be aware, as part of the big move to down South, I've decided to sell the house in Manchester, as none of the family were interested in renting it off me. I had had an offer accepted for a good price, and everything was nicely progressing and I had made an appointment with the solicitor and everything to sort out all the contract side etc with a view to completion at the back end of next week.

I knew too that in reality it was good to have got a buyer in quickly, and that meant that I wouldn't necessarily be paying anymore for two places - for example if a house is empty you have to effectively still pay council tax at the full rate if you're the owner, plus of course any mortgage and insurances still have to be paid. Granted, it's not massive and all that but it is a fair chunk of money to come out each month that I'd rather not do as soon as practically possible.

So when the estate agent contacted me, I could tell it was awkward for her as the buyers had turned up at their office and out of the blue were asking if they could have almost £8k off the asking price, literally just days before the exchange of contracts were to be taking place (at this point under UK law, the house is effectively theirs) - and naturally I wasn't having any of that. It was clear to me that they were making excuses, as it was a case of the estate agent being put on the spot, but thankfully she was behind me on this.

Afterwards, and after they had left, she called me, and told me in no uncertain terms that what they were doing was wrong. They also live in a road in Chorlton-cum-Hardy that isn't exactly the cheapest road to live on, so it did make me wonder if that was a plan all along. Realistically, and as the agent agreed with me, the time for negotiations were way before this stage, and at the offer stage, and she had no hesitation on getting the place back on the market with her view "It will sell - we've got buyers queueing up to move in at the moment." Apparently the potential buyers also wanted to get their money back for the survey they'd paid for etc - absolutely no chance of that. And add to that the legal fees they're probably having to pay the solicitor as well.

It did make me feel pretty down though - I'd even booked the time off to head up to Manchester and visit the solicitor and get all the paperwork side sorted. However, I'm still going to see them and make sure that any paperwork I need to do (plus they need to see my original passport etc) is all taken care of, so at least when another buyer is found, it'll all be good. Another positive is that the survey for the place came back clean and that the asking price was a fair one, which is something that the agent can mention too as it might put any future buyers at ease.

I guess realistically though I'm now looking at around May at the very earliest before I finally sell the place, which is really not helping. Granted, I know I do have some finances to cover these eventualities, and that will help, plus I've added a ton of stuff on eBay to sell which should also help nicely, but it does make me worried that I might have to keep doing what I'm doing and cut down on as much as I can for the time being until all that is sorted, money is in the bank and I'm then able to see what happens from there.

I am also having to maybe seriously consider a few things too tied in with that - but rest assured the one constant will be the love I have from The Love In My Heart. She was really supportive earlier when I called her and having chatted with her tonight, I know she's really behind what I'm doing and that does give me strength. Didn't stop me feeling rather low all round though, so perhaps the moody "Warszawa" from David Bowie's "Low" album (make that tune of the day) sums up my feelings rather nicely. And it's always a week with the 13th in that this sort of luck happens too (call me phobic and all that!)

Wednesday 9th March - Meeting Mania

In fact, two lengthy meetings punctuted the day somewhat today, but for differing reasons they were both worthwhile and actually gave a lot of information out as well, so really useful for us all - and indeed useful for the team to be able to get together and thrash some ideas out. First of all we were thinking over some ideas with regards to print queue delivery and what the future may hold, and working out a plan of action as a team to see what could be done.

In the afternoon it was a presentation from one of our senior colleagues with regards to how the encryption process is going to work, aided by some very nifty scripting that effectively tells the BIOS to use the BIOS password but use its encrypted hash value to do so, so you can then check if the user's hard drive password has been set (and if so reset it) as well as check that the TPM (trusted platform module) device is enabled. Then once the Microsoft Bitlocker Admin Management (MBAM) client is on and configured, that will enable the encryption and send all the keys to a specified server.

Where I used to work, effectively BIOS changes were done locally (and then new devices arriving set correctly to save a lot of time) and from that the Bitlocker enabling was just sending the data to Active Directory, which worked just as well too. I guess though hacving a server for the MBAM stuff also means you can then do all sorts of things such as back up the database server, and there's also tools I know in ConfigMgr to do the same sort of thing too, so lots of ways to approach it of course.

The key thing is that with the new EU Data Protection rulings coming into play from next month, the penalties issued out to companies for data breaches and leaks is massive, and something that I definitely am fully aware of, and had a chat with one of the Microsoft specialists last week in order to see how aware they were of that (and they were) - and definitely one we all need to be on the radar of. I'm quite a private person at heart and do like to make sure my own data is used properly.

In the meantime I've also been watching the World Grand Prix snooker on ITV4, and that's been pretty good with their coverage overall, with one table on the telly and flicking to the other table for the coverage as needed. Alan McManus and Clive Everton in the commentary box too, which is pretty good all round, and Neal Foulds as well. I do think there's a lot of things that they get right which BBC don't anymore (can't be the only one who finds John Virgo somewhat irritating) and their coverage theme tune, although not Drag Racer, is decent, so tune of the day all round.

Tuesday 8th March - And It's Go Go Go Go!

So one thing I was keeping an eye on in between resolving various issues at work today was the announcement of the Channel 4 Formula 1 team for their TV coverage this season. I must admit it's been shrouded in a little mystery, with the only definite being David Coulthard, due to his production company (co-owned with another former BBC producer and Jake Humphrey of BT Sport) having the go ahead to do the work for Channel 4. I was sincerely hoping for Suzi Perry as well but that was confirmed by Suzi herself that she wasn't down for doing it.

So the announcement came, and a quite large team at that. But let's deal with the constants first of all - so David Coulthard is again co-presenter and co-commentator and he is reunited with Ben Edwards in the commentary box - so more of the "Lights out, away we go!" announcements at the start of the race. Ben is quality though and has also narrated the official F1 season reviews over the years too, so that has to be a positive thing I think. Also Lee McKenzie is still doing the roving around the pit lane et al and interviewing drivers, and she has a really good skill at that, so also pleased she is coming along too.

Then there's the added bonuses as per the analysts. Mark Webber is a definite plus for me because like David Coulthard he's driven at this level, and he knows what makes it tick massively - and he's a spot on bloke all round. Really pleased with that one, although I'm not so sure about Karun Chandhok being a more technical analyst and Bruno Senna also doing some work. I'm more pleased with them getting Alain Prost as a pundit for some of the races, and I could give or take Eddie Jordan, although with his BBC Top Gear commitments he won't be coming along to all the races anyway.

The big announcement was former T4 presenter and apparent petrolhead Steve Jones stepping up to the plate to be main presenter. People were a little surprised when Jake Humphrey got the BBC nod back in early 2009 but he's since proved his worth really well, and it might be the same gamble here that may work - the judgement is certainly out on this one, although I know that The Love In My Heart did say that his accent may annoy some people. The other potential big announcement was Susie Wolff also joining the team as an analyst after her retirement from motorsport. When you consider her husband is Toto Wolff the Mercedes team boss, might be a good inside option to find out more than most too.

Last, and by certainly no means least, the legend that is Murray Walker is also on board. I was really pleased when I found this out to be honest. He's still a commentary legend years since his retirement, and if they're planning him doing special features and interviews with F1 folks, you can only imagine what it'll be like. Indeed they had Karun Chandhok and Mark Webber having a Skalectrix race complete with Murray commentating - Karun said it was a dream come true as Murray had retired before Karun had started his F1 career, so special for him too. And it is literally go go go go!

And they're keeping the F1 theme that is Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" (so naturally tune of the day) - there's just something so iconic about the John McVie bass line as it kicks in with some guitars over the top, and it just harks back to the early days of coverage as Murray Walker and James Hunt would be in Monaco commentating on the racing etc. So all in all then it's just whetted the appetite for the season to come and can't wait to see how they manage it all. It is indeed go go go go!

Monday 7th March - Selling the Sci-Fi

I brought back a fair amount of stuff with me from The Love In My Heart's place, as it was stuff from the house that I'd recovered from the loft and needed to sell. As it turned out, plenty of which were some sci-fi stuff which I'd bought over the years and thought that there was no use keeping it with me any more, plus the last bits of the Rosina Wachtmeister cat stuff. I did think about keeping the clock but thought in the end that selling it all off was the better option, so I spent some time tonight sorting that all out.

In fact it proved to be a good move all round, as once I'd sorted out what needed to be sold I spotted that some of the items still had their certificate of authenticity as well which always helps enormously when you're attempting to sell items off, especially if it's also a limited run of anything. It took some time but it definitely will be worth doing, notably of course if I do manage to make any money from it all. I am hoping so, although I do know there's a couple of sci-fi shops in Croydon which I could always look at selling to them if need be as well, so I haven't (as yet) ruled that out either.

I also put in a complaint email about the train journey yesterday, and was surprised when I received an email the same day for a full refund of the ticket for the journey. I'm not surprised as this is Virgin Trains we're talking about, and usually they've always been spot on when sorting out any issues with trains particularly. I also wrote a very fair email as the train manager last night was really friendly and helpful and that really did make a lot of people feel less upset about their journey generally.

I also spent some time working on a few things today and one of which was sorting out the Group Policy proposal I had to take forward. It seemed that for some reason the shutdown button wasn't correctly appearing on some logon screens, and even though all the settings were present and correct in all the Windows images I could see, it for some reason didn't show at all on others. I had a proposal to write and my senior member of staff and line manager approved it, and all was good there.

I also relaxed later in the evening with some Human League, and some early Human League at that, so "The Path of Least Resistance" is tune of the day. It's a marked contrast to how the band would become because the earlier stuff was much more darker and yet still electronic, and the change of direction was one which ultimately of course led them to become 80s icons and all, but it's noticeable that even now Phil Oakey gets some of these much older songs into the live sets. Yaay, I say!

Sunday 6th March - Mothers and Delays

After a nice lie in and some nice breakfast, The Love In My Heart and I decided to check in on the house and make sure nothing was needed to be picked up from there. I did bin the final batch of video tapes that were no longer needed as well as make sure everything else as need be were emptied as well. It did feel quite sad walking into the place as it's all empty, but at the same time I know that soon it will be sold and someone else will be making it their home too, which is really good. Plus once I've sold, I can then think about using the money I've made as a deposit, or even looking into saving that and then maybe seeing how the land lies in the future.

We then headed to John Lewis in Cheadle to have a mooch around, and I got some nice ideas for gifts for forthcoming birthdays as well as being able to work out a few possible purchases for the flat - as there's a John Lewis Home not far from where I live, so that might be something worth consideration. I also went into Sainsburys and bumped into someone who worked where I used to at one of our sites, so was good to catch up with him and chat for a bit first.

The Love and I then went for some lunch before then heading over to see Mum. She liked the Mother's Day card I got her plus the gift card which she asked for so she could get herself some jeans, and as it turned out my sister, brother in law and two children were there too, so it was good to see them too. I did have a good chat with everyone and also showed Mum some pictures of the new flat and of my cousin and family who I went to see last weekend, so all was good there.

The Love then headed off with me to Piccadilly train station to get the train back to London, and it was plenty of hugs as we said goodbye. The weekend had gone far too quickly and I really wanted to stay longer and give her more hugs really. I got to the platform for the 1755 train, and it looked like nothing was happening, and it turned out that due to an incident at Stockport, that train was cancelled. Not good. So it meant I'd have to get on the 1815 departure instead.

Mind you that did mean two train loads of people getting on to one, and that meant that the train was completely full with not a spare seat to be found. I did at least place my luggage in the racks but it wasn't the nicest journey ever, as there were further delays before I arrived in Euston at least half an hour later than what was planned, which wasn't good. However as I walked past one of the coaches two people waved from the window, and I recognised them too - it was two of the staff from the conference office of where I used to work!

They were down in Richmond for a two day event, and so wanted to go for a drink before heading there, so we thought that a cheeky drink in the Euston Tap was on. I couldn't agree more, and it was a nice time to wind down and catch up with them both, and chat about all sorts too. They did say that they missed my skills and assistance which was nice to know, and that made me feel good. They were heading back via Willesden Junction so I gave them a couple of handy hints before they set off, but it was an unexpected and nice surprise all round - so tune of the day is "Suddenly I See" by KT Tunstall, as suddenly I did see them!

Saturday 5th March - The Villa-in Of The Piece

So it was nice to be up and about in the morning, with a nice bacon toastie made by The Love In My Heart, and the two cats Jô and Brian even accepting some Dreamies as fed by me rather than The Love, and all was good as we pottered around watching Saturday morning telly. The Love was heading to her father's later and I was going to see Manchester City take on Aston Villa with my friend, so that was going to be good to see him as well.

I did decide to head into the city centre for a while and do some record shopping. I do miss the likes of Vinyl Exchange and I guess for me that it's a thing that I used to love doing on a Saturday morning, so always something nice to do. It was noticeable how many less CDs that they now have in stock, but the vinyl downstairs seems to always be doing reasonably well. Also, the same story in Vinyl Revival around the corner as well - lots of vinyl and the CDs appeared to be less. Maybe it's a real sense of how things are going in terms of record sales and / or collectable items?

I headed back on the tram to the ground later on and went to meet my friend, who was in good spirits and really pleased to see me as well, which was really nice of him to say. We headed up to our seating position and all appeared well, the weather was a bit on and off but generally okay, and City were looking okay in training and the side selection also appeared to be decent, with Yaya Touré back from a minor injury. I was hoping for a better result than when I saw us lose against Leicester a few weeks back.

The first half was frustrating - we did everything but score and had some good chances, some which were saved well by Brad Guzan, others which had some pretty woeful finishing by Wilfried Bony. You also sensed when Sergio Agüero got the ball that stuff would happen, and so it was good to note that he was at least giving it a good go to shoot at goal. As I had the chicken balti pie at half time we were hoping for better things and indeed some goals to cheer us both up from the cold.

And five minutes in the second half, and we were all good. The ball was down the right and Agüero pulled it back to David Silva who passed it along the touchline to Yaya Touré - and he finished with aplomb. 1-0. Two minutes later a ball through from Bony was attempted to be cleared by former City player Micah Richards, but his clearance hit Agüero and rolled in for 2-0. Alan Hansen probably would have called it sloppy defending and unbelievable to be perfectly honest.

Agüero teamed up with Silva with a lovely 1-2 to make it 3-0, and the ball was crossed low from the right from Jesús Navas to allow Raheem Sterling to score from the bench to make it 4-0. Agüero also missed a penalty after Kelechi Iheanacho had been fouled - he hit the post whilst attempting to place it in the bottom corner. I'd have liked a hat trick and all but wasn't complaining at a 4-0 result, that was for sure. It was a good way to bounce back and I am hoping for more of the same in the future.

Later on we had a brew at The Love's place before he headed off home, and I stayed with The Love and we had a lovely tea all round, some really nice steak with herb potatoes, a diane sauce and mushrooms, all lovingly made. The dessert though was ace - perhaps the finest cake The Love has ever made, and that's saying something. It was a lemon drizzle cake with cream in the middle and lemon curd on the outside, and it was just way too nice. I had to make sure I stopped at one slice, but believe me I could have very easily eaten the lot should I have wanted to.

We also saw the Jonathan Ross show later on, and it was notable that Richard Gere was on and having a right laugh, as was Jack Black and he and Ross went to see who could fit the most marshmallows in their mouths! It was also notable that they had Berry Gordy (he who formed Motown) along with cast members who were playing Diana Ross and the Jackson 5, and they were all ace, notably how the five blokes did "I Want You Back" superbly, so tune of the day as it's an old Motown classic of course.

Friday 4th March - On The Surface, Snow!

I spent a fair amount of time today with one of the new Microsoft Surfacebooks, and following on from the start I made yesterday, I've spent some time getting Windows 10 Education on there and that seemed to work fine. However, the Novell Zenworks client install afterwards decided to give a few crashes here and there which wasn't good. However once I then updated the wireless drivers and indeed used a wired to USB network adapter, it seemed to be a lot more stable as well, so that allowed me to get on with a few things - especially after I'd done a full Windows reinstall.

I did also manage to get Adobe Creative Cloud 2015 on there, which took a fair amount of time, and when installed, the Surfacebook has an additional nVidia graphics adapter as well as the Intel HD onboard one, which means then you're able to effectively allow that to decide what level of graphics acceleration is required for certain applications. For us both working on them that also meant that we'd be effectively making sure that the likes of Photoshop and Premiere Pro uses it (which it does) plus using some nVidia tweaking tools we could see under the hood of the driver as to what executables are supported.

Meanwhile The Love In My Heart had been keeping me updated with the fact that snow was falling in Manchester, and so much so that there was enough for the children near the nursery she manages to go outside and build a snowman - which for March might have seemed a tad unusual. In fact I was just hoping that the weather wasn't that bad that I would be able to make it up - so she was keeping me posted with weather reports throughout the day.

It was lovely and sunny albeit a tad cold in London, and when I left the office around 5pm it was still that way, and light too, and took the 68 bus on the way to Euston. In recent weeks this route now has become the newest one to have the new look Routemaster buses on board, so I was able to sit in relative comfort as the bus took me past Waterloo, past the South Bank and then past Aldwych up to Holborn and Euston, and in good time for the 6.20pm departure to Manchester Piccadilly.

I arrived on time in Manchester and it just looked wet rather than snowy, and The Love came to collect me. In fact there were still bits of snow on her car and the untreated roads did still look a little white, although the rain falling most of the evening had seen to that. It was good to see her and have plenty of hugs, although the cats were a tad jealous, Jô in particular had this little squeal if I was fussing over him, sort of not liking it for some reason. A bit odd really.

Anyway, we settled in to watch Gogglebox, which was as good as ever, and that made me giggle with some of the comments coming out from the viewers, and then The Last Leg, complete with ace Public Enemy theme tune "Harder Than You Think" (make that tune of the day) - and they were having a right giggle about the news but also attempting to see if a wall could be built to stop Americans escaping to Canada should Donald Trump be elected and them wanting to escape. I think The Love even quite enjoyed it, not that she would actually admit that I suspect!

Thursday 3rd March - On A Roll

There are days you get when everything you do appears to go right, and that you feel really positive about all you've done. Today was definitely one of those days: I managed to resolve and close a shed load of calls, and lots of planned things came together. So for example I had packaged up both Service Pack 5 versions of both Autodesk Maya and its Mental Ray plugin, all good. I then decided to add those and the Ext1 service pack for Mudbox 2016 and test out the whole Entertainment Creation Suite package plus relevant patches. Amazingly, it all worked first go and with no issues. Now that is what I call a result.

I also spent some time looking at some of the advanced printer settings with my senior colleague, as he wanted to pass on some useful information with regards to things like the card readers that they use. We also noted that some of the printers in terms of stats had done a fair number of pages in the last couple of years (not as many as say one I had in my previous role, but still..) and I noticed that one on device, error logging appeared to have been turned off from at least a couple of years ago. Either it's a mega reliable printer (highly unlikely) or someone had turned that off...

In the afternoon I spent some time with the new shiny Microsoft Surfacebook - all seemed well until my colleague and I had noticed that in fact these had been shipped from the USA. Not only was there a two prong power adapter part (thankfully the main brick has a figure of eight connector so we were able to use another power cable) but also the keyboard had a US layout too (the positioning of the @ symbol key is a giveaway of course) - and from there we were able to at least whack on Windows 10 Education and then see what it could do.

It did transpire though once we'd joined it to Active Directory over wireless (there's no wired adapter by the way) it all seemed good enough but it was then a case of seeing what else we could do with it. It did seem to want updated drivers and firmware, got those all sorted out, but also it was a case of that it would occasionally crash before those drivers went on. A bit annoying, but hey ho, we got there in the end. And on top of that I quickly resolved an imaging issue and found that the latest boot WIM hadn't been used, which has some additional network drivers. Once we did that, all sorted.

I had a pretty relaxing evening eventually - I headed off to Poundland near work to get some bubble wrap but also got a picture frame the right size to replace my really old frame which has a signed picture of We've Got A Fuzzbox and We're Gonna Use It in there - and it now looks the part where it is on top of one of the bookcases. And yes, I'm still a fan. In fact I decided to blast out their first album Bostin' Steve Austin later and the superb "Rules and Regulations" is still a classic, so tune of the day really.

Wednesday 2nd March - Abysmal

Oh Manchester City, where do I begin with tonight's shambolic performance at Anfield? I could literally write so much in so little time to describe my sheer frustration at the way that the team didn't play at all well, and to be honest a scoreline of 3-0 was being rather kind to us all round. In fact if truth be told I'd have quite liked to have visited the dressing room after the game and given them all the hairdryer treatment that a certain other manager used to infamously give his players.

It was such a contrast to the League Cup final a few days ago against Liverpool - the desire wasn't there, the service wasn't right whatsoever and it seemed that we were swamped all the time in midfield - the ineffective Fernando meaning everyone was going through him like a knife through butter, notably how Adam Lallana was unchallenged for the first goal (and really Joe Hart should have saved this) and especially how then James Milner was allowed the space to shoot home a second before half time.

I think what upset me the most was the scorelines unfolding elsewhere, with Arsenal and Tottenham both losing, meant that in fact a win would have been nice to close the gap to the top and indeed with Leicester City drawing the night before, advantage to be taken. But no. And to compound it more, Man U won and are now level on points with us too - and there's a real possibility that they could yet go above us come derby day, and that would be pretty horrible.

It's hard to know what else to say really, especially as it just angers me so much in terms of being paid so much and yet underperforming, and our record against the top eight teams this season has been woeful to say the least, and this is why we're not at the top. Did we really miss Yaya Touré that much tonight? Did Liverpool make a mistake not playing Lallana and Origi from the start on Sunday for the League Cup final? And most of all, are the players even bothered to be playing for Pellegrini now? It does make me wonder, it really does.

3-0 could have easily been 5 or 6 without question, and there has to be some serious thinking ahead in the next few games coming up. We're now in a real fight for a Champions League place to qualify for, never mind anything else. And on top of that, there's the prospect of having to face teams who are battling for their survival, starting with Aston Villa at the Etihad this Saturday. I just hope we can at least win that and get some points on the board. Tune of the day is "Disappointed" by Morrissey, to say it seems apt is the master of understatement.

Tuesday 1st March - Back to the 80s

At work, not quite, as I'm sure the likes of a BBC Micro and Commodore PET might just excite some but scare others at the same time. However the train service this morning felt it was back to the 1980s though with delays happening a plenty at East Croydon, and when I got to Blackfriars, it transpired that a passenger had been taken ill on a service at City Thameslink, so that clogged up the trains coming through, and the one I normally get to Elephant and Castle from there was terminated at Blackfriars - errr yeah great. Not.

Still, plenty to get the teeth into today and a lot of preparatory work was being done all round, as I'm looking into a couple of new software packages that had been requested. In fact, the licencing was going to be the key thing and it looked like a network licence was doable in both cases, so I've already got the DNS aliases at the ready for the servers concerned, along with a suitable server to go on. And all I need to do now is wait for the vendor to do their bit, and all should be pretty good I hope.

I also spent some time testing out an issue a colleague at another site had reported, where it seemed that on power up some of the laptops weren't showing a shut down or restart button. And indeed they weren't. Normal Windows behaviour is to do so and you can even enforce this in Group Policy so it defintiely appears at the log on screen. However I suspect an imaging error (albeit a minor one) may have caused it, as I took apart the Windows WIM and viewed the registry inside it, and even there it had the local settings accordingly set. So I think what happened is that somewhere along the line it seemingly failed. Might be worth seeing if we can enforce that setting though which could be an easy win.

Anyway, I headed home and popped into a couple of shops to get presents for Mother's Day and my brother's birthday, having managed to get some cards in the large Sainsburys last night (and indeed get some washing tablets from Persil - 38 of them for £6, with 20 the same price. No brainer really!) - and once done it was a case of being home, do a shed load of ironing and washing, and kick back (appropriately enough) with some 1980s music to see in the evening.

In fact I played CD1 of the Ministry of Sound Electronic 80s compilation as well, which really is a killer track listing all round? You want the classic "Vienna" by Ultravox. You sure do. How about the full 12" mix of Soft Cell's "Tainted Love / Where Did Our Love Go?" - why not? And indeed the likes of Alison Moyet in fine form on "Don't Go" by Yazoo, the Visage classic "Fade To Grey" and the early Duran Duran classic "Planet Earth" plus an even earlier Human League effort in "Being Boiled" (although technically it shouldn't be there as it was first released in 1978!) - so all good there.

However one track still usurps them all and definitely tune of the day for me - the all time classic of all time that is Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart". Okay so it's not fully electronic even though there are some killer synth lines in the song, but it really defined me as a person back when I was younger and really does hit the right buttons in the right place. It for me still is my favourite single of all time and being always Mancunian (I may live in Croydon but my Mancunian roots will never desert me) it just is something that we all deem to be extra special. So there you go, and back to the compilation I go with Heaven 17...