Dear Diary... May 2017

Wednesday 31st May - Back In The Groove

Well, sort of. It was back to work today but admittedly it was a fair bit to catch up on, despite only missing one day off yesterday. I was doing some testing mainly today but it was fairly tough going, not least because it was a juggling act of getting several things done and working out the best course of action in some cases. For me at least it showed that it was nice to be relied on in terms of having people ask me questions and get things sorted out, but also it was good that I feel like I can just get straight into things. Definitely into the groove, without the Madonna classic being played.

It was a quick diversion on the way home. I've got a friend staying this weekend as we're off to see Depeche Mode at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday, and so I'd managed to get everything in terms of spare, so single air bed on offer from Sainsburys - done, single bedding set and fitted sheet from IKEA - done. Single duvet and quilt from Argos - also done. So I just needed a pump for the air bed and I thought "no faffing around here, let's get a proper electric one" and as it turned out Milletts, which had moved in the centre of Croydon and merged with the Blacks store, had some on offer at half price - so £10 for a pretty good one that had inflate and deflate modes. Nice.

I gave it a quick go once I got home with the air bed and that blew and was all good in pretty much next to no time. The deflation worked well too. It then meant I was able to effectively put the air bed back in its original box without any trouble too, so good to know that I'd be able to do that once I'd got stuff sorted back out on the Sunday. With all the bedding now washed too, it just means that it'll all be a good time to be had by my friend and I, and I've always then got it got for anyone else coming to stay other than The Love In My Heart as well (such as when Mum comes again at some point...)

And the added bonus that Manchester City Women's away game at Sunderland was on BBC Red Button too, so that gave me a chance to watch some of that and see how they would do. With Chelsea Ladies winning well, City needed to win to at least be level on points with the title to then be decided on the Sunday. City kept pressing but no goals were coming, and then in stoppage time up popped Georgia Stanway to blast a shot home for a valuable 1-0 win. And just like the men's team it seems that they have that "fight to the end" mentality that really does come forward well.

I did flick over in between the halves and at the end and see some of the election debate on BBC One. What was interesting was that everyone there was pretty much remarking on the point that Theresa May wasn't there and had sent Amber Rudd instead, and of course that played into the hands of everyone else. It was perhaps notable that the parties all had a good say and (I have to say) that Caroline Lucas and Leanne Wood were particularly good too. If I lived in Brighton, no contest, Caroline would have my vote for local MP every single time. Tune of the day is in fact "I Wanna Be Elected" by Alice Cooper, as it seems apt for the time of year...

Tuesday 30th May - Bon Anniversaire

It was lovely for myself and The Love In My Heart to both be off work, and with good reason. It was this day nine years ago that we both met for the first time and had our first date, and to this date still one of the most wonderful days of my life ever, if not the most wonderful. I think back about the whole evening on a regular basis, how much we got on famously and indeed how enjoyable it all was, and not least the really meaning that going home was so difficult because I wanted time to stop there and then.

So fast forward to today, and we both had bought each other lovely cards, and swapped those in the morning before I made us a nice cooked breakfast to start the day, and once all showered, ready and changed, it was off out for the day to one of our favourite places in London - Greenwich! We both thought it'd be good to head for a nice walk around the park and do lunch there too, so it was a hop on the Overground to Shadwell, getting the DLR from there to Cutty Sark and arriving to some bright sunshine too. Hurrah for that!

Once there we then walked round the outside of the Cutty Sark, along to the Thames Path and headed along till the middle of the Royal Naval College and part of the University of Greenwich, then crossed along the centre to the road, and walked back and across towards The Queen's House, then through the columns there and on to Greenwich Park itself. For a change we decided to head towards the boating lake, then take the Lovers' Walk on a gradual uphill walk past the Queen Elizabeth's Oak (not that it was signposted to spot though) and at a junction where a former Roman temple was (Time Team dug up there some time ago).

Once past there it was then along Great Cross Avenue and past the bandstand, and before we knew it we'd arrived at the Pavilion Café and were at the top of the hill near the Observatory, so that was good. We stopped for coffee at the Pavilion Café which was lovely, and then once done we admired the view from the top of the hill and noted the masses of people walking up the hill, armed with selfie sticks etc, and all attempting to get a picture of the view with them in it whilst simultaneously blocking the view for the masses. Meh. We walked down and through the park and to the Greenwich Tavern for a drink.

Once that was all good, we walked through to the centre of the shops and The Love and I had a good mooch around the likes of Oliver Bonas and Joy before then deciding to have a late lunch / early tea at The Spanish Galleon. We both went for the cod and chips, and it was a massive cod in lovely beer batter along with some seriously chunky chips. That was lovely for us both not least because it was filling, delicious and with some nice staff on board too. We nattered for ages and then it was back on the DLR and the Overground to my place.

The Love had packed most of her case earlier in the day, and we sorted out the remainder of it before then saying goodbye to my flat and we headed off back to East Croydon, with train and then a packed tube to Warren Street, where we had more than enough time to head off to the Crown and Anchor for a drink together. It was nice to sit outside and we managed to get a table quickly, and reflect on a wonderful four day extended weekend together, and we raised a toast to ourselves for nine wonderful years. Tune of the day is "One Love" by The Stone Roses, which apart from being a Mancunian classic I love, has the immortal line of "One Love, we don't need another love.." which says it all about how I feel about The Love In My Heart really.

Later on we headed off to Euston and I made sure all was good for her to get the 2000 train back to Manchester Piccadilly, and I gave her hugs and kisses at the station. I know being apart is something we've had to do because of the job and move, but in many ways it's made us appreciate the time we have together a lot more and we've grown stronger because of it. Here's to many more years of laughter, smiles, happiness and love together. I love her so much.

Monday 29th May - Off to Osterley

As we're both National Trust members, I'd spotted a property that neither of us had been to before, Osterley Park and House, and thought it'd be a good idea for us both to go. In fact it was one of the last surviving stately homes inside the Greater London area, and with its park space, a nice place to explore I thought. So once we'd had some breakfast and was able to chatter for a while, it was off on the train from East Croydon to Victoria, District Line to Hammersmith and swap over to the adjacent platform for the Piccadilly Line, which would take you to Heathrow but we got off at Osterley, noticing the old platforms just prior to the station.

We walked back along the main road and turned left, over the tube and the old platforms, and to the entrance to Osterley Park. A grand driveway and a farm shop half way along greeted us before following a path which swept around the lake and onwards to the house itself. The courtyard area had two cafés and a shop, and a second hand book shop too. In fact we liked the look of that and so then went to the small kiosk for the entrance to the house and had a good look around.

Lots of things impressed me about the house: one room was called the eating room and didn't actually have a dining table in there, and the long gallery was full of beautiful furniture and plenty of historic paintings, one of which was on loan to a property in Jersey at the moment. We noted the lovely old bedrooms which would have been the state bedrooms had anyone important actually come to stay, and also the rather beautiful hand drawn wallpaper in one of those rooms.

We did like the under stairs basement too which had a pastry room, a large kitchen with range and the volunteer explained that due to the heat it was the furthest away possible from the eating room, not good for the servants having to carry all the food across though! We also liked the beer and wine cellars hidden away and later on we ventured into the café and had the chicken and vegetable broth for lunch, very wholesome and nice. And good timing too as it was chucking it down outside and all of a sudden the café queue increased tenfold!

Later on we took a walk around the gardens, but took the route in the opposite direction to everyone else (so it seemed anyway) as we were followed the woodland walk around the adventure playground, a swan and cygnet all cuddled up by the opposite side of the lake, and then the gorgeous Temple of Pan, the orangery, and all the vegetable gardens along the way. It was beautiful and certainly for me well worth the walk around alone, never mind the house.

The rain was threatening again so I got an ice cream on the way out and we walked back to Osterley station, and got the tube and train the same way back to East Croydon. Once back at mine we chilled out with some telly and The Love caught up on the soaps, and I made some nice penne carbonara (first time I'd done that in ages) which went down well. We ended up seeing Britain's Got Talent, and the singer who covered an Adele song did a pretty good job all round, but the best act were DNA who did mind reading and it was superb, and they deservedly won in my view. Tune of the day though is the Adele song "When We Were Young" as it harks back a more innocent and lovely time for all of us...

Sunday 28th May - Str-Eat-Life

It was nice to have a full cooked breakfast and enjoy it with The Love In My Heart, as we both were going to be heading off out later today and have a nice time in North London. In fact it was also good to have a bit of a lie in together as well, so that was cosy and certainly something we both needed in terms of sleep. The breakfast went down well, we both snuggled up and then got ourselves ready, and just before we left we saw the Channel 4 intro to the Monaco Grand Prix, with them managing to do a piece with Prince Albert and Princess Charléne as well, impressive stuff. I'm sure David Coulthard pulled a few favours there to say the least, but it was great to see that access and have them both talk about the race in such a way.

We then headed off to East Croydon station and on our way to Alexandra Palace, so this was first on to Victoria, then a Victoria Line tube to Highbury & Islington, and changed there for the Great Northern train, a mere piddly 3 carriage effort. I'll be so glad when these get replaced with newer safer trains of 6 carriages, and it trundled along past Drayton Park and Finsbury Park on its way to Alexandra Palace, which has the most daft exit system to get to the path to the park, doubling back on yourself - partly because the path over the railway bridge has no ticket barriers at either end.

We walked up the hill (The Love commented it was a fairly long hill as well as a bit steep) and at the top we got to the festival called StrEatLife (work it out) which was a mix of street food, craft beer and also lots of music playing as well. We spotted the television tower and I showed her where the entrance was to exhibitions and the likes of the Masters Snooker and PDC World Darts Championship, and we then had a good mooch around the stalls, and lots of them too with plenty of food and different cuisines from everywhere, certainly something for everyone.

As the weather was getting warm a drink was in order, so I went for the Five Points Porter (gorgeous) and The Love had a Pimm's, full of fruit as well which looked very nice. We managed to get a bench seat and had a good natter, soaking up the sun and generally having a lovely time together. In fact it was tempting to stay there all day with drink, but what we did do instead was to head to one of the food stalls each and get some lunch. I spotted a stone baked pizzeria and had the capri one with ham and mushrooms which was gorgeous, and The Love went for some cajun chicken strips and some cajun fries, which were a tad spicy but very very nice indeed!

We sat on the hill in the park close to the palace and admired the view from there, with lots of the tall central London sights below us, and had our lunch there, which worked out well. In fact later on we both then had another drink - a beer each this time and I had the rather lovely red ale that was on offer from the Pin-Up Brewing Co, The Love had the lager, and being sat there chilled out was all good. In fact we'd just finished our beer and we noted the clouds were looking a tad dodgy, so we walked back through Alexandra Palace Park and arrived close to the station just as it started to rain more.

We spotted a nice pub, The Starting Gate, opposite the station and so went in there and got a table. Even better was the fact that they had the Florida Black ale (and it was very black) for a mere £3 a pint, a bargain anywhere in London to be fair that. So that was mine, The Love had the wine, and we relaxed in there for a bit with some lovely atmosphere. For some reason mainly due to the name of the festival, I had Randy Crawford's ace "Street Life" in my head, so that's tune of the day (and yes, Roxy Music's song of the same name was also a contender but the Crawford one suited the feel better this time around)

It was then back on the train but a different way, going to Highbury & Islington and picking up London Overground to West Croydon. For The Love, this meant a cheaper fare too (£3.30 on Oyster as opposed to £4.80, primarily due to route taken but also because the journey didn't involve trains and tube, which always ups the prices somewhat - well worth noting that) and then once back at mine we enjoyed the F1 race in full as I'd recorded it. The race wasn't so good with only the late safety car adding any excitement. We needed some rain to mix it up I reckoned!

Saturday 27th May - South Bank Sizzle

It was a morning of sorting out the flat, cleaning everywhere (again) and then once I'd built up the new bedside little box table from IKEA (the Skoghall one was discounted with the Family Card and in fact a bargain and fitted where I wanted it to go superbly well) - it was then off to East Croydon station to meet up with The Love In My Heart, who was coming down on the train. The weather looked nice and warm and The Love and I were certainly not going to miss out on all the sunshine that's for sure.

Once we'd arrived back at my place and dropped everything off, we headed back on the train to London Bridge, entertained by two rather merry and drunk Arsenal fans on their way to Wembley to see the FA Cup final later on. Once at London Bridge we took the overbridge exit to the other side of Tooley Street and through the gorgeous arches at Hays Lane which really did feel like an archway to the River Thames, and followed the path alongside City Hall to Potters Fields Park. We had planned to look at the Spanish food and drink festival there, and it was packed. Unfortunately the queue for the tokens (which you needed to buy first before the food and beers etc) was packed, so we decided to leave it be and head over Tower Bridge instead.

Once over the bridge, we noted by the hotel at the front were lots of outdoor food stalls, so we headed there, and with a bar serving nice beers, we were all good. The Love got a massive pork roll with apple and looked good, and I had the chicken katsu with chilli sauce and some rice as well, both of which were good sized and lovely. I even had some ale and The Love a pint of cold beer, and we sat by the river taking in the sun and enjoying a spot of lunch as well - can't be bad can it?

We took a walk around St Katherine's Dock and The Love remembered it from The Apprentice amongst other things, and we also went around there and spotted a few nice bars and pubs, one of which was hosting a wedding reception where some of the guests were dresssed beautifully, but the bride didn't look as nice (which surely should be the other way round, right?) - and then from there alongside the River Thames on the North Bank, passing the Tower of London and the old cobbles that were used in the London Marathon.

A lot of the riverside places on the North Bank were closed, mainly as they serve the City during the week, but surely it'd have made some sense to be open weekends, you'd have thought. Anyway, we got to the Millennium Bridge and crossed back over to the South Bank, taking in the views from there of Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast and looking back, St Paul's Cathedral. Nice that was, and once over we then headed to the Founders Arms where the Twickenham Pale was looking good in terms of the beer front. Not cheap though it has to be said, even for London prices. Boo.

We did then head along the South Bank past the ITV Studios at Waterloo and off to the National Theatre's Understudy bar, a bit of a favourite of ours, as we could sit by the river in nice chairs. The Love had wine, I had the Meantime Yakima Red, all was well with the world and it was good to be able to have something good and people watch as we admired the view. Certainly for us both it was nice to feel relaxed and take in the sun, and later on head off to Blackfriars to get the train back to East Croydon and to mine.

I made us some nice hunters' chicken with potatoes and vegetables for tea, and watched the F1 qualifying from Monaco. That was good, especially as we were there a few years ago, and the sun was out there too as Kimi Raikkonnen got his first pole in nearly nine years, with Sebastian Vettel second and Lewis Hamilton 14th after leaving it too late at the end of Q2 and encountering an accident from Stoffel Vandoorne at the same time. Tune of the day is the classic F1 theme "The Chain" as it's the proper F1 theme and well suits the action, as it always did.

Friday 26th May - Friday Feeling

It was rather warm again today so pleased that both the office and the train to work had air conditioning. I was going home a different route today via Streatham so I could head into the PoundWorld there and get some bits I needed, which the branch in the centre of Croydon didn't have. It turned out to be a good move all round though as it meant I was able to get a mass of Fairy dishwasher tablets, a pack of 84, for £9. Which to be fair is pretty good value all round, and add to that another couple of cleaning items and job done. I timed it well and headed from Streatham on the stopping train to West Croydon - job done.

I had specified one of the new four hour slots for the Tesco delivery, which was between 7pm and 11pm. They came dead on 7pm. Maybe this is the future - it's cheaper and if they can actually stick to an earlier slot within that timeframe, it means I am not waiting around between 10pm and 11pm hoping it will arrive on time (after 11pm deliveries cease you see.) The good news is that everything I wanted to get was there so it would be a nice breakfast and evening meals for myself and The Love In My Heart who comes for the weekend tomorrow.

I must admit in this of all weeks I've really missed The Love a heck of a lot. I would say that when we have a weekend without each other, it does feel a little odd even though we do make up for it with the time we do have together, but I guess it's one of the pros and cons of living a fair distance away from each other too. However, the thing I was most worried about was if our relationship would survive, and I'm really pleased that if anything, it's actually grown a lot stronger, with us both really making plenty of time for each other and when I'm a her place, fussing a lot over the cats Jô and Brian too.

Because it's the Bank Holiday weekend we also get a lot longer together too so that will be lovely, especially as we both really do want to be out in the nice weather and spending the time we have doing lots of lovely things. I definitely have some ideas which aren't expensive, and also means we can soak up the sun a fair bit (and to be fair I think I am already catching some of that nicely it has to be said.) I do think as well that considering events back home in Manchester I know that I'll be holding her close, holding her hand as we walk and doing all the nice things couples should do.

With that in mind, and because Top of the Pops on BBC4 has gone all 1980s retro at the moment (a decade we both love to bits musically) tune of the day is the ace "True" by Spandau Ballet, a slow song to grace any 1980s dance floor but also a real sense of power in the song too. Hard to believe that the Kemp brothers would go on to an acting career and even Eastenders, and that Tony Hadley would still be belting out songs now (in fact he did a superb version of Changes at the Bowie tribute birthday gig in January, one of the highlights) and like many 1980s icons are thankfully still with us.

Thursday 25th May - Silence

It was notable that at 11am a minute's silence was to be observed, and nationally too. I was pleased to see that so many places of work were going to take part, including my place of work too. They sent an email around 9am and would send a reminder at around 10:55, and as the building does have a courtyard area which we can sit outside in (alfresco meetings in some cases) many of us headed out there and gathered together, whilst one of the senior managers gave a short statement and then announced when the silence was to start.

I for one stood and looked down in thought and thinking about those who had been to enjoy themselves and never came back. I have been to the Manchester Arena many times with friends, The Love In My Heart only last Friday to see Take That with her sister, and it's a real sense of disbelief still about all of what happened. For me, I wanted to stand strong and stand with my city, the city forever in my heart and always will be. It was a real sense of impeccable silence and respect that I'll be eternally grateful to my colleagues at work for.

After work it was on the tube and off to Wimbledon Park to get my hair cut at James Barbers. Normally on the way it's Hammersmith and City or Circle Line to Edgware Road, then change at the platform next to the one you get off for the District Line to Wimbledon. Not anymore, as it changed on Sunday, so now you have to head over the footbridge and off to Platform 2 and get the tube there. Something I'll need to remember for the future, but as both lines have S stock tube trains and that means air conditioning, it was chilled out as I headed through South West London and on to Wimbledon Park.

As per usual, it was good to get my hair cut - quality job for a good price, and plenty of football chatter. One of the customers was having his son's hair cut in there and we were talking football along with the staff, and that certainly passed the time away as the barbers was busy (always a sign of a good place if you're busy on a Thursday early evening) and once the hair was all sorted, it felt much better to be able to have it all neat and tidy for when The Love In My Heart comes down.

Tune of the day is Oasis' "Don't Look Back In Anger, probably very appropriate for the time but it was what the crowd in Manchester city centre were singing once the minutes' silence had been observed. Somehow it felt the right thing to do with the right words, and shows that no matter who you are as a person in Manchester, the music will always bring you together and be able to unify everyone. I certainly would have been singing it too, and I'm not really an Oasis fan...

Wednesday 24th May - A City United

Admittedly, as more details come out from the horrific attack in Manchester on Monday night, there's so many questions as to why, what motivated someone to maim and kill, and what more could have been done to maybe prevent such a tragic event. I think I'm not the only one asking those questions, but similarly I know from seeing first hand how much they kick backside is that if TAU (Tactical Aid Unit) are on the case, they do not mess about, let me tell you. So it was reassuring to see more arrests made and TAU going in there doing their job massively. It makes me feel good that I know that something is happening.

It has been rather warm today everywhere too, so the sunshine is almost out to give the city some brightness in the dark times. Certainly I felt that I should head out and have lunch alfresco, as nice as the air conditioned office is, and the Clerkenwell Design Week is on not far from the office, including the St John's Churchyard small park where small independent designers have stalls in little marquees, and one selling these lovely teepee like massive relaxing beds you can take with you were all present, and in the shade of the trees it was all pretty scenic (irony alert - the event is sponsored by Renault - work it out...)

It's been good to get the teeth into a few things and I was able to sort out a fair few issues, and get some new stuff deployed. So yesterday a new version of the Flash Player plugin went out, and today it was the turn of a newer version of FileZilla which we have on our build also. It's also meant that generally speaking we try and keep on top of stuff and make it all current and working, which is good, and that's a fair bit of business as usual work to keep it all going too.

I headed home a little later than planned, but that didn't stop me heading to London Bridge on the bus and then taking the train from there, which was pretty quick back to East Croydon. It also meant I could peruse the card shops close to London Bridge but couldn't find what I wanted sadly. I at least was able to see how everyone was all dressed to try and be as cool and keep as cool as possible. Thank heavens some of the trains do at least have air conditioning, which is a positive.

In the evening I watched the Manchester United v Ajax Europa League final on BT Sport Showcase (free to air and in HD, all good). In the light of events this week I put the rivalry between United and City to one side and wanted them to win, as it would have done the city of Manchester a lot of good. United delivered with a 2-0 win and although a little more understandably subdued it was good to see that with the Ajax fans also being supportive, football was the winner and little things like that all mount up to make a big difference. In fact, tune of the day is the rather good "This Is The One" by The Stone Roses, a proper Mancunian anthem and really uplifting - just the thing for times like these.

Tuesday 23rd May - Mancunian

I am and always will be a proud Mancunian. No matter where I am living, my heart will always be in Manchester. It has my team Manchester City, it has the music which inspired me over the years, and it has the feeling of compassion, company and spirit that makes the city have its own unique sense of being. Most of all, it's a place that looked after me as I grew up, uncertain of how my life would turn out, but yet full of inspiration and wonderful people everywhere I would go within the city.

When I heard the news early this morning that there were multiple fatalies at an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena last night, it just made me feel incredibly numb and sad. So many young people and children were enjoying a night out seeing their favourite singer, with a sense of fun and atmosphere that all pop concerts have. So that someone would be so callous, so clinical and out of character with the city and decide to suicide bomb the public as they left the arena was just something that I'd found hard to comprehend.

As I noted during the morning, there were so many stories of the city coming together to help people, from members of the public offering to drive people home or to their hotel, taxi drivers doing the same for free, homeless people coming to help those in need, people then queueing up to donate blood or donate food and do all they can to help. It's a shining example of the spirit of the city, one which is unbowed, unmoved and not afraid, but one who shows the sense of belonging, of community, and most of all togetherness.

So many of these acts made me feel proud to be Mancunian. If I was there today I'd have been getting together people in my workplace to do all I could to help out, and to reassure those that this city has come back from an attack before, the IRA bombing in June 1996. I remember so many of us seeing 808 State for free in Castlefield Arena a few days later, and the sense of togetherness and belonging and not letting any terrorist win, and having a massive 15,000 plus rave together was very special indeed.

I am sure that this great city will be as one as they have been today, showing that in the face of atrocity, the togetherness, warmth and humanity is what should instead be the thing that unites us all as people, not divide us. When you hear so many people talk fondly of my home city and are informing the world that we are a great place, it makes me proud that I come from that city, and that my spirit is the same as ever. There is a light that will never go out, and it's the kindness and warmth of what makes us all Mancunian. We do things differently around here, we are compassionate, strong together. And we always will be.

Monday 22nd May - Going Underground

It was getting pretty warm outside so it was good that the air conditioning at work keeps us all with a sensible temperature and allows me to think on about a few things to progress. I certainly have been doing some in-depth investigation into a couple of issues, particularly one concering email, and from all that I've read it certainly seems to be partly by the design of Microsoft generally (cloud based Office 365 is always going to be slower than on-premise Exchange) but also that there's a dependency on having a stable connection too.

Anyway, it's interesting to note amongst other things that one of the Microsoft recommendations is to do with TCP Window sizes. I know what you're thinking - what is that? Well, it's effectively how many bits of data you can send and receive. In the old days, data was received in 64k chunks, fine for what was then a slower network and Internet back in the day, but in these days of modern connectivity, not always that good. So by setting the window size by 2^n*64, (where n can be 1 to 14) you can theoretically increase the size received, so less round trips to get the data via email.

Now this may not sound much, but when you consider also that your Outlook client is going off to Office 365 to get the item with its details for each recipient, any attachments and if a calendar appointment declined or arrives, and it soon mounts up in terms of data being sent and received. So with that in mind, minimising the number of requests to send and receive your data has to be good. Windows supports it and Office 365 supports it, but if your network hardware doesn't, then no can do.

Later on in the evening I spent some time watching the £15 Billion Railway documentary on BBC2, detailing the final stages of the Elizabeth Line (formerly Crossrail) as the tracks were being laid and ingenious pieces of engineering were going in all over the place to ensure this happened and on time. A fair amount of time was spent on Farringdon, which is the station I use on a daily basis during the week, and obviously I've been aware of all the work that's been going on.

It was good to see behind the scenes though with the tunnels being built, all the station features and indeed the rather excellent emergency shaft to get the equipment down right next to Barbican station too. In fact the platforms are going to be lengthy so it's going to be interesting how it'll all shape up when the station does open next year and how deep down you're going to have to to - with this in mind tune of the day is "Going Underground" by The Jam - as you'll be needing to have that in your head as you venture...

Sunday 21st May - Retro Dreaming

It was a nice restful morning today, sorting out plenty of cleaning around the house and making sure that I had everything all good for the next few days. In fact it was good to be able to get some washing and ironing also all sorted out, and then it was a case of having a coffee, kicking back and relaxing for a while before then getting myself ready to go out later. I had something in the planning later on and so once I was all good to go, it was a walk to West Croydon station.

From there it was a train journey, and all in Zone 5 too (I'm getting like Geoff and Vicki from All The Stations - help!) and so it was a quick change at Sutton and on to Cheam (they normally do run through on a Sunday but weren't due to engineering work) and from there it was a short walk round to meet up with a fellow retro gamer and Commodore 64 user. We were both going to be interviewed for a forthcoming documentary that's coming out later in the year so it made sense to have everything in one place.

The producer was running a little late but that gave the two of us to have a chat and a general catch up anyway, and the space had already been set for where we were going to be questioned and talk about stuff. Once the producer had arrived we worked on what was going to happen, and it all started nicely enough. I must admit it was good that I wasn't going first, as I could work out what the format might be and how indeed I'd be able to put myself across later.

It was good to get all that done and be able to speak at length later and it was a sort of potted history of some of the things that I had been doing in the past on the old 8-bit machines, and indeed what the passion is of people now. I am pretty sure that actually it was good to know that the producer himself actually wrote games and programs on the VIC-20 a while back, then went through a Commodore 128 and an Amiga, so at least has some history too and was genuinely interested in what was being said.

In fact he reckoned that a podcast should be done with the two of us being interviewed. It may not get in even as a bonus cut, but we did talk about one rare game and the circle that happened with it. I ended up with the original disk game that had been given to a magazine for review, I did a listing for infinite lives for said game and played it to check the cheats worked. From that point I must have saved my name in the high score table, as that very same copy ended up with the other person, and when he saw the high score table, he thought "ah, I know who had this before!" Said game is very very rare now...

I arrived home later on and decided to play some classic tracks which were covered by Commodore 64 musicians and a clear inspiration to how their soundtracks came to be. If you've never heard the Audio album by Synergy, you should. One of the tracks on there, "Ancestors" is what inspired Rob Hubbard's soundtrack for the game Zoids, and really is a wonderful piece of synth music in its own right, and so tune of the day it most certainly is.

Saturday 20th May - South Coasting

Today I decided that it was a good idea to go and explore some of the South Coast, especially as I was able to get trains down and be able to spend some time having a look around places I'd never been to before. In fact, I had this as an idea for around a week or so now and realised that Southern Railway do a ticket called the "Off Peak DaySave" which allows unlimited travel on off-peak Southern trains for a mere £19. You can only buy it online (and at least three days in advance of your planned travel date) unless you're at one of four places where the Tourist Information Centre is allowed to sell them.

It's worth noting at this point too that for example one of the journeys I was doing was to Bognor Regis. A walk-up off peak return fare from East Croydon to there and back is £26.40, do even if doing one journey to the coast and back the DaySave ticket not only would be cheaper, but you can do as many journeys as you like. Of course Southern being Southern, they don't happen to promote this very well either. I wonder why.. is it because they're afraid people might actually want to use that ticket and get better value (as I did after doing my research!) - so it does beg the question.

Anyway, once at East Croydon and remembering not to use my Oyster card at the barriers, it was off on the 0923 train to Bognor Regis. As it was one of those "the train will divide.." services I had to remember to be in coaches 5-8, and armed with Costa coffee and bacon roll deal it was nice to sit back with a latte and watch the countryside go by, wait as the train detached at Horsham, and then onwards past Arundel and its castle and through the junctions at Ford, turning left at Barnham and arriving at Bognor Regis on time too.

Exploring Bognor Regis was good - the seafront promenade was clean and well maintained, and walked down to where Butlin's is and then headed to Hotham Park, where the sign post directed me for crazy golf. Except it had been abandoned within the park and looked derelict, so no can do. The park did have a nice new café by the boating lake though and that was rather nice all round, and the miniature railway looked like it went through the trees a lot and gave you a good ride around the park too.

Back on the promenade it was down towards the pier and heading West, and noting the little train that takes you between Butlin's and close to the pier. Opposite the pier there was crazy golf to be had - and a very good course at that at Seafront Mini Golf. 18 holes, a windmill obstacle (proper working windmill too) and a traditional water wheel with two parts more blocking than others, and a real sense of being well maintained also. And a 19th hole to try for a free go. Well worth it for the £4.50 I paid for it to be honest - and highly recommended if you're down that way too.

I went on the pier, had a go at some of the 2p falls games (always good fun those and not expensive either) and then walked towards the end of the pier. My, I felt unsafe there. The slats of wood are normally across the pier so when walking along your feet are a 90 degree angle to the slats. Not here - the slats are vertical facing the sea, and you did feel like not much was underneath if one of them was loose either. I was extra careful as I walked to the end and back again before deciding terra firma was a better option really.

Once I'd had a good look around and walked down the promenade it was back to the train station, and knew that Littlehampton wasn't far away, so it was on to Barnham, change there and then get the train from Portsmouth that would take me to Littlehampton. It was a Southern Coastway class 313 train, and my, they are absolutely awful. There's no accessibility for disabled passengers, and the coaches look like they're from a bygone era, even though part of the interior has had a refurb. Was glad to get off that when I got to Littlehampton.

As for Littlehampton itself, all very nice and pleasant all round. The town centre and shops is some way from the beach, and walking down Beach Road took a little time, more so when you see there's an open grassed area that splits part of the promenade road from the main promenade itself. There's also a funfair at Harbour Park Amusements, and this so happened to include a crazy golf course - and my second of the day. This time it was more "adventure golf" themed and called Sharksville Adventure Golf, and only nine holes, but they were a good challenge and £2.50 (5 tokens' worth effectively) - the final hole took you over a bridge over some water too, nice touch that.

It was then along the promenade, admiring the neat public artwork that saw one bench become a railway tracked long bench and having swirls around obstacles, and two pieces at start and end that spiralled their way around a structure, really nicely done. In fact by the time I got to the beach huts later on the wind had really started to get up a little and blowing around, but the weather was still warm enough too. I spotted something out of the corner of my eye and had to investigate..

And yes, another crazy golf course to be had, this time in Norfolk Gardens. There was a miniature railway terminus, a nice café, a pitch and putt course, but crazy golf too, again with the adventure golf angle and focussed solely on pirates, hence the name Buccaneer Bay. The holes were extremely long and also pretty difficult, notably the second Walk The Plank hole where you have to get the first putt spot on to have an angle to hit the ball over a bridge and then do another 90 degree turn to the hole. Difficult. I did however make a hole in two twice, one being the 7th hole where the ball was stuck in a grid (probably needs some maintenance) that you hit the ball in so had to nudge it out before it almost went in for a hole in one. £4 for 9 long holes did seem a little steep, but do bear in mind the holes are at least twice as long as most crazy golf courses...

All that done it was then along to the harbour and the pleasant walk along there. Littlehampton is at the mouth of the River Arun, so plenty of boats moored up and indeed the harbour front was very nicely done, lots of effort gone into making the riverside apartments and pavements etc looking nice. There were also some fish and chip takeaways here, and I noted one was a lot busier than the rest, so went into there and got some chips. And it was a good move. Kudos to Fred's Fish and Chips for their excellent chips, and the medium portion at £1.50 is more than enough for most (they even do a smaller 75p portion too, nice idea that especially for little ones or smaller appetites) - and that saw me via the lifeboat station and towards the train station.

Now time for some epic train journey planning. I wanted to head to Eastbourne and knew that was a change at Brighton, so got the 1451 train from Littlehampton, and changed at Hove (the train turns left towards London at this point and got another little Class 313 Coastway train the one stop into Brighton, arriving at Platform 2. Shortly departing at Platform 7 was the 1532 to Ashford International via Eastbourne and Hastings, so managed to make it with 45 seconds to spare. Even better, it was a quicker train, only stopping at Lewes and Polegate along the way, so made a shed load of extra time for myself by doing that. It's almost as if I'm doing All The Stations with Geoff and Vicki...

Anyway, once at Eastbourne, it was past the Arndale Centre (the cheek of them to copy Manchester!) which is having a major makeover currently, and following the parades of shops and to the seafront. The promenade is absolutely gorgeous, full of foliage and trees (even the odd palm tree) and generally pleasant to walk along on two levels: the upper level with a more overlooking view of the sea, and the lower level where you can hit the pebbled beach whenever you fancy. I walked along the promenade West until I climbed the hill to the Wish Tower, and beyond there was a very nice café that afforded views West to some white cliffs and a scenic view. Very nice.

I walked back along the promenade and passed the bandstand (apparently the busiest bandstand in the UK by the seaside) and a band were rehearsing for tonight, putting together a killer performance of "Off The Wall" as done by Michael Jackson (make that tune of the day - it was ace) and then once past that and admiring the nice cafés at the lower level, I hit the pier, much longer than in Bognor Regis, and had little tiny arcades with lots of 2p falls machines, a Victorian tea room half way along which looked lovely, and at the end a pub with a theme of jazz music inside beneath the gold domed tower at the end of the pier.

In fact I stopped off at one of the 2p falls machines in an arcade walking back along the pier, and it was ace. It was fair so you would win some money over time, and at one point I was 16p up on the 50p change in 2ps I'd started with, but it was enjoyable to have a bit of inexpensive fun. The pier was very busy generally and I'd love to be sat in those tea rooms having a little cream tea and seeing the waves lap up to the beach and watching the world go by, gorgeous it was.

It was then back through the town centre and to the train station where the 1755 train to East Croydon was waiting for me. It passed Plumpton station with its racecourse right next to it (must go there sometime) and then at Haywards Heath had to wait for a train to join and re-attach before speeding straight to Gatwick Airport and then East Croydon, and took the walk home from there. So all in all, the £19 ticket was a saver and a half - I totted up the single fares for all four journeys and it would have been £64 in all. Using Advance tickets in some cases (bear in mind 3 days before) would have meant that £64 went down to £45, but still, shows how worth it was doing getting that ticket. Result - and a cracking day out on the South Coast too.

Friday 19th May - The First Last Leg

After work and after having some tea at home, it was time to head back out into central London and fulfil a little ambition of mine - and that was to see the popular Channel 4 TV series The Last Leg and be in the audience for an episode recorded live. I've been a big fan of the show since they introduced it during the 2012 Paralympic Games, and it's gone from strength to strength since then, with the cameraderie of Adam Hills, Josh Widdicombe and Alex Brooker helping to make it an essential Friday night watch whenever it's on.

As it's become more popular, audience tickets have been harder to get. In fact I mainly got a priority ticket for this because I got audience tickets for the ITV Tonight Show the week Dermot O'Leary was hosting, and it got cancelled due to the rather unfortunate events at Westminster Bridge the same day, so the kind people at SRO Audiences put me on the priority list for the next show I wanted to see. I spotted from them there were tickets available, applied and priority email in the post. Good stuff.

I got the train to Blackfriars and from there walked along the South Bank, through the small little market just after Oxo, and along Upper Ground to the ITV Studios entrance that's there. In fact even at 7.30pm there looked a decent queue, but priority people were being directed straight to security, through that and straight to a different queue. Wristbands were handed out later and I was number 38 in the queue, so knew I was definitely going to be in to be watching this one.

At around 8.30pm the security staff warned everyone to turn their phones off or be ejected from the studio, so off it went (I was enjoying the ITV free wi-fi until that point) and once inside, I got the back row of the audience sat behind Adam Hills, so I was next to the red runway the lads and the guests come down (probably meaning I was seen on telly!) but had a good view from there and could see Josh and Alex perfectly. In fact Adam did some recording of trailers for ABC1 in Australia (as they obviously have different trails to us when it gets shown there).

In fact the only thing not live is the walk on down the red carpet. Adam explained this was because they had to do this twice, once for the UK with the theme tune, and once more for Australia but as ABC1 haven't licenced the theme tune, there's no music (I know, what the?) - shame that as "Harder Than You Think" by Public Enemy suits the show spot on and is a well merited tune of the day as well. I guess it just saves a little time later, but there you go.

Everything else was live though, with Adam having a screen out of shot with some prompts, but none for Alex and Josh so they get to be a little more off the cuff, especially with guest Armando Ianucci, who was excellent tonight. What was quite a rush was whilst they were showing the VT of the previous predictions done in odd ways, the crew were frantically getting the stuff in position for the human Hungry Hippos game that was being played - and good fun that was too.

In fact it went all pretty smoothly, with everyone on top form and showing how much they're able to play off each other and make everyone smile with their comedy and general chatter. I really liked the new buttons with Armando stating phrases, notably "Thomas the w*** engine" being one of them which tempted Alex and Josh after the recording had finished to go and press those buttons a few more times. Props too for the bloke who does the warmups, he was getting everyone in the mood and up for it and that was plain to see how much love was in the room when Adam came on and they embraced as if they'd never seen each other!

All in all, and if you get the chance, see the show live being recorded in the audience, it was absolutely brilliant and I'd really like to go again to be honest - although as you can imagine demand for the show is pretty big. I walked back to Blackfriairs and was on the 2335 train home to East Croydon, so got home after midnight with the pubs and clubs in full swing as I walked past. Bed felt rather nice getting in (especially as I'd changed the bedding too, so all nice and fresh) and was looking forward to a nice day out tomorrow..

Thursday 18th May - Croydon Centre Cycling

I made sure I left work on time today as I was heading off home, picking up the trusty camera and off to watch the fifth round of the Matrix Fitness Grand Prix Cycling series from the centre of Croydon, and literally not that far from the flat where I live either. In fact it was on last June and the weather was at least decent for both the men's and women's races, but this time around with the rain absolutely tipping it down constantly, I thought it realistic that I may only get to see the women's race.

The weather had made conditions treacherous and the left turn at the bottom of Croydon Flyover as the cyclists went underneath was going to be tricky stuff really - and so it proved as the race started, with many squeals of brakes being heard as they made sure they slowed down enough and not to crash. In fact you have to say that despite the conditions they all rode really well, and a small group of riders broke away to lead for most of the race, two of which were for Storey Racing, the new team formed by Dame Sarah Storey no less.

In fact it was good to have a little walk around and get different views of the circuit including the other side of the flyover going uphill and the back end of Eldridge Road before the descent down Masons Avenue and back along the High Street for the finish. It reminded me of the Kelloggs City Centre Cycling thing that was popular during the 1980s especially, and as the racing was still pretty good, the laps counted down, with an excellent sprint in the end won by Elizabeth Jane Harris, and making it a 1-2 for Storey Racing.

In fact Elizabeth (or EJay as she also likes to be known) had three presentations on the podium - for the race win, but also the fastest lap and the most sprints won. It was almost a clean sweep had Drops Cycling not taken the team win as a fair few of their riders were in the second group coming home and they also performed pretty well too. It was a decent race and all of them really showed some superb skill in not that nice conditions really - excellent stuff.

I headed home and sorted out the pictures, and put up the best ones, and really was pleased to see that having a 50mm lens really came to the fore here and made for some decent shots too. It was still throwing it down so decided against watching the men's race, but had a good time anyway, and listened to some rather excellent Pete Shelley, namely "Give It To Me" which became Channel 4's theme for their Tour de France coverage during the late 1980s / early 1990s and still a favourite of mine - had it in my head earlier, so tune of the day it so is.

Wednesday 17th May - Rain and Returning

After a considerable amount of rain fell last night, it was dry this morning for enough of a spell for me to get to work, only then for the rain to come teaming down for a chunk of the day, stop just enough of a time for me to go and get some lunch, and then later on absolutely hammer it down once again as I was leaving work to head off to the station. I must admit it's been a case of having a fair amount of the wet stuff in one go and be dry for most of the rest of the month, but it proves something: it's not just Manchester that gets wet on occasion either.

Unfortunately one piece of news I did hear on the way home is that talks between Southern Railway / Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and the unions have broken down. Once again. So much so that the drivers' union ASLEF are bringing back an overtime ban from the 4th June onwards. For those of you that aren't aware: some train companies more than others rely on some driver overtime to fill the rosters, the idea being that if you want to earn more money in overtime it's there as an incentive, and means less temporary recruitment due to staff holidays etc. However, the downside is that if you don't employ enough drivers to adequately be able to cover holidays and sickness, or if overtime is a goodwill gesture no longer offered, it means cancellations and less trains able to run. After all, a guard or conductor can't drive a train unless they happen to be a fully qualified driver.

That does mean that there will inevitably be a spate of cancellations on Southern as part of GTR, but as a knock on effect to that other GTR branded services (Thameslink etc) will take more passengers on desperate to get home. Considering the whole GTR is run under a concession for the Department of Transport whilst London Bridge is being sorted under a unique way, it's unclear whether the powers that be at GTR are calling some of the shots or whether they're being micro managed by the DfT. Either way, not pretty and certainly notable that apparently Southern's supposed promise of "only in exceptional circumstances" would a driver run without an on-board supervisor (OBS) has rang hollow - rumoured to be over 8,000 services instead of "just a few".

Now here's the thing. If all the stations were equipped with staff able to provide assistance for disabled passengers to be able to get around and on / off trains safely, all well and good. Unfortunately stations don't always have staff on them, so if you turn up expecting to turn up and go, it doesn't happen. In the days of a guaranteed guard, it was possible. Even to some degree having an OBS was doable. But the fear that people had that passengers with disabilities would suffer is not just an irrational fear, but one based on real life occurrences that have happened.

It does make me wonder just how much longer it can all go on for. I just want to be able to get to work and home again, and also be able to get out and about when either heading up North or when The Love In My Heart is here with me. I'm pretty much wanting to get it all sorted but it needs someone else to intervene, quite whom I don't know, but one thing is for sure - it only makes me feel like I may need to consider in the long term what the options are. Tune of the day is "Why Does It Always Rain On Me"? by Travis - seems right somehow..

Tuesday 16th May - Farewell Zaba

I was unable to head back up North to the Etihad for the final Manchester City home game of the season, and little did I realise that after The Love In My Heart and I had been out Saturday night that Pablo Zabaleta would announce that he was to leave Manchester City at the end of the season. For me definitely, it was sad news and so tonight was going to be his final ever home game for the club. He's been here nine years in all and since he's been here the fans have warmed to his passion, full blooded determination and the way he plays (he was the Player of the Year in 2012-13 for example.)

So tonight was always going to be a tad emotional, not least for myself because for years he's been one of my favourite City players, and for many of the fans too. I think when you see a player give his all, get stuck in, and carry on playing despite needing to be bandaged up first after colliding with another player or going in and coming off worse from a 50/50 ball, you warm to that. And because of all that, when someone like him kisses the badge after scoring, it's not some token gesture, but meant properly, the same sort of thing that if the likes of Uwe Rösler, Shaun Goater or Paul Dickov did it back in the day you knew it was meant.

I had the game to be watched sorted and the important thing first was for City to get a win against West Bromwich Albion. Two goals in just over a minute from Gabriel Jesús and a screamer from Kevin de Bruyne sent us on our way, together with a 1-2 from Yaya Touré and Sergio Agüero in the second half, with the Ivorian finishing well and making it 3-0. And with half an hour to go, with the City fans chanting for Zabaleta constantly, on he came for the final half hour.

The atmosphere was electric, every time he got the ball the crowd cheered, and when he got stuck into a couple of tackles the crowd cheered even more. So many songs adapted for Zabaleta tonight, and the banners around the stadium plus people dressed with head bandages on as a nice little tribute said it all - and it was a class moment when Vincent Kompany went off, he gave the captain's armband to Zabaleta and he embraced warmly - knowing that it was the right thing to do.

West Brom did score late on, a goal which may yet mean that goal difference and even goals scored (or even a possible play-off and 39th game) could decide fourth place, but the 3-1 win was welcome, and afterwards so much love was felt for Zabaleta, complete with Status Quo's classic "Rocking All Over The World" (make it tune of the day) and it was a real sense of an emotional goodbye, shown later as the players formed a guard of honour, he was lifted aloft and has a season ticket for life any time he wants to come and visit. That says it all.

I've got so many good memories of him, and interestingly he said his favourite game ever was beating Man U in the 2011 FA Cup semi final. I can understand why - winning that, getting to the FA Cup final and winning was the start of the successful period we've had since then. And him battling away, having Paul Scholes scythe him down and be sent off, and help the club to progress onwards, was a big part of that. For me though his goal away at Roma in the Champions League stands out. We needed to win to qualify, we were 1-0 up near the end, and he slots home a cracking finish. He runs to the fans, kissing the badge, full of pride and passion. Awesomeness.

Monday 15th May - Doolittle, Do A Lot

As I expected today, work was going to be pretty busy and so it proved, primarily due to the need to check the Windows desktop and server estate and check they've at least got the March critical update, if not the April or May one (they supersede each other on Windows 10). I realised that although there were a few ways which this could be done, the easiest way was to use a bit of WMI and use the Win32_QuickFixEngineering class (or QFE.) In effect if your hardware inventory collects Win32_QFE values, you'll be able to see what updates were applied and when they were installed.

Adding this in to the client settings for SCCM 2012 was really easy, and once some hardware inventory data was collected, I could run a query to check for each KB and an installed date of 2017, and so check all three, and return back valid if at least one of those applied. It actually worked out pretty well and showed a considerable number of the desktop estate all good, and a fair few laptops also. Getting that running for SCCM 2007 was a bit harder, I had to add the class into SMS_DEF.MOF and ensure that a relevant patch had been installed (or else hardware inventory slows the machine down a lot). That done, it started reporting also.

From that in SCCM 2012 I was able to create a collection based on a query I'd ran earlier, and another collection showing ones which didn't have the updates - this is where the include and exclude works a treat. So you include all the Windows 10 desktops and laptops and exclude those which are in the collection which has the machines with updates applied, leaving the ones to be looked at (or were awaiting hardware inventory scans, for example the laptops if not connected online.) It worked very nicely actually.

That done, it looked like a number of the PCs that were on the list weren't connected, so I'll do some final checking tomorrow. My colleagues have been sorting out most of the servers and ensuring the patch was already on (and adding the latest fixes to be on the safe side) and it looks pretty much like that we're all good, which is nice to know. I think too it shows that when you're all working towards the same goal and help each other out, it does work nicely too.

I got home and the nice surprise was that the Tassimo order had arrived, so lots of coffee there and indeed two free ones as part of the order, so ended up with eight for the price of six, result. It does mean I have plenty of pods now so should last me a fair while. I also started up the Pixies "Doolittle" Blu-Ray Audio disc I got the other day, and hell wow, it's absolutely amazing. We're talking really nice separation of instruments, the drums from Dave Lovering are given plenty of bass space to thunder along, and the vocals are front and centre as they should be.

No more is this apparent than "Monkey Gone To Heaven" where the strings are just beautiful, the sound is powerful yet not overbearing, and in full surround too. Simply gorgeous and definitely tune of the day for me without question, and really shows just how much effort went into making this disc a real night and day contrast listen from the original vinyl and CD, classic album that it is too. I definitely can recommend it to any Pixies fan and well worth a purchase for those who don't have the album too.

Sunday 14th May - Slow It Down

It was a relatively slow and peaceful Sunday. In fact both The Love In My Heart and I enjoyed a very well earned lie-in, together with the two cats Jô and Brian who were more than happy to see Mummy all snuggly. Aww. They are so soft when it comes to being adorable but they also seem to have radar on when The Love gets up and going, and run to the cupboard in the hope of getting more Dreamies (Jô more so it has to be said actually). It was good though to take it all easy.

Later on after some breakfast and getting ready, we headed out and popped round first for a quick visit to see my auntie whose birthday it was tomorrow. In fact we did a card swap as her and her uncle had got me a birthday card and with a HMV gift card in it too, so that was all rather nice it has to be said. We noted too that the tree at the back of their place had been chopped down which let in tons more light into the kitchen, so was good that it felt airy too. Ace.

We then headed over to see Mum, and I was a little upset afterwards. I knew she had been in for some tests but I knew from my sister that she hadn't been 100% lately, and so it proved. I think it cheered her up a little with me being round - her friend and my uncle were around too so she did have some company along the way along with a cuppa, so definitely felt the right thing to do. I'll be regularly checking up to make sure all is getting well there, and I must admit it's the only thing when I live further away, it's harder to get to places for family.

The Love and I headed off for a drink later and we decided for the first time in aeons that we'd head off to Ra!n Bar, which used to be one of our favourite haunts. In fact it was still very relaxed and chilled out for a Sunday I had this nice ale which had a coffee taste to it, gorgeous it was, called 2 Tribes. It was a darker beer too, just the sort of thing I like on occasion. The Love and I commented how quick the weekend had gone again, and we both felt sad as it'd be some time before we saw each other again, so hugs and kisses were ours at the station as you can imagine.

It was then on the 1735 to Euston, and it was pretty busy, but had tunes on to relax with, none more so than the rather lovely "Incomplete Without You" by Swing Out Sister, which really sums up how I feel when I'm alone and without The Love In My Heart to be honest, so tune of the day as I headed through the countryside again. It was good that trains ran on time, I got home and watched the F1 highlights from the Spanish Grand Prix before bed, and some rather good racing it was too.

Saturday 13th May - Winning

It was my final Manchester City home game of the season (I can't make it on the Tuesday to the West Brom game due to work and cost contstraints with trains) and so I met up with my friend in good time for the 1230 kick off against Leicester City. I was hoping for another win and that would help us cement a Champions League qualifying spot. I knew it'd be a difficult game as Leicester have been back on decent form as of late and more like the side that they were last season.

With brews purchased and ready to consume, we headed to our spot in the East Stand and were all ready to greet the City team as they came out, with the weather alternating between sun and cloud during the match. I was tentative about our chances, but as the game kicked off we seemed to be taking control during the first half, and a cross was met on the volley by David Silva for 1-0. It did look like Raheem Sterling might have been either offside or interfering with play, but the referee allowed the goal to stand - no doubt that'll be Match of the Day bemaoning that later then.

We then got a penalty as Leroy Sané was felled in the box, and despite it being Yaya Touré's birthday and the usual penalty taker, up stepped Gabriel Jesús and he scored from the spot for 2-0. All good, and despite a superb volley from the Leicester striker Shinji Okazaki, 2-1 at half time was good, and we looked on for a win. The second half though did see Leicester City play much better and were pegging us back, and when Gaël Clichy fouled Riyad Mahrez on the edge of the area, and the referee awarded a penalty, I feared the worst.

There then followed the most odd penalty - and the correct decision from it. Mahrez slipped as he took the shot with his left foot, the ball rebounded off the right foot and sent the keeper Caballero the wrong way. Straight away he had two fingers up indicating the two touches, and the ref had spotted it and correctly disallowed the goal. Granted, the rule was mainly to stop players dribbling instead of having a direct shot, but rules are rules and we thankfully held on for a 2-1 win.

Later on The Love In My Heart and I headed out for the evening - I had on the new sneakers The Love got me for my birthday, and with new jeans and a smart shirt on, looked cool. In fact we took advantage of the combined tram and train ticket, so got the ticket to return to/from Railzone 2, which included Cheadle Hulme where we were getting off. It was £5.50 each, cheaper than getting the tram and train tickets separately (£2.60 each cheaper too) so that was a bonus. We changed at Piccadilly and headed via my old stomping ground of Levenshulme to Stockport and then on to Cheadle Hulme and the Platform 5 pub we were having tea in with my friends.

In fact the night was ace - my friends arrived just after us, and we sat outside at first before heading in to a nice reserved table and lots of space. You ordered at the bar for the food, so we decided what to have, and some of the mains had sold out, so no pie for me and no pulled pork sandwich for The Love either. That said, one of my friends and I had the garlic mushrooms with a cream and leek sauce, and that was ace, as was my beer battered fish later on. My friend had the scampi and really enjoyed that (he said best scampi in ages) and The Love had the burger which also looked rather gorgeous.

I even had the sticky toffee pudding for afters which was fab, and my friend had the strawberry layer cake with ice cream. Yummy indeed. We were all fed and left just after a band had started playing, with the band being changed and sights The Love and my friend probably won't want to see to soon (oo-er!). That said, they did have a go at the Wannadies' classic "You and Me Song" which The Love said "I love this song!" and I too love the original as she does, so tune of the day all round.

We headed back on the train and tram to The Love's place and were just in time for all the fun and games of the Eurovision voting with Graham Norton in fine form, and thankfully some countries were actually liking the UK entry for a change - shock horror. That all changed when it comes to the viewers' phone votes though, and we didn't do so well there, and of all things, Portugal won, not just with the judges but with the viewers too, and sung in their native language!

Friday 12th May - Northern Souls

It was a good and productive but busy day, primarily as I was road testing one of the older laptops to see how it would behave when building a Windows 10 laptop build on it. On the whole it seemed to perform, but noted that for some reason unless you had formatted the hard disk first with a valid Windows partition, a fair chunk of the earlier steps for the BIOS (including the copying of files) failed miserably, and so once I got past that hurdle, all appeared to be working the right way around (thankfully!)

I also stayed behind a little bit to work on a few things and have them ready for Monday, but noted on the way home from work the cyber attack with the relevant worm that had hit several NHS trusts and indeed a few places around the world. I thought Monday might prove to be a day where we end up sorting plenty out and checking that we're all good to go on the client and server side. I know we push out the critical updates via WSUS and as one of the updates is from March this year, you'd like to think we'd be nicely covered. We shall see of course.

I managed to have some tea at home before then getting myself ready and to be showered and changed and out of the flat before 6.30pm so I could get on the 8pm train from Euston. I was glad I left a little earlier, it turned out that Southern Rail were having issues with congestion at East Croydon and so this meant that I got delayed getting to London Victoria, which put me behind a little to get to Euston. I was in plenty of time though and as it transpired the train was delayed coming in, so looked like delays going out.

To be fair to Virgin Trains though, they were pretty spot on - once the platform was announced they got everyone on as soon as possible, and the train departed at 2007, seven minutes behind. In fact it made up some time as it sped through the countryside, was still a few minutes delayed at Stoke on Trent, but managed to make up some more time so when I arrived at Manchester Piccadilly we were a mere three seconds behind time. Yes, three seconds! Awesome stuff, something Southern Fail could only dream of (they'd just miss out stations and leave people stranded instead)

I took the tram to The Love In My Heart's place and the two of us had a good natter and managed to catch up quite a bit, with the two cats Jô and Brian vying for lots of attention along the way. In fact it was nice to relax and have a bit of time like that before then heading off to bed later, with the cats surprisingly wanting to cuddle too. Aww. Tune of the day is the ace "Fade Away" by Susanne Sundfør, which played on the iPod as the train sped up North, perfect for looking out of the window to the night sky by..

And The Love got me two gorgeous presents too, it has to be said! One of them was the Pop Will Eat Itself Indie Daze olive coloured t-shirt, with the new angry robot design as part of it. I wanted to get one last year but thought I might be too sweaty moshing when I'd purchase it, so it was good of her to order that and sort it. She also got me these light blue Fred Perry sneakers I was after, and they looked the part for the Summer as well so something else lovely to wear for the holiday, rather ace all round really.

Thursday 11th May - Surprises and Showcases

I had a nice surprise once I arrived home from work today - two more birthday cards. One from one of my friends up in Huddersfield, so much appreciated to have that, and one which had been made on the funkypigeon.com website. When I opened it I saw a very familiar picture on the front - one I took of The Love In My Heart's cat Jô kissing the little Christmas robin doorstop during the festive season (in fact I took the picture on Boxing Day last year) and a nice birthday greeting from The Love and the cats Jô and Brian too. Awww. That made my day.

Now I know of course why The Love was asking if I got anything in the post yesterday - obviously she had planned for it to arrive on the birthday but the post was probably bobbins yesterday and didn't arrive, but at least it did do so now, so I have it for safe keeping. I was really pleased, and I think it shows just how much The Love really has made a lovely effort to try and make my birthday special even if we're not together again till tomorrow night, a moment for which I will be definitely looking for plenty of hugs!

I spent a chunk of time this evening watching the second leg of the Europa League semi final between Lyon and Ajax as it was free to air on BT Sport Showcase. Even better was I could see it in HD, as BT Sport announced the HD version on Freeview recently, so on with Channel 114 and all good, much better quality too. In fact the game was a cracker too, even when Ajax scored an away goal to go 5-1 up on aggregate, Lyon scored two goals in just over a minute to pull the tie back to 5-3 down before half time, and then score with ten minutes left and set up a right grandstand finish.

Even more so when Ajax had a player sent off with a few minutes left and Lyon piled forward with the knowledge that one goal would force extra time, it did everything but go in for them and Ajax went forward when they could to hit them on the break. It was a great game and I know Lyon will feel unlucky, but they did everything they could and should be proud. In fact Ajax will go on and face Man U, after they drew 1-1 at home with Celta Vigo to win 2-1 on aggregate. When Celta scored though with a few minutes left, I bet there were some nervous faces at Old Trafford - one more goal would have meant away goals win!

I also after work had been to the Sainsburys and TK Maxx in Waddon Marsh, and managed to get two new pairs of jeans - one black pair in Sainsburys which the gift card covered, and one Wrangler pair in TK Maxx which I put towards with cash after using the gift card. I have to say though that I was definitely pleased to have put those to good use and to get some new clothes is always nice. Even better when the menswear section always seems much more organised than the jumble sale that is ladieswear half the time. Tune of the day is "Shopping" by Pet Shop Boys, makes sense somehow!

Wednesday 10th May - Birthday Bonus

It's my 45th birthday today (I know. Getting old!) and was the first birthday in years I'd spent not with The Love in My Heart (in fact the first time since we met) - due to work related issues on both sides. That said, we'll be having successive weekends of enjoyment such as last weekend and this coming, so the joy is being spread in a different way, which is rather nice actually. I did have some cards to open in the morning including a gorgeous one from The Love, as well as most of the family and The Love's family, which was rather nice all round really.

As is tradition at work, the birthday person brings in treats (other people have done so, so only fair I did) and I know how much the masses love the Krispy Kreme donuts, so managed to pick up two mixed boxes of those on the way into work along with some other little cakes and treats. I put them out later in the office and everyone seemed really happy, so that was a nice way to spread some happiness around the office, on a particularly busy and manic day all round too.

I had also spent some time working on several issues, including the remote site at Edinburgh where two of our staff were working on a rollout and things weren't going according to plan. I did sort out a few things with them though so it was good to be able to work together, and on top of that I also managed to be able to process a Surface Pro 3 laptop for one of our heads and turn it round a fair bit quicker than I expected too, so was really pleased to be able to get that done.

I got out of work later than planned but was still on course for a little treat to myself - off to Doggett's pub near Blackfriars station. It's a Nicholsons pub, and they were celebrating their Nicholsons Pale Ale (brewed by the St Austell Brewery in Cornwall, so Cornish beer, yaay) and it was their fifth anniversary since they started selling it in their pubs, which means.. yes, it was first sold on my 40th birthday! Nice claim to fame that. And even better, the 5th Anniversary Celebration Pale Ale was available, and for one day only, at a mere £3 a pint! For anyone who has beer in London, unless you are in a Wetherspoons you simply will not get a pint for that price, and so I had one, sat by the window overlooking the Thames and the bridge, and it just felt rather lovely all round.

I headed home later and had a spate of nice emails and birthday greetings, so that was good. I then opened the presents that I had, and it was good to know I'd have the ones from The Love In My Heart and some of my friends to look forward to over the weekend, making my birthday feel that little bit longer. So what did I get? Lots, actually. I got gift cards for Sainsburys, TK Maxx and Debenhams, some money from my sister and The Love's Dad put a fiver in his card for me to have a birthday beer - so nice of him, and plenty of stuff to keep me entertained too which was fab.

So in terms of CDs, Body Count's "Bloodlust" together with a killer version of "Raining Blood" by Slayer as part of "Raining In Blood / Postmortem" on the album (make that tune of the day), Seth Lakeman and Wildwood Kin's "Ballads of the Broken Few", Ryan Adams' "Prisoner", the Paul Weller "Jawbone" soundtrack and my brother not only got me the new Kasabian album "For Crying Out Loud" with the bonus disc of them live at Leicester, but a 7" single exclusive to Fopp by the band which he got at the same time. Ace!

And on Blu-Ray, some rather good stuff to be watching over the next few days and weeks - Labyrinth (so some classic David Bowie on there, yaay), as well as two F1 related releases: the 2016 season review which of course meant a Nico Rosberg first and only world title, and another ace one called "F1 How It Was" which explains classic Grand Prix from the drivers' perspective, including Niki Lauda, Nigel Mansell, and Jenson Button recalling his epic 2011 Canadian Grand Prix win. Oooh yes.

I had a nice long chatter with The Love In My Heart too, who had been sending me nice lovely texts during the day and a picture of my favourite two cats Jô and Brian, actually sharing the pouffle and being loved up for a change. Awwww. It was so nice to hear her voice and wished I could be there to hand her massive cuddles and kisses, but know we'll be there at weekend to make things rather nice and special all round. I can't wait, and I know she can't either. I love her lots, and it showed today how much she felt the same with all her nice words. Awwwww. I feel so happy.

Tuesday 9th May - Retro Dreaming

I spent some time tonight going all retro and back to the Commodore 64, a machine which has always been a special thing for me. I was reading the newly delivered issue 9 of Freeze64 fanzine from Vincenzo Mainolfi, who's been doing a good job writing on a more specialised Commodore subject, as well as some cracking interviews with those who are either legends (David Darling of Codemasters in this issue, cue "best interview ever" quote) or those programming new games too.

One of the articles Vincenzo writes is the "Secret Squirrel" set, where he looks through the game's memory for hidden text messages or things which may drop hints at cheat modes. One of them refers to a game from the 1990s, "Bignose's USA Adventure" which indicates that there is a cheat mode - with part of the title page's scrolling message changing to "Cheat Mode On" at the start. Thought it'd be fun to try and locate that, and so managed to work out how.

First of all, there's a memory pointer which goes to the start of the normal scrolling message, but this changes when a certain value is set for cheat mode on, so it's a case of working backwards from that. I found that it used the keyboard matrix (held in the Commodore 64's memory using bits of $DC00 and $DC01) and those values would represent a total of five keys being pressed. Hmm... I thought, the redefine keys has five selectable keys, that might be interesting to see.

I compared the values you'd poll for the keyboard against the values expected, and it looked like the spelling of VICKY in some way would be a workable cheat. So I had a go at redefining the keys and nothing appeared to have happened initially, but then I started the game. And yes, I had infinite lives without even trying. In fact if I quit the game and returned to the title screen, there was the cheat mode on showing as I expected. Nice. And showed I still have it. Or something.

In fact I also spent some time extracting old game tunes as well, something I was also pretty good at back in the day. I'd puzzled for ages over an old Firebird game called Super Rider, which was a show jumping simulator, but not the best one (the equestrian event in Summer Games II wins hands down). The music was always not that bad for its time though, and once I worked out how the music player worked and read the memory locations, and how the initialisation routine worked, all was good there and managed to get it all sorted pretty nicely.

It was good to be able to kick back old school and it reminded me of just how much the formative years involved the humble eight bit machine. In fact it also showed that once you learn the old art of 6502 machine code, some of it doesn't go away easily either and it's good to have that structured brain in place for it. Tune of the day in fact is Matt Gray's Central Park loading theme from the game Last Ninja 2, as remade by him for the Reformation: Last Ninja 2 album. It's a perfect mix of old and new and shows just how bloody excellent the soundtrack was back then.

Monday 8th May - Busy Bunny

So back to work today and the first full week due to Bank Holidays and a Monday or two of annual leave for over a month. Of course for me it's been good in one respect, but it's also good to be able to catch up properly, and all hands were on deck first thing when it transpired half the stuff on login seemed to fail, including the single sign on for some reason. Credit where it's due to our Network manager, he spotted that the hardware firewall potentially needed a reboot, and once that was done, everything worked fine again. Hurrah for that!

I had been spending some time working on a couple of nightmarish issues, and I think I've got a little further in one of them. I do have a feeling it's partially down to something else, but need to take some further investigation to get to the bottom of it. It's stuff like this that I do love getting my teeth into, it's a case of not giving up, keeping going and suggesting some ideas going forward, which is good. I also made sure I was back for a couple of meetings on today, and kept relatively quiet and took in what was going on, more in observational mode.

I got home later to some nice surprises, one of which was the latest issue of the Commodore 64 fanzine Freeze64, which focuses on the likes of cheats as well as interviews. They had an interview with David Darling of Codemasters fame, and especially liked when they talked about his Mastertronic era of games. What I didn't know was that the first MAD (Mastertronic's Added Dimension) game The Last V8 had infamous speech: "V8! Return to base! Immediately!" at the start, and it was David himself who was sampled for the speech. There's a nice new something I didn't know until now. Ace.

The other surprise I got was a ticket to be in the audience for The Last Leg in a future screening. I of course am mightily pleased by this: ever since I moved down I've wanted to try and be in the audience live for that one, not least because I love the show and find it hilarious, but also mainly because of the fact that it really challenges the mainstream and gives disability a fair platform too. Needless to say "Harder Than You Think" by Public Enemy, the show's theme tune is tune of the day. Looking forward to it hugely now...

I was also most pleased to see that Emmanuel Macron won the French presidential election overnight too. I did think that maybe France was going to lean to the far right, but no, thankfully the people voted in considerable numbers and indeed it was nice to see the masses out in Paris celebrating in front of the Louvre last night, with a real sense of freedom and democracy reigning. I also like his statement he's made about Brexit - not necessarily the process, but the people in charge. He's not that wrong either...

Sunday 7th May - Lemon and Love

Today was nice to have a lie in and indeed to have a good fuss over the two cats Jô and Brian. They even purred in appreciation when I fed them some Dreamies too, and whilst I was using The Love In My Heart's laptop, Jô even snuggled up on the chair next to me. Awww. He's actually warming to me a lot more as of late which has to be a good thing, and even nicer was the cracking breakfast that The Love made, almost as cracking as something from yesterday.

Lemon drizzle cake! Oooh yes. It's one of my favourites, and The Love had been baking yesterday, and so I had a piece with a cuppa yesterday and she was carefully packing two slices into a box for me to take home in the case so I could have them at home - most likely one tonight for when I arrived back with a cuppa, and the other for tomorrow (there's fresh cream in there you see, or else I'd have kept it for longer). Isn't she just ace and wonderful? It's one of around a million reasons why I love and adore her so much. I know!

We were heading off later to meet with The Love's sister and niece, as it was one of the events for the children's hospice which The Love's family all support when they can. The event today was a poignant one to remember the loved ones no longer with us, but whilst I could sense the sadness during that time, I could also sense a feeling of togetherness and closeness amongst everyone too, and the positive words of the staff there to think about all those happy lovely moments was very heartwarming indeed.

It does make me think about things a lot more in terms of life and how I strive to make the most of mine - you never know what could happen to you at any point in time, and considering how things have worked out for me I know too that it's about living life to the full and making sure each moment is all good. I had a think too about how much I do miss The Love even when we're on the phone each night, it's not the same as being there. But we have one thing a lot of people don't.

We stopped off on the way back to Manchester for some Sunday roast, and in fact one pub had been recently refurbished that we went in before, so we gave it a go. They used to have cask ale on, not now, only bottles (Old Golden Hen it was for me) - and the service seemed not as prompt as it used to be, whether that was teething issues I don't know (the paint still smelt new so not sure when it was re-opened). The Sunday roast was good, the chicken breast I had was big chunks of it, and The Love's beef looked good too.

We headed back to Piccadilly and for me to get the train back home. I felt sad and the 1755 train was packed too, so on with the headphones and with the music to see me down, with the likes of Kraftwerk's epic "Trans-Europe Express" being played (make that one tune of the day) as the train sped through the countryside. It was still light when I got to Euston and it was only on getting to Clapham Junction did it start getting dark on the way back. I did watch Match of the Day 2 later and saw Arsenal tonk Man U, a result which pleased me immensely. Never felt more like singing the Blues...

Saturday 6th May - Glad All Over

And yes, I know that's a very famous song by The Dave Clark Five, and indeed one which Crystal Palace fans sing a lot, with Manchester City fans having the version "We've got.. Guardiola" instead based on that one. However, it was today that the two teams would meet at the Etihad with a 12.30pm kick off. I must admit I did feel sorry for the Palace fans, having to leave that early (as I would have had to from East Croydon this morning myself) and be there for an earlier start. What happened to the fans eh Sky Sports and BT Sport?

Anyway, my friend and I were all there and good to go, and after our customary brew, it was good to see that we'd gone for an attacking formation. Still a few puzzling decisions such as Fernandinho at right back and all that, but we'd see how it would pan out. And we didn't have to wait very long for a goal either. It was less than two minutes in that a cross was headed away by the Palace defence only for it to go straight to David Silva, who shot home low and hard for 1-0. It was his 50th City goal, and the quickest we'd scored in the league in over two years. Wowzers indeed.

The first half stayed at 1-0 despite City having some good chances, with a couple of excellent saves and a break a little too soon and to be offside being the main culprits. I said to my friend we needed a second to finish the game off a little, and early in the second half a corner was put in and hit away, Kevin de Bruyne found Vincent Kompany on the edge of the box and the City captain scored an absolute belter, curved superbly into the top corner. And this from our main central defender, remember! It was a cracking strike and I think if the likes of Sergio Agüero had scored that one, it'd have been talked about for longer too.

That certainly helped to open the floodgates and as City headed forward, Palace looked a little more lacklustre despite bringing in some changes. A low shot from the edge of the area from de Bruyne squirmed under Wayne Hennessey in the Palace goal for 3-0, and Pablo Zabaleta then came on for City to the delight of the fans, who still adore him in their droves. It didn't take long for him to make an impact either, putting a perfect cushioned header from Yaya Touré's cross right into the path of Raheem Sterling to strike home for 4-0. And you wonder why we all love Zaba so much - instant impact, rapport with the fans, and gives 100% for the team. If he does leave at the end of the season, it'll be a sad loss.

There was still time in stoppage time as the diehard Palace fans stayed to the end (respect to them for that really) and as a free kick came in, there was Nicolás Otamendi to head home from close range and to give us our best home win since September in the league, our biggest win since the last 5-0 we had (West Ham away in the FA Cup, I was there!) and overall a rather excellent win and goal difference boost over Liverpool too. I was indeed "Glad All Over" so let's make that one tune of the day shall we?

Later on The Love In My Heart and I were heading off to my Mum's, as she was cooking us an evening meal, and my brother and his girlfriend was also there too. We got a taxi (eventually) as the local taxi numbers near The Love's aren't the best, and they don't even know where the flats are despite the fact lots of them pass by her place all the time. We got one in the end, and my brother had sorted us some nice ale, so Proper Job and Tribute was mine to be head during the evening too.

Mum made some lovely roast lamb with potatoes, carrots and gravy along with a Yorkshire pudding or two, and in fact I was spoiled for dessert, she'd only gone and found the closest thing to the Jamaican ginger cake that I loved as a kid, and had that hot with some custard! Me and my brother approved of that wholeheartedly and it was nice to catch up with everyone and have a good natter. In fact it was also nice that Mum seemed in an upbeat and happy mood generally, and the evening just sped by nicely. It was like having a Sunday roast on a Saturday night with good conversation and company. Result!

Friday 5th May - Delayed Day

It was a fair day at work with plenty to be getting on with, and it was nice that I'd found a few possible solutions to some issues that had surfaced. I also had to a pretty urgent piece of work to do with regards to the fact that one of the servers that houses one of our systems seemed to have external ports open, and found out what actually needed to be open, and sent that onwards to the relevant staff. It was good to be able to assist and it was a good end to the week too.

I headed home, had the case already packed for the weekend, and then had some tea. Once that was all sorted, I made sure I had the train tickets, and off I headed for East Croydon station. The train to Victoria was fairly quiet, as was the tube (so much easier when it's after 7pm I tell you.) I got to Euston all in good time, but there were a heck of a lot of people on the concourse even for a Friday night. Glancing at the arrivals board didn't seem like it was that convincing either with many delays getting in.

Euston these days has free wi-fi so I logged on to that and went to the Virgin Trains website. As it turned out, someone had been hit by a train between Milton Keynes and Rugby, and so some of the lines had been blocked with emergency services there. Naturally there was a diversionary route via Northampton, but that did mean that services were slower. Indeed a couple of people weren't sure of what to do so I helped them out as best I could and explained what had gone on.

Eventually the train I was getting on had arrived, and once all emptied and clean, it was a fair delay on the 2040 departure from Euston to Manchester Piccadilly. That said though, it was twenty five minutes late leaving Euston, and as the train headed North through the darkness, it appeared to be around the same level of delay all the way through, meaning no delay repay (needed to be 30 minutes plus). However, I did at least manage to get to Manchester okay in the end, and it was down for the tram stop to take the tram to The Love In My Heart's place.

She had texted me to say she was still up, so it was nice to see her when I got to her place and have a little fuss and love with the two cats Jô and Brian too. It was good to chat away to each other a little bit and even have some time to snuggle up before bed, which was really nice. In fact Top of the Pops from earlier tonight mentioned a classic song by The Cure, "The Lovecata" as it was in the chart. As I adore that song it simply has to be tune of the day. So wonderfully, wonderfully, wonderfully, wonderfully pretty...

Thursday 4th May - Thought Processes

Today would have been the election of the new MP for Manchester Gorton, the constituency I used to live in, had it not been for all the snap General Election stuff putting paid to all that. However, it was the Greater Manchester Mayoral election, which means that it'd be the first stage of some devolved budgets for the area, including the likes of transport. I certainly would have voted for a say in that if I was able to, and The Love In My Heart had already cast her vote by post (she has done that for the last few years but has always voted, fair dos to her really)

What I suppose surprises me a little is that the turnout on the day proved to be pretty low all round, and that it almost seemed like no one was that meithered about deciding on an important part of possibly some of their future. Whether it's general apathy, lack of awareness that the mayoral election was still very much on, or just a general disillusionment on the whole, I don't know. I do know though that for me it's always a case of that if you do at least vote, and things aren't how they turned out to be, you at least took part in the democratic process and if you then wanted to complain a little, I think you'd feel more able to.

Certainly for me Manchester is still a wonderful city and still a place where my heart belongs (even if my body doesn't due to working down south) - and indeed a place where The Love calls home. Being able to have a say in how the money is spent on the city, and particularly the hope that the public transport goes back to being properly regulated, fair and accessible for all would have been something I'd have definitely wanted to see. There's so much that the city is getting right and making itself a real buzz and a place to visit not just for the two football teams, but so much more.

Anyway, my thought process on this is pretty clear: these are the sort of things to be voted on, to decide between those who live there, and having an opportunity to elect the right person. It's a process that people have fought for, have died for, and whose freedoms we owe a lot to. I maybe wouldn't like to see a vote being compulsory with fines for those that don't, but I do think that there's a lot to be said about encouraging more the likes of postal voting (handy if the polling station isn't always so close by) or having polling stations in town halls so you can cast the vote there.

Still, tune of the day is "I Wanna Be Elected" by Alice Cooper, seems quite apt somehow with all the other stuff going on with regards to the main election in five weeks time. I for one certainly have noticed that on Question Time, the BBC still have UKIP on, despite their council seats most likely being gone tonight. What did please me though was Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru having a chance to put herself forward, and she did pretty well on the whole. If I lived in Wales, I'd be tempted to vote Plaid because she seems a very fair, straight talking, no nonsense leader who wants equality and fairness. And I kind of like that.

Wednesday 3rd May - Sorting and Surprises

So another day in work and back to the normal shift now. In fact it worked out pretty well for me as it meant I could crack on with checking some deployments and making sure that they all worked, and the one for Flash Player was heading out there nicely with some 500 plus PCs getting it during the day, so pretty good for a Win10 deployment to go nice and smoothly. In fact I've been pleasantly surprised just how useful it's been to monitor things early on so that at least any issues can be spotted early enough.

I spent a fair bit of the day looking at a few different packaging tools, as we have a licence for an older version of Wise Studio. In essence it could possibly do one job I was thinking about doing, but because of the way I want some pre-requisites and scripts to be able to run, it may not be able to exactly do what I was looking for. In addition one of the installs I wanted to place in the package is already an InstallShield based MSI, so in fact it may be worth tweaking that instead for a better result. We shall see how that goes.

I headed home via House of Fraser tonight as The Love In My Heart had ordered an item from there, and it's easier for me to pick it up locally instead of her having to venture out and get it. In fact I was pleased that she had ordered it whilst the sales were still on, primarily because it was money off, but also because she looked really good in the outfit too. It was easy enough to head down to the basement floor and to the collection point, and get that all sorted.

I had a nice surprise on the BBC Red Button as they featured later in the evening the game at the Academy Stadium as Manchester City Women took on Birmingham City Ladies in the Spring Series. It was a close game and both sides went for it, and a brilliant goal from Lucy Bronze levelled it all and made the final score 1-1. If this was a dress rehearsal for the Women's FA Cup final a week on Saturday, nothing much has been given away that's for sure...

On a plus side, I also sorted out an issue with the Tassimo coffee machine, which as of late hasn't been doing full portions of the coffee. I disassembled the piercing unit and found the remnants of one of the pods' plastic covers in the unit itself, meaning that the plastic was blocking the water flow and meaning less was coming out per cup. I've sorted that nicely now and it's been much better in terms of having an Americano and a latte now, so that was good to get done. "Black Coffee" by Black Flag is tune of the day as I was able to give that a blast after I'd made one!

Tuesday 2nd May - I've Got To Choose

It was a nice thing that I was covering the late shift of one of my colleagues today, as it meant that after the late finish of the snooker I could at least have a bit more time in bed before heading off to work, and that's pretty much as it worked out to be honest. It did feel a little odd though coming in when a lot of people were already there, but it's the nature of the beast of course that at least there'll be late cover for anything that does come up. Of course, plenty to be getting on with for myself anyway.

One of the things I was checking over was the updates planned for Flash Player and for Java that we were going to roll out later this week, and so in view it was good to be able to get another batch of testing done and make sure that they deployed and that they ran well. Of course all was good there so it was effectively a case of planning the deployment schedule and getting that sorted, plus then making sure that I also had time to look at other issues that had been ongoing too.

It is always a mixed bag when you head back to work, not least because we had a team meeting in the morning so was good to be able to partake in that and work on some development, and on top of that be able to see what else was happening too. I suspect over the next few months it's going to be pretty busy, but at the same time I think that I know there'll be plenty to get the teeth into. I for one am looking forward to a couple of projects where I'm going to get more involved, and be able to have some input into the future.

I headed home later and it was good to get some stir fry on the go - namely some chicken, mushrooms and some schezuan sauce. In fact I realised on the way home I had run out of noodles so a quick pop into Sainsburys later and that was me all sorted - which is one good thing about having a local shop close by to where you live - for little bits it's an absolute godsend as I can just nip in. I must admit that having that and a Tesco close by is all good, and even a Waitrose a little further away if I really fancy something fancy.

I did listen to a fair bit of music tonight, primarily inspired by seeing The Darling Buds last Friday night, so it was on with some of their songs. In fact the whole of the Pop Said.. album got an outing and so the likes of "You've Got To Choose" were played proudly (make that tune of the day in fact) - a lot of the songs on this album are under three minutes and really a perfect example of short sharp indie pop at its finest. So good to see them last week and on top form too!

Monday 1st May - Bank Holiday Bargains

The Love In My Heart and I had a well earned sleep before heading out of bed, me making some breakfast and then taking things relatively easy with a coffee and a chatter. In fact the weather was making a decision to go out somewhat perplexing - it was chucking it down, then sunny, then hammering it down, then sunny again. We tried to time the walk out so that the sun was at least present with a view we'd be heading to the shopping centre and being inside before any further rain hit.

We headed off to the Centrale shopping centre and off to House of Fraser there, where The Love saw a little shrug that she really liked, a lot. Unfortunately, they didn't have it in The Love's size, and so we thought we'd ask an assistant, who brusquely told us that they only had the sizes what was on the shop floor. Boo. We thought then that ordering online would be the answer, and we were able to do that later on which meant that The Love was able to get it at the same discounted price. Hurrah!

In fact I was tempted by several CDs in HMV, but with the birthday coming soonish felt it best to resist for now and instead be able to get an idea of if I got a gift card, what I'd be able to treat myself with. I must admit I've bought less CDs since I moved, primarily to ensure I had enough money for things like trains to Manchester, so it'd be good to treat myself once that happens. That said too, it was sorely tempting to indulge in some DVD box sets, might treat myself to Line of Duty actually.

It started to wee it down again once we left HMV and headed back to my place, where the snooker had just restarted and after Mark Selby's comeback last night to 10-7, he pulled it back to 10-9 and it seemed to be all to play for. With the weather being undecided in terms of the rain, and whilst it was dry, we decided to leave a little earlier than planned and so would be off again to East Croydon station, on a very quiet train to Victoria (happy) and a quiet tube to Warren Street, where we'd take the short walk to the Crown and Anchor.

And my that was a good decision - the Half Mast ale was on form, but not as much as the food. The Love had the fish and chips, and that looked particularly lovely, and I had the beef and ale pie. It was absolutely gorgeous, a proper pie full of beef and mushrooms cooked in ale, together with some triple cooked chips too. Spot on, and a nice way to spend some quality time together and to feel that sense of closeness. We then headed off to Euston where an emotional hug and kiss to say goodbye was shared, and The Love headed back up to Manchester and I headed home.

The snooker was my choice for the night, and it proved to be rather exciting actually. Mark Selby was 13-11 up, pulled that forward to 16-12, and after the mid-session John Higgins came back to 16-15, aided by a decision which proved to be correct where Mark Selby had failed to roll up to the black. In fact I can't understand why people were criticising the ref Jan Verhaas for that, and it was good to see Steve Davis and John Parrott back him up. Selby put that behind him with a century and then got over the line with another 80+ break to clinch his third title in four years, and only be the fourth person to defend a Crucible title. And "Drag Racer" the proper version to end things too, nice, and tune of the day due to that.