Dear Diary... October 2016

Monday 31st October - Spookily Good

It's so nice when customer service is not only done right, but with a smile on the face and with a real sense of pride of purpose. And indeed it's so easy to complain about things going wrong, it's often too easy to forget to mention when things really do go right. So it's a bit of kudos all round to House of Fraser for processing my online order without a hiccup, and indeed giving me the text message to inform me it was ready for collection from the local store in Croydon.

I headed there after work after first of all walking through all of the new Boxpark next to East Croydon station. It all looks quite good with an open plan eating area that does at least have a roof on so you won't get drenched, and in addition to that there is a very nice lower section with tons of food and drink places, and it was busy with people excited about the new places too. I did notice that the Yumn Brasserie, well known to those who visit the South End restaurants, have a place there too - they're not daft are they?

So, onwards to the Centrale shopping centre and to House of Fraser, and the lower ground floor collection point, where a lovely lady served me and other customers with a smile, and being human too - often forgotten. She mentioned to me she was looking forward to a well earned cup of tea when she got home later and how much those things are much appreciated - and I agree - and found the order quickly, went through all the bits to sign for, and was really really lovely. And these things do matter, let me tell you. So with that in mind praise to her for doing a cracking job and bringing a smile to everyone's face after a long Monday.

And it was especially long as I had got in early (7am anyone?) and was checking out some of the services and servers on offer after the power down last weekend, where everything had to be powered off whilst electrical work took place, and then powered all back on again, and of course in order to ensure it all worked the right way too. I was pleased it at least did the business apart from one server, but I've identified the cause and a way to remediate the error, so put a change request in provided the server backup works fine tonight. We shall see..

I also watched Only Connect tonight and that was rather excellent also - notable that the music question in the first round all had songs beginning with "It Ain't".. which was a nice test that one of the teams passed with flying colours. I checked through my own collection to see if I had any songs that contained the word "Ain't" in, and found a few - the rather lovely "People Ain't No Good" by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (make that tune of the day) and "You Ain't Me" by Frank Black, as well as "Ain't It Fun" by Rollins Band and "This Ain't A Celebration" by Suicidal Tendencies. Rock, rock and, yes you have guessed it, rock.

Sunday 30th October - Lazy Sunday

It was actually just nice to spend the Sunday just relaxed and chilled out, something that The Love In My Heart mentioned to me as we had a hug and a kiss goodbye at Euston before she headed on the 1757 train back to Manchester Piccadilly later in the day. We had taken advantage of the clocks going back and so this meant an extra hour in bed having a well earned sleep, which was a rather nice thing all round to be able to do. I also made us some lovely breakfast later with some sausages, bacon, mushrooms and fried eggs too - definitely well worth us having.

Later on we were looking at places to go on holiday next year, and so after some thought and consultation together we looked at one in Carbis Bay in Cornwall that we both liked, and I filled out the online form and got the initial confirmation all sorted. I'll then be getting the deposit sorted and from there that's going to be us at least knowing we'll be going away next year. We may still take the train there, but there's also an option of taking the train part of the way and hiring a car for the week from there, or maybe even The Love heading there in her own car - we shall see.

That's positive though, knowing we've both got something to look forward to, and after we had sorted that out, it was nice to be able to then spend the early afternoon in relaxed mode, chatting about all sorts and also then having a good game of Scrabble together too. In fact The Love played some cracking words, including the likes of ZOOM (z on triple letter) for 35, YURT for 21 on triple word and so on. I was just pleased I was able to play the likes of QUEEN on triple word for 33 (the U was a blank) but it certainly was very enjoyable too.

Later on we headed off on the train to Victoria and the tube to Warren Street and off to the Crown and Anchor for a well earned Sunday roast. We both had the pork loin, which with vegetables, crackling, some gorgeous gravy and a nice Yorkshire pudding, was totally spot on. It was nice too due to the relaxed chilled out vibe in there with the likes of Paul Weller's excellent "Saturns Pattern" title track (make that tune of the day) and with a nice pint of ale too, all was well with the world.

We'd had a lovely weekend and I didn't want it to end, in fact time standing still instead of being an hour back would have been ace - but I headed home and in good time for the Mexican Grand Prix on Channel 4, which was all goodish, but the ending was mental, with Sebastian Vettel chasing down Max Verstappen - the Dutch driver went off, rejoined the track ahead of Vettel and didn't give the place back, which had Vettel raging on the team radio, and eventually the stewards penalised Verstappen and gave Vettel third. Rather controversial though and I didn't like the way Vettel was swearing at the race director either...

Saturday 29th October - New Openings

I had to venture out to Sainsburys this morning, as my supposed grocery delivery from Tesco, which was supposed to be delivered between 9 and 10pm last night, didn't arrive, and when I spoke to their customer services this morning, they informed me that the local store had packed away the order and so wasn't able to send it out. Naturally there's a refund to the card due, but I've also asked them to reinstate the £6 voucher I used for discount, which they've done, and a further goodwill gesture also. I am awaiting a call back from the local .com distribution centre manager too as there's several questions which need answering.

I headed off to get all the food shopping I would have had delivered last night, but what this did mean was I able to choose different items - and so got something even nicer for tonight's tea, as well as being able to get lots of different types of dessert selections, and overall it worked out okay really. I think though that I was just pleased I had some time to be able to get that all sorted, then clean the remainder of the flat, and be all changed and ready to come and meet The Love In My Heart at East Croydon station.

We dropped the bags off back at mine, and after some very nice lunch at the Spread Eagle pub (and again the Red Fox ale was on fine form) we headed back towards East Croydon and to the new Boxpark that had opened. The central part was closed off to ticket holders only for an all day opening gig that was going on, but some of the stalls on the outside facing the road was open, including the Cronx which was basically a real ale bar. It was busy and the blonde I had was okay, but not to the taste of The Love really, it was more a proper ale and that was good for me.

We walked through the centre of Croydon for a while too and I spotted some nice things in House of Fraser in the sale that they had - and some that The Love liked too. I must admit that the Biba coat on discount looked really good on her, and I'd have been more than tempted to buy that her as a sole present should she like too. There were lots of have a mooch around, and we both enjoyed taking the time out to just relax and have some retail therapy before we headed back to the flat, and me via Lidl to get some nice real ale too.

We stayed in then for the evening, and I made us a nice meal for tea incuding the rather lovely Wiltshire Ham Gratin for the main, which with some vegetables really did hit the spot nicely as well. In fact we were both watching Strictly Come Dancing and enjoying most of the routines during their Halloween special. At the start the dancers did a routine to Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round" (make that tune of the day) and afterwards Tess and Claudia mentioned the whole routine was their own tribute to Pete Burns, which was a good move all round that.

And of course Manchester City won too, and a 4-0 win at West Brom at that. Naturally Match of the Day had to be watched later as we saw that and it was good to be able to see Sergio Agüero back on form - after all some form is temporary, and class is permanent. It also meant City back at the top of the table after Arsenal had won 4-1 at Sunderland in the early kick off, and that we had gone into a win going into the Champions League game at home to Barcelona next week - phew!

Friday 28th October - I've Got The Key To Your Heart

Another day of mixed fortunes, but on the whole positive. On the good side, I was able to at least test out some more PXE booting and find that all on the working vLAN was well. It looked like though for some reason some of the hardware was failing when installing the antivirus software on the Windows 7 task sequence (which we migrated over to SCCM 2012 recently after it being on the old MDT for a while) - and after further investigation, two types of hardware model that have their own driver package installed. I'll need to do some further checking to see which ones are the cause of it, but it seems that both of them have the HP shock sensor accelerometer driver, which I know is an absolute pain in the backside. I'm suspicious of that.

I also then worked on a few other Windows 10 support issues for some of our pilot users, and one of them is a very nice person based in the Cardiff office. It was good to be able to use the likes of the Skype for Business tools and also the remote control features in SCCM 2012 (it asks permission by default so all good there) and be able to talk her through the issue and resolve it - as it turned out Outlook had seemingly lost connection to the online mailbox, and as so the "click here to view the contents on Exchange" links weren't showing. A quick restart of Outlook - all sorted. Nice when things work isn't it?

When I got home later, which took some time due to the 1651 train from Farringdon being packed and also due to the fact that even with a new 12 carriage class 700 train, there is less seats than other 12 carriage trains, and so standing up was an option for many, it was nice to finish off uploading the rest of the pictures from the visit to Harewood Hall that The Love In My Heart and I had been to last Saturday. In fact one of my friends responded once I emailed the link out and sent a picture of her and her partner from the terrace garden there - which of course is a rather lovely place anyway.

I'm all set for The Love coming tomorrow, and it's nice when she takes the time to come and see me as well as me heading to see her. The Boxpark thing in Croydon is open tomorrow, although I don't know if everyone may be able to roam around as there's an opening gig on, but it looks like it's going to be very last minute for stuff to be finished. The eating spaces look good with the idea that the small boxes where you buy stuff are like stalls, then you have the big dining area to sit in. I'm looking forward to seeing how that works out actually.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the fab "Closing Montage" by Gavin Osborn. I think after last night most of us will have had the singalong part of "I've got the key to your heart" in their heads, me included, but it's good that it actually has a whole meaning to being part of the last two minutes or so of a television programme series where it rounds up all the loose ends. In fact his recent album is still available on vinyl (the CD sold out) so that is well worth consideration - plus the vinyl will of course look cool. I also think he is playing with MJ Hibbett again soonish so that's two good reasons to go - hurrah!

Thursday 27th October - Success and Spread Eagle

So, I thought of something different this morning with regards to the odd PXE issue at work. What if for some reason when the tick boxes were ticked to enable PXE and PXE response in SCCM it didn't actually apply the correct settings? So.. I logged on directly to the SCCM server as the server admin (who also has enough rights over SCCM too), unticked the boxes and then made sure when I was making a PXE attempt that it actually recognised that no responses were offered. Then, reticked the boxes, allowed for a few minutes, and... yaay, response. Every time, whether BIOS or UEFI. Good.

Well, almost. It turns out one vLAN which offers all the 10.2.xxx.xxx addresses out via DHCP does work, and spot on at that, but the other which uses 10.1.xxx.xxx (and that's the one we use in one of our workrooms) fails still. Granted, we can use USB keys or even a bootable CD, but kind of frustrating. I tested a couple of task sequences all the way through and it worked perfectly well to get Windows 10 on to a device, so at least if me and our second line folks use the spare sockets by the desks, they do work, which is good to know.

Later on after I'd headed home and had some tea, I headed off to the Spread Eagle pub, not that far from me at all, and off to a gig, which featured three people I quite enjoy listening to, naturally MJ Hibbett being one of them but also Jenny Lockyer and Gavin Osborn, who particularly impressed me a few months back when I saw a gig not far from Norwood Junction station. In fact the only downside of the very nice pub (which The Love In My Heart and I have been in together) is that the Oliver's Island ale ran out, but the Red Fox one was still all rather nice, so all was good there.

I had a good chat to both Mark (MJ) and his good mate Steve Hewitt and it was nice to have a catch up as we drank ale - and they both had pie for their tea which looked good, notably the star gazey pie as well - mental note made to have to try that at some time too. In fact the upstairs theatre part had a velvet screen which went across once everyone was in, although you could head around the back corridors if you wanted to head to the downstairs bar in between acts (the upstairs bar in the theatre had two ales, but the Oliver's Island had ran out there too!)

So on with Gavin Osborn, and he was on fine form, discussing the whole thing about pub quiz teams and how names with puns annoy him. Ironically he mentioned Quizteam Aguilera being one, which I probably lay claim to using around 2006 in Edinburgh when I was a team of one and took on all comers. Yes, that long ago, and the start of my recovery period in fact. His other quiz hate is that the regulars always know all the answers and sneer upon anyone else who isn't as good (must admit I've seen that first hand too) - and that was fun. His best song was the ace "Closing Montage" with the sing along "I''ve got the key to your heart" near the end, and also the new song "European" about the whole Brexit thing, plus "Another Bath With You" about sharing a bath with your partner after reading Cosmopolitan! Ace.

I had a good natter with Gavin afterwards and we were discussing our favourite song off the new MJ Hibbett and the Validators album, "In The North Stand." I explained that for me that I used to be in the North Stand at Maine Road with my grandad, so it resonates, and Gavin admitted that it was the trumpet section that was evocative and lovely - have to agree. We were both hoping that Mark would indeed play it, and when it then was played, we were both very happy indeed, it has to be said.

So on came MJ Hibbett, and it was a quality set all round, primarily because a) most of my favourite songs of his were played, so lots of singing along, b) the sound engineer had the sound right for the venue, so really did come alive nicely, and c) it as a nice atmosphere with an appreciative audience too. "The Lesson of the Smiths" was of course wonderful, and my all time favourite "It Only Works Because You're Here" (make that one tune of the day) was fab, with Steve and Gavin doing the "la la la la" backing during the middle break that normally Emma of the band would do, which was lovely.

Not just that though, the witty "That Guy", and the whistling instead of the trumpet during "In The North Stand" was still pretty good too. I also thoroughly enjoyed the fact that lots were singing along (not just me!) and especially when it came to the likes of "My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once" and "The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)" which the chorus was joined in en masse, more than I expected. It was ace, and a drink for me, Mark and Steve afterwards (all having the Fire Cracker ale) was just the thing after that enjoyment.

Naturally we were all back in good time for the ace Jenny Lockyer, and she was very funny indeed - even more so than usual. She even did a take on an old song and called it "Take Me Home Croydon Roads" featuring lots about the town I now live in, which was good. I also enjoyed "Mummy Can't Drive" which would appeal to everyone just for the pure fact that even as a child you can spot a bad driving parent. Lots of humour about plugs and puns with that as well throughout, so all good. And a nice way to wind down the evening very nicely too it has to be said.

I had a good chat to a fair few people afterwards including one of the Crystal Palace fans whom I'd seen at the venue in Norwood last time, and said the fond farewells to everyone before heading the very short distance home which meant I could be home and tucked up in bed in less than five minutes. I had the likes of "It Only Works Because You're Here" in my head and it was just nice to be able to relax and have a nice evening out, and of course gigs are very much where I like to be, so yaay for gigs!

Wednesday 26th October - To PXE or not to PXE, That Is The Question

So today I spent a fair bit of time diagnosing just what appeared to be happening with our SCCM 2012 server in terms of PXE boot and not being able to see any clients to service correctly. Certainly in our work space / build room, and during some testing early on, it appeared that only one of five or so boots would actually work enough for an address to be offered along with the boot file name, and then we'd be able to see that do its usual stuff. Ironically, in all failed attempts, it does at least be writing to SMSPXE.log to say it's out there.

I did a fair bit of testing, and I suspected that it may well be that the IP Helpers should be doing what they should do, as it does at least feel like it's talking to the correct server via DHCP. Naturally it's better to let the helpers do their thing as setting the DHCP options 66 and 67 is not recommended, you can only point it to one type of boot image unless you use rules based DHCP in Windows Server 2012 R2 (which our DHCP server at work isn't anyway) so I had to think onwards.

So... in the end I did some testing when I got home, by being able to connect to both my VDI machine which I use for the admin tasks, and then two additional virtual machines my colleaugues and I had set up in order to be able to see what was going on. In a nutshell, I was able to view the logs and from that I spotted a couple of things that I could try in the morning - and noticably that our antivirus solution may have been attempting to try and block something it shouldn't during the enabling of PXE phase. Hmmm.. interesting.

On the plus side the suggested fix I put forward for a number of Outlook and Excel issues that some users had been having in our Windows 10 pilot was working very nicely - in fact one of the users has been set next to me today and she fed back that it's been tons better since the change was made. I feel rightfully proud of that, a) because it was a relatively simple fix to be able to implement, b) because I've been proved right from my original theory too and c) it shows that I am able to analyse things and be able to bring something to the table nicely and work well with the team.

It's actually been three months since I started the job (already) and it has flown by. For me to be jumping straight into an already underway project was pretty daunting, but it's a challenge I've been relishing and enjoying a lot actually. Lots of people have made me feel really welcome and happy and that really does make a massive difference - and having nice emails to say thank you is a real buzz, to be honest. So tune of the day is based on that classic IT phrase, and a song by MJ Hibbett and the Validators: "It Only Works Because You're Here". So there.

Tuesday 25th October - (Extra)Ordinary Lies

I took some time out tonight to listen to the new Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album "Skeleton Tree" and the title track is a wonderful and lovely piece of music, therefore tune of the day is an easy win. In fact, I'd possibly go on record and say this is the most enjoyable record of his output in more recent years. I think because it feels a bit more sparse, a bit less busy, it just gives plenty of space to breathe and flow, and Cave's voice is also in rather good form too.

I also then watched the second episode the second series of Ordinary Lies on BBC One, which has been following a group of workers at a sportswear firm in Cardiff this time around. I really did enjoy it too - basically based around the PA Holly (wonderfully played by Kimblerley Nixon) who thinks that everyone's life is more exciting than theirs, and when she finds a torn up note from her current boyfriend's jacket, it spurs her into action to become that little bit more interesting, and finding her long term ex-boyfriend was back in the area made her almost go on a bit of a stalking mission to find him!

I must admit that as the episode went on there were plenty of moments where you were thinking "oh no, don't do that, you're going deeper into trouble" and so it proved, with her using up the ticket from her boss to go to a posh corporate do and book the hotel, and then finding out that her ex-boyfriend had a son to someone else and he kept it from her (as she kept something from him which then came out in an almighty row.) I think though ultimately that her own distractions proved to be a downfall, and without realising the person she actually is, not one others might want her to be.

What was a nice touch was a nod to Mazzy Star's rather ace "Fade Into You" which was the song for her and her ex- that was "their song" - and it reminded her of happier times instead of the flat she was currently living in (which did look a little bit like it needed several bits of attention it has to be said) - and always good when decent music gets played on a series. In fact, apart from the many bits of driving up and down the main road to Cardiff Bay, I've enjoyed its rather nice nods to contemporary tunes throughout. Yaay that.

I also noted too that one of the forthcoming days of the Southern Railways strike has been called off, but it might be a bit more difficult come Saturday morning 5th November to get the train up towards Euston for heading back up to Manchester. I'll have to gauge it a little bit during Friday next week and take it from there - although of course on a Saturday Southern tend to be rubbish anyway to be perfectly honest. If the one thing that has really got my goat since my move down, it's the bobbins efforts that the whole Govia Thameslink Railway franchise have made into running any sort of decent service. Seriously.

Monday 24th October - Lost Themes

So it was a productive day at work today and one where I was able to take stock and organise a few things along the way. One of the key things was to monitor a change we'd made to the Group Policy with relation to Office 2016, and turning hardware acceleration off. It seemed to be doing the trick very nicely indeed with those who had reported some crashing with Outlook and Excel not reporting anything, and a check of all the logs seemed to back that all up rather nicely indeed.

I headed homeward and decided to treat myself to a couple of CDs, not least because they would be two for £15 in HMV Croydon, but also because I hadn't bought something for a little while, and it's nice to be able to listen to new music as well as the artists who I've adored since the 1980s. I had an idea what I was going to buy, so ended up with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' recent release "Skeleton Tree" along with the sequel to last year's album, John Carpenter's "Lost Themes II" as well, very much in a similar vein of the soundtrack that it could have been.

It certainly made sense to have that album on when doing a shed load of ironing (only thing about going away, having to wash and then iron shed loads of stuff) and that certainly motivated me to get plenty done whilst listening to the album as a whole. And I have to say - it's pretty good too. It reminds me a lot of some of his other horror soundtrack work, and there's parts which remind me of stuff from the first Lost Themes, a sort of continuation of a theme so to speak.

Hard necessarily to pick out a favourite track after a couple of listens, but I have to admit that the closing track, which is the bonus track on the CD edition, "Real Xeno" gets my vote and is tune of the day especially with some very nifty guitar work along the way. I really am enjoying it, a fair number of the tracks are shorter, mainly around four minutes or so long, and that gives you enough time to set the scene without it being too lengthy as well. Definitely well worth checking out if film scores are your thing in any case.

I'm saving the Nick Cave album for tomorrow, but I know from the reviews that this is going to be a fairly intense listen, especially when you note that his son died in an accident during the recording, and how the songs turned more melancholy because of it. Most Cave albums are pretty emotional listening anyway (notably the superb "The Boatman's Call" for example) so I'll need to be in the right mood. I do think sometimes that it's those releases that make you think are the ones you'll remember over time. It's kind of why I adore Pop Will Eat Itself's "Ich Bin Ein Auslander" after all these years - it made you think with the lyrics and the sad thing is that those lyrics shouldn't be more relevant now, but they are..

Sunday 23rd October - Saints and Sinners

After a nice lie in and a lovely breakfast courtesy of The Love In My Heart, it was time to head off to meet my friend and head to the Etihad for the 1.30pm kick off, with Manchester City facing Southampton. After no win in four it was important to get back on form, although we also knew that a draw would put us up back on the top spot. We were both a tad nervous I think and even the now customary pre-match brew did little to ease the nerves. One of the other supporters we know who sits near us said 4-0, but we both agreed that City can't keep a clean sheet at the moment, so way too optimistic.

The teams came out and it was clear from the onset that Southampton were going to press and pressure City into mistakes passing it around at the back. Their plan worked too as John Stones sent his back pass short towards Claudio Bravo and Nathan Redmond did the rest, steering around the City keeper and then slotting it home for the opening goal and the lead. And no matter how hard they tried, it was as if City didn't get going, chances weren't being made, Kevin de Bruyne was off form somewhat and the pace down the wings of both Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sané wasn't doing that much.

We did have a free kick which was floated in by De Bruyne, and City thought that Stones had volleyed it home only for it to then be ruled out for offside. I saw the replay later on and I have to say that it was a pretty tight decision, possibly not offside, but that is with the benefit of replays and all that. It would have been a good way to atone for the earlier error and all that, but the attacking intent didn't seem as there as it should have been for a lot of the half.

Some of the fans booed the team off at half time, which I thought was a tad on the harsh side - it was frustrating, but better to take that out and roar the lads on second half. De Bruyne went off for Kelechi Iheanacho and he made the difference, direct running at the Southampton defence and looking a lot more lively. In fact he got on the end of a low cross from Sané for the equaliser, and that was well deserved. His goals to shots on target ratio is pretty impressive, 16 shots on target, 11 goals. Most people would kill for those sort of stats too.

Try as City might, a winner didn't come, even when bringing the likes of Jesús Navas and Nolito on. It does make me wonder whether fitting in Gundogan has unsettled the side somewhat - Fernandinho doesn't look as good on the ball and maybe in a less comfortable position, and three at the back doesn't exactly fill me with confidence either. Okay, so we're still top, but two points from the last three league games and no wins in the last five games overall are genuine causes for concern really.

I had a coffee at The Love's place later on and once the traffic had died down enough, then headed off to Manchester Piccadilly station to get the 1735 train back. The weekend had gone far too quickly again and it would mean that I'd be saying a fond farewell to the cats Jô and Brian for a while, but at least I took a fair number of pictures with the camera this time in order to be able to have some nice shots of them. In fact I listened to the iPod on charge on the train and tune of the day is the excellent "Whatever Happened To Pong?" by Frank Black - a classic opening album track of its time that blasted out whilst heading towards London.

Saturday 22nd October - Harewood Hall

We had a nice day out today as there was no football on till the Sunday, and we both thought it would be good to make the most of the time that we do have and go out for the day. I was thinking of National Trust places as they'd be free to get in, and The Love was even considering Castle Howard, despite the fact it's a fair bit beyond York. However after some consideration we both thought that Harewood Hall just North of Leeds would be a good idea, as it was where the Grand Depart of the 2014 Tour de France was, along with a massive hall and gardens to explore.

So after a nice breakfast The Love and I headed in her car along to the M62, followed that towards Leeds and then got off the M621 not far from Leeds United's ground, and followed the A58(M) through the city centre and on to the junction with the A61, following the road out of Leeds towards Harrogate, and once in the countryside we spotted the stone wall to the left and got to a set of lights to turn left, through the stone arch and onwards towards the entrance to the hall itself.

We decided to go for a ticket which covered everything, so the hall, the below stairs servants' quarters which led to the gardens and terrace, and this also allowed us to roam the other gardens, the farm experience and all sorts. It was £16.50 each, so not exactly cheap, and we could have had everything bar the hall for £12.50, but thought it best to explore the whole lot and get an idea of what it was like. We had just passed through a small rain shower and a rainbow had appeared above the A61 on the way out of Leeds, so we were both hopeful the weather would hold off a bit.

The hall itself was rather grand, and some gorgeous rooms, including a room with two library shevles that curved into alcoves and had a symmetrical feel about it, which was beautiful, as was the long gallery, the state dining room and the many gorgeous bedrooms as well. In fact it was noticeable how many of the family photos were on the tables in the rooms, including that of one with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (William and Kate) when they visited Harewood in 2014 for the aforementioned Tour de France. All nice in there.

It was raining when we left so we headed straight to the below stairs section and explored the servants' quarters, which was very intriguing actually. Lots of places where bells would ring to serve the house, and part of it is now an art gallery with exhibitions on, and there's also a space for some of the collection of a former Princess who lived in Harewood too including an old cycle, and personal items which were all well preserved. Lots of activities such as cake topping making for the younger ones, so plenty to be getting on with.

The outside garden terrace was absolutely lovely, with plenty of well kept space, the fountains all facing outwards, and the view from the terrace over the grounds and hills beyond was nothing short of majestic really. I was really pleased to see it all take shape so well and we both enjoyed being there too. We walked down to the Courtyard and had lunch in the café there - in fact some very nice fish and chips all round too. It was fairly busy and we had timed it so that there was still hot food being served, just the thing really.

After lunch we walked through the Farm Experience, spotting the penguins straight away and their feeding time later was a bit manic - mainly because of the seagulls attempting to swoop down towards the water and take the fish from the penguins. We also walked along down the hill seeing the many animal species there including two rare types of crane, some pink flamingos, pgymy goats and all sorts. It was good that there were feeding tubes along with food you could buy so you could feed some of the animals (or get children to do so) and it was generally okay. In fact at the bottom of the hill was the boat trips you could also take on the lake sholuld you wish to do so.

We enjoyed the visit here and will want to come back next year when a selection of costumes from the ITV drama Victoria will go on show (Harewood was used as one of the film locations for the series) and we'll want to see that - and in addition, the membership per year isn't that dear if you pay by direct debit, so possibly something to note for the future (as well as half price admission tickets if you took public transport there) and so well worth going if you get the chance to do so.

We headed home and had a very nice tea of coq au vin and dauphinoise potatoes, saw most of Strictly Come Dancing with the excellent Ore Oduba being ace again, and some nice contemporary songs being danced to, and an epic vocal from one of the singers as she belted out a superb version of "I Will Always Love You" during Ore and Joanne's dance, so tune of the day there (based on the classic Dolly Parton version, not the Whitney Houston one incidentally) - and then The Love indulged herself with The X Factor, and I had to grin and bear it with gritted teeth!

Friday 21st October - The Five O'Clock Train

So today was a back to normal early start for me at work, and it was good to get through the day, sort out plenty of recommendations going forward and being able to investigate issues too. I think as well that when I'm in the zone and able to get on with it all, I can really plough through plenty without having to necessarily even stop for breath. It was good too that one recommendation I set was finally put into action, which should stop some issues with crashing in Office particularly. It certainly seemed to be the easiest and most consistent way of avoiding errors, that's for sure.

As the trains for some reason were able to be booked for earlier for a cheaper advance ticket than normal (normally it's the 1820 and 1840 trains which are cheaper) it meant I was able to get the 1700 train to Manchester Piccadilly. That was a straight run from Farringdon to Euston Square, stopping off close to Euston station to see the Google folks give out free coffee and canvas bags (very natty too) and promote their event for the new Pixel phone. Of course this did at least mean I was able to then grab a coffee and have that before my train was announced.

Sadly, for a Friday evening, this will be probably the last Friday train I do that won't be in the dark for some time, as the clocks go back and it won't be that often that I'll be able to necessarily take an earlier train too. So for the first hour and a bit till Stoke on Trent, it was light. I should also add that the train was not very busy at all either, primarily I think because it's normally a peak hour train and unless you've booked a ticket in advance, it can get pretty expensive too.

It was nice to whizz through the countryside and be able to sit back with the iPod on and listen to some fine tunes, such as Gary Numan's "M.E" (tune of the day that one) and watch the world go by. There's always a good reason for being able to be sat by the window and just relax, and The Love In My Heart came to meet me at Piccadilly Station too, so always lovely when that happens. We headed back home, I said my hellos to the cats Jô and Brian, and then we had some pizza for tea and snuggled up for the evening.

In fact it was good to watch the Stand Up To Cancer bits on Channel 4, notably the celebrities on Gogglebox which included Steve Coogan and Anna Friel based in the Lake District, three of the current England squad (Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy) along with the regulars that were casting their beady eyes over telly, including the remake of The Crystal Maze, and laughing at Rio Ferdinand being particularly rubbish on some of the games especially.

We also saw the Graham Norton Show, and for The Love it was a chance to admire and adore Tom Cruise, who was there promoting the new Jack Reacher film that was being released this weekend (in fact there was a premiere in London on Thursday evening) and it was pretty funny, especially as there was also Catherine Tate and Jude Law on too, so definitely a plus point all round. Graham even had Tom heading round the audience doing selfies with them imitating his often lengthy red carpet walks, which was a giggle - I do think The Love wanted to be in the audience for that though!!

Thursday 20th October - Hunted, Episode Five

So tonight after a long day at work it was good to get a couple of things done. I knew that the hairdresser I go to in Wimbledon Park has a late evening opening till 8pm on a Thursday night, and so I took the tube from Farringdon to Edgware Road (which was busy) but then the tube from Edgware Road starts there on the way to Wimbledon Park, so that meant I got a seat without any issues. That was all good, and the hairdresser did their usual wonderful magic on my hair, so all felt good after that.

I got home just before 8pm, so I was able to have some food and have a good natter with The Love In My Heart and be all set for tomorrow's visit to hers, and then kick back with the delivery of Tassimo pods that I had. I'd ordered them from the German shop I use, About Tea, and they had shipped them out in pretty quick record time - so ordered on Tuesday morning, and the concierge in my apartment block had taken delivery of them around 10am this morning, so a box of them were awaiting once I got home too. Hurrah!

I had a vanilla capuccino after tea, and so it was then on with Hunted. I have to say that with five left it's getting a little more tougher now to be able to escape as there's more resources in place for the hunters. One of the five of them decided that getting a train from Neath to Reading would be a good idea. It wasn't on so many levels, because a) The train station will have CCTV, b) the ticket machines will be able to be tracked as to what train ticket was purchased to where and c) the trains themselves also have CCTV. Hmm.. and of course it didn't take long after arriving in Reading to be captured.

Both The Love In My Heart and I both really want the house husband Nick to avoid capture, he pulled off a cunning ruse last week which meant that the Hunters thought they had him, but it was a decoy. He was able to effectively keep alongside the canals and waterways, and in farms, and avoid CCTV and that sort of thing. Of course there is still one episode next week and four of them left, and be interesting to see what sort of tactics are employed by the Hunters. I suspect though that the captured one from tonight might be turned into a Hunter to get his friend he started with, but we shall see...

Tune of the day in the meantime is the excellent and long overlooked classic 1990s song from The Wonder Stuff: "Caught in My Shadow" - and I can remember it coming out like yesterday. I noted that the video was filmed in the centre of Birmingham and when I started to visit there quite a bit, it was a nice feeling to be able to stand in the very spot where the video was made. I think too it's one of those songs that you appreciate more as a fan too.

Wednesday 19th October - Beaten in Barcelona

I made sure I got home from work in good time tonight (which was pretty good considering it was the second day of the strike going on at the moment) and was able to have some food and be ready for the evening's Champions League game between Barcelona and Manchester City at the Nou Camp. The good news was that it was free to air on BT Sport Showcase, so on to Channel 59 and ready for some of the build up. I wasn't expecting us to win, but I'd have taken a draw beforehand, and even a narrow defeat to some extent.

The game started, and immediately I was concerned about the line up. No striker on, so no Agüero and so Iheanacho, and that meant packing the midfield in an attempt to stop Barcelona basically passing the ball around us. I was going to admit that I was wrong and that it was all working, only for a bit of a defensive slip up allowing Lionel Messi to be able to take the ball around Claudio Bravo and then slot home with the sliding challenge of John Stones to no avail. 1-0 and sort of what I expected.

It stayed that way till half time, although we did have a couple of good efforts on goal, one from Ilkay Gundogan and then right at the end of the half a free kick came in which John Stones headed just wide - if it was on target most likely it would have been 1-1, so that was a tad unfortunate - at least he was there to give it a go. I felt a little bit more positive that we were keeping it fairly tight and 1-0 wasn't too bad. If only I knew what was going to happen in the second half..

And sure enough, and one which would have many City fans who didn't want Joe Hart kicked out to be proven right, Claudio Bravo made a terrible clearance while doing the sweeper keeper, and as the Barcelona attack attempted to lob the ball over him, he handballed it well outside the area - instant red card. Moment of absolute madness and one that to be honest could have been avoided if we stopped doing all this play it around at the back rubbish. Even worse, Pablo Zabaleta also had to go off injured so it was a double change.

That proved fatal. Lionel Messi et al tore strips off the vulnerable City defence, and some awful choices of defending allowed Messi to score two goals for his hat trick, followed by a sublime finish from Neymar to make it 4-0. It could have been worse, only for the fact that Willy Caballero saved a penalty late on. It was a case of once the sending off happened, it was an embarrassing performance and showed how much of a liability the decision making of Bravo is when he makes those sorts of decisions. Tune of the day in the meantime is "Disappointed" by Morrissey, kind of sums it all up. It was promising, but then just frustratingly disappointing all round...

Tuesday 18th October - Queries and Ordinary Lies

It was a little bit of a mission accomplished today, as I had been asked to run some reports in SCCM 2007 with regards to some of the software that was installed on a PC, and the best method normally is to grab what is in the Add Remove Programs list (which as part of its inventory SCCM kindly does for you, and does so in 2012 and updates too) - and the inbuilt report for the most part does what you want it to do. But I felt it needed some extra modifications.

Essentially, we wanted to cut out anything that we know is in the core build, any Windows updates and Office service packs etc, and focus just on the extra software that may be present on a machine, ready for any future re-imaging or swapping over of kit. I found a way to do so, and essentially after taking a duplicate of the report, you just add one SQL field with a value that you don't want to find (ie: use NOT LIKE). In the end, it became quite long, so you'd have the field not like '%Security Update%' and the field not like '%Service Pack%' and then add on the names of pieces of software you also don't need.

In the end, what reported back as over 200 different pieces of software in Add/Remove (Windows and Office updates included) we got down to around four, none of which were actually core build items. In fact when now running this report on some PCs, it reports back nothing at all, which in essence should say to us that there isn't anything extra on top of the standard build added - meaning hopefully a much less troublesome rollout, well that's the plan anyway. Good when stuff works isn't it?

I spent part of tonight watching Ordinary Lies on BBC1. Both The Love In My Heart and I enjoyed the previous series, set at a car showroom in the North West with the likes of Max Beesley, Jason Manford and Michelle Keegan. This time it's at a sports warehouse somewhere near Cardiff, and the likes of Jill Halfpenny, Angela Griffin, Con O'Neill, Noel Sullivan (he used to be in Hear'Say no less), and Matt di Angelo. The first episode focussed on the character Joe (played by Con) who suspects his wife Belinda (played by Jill) was cheating on him.

It was an interesting insight into the character and how his world had been turned upside down, and getting to the point of paranoia, installing CCTV discretely and finding out stuff that was going on he might not have wanted to know about, including his son's misdemeanours, his wife Belinda heading off to video potential sex offenders claiming to meet a teenager but in fact were taken in by a cunning ruse, and the scene with them in the car park letting a lot of emotions go was a rather good piece of acting on both sides, it has to be said. Really enjoyed it so far, and looking forward to the rest of the series.

In the meantime, tune of the day is another gem that I still adore, and it's from a classic album too - the 1994 album from Pop Will Eat Itself, "Dos Dedos Mis Amigos". Track nine to be precise, "Everything's Cool?" with its in your face Industrial background, plenty of feeling and anger, and a chorus pretty much guaranteed to get you bouncing and pogoing in chaos and riots, with the screech of machines. I do quite like the fact that it really does thrash along at a decent lick too - reminds me of seeing them a few weeks back!

Monday 17th October - All A Blur

I must admit it was good that I was doing the late shift today, but on the negative side I did feel rather bunged up all round, and in addition to that I've also got a sense of headache as well. The brain was feeling slightly fuzzy and I had to really concentrate extra hard to be honest. The start of the day wasn't helped by the fact that nearly every single train leaving East Croydon this morning was delayed or cancelled - and this is on a non-strike day. Typical Southern Rail behaviour, sadly - no wonder of course I call them Southern Fail instead.

I did feel rather sneezy and bunged up, and it was a relief when a massive blow of the nose this afternoon managed to get rid of a fair bit of blockage. Not a pretty sight at all, hence the need to catch it, bin it and kill it by having a wash straight after to avoid the germ spread. I have to admit that it's been good to feel like part of the cold is finally shifting, but at the same time I did feel a little woozy from time to time, so made sure I had some paracetemol to at least clear the head for the journey home.

Of course one thing that is noticeable even before the clocks go back in a week on Sunday or so is that it's already becoming dark when I leave the office at around 6pm. I did manage to get the 1813 departure from Farringdon to East Croydon, and it arrived sort of on time, and on the way home I stopped off to get some milk as well - I fancied a coffee when I got in, and the Tassimo was all good to go on that score. In fact it looks like I've got an offer code from our German friends at about-tea.de - so I might have to look into that and see what they've got in at the moment, often cheaper than the UK too!

I did watch Only Connect on BBC Two as is my wont, and so it meant that I was able to at least tax the brain a little bit in an attempt to clear the head somewhat. It worked out okay actually, with the excellent missing vowels round enabling me to score a shed load of points, and I did wonder whether I should actually look at forming a team to go on this one day - I might have some ideal candidates to go on. Not least of course as this would mean meeting the fab Victoria Coren Mitchell, whose dry sense of humour really does make the show too!

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather good PJ Harvey track from her album "The Hope Six Demolition Project" which currently is a possible contender for my album of this year. "Near The Memorials To Vietnam and Lincoln" at first seems a relatively simple track, but it's the verses that have that slight sense of unease and fear, with Polly's voice on top form. The whole album also really feels quite deep and emotional too - maybe not in the same league as Let England Shake (which I adore) but still cracking by anyone else's standards. And that says a heck of a lot.

Sunday 16th October - Sunday Shopping

The Love In My Heart and I decided to have a leisurely Sunday, and so after getting up, fussing over the two cats Jô and Brian (understatement) and allowing them to have a play out, it was time for us to head out for the afternoon. With the weather not being the most ideal ever, we decided that doing a bit of shopping would make perfect sense instead, and as we hadn't been to John Lewis for a bit, we headed off towards Kingsway and then towards Cheadle Royal and were soon there.

It was nice to peruse all the items in there, and noticeable that it's early October but all of the Christmas items are already in there ready to be purchased. I have to say that surprised me, and The Love was tempted by these little hanging decorations in the shape of two hearts, so she got two of those for her tree. It was also good to see that plenty of nice gifts that you could buy any time of year were available, but also how many different jigsaws there seemed to be (including one of Padstow Harbour, recognised that straight off) and colouring in books - even from Orla Kiely!

It was also nice for us both to peruse away and think of some nice present ideas for Christmas and so on - in fact The Love spotted a nice top in Warehouse that I know she would look fabulous in. I also spotted some nice coats as well - not cheap mind you, but at least that might give me some ideas for the future too. We also stopped off at Sainsburys so she could stock up on her favourite Azera coffee whilst it was cheap, and also me to get some new shoelaces for the work shoes I have.

We then went for Sunday lunch and headed to the Elizabethan in Heaton Moor as we hadn't been there for some time. It was a nice new look to the place and a new menu too - thankfully the Sunday roast was on there. The Love had the lamb and it was gorgeous - and I had the chicken and mushroom pie - also gorgeous too. I had the rather nice Jumbo Star ale too to go with that - and it was just a nice way to be relaxed on a Sunday afternoon together.

I headed back to the train station later and headed on the 1735 departure back to London Euston, and it was a sad farewell after having such a lovely weekend again, and I do even miss the cats Jô and Brian a fair bit too. I had the iPod on and so the mighty Pop Will Eat Itself was blasting out with the classic "Wise Up! Sucker" so make that one tune of the day all round. It was all dark when I got the tube and then the train back to East Croydon, getting home in time for the remake of The Crystal Maze on Channel 4...

Saturday 15th October - Paying the Penalty

After a morning of relaxing and having some well earned breakfast, I headed off on the tram into the city centre before then getting the local train off to Levenshulme. I wanted to drop off the present for my nephew as it had arrived, and my uncle was in, so it was good to head over there, have a coffee and a good chat and catch up about all sorts. We also watched the first half of Chelsea v Leicester and saw that Chelsea were playing well but Leicester weren't as good as last season either.

I walked over to my friend's house as he doesn't live so far away, and then from there it was off to the Etihad Stadium to see Manchester City take on Everton. I knew it was going to be a hard game and that Everton were on good form, revitalised under Ronald Koeman. And with no wins from the last two games, City needed to really step up today, especially with Barcelona away on Wednesday night to look forward to. For me at least it was a case of being able to try and get maximum points with minimum effort, with Sergio Agüero on the bench as part of that (added to the fact he'd flown from international duty in Argentina)

The first half was a case of City attempting to break down Everton's organised defence, who were often then getting Yannick Bolasie and Romelu Lukaku to hit City on the break. At the other end, City surged forward but often the final pass was lacking. We were given a golden opportunity though late in the first half as a jinking run from David Silva resulted in him being brought down, and it's a penalty. It didn't look so convincing to me, but I was happy to get it. Kevin de Bruryne took it and Marteen Stekelenburg saved superbly to his left, and so at half time it stayed 0-0.

Earlier in the second half, Lukaku broke forward, and shot home well, and it was 1-0 to Everton. City's sloppy defending was not good and I was concerned that it'd be a case of not breaking them down. On came Agüero and on came Nolito later on, and a penalty was awarded to City again as Agüero was fouled. He took the penalty this time and also missed, Stekelenburg guessing right again. If you have him in your Fantasy Team, well done, two saves like that mean shed loads of points. Eventually Silva found the head of Nolito to equalise and make it 1-1, but that's how it stayed at the end.

I was gutted really, but not surprised - if you don't take your chances, you don't win games - as simple as that really. City were the better side going forward but weren't making the most of it, and in the end, the penalty misses cost very dearly. The only good news was that Tottenham's 1-1 draw at West Brom meant that we were still on top on goal difference from Arsenal, but it really was a concern that we had been sussed out and what could we do to stop teams playing defensive against us...

Later on The Love In My Heart and I headed to the local Chinese, and I had the chicken in oyster sauce, which was rather gorgeous it has to be said. We also had some prawn crackers and that was good, and then by the time we'd seen most of Strictly Come Dancing (we missed Ore Oduba's jive which was supposed to be ace) it was then for The Love over to The X Factor. So it was Motown week, and part of me wanted to just listen to the classic originals, so tune of the day is one of my favourite Motown songs, "Tears of a Clown" by Smokey Robinson, it's a bit of a classic that.

Friday 14th October - Late Night Train

It was a later than usual train back to Manchester tonight, as I'd booked it knowing that one of my colleagues was off and I'd need to cover their late hours. I was still bunged up though so I'd brought along some paracetemol, and made sure before I left this morning I'd taken some bronchial balsam as well in an attempt to try and shift all the blockage. It does appear that it's mainly in the head and ears that it's taking a bit of a bashing to be honest - if that was gone I'd feel a lot happier.

I did managed to troubleshoot a few things today and so was able to at least feel productive as well - managing to advise a few staff members on where things were in Office 2016 so that they could work as they were used to, and they were overall pretty pleased. I must admit this is what gives me a lot of satisfaction in the job - when you have people appreciate what you do. I think as well for me that it's something that I have missed and it's nice to get that back, not all day everyday as I do need to concentrate on stuff, but nonetheless positive.

After work I was going to go to the local Wetherspoons for tea, as I fancied a burger (I was admittedly in the mood for one) - but no go, too busy. So I instead decided to head off to Kings Cross on the 63 bus, and then from there take the short walk across the road to the Burger King there. Double cheeseburger, fries and a drink for £2.99? I'll have a bit of that thank you very much. It was actually rather nice too and just the sort of guilty pleasure we're all deserving of now and then.

I did head over to the Crown and Anchor pub later on, and the juke box was not letting me down, playing Altered Images' "Happy Birthday" and The Smiths' iconic "Hand In Glove" (make that tune of the day) both classics. The pub even had the St Austell Ales' Proper Job on cask too, so needless to say I was going to have a bit of that and enjoy it in the nice surroundings before heading back to Euston and heading on the 2040 departure to Manchester Piccadilly.

It was a sign of things to come, travelling through the night, as often this was what I was going to be doing during the Winter months, and with the iPod on at least it meant I could have some nice tunes on as the train headed to Crewe, then Wilmslow and Stockport, getting into Manchester Piccadilly a few minutes behind time but at around 2255. I had already agreed with The Love In My Heart I'd get the tram to hers, and once safely negotiated, it was a bit of Graham Norton and then off to bed, with the two cats Jô and Brian all snuggled up too. I know. Awwwww.

Thursday 13th October - Hunted Down

So with me full of a cold, I was on the late shift at work today, which generally is pretty okay, with the downside that I get home later (obviously) but also that does mean that I have a lie in earlier in the morning, so you win some, you lose some. I must admit I thought that with the strikes going on, it was going to be more difficult to get into work, but it actually wasn't. Granted though I did note that the usual 0854 train was a little delayed and I did have to stand for a bit, but at least I got there on time and was able to get through the day relatively unscathed at least.

I was looking forward to watching Hunted on Channel 4 tonight though as it's been a favourite of mine for some time. It does however clash with The Apprentice but I was going to watch that later in the week - I know I could watch Hunted on Channel 4 +1 but then it's a case of me being off to bed and probably feeling really sleepy - especially with the cold and all. So it was on with Channel 4 at 9pm and on to the remaining five contestants that are left.

I wasn't surprised to see the the two blokes together Ayo and Madhu split up after another argument that they had between each other, but in an odd way it might actually do them some good. For me at least it was interesting to see what they'd do alone (Emily and Lauren from Series 1 did the same incidentally.) It was classic though when there was a complete setup carried out by Nick to enlist the help of someone to don a wig and look like him, and get the Hunters to a leisure centre, thinking they'd captured him but actually they hadn't, whilst he aimed off to the other side of the country (well, Tring at least)

Certainly for me it's still entertaining stuff, and I think as the money grows nearer with two episodes to go it's a case of them really getting paranoid - certainly the two female student friends Anna and Elizabeth are feeling that somewhat. It was also noticeable that Nick's wife had her smartphone loaded with spyware so that it was sending info back to the Hunters, but of course he had sussed that they'd so that and so made sure that as part of his lure that his wife did use her phone, knowing that it'd be monitored. Nice second guessing there!

In any case, tune of the day is the excellent theme from Hunted, as composed by Nick Harvey. It's brooding, moody and just the right amount of tension to be a really good feeling of suspense. Of course there are moments when you do yell at the telly, such as "don't use your mobile phone!" - which for me should be the golden rule of said show - because you may as well just ring the Hunters and give them your location without anything else!!

Wednesday 12th October - Breakdown

Part of me wants to be playing the Buzzcocks' "Spiral Scratch" EP at full blast, not least one of the tracks on there, which sums pretty much up the deadlock between Southern Rail and the RMT Union, so "Breakdown" is tune of the day. That same EP has "Boredom" on too, which I love (especially the one chord middle section!) and also sums up how passengers pretty much feel now - bored of all the toing and froing, and services that are even worse than they normally are (and believe me they are pretty bad!)

So as it transpired, what Charles Horton of Govia Thameslink Railway actually meant to say yesterday was that the two members of staff (driver and on-board supervisor) would be guaranteed to be rostered to the services, but that in the event of both not being available the services would still be able to run without the on-board supervisor, a different thing entirely. Of course having said something on BBC Radio 4 Today and then hiding it in a small statement on Southern's site and then going into talks with that premise inevitably meant a breakdown..

Not that I'm completely blaming them either - the RMT have to take some of the flak too. Surely it'd have been more sensible for them to clarify Charles' comments before then going into talks, and then if the comments were wrong, then not have the talks and continue the dispute as is. I do fear though that the differences will be too great, and as GTR have already ruled out getting ACAS involved to arbitrate and resolve the dispute going forward, it's us as passengers who suffer. I do back the RMT's views on safety and that particularly with very overcrowded and delayed services, having them run safe is paramount.

So where does that leave me? Well, thankfully, the train I usually get to work is Thameslink, and although part of GTR isn't affected, although the reliability, cancellations etc are still synonymous with how it works on Southern. However if my Thameslink train gets cancelled, then there is a Southern journey involved, so that does mean having to put up with their service - and more so when I'm getting the train up to Manchester for the weekend and back again, where I actually need the services from East Croydon to Victoria to work well. Granted I can go via London Bridge, but it's more of a pain with regards to the tube journey.

Still, the cold is getting there (sort of) as I do feel like I'm coughing more and getting rid of more, although that does mean that I do now feel two extremes of warm on occasion. I think that for me it's a case of getting on with it and cracking on all sorts, although I do admit that it's been pretty busy this week - lots to do, and not so much time either. I do think though it's allowed me to be able to shine nicely and show a fair few people what I can do, so that's a good thing in my view.

Tuesday 11th October - Avoiding Strikes

Still bunged up with the cold, and having to get up earlier as well - not necessarily the best combination ever it has to be said. However, on the plus side leaving a little bit earlier did allow me to be in good time for the 0644 to London Bridge from West Croydon, therefore avoiding any carnage at East Croydon. It was a good job I did too as later in the day it was that bad there that the station had to close due to massive overcrowding, showing just how much the strikes had taken out of services (and added to that, over-running engineering works meaning anyone trying to get to London from Brighton might as well forget it..)

In essence it's pretty much deadlock between the two sides, and yet Charles Horton the boss of Govia Thameslink Railway (who owns Southern Railway) on Radio 4 Today spoke to the media and stated that he would guarantee that every train that had a conductor now would have an on board supervisor in the future, which seemed to be a slight change of mind from their company position. Needless to say later in the day the union saw that as an opportunity for talks and the two of them would meet tomorrow, so we shall see how that pans out. I don't hold out much hope though.

When I got home later on, I noted that the England game away at Slovenia was on ITV1, so made plans to watch that and see what would happen. I did think though that after Saturday's struggle to get past Malta, that it might be more of the same tonight. And to be honest, more in hope than any expectation, as I'm still of the mind set to still only support the women's England football team until the men actually decide to show a bit of proper team work - not necessarily improvement of results but being more like a team and less like a load of over-rated players who are beset by the riches of Sky and the Premier League.

Needless to say, I was pretty much proved right. England struggled to break down Slovenia, who to be fair were the better side. They had a game plan, and stuck to it, and carried it out well. They rattled the woodwork in the first half, and England had Joe Hart to thank for stopping a certain goal in a one on one situation. In fact Hart on was superlative form, and his save from a header from a corner early in the second half is perhaps one of the best saves that he has ever pulled off, and rightly earned the plaudits from the pundits and media. Maybe Manchester City's casting him off to Torino might be doing him some good after all.

It was though a case of ITV dressing up what was a not so good performance. At least the caretaker manager Gareth Southgate didn't dress it up and saw it as an England team that were damaged and still in his terms recovering. I think that's not far off to be honest, and it's a good thing that at least there's truth in there. Of course we just need some more team work, less focus on Clive Tyldesley wishing Wayne Rooney to come on and virtually gushing when he did, and perhaps more tough decisions to be made. I go back to the last good England team playing away at the 1990 World Cup, and the classic New Order song "World In Motion" - tune of the day. Good football song - good team... seems about right that.

Monday 10th October - Just Another Manic Monday

And don't we all wish it was Sunday? Well, sort of. In fact I had plenty to catch up on with emails and stuff and I have to admit that it was good to get through all that, look at some issues and be able to crack on with a few things - such as some packaging cleanup. Now I knew which versions of Project and Visio 2016 we were looking at in an App-V application, it was fairly straightforward to be able to clean out the remainder (and gain some space back on the distribution point too, always a plus) and then be able to sort out what was needed.

In fact I spent a fair bit of time today research an Outlook 2016 issue in between the various meetings that I'd had today. It was a case of being able to see what the error message was, see the timing of the message and work out what had happened during that point in time. It is the latest Office 365 Outlook version, and the error messages all seem to point to the fact that certain anti-virus pieces of software tend to get in the way with some of its settings (especially McAfee, which we thankfully don't have) so I'll do some more work on that tomorow.

However, the bunged up feeling meant I didn't get that much sleep - I kept waking up in the night and thankfully blowing my nose did get rid of a fair bit (I know, too much information already) but there has been a bit of a cold bug going right round all the offices at work, and especially as the air conditioning was on way too cold, a lot of us felt rather shivery too during the day - even those of us not suffering with a cold either. It's always difficult but it's useful to be able to actually work, and I did feel that was difficult to be honest.

Still, the day was over and I now face three days of strikes via Southern Rail. In fact this morning I had to get on the delayed 0702 to London Bridge, as the 0658 train to Bedford via Farringdon was mega delayed. It wasn't pretty and will be less so tomorrow when way less trains run. I've already got my alternative routes planned out and ready to go, and will need to, as I suspect that it might still be an acrimonious struggle - especially as Southern are now seeking legal action to see if the strike can be declared null and void and therefore not allowed, and forcing new contracts on the guards to relinquish their saferty role to be on board supervisors.

Worse still is Southern's spin machine - they took out press adverts claiming that driver only operation was safe, as verified by an independent board, the Rail Standards Safety Board. Errr... the same board that has the CEO of Govia Thameslink Railway (Southern's owners) as a director, and the rail companies basically having a huge say in how the board is run. Conflict of interest? I think so. And worse to come as a leaked memo shows that in fact introducing that is a) a profit making exercise and b) a way of getting rid of the guards too. Shows just how much of a lie the whole media campaign is. Tune of the day is "Liar" by Queen, seems quite appropriate..

Sunday 9th October - Birthdays and Bunged Up

It was a lie in that was well deserved for me and The Love In My Heart today as we decided to take things relatively easy, and I got up in good time to see the first race of the Formula E season live from Hong Kong. It had moved to Channel 5 from ITV for the TV coverage and for me something was missing: Jennie Gow for one who does excellent presenting normally, but also they went to a commercial break the moment that Sebastien Buemi crossed the finish line at the end of the race. What the hell?

Not just that either, but also on top of that it seemed that Jack Nicholls wasn't on commentary either, and replaced by Martin Hayvern. Martin is decent and all that and did a good job, but it reminded me of watching the whole thing on Eurosport, even if Dario Franchitti was the expert pundit in the box (thankfully one thing which didn't change.) There is no race in London for 2017 but there is Paris.. and Monaco. Just a shame then that they're not using the full curcuit!

Later on The Love and I headed off to my auntie's place as she was doing a party for her five year old grandson. They'd hired a bouncy castle out in the back garden and so the children (and not so little children such as my uncle!) decided to have a go on there and have a general bounce around, and had lots of nice food. Mum had made a hotpot or two and that went down pretty well, although I could sense throughout the day that I was getting bunged up and developing a cold. Noooo!

In fact by the time I'd got to Piccadilly station I could feel the onset of it coming on as I said a sad farewell to The Love In My Heart. Even though I do treasure the weekends we have together, I do think at the same time that the time we spend is more concentrated and because of that it's actually quite nice, but part of me also thinks that it would be pretty good to be able to have time frozen for just a bit, just so it feels like a lot longer time that we actually do have together.

All on the train journey I could feel myself getting bunged up, and through the heat of the train (with the temperature way up high) and the warmth of the tube, what kept me going was my little walk across Victoria and on to the 1906 train to East Croydon, so I got home in a pretty good time all round really. I was pleased as this meant I could see the Japanese Grand Prix on All 4, and it was an okay race although I suspected that Lewis Hamilton will be cursing that start. Tune of the day is "The Chain" the classic F1 theme tune and sensibly retained by Channel 4 for their coverage, good move all round.

Saturday 8th October - Surprise Surprise

And no Cilla Black in sight (as would have been the case when she was around) - but more on that later. The Love In My Heart and I had got up and had a nice breakfast together, and the two cats Jô and Brian were itching to go outside on the decking for a bit of a play - noted how Brian loves to hunt down ants and scoff them as an extra added treat to himself. You wouldn't want to be one with him around in stalking tiger-like mode that's for sure. Jô even let me stroke him for a little bit before then giving his customary warning meow to leave him alone, but still..

We headed over to see The Love's father, and all was well there. In fact he was mentioning about the Festival of Remembrance that they have at the Royal Albert Hall close to Remembrance Sunday, and how he'd like to go to the evening one when the Queen is there. I looked - no chance. You've basically got to be an invited and priveleged guest, and although you can get tickets for the afternoon matinee, they tend to go to British Legion members et al first, and then a limited number for the public afterwards, so a bit of a no really. Knowing how lovely the place is, I can see why he'd want to go - although André Rieu playing there would be a good consolation prize I suspect!

After that we headed off to Dunham Massey, and it was nice to go exploring there. However, when we got off the M56 and I admired the work done so far on creation of the A556(M) (well it might as well be called that looking at it) it was then off to the car park. And who was around four spaces down from us but one of The Love's friends? It was a nice surprise and we both got chatting to her and her husband, and their friend too. It was one of those lovely moments, and between the two ladies they were attempting to see if they could do the Christmas Wreath Making anywhere, so we said we'd check and let her know. Their dog Monty was there too and he was just so adorable, being all relaxed and passive and just happy to have company. Awwww.

We took a walk around the gardens in the house of Dunham Massey (being National Trust members has its priveleges after all) and this meant we were able to see all the work being done, including the nice new little trail with regards to Queen Victoria, and the orangery looking resplendent as usual, as did the view over the pond and to beyond another gated entrance at the rear to the house too. It was nice to get some fresh air and to be able to have a good walk too. We had a coffee in the café there and perused all the nice stuff in the shop as well.

Later on we headed home and I watched some of the England v Malta game, but switched off quickly as it was dull, further emphasising my statement to only support the England women from now on. I instead headed over to Strictly Come Dancing as the full time whistle was sounding at Wembley, with plenty of them on good form including the rather gorgeous cat suit of Naga Munchetty the BBC Breakfast presenter. Miaow indeed. In fact all the dances were decent and it was good to see that the quality was up there. I think for emotional performance Ore Oduba with Joanne Clifton doing "Singin' in the Rain" (mkae that tune of the day, ironic as no rain in Manchester today) had it for me.

The Love did subject me to The X Factor, and in truth she was most thrilled mainly because Dermot O'Leary was back in the live shows with his little dance prior to the start, and that certainly got people watching I think - much more professional. Unsurprisingly, I felt like it was two hours of my life taken away by the wannabes there, and how some of them were even selected beggars belief to be honest. Still, a disastrous version of "Killing Me Softly" must have meant that the contestant singing that was probably going to be in the bottom three. And don't even get me started on Honey G...

Friday 7th October - Old Friends and New Ales

It was nice to have a bit of a lie in this morning admittedly, and not have to think too much about work either. The Love was heading out herself this morning so after breakfast we both left at the same time and I headed on the tram into the city centre, and had a good walk around the centre of Manchester. I noted a few things, such as where the old HMV was on Market Street it's soon going to be a branch of New Look, and the top end near the Manchester City shop, there's now a Costa Coffee where there was a travel agents, and Clas Ohlson appears to have shut down too!

I had a good walk along Cross Street and seeing the work done on the second city crossing, and via Princess Street to St Peters Square I had an idea of how it's all going to pan out once the line finally gets opened (fingers crossed sooner instead of later.) It then means of course that the Altrincham to Bury service doesn't necessarily have to go via Market Street and change there for Piccadilly Station, so obviously St Peter's Square is going to be a bigger interchange, hence the four platforms.

I then headed along Oxford Road and to the Footage pub, where I had arranged to meet some of my old work colleagues whom I'm still in touch with. It was really good to be able to see everyone, and plenty of chatter about all sorts including selling of my house, the doing up of a friend's house being finally sorted, all the info about what is going on where I used to be, and how that me still remembering the combi lock for a laptop trolley had them all smiling thinking that I still had the answers even now.

In fact I did two hours in there, so that everyone had a chance to come over and chat for lunch if they wanted to, and a fair few of them did which really did make me feel rather happy actually. I did have the fish and chips in the Footage and that was nice, although admittedly it got busier after 1pm so I might have to bear that in mind at some point in the future. It was nice too that everyone had a smile on their face and by the sound of it was pleased to see me - I do feel really positive and it shows that sometimes as well as the job being good, the people do make it really worthwhile too.

I also went in to see a couple of the technical staff in one department, whom I get on with famously. I could see the big smiles on their faces and we had a good natter whilst making sure everything was done as they needed to do, but had hugs from them too so all was rather lovely. I think it's a sign that even after nearly a year of leaving the job, I'm still thought of, and that's given me a little bit of a confidence booster going back down South as well.

I met up with The Love In My Heart and we had a lovely time in the city centre, first of all having a drink in The Bank, and her premise for me meeting her there was that they might have had the New Order "Stray Dog" ale. No such luck, but.. the Trooper Red and Black Porter? Oh yes, I will have a bit of that thank you very much. I had the Iron Maiden song in my head after that so tune of the day and then we walked over to Albert Square and admired the stalls in the Food and Drink Festival, and the bar there had plenty of real ale, so I decided to have the Dunham Massey Ruby Sunset ale, which was gorgeous, and The Love tried out a rather nice lager from the people who make Hobgoblin, called "Dark Star". It seemed decent and even The Love liked it, so added bonus there.

We headed back via Marks and Spencer to get the Dine in for Two deal all sorted out, and then we headed homewards where a snuggled up night of television and the cats was the order of the day. It did of course mean that we were able to watch the likes of Gogglebox and The Last Leg together, so that made us both happy (I still love The Last Leg of course) and it was just a really chilled out evening rather than necessarily be rushing from the station like I normally would be on a Friday night and will be doing so next week too.

Thursday 6th October - Upgrading

So it was time today to get the wheels in motion and get upgrading with SCCM again. We had upgraded to version 1606 so all was good there last month, but now there was a case of adding Update Rollup 1, which fixed a fair number of server and client issues, and then on top of that, due to the fact we run an Intune hybrid configuration for Mobile Device Management, it was then adding on another update which allowed for IOS 10 support for any new devices, and thought it best that we were ahead of the game and indeed that any policies that needed to be applied were done.

It was a good thing I'd tested on the test server first, and now of course having been able to carry out that testing, the live upgrade went well. I made sure everyone was off the system and then carried out the upgrade from within the console, and that was nice and straightforward really, making sure that all the pre-requisite checks had been carried out before then processing the upgrade. Once the first one was done I ensured that the new client went only to my pre-production collection for testing (with the live one going to be good to go once that was happy) and then applied the second update to make sure all was good.

I also then upgraded the admin console client on the Citrix servers and re-enabled that accordingly for the necessary admins, and then also made sure that the client itself went out to deployment to actual live machines, as the test upgrade of the client from the pre-production collection was all well and good to go. I also made sure that when testing out the new version that I brought down the Windows 10 OS deployment task sequence we have via the necessary usual methods to make sure that it was fit for purpose too - always good to be able to get that done really.

It was then good to be home later, sorting out the weekend case with more than usual due to it being a longer weekend, and heading back out from Croydon with the train to London Victoria and tube to Euston. The tube was of course pretty busy but I'd made it in plenty of time to get the 2000 departure to Manchester Piccadilly, where as it turned out The Love In My Heart was already picking up someone from the station a few minutes before me, so double win all round.

The journey up was in the dark, a sign of things to come with Winter drawing in and being able to listen to music on the way up certainly was pretty good actually, so tune of the day is the excellent "Watch The Bitch Blow" by Pop Will Eat Itself, which certainly had me rocking last Saturday that's for sure. I soon arrived in Piccadilly, and The Love was there to come and get me, and it was certainly lovely to see the two cats Jô and Brian, even if Jô had his little jealous face on and wasn't necessarily wanting a fuss and a love - none of that with Brian though, he purred happily. And it meant with us both being off, a start to the weekend early which was a positive!

Wednesday 5th October - Testing Time

It was noticeable this morning how many people are starting to get on the train I normally get on - the 0658 from East Croydon to Bedford via Blackfriars, City Thameslink and Farringdon. Whether that's because it's now normally a new Class 700 12 carriage train or because it actually runs (sort of) to time I'm not sure, but I have spotted it. I thankfully still manage to get a seat though, although there's no drop down tables behind the seats if you wanted to rest your coffee, and the only actual tables are all in First Class only. The mass of standing room of course is ideally placed for the mega rush hour, but surely this is kind of the wrong direction?

Anyway, spent a fair bit of time today sorting out an issue with doing the App-V version of Access 2010. Despite all the Microsoft guidance for App-V 5.0, it seemed to me that by looking at how others managed a similar packaging recipe, even though the App-V application is supposed to deliver the MSI (offvirt.msi) as part of the App-V Office 2010 Deployment Kit, it does so without any particular parameters that you've entered. Reading the blog from the likes of Aaron White (aka Stealthpuppy) it seems that for deployment purposes, you're actually better deploying this MSI first with your parameters and then delivering the App-V application.

In fact, this makes a lot of sense as well, because then for the deployment type for the App-V application, you can place a dependency on that MSI being installed first, so simply create that MSI as an application, add the switches you need (in my case the MAK key for Access 2010) and then get the dependencies sorted, and - job's a good'un. It allows the first user to go through the activation wizard (looks like for MAK keys using the slmgr with /ato may not work - didn't when I tried it) and then it all activates very nicely, and other users just run it as normal. And the streaming side appears to be working with Shared Content Store mode, so obvious progress there too.

It's been a case of re-learning a fair few things along the way that I've done a while ago, but the basic premise of packaging is always the same - build, test, test again, test as multiple users, and if it breaks, test it all again. It's always important to be able to test stuff out and get it right, notably if you're going to have it deployed en masse as needed later on. In fact I've got a couple of changes and tweaks approved to go tomorrow so I can then use HTTP instead of HTTPS from the main distribution point for users, so we shall see how that progresses, and if nicely, all good.

I couldn't help but think as I headed home that all the Conservative Party Conference seemed to be a message to drive home the way that Brexit will just increase the general feeling of xenophobia and racism, and that quite clearly for me isn't on. We should just all get on with each other in the world: not exactly the sort of spirit in people I've always seen as of late. Tune of the day is a spot on comment from Pop Will Eat Itself: "21st Century Civil War" complete with the chorus line of "It was war that they wanted, war that they got, tension is rising, temperature's hot" - and that's not that far off. And listening to their superb "Ich Bin Ein Auslander" seems even more apt now, and that really shouldn't be the case..

Tuesday 4th October - Nightmare

So another busy day at work, and definitely worth some investigative stuff. In fact it was good to have a constructive meeting this morning which meant I was able to construct a plan of action for quite a few things, including a planned SCCM server software upgrade to Update Rollup 1 (we're already at 1606 level) and also some App-V stuff too. In fact I've got the go-ahead to make streaming for users work the way that they want it to, and this means some possible changes to a few configurations, including the use of Shared Content Store mode being enabled in the client (which works nicely with SCCM integration too, you just have to set it that way of course)

I also did a fair bit of sorting out of re-doing the Access 2010 App-V application complete with MAK key serialisation. The guidance Microsoft provide is fine, but it's a fair bit longwinded and you do have to make sure you follow it pretty much to the letter in order to get a package up and running. However, it seems that despite all that guidance, for some reason it doesn't want to be able to activate the MAK key after installation, even though everything is there as it should be. I'm going to try a per-machine instead of per-user deployment tomorrow (Office 2010 is notoriously fussy about this) and see how that pans out.

I also had a bit of a mare heading home. Some of the trains from Farringdon weren't running so I took the alternative route of Hammersmith and City Line to Whitechapel, changing there for London Overground to West Croydon. The Overground was delayed as someone had decided to trespass onto the track at Dalston Junction and so delays were inevitable. The train was busy but I got a seat, only to find at New Cross Gate the driver announced it was going fast to West Croydon and not stopping. Good for me, rubbish for a lot of other people though it has to be said.

I think that a lot more time than I need to is spent on getting transport around the capital, it has to be said. When it works, it works really well, but when it doesn't work, the sheer amount of numbers of people planning an alternative route like I do are just then adding more strain elsewhere. I always figured that the daily commute wouldn't be so easy, and in a way I'm grateful that most of the time I'm doing hours that actually mean the journeys are a bit more bearable, but even so.

On the good news front though, I've pre-ordered the brand new EP from We've Got A Fuzzbox and We're Gonna Use It, called "Let's Go Supernova". It'll be their first new stuff in over six years, and as someone who remembers their more indie punk inspired era with cracking stuff such as "Rules and Regulations" and "Love Is The Slug" it'll be good to see what they do. Maggie Dunne from the band has of late been guest vocalling on all girl band Maid of Ace's brilliant version of "Rules and Regulation" and that is tune of the day- and I might be tempted to see them support The Wonder Stuff in December too - two for the price of one and all that!

Monday 3rd October - Southern Fail

There are some ways in order to get your customers believing in your services again, maybe with an extended period of reliability, telling the truth about the services on offer, that sort of thing. What you don't do is take part in a social media campaign to effectively attempt to get people to troll comments towards the union that they happen to be trying to belittle in a long running dispute. Yet, on my way into work this morning, I saw a tweet from the Southern Rail account which was effectively telling people to tweet the RMT Union (giving them their Twitter account details) and "letting them know how the strikes make you feel."

What they probably didn't expect was plenty of angry customers who had read said tweet flexing their fingers on their way into work and effectively showing massive support for the RMT and at the same time slating Southern for their bullying tactics, the fact that their trains don't run on time and have had the most number of cancellations due to train crew shortages long before any dispute was happening, and that the attitude of their parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (who also run Great Northern, Thameslink and the Gatwick Express) is just one that doesn't bode well with people.

A fair few people responded with suitably good ripostes and stating that the problems are all of Southern's making, and it was also notable that some people responded stating facts that Southern conveniently forgot to mention. And here's another thing: they took out adverts in the Evening Standard and the Metro, and full page adverts at that, which won't have been cheap. Surely a better use of the money would have actually been to get some of their services running on time?

Needless to say, it was picked up by the media and quite rightly treated with the disdain that it deserves - especially when the performance stats from yesterday showed that a mere 16% of the Southern mainline services were actually on time. That's six out of seven trains late. So that should give you an idea of the appalling service that a lot of people South of the capital have to put up with. Unreliable, overpriced, and way too overcrowded. Need I go on really?

In the meantime a fair bit of video footage has gone up from people filming from Saturday's Indie Daze all day fest that I went to. It's good to see that some of the footage at least is different songs and so it gives people an idea of what it was like to be there and should encourage them to go next year. I must admit though I'd rather not have anyone film stuff at gigs though - it's more about enjoying the moment for me including some mass pogoing to the likes of Pop Will Eat Itself especially, and their storming rendition of "Def Con One" is tune of the day for me. Quite apt considering Southern's failure...

Sunday 2nd October - Ringing It

It was a reasonably early rise and shine for me as the Malaysian Grand Prix was on Channel 4, so woo, it was on proper telly. It was good therefore to be able to see that unfold, and it was a pretty good race. Sebastian Vettel collided with Nico Rosberg at the first corner, which meant that Vettel was out of the race and that Rosberg went to the back of the grid. At one point Jenson Button had made it to fourth because of the fun and games there, although he was soon overtaken by the likes of Max Verstappen.

The other main drama was later on when Lewis Hamilton's engine blew up spectacularly when in the lead and having enough of a gap to pit again and still be in front of the two Red Bulls. He questioned afterwards why the engine failures for Mercedes were always down to his car, which had some people thinking that he might have had a valid point. Verstappen scrapped with team mate Daniel Ricciardo, but the Aussie was having none of it, stayed ahead, and crucially this meant when the virtual safety car was out for Hamilton, he had first dibs of the pit stop, stayed ahead and won the race well. Rosberg recovered to third despite a ten second penalty for clashing with Kimi Raikkonen. Jenson Button got 9th place in his 300th race, but could have been more if the McLaren strategists performed better for him..

Once that was all done, I had some breakfast and then set off for East Croydon station, in order to head to the starting point at Greenford for the next leg of the Capital Ring. The trains were rubbish out of Croydon thanks to Southern Railway (yet again) and eventually crawled into Clapham Junction, where thankfully the much better London Overground service got me to Shepherds Bush in perfect timing for the Central Line to Greenford, so all well there and the five and a half miles today was looking like reasonably nice weather too, but not too hot, so that was good.

I followed the path which took you along a wetlands reserve and towards the Grand Union Canal, and followed this for around a mile to Ballot Box Bridge, and crossed the bridge over to the start of Horsenden Hill. It wasn't so well signposted in parts, but I made my way to the top and admired the view, which was pretty nice it has to be said. Once following the woods down the hill (again, signage needed to be better here) I headed out of there and along a path to some roads. In fact it was by the roadside for some time, eventually ending up at Sudbury Hill tube station.

I then followed the way off to South Vale (sign posts would be useful here TfL!) and then took the uphill bridleway, known locally for some reason as Piggy Lane. It was a fair hill up but there were squirrels in the trees to keep me company so that was nice, and at the top, then following the main road past the Cygnet Hospital, followed by a right fork towards Harrow on the Hill village. Of course a lot of the buildings there are part of the Harrow School (read: very posh indeed) but also there's lots of little cafés and little shops, and today there was even a local produce market on the little green in the centre, which was nice.

Having climbed the hill, the path then took me down Football Lane and Music Hill to the Harrow School fields, where the path had been negotiated with the school itself to skirt around some of the fields and indeed crossing the only stile on the whole of the Capital Ring! Once across the road there it was following an uneven path skirting to the side of Northwick Park golf course, then walking through Northwick Park complete with a view of the Wembley Arch, and then following the park exit to South Kenton station and the iconic as seen from the train Windermere pub (if you've been on a train from Manchester or Birmingham to London, you will have seen it I guarantee) - and so onwards from there.

The way back seemed a lot quicker too - Overground to Willesden Junction and change there for one to Clapham Junction (admittedly I was tempted to go to Kew Gardens but resisted) and at Clapham Junction, timed it well to go straight on a train straight to East Croydon. Hurrah! It was an enjoyable walk today in parts, the middle section involved too much walking alongside roads really but getting to Harrow on the Hill was rather nice, and Horsenden Hill was also rather lovely too, so all good there. Tune of the day in the meantime is the excellent "Great Things" by Echobelly, primarily due to last night's gig, but also because of the fact that I do want to do great things with my spare time, and walking is one of them.

Saturday 1st October - Indie Daze

So after having a relative lie in, watching the F1 qualifying from Malaysia and also being able to get the flat all nice and cleaned up, it was time to head off, attempting to avoid the incessant rain that had been falling all morning, to Indie Daze, an all day gig of indie bands based at the Kentish Town Forum in North London. I'd been to the venue ages ago to see Weird Al Yankovic, and it's not too bad from what I remember. I did at least have a downstairs standing ticket so I could pogo if I wanted to, and the line up looked decent too, so I was hoping for some quality music and some great times.

The sensible thing is that the organisers, Grant and Jayne Holby of Mute Elephant, are big fans of the music themselves, so much so that they've sometimes got bands to either a) reform or b) do special shows as part of these all dayers. They also sensibly price the tickets so as not to rip the fans off either, so £28 for seven bands and around 8 hours of actual music seems a very good deal to me - notably compared to say £75 that Kraftwerk were charging for their sold out tour that they had announced. So I have to say massive kudos to them really - and when the next one's announced for next October, a space in the diary will be filled - for sure.

So seven acts then, and up first were Thousand Yard Stare, a band who I heard their songs of but weren't massively into at the time. I have to say though that they set the tone off really well with a pretty good set, and they even joked about the number of copies (or lack of) their second album sold, and that their one top 40 hit (which got to number 37, "Comeuppance") got played too. A highlight for me and their diehard fans was the rather epic "Wideshire" which showed some cracking guitar playing in particular. "What's Your Level?" also went down pretty well and it was good to see them going for it, even at around 2pm in the afternoon.

Next up was Bentley Rhythm Ace, and for all three involved (Richard March and Fuzz Townshend, both in Pop Will Eat Itself, and James Atkin from EMF) the first of two live stints. Having Fuzz as the live drummer really did give substance to their tracks, and got everyone dancing downstairs in the afternoon with some pretty funky groovy tunes all round. Naturally as I have the first two albums, I recognised the tracks, but the one that had everyone going "ooh yeah, isn't that off an advert?" is of course "Bentley's Gonna Sort You Out"- and had James doing the "I love it!" vocal bit instead of the sample - and my other really great favourite of the time was "Whoosh" which really had some cracking bass from Richard as well.

We then had the last ever show from Gaye Bykers on Acid, notable of course as Ian Hoxley (aka Mary Byker) is now the vocalist for Pop Will Eat Itself as well, so he was also doing two live stints. It was the culmination of their Electric Banana tour, and you could tell it was tight from the outset. The undoubted highlight for most of us was "Everythang's Groovy" was a bit of a Grebo anthem back in the late 1980s, and also "Mr Muggeridge, What Happened To Malcolm?" as well. In fact Mary sounded spot on vocally here, and really in his element. Some rocking out too near the front which was a sign of things to come. Enjoyable, and definitely an "I was there to see the last show" moment.

As you had free pass outs till 6pm I timed my exit to head out into Kentish Town, grab some food (plenty of fans were using the KenFishTown fish and chip place close by and having food there) and then get back in for perfect timing of the solo set from Jim Bob, one half of Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine (hence back then people called them Carter USM for short.) I have to say this was one of the highlights for me - he really had the audience in the palm of his hand and belted out plenty of classics acoustically including "Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere", "The Only Living Boy In New Cross", "Glam Rock Cops" and at the end, with everyone belting out the words en masse with him, "Sheriff Fatman". It was a really good way to split the day up and he really played well too - and his solo shows with Chris T-T on piano are well worth going to if you get chance...

Next then were Pop Will Eat Itself, and admittedly one of my main motivations for coming (I had my 1993 grey long sleeved PWEI skater t-shirt on of course) - and it was a cracking set, for a number of reasons. Guitarist Tim Muddiman was playing with Gary Numan (as he does) so they got in Kerry Hammond aka The Buzzard, who did the original solos for the likes of "Wise Up! Sucker" and more recently, "Watch The Bitch Blow" - and they had Fuzz on drums too. Oooh yes. So a quality set started with some crackers such as "Dance of the Mad B*******s", "RSVP" and recent album closer "Directors Cut" which I love, but not everyone recognised (sadly.) We also got "Everything's Cool" too and "Watch The Bitch Blow" with Buzzard kicking it.

Later on, off went the bassist Davey and Buzzard, but then on came Richard March and Adam Mole - from the original Mk1 PWEI line up (I knew it was happening, but even so) - so they belted out "Def Con One" and the audience was pogoing en masse - it was mental. They then did "Ich Bin Ein Auslander" and were so spot on with that, and The Buzzard came back on for "Wise Up! Sucker" which was just awesome. I can't have been the only one hoping that Clint Mansell could have come over for a complete Mk1 reunion, especially for this track - it would have been awesome to say the least. It all ended later with "Their Law" being particularly brilliant!

Then it was Echobelly, and for me the sound engineer didn't have Sonya Aurora Madan's mic up quite right, so had to concentrate even harder to sing along with her vocal being quiet - a real shame. That said, it was a cracking set, with the likes of "Car Fiction" and "Natural Animal" being particularly good. Sonya was spot on vocally, and really belted it out during the likes of "Great Things" (cue audience singalong, well at least by me and a fair few others) and "King of the Kerb" also being lovely too. I really noted that Glenn was belting it out on the guitar and it must have been frustrating to have their set spoiled by the sound not being right.

Finally, EMF - doing the 25th anniversary of their first album "Schubert Dip" and I have to say, they justified being headliners too. They really went for it from the start with the likes of "Children" being spot on, and then also getting some stuff from the second album included too, such as "Perfect Day", "It's You" and my personal EMF favourite "They're Here" which gave me a massive smile on my face. Naturally of course the likes of "I Believe" and "Lies" got a particularly good reception. And they did "Unbelievable" during the main set with the DJ bloke coming out and getting everyone in the mood for a mass pogo - and mass pogo it was. But unbelievably, that wasn't the highlight, that was yet to come.

So, on they back came for a two song encore, and what do they go and do? "EMF" no less. Those of you who have the "Unbelievable" single will know this from the B-side "EMF: Live at the Bilson" which had of course everyone singing along with the uncensored chorus from chorus two onwards: "E! Ecstasy! M! Motherf***er Motherf***er!" F! From Us To You" and that had everyone smiling. But that's not all. They did "Unbelievable" again but this time joined by Richard, Graham and Mary from PWEI, and Jim Bob, and they all played it together, which was awesome - and Graham for verse two did a Jilted John inspired vocal: "Just cos they're better looking than me, EMF are morons!" which had the crowd singing "EMF are morons" too. It was an ace end to an ace day so tune of the day was a very very easy decision..

I made my way to Kentish Town station and spotted my train was cancelled (Govia Thameslink Failway strike again with rubbish trains) and so Plan B was executed: Northern Line to Warren Street, Victoria Line to Victoria and then Southern train to East Croydon, which took the long way round via Streatham Hill and so took ages (so much so it was 35 minutes late getting into East Croydon, dear me..) so it was very late when I got home, but I was still buzzing off all the excellent bands playing. It was fab.