Dear Diary... November 2017

Thursday 30th November - The Battle Continues

And so, battle recommences in the fight with that pesky SCCM update. I tried out a fair few more things today, one at a time, to see if we could resolve the issue. So just in case the certificate chain for some reason wasn't being seen correctly, we ensured that we sourced a new Web Server certificate so that the management point and distribution point had one which was valid for both of those. That was fine (and we kept the old one as backup so we could revert back) and once applied to IIS and the server restarted, tried an OS deployment again. Failed. At the same place.

I looked further into the CI logs (particularly CITaskMgr log) which showed that it came up with a common error to say that it had no way of contacting the distribution point for download. Here's the thing: the boundaries were working before, so haven't changed, and the boundary groups have those boundaries in, with the suitable servers for the DPs attached to each one, so definitely also working as intended too. Frustrating as it seems to be, it does appear that for whatever reason, on reboot after client install, it just doesn't like the fact that the cert was there, but then not.

In fact what I could do as a test tomorrow is to put a pause in the task sequence after reboot, go to a command prompt and manually get the client certificate using certlm.msc - and then see if that works - if it then means we are able to get hold of the application content and download it, and make it work, then all good. Packages do work in the task sequence after reboot, so you would think that if the content was unavailable it would not be able to see the packages on the DP either. Yet it does. Odd.

I did however later on the way home manage to get a replacement cabin sized case for my weekend trips away. The old Constellation one finally gave up after thirteen years, as the pull handle failed to release so you couldn't wheel it around, and was a pain to carry on the way home last Sunday. The good news is that in Debenhams they have the Tripp ones, same as what my large one is, and in the sale (well they always have a sale on there) it was a mere £27, so woohoo, all sorted and less hassle. The nice thing was I was able to check it all in store before purchase so I'd know if it was good enough, and is. Hurrah.

I also then spent time tonight listening to the new Morrissey album which is growing on me, especially the epic closer that is "Israel" and therefore tune of the day. I think I've realised that with continuing hassles, I need to be able to wind down somewhat and be able to take the mind off things so I can feel refreshed in the morning and be able to get things done. And I did manage two changes to implement yesterday so at least feel better about doing that...

Wednesday 29th November - Battle Commenced

After yesterday, it was spending virtually the whole day at work and ensuring that I spent the time all checking over the SCCM Update and find out just why applications wouldn't seem to be deploying correctly within a task sequence. Somewhat ironically, it seems that applications that are deployed to existing clients all work correctly - as I had spotted with the likes of Power BI Desktop which was going out to clients and without any issues either, always good to see. In fact that hit around 700 plus in all.

In one way it was reassuring to see that work, but kind of annoying in another that an OS Deployment wouldn't be able to evaluate the applications properly. I did a further test in which one of our Server Team had a minimal Server 2016 build which has a few packages. They all worked and the task sequence completed. However, what I did note was that the client didn't immediately seem to get a PKI certificate and showed in the client settings as none - it was only after a small while that PKI then kicked in. Hmmm...

I took a look at a fair few more log files on both the server and client side and found a few very interesting things of note, in that:

So just a fair few things in all, but all seem to be related. In essence, if the client isn't getting a valid certificate when the client is installed or from the main distribution point (also our management point in our case) then clearly it's for some reason the policies aren't doing what they should in terms of downloads. It was of course good to get the bgbisapi one sorted first though as this then meant that the log files weren't filling up showing it had failed installation.

What I did do when I got home tonight though was to be able to relax a bit, put the feet up and listen to Radio 5 Live via the red button on the telly, and not only did Manchester City keep up the amazing run by beating Southampton, but Raheem Sterling scored right at the death to get the winner. We're Man City, we fight to the end and all that, and with that, the awesome Supra version of "Blue Moon" is tune of the day - these days, City know how to keep me cheered up!

Tuesday 28th November - Upgrade Time

Today was for me to install the new SCCM update, KB4042949, so that our SCCM 1706 infrastructure is all good. It went well on the test server without issues, and the new client also upgraded correctly as well, so thought that at least it should go according to plan. Of course, the main thing is that you test these things as much as you can before deploying live. I did have to postpone the change a little bit before I started it as we needed to confirm a backup was all good.

So, the pre-requisites were checked as normal and the wizard did its bit to ensure that the settings were right, we didn't update the new client until we were ready, and off it went. I spent most of the morning monitoring the log files to ensure that all the update was applying correctly, and once it did all of its work and sorted out all the necessary additional files and so on, it then ensured that the services all came back up afterwards, we were able to PXE boot accordingly, and all was well with the world.

Well, that was what I thought at least. I was able to get everything else all happy and working, but the main issue appeared to be that it was that operating system deployment failed - and not straight away either. It was a case of that the OS would copy down and that the image would apply, as would the drivers and then the configuration manager client. All well so far, but unfortunately that's where it would then stopped, because the moment it hit an application install, it failed.

Further examination will be needed on this, but it certainly to me looks like that for some reason it can't work out that it's able to be communicating with the management point correctly (which it should do) and then be able to get the content accordingly. Boo. Might have to spend a chunk of time with this tomorrow and see what can be done, but it's not good. I do feel rather frustrated that it doesn't appear to be a widespread problem either because there's not much information about it.

Ah well, I think "Born of Frustration" by James would be a suitable tune of the day, not least because of the fact that there is a real sense of that when I've been able to get things done, other things get on top and become frustrating, such as some of the planned changes I'm looking at in other systems to make them more reliable and work correctly. I suppose in one way that for me it's going to be a case of pick it all apart, set it all off again, and the see what happens..

Monday 27th November - Another Manic Monday

It was back to work after the long extended weekend and it was good to be starting a catch up and getting into the swing of things. Not of course that the journey into work was enjoyable of course - the trains were rammed as per usual and standing room only for over half an hour isn't really my idea of fun whatsoever. I really don't like the new pattern of hours really, but I'm doing what I can to be make things a little more bearable as time goes by during this time.

I think the weather's also been more noticable as well as it's been a tad colder. Because East Croydon station is downhill from the main road, and quite open to the elements there, the wind does blow across the platforms somewhat. I could of course wait in the small waiting room but everyone else tends to do that because of the weather as well, so any heating in there is negated by the automatic doors blowing the cold wind in. Joyous, I know.

What I was able to do later on was to listen to the new Morrissey album "Low In High School" that I bought in York on Friday. It's a promising listen so far, although I have to say that "Spent The Day In Bed" is tune of the day as it's still really catchy from the first listen that I had a few months back. In fact, it's a real sense of defiance and "because the mood conspires to frighten you" and maybe that's a summing up of time at the moment. It's not nice to be going home in the dark so I've not even got any scenery to look out of when the train heads back homewards.

I did of course start to think as well about what could well be album of the year for me for this year, and there are several contenders, but also for single of the year too. It's a real sense of a changing time for me generally, and what's been good is that with that the music I listen to has been as fresh as ever. It's also made me think about the world around me and what would make me feel a little more than other songs do. So, for example, the sentiments of She Makes War's "I Want My Country Back" resonate highly with me, especially with the line of "Get your fake news from the Daily Hate", ho ho.

It was also good to nip to the local Argos and pick up a present that I'd ordered online and had sent to there for Fast Track collection, as it was originally out of stock and so needed to get it ordered. It does mean I've got a minimal number of presents to get now for Christmas and that is good - I wouldn't like to be running around the shops in the last week in December and find that things aren't in stock that I am after, so that's something. On a positive note, I've spent less than expected and got some nice presents too.

Sunday 26th November - Sunday Lunch

It was good to wake up and relax with The Love In My Heart, and Brian the cat did seem a lot better. He was also being really good and just snuggling up on the bed nicely, and that was good to see. He seemed much more himself and even sat waiting by the cupboard where the Dreamies are, in order to persuade Mummy to give him some. He even had a play outside before it rained down a tad and he was quite happy overall, so we were both pleased really.

Once we got showered and changed it was off on the tram into the city centre to meet up with two of our friends for a meal, and they'd chosen Randall and Aubin on Bridge Street. It seemed nice enough when The Love and I went in, and the staff were very nice, taking the coats from us as well as my weekend case, so felt nice and light for when we headed over to see the friends. The only downside was that they didn't have much of a beer selection, and the one they did have which our friend tried was a bit too wheaty and not very nice really, so something in my view they could improve on.

On the positive side, the food was good. Very good. I didn't have the starter was saving myself for dessert, but the onion soup that The Love had looked good and she said was pretty ace. Most of us did have the Sunday Roast for main, I had the beef and that was nice and soft, and came with some gorgeous gravy, roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, carrots and peas, and The Love had the lamb which was also really good too. And of course I simply had to have the baked cheesecake with salted caramel ice cream which was simply stunningly nice.

It was good for us all to have a good natter and catch up, and we weren't being rushed by the staff either so that helped enormously. The Love and one of our friends did share a bottle of rosé wine, which looked good, and of course it was good to chill out too. We then headed over to the B Lounge, formerly the Bridge Street Tavern. They did have Hobgoblin on cask but the other ales weren't on, but was still good to sit at the table and natter together, and that was also rather relaxed.

We said our goodbyes later on, and we managed to get on the tram with The Love, and then sadly departed at Manchester Piccadilly with the train heading off to London Euston not too far off. I did at least have a seat and was nice and relaxed, listening to the rather nice Depeche Mode album Spirit along the way, including the rather good "Where's The Revolution?" which is tune of the day. Surprisingly I managed to head on to the tube and on to a train home quite quickly, so was pleased - and even more so as Manchester City had won 2-1 at Huddersfield Town too.

Saturday 25th November - Out and About

It was good to have a bit of a lie in, although Brian the cat was doing the best to try and wake up The Love In My Heart at every opportunity, either with a gentle miaow or a purr or even a little stroke with the paw to wake Mummy up. He was still not 100% though as he had been a little bit sick, and so we were gently feeding him little bits on occasion just to see that he didn't bring it all back up again. The good thing was having seen this before it normally is a 48 hour bug that then goes, so we shall see what happens there. On a positive note he was drinking a fair bit of water.

After breakfast, we headed off to see The Love's father first, and so we were able to sort out a few things for him that needed doing. In fact it looked like he was hooking up a DVD and Video combi player to the telly, and so checked out the SCART leads, did all the reconnections there and made sure all was tight and good to go, and did a test record as well to see what the state of play was - all was good there. In fact it was good to see both of The Love's sisters as well along the way.

We then headed off to my Mum's, where it was nice to have a coffee and some cheesecake as well and have a good natter about all sorts. The nice thing was that Mum mentioned a few things about Christmas and also about my brother's house and how that was going. She did mention that they were awaiting some radiators and both The Love and I realised that I still had the ones from the old house at The Love's place, and so texted my brother and arranged a collection for later on.

It was then onwards to the Elizabethan pub in Heaton Moor, where some nice messy chips were to be had for a late afternoon lunch, and they had the plum pudding ale, so that simply had to be done. And was it as nice as ever? Of course it was. It was good to natter but we noticed how many parents and children had all piled in there during the day - it seemed that it was after the local Christmas fair that was on in the area. The fact that it was so busy said a lot about the fact that people like to go there I guess.

Back at The Love's place later on, it was good to be able to relax, and The Love made a rather nice chicken hotpot with some gorgeous chicken, potatoes and carrots, with some green beans on the side. It was gorgeous, and just got us in the mood when watching Strictly Come Dancing later on. There were some good performances but it was perhaps notable that one of them was to the classic "Beyond The Sea" by Bobby Darin (make that tune of the day - not least as a version of that is in Finding Nemo of course..)

Friday 24th November – Black Friday In York

The Love In My Heart and I got ourselves up (although the bed was comfortable and way too tempting to stay in!) and once a nice shower was had and us all dressed, it was over to breakfast. A full Yorkshire breakfast had to be done, so sausage, bacon, egg, fried bread, black pudding was on the cards (plus baked beans and tomatoes for The Love). All was good, we had a cafitiere of coffee and indeed some rather nice orange juice too, so a perfect way to get the day kickstarted.

We checked out of The White Bear and reflected on a rather lovely time spent there together, and once the slight frost had been cleared off The Love's car, it was back through the village, down the road back to the A1(M) and then following the A59, past the turn off for Beningbrough Hall that we've been to before, and then keeping on that road towards the centre of York. We did follow the ring road around and to Piccadilly, where the car park there had spaces, although not cheap (£2.50 per hour) and once done, it was off to the shops.

The lift from the car park took you to the department store Fenwicks, and we spent some time in there mooching at stuff. Of course they had Black Friday offers on, and some were tempting, and some were also tempting for The Love too. The good thing was that it wasn't over rammed, and we could browse at leisure, before then heading across past the Jorvik centre to the shops, and in Joy, we spotted that one Christmas present I'd got The Love had been reduced, not by a massive amount, but still, a definite recommended present for any Mancunian that's for sure.

It was then down one of the other main streets and into more shops, with The Love picking up some nice boots from H&M that had further reductions and so was £12 (nice) and we spotted a busker playing a Mancunian classic (James' “Sit Down” so tune of the day for that). I did nip into HMV to pick up the new Morrissey album and we got some cards from Waterstones too, and good for me because they were what I wanted. We also passed Betty's Tea Rooms and picked up some frangipane mince pies and other goodies from the shop too.

A nice walk around more shops in Stonegate followed, then going in The Cat Gallery and spotting the Christmas Markets on, followed by a trip into Gap and getting some black jeans for myself and a jumper for Christmas from The Love, which was 50% off, and looked very nice too. Always good to have something I'd want. More nice shops followed and it was relatively relaxed before we headed back to The Love's car, followed the ring road round to the Barbican, and then off down the A19 towards the outskirts of York.

In fact we ended up going to the York Designer Outlet, which was all indoors and in a way that you could do a loop around all the shops. I was tempted by a couple of things but overall it was nice to mooch around and be able to see what was out there. We headed back along the A64 and off to Leeds, where we stopped off at a pub for tea. We did note the goings on at Oxford Circus in London which thankfully proved to be a false alarm but was good to see the masses on site so quick.

The joruney back from there was interesting – back on to the M62 and just after Brighouse as we headed towards Huddersfield and Summit, the snow started falling and you could see on the hard shoulder just how much had fallen, a lot. In fact it was pretty slow going over the tops, and the road by Saddleworth wasn't the one to be taking! Once down towards Rochdale all was good, and once home we both fussed over Brian the cat, who had missed us lots, and we watched Gogglebox and The Last Leg before snuggling up – and another really nice day.

Thursday 23rd November – Wonderful White Bear

The Love In My Heart and I had been looking forward to some time away together, especially as we had booked The White Bear in Masham, which we've stayed at before and is lovely. Of course for me this morning it was an early start, as I needed to head out to East Croydon, get on the train to Victoria, and battle through a rammed tube train to get to Euston before then making it in good time and off to Platform 3 for the 1000 departure to Manchester Piccadilly.

The train arrived a little late but The Love was waiting for me, and once the case was in the car, we headed off down Broadway towards the M62, and then had a pretty windy ride over the tops as the wind gusted over the hills. The rain falling and all the lorries going past didn't help things either, and it was only once we left the M62 the other side of Leeds and on to the A1(M) that things started to calm down. Of course it's a long straight run up that motorway till junction 50, following the road then past the Heck sausage factory and turning left on the road into Masham itself.

It was good to be out of the cold and into the warm reception of The White Bear, and once checked in we were shown our room – number 3 and on the ground floor this time for a change. The room was gorgeous – massive big comfortable bed, gorgeous bathroom and with press button switches for the shower and bath that looked cool, lots of wardrobe space and proper hangers, lots of tea and coffee, Freeview telly, and it was just really lovely overall. We both approved massively and settled in for the afternoon with some lemon drizzle cake that is was in the guest lounge.

We did have a walk out in the afternoon: first to the Black Sheep Brewery round the corner so we could peruse the shop and the lovely beer in there. I did get a couple of bottles of beer you can't normally get in the shops to take home with me (and at £1.99 a bottle, reasonably priced too) – and then we had a drink at the Baaaaaaa-r – with some lovely 25th anniversary ale to boot. Of course it just tasted gorgeous coming straight from the cask and being brewed on site.

After a wander around the other shops including the specialist wine shop that does Masham Gin, we headed back to the room, got ourselves changed and ready and were heading out for the evening. We did note that al the Christmas lights were on and did look lovely – especially the knight on his horse which was very bright and colourful. It also did feel a little colder but it was good that the local village really did take part in the festivities and it felt nicer because of that.

Our evening meal was in the Bay Horse pub in the village – and they even had their own ale so I had some of that. The Love and I both had the mushroom starter – garlic mushrooms in blue cheese sauce, and it was stunningly nice. There were some little bruschettas to go with it so you could dip them in the sauce, and that worked out well. We also had a nice seat by the window which was cosy and comfortable, and the staff were also very lovely too.

The main course was the fish and chips for me and that was all very nice, especially the tartare sauce. The Love had the pork belly and the skin was really crispy, with a selection of vegetables too. I had to of course indulge and had the sticky toffee pudding for dessert, where the sauce had little pieces of fudge in, very nice that. We definitely enjoyed it in there and it was a good way to relax during the evening, and tune of the day reflects that, the lovely “My State of Mind” by Swing Out Sister, due to us both being very chilled out indeed.

Later on we walked back to The White Bear, and as The Love had brought some prosecco with her, we had that in the room and watched some telly and the news together, all snuggled up on the nice warm bed in the nice warm room. It really did feel nice and relaxing and just what we both needed I think. We had also noted that The Bay Horse had rooms too so we may end up trying that at some point, but so good to be away and definitely for me a wonderful reason to have some time together.

Wednesday 22nd November - Wrapaholic

I did spend a fair bit of time tonight doing one thing - and that was wrapping Christmas presents. In fact I checked my spreadsheet of presents bought and wrapped, and left to get, and I've only got three left to get, which is pretty good going. And of those three, I know what to get two of them and just need to know from one other person what they would like. Of course due to me ordering a fair number of presents online, it meant that I knew that some would still be arriving in the post - and in fact two of them did arrive when I checked.

The other good thing (another winning thing) was that I kept the rolls of wrapping paper from last year that I didn't use, and one of them was a fairly long roll from Boots that's decent stuff. In fact, I may not have to get any more wrapping paper at all which would be rather ace if that happened, so that's a little bit saved there. I do tend to wrap carefully and methodically, measuring out how much I need so it can all be done neatly with the gift tag added.

What did help too was listening to the last Wednesday show for Jayne Middlemiss on Sino Radio before she moves to the Saturday and Sunday morning 9am to 11am slots. It's been a nice thing to listen to when having the tea and being able to live tweet stuff (she even read one of mine out on air tonight, thank you Jayne!) and always a good selection of music on the show too. I hope that continues, although those slots are when I'm normally up North, so might have to fire up The Love In My Heart's laptop and get listening that way.

Talking of The Love for a second, she's enjoying some time off work, and her new sofa and armchair have all arrived and look fab. Thankfully, Brian the cat hasn't as yet decided to put his claws all over it, primarily because of a nice citrus smell that was sprayed on to distract him from it. He still has the pouffle in the front room which he adores to sit on, not least because he just loves curling up by the cushions on it, either asleep or falling out of the window..

Tune of the day in the meantime is the ace "Where's The Revolution" by Depeche Mode. For me, their album Spirit was another solid release but this, the opening single, is perhaps their best single in a fair while, from the impending doom of the bass line, Dave Gahan's vocals being spot on with a tinge of anger, and that chorus which just seems somewhat anthemic in its protest. Masters (and servants) at work, and judging by their recent live shows, still awesome as ever..

Tuesday 21st November - Winning

It was good tonight to see Manchester City do the business, albeit with a narrow sounding 1-0 win against Feyenoord in the Champions League tonight. Of course the amount of possession and chances that City had meant that it was only a case of when rather than if the goal went in. The main other positive is for me that the team gave the debut to Phil Foden, who had been superb in the England under 17 World Cup win and has been pushing for a place in the senior squad. Good to see him on and given a go, and let's hope for more if at all possible - maybe the next round of the League Cup might be good?

It had been a very busy day all round, with me resolving all sorts of issues from the start to the end of the day. I must admit that it's good to get straight in to looking at getting certain things sorted, such as working out just why for some reason one user was failing to run Project 2013 Pro correctly from their Citrix shortcut - and sorting out what proved to be a corrupted user profile certainly sorted a few things out there nicely too. Good I think when you can apply some sensible knowledge and get it all applied correctly.

I also had another nice packaging job to do - System Center Virtual Machine Manager. As it transpired, the admin console used to connect to the VMM itself wasn't too bad - hidden deep in the ISO CD image was an MSI install for the admin console, so good there, and then it was a case of applying the patch after the main installation took place. In fact this is where an SCCM application works perfectly for you - you have both as a deployment type with the suitable shortcuts, and then make the patch dependent on the MSI being installed first - then ensure that the patch is priority 1 - so that's the one that gets deployed. Simple.

And it worked too, so this meant I could launch the console, put in the address of the server, and it all connected correctly without any problems. My colleague had also resolved the Kaspersky Security Console install issue - it transpired that they changed the switches for the installer from /p to /v to pass the switches to the underlying MSI, so using /vEULA=1 worked well with the silent switch. Of course being Kaspersky, this isn't bloody documented properly, how poor that is.

So pretty much winning, although I must admit that I'm getting plenty of help requests from the folks on our Second Line team, meaning that less time for me for other stuff. It's a case of getting on with it and doing what I can, although sometimes that does mean that I have to re-prioritise. On the good news front on that side, I was able to do that and work on a plan of action for some forthcoming changes and take it from there, but I do have a feeling that somehow we need to be able to crack on with a number of things. Time, as they always say, will tell.

In the meantime, tune of the day for today is a cover version - and in fact it covers not one, but two songs by Slayer. I'm talking "Raining Blood / Postmortem 2017" as done by Body Count, with the full on spider crawl intro guitar, Ice-T belting the vocals out and some crunching riffs before at the end then heading into Postmortem, with the crunching guitars and the really deep metal vocals from the bassist Vincent Price, really doing Tom Araya proud. Awesome stuff.

Monday 20th November - Mind The Gap

After work it was a trip off to Wimbledon Park and to James the Barbers to get my hair sorted out. Of course because this was the first time that I had headed there with a 9am start, 5pm finish, it was a case of seeing how the tube would do. The Hammersmith and City line was busy but a fair few got off at Kings Cross St Pancras, and that helped, and then of course as the District Line to Wimbledon starts from Edgware Road, getting a seat was easy enough. By Earls Court it was a tad busy mind you.

The magic was woven by the staff in the barbers with the clippers, doing the cut well and us chatting football. One of the blokes is a Chelsea fan and we had a good natter about our respective seasons and how much I'm enjoying City at the moment, especially as this long unbeaten run continues apace. It is Feyenoord tomorrow so at least that should be a relatively good game and one where we should win the group - especially as Napoli will need to beat Shaktar Donetsk to have any chance of making it through.

After the hair cut it was then on to Wimbledon, minding the gap there and at Wimbledon Park when I got on the tube earlier. It was then off to the Centre Court Shopping Centre, as I did want to pick up a Christmas present from one shop, but I also wanted to get something for myself. I had noted that Gap had a sale on and they had 35% off online, but sometimes they actually reduce the cost more in store. So I had a look, and sure enough, 40% off. This needed to be explored a bit more.

And explore I did. And with good reason as well. I wanted a pair of black jeans in a similar fit and style to the two dark blue pairs I got from the Manchester Gap in their Summer sale prior to my holiday, which were £20 each instead of £50 and which I look good in, if I say so myself. And they did have the black ones, and they were 40% off, so that meant around £27 overall for a pair. So I said to myself "why not?" and treated myself to them - and so that was all good.

I arrived home later, had some tea, chatted to The Love In My Heart, and then spent some time listening to some music - especially some of the classic rock and metal that I have on both vinyl and CD, and so started off tonight, inspired by the Deep Purple concert for Radio 2, with Deep Purple's seminal "In Rock" album - there's so many good tracks on there, especially with the likes of "Speed King" on there, but for me the favourite track is the catchy "Into The Fire" (hence tune of the day) especially with the crunching guitar riffs...

Sunday 19th November - Quarry Bank Quandry

The Love In My Heart and I had a mission of sorts today - we needed to shift the old sofa from her place as the new one was coming tomorrow (she is off work so at least means that she'll be able to have it all delivered nicely) - and with the council planning to collect the old sofa, it at least means that we'd be able to place it somewhere neat and tidy for collection. Of course having the cushions removable meant that the frame would be easier to get through the doors, and the armchair was fine on that side. The main sofa due to its length proved challenging, but we got there in the end.

With that done and breakfast consumed, we headed off later and we thought as we hadn't been for ages we'd go to Styal and to Quarry Bank Mill - as it's National Trust we'd get in for free and have a nice walk around the gardens too. It's always busy which says a lot, and we could even if we fancied it walk over to the village too. We headed off, and soon it was down Kingsway, through Heald Green and then off towards Styal. At the point where the road crosses the railway line to the airport, we noted the A555 link road finally taking shape (this will link the airport to the A6 just past Hazel Grove) - and due to other work going on, the road past Styal was shut, but Quarry Bank Mill was still accessible.

We got to the car park, and noted straight away that the car park was brand new, this was extended from an original overspill and was now the main car park, and no longer did you head down the slopes to the mill, but instead through a new visitors' centre entrance to the place, close by for example to the Apprentice House. What we did note though was the cost: previously you could get tickets at the ticket office for the bits you wanted to see, the mill, gardens or apprentice house. Not anymore, with gift aid it's now £20 per adult. Ouch! Membership is paying nicely for the cost of that then..

We noted the new path to the garden, which takes you straight to the upper garden. There's now a nice small café in there, and the biggest change also is the Victorian lean to greenhouses, which are now fully open and growing all sorts in there. It was effectively a cunning plan to use less glass but still have the same effect, and I've seen them well in the Lost Gardens of Heligan as well. The water trough and small greenhouse have also been restored, and you can then still take the paths down the cliffs and ravine to the lower gardens by the River Bollin, meaning a walk through the Mill Gardens to the mill and the shop there.

It was all nice, and indeed The Love did get some Christmas decorations from the main mill shop. I suspect though that if you do all three places on the visit, you'd get the money's worth, and at least as a member you can just do the bits you want, but you'd really have to do it all to justify the admission if you were paying. On the plus side the garden looks loads better with the restorations (and indeed a garden shop having plants etc for sale too which was a bonus) and the views over the river from those gardens really do look spectacular now.

We had a quick mooch in John Lewis, where the Elbow version of the Beatles song "Golden Slumbers" was playing (make that tune of the day) as the staff went into overdrive attempting to sell you Moz the Monster. I wonder what Morrissey thinks about that actually? We also then went into the Gateway pub for a late lunch, so the mixed grill went down nicely for me and the lamb shank for The Love, which she really enjoyed - the lamb was melty and really did fall off the bone well, and was gorgeous to demolish nicely. The meat in the mixed grill was ace too.

It was back at Piccadilly far too soon, and we had a hug in the station as she nipped into Sainsburys to get a few bits, and before I knew it, transported back to Euston. I knew that there were no trains from Victoria, so took the Northern Line to London Bridge and from there the train via Norwood Junction to East Croydon, so that all worked out well in the end. I had another package waiting for me via the next door neighbour, and so all was well there too. It was a lovely weekend and next weekend was going to be even lovelier!

Saturday 18th November - Assistance and Amour

The Love In My Heart and I got ourselves up, and we were soon having breakfast with Brian the cat just snuggled up on the pouffle wanting lots of attention as per usual. In fact he now has a Pretty Green bag to play with and he loves snuggling up in that - if it's not a shoe box that he likes to crawl inside and just curl up in. I suspect it's a comfort zone for him, although one of our plans later in the day was to find something else that Brian might want to curl up inside too.

First port of call on our way out was to The Love's father's place. For some reason he wasn't able to do any recordings with the video - and I suspected why. A quick look round the back of the telly showed why - the SCART cables were in the wrong place but also one missing too - and it looked like one of them wasn't exactly decent. Thankfully he had some spare ones, and so I was able to reconnect everything, do a test recording for him, and that worked really well, and he was happy.

We also then took the attention to the PC and he realised that he couldn't write any CDs, primarily because of a lack of CD burning software - and his old version of Nero wouldn't work with Windows 10. I fired up the free CDBurnerXP, and that did the job nicely as it usually does, especially as the wizards are quite close to how Nero works so it means he was able to give that a go. He was though using duff quality blank discs though so we pointed him in the direction of some decent branded ones at Wilko - that were actually cost per disc just as cheap as the ones he got from the discount shop!

With that sorted, it was then off to the retail park on Regent Road, not far from the city centre - and the traffic was a little busier due to Man U being at home later in the day. We were going to get some bits from Pets at Home but it was too dear - so we looked instead at the Pet Hut section in Poundstretcher. And it was an epic win - not only did we get a fab scratching board with some catnip so Brian could scratch but also saw this really nice little pet igloo bed for him to snuggle up into, and it wasn't that dear - so we got both. In fact later on Brian was seen to be snuggling inside that and scratching the new board so all was good there!

We did though end up in Wine and Wallop in West Didsbury for a drink too later on - and the ale was on top form there, as was the pinot grigio rosé that The Love had. It's always got a nice vibe in there, relatively chilled out, and doesn't need loud music playing to get that atmos just right. Of course a bit of Swing Out Sister would fit in perfectly with that surroundings, maybe some tracks from the new album such as the ace "Don't Give The Game Away" (make that tune of the day) and just adding to that vibe.

We had some gorgeous steak for tea later in the evening, and settled down to watch Strictly Come Dancing from the iconic Tower Ballroom in Blackpool. It was good, but especially Gemma Atkinson was awesome we both thought, and as for the bottom two, possibly Jonnie Peacock, as much as I've enjoyed him giving it a real go and showing that Paralympians can achieve anything when they set their mind to it. The Love and I also enjoyed Alexandra Burke's effort too, and she should be safe for another week I hope!

Friday 17th November - Parcels and Late Night Trip

It was another productive day at work, mainly concentrating on some loose ends to tie up for the end of the week but also looking at stuff for next week and beyond - such as a new version of Adobe Acrobat Reader DC (now at version 18) and also checking on how we're all managing with some of the recent changes I made to some of the systems we use for recording incidents etc. On the whole I think it's been pretty good that I've been able to go and run with that well, but also put in a sensible approach to make changes the right way rather than not.

I did have two texts from the concierge on duty for the apartment block I'm in - as two different parcels had arrived both with Christmas presents in. He had moved them both to one of the larger containers in the post room so I could collect them from there which made a lot of sense - and indeed when I got home from work later, there they both were. One of them though I have to say packed a relatively small present into a rather massive box. I won't say who the retailer is, as it may be a present that I don't want the recipient to know where I got it from, but it's worth asking all retailers to pack sensibly and environmentally when they do send stuff to you.

I had a bit of tea at home and then with the weekend case packed, it was off to East Croydon station and on the train (eventually) to Victoria, and from there the tube to Euston, where I was in good time for the 2040 departure to Manchester Piccadilly - admittedly later than I planned but I was still taking advantage of tickets I'd booked for a mere £11 when the last Virgin Trains sale was on, thus saving me a chunk of money overall. I also knew now that Coach C was now the unreserved coach, but they were at least honouring reservations made before the change, so I still had my seat there thankfully.

It was nice to be able to listen to some music on the train and relatively chill out, with the likes of Swing Out Sister, Nine Inch Nails, Pixies et al all offering some lovely random tunes when I had the iPod Nano on shuffle. I have to say though that it was good for it to pick out some of my favourite metal tunes currently as well so the likes of the epic "Seasons in the Abyss" by Slayer was just the thing for keeping me awake and roused as the train headed through the night, so tune of the day there.

It was then on to the tram from Piccadilly, and just made one towards where The Love In My Heart lives, and so I was soon there offering hugs to her and a tickle of the tummy to Brian the cat, who was all in chilled out cosy mode. In fact it was nice that he was being attentive and lovely, and I think that when we go to sleep he always cuddles up to The Love - even more so now that he's the only cat, and has a reassuring purr of contentment when he does. It was a long day, but always nice to snuggle up to The Love at the end of it.

Thursday 16th November - Click, Collect and Elbow

It was a nice and busy day and managed to get plenty done, and was good working alongside the newest recruit on our team, who had been promoted from within. In my view, deservedly so as there's been plenty of enthusiasm shown over the time that I've been there - and indeed knowledge of the business too. It's actually been a good example of working together and going through some of the tasks needed to get on with and complete a potential build for our admin machines, and getting through some of that with her ready to ask questions as needed.

In the meantime I've been ensuring all the regional sites we have are all set up with their SCCM 2012 distribution points and indeed have the PXE role correctly set up. In the case of one site today I got that up and running for next week, and two of our staff are at one of the sites each respectively getting things done there - and that's worked really well on the whole. The good thing is that it's meant that because of the work I put in, it's all gone smoothly and has meant less hassle and stress overall.

I headed into the centre of Croydon after work, and it was different to use the other exit out of East Croydon station which takes you past Ruskin Square and then past two of the hotels and onwards to the Whitgift Centre. It does save time going all the way round, so worth knowing of course. In fact that meant I could get a birthday present sorted for one of my relations, and I also had a click and collect Christmas present to collect too - and the staff in Next were very friendly and lovely too - always a good thing that.

I also watched on FreeSports tonight the final World Cup qualifying playoff between Peru and New Zealand in Lima. Of course, when Peru scored the opening goal the crowd went pretty mental as you would have expected, with it being South America and all. Peru scored a second goal midway through the second half and thus sealed the final place - and indeed it'd mean five teams from that continent, joining Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay, and it was a close run thing for most of the teams apart from Brazil all the way to the final group game.

I keep now seeing the John Lewis advert for Christmas on telly now, and slightly controversial due to a monster being involved. The only saving grace has to be the music, and it's a bit less twee than previous years thankfully, and instead having a Beatles song "Golden Slumber" but covered by Elbow, giving it a decent rendition. I'd still though much rather have the Beatles version but at least Elbow have done okay with it, so tune of the day it is.

Wednesday 15th November - Christmas Shopping Online

I must admit as much as I've made a good start on the Christmas shopping and was able to pick some good stuff up in stores for not that much cash either, being able to do so online has also proved useful for me for many years - especially if some items are less easier to get hold of than others. I for one always appreciate the simplicity of a lot of online stores, it's a case of purchase, checkout, await delivery or do a collect in store (if one is local) and the job is a good one - which makes things good for me.

I had in fact queried about one particular item which I really wanted to get The Love In My Heart for Christmas, and in this case I've used the online store before. How nice it was to get an email later that day to let me know that the item that I wanted to get was back in stock, and that I could order it whenever I was ready. That really did make things lovely, and the personal touch sometimes is often forgotten - so when you get that, it really does make you feel happy. Needless to say, present ordered.

And on top of that, plenty of the stores have already started their so-called "Black Friday" sales online over a week before. That so-called tradition is down to America and the day after Thanksgiving, but in recent years it's been more of a longer week or two of sales instead - with a view of everyone avoiding rushing around in December and getting everything last minute. It's therefore good to see that the discounts on offer have been decent in a lot of cases - and one such offer I took up to order a present and got 30% off. Win win all round for me.

I must admit though that for me it's been especially good to get cracking and I'm over half way there now. I shouldn't be too far off completing by the end of the month which then means I can also get the stuff up to Manchester when I head up for the weekend, and for friends and family, but also then send off stuff to friends and relatives who aren't in the city and so have padded envelopes ready to get packed and be all good. It's then quite nice to see everyone else run around whilst you have that feeling of having it all sorted.

I also spent some time tonight listening to the rather excellent new Swing Out Sister album "Almost Persuaded" - and that really is growing on me wonderfully well. One of the highlights for me is the track "All In A Heartbeat" (make that tune of the day) which feels bright and breezy and takes away the current cooler weather of Autumn and transports me instantly to warmer climes and the Summer in an instant. Which is rather nice isn't it? Well, I think so anyway.

Tuesday 14th November - Consultant Conundum

Most of the day, if not all of the working day, was spent with two of my colleagues and with one of the consultants from Accenture (formerly Focus Group) to see what could be achieved with ServiceNow, the system we use for help and support. It did look like we had a fair number of things to go through and to look at working on some potential solutions to some issues we were encountering. On the whole, I have to say, it's going to be looking positive, I think.

So one thing we did look at was the process flow for the way the workflow is working for application approval, and in fact the consultant had some useful ideas. We were in a meeting room which worked better because I could hook up the laptop to a screen and show the ideas off there - and we managed to work a suitable way to be able to set up the flow so that in fact if the waiting for approval request was there, then we'd be able to see how that would work in terms of the wait timer, and got that nailed nicely.

We also then moved to another area and to be honest, too much noise and distraction around and much less time to concentrate. However, we did look at how Azure AD integration would be for various other entities, and how that looks at importing users into users of ServiceNow. It all looks like it has to be done from the Azure AD tenancy point of view so we'd need to spend some time with our server team - and we'd then need the sys ID to see what the state of play was in terms of connectivity, which is good.

After lunch we brought in one of our Digital Transformation team, and looked into how we could possibly add a customisation for integration with JIRA which is in use for digital projects, and how we'd be able to effectively link the two together in some way. Of course a lot would need to be decided of course, but still good to know it is doable. And of course we then set to see about how we'd also be able to work on a few other things, including having the status update change show for each stage so that for requests, we'd know where the call is - ie: awaiting line manager approval etc, as well as displaying the call notes.

It was all in all productive, and with the encouragement to use update sets where possible because these would be imported correctly into the live instance with minimal effort from the development one, so all good there. I guess the only concern would be the sys_id used in some cases, so need to robustly check that where possible. In any case, all good, and headed home with Inner City's "Good Life" in my head, so make that one tune of the day.

Monday 13th November - Prophets of Rage

I had had a long long day at work, and the first time for ages I'd done a 9 till 5. And, wow, it was suitably appalling getting in. I had at least managed to get on the train but it was standing room only all the way from East Croydon to Blackfriars. And with the train already being a 12 carriage one it shows just how busy it actually is. The timetable Thameslink has doesn't help though: later in the day trains are every 15 minutes, but there's the 0723, then 0754 and 0824. And realistically the 0824 is no good for me to get into work on time. I'm already not liking this massively.

In a way that made my resolve to enjoy tonight's gig even more, seeing Prophets of Rage at O2 Kentish Town Forum. It was a hop on the train from work to Kentish Town, and then to the box office to collect the ticket and suitable guest list pass. You see, a few weeks ago I'd entered a competition on one of the O2 websites via their sponsor Carlsberg to be in a draw for free tickets for a forthcoming gig, and I put my choice as this one - and won! So it was nice to be able to head to another gig and for free, and I'm sure that I should look at entering more just in case I happened to get picked again.

Anyway, all done, the guest list person asked if I preferred upstairs or downstairs - I must admit I knew it was going to be intense so upstairs it was, and managed to get a seating spot with a decent view, and that was good overall. It was also good hearing many old school classics being belted out by the DJ in between bands, including the excellent "Waiting Room" from Fugazi, which set the tone nicely. I was excited as I knew there was a possibility of versions of classic songs from a well known band being played, and also the atmosphere was building nicely.

Up first were Blood Youth, who were from Harrogate no less (proper Northerners!) - and they were really good actually - plenty of anger and energy in their live performance, bounding around the stage with the guitars and bass, and the vocalist Kaya certainly was giving it some. Out of the songs that they did play, I really did enjoy "Parasite" a lot, and then also "Reason To Stay" which reminded me of plenty of metal bands in the early 2000s with suitable heavier vibe in verses and then a lighter part in the chorus. I enjoyed them!

So later on were Prophets of Rage, and a really good lengthy show. No encores. No bull. Just the band doing their thing. First of all, the DJ, DJ Lord of Public Enemy, did his thing and put together some neat scratching and with metal classics of all sorts, and leaving Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" to the masses to sing along to - add into that some Nirvana and Metallica, and the stage was set, and sure enough on came the rest of the band. It's effectively DJ Lord and Chuck D of Public Enemy, B-Real of Cypress Hill, and Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk from Rage Against The Machine. So you can imagine that this was going to be good.

Good wasn't even close. Awesome more like. Opening with their title track "Prophets of Rage" from their opening EP, it set the tone well, and led nicely into the first of many Rage Against The Machine classics, "Testify", which Chuck D and B-Real belting it out nicely. And add to that "Take The Power Back" and you were in for what was to come. New album stuff such as "Living on the 110" and "Hail To The Chief" also went down well, especially with the moshpit downstairs - it looked totally mental but in a really good way.

After a killer version of "Fight The Power" (classic Public Enemy that) B-Real and Chuck D belted out a medley of rap classics including "Bring The Noise", "Harder Than You Think", "Insane in the Brain" and "Jump Around" which had the crowd doing that of course. The band all came back on and a nice touch was a version of Audioslave's "Like a Stone" which Tom Morello dedicated to Chris Cornell, formerly of Soundgarden and sadly missed by the rock and metal community.

Two more killer RATM versions followed with "Know Your Enemy" and "Bullet in the Head" really getting the crowd going nicely, and two more Prophets songs including "Unf**k The World" which really did hit home. Interestingly Tom Morello's guitar back had a message saying "F**k Trump" on the back too, a real statement of intent. And once we had "Bulls on Parade", it was into the finale. And wow, what a finale. We're talking a totally killer, blow the roof off version of "Killing in the Name" (tune of the day without doubt) and that did absolutely kick backside, with Chuck D and B-Real belting the vocals out, and Tom on guitar being amazing as ever. And of course when it came to it, the whole crowd went for it yelling out the immortal line (you know the one) and that left everyone in a positive mood to end the night, me included.

Sunday 12th November - Remembrance and Green Chains

First of all this morning, after having some breakfast, I settled in to watch the Rugby League World Cup match between England and France. England scored with three tries inside the first eight minutes which pretty much set the tone for a relatively easy rest of the game afterwards and a win through to the quarter finals. I'm pretty sure that ther'd be a few mistakes that they'd like to iron out but overall it was pleasing to see the team perform better and that should be good going forward.

I did switch over at half time to catch the important parts of the Remembrance Sunday services from the Cenotaph live on BBC1. I did pause at 11am for the two minutes' silence and then noted all the dignataries, including Prince Charles having to lay a wreath twice, once for the queen and once for himself, and plenty of high commissioners from overseas too as well as the political leaders here. It's always a sombre and poignant occasions and will especially be so next year as it'll mark the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day too.

After all that, I decided that heading out for a walk would be a good idea, and so I looked at the first section of the Green Chain Walk, a relatively short (2.6 mile) walk taking in Thamesmead and Southmere Park (with its lake) before then heading to the finale of the ruins of Lesnes Abbey. As a number of trains were on diversion, I ended up taking the train to Queens Road Peckham and then heading on the 177 bus through Greenwich and Woolwich before heading through the vastness of Thamesmead itself - definitely more like a massive overspill council estate and having Brutalist architecture in parts too.

The bit where I got off the bus though, the very North part by the Thames, did seem a lot nicer, reminded me more of some Lancashire new build towns with green space, and it was there that the walk started, heading along the Manorway Green with the Autumnal leaves falling, and crossing the Crossway Lake (actually a man made canal that gives the feeling of a river running through the area) a number of times on bridges and seeing plenty of ducks and Canadian Geese along the way too.

Once past all that and crunching leaves, the route had two options: I took the one that went under the large road and then down towards a road running alongside Southmere Park. Once inside the park it was off to the lake and the many ducks and swans there, all being fed by local families, which was nice. You couldn't help but notice the Brutalist architecture of the tower blocks on the other side of the lake making this a real sense of contrasts as you did the walk.

On the other side of the lake was steps in the grass hill to look more like an ampitheatre, and once past that it was then following a path which went alongside houses in some green space, and some low rise flats at that as the architecture again got more Brutalist inspired. It was certainly more noticeable in the bridges that took you over the roads and the train lines - definitely with some concrete squares cut out they looked a little worrying if you were small and crawled through those gaps - they were big enough to do so and didn't bear thinking about to be honest.

Once across all the bridges, I arrived at Lesnes Abbey Park and at the site of the historic abbey ruins - one of the first monasteries to be demolished under the dissolutions. It was good to see the layout had at least been preserved, as had one of the mulberry trees in front - and even an arch survives so had to walk through that and get a sense of the size and scale of what would have been here. It was rather inspiring, especially as the excellent café close by did a really nice coffee with a lovely person running it. Little things, but they mean a lot.

It was good to get back into walking again and keeping myself fitter, and as I headed back to Abbey Wood station and got the train via Lewisham to London Bridge, and then the stopping train via South Bermondsey and North Dulwich back to Croydon, I reflected on a really nice walk and the time to myself just to relax a little too - which was good. Tune of the day in the meantime is another excellent track from the new Swing Out Sister album, namely "I Wish I Knew" which has a gorgeous sense of space and flow to it - much like the space and flow I had this afternoon too.

Saturday 11th November - Poppies on Patrol

Although I was out shopping this morning, it felt the right thing to do and pause in one of the squares in the shopping centre just before 11am, and at that time, a two minute silence fell with the place quiet for the mark of respect on Armistice Day (with the Rememberance Sunday being tomorrow.) It was good to see that everyone, no matter who they were, respected the silence impeccably and were able to have their moment. I just wish the shopping centre management had turned off the machines for kids' rides, as they were still blurting out the voices and sound effects during that time - a tad annoying to be perfectly honest.

With the silence observed, I had made it my mission today to get a hold on the Christmas shopping and make sure that I had some good ideas to get some items. In fact I did better than expected, and managed to tick several off the list. What did help was that I had some responses from some of my relations as to ideas what to get, and with a couple of new shops opening in the centre of Croydon this also helped considerably. I of course knew I had the money to spend on this (due to me saving up last month a bit) but even so, it really does make you think "I've managed to spend so much already?"

What I did also manage to do was to get some gift tags in Sainsbury's as well, hurrah. I have a shed load of wrapping paper left from the previous year so didn't have to buy it again, and unlike Boots, the gift tags are 3 for 2 so a definite bonus there. It meant that I can wrap up all the stuff I've got and that makes things much nicer. And indeed with gifts purchased, I feel like I'm finally getting somewhere with all the Christmas presents and that's a plus too.

I headed off to Ludoquist on the way back home, which is a new board game café that's opened not far from me. And I have to say it's very nice. The atmosphere is really good especially as lots of families are playing board games together, as a family, having coffee and a nice panini or an even nicer looking pizza. Staff are also on hand to help you choose a board game or understand the rules with you if you're not sure. They did have four Scrabble sets including the Harry Potter version, but no Super Scrabble, although admittedly that's really hard to get hold of now!

Later on I headed off on the train to Victoria and the tube to Warren Street, where I then walked down to the University of London's Student Central building (formerly ULU) as I was off to see Pop Will Eat Itself live there, and another opportunity to see them play some classics and kick backside. I must admit that the venue wasn't massive, but seemed the right size to be pretty packed (not sold out though) and the two bars, one of which led to a balcony outside, was okay, although no real ale and a mere £5 a pint for lager did not exactly appeal to me, it has to be said.

First up were Deadcuts, and after a sound problem with one of the guitars was ironed out, they were surprisingly decent actually. They were tight, the bass player Aaron Scars was coolness personified, and the vocals of Mark Keds really did hit home well. Their songs were short and to the point with a real sense of intent, and I liked them. I also liked the fact that they just put a lot of energy into what they did, and with a second album out soon, I'll have to check them out further.

Eat were up second, a band whom I had faint memories of in the 1990s mainly due to "Psycho Couch" being their main hit of the time. They actually played pretty well, and Ange Dolittle's vocals were spot on. Of course for many of us seeing Malc Treece (formerly of The Wonder Stuff) having a whale of a time with the guitar was certainly pleasing to see, and the songs were also tight. They didn't play Psycho Couch but did play plenty of their early stuff as well as the fact that they've had an EP out in the last couple of years. Surprisingly good.

The Jimmy Swaggart speech came on which meant that the incredible Pop Will Eat Itself were about to come on, and as per usual, an excellent show. It was mental front and centre so stayed right hand side away from the intense pushing about, and was able to pogo happily without a care in the world. It was an excellent set too, having the likes of "Not Now James, We're Busy", "Watch The Bitch Blow" and a storming version of "Everything's Cool" which really had the masses pogoing during the chorus.

Having "Can U Dig It?" followed by "Preaching to the Perverted" was very welcome too, and added to that a storming version of "Dance of the Mad" too. I suspect for some having the likes of "Oldskool Cool" and the vastly under-rated "Director's Cut" meant that they could slow down a tad, only then for an absolutely storming version of "Ich Bin Ein Auslander" later on, which was intense, and I mean intense. Mosh central and it looked like all the anger of what's going on in the world was being channeled into the pogoing, and as Graham rightly said afterwards, people need to realise just what's going on.

That was the last song of the main set, but an encore was to come, and very good too it has to be said. First up was "Get The Girl, Kill The Baddies" which really did have the crowd in a good mood, and if that wasn't enough out came the megaphone for a storming version of my all time favourite PWEI classic "Wise Up! Sucker" which really did kick backside in lots of ways. Finally a cracking rendition of "Their Law" sent us all off very happy (and indeed sweating too) off into the night.

Friday 10th November - Chickening Out

So, close to work, there is a now a branch of KFC. It was supposed to be opened yesterday but for "technical issues" it didn't open. I guess due to its close proximity to Farringdon station and indeed plenty of offices close by that it would be popular with office workers to get something warm for lunch - particularly as otherwise it's Sainsburys, Tesco or some of the more pricier outlets on Cowcross Street. I thought to myself today "why not get a little box for lunch later and give it a go?"

Of course, everyone else was thinking the same thing and at lunch time, there were queues. Not just inside the store either but all the way outside, snaking past the post office close by and all the way to Tesco Express. Which to be honest is where I ended up getting lunch from. I guess that the newness of the place is certainly one reason that it'd be so packed, but another I guess would be pricing - the snack box of either one piece of chicken or popcorn chicken and chips for a mere £1.99 is pretty hard to beat isn't it?

With the day done and the train being particularly warm for some reason, it was a case of getting home and having a relaxing Friday night for a change. No trains for me up North, and just a gig tomorrow night, so going to take it all relatively easy and get over the last part of the cold and cough bug - and got some additional stuff to dose myself up and get shut of the final part really. And with a nice email coming my way this morning, I had something to download too.

And that something was Swing Out Sister's long awaited new album "Almost Persuaded". It's been a journey and a half, started in 2014 as their PledgeMusic campaign "A Moveable Feast" which resulted in "Rushes" a CD based sampler sent out to pledgers, and also a free download of "Bande Originale" a concert they did specially at the Lowry in Salford doing versions of Manchester classics, sung in French (think Nouvelle Vague but the other way round) and the last track featuring a lovely rendition of The Durutti Column's classic "

Tune of the day is the album's opener "Don't Give The Game Away" which is classic Swing Out Sister, gorgeous vocals from Corinne of course, but a real sense that the whole tune could fit right into a film soundtrack with little effort, gorgeous instrumentation from Andy here, and a real sense of belonging and setting the album off perfectly. I'm going to be giving this a good few listens over the weekend, that's for sure, and it'll set the mind at rest...

Thursday 9th November - Moving On Up

Another day, but one where some things did happen, mainly a desk move. We've got a new person starting in our team on Monday (effectively someone who is being promoted from within) and as part of that, it was deemed to be a good idea to effectively have that person in the middle of the three desks our team have, with one of us in the existing team at either side. This effectively meant me moving from one end to the other, and so being closer to people who may walk up so I can redirect them accordingly.

It does make sense of course, and so moving was all being done partly yesterday but also finished off today, so and that at least meant that the desk was all sorted and good to go, plus of course I could make sure that I could adjust the chair height (the new desk is slightly higher) and to make sure that all of the necessary precautions were right for safety reasons. To me, it's just a desk and I get on with it, and as a fair number of people hotdesk anyway, it just makes sense to progress.

With that all done, I worked on some documentation with regards to packaging an application I'd been asked to do. The good news is that with a few tweaks of the MSI in Orca to generate a transform, it meant that actually it would be much easier to deploy the software concerned - as the necessary configuration files are pre-populated as needed with the values, rather than having to copy the file over later, much easier and much more efficient, and a simple transform of the MSI to do all of its work. Nice, I know.

I headed home later, noticably a little busier due to the current train strikes on both Southern and South Western Railway, and decided to chill out with some good music. And what better than She Makes War, and the excellent single "I Want My Country Back" (tune of the day and possibly one of my singles of the year to be honest with you.) She has commenced a new PledgeMusic campaign for her new album, which I have proudly backed, and for those of you who like good music, I strongly suggest you do the same!

I did also see some of the snooker with the Champion of Champions from the Ricoh Arena, Coventry, on ITV4 (on all week) and wow, Ronnie O'Sullivan demolished John Higgins. That doesn't happen often, particularly as O'Sullivan himself rates Higgins highly as one of his toughest opponents. It's been quality stuff and the venue does appear to be favoured by many, and announced it's going to remain here until 2021, which has to be a definite plus point!

Wednesday 8th November - Sell Out

Somehow, playing "Sell Out" by the mighty Levellers (make that tune of the day) at a decent volume sums up the feelings I have today, not least directed towards the trade union ASLEF, whose members decided to agree a deal struck between their management and Southern Rail - in that they'd get a 28.5% pay rise over five years in exchange for terms and conditions of their contract, including an imposition of Driver Only Operation (DOO), something which they were previously against and campaigned not to have.

Of course, the cynical of you out there would be thinking that combining the proposed deal on DOO and bundling it together with a salary negotation would mean people roundly criticising ASLEF and its members and stating "It was all about the money after all!" in the ongoing dispute over safety on trains. In fact closer inspection of the deal shows the so-called "exceptional circumstances" where trains can run without a second person on board (in Southern's case, the On-Board Supervisor (OBS), also called On Board Sometimes by many long suffering Southern commuters) and in effect this gives Southern carté blanché to run fully DOO whenever they're able to.

What this also does it hit passengers with disabilties particularly hard. There's already as it stands a number of incidents where a passenger has been left on the platform due to trains having no OBS, and the station being unstaffed so that the passenger concerned would have no assistance. That also means effectively the end of turn up and go for those passengers too, which is a blatant discrimination and a breach of the Equality Act. I would be horrified if that was my friend (himself a wheelchair user) and he would have wanted to board a train in those circumstances.

Of course, the train companies are rubbing their hands with glee. They'll know despite ASLEF's statement that this is their blueprint to enforce a similar deal with ASLEF on other franchises with the statement "Well, you've accepted this on Southern, so... " - and of course the Rail Delivery Group has weighed in stating that the RMT union are now outcast on their own. However, they haven't of course taken the strong feelings of passengers into account..

And talking of which, this is the same Rail Delivery Group who buried a report on accessibility on trains for 2 years because it actually argued that having a guard on a train was the better option for disabled passengers, the same Rail Delivery Group whose CEO insisted that if you didn't like your train service, you could move somewhere else (try doing that within a reasonable distance of London and see how hard that actually is) - and he made those claims on BBC's Panorama no less. And indeed, the very same Rail Delivery Group who are not supposed to send out any political statements but have done so for the last few months. So, Evening Standard, who are the actual hypocrites here I wonder?

And not once does the Evening Standard's editorial, clearly endorsed by editor George Osborne, mention what DOO means for passengers with disabilities. It's as if there's a case of doing what the Government are doing in terms of being discriminatory, demeaning them with a case of classing them fit for work when not, humiliating them with embarassing tests for fit for work, and all of this causing a rise in depression and in some cases suicide. One in five people in this country has a disability, I hope the Standard are proud of themselves.

All of this leaves me feeling rather narked off to be honest. I for one always worry what would happen if the train I take to work would crash in between stations - especially with the third rail being a live electric circuit right there. In the case of one train, it's already fully DOO with no guard. So who gets me off the train in those sorts of emergencies and who leads me to safety? If the crash involves the driver, what happens then? And so on. It makes me wonder if in fact I need to think about finding somewhere to work that isn't a train journey away anymore...

Tuesday 7th November - Getting There Slowly

I do feel like (finally) that the horrid cold is finally showing some signs of shifting. I certainly felt that when I blew my nose this morning and the sight wasn't exactly pretty. I did also think that the vapour drops of Covonia on the pillow may have helped me sleep and then be able to shift stuff too. On a positive note, I'm still getting there with getting better but I will be sure to finish off my course of the cold and flu drinks and also be a bit careful with having too many coffees with milk in - as The Love In My Heart mentioned last night that might not be helping the mucus shift.

Today was all about getting some meeting stuff done - not least having a discussion with our Service Delivery Manager with regards to the potential new request form we wanted to add in for one type of request. The good thing was that he had backed up what I had said already which was a definite positive for me, and he was able to inform the staff concerned that we'd be doing things as I'd planned and with a view to reviewing it later on if we find that for some reason it doesn't go according to plan - and it's a fairly straightforward thing to do.

I did spend some time at home later sorting out lots of washing and ironing and did feel better for getting that done, but also watched the first of a new series from Geoff of All The Stations fame - this time looking at the request stops on some railway lines. He went to Devon and visited Lympstone Commando, where you used to only be able to get off if you actually had any form of business with the army camp there. Nowadays there's a cycle path that runs alongside the railway so you can get off the platform and walk along the path, as he had proved...

He also did mention a rather crafty (and legitimate) ruse to save money on trains too. So, you want to go to places in Devon, and you know that the return fare is not cheap. So the way to do it is to get a return to a station just within Devon (so for example from London, Axminster's a good shout) and then get the Devon Day Ranger ticket. That ticket is £12, and you could potentially go from Axminster all the way to Gunnislake on the Tamar Valley Line (as that's included in the area) - and then stop off all the places in between - or even head back to Paignton or Torquay!

I must admit it's always good when you can go exploring and find somewhere different to go. It's one of the things I do appreciate even now with the Zone 1-5 Travelcard I have down here - it's not just about getting to work but also everywhere else around a lot of the London and suburban areas. It was really useful to get to and from stations for the Capital Ring walk for example, and even when heading to gig venues and stuff it's proved hugely useful to have that freedom. Tune of the day in fact is "Rover" by Jethro Tull - granted, the song's actually about a country dog, but the title is apt and the final chorus line of "You'll find me everywhere, cos I'm a rover" said a lot too.

Monday 6th November - The Return of the Manager

Despite feeling even more yuk and bunged up, the good news was that my line manager was fit to head back to work today, and it was really good to see him actually. He had suffered with labyrinthitis, a form of vertigo, for some time, and this meant although he could work from home, he had to be careful about moving the head too much or being disorientated. I think though he was itching to come back, so it was good to see him back and also good that everyone appreciated him being back too.

It meant a little bit less of people necessarily coming to me for everything as has been the case, allowing me to get on with some of the stuff I wanted to achieve for this week, and so started to set off another remote site for their distribution point role. All was working nicely there and I've got most of the things in place for everything to be able to have a chunk of content running overnight as well as being able to then have all the deployment stuff ready too, so felt positive about that.

We had a few meetings today and the line manager was in some, and good to see him back on form and offering positive suggestions. I think in a way that being off poorly for some time has given him even more focus (and to be fair he's very focussed) which means of course that we'll all be striving as a team to get better, as that's what we do. In fact this afternoon I spent some time getting some data exports out of our Active Directory and ServiceNow to see what wasn't in synch due to the LDAP stuff only being fixed recently, and will have something in play to sort that out.

Later on I headed home and was still massively bunged up, so stopped off at Poundland on the way home, and managed to get some Kleenex Balsam tissue packs (8 for a pound) as well as some Beechams hot lemon and honey powders, and finally some Covonia vapour drops - sort of like Olbas Oil but different, and hopefully some of those on a pillow and a tissue may help me sleep better and feel clearer later. We shall see how that pans out but I do want this cold to go away and do one!

In the meantime tune of the day is the excellent "Please Don't" by She Makes War - which for me is one of the highlights from her 2015 album "Direction of Travel". It is a lovely chorus duet with Mark Chadwick from The Levellers, but on its own with Laura's lovely vocals, it really does feel wonderfully haunting and lovely too. I can't wait to see what will happen when she launches her Pledge campaign for the new album later this week - I definitely will be having some of that!

Sunday 5th November - Arsenal and A Long Way Home

It was a case of waking up a little later, having some nice breakfast with The Love In My Heart, and getting ready to have a nice cuppa before heading off to meet my friend at the Etihad Stadium for the live Premier League game with Manchester City facing Arsenal. City were of course on some run of form, but we both knew that Arsenal was going to be a tough game and perhaps a toughest test of how we'd play at the moment. We got a brew and all was good, and made sure we got to the seats early, and with good reason.

On Wednesday of course Sergio Agüero scored the goal to make him the all time Manchester City top goalscorer, and so before the teams came out, a guard of honour was formed with some of the City younger squad, two of the women's team, and former players as well, including the likes of Dennis Tueart, Niall Quinn, and Colin Bell, but perhaps the two biggest cheers for the former players was for Uwe Rösler and then Shaun Goater - with Uwe particularly getting a big chant, and the guard formed as Sergio came out, along with a presentation accordingly.

The game kicked off and it was a little edgier as I expected, although for me it was a case of carrying on what we were doing. Chances came with some crosses across the box, but when one move broke down, Kevin de Bruyne played a one two with Fernandinho and the Belgian rifled a shot into the bottom corner for the opening goal and 1-0 City, with the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" (make that tune of the day) lending itself to a chant of "Ohhhhh, Kevin de Bruyne!!" et al. Arsenal had a good chance before half time but Ederson was equal to the challenge too.

The second half started well and City soon had a penalty after Raheem Sterling was bundled over in the box. The referee had no hesitation and replays showed he was correct. Up stepped Agüero and goal number 179 was his as he rifled the shot in off the post. Arsenal did come back into it when Lacazette came on and it was he who scored a low shot mid way through the second half and at that point we were all a little bit on tenterhooks wondering if we'd done enough.

That was soon to be resolved though, as the ball went down the right to David Silva, who looked offside but the ref played him on, and then he squared it for Gabriel Jesús to make it 3-1. It did look offside to me and those watching but we'd take the third goal and that proved to be enough for us to win the game and to stay top. And even better was that Chelski beat Man U later, and so we'd be a massive eight points clear at the top of the table, and this after 11 games. I'd have that thank you very much!

Later on The Love In My Heart made us a lovely tea, which was some nice roast chicken with vegetables and potatoes, and that went down beautifully, and a proper roast dinner to match too. We snuggled up and watched part of the results show on Strictly Come Dancing, and as I predicted Aston was in the bottom two (he'd go out later on) and then with big hugs and kisses to Brian the cat as he was all snuggly in his box, it was time for The Love to drop me off to the station.

The journey home was horrible unfortunately. My planned train, the 2021, and the train I'd paid to go first class on, was absolutely rammed, with all seats taken, all declassified and people standing in all the vestibule areas meaning that you wouldn't be able to get on. I wasn't going to risk it either, and they were waiting around for a train manager to turn up before the train left. I checked with staff and I could go on the 2055. I managed to get a seat in first class, although this was declassified too there was plenty of room so that was a relief.

What wasn't a relief was that they had to wait for almost an hour for a driver to come from a previously delayed service that he was rostered on, and then once that happened we were stuck behind a slow train at Macclesfield also. We got to Stoke on Trent almost an hour late and kept to time, despite a slow run at Wolverton just outside Milton Keynes Central. In fact we arrived at Euston at 0035, which wasn't really good at all, and knowing that no tube trains were running, it was still a way to go home.

In the end, I headed on the 59 bus towards Waterloo, and got off there and didn't have to wait too long before the N68 to Old Coulson via Croydon, and that was a route I'd done before - and it meant I'd be dropped off at the end of the road where the flat is too. I eventually opened the front door of the flat around 0145 and headed off to bed. I suspected I'd be compensated in full for the journey and all that, but I'd have much rather arrived on time and got home around two hours or so earlier..

Saturday 4th November - Bakewell Puddings

The Love In My Heart and I were up a little earlier than normal - but with good reason. Yesterday was Mum's birthday, and we'd arranged to take her out for the day and have a nice time in Bakewell, home of the pudding (Not the tart folks, blame Mr Kipling for that) and generally a nice town with lots of little shops to explore around - it's also a nice scenic road to get there too, and as The Love had very kindly offered to drive, it was good to get to Mum's around 9.45am and pop in her place first.

I was really pleased that she loved her birthday present! We had been in the Jamie Oliver restaurant Fifteen in Watergate Bay when we were in Cornwall in July, and we spotted the range of stuff to buy, including an apron. I know Mum loves nice aprons to cook in, and when we saw that we went "got to be done!" and purchased that, along with a Cornwall card from Whistlefish in St Ives. Let's just say she was a happy bunny and that set the day off wonderfully well.

Soon The Love was heading via Stockport and Hazel Grove to Disley along the A6, before turning at the Sparrowpit roundabout to head to Dove Holes and around the back of Buxton centre. The road here runs alongside a river, but also has the old railway line reaching overhead, with two or three times the road ducking under. It was nice especially as we arrived towards Bakewell that the pretty town did look just that, and the clouds were even clearing too for some nicer weather. Hurrah for that I thought!

The Love managed to get a parking space, and we soon headed along one of the main roads and had a good mooch in some of the shops. We did stop off at this lovely little bookshop which had a café - and the coffee there was rather lovely it has to be said. They even had some nice cake which Mum very kindly treated us to (I was buying us lunch later on) - and that was good to relax and chatter in there for a while too. I loved the fact you could browse the books and then have a coffee - really nice staff also.

We did have a mooch round plenty more shops including a little craft fair held in one of the scout huts, and ventured in plenty of gift places which all seemed to have scarves of all colours and ornaments a plenty ("dust collectors" as The Love puts it) and it was a little twee in places, but all good enough. We were getting a tad peckish though and so it was off to The Wheatsheaf for lunch, where the rear of the place was all being used for a wedding reception (we had seen the bride earlier on too!)

We did have to wait a little bit for the service, but ultimately it was worth it. Mum had the haddock and chips, and that haddock was lovely crispy batter and white fish inside - she couldn't finish it all because it was so big, but I tried a bit and found it nice. The Love had the ham, eggs and chips, although the ham was much more like a hock of gammon, massively thick and good. I saw they had pie, and the chicken, ham and leek pie was gorgeous, and the gravy that came with it was thick and good too. Oh, and decent ale on also which is always a good thing.

We spent more time in more shops, and some lovely places, and a fair few all laying claim to "we make the original Bakewell pudding!". Naturally I had to purchase one of them from one shop of course, and The Love also got the iced tart version (which ironically some bakers in Bakewell now also make) as something to take home for her father. We ended up later in Costa and I had the gingerbread and cream latte, which even Mum was keen on having in future - so she'll have to do that herself.

All in all it was all lovely, and so nice to see Mum happy and in her element too. Tune of the day came later on as The Love and I were watching Strictly Come Dancing on BBC1, and as the contestants danced and did really well, the classic "I've Got A Feeling" by The Black Eyed Peas was played by the band as Debbie McGee did her dance, and a perfect 40 as well. I must admit though I was worried that Aston Merrygold had taken too many risks with his dance, and that could well be his downfall...

Friday 3rd November - Idiots on Coach C

I had a good productive day today - lots of the changes I proposed were approved, which was good, and also plenty of the planning to do things for next week were also going ahead. I for one was pretty pleased with how it was all going and spent some time working on some of the requests and how they're handled in ServiceNow too. On the whole that was going well - just needed to look at the workflow diagram and make that happen nicely with some new changes for a new type of request. It did look good though so we'll see how that works.

I did feel bunged up a lot though so it was a case of dosing up and having some fresh juice, and then later on also heading off to the Crown and Anchor pub for a well earned drink. I must confess I was half tempted to ask for a hot toddy and try and ward off the cold and flu bug, but at the same time wanted a nice pint, and with Ghost Ship on cask, it just had to be done. I did feel a bit warm in there and it was something that The Love In My Heart and I had remarked on last Sunday, so noticeable to a degree. On the plus side though the music being played was ace, including the fab "Lola's Theme" by The Shapeshifters, so tune of the day for that one for me.

It was soon off to Euston and ready to board the 1820 train to Manchester Piccadilly, another of the £11 trains I'd managed to get on the Virgin Trains offer some time ago. It was good too that I still had the reserved seat as Coach C these days turns out to be the unreserved coach now. However, it was soon clear before heading off that a load of office workers who had been down to London for some function were on the way back, completely loud, completely obnoxious and right up their own backsides.

The next two and a half hours (longer than normal due to delays in the Milton Keynes area) were full of said idiots being just that: idiots, swigging Prosecco like it was a glass of water, being overly loud, getting in the way of passengers making their way to the onboard shop, having large balloon letters in the way, and so on. I just wanted them to get off and have some peace and quiet on the train (even though of course I had my earphones on I could still hear their annoying voices.) I can only hope I never end up a pretentious wanker like some of those people on the train.

I was relieved to get off in more ways than one, and The Love In My Heart came to collect me, and soon we were back at her place with Brian the cat being much more back to normal, which pleased me a lot. He had been poorly, poor thing, and was soon getting his little high pitched miaow back as well as wanting to play out - and having lots of cuddles with Mummy of course. We snuggled up and watched Gogglebox too which was the Stand up to Cancer Special, including the likes of Andrew Flintoff, Jamie Redknapp, Liam Gallagher, his son Gene and Mum Peggy, and all sorts - quite good too.

Thursday 2nd November - Bunged Up

This bunged up feeling isn't shifting, which isn't good, but at the same time it was a case of getting the proverbial head down and getting on with things today. And I had plenty to do, especially as I was getting the distribution point role set up on the remote site in Manchester (albeit not remote for me if I still lived there of course.) The good thing is that the procedure for the other one would be workable the same way, and so it was following all of that and ensuring that the role was active.

By default, there's normally around a half hour delay from the DP role being set up before any content is transferred (normally the client itself which you need to have as a local installer where possible.) Here's the thing: don't panic during that time, but just let that time span happen, so all the roles are correct, the IIS service is up and running, and sure enough, when it then starts to upload content, all the folders are created, and all does what it needs to do.

I also have managed to utilise this rather neat PowerShell script which ensures that all the content that you want to send can be done so on a schedule and indeed this means I could ensure a chunk of stuff would go overnight without me having to press the necessary buttons in the SCCM admin console to do so. I must admit that's worked pretty well so far and it does mean that all the time and schedule works as we need to, so getting content there in quick time when nothing else is going on.

I did arrive home later and did my best to decongest somewhat, and also had plenty of hot drinks to try and keep myself going. I must confess though that it's been the worst cold I've had for some time, with constant nasal congestion and also getting towards the chest and feeling like a constant need to cough up phlegm (nice, not, despite that word being a great word to play in Scrabble for obvious reasons.) I just know that I need to keep going and make sure that I can do what I can.

I also spent some time transferring some of the new albums to the iPod, including the rather wonderful "Music For People In Trouble" by Susanne Sundfør. It's much more of a return to her more acoustic more mellow roots, and better for it in my view, despite the fact I did adore the previous "Ten Love Songs" album. From the new album, there's something just so emotional about "Undercover", especially with the piano punctuating things throughout. Tune of the day easily for me.

Wednesday 1st November - Born of Frustration

It's been one of those days today, and certainly James' classic single "Born of Frustration" sums up the mood well and so is tune of the day all round. It's interesting that of course the line in the first verse has always been interpreted by some Manchester City fans as "Don't need no Stretford exorcist" - even though it isn't. I suppose it makes some sort of sense to assume that as some of the band are City fans after all. Mind you, I miss the likes of their earlier classics such as "Hymn From A Village", "Come Home" and the original version (not the re-release) of "Sit Down". I know my James, I do.

So, what has got me this way? Well, a number of things really. First of all, a cold that just won't budge. Decongestants have been taken, as has cough medicine, I've managed to cough up some stuff this morning that wasn't pretty, but it still feels like it's all dormant in the head and won't move. Part of me wants to deal with it as naturally as possible and let the body take its recovery, but the pain in the head really is bad, and it's making me feel down.

Additionally, I spent a chunk of time today resolving an issue where for some reason one of the PCs at a remote site wasn't connecting as it should. We had managed to work out that the network card was disabled for some odd reason so we re-enabled that, but then for some reason it wouldn't see the domain shares or anything like that and so wouldn't see user profiles, or for that matter be able to connect correctly to any mapped drives. I had a few ideas but needed to test them one by one to see what was up.

I finally hit the nail on the head a time later. It looked like, for whatever reason, the network adapter had lost its binding to NetBIOS, meaning that it couldn't resolve anything that used that protocol (which can be a fair bit.) As such, it did mean that to re-establish that, you had to work out the adapter's GUID, and then populate a series of registry keys in order to be able to see if the adapter would then be able to resolve its binding on reboot later on. And thankfully, it did, and I could do all the good stuff such as remote control and so on, so felt pretty pleased even though it had taken longer than I thought.

However, I had stayed late and due to trespassers on the train line near Harpenden, it meant that the train I get from work was delayed and many others before mine had been delayed a bit longer - and in the dark it just seemed to crawl its way homewards to East Croydon. Not particularly happy really, especially as I wanted to go to the loo and the person inside it hadn't locked the door, almost resulting in an embarrassing moment of sorts. Good job I had the sense to not fling the door open but realise they'd forgotten to slide the lock in place.

That wasn't all though - I then went to Sainsburys on the way home to get some more tablets, and the quick pay tills were anything but. One of them failed to accept any coins whatsoever, and the second one then decided not to give me any change after putting some coins in, meaning endless waits for the staff to sort it out. It does make me wonder whether the whole bunch of them in the store near me needs replacing - they hardly ever work and are always going down.. and that just ended the day!