Dear Diary... April 2018

Monday 30th April - Snooker in Sheffield

I had the day off work booked and it was off to Sheffield for the World Snooker Championship again, and seeing the final session at 1pm of Judd Trump's game with Ricky Walden. It was 8-8 after their evening session last night and it was definitely well poised to at least go a good few frames. Part of me of course would love to see a 13-12 last frame decider, but can't see that happening, or can I? I thought of all that as I headed off to St Pancras station to get on the train up to Sheffield.

I had booked my trains with Megabus, as Stagecoach own that and East Midlands Trains, which means you can book trains that way. In fact it worked out £13 there and £9 back, so £22 in all, which you can't really complain about at all. It just means that you need to locate Coach C, the unreserved coach, and take a seat in there, and to be fair, the offpeak trains are never that full so it's easy enough to get one. That worked out well so it meant that I could get a coffee before getting on the train, and just watch the world go by as the train sped past Bedford and Wellingborough on its way to Leicester, stopping off at Derby and Chesterfield before arriving in Sheffield bang on time.

I headed up the hill towards the Crucible and then had a good walk around Sheffield. I actually spotted Stephen Hendry, John Parrott and Ken Doherty in a cafe close by to the Crucible, all having a brew and no doubt discussing all sorts. I felt it best to not go in and leave them to it, and instead had a nice walk around the city centre with the sun actually out (was raining when I left Croydon this morning, note, but the weather was much much better in Sheffield) and saw Mark Williams walking around with some of his relations, seemed fairly relaxed prior to tonight's match and final session.

I saw all four players going in for their session - Ding seemed really relaxed and I think was wanting to get the match finished quickly. Anthony McGill was good to talk to as well and I think everyone enjoyed his little celebration when he got his first frame last night - just nice to see him still enjoying it despite the scoreline. Judd and Ricky were more a case of going in and getting ready to go, but they both allowed me a pic - very good of them both to be fair. I think that they both were aware that getting a good start was crucial.

In I went and had a good view in Row K virtually above where the players were sat. The match definitely turned on that 18th frame, the Ricky Walden miss meant that Judd Trump's excellent clearance levelled it at 9-9, would have been hugely different if 10-8 to Walden. Judd then went through the gears making a 60+ break constantly, and at 11-9 at the interval those sat either side of me said that Walden needed to take the first frame after the interval or else they could only see one winner. And so it proved - Judd took the 21st well after a lengthy safety battle early on, and then rattled in a quick century to finish off - the long yellow to get to the 100 was absolutely class to be fair.

Judd v John Higgins is going to be tasty, depends on which Judd turns up - the one from the last five frames today or the one against Chris Wakelin? And John Higgins' experience will count hugely. Nonetheless nice to see another ton there (fourth in all, had three in Lyu Haotian v Marco Fu when I went last Saturday) and the overall standard of play was good. I did note also that Jason Mohammad these days is also presenting more in the week than in previous years, I don't know if that's intentional to scale back time for Hazel but it certainly seems that way. Jason as ever though is doing a good job I think, and certainly would be a good pick if Hazel ever decided to leave presenting the snooker behind.

Later on with plenty of time to spare I headed to the Virgin Money lounge (membership has its rewards you know) so had a nice coffee and chilled out in there, and then headed around some of the shops, getting some potential ideas for holiday stuff. I then had some tea and took the walk back down the hill to the station, all there in good time for the 1929 departure back to London, getting a coffee from Costa on Platform 5 as I did so. The train sped to London on time and due to some rubbish trains at the London end, I didn't get home till later than planned. Still, was a good day out and for obvious reasons "Drag Racer" by the Doug Wood Band is tune of the day.

Sunday 29th April - A Day of Sport

It was very much a case of being at home for most of the day and tuning in to all of the sport on offer, of which there was plenty. I had some breakfast and put on BBC2 for the morning's play of the World Snooker Championship, with some second round games underway. I was transfixed by how well Ding Junhui was playing - he was totally dominant against Anthony McGill and by the end of the session he had won all eight frames, which you don't often see at this level in the World Championship. On the other table Judd Trump v Ricky Walden was 4-4 at the end of their first session and as that was a game I was seeing tomorrow I was pleased about that.

I then was switching over to the F1 on Channel 4, as the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was on. It normally is one of the most exciting races on the calendar due to its mix of long straights, tight corners and the old historic section of the town in its circuit, and so it proved again today. A safety car was inevitable, a case of not if but when and indeed when the second one came out it was due to Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen colliding - not the sort of thing you should do as team mates, although Eddie Jordan for Channel 4 was particularly vocal about Max weaving about.

What it did mean though was that the race was still all to play for with four laps left. Sebastian Vettel went for the overtake on the inside, overcut it and blistered the tyres in the process, meaning that he actually got caught and overtaken by Sergio Perez, meaning that Checo was now fourth place. At the end of the next lap, Valtteri Bottas' tyre blew after running over some debris, gifting Lewis Hamilton the lead and Kimi Raikkonen with Perez third, and that was how it stayed. Was massively pleased for him too because he always seems to know where to push and do well and his record here is pretty good.

I also had the Manchester City game at West Ham United streaming too, so I was keeping an eye on that as well as the F1. City were dominant throughout and were 2-0 up in no time at all, with a deflected shot from Leroy Sané followed up by a cross from Kevin de Bruyne being followed up with Pablo Zabaleta, of all people, turning it into his own net and making it the 100th City goal in the league this season. He's still a Blue really. And then West Ham put in an excellent free kick and it's 2-1 at the interval, so not too complacent really and we needed to finish the job off.

And finish it City did, with a flowing move down the right and ball in from Raheem Sterling setting up Gabriel Jesús to finish home from close range for 3-1, and a similar break down the right resulted in a pull back for Fernandinho to make it 4-1. Late on City gave apperances to Yaya Touré and most promising of all Lucas Nmecha, and he looked promising in his twenty minutes or so on the pitch, so that was also good. Tune of the day is "Blue Moon" by Supra, as City go marching on and breaking more records, with more potentially to be broken next Sunday in the Huddersfield Town game, that's going to be special..

Saturday 28th April - Walking The Jubilee Greenway

It was raining considerably during the morning, so decided to get some stuff done around the flat first, so cleaned everywhere, sorted out washing, and then also settled in for the morning to see the final session of the snooker on BBC2 with Lyu Haotian playing well against Barry Hawkins, and snatched a dramatic 20th frame where he needed a snooker on the pink, got it and Hawkins went in off, and then finished off to be 10-10 at the mid session interval. In a way that came at the right time for Hawkins though as he then came out battling and won the last three frames to get a 13-10 win, but nice to see Haotian doing so well, definitely one for the future if he can sort out his safety game, something he admitted himself in post-match.

The weather had improved enough in the early afternoon although it was still cloudy, and so I decided that a good walk would be a good idea. I thought about what to do and decided to start to take on the Jubilee Greenway, a 60km in total walk split over ten sections and was done in 2012 to commemorate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee (hence the name) but also taking in green spaces and views of the city as you walk around London, that's the theory anyway. Having completed all of the Capital Ring last year (around 125km over fifteen sections) it was good to give myself another walk challenge and keep healthy.

I wanted to also do the sections in order, knowing that actually section five shares its route with the Capital Ring so wouldn't necessarily have to do that again, and so it was off on the train to Victoria station and from there a short stroll down Buckingham Palace Road to Buckingham Palace itself, and by the front of the palace is a paving stone in the floor which is the official start and finish, right in front of the palace's main gate. Of course plenty of tourists were around as you can imagine, all wanting to have selfies etc, so was good to commence walking and head along Constitution Hill and start to feel immediately more relaxed.

The walk takes you via the Wellington Arch at Hyde Park corner to Hyde Park itself, following the Serpentine towards the Diana Princess of Wales fountain and the Serpentine Lido, with swans and squirrels out by the water certainly making themselves noticed. After that it's the west part of the park, Kensington Gardens, and onwards towards the entrance to Kensington Palace and along the west main path towards the Black Lion gate close to Queensway station. It was nice heading through the park although some more floor tiles that direct you along with some sign posts might not have gone amiss in the park to be honest - maybe something that could be arranged?

It was then walking through the posh streets of Bayswater and heading along towards Paddington station, still of course with a load of Crossrail work going on (yes, it's Crossrail, not the E word!) and skirting around the side of the station led you to Paddington Basin, complete with nice canal boats and even one that looked like a nice bar and did coffee too (was so tempted to stop in there for a time!) and under the bridge, a completely blue statue of Paddington Bear (aww!) - before then heading under the concrete abomination of the A40 Westway and onwards to Little Venice.

And can I just say one thing here - I'd love to come back here with The Love In My Heart sometime. It looked rather calm and peaceful, with boats taking you along the canal towards Camden as well as being able to have a few boats moored along as a café also, but the nice view of three canal waterways merging was a really picturesque place to be, and certainly a hidden gem unless you know where it is in London. I must admit this is one thing walking has given me, a different sort of view of the city and being able to find new places is always a good positive thing.

So section one done, and section two was in effect shorter - but still lovely. It was following the Regents Canal from Little Venice, and so this took you along past some private canal moorings towards Maida Vale, and then diverting on roads that go over the Maida Vale tunnel, coming out at the other side past Lisson Grove and towards the moorings there, where they had plenty of furniture laid out by the canalside for the owners of the boats moored there - looked rather lovely actually.

The towpath then takes you on curve around Regents Park itself with London Zoo visible in parts from the rear on one side. Of course what does make that interesting is that sometimes you can time it so that when some of the animals are fed, you can see that from the canal towpath. The zoo certainly seemed large and because the canal is quite low down, you're looking up at a lot. Just after the canal you then see a floating Chinese restaurant in the water before the canal makes a very sharp turn left.

You head left, follow the canal and go under the West Coast Main Line as it heads towards Euston, and then you see the Pirate Castle ahead (you can see this from the train window!) before then heading under a tunnel and arriving pretty much in Camden Lock Market,with food stalls everywhere and it being massively busy. The end is effectively as you have Hampstead Road lock just before the main road in Camden Town, and Camden was packed to be honest. I was glad to hop on the 24 bus and head towards Hampstead Heath, and have a well earned pint in The Garden Gate pub afterwards.

I did note from that free wi-fi, so managed to get the BBC Sport app showing the snooker, and timed it well to see Ali Carter clinch a famous 13-9 win over Ronnie O'Sullivan, and that was pretty good. I think that Ali Carter's comment about the favouritism that O'Sullivan gets had rankled him, and so a bit of a barge during one frame was not really that good to see, but got people talking. I then headed from Hampstead station on the Northern Line back to London Bridge and onwards to home - the balls of the feet were a little sore, but had really enjoyed the walk today. Tune of the day in fact is "Down In The Park" by Gary Numan, had that in my head all day when walking through Hyde Park.

Friday 27th April - End of the Week

It did feel a little odd not getting a train or at least knowing that The Love In My Heart would be coming down on the train tomorrow, but it's good occasionally for us both to save some dosh and have a free weekend to do our own thing. I already had some plans for Saturday which are weather dependent, and on Sunday the F1 is on proper telly so that might be me sorted (especially as the snooker will also be on too of course) - and I do have the Monday off to head to the Crucible for the second round match with Judd Trump and Ricky Walden, the former lucky to get through 10-9 against Chris Wakelin late last night.

It was though a positive day today - managed to get plenty done, and worked out some plans for next week too. The main big thing will be the upgrade to SCCM 1802 but judging by how the test server went so well, that should be a breeze really. The good thing is that I've been able to mentor one of my colleagues and get them up to speed on how things work, definitely always worth sharing that knowledge I think. It was also good to see that some recommendations I put forward were ones that were going to be used sensibly, so all positive from that side as well.

I headed off home later on and got a nice surprise in the post. I had saved up enough credit back on the O2 Rewards thing and so the £10 was used for a gift card for Amazon, so was able to use that later on tonight, ordering the new Breeders album that had come out, the 1972 film Made starring Roy Harper and on Blu-ray, plus a nice little guidebook for the destination for the holiday for The Love and myself too, so well worth doing and getting that sorted for less I think.

I also watched the snooker tonight with Mark Allen and Joe Perry tied at 8-8 after the first two sessions. I had predicted a 13-8 Mark Allen win, and the first frame was crucial as both of them had a chance to take it, but Allen got over the line, and then smashed in a century in the next frame. He took the next two and at the mid session you could see that Joe Perry was narked as he headed off, and after the interval Mark Allen hit another century to win 13-8 as I'd predicted - no money or anything, just extra points in the predictions competition I'd entered for getting a perfect score.

I then watched the Jeff Beck documentary on BBC Four, which was a fascinating insight into the man and the musicians that he played with, including being the guitarist for some of Stevie Wonder's songs, and jamming in the studio to form the original basis for the Wonder classic Supersition. It was when they got talking about the iconic Blow By Blow album that really drew the interest in, explaining how the producer George Martin wanted the orchestra in "Scatterbrain" and making that work. I do prefer the live version from a few years back sans strings, as that's a classic rendtion and tune of the day for me.

Thursday 26th April - Three For The Price Of One

It was good to be working from home today and be able to concentrate on some maintenance tasks and get plenty of things done over the course of the day too. It also meant that I could effectively clean up some of the source folders for some of the applications and BIOS updates, and be sure that we have a neat and tidy system going forward. In fact it worked out nicely as I was able to attend a couple of meetings remotely, dial in to the all staff meeting later in the morning, and generally get on with things.

After work and after having the supermarket delivery from Tesco, it was nice to have some tea and then get myself ready to head out for the evening, and in truth I didn't have very far to go either - literally round the corner to the Spreadeagle and their upstairs theatre. It's always good that they have decent ales in there and even a couple of guest ones on, but went for the Oliver's Island as I know that's a good light session ale, and just the sort of thing for the night in question - a mixture of music and mirth with three people I all really like playing - for the price of a mere £8. Absolute bargain.

So up first was Gavin Osborn - and he was playing some new stuff as well as some of the nice stuff from his back catalogue which is always excellent. He actually got the compere Tim to get one of the audience to read off a new list of things in the choruses of "Don't Know Enough About That" which is thoroughly good fun, so tune of the day there. He also played some new stuff which sounded good fun, especially the opener which mentions the likes of how you're there to entertain and bring fun! I also enjoyed the really good rendition of "And Still They Move" too, so a good set which had people smiling which is always good.

MJ Hibbett was up next, and it was a nice mix of the new and the classic from him tonight, with "20 Things To Do Before You're 30" starting things off nicely, and a set which included "Cheer Up Love" and "Someone Else's Turn" as well as a potential already new favourite of mine, "Two Nights, One Pub". It simply had to be done to sing along to "It Only Works Before You're Here" of course (still my all time favourite of his so all good there.) And at Gavin's request, the rather nice old classic "Leave My Brother Alone" and to end off the set, "We Did It Anyway" too. Interestingly when he was mentioning Leicester Poly someone in the audience pointed out they too had attended said Poly. Woo!!

I headed down to the bar and ended up having a good natter with Mark and the lovely Charlotte, plus Gavin as well, before we all headed up in good time for Jenny Lockyer to do her thing. She essentially had three acts in one, having a Deep South American accent for the first couple of songs, before breaking out into the fab "Chocolate Cake" song which showcases her wit and humour at her finest, and ending the set with a song about a lost cat with a Russian woman looking for her beloved feline, complete with an Edna from the Incredibles look and sound (if you have seen said film you will know what I mean.) It was thoroughly enjoyable as ever, and a nice way to round off a lovely evening all round.

Wednesday 25th April - Over The Wimbledon Rainbow

It was off to Wimbledon Park after work, and so it was a well timed walk to the train station, head on the train to Wimbledon and then hop on the District Line one stop to Wimbledon Park. It actually works out either the same time or quicker than going from work to Edgware Road and changing there for the District Line, but it's usually pretty okay on the train because you go via Streatham and Tooting, then Haydons Road to Wimbledon. Some of those stations seem relatively untouched since the days of First Capital Connect, still having that pink and purple branding, especially at Tooting station.

I arrived at Wimbledon Park and into James Barbers to have my hair cut. It needed to be done to be honest primarily because of the fact that I wanted to get it all nice and short, and time it so I'd have it done again just before the holiday as well. The staff in there were ace as per usual, and they've now got some of their own hair care products under the Crowes Nest name, all distinctly styled with punk typography and a strong branding too. Might have to get some of those next time I'm in. Interestingly one of the staff said that using a citrus type shampoo wouldn't work so well for me as they tend to leave the hair dry (which is not good for me as I'm quite dry skinned anyway) and to use something more oil-based, again good to know.

I did decide to take a nice stroll around Wimbledon Park itself afterwards and it was a real mixture of sunshine and the occasional bit of rain, then sunshine again. The tennis courts were being used mainly for practice but I did spot that there is still the crazy golf course there. No one was open to see if I could give it a go, but the price of £6.50 was a little bit steep to be honest, considering that I have played other courses for cheaper and they were also in better condition, but good to know it is there just in case.

I headed back to the tube and to Wimbledon station, and the rain was coming down again but then the sun coming out to play too. In fact as a South Western Railway train pulled in, there was a rainbow that I managed to see and capture an image with the camera on the phone. It's the second time I've had a rainbow at a train station (the first being at Carbis Bay last year when in Cornwall) and it did make the evening that little bit nicer seeing it to be honest.

It was then off home and on with the snooker and some top notch stuff tonight. Thepchiaya Un-Nooh was on for a maximum but missed the 15th red, and eventually John Higgins won 10-7 in that one. On the other table Ryan Day had already made a 141 break early on in his match with Anthony McGill but then after pinching a very tight 8th frame comes out and makes a massive 145, the highest of the tournament so far and that will take some beating unless someone does get a maximum. Now if the BBC could bring back the proper snooker theme, "Drag Racer" by the Doug Wood Band (make that tune of the day) then all would be well..

Tuesday 24th April - Testing Testing One Two Three

It was good to be back on the testing trail for a few things, and one of the tests I was carrying out hadn't actually taken place first thing this morning. I soon realised why though: I'd set a maintenance window for a SCCM collection (as you do), however I hadn't set the task sequence length to be less than the window duration, so quite rightly it claimed that the window would never run. I got that all corrected and set up for tomorrow to be on the safe side, but good that I was able to determine things quite quickly, and then move on to the next thing.

In fact I made a nice discovery and something that would be worth noting for the ServiceNow upgrade when we do the live instance. As part of the changes for standard changes, rather than you click the template and the change immediately be created as a record, it is now a two step process, so it effectively creates the record based on the template and then allows you to do what you need to do before saving it, and only when you save it is the actual record created - a much better experience in my view and one we'll definitely be implementing also.

In fact with all the testing, it reminded me of Altered Images' classic line in their song "Dead Pop Stars", as Clare Grogan would sing slightly Goth-like, "Testing testing, one two three, I am the poster on your wall.." in the first verse. Rather ace actually and tune of the day because of it. It's always good to reminisce about classic tunes that you like and this was the era when the band were still in their Goth phase before becoming all pop like with the title track of their Happy Birthday album being the case in point..

Anyway, been tuning in to the World Snooker Championship of course, and having the BBC Sport app on the telly has proven massively useful for the evening sessions especially. I can flick happily between the two and spent some time watching Jack Lisowski v Stuart Bingham, a match I'd predicted in an online prediction league that Lisowski would win 10-7. And he duly did. Nice. Although Stuart wasn't at his best he certainly wasn't at his worst either which shows that Jack did play well.

Of course no one has a more fun walk on than Robert Milkins aka The Milkman. You could have had "Ernie The Fastest Milkman in the West" by Benny Hill of course, but no, instead staying true to his West Country roots and having a bit of The Wurzels, with their version of "Uno Paloma Blanca" being "I Am A Cider Drinker", in true oo-arr tradition. He wasn't playing too badly either and Neil Robertson looked like he had been playing far too many video games once again..

Monday 23rd April - Changes

David Bowie's "Changes" is tune of the day - and for a number of reasons really. First of all, it's a definite sign of change for me at the moment as I'm producing quite a few change requests where I work in order to get things done. One of the things I'd been investigating with one of our security analysts is a sensible way to look at disabling the Pocket extension in Firefox that has been out there in new releases, and integrated into the browser. In a number of cases, there's justifiable concerns that users could save stuff to Pocket that might not be too allowable.

Checking the Firefox preferences shows that you can indeed disable the extension, using the preference "extensions.pocket.enabled" to false. In addition if you use mozilla.cfg to set default preferences for every user, you can also use lockpref to have the setting as a locked preference which cannot be amended (more so if you've hidden the drives from access) and that'll do the job nicely. It's one thing about enforcing things to some degree but it's how you do it to be fair.

I also as well worked on a few plans for some future deployments of one licence for a piece of software we're using at the moment to ensure that the licence can carry on for an extended period. In effect it's reasonably simple to do, so just a case of ensuring that we're able to test that out, and the testing thus far has shown that it's worked, so quite pleased about that. The one important thing that is always a sensible thing to do is to test, test and then test again to be absolutely sure all is good.

The other change I suppose I'm considering at the moment are some options too. I think realistically that there's a few ways we can configure our ServiceNow instance, and during our initial testing of the upgrade we spotted that there was some re-indexing that needed to be done (which means that once done the searching works again.) We'd also spotted that the new style of search appears to show the results with some links to find some of the content, but that actually the older legacy type search may be better for other usage, and there's thankfully an easy way to configure that accordingly.

So as I said, change in the air, and I've definitely embraced that and thought about how best to progress a number of things. I do though as well really want to be able to get plenty of those all sorted so I can concentrate on other projects we've got an eye on through the year, and also offer some increased efforts to expand our current stability and how that will help us all in the long term. Busy day, plenty of things to consider, and even with a late stay to help out, won't be as late as some of the snooker tonight...

Sunday 22nd April - Stand Up For The Champions

It was early(ish) to rise for me as the London Marathon was on the telly, giving The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat a lie in and snuggle time together on the bed (awww.) It was actually pretty good overall as the heat really did mean you had to adapt to the conditions. The women's race in particular saw an attempt at the world record held by Paula Radcliffe, but it was clear that the leading two had gone almost on that schedule in 23 degree heat, and they both wilted badly later on, with those pacing themselves more sensibly coming through to take the honours. In the men's race Sir Mo Farah finished third and looked visibly knackered but did at least break the very long standing British record in the process.

In fact later on The Love and I had some lovely breakfast together and I sorted out a few PowerPoint issues and got the presentation all transferred to a memory stick as a backup if required, and once that was done we kept an eye on the snooker on BBC2 where Ronnie O'Sullivan was making an epic comback from 6-3 down to eventually beat Stephen Maguire 10-7. At 6-4 up Maguire missed a red which could have helped his break to be a frame winning one, but instead Ronnie cleaned up to pull it back to 6-5. I sensed it was a turning point and so it proved.

Later on I headed over to meet my friend and it was off to the Etihad for us both, as we were going to see Manchester City as champions take on Swansea City in the Premier League. It was our first home game since losing to Man U and we wanted to bounce back in the league at home, and with the pressure off having won the title last weekend, it'd be nice to finish on a high and score as many as we could in order to break some more records along the way, there's a 103 goal record to aim at as well as most points and most wins in a 38 game season too.

It was actually a nice gentle game to take in and City were two up early on. First, some good work down the left found Raheem Sterling who put the ball into the box, where it was controlled well by David Silva with an excellent finish for 1-0. Sterling himself scored not long after with a superb cross across the box from Fabian Delph to make it a second. It was cruise control till half time to be honest, and Swansea were more concerned about damage limitation rather than going to score themselves.

The second half was almost like a pre-season training session, but City kept going forward, and Kevin de Bruyne got the ball outside the box and planted home a real piledriver to make it 3-0, and a deserved goal for his excellent play today. Sterling was fouled later for a penalty, and after last week's conversion I thought that Ilkay Gundogan was going to take it, but no, Gabriel Jesús wanted it. He missed and it bounced back off the post for Bernardo Silva to spare the blushes and score the rebound for a nice 4-0 scoreline. On came the likes of Yaya Touré and Phil Foden to give themselves a good run out.

City weren't done as yet with Foden particularly showing that he didn't look out of place in the City side, and after a few chances went by with Vincent Kompany being unlucky, a lovely ball from Touré found the head of Jesús and he scored for a fifth goal and it was 5-0. So, four games to go, we've got 90 points, we've scored 98 goals, and have a massive +73 goal difference. Not far to go off some of the records of course but so nice to see us play well, with Supra's "Blue Moon" belting out over the tannoy and tune of the day to boot too, an excellent rousing version at that!

Saturday 21st April - Everybody's Doing The Len Ganley Stance

Shine your shoes and head for the Crucible, as sang Half Man Half Biscuit about the former legendary snooker referee Len Ganley, so "The Len Ganley Stance" by said band is tune of the day. In fact The Love In My Heart was up with Brian the cat and so once we'd fussed over Brian and let him have a play out on the front, with him having a good stretch on the decking and feeling all comfortable, The Love very kindly dropped me off to the train station and gave me a nice hug before I set off, with the train booked for the 0820 departure to Sheffield from Manchester Piccadilly.

The train sped through the Peak District and seeing the lovely countryside at Edale, Hope and Bamford particularly was as gorgeous as ever, and even Abbeydale Park in Sheffield itself was a real oasis of calm in the early morning still weather. It was due to get nice and warmer later, so I had a short sleeved shirt on and a thin jacket ready for that, but good of course to arrive in Sheffield and take the now familar walk up the hill past the Millennium Galleries and onwards to Tudor Square and the hallowed entrance to the legendary Crucible Theatre. Oh yes.

I did see Peter Ebdon on the way in to commentate and was very nice to lots of people, and he mentioned that in his qualifier against Ryan Day, Ryan had gone up a gear from 6-6 and deserved to be there. Kyren Wilson also came in for practice before his afternoon match and was very good with everyone to be fair, and I asked him what he thought his chances were, and he said "To be honest, it's wide open, anyone can win it". And considering what would happen during today's play, he wasn't far wrong with that statement either. I do kind of want him to win it as he did well to get to the final of the Masters a few months ago.

I walked round to the front and Brian Wright was there - with Coventry City shirt on (Granada Bingo sponsored one too) - I thought for a second he might have been trying to get in with it on, but noted he'd gone for a blue and white striped casual shirt instead, so still managing to show the colours. What I did note that he was chatting to his partner Lisa when Hazel Irvine was on doing her initial presenting bit, which to be honest I thought was a tad rude. Naturally Hazel was the consummate professional, just hoping that she wasn't going to drop the trophy in the opening segment!

I had Lyu Haotian v Marco Fu, and Lyu got a massive reception, as did the referee Ben Williams, whom Rob Walker had explained was his first match refereeing at the Crucible. The opening frame was a tad scrappy with nerves being shown, but Lyu settled in and his 122 break in the third frame was total class, especially the last few reds where they were tricky. In fact later on he did another excellent century and again the black foiled him for a total clearance, but higher with 127 and the highest break of the tournament so far. He impressed me massively with his positive attitude to go for it and Marco missed a few balls but made a century himself so wasn't playing so badly either.

I was of course keeping an eye on the other table and there were a fair few audible gasps when Mark Selby was missing and Joe Perry was playing well, knocking balls in for fun and early on snatching a frame on the final black seemed like a turning point, he did to Selby what normally Selby does to others. At 4-0 at mid session I thought Selby needed to get out 6-3 at worst, so at 4-2 that was better for him. Full credit to Joe Perry though, he kept going and 7-2 at the end of the session was well deserved.

All in all, a good session to watch and after having a spot of lunch it was back down the hill to Sheffield station and on the train to Manchester Piccadilly, which was ram packed (good job I reserved a seat then.) The Love very kindly came to collect me and from there we headed off to West Didsbury and to Wine and Wallop for a nice drink in the sun, and the ale was on top form that I had too. It was good having a nice sit outside and a chill out together and headed back to The Love's place later to give Brian the cat his tea and us to get ready and head out later.

We were off to The Ashlea in Cheadle later for one of our friends' birthdays, and so was good to be able to catch up and have a good natter also. The food was as usual spot on, with the excellent stilton and peppercorn mushroom starter with chicken and mushroom pie. My friend had the rather nice fish and chips which really did have a nice crispy batter, and they had Tribute ale on cask, so I even had Cornish beer! The Love had the pork belly which looked pretty good too, and was good to catch up and enjoy a good couple of hours of company to round off a very nice day overall.

Friday 20th April - Hitting The North

This time it was off to Euston but albeit with a slightly different route. There appeared to be delays and cancellations going to London Victoria and I didn't want to necessarily chance missing the 2040 departure to Manchester Piccadilly to see The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat. What I did see was a Thameslink train coming in which would get me to either London Bridge or Farringdon and I could make my way tubeward from there. In fact there was one due shortly which didn't look too full so on I got.

I got to London Bridge and checked what was happening, a mere nine minutes' stand time before moving. So I headed down to the concourse and spotted one to Charing Cross leaving soonish which meant I could then get the Northern Line to Euston from there,and sure enough, made it on to that train, and once out of Charing Cross it was down the awful staircase (it's so 1960s it's unreal) and then to the platform to get the tube Northbound. It was actually pretty quiet, although at the Euston end it does mean carrying the case up stairs before then getting the escalator out. Mental note made - too many stairs going this way.

At Euston there were looking like a few delays and the heart sank, didn't want to hear that. However it looked like catch up was on, and that was a positive for me and they did announce boarding on a reasonable time scale so I could get my seat and be ready for the 2040 departure. I'd much rather if possible leave earlier but the expensive train fares these days means that in some cases this is the train of choice. It was thankfully not that busy and I just had the iPod on for most of the journey, fairly chilled out.

In fact it was a good job that I did, as the train did have to go slow between Milton Keynes and Rugby due to some speed restrictions on some not so good track, but once past there it did at least keep to being around ten minutes behind, and had suitably epic tracks such as Matt Gray's version of Rob Hubbard's Knucklebusters track from the Reformation 4 album, so tune of the day for definite as it really did seem to drive me on as the train made its way up North.

Once at Piccadilly, it was then on to the tram and onwards to The Love In My Heart's place. She was pleased to see me and even Brian the cat was being all soft and cute and allowed me to give him a little bit of a fuss over. We had a good natter and it was nice to have some catch up time to start the weekend off nicely, before it soon passed midnight and was time for a good sleep before a busy weekend, not least because a certain sporting event starts tomorrow that I am going to..

Thursday 19th April - Working It All Out

I guess it was good to be able to get down to work and concentrate on resolving quite a few things, and planning ahead as well for the next week or two. One thing that was bugging me slightly though was that when I was checking over the LDAP imports into our ServiceNow system, it appeared that on a few records, the data appeared to be not quite right for one of two fields, so it was worthy of me investigating and then working backwards from that accordingly, always the right thing to do to be honest.

So looking at it that way, I could see that in fact the LDAP import process was working correctly, as it was based on the data from our Active Directory, which appeared not to be quite right. What it did mean though was that at least the actual process in terms of ServiceNow was doing what it should (normally you always verify these things to be on the safe side) and then go backwards from there. And doing that with one of our database experts revealed that actually the main source data for a lot of systems was at fault, and so would need someone who administers the system concerned to fix it.

I think for me that's quite a good thing in that I've actually learnt more about the processes and what they entail, but also a nice and sensible flow chart for troubleshooting. Sometimes it's quite easy to not think in simple terms and over complicate what you need to do, but breaking it down into a lot of easier to manage chunks was a far more sensible thing to do. I do common sense, which not everyone does, and for me at least that's helped massively in order to work out and suggest plans moving forward (as it should be.)

Later on I headed home and made sure that all the stuff I needed to get packed for the weekend was done, saves me rushing around tomorrow once I get home and also means that actually I can then have a good sort out of what's left in the wardrobe to see what I'd be taking on holiday in a few weeks time. I think for me that I've periodically had a good clear out of clothes, selling on some band t-shirts that I no longer wear and raising some cash along the way, which was a good move, and if I can do similar with some other things, it would make perfect sense to do so.

I spent some time too listening to some classic Gary Numan, especially as he had announced an orchestral tour with band that I might see if I can get my friend and I to go to - which should be good. Therefore I went back to some of the early Numan stuff and I played The Pleasure Principle album in full. There's plenty of good reason to of course play that, but "M.E." certainly is one of my faves on there - not least because it inspired the whole "Where's Your Head At?" by Basement Jaxx, but also features in the second half of Nine Inch Nails' cover of "Metal" too, so tune of the day for definite.

Wednesday 18th April - Judgement Day

It was good to have a busy day at work, but of course I wanted to get home later on and stay tuned to the World Snooker Youtube channel to watch the coverage of Judgement Day, with Rob Walker and Neal Foulds being as excellent as ever. It is effectively where the last sixteen qualifiers for the World Snooker Championship are decided, eight in the 11am session and eight in the 5pm session. I had arrived home from work around 6pm-ish and had found that two of the matches had already completed, with one major shock: Jamie Jones had whitewashed Liang Wenbo 10-0, didn't expect that. And Adam Duffy had gone down 10-1 against Xiao Guodong.

It was good that when watching the main feed, it switched between tables and kept you abreast of the action. In fact there was one dramatic frame in the Stephen Maguire v Hossein Vafaei match, where Vafaei was 13 ahead with pink and blank. Maguire pulled off an outrageous fluke on the pink and later sank the black for a respotted black, and after a few shots, Vafaei cut in an excellent black to take the frame and make it 7-6 behind at the mid-session, which he later converted to make it 7-7. Exciting stuff, and definitely quite tense as the match carried on.

It was pleasing that a number of those players just below the top 16 had qualified with Graeme Dott and Joe Perry notable in the morning, and this evening the qualifiers came through one by one, with the final few almost all at the same time: Ryan Day overcame a spirited comeback by Peter Ebdon winning four on the bounce to clinch his match 10-6; Jimmy Robertson had kept his head and battled to win 10-7 over Michael White and looked pretty emotional in the interview; Liam Highfield had a good streak to overcome Daniel Wells 10-4 and that made four debutants, and finally Stephen Maguire overcame Hossein Vafaei 10-7.

Unlike the two hour epic final frame between Fergal O'Brien and David Gilbert last year, the frames were much quicker and in fact it was all over by just after 8pm, which meant a nice night's sleep for those who have qualified, ready for the draw for the first round at the Crucible at 10am tomorrow. I'll be there two days later seeing whoever gets drawn against Marco Fu, and of course will be looking forward to it hugely. Credit to Rob and Neal for an excellent job, as ever, and really has set the tone nicely for the big event.

It was noticably warm today too, definitely weather to be sat outside with a cold drink. In fact there's now a new bar opened near me that appears to do craft and real ales, and it's walking distance from the flat as well. I'll definitely have to check it out and see what's on offer, and more importantly, at what price, especially to see if it's good value. In the meantime, tune of the day is the excellent "The Heat Is On" by Glenn Frey, especially relevant for classic 80s films where that was used of course (Beverley Hills Cop in case you wondered..)

Tuesday 17th April - Cuddles With The Cat

I must admit there are times when it's good just to have that bit of friendly contact, and having got out of work on time I decided to take a little diversion on the way home. So it was on an earlier train and getting off at Tulse Hill (a place that Gene Pitney might have discovered before Tulsa and his song might have been very different) and then waiting there for the local train to Gipsy Hill. It turned up late (as of course is Southern Rail's wont these days) but chugged along towards West Norwood and onwards to Gipsy Hill.

I headed over the footbridge by the entrance and then down to the other platform, and I could see Fanny, the Gipsy Hill Cat, having a general mooch around and was interested in some food that one of the female passengers was having. I sat down on one of the waiting benches and distracted her attention with a few gentle strokes, and it was nice just to say hello. In fact she trotted off to her little perch and cat house with a nice cosy star blanket on top and was sat there, queen of the station. I did also manage another fuss and stroke later before heading back on the train to West Croydon, but was so nice nonetheless.

I think because The Love In My Heart has Brian the cat, and he's so lovely, I do miss him a lot and having a nice cat fix occasionally is a good thing. In fact I was able to chatter with The Love In My Heart later and she was allowing Brian a play out on the front decking and he was more than happy to sit outside and watch the world go by, as he does. I must admit that I do also miss that contact and being able to have a cuddle, and sometimes I just miss it massively...

I did tune in to the World Snooker Youtube channel to watch the first evening of the final round of the qualifiers, with the day tomorrow being Judgement Day, where the final sixteen qualifiers are decided. I must admit it's been good the last few years as Rob Walker and Neal Foulds do an excellent job commentating on the whole thing between tables and really get you into it, and seeing the action unfold with all the drama certainly is intriguing, even at this early stage.

I don't think anyone expected Jamie Jones to be 9-0 up against Liang Wenbo after their opening session, and there's a couple of matches where there will be guaranteed close finishes too - but for definite there's a sense of excitement and tension as the players battle. It's also good for me to know who will make it through and with the excellent "Drag Racer" by the Doug Wood Band in my head as the proper snooker theme, ready to play for the weekend, all seems well and it's tune of the day for that reason.

Monday 16th April - Back To Normality

It was back to work, and indeed a little bit of an extra spring in my step as I left the flat and headed to East Croydon. Of course, typical that Govia Thameslink Railway, on the day it was announced that they were by far the worst offenders for stop skipping with their trains, the train I get to work was cancelled (it had got to Haywards Heath at the time it should have been at East Croydon) and of course then everyone was piling on the 0757 from East Croydon to London Bridge.

Of course I had spotted some seats and thought, for once, that my luck was in, instead of standing all the way. But no. In fact there was a very good reason that two seats were free - they smelt of vomit and had remnants of said vomit on the seats still, meaning that the train hadn't been cleaned properly or it had happened very early morning and no one had as yet reported it, so I did do of course, but still. I had to move away from that to stop me attempting to throw up to be honest.

In any case, I just about got in on time after diverting, and so it was good to knuckle down and get on with a few things, mainly due to the ServiceNow development instance being upgraded and for me to check through all the priority 2 and 3 cases to see if there were viable reasons for things not necessarily applying. In fact in almost all cases when I was checking it was down to a number of factors: an email template where we'd added the HTML accordingly, and other customisations with scripts that we know of, so definitely so far so good at the moment.

I'd also been pretty busy sorting out some of the reporting in terms of software and the software installed, and it means that we could potentially move forward in a number of ways - the good thing is that it looks like we've potentially spotted some installs that we need to block, and in addition also ensure that they can't be run, so have looked into getting that sorted. I think people are too used to supposedly having the freedom, but don't realise that with so many current things such as GDPR, we have to take appropriate steps for security of the estate and to ensure proper compliance all round.

Later on at home I spent some time relaxing and watching some of the F1 (again) and reliving the Grand National win that I'd had on Saturday, and certainly for me having had a second win in the last five years wasn't too bad. That said, I do miss The Love In My Heart and indeed Brian the cat, so was rather lovely to speak with her earlier and just have that warm friendly chat that we have. I need to sort out some trains soonish to head up when they go on sale, but even so, it's a real sense of that closeness despite being apart. Tune of the day in the meantime is the excellent "Stand" by R.E.M, which I've had in my head most of the evening. No bad thing of course as it's a proper classic.

Sunday 15th April - The Title Is Ours

I had a nice relaxing sleep, as did The Love In My Heart, and Iet her have more of a sleep as I got up and saw some of Match of the Day followed by the Commonwealth Games. I had watched the semi final closing stages of the netball live yesterday and England were superb against Jamaica. What I didn't expect was that the Red Roses would be four goals down to Australia in the final quarter, pull it back and on the very last second score a decisive winner (again!) which meant that they would be champions. It was truly epic and well done to every single member of that team for delivering a wonderful battling never say die performance.

I made The Love and I some breakfast, and then once we'd had that and got changed and ready we decided to head around the shops and get some possible ideas for clothes I could either get myself or that The Love could get me for my birthday next month. I did like a couple of things in both Debenhams and House of Fraser, they weren't all cheap but did look nice. I even went into Superdry and saw a shirt that I thought would be nice, but unfortunately when I tried it on, their so called large size was nowhere near, it was more like a slim fit medium. For crying out loud. It's not just women who suffer with horribly inconsistent sizing then.

On a positive note though I did see some nice shirts and indeed a nice jacket that look good on me, so definitely something to think about to maybe even treat myself, we shall see. There's a distinct lack of sale items on at the moment though so I'll keep an eye open, but it was good to at least see some nice things. I did check the wardrobe when I got back and there's definitely plenty to take with me when I do go away, so that's a positive for sure - less expense before a holiday is always good I think.

Later on The Love and I headed to the train station and got the train to London Bridge then from there the tube to Euston, and onwards to the Crown and Anchor for Sunday lunch together. We both had the fish and chips which was lovely, as they'd sold out of pies! I did have the Proper Job ale as well so that went down nicely, and it was good to chatter together as the rain was coming down a little, which stopped later as I headed to Euston and had a hug and kiss goodbye before The Love headed home and to a very happy Brian the cat who was in line for tuna and Dreamies.

On the way home I checked the Manchester United v West Brom score, and were my eyes deceving me? West Brom had gone a goal up at Old Trafford! In fact once I got to the train station at my end, I walked home very quickly and indeed and noted that the final whistle had gone at Old Trafford. It was an amazing result, West Brom had won 1-0, which considering they were bottom of the league with only three wins all season was unreal. That also meant that my beloved Manchester City had won the Premier League title with a mere five games to spare. Get in there!! Needless to say, "The Boys In Blue" the classic City song is tune of the day - I think our win at Tottenham yesterday had really sent a message and United weren't just there after lording it over us with their comeback win last week. He who laughs last, and all that...

I had a very happy younger relative on the phone to me earlier, and plenty of former players and managers had tweeted (including Roberto Mancini and Pablo Zabaleta, once a Blue, always a Blue, right?) - and it really did make the weekend that more complete too. I love my team and when it was an unexpected early chance to celebrate, I'll take it all day. We wish everyone well, especially David Silva and his little son Mateo, still battling after his premature birth earlier in the season, and no doubt there'll be a few happy faces in Manchester tomorow, oh yes.

Saturday 14th April - Two Go To Hampstead Heath

It was off to the bookmakers first thing this morning to sort out some bets for the Grand National for myself and The Love In My Heart, who was coming later. I had backed three to win: Perfect Candidate, Houblon des Obeaux and Tiger Roll, primarily the latter because of Brian the cat having his Tigger-like face, and thought that was apt. The Love had chosen The Dutchman (there was a good reason for that one) and I Just Know, and so as I normally do, I headed in and did the "take price" option to take the price at the time of the bet - when I won with Aurora's Encore, it was 80-1 when I put the bet on with a starting price of 66-1, so obviously well worth me doing that.

I got everything sorted in the flat and The Love let me know when she was at Victoria, so I could then walk up to East Croydon station and meet her. We headed back to mine and I put in a nice Pizza Express La Reine pizza for lunch, which went down nicely and would keep us going till later when we'd have tea back at mine. I'd thought of a few different things to do and one of them was to head to a National Trust partner property in London that meant we'd get admission for half price, always good to get a discount and to use the membership for other things too.

We headed from East Croydon to Clapham Junction pretty speedily and with a seat, and then it was over to Platform 2 to get the Overground service via Shepherd's Bush, Willesden Junction and Finchley Road and Frognal and over to Hampstead Heath. Because the route avoids Zone 1, it's a mere £2.70 on pay as you go, which isn't bad at all really. We then took the short walk past some shops and a left turn to go to Keats House, which was the home of the poet John Keats and lovingly preserved by the City of London Corporation. We got half price admission with our National Trust membership and so a mere £3.25 each to get in, can't be bad.

And in fact it was very lovely indeed. Lots of interesting rooms to explore, plenty of information provided about the life of Keats and his poems, and in fact in several of the rooms the walls had quotes of poems by the man himself, all neatly in the same typography and looking classy throughout. Some of the rooms had an archive where you could listen to some of the poems being recited, so took the opportunity to hear a reading of "Ode to a Nightingale" especially. The Love really enjoyed how the house was actually two dwellings with Keats on one side and his lover Fanny Brawne on the others, and had to write letters to each other, quite romantic that.

We had a nice walk around the lovely gardens of the house, and spotted the library next door which is used for some of the Keats House events: lots of books and really good to see families with children reading too. We then took the walk along Parliament Hill and followed that to the very top to see the view of Central London from the highest point on Hampstead Heath. It was good to see the landmarks visible such as St Paul's Cathedral, The Shard, Canary Wharf, the BT Tower and many more, and even the two TV transmitters (Crystal Palace and Croydon) not too far from me either!

We walked back around the Heath and followed the path that went via some of the ponds and back down into the little village area, and we then spent some time having a well earned drink in The Garden Gate pub - not the cheapest, but good to have a drink there. I had recorded the Grand National, although you'd think the pub would show it - they didn't which meant a mass exodus of people just before 5pm. Trick missed there, as you'd have people staying in to watch it otherwise.

As the train to Clapham Junction wasn't due for some time we took the Overground the other way to Highbury and Islington and opted to stop off there and head to the Wetherspoons not far away. I could point out Union Chapel to The Love as well as show her the way that you'd go to Arsenal and how busy this gets on a match day. I did have the Growler really dark ale, and the pub was busy, especially as they actually had the Grand National broadcast on ITV, so people were staying in there to watch the re-run etc. We avoided being near a telly but even so, it showed that a bit of common sense meant more punters means more profit.

Later on we headed back via the Victoria Line to Victoria and train home to East Croydon, and once back at the flat I started tea and put the Grand National on. Three of the five horses we backed had gone by Bechers first time round, and indeed they bypassed that on the second circuit due to the vets attending a horse. The Dutchman went at Foinavon second time round, but Tiger Roll was still up there, and with two to go was in contention. I was screaming at the telly during the run in and he held on to win, cue the epic theme from the Champions film (make that tune of the day) and I'd won!

Even better, the starting price was 10-1 but I'd backed it and took the price at 14-1 that morning, so yes indeedy, epic win. Add to that a City win at Tottenham in the late kick off and a nice chilled out evening with The Love watching Gogglebox from Friday night, and all was rather wonderfully set really. We'd enjoyed our time in Hampstead Heath and I think it was good to go and do something different to be honest. I think for us both that we do appreciate a bit of culture and that was definitely present for us both.

Friday 13th April - Not So Unlucky

It was another busy day in the office, but glad that at least the train going to and from work was that little bit quieter generally. I normally can get a seat both ways, although with those Thameslink trains you do have to wonder whether or not that's a good thing with the ironing board seats. Still, it was good to be able to feel a bit better - I think the cold's finally shifting nicely after getting rid of some crap from the nasal area yesterday, so was pretty pleased with that overall to be honest.

I spent some more time analysing the massive report I had produced yesterday which detailed all occurrences of software running, and the number of machines it had run on. One thing I did spot is how many web-based meetings have support executables which need to be run to ensure attendees all work correctly, so the likes of Cisco WebEx, GoToMeeting etc all seem to want to run their own program to be able to participate. To be honest, Skype for Business works really well so I can't see why you would even want to consider other solutions, but horses for courses I guess.

Another thing I did spot was the fact that a few installation attempts had been made where the executable had been run in an attempt to install software. Of course we have policies in place around that sort of thing so that only approved software is installed and indeed by the right people. It's good in a way that it shows that blocking installations for normal users is the right thing to do, and I can do some further investigating to check when it occurred too, and that's yet another good thing SCCM really does do well. Yes, I do like it, a lot.

It was good to be home later and watch some more Commonwealth Games action. I had expected Katarina Johnson-Thompson to win the heptathlon, but perhaps for me performance was the day was from her English team mate Niamh Emerson, who had kept herself in the hunt for a medal by smashing her personal best twice in the javelin. She knew she had it all to do in the 800 metres and had to beat the Australian Celeste Mucci by enough time to overhaul the defecit. Out went Niamh on a mission and won the 800, and by some distance, and actually did more than enough to get bronze. Good for her!

I also had the food delivery from Sainsburys for the weekend, and that will involve the Grand National. The Love In My Heart has let me know what she's backing tomorrow, and I did record the racing from today so I could see the Topham chase over the big fences. The ground looks soft so it would be worth seeing which mudlarks might enjoy that ground the best. Naturally I can't see me having the sort of result when Auroras Encore won for me and I had it at 80/1 in the morning at that odds.. but still. The theme to the film "Champions" is tune of the day - it just evokes epic memories...

Thursday 12th April - Working From Home With The Cold

I was actually relieved to be working from home today, the idea being that I could get plenty of stuff done with no disturbances elsewhere (always a good thing of course) and on top of that try and gradually nurse myself back to being 100% well for the weekend, especially as The Love In My Heart was coming down to see me this time around. I must admit actually that it's always good to get up a little later when you're on an earlier shift, and working from home does allow that, so with coffee drunk and ready to get some tasks done, on I logged and was all good to go.

In fact I spent most of the morning documenting a few things and writing up all the required document with our new ServiceNow MID server. On the positive side it's been good to make sure I've seen all the potential pitfalls with that and make sure that I was able to note down what I needed to do to get things running the right way. It's one thing I have noted when I've taken over some systems to a degree - it's a case of the documentation not being right, so always good to set an example and do the right thing where possible I reckon.

With that done, I spent a chunk of time in the afternoon looking at and analysing some reports with regards to software usage. Like most places we have a core list of software that's installed on every machine, normally with justifiable reasons for doing so. A number of the asset intelligence reports in SCCM back that up, giving you how many different machines have run an executable within a fixed time period (normally 90 days or so) so you can see what is used regularly. No surprise of course that the likes of Outlook, Word and Skype for Business were way up there, but was nicely surprised that Excel was so well used too.

I also spent the lunch time watching some of the Commonwealth Games athletics on the telly, and as soon as the men's 200 metres final had finished I knew Zharnel Hughes was going to get a DQ there for stepping out of lane and basically not holding the form. I was massively pleased for Sophie Hahn taking the gold in the T38 100 metres, and nice of the BBC later to have Hannah Cockroft to give her opinion on the para athletes and I could tell she was buzzing for Sophie especially. In fact I think Channel 4's superb coverage has forced a bit of a rethink for the BBC, especially as the Commonwealths traditionally have integrated para sports into the main programme.

In fact, it reminded me of when I headed off to see the 2002 Games in Manchester and saw several different events where they'd put para athletes in. One of my abiding memories was the T12 100 metres, with the Nigerian athlete Adekunle Adesoji breaking the world record in the heats, and on a Wednesday night and the final athletics night, he smashed the world record again. He got a massive cheer from the crowd and in fact was the only athlete to set a world athletics record in the now Etihad Stadium. The Stone Roses' "This Is The One" seems more than appropriate for tune of the day somehow.

Wednesday 11th April - Meeting The Gipsy Hill Cat

After work, and still feeling awfully bunged up with a cold where I keep blowing out plenty of bunged up horrible stuff with a tinge of a greenish colour, I felt I needed a little pick me up. I was tempted to go out and have a drink somewhere but instead I knew what I wanted to do, and that was to take a little diversion on the way home and meet the famous cat at Gipsy Hill Station - she's named Fanny, is a black and white cat, and always seems to hang around the station and be generally fussed over by passengers. Occasionally when I lean out of the window as the fast train passes, I do see her..

So as my train home was cancelled due to an earlier bridge strike, I decided to take the next train out of the station near work which would take me to Tulse Hill, and getting there and checking the timetable saw that the next train to Gipsy Hill wasn't coming so quickly. However I had Plan B and that was to leave the station and on the main road head on the 322 bus which takes you down to West Norwood but then veers off around lots of houses (plenty with wooden shutters, The Love In My Heart would approve!) and then to St Gothard Road, taking the centre past all the parked cars before joining Gipsy Road then onwards to Gipsy Hill.

The bus climbed the hill and I got off at the station and then walked down the road at the side of the station, and as I got to the bottom, there she was, in her little domain in the tall grass behind the station platform, all fenced off and safe for her to play, and she was definitely getting attention from me. And yes, she looks adorable and was soon walking to the platform and strolling round as if she's the queen of the station. A fair few people were giving her strokes and it was just a nice thing to see.

I had headed over to the other platform to get the train to West Croydon as it was due in a few minutes, but I kept my eye on the cat and spotted that she was waiting by the bike rack near the platfom for a few snacks and just generally being adorable with a nice little stretch and scratch along the way. Needless to say I will need to come back and offer some cuddles (and some Dreamies most likely!) and have a bit of company when I'm not seeing The Love and having adorable fusses from Brian the cat at The Love's place.

Still it was good to do that and then watch some of the Commonwealth Games action later on. I guess because the time is ahead of the UK by 9 hours, some of the events happen overnight or during the day and so I'm at work or on the way travelling and missing some of that. Still though it's been a pretty good Games for the home nations with medals a plenty, and England's netball team beating New Zealand was also pretty good. Tune of the day in fact comes from when Manchester hosted the 2002 Games, and the BBC cleverly used a Stone Roses classic "This Is The One" to play during the opening titles. Good move!

Tuesday 10th April - Second Leg of Sorrow

So it was on with the online streaming and getting myself ready to watch the Champions League Quarter Final second leg between Manchester City and Liverpool. City of course had it all to do being a mere 3-0 down from the first leg, and on top of that, they'd have to do so without a fully fit Sergio Agüero, and the fact that conceding a single goal would mean us needing to score five made it all the more harder. My friend and I had been discussing the game during Saturday's Manchester derby and we both agreed that not being able to keep a clean sheet would be pretty costly.

So the teams came out and once all lined up and done with the Champions League anthem, it was on with the game and the atmosphere was pretty much ramped up to say the least, especially as City knew that an early goal would make a big difference. And an early goal it certainly was. The ball was taken off Virgil van Dijk and City went down the right hand side, with Raheem Sterling cutting a ball inside across the box, and met perfectly with a finish from Gabriel Jesús. 1-0 on the night and 3-1 down on aggregate, and all to play for.

Indeed City were camped out in Liverpool's half for most of it and just kept going with plenty of attacks. There weren't many shots on goal but there were attempts to break down the defence at any opportunity. Then just before half time the ball came back towards the net, and Leroy Sané connected and scored. But no! The referee had said that Sané was offside and so didn't count. Unfortunately it was shown that the referee had made an error, the ball had been headed back towards goal by James Milner of Liverpool which meant that Sané could not have been offside and the goal should have stood. Especially as that was before half time, it would have changed the complexion of the game.

Indeed City boss Pep Guardiola complained to the referee at half time and his reward was being sent to the stands for the second half. By all accounts the referee has had history with Pep, and if that was the case, why would UEFA use that ref for this game? However, we did know that a Liverpool goal would be game over and after a foray forward in the second half it was left to Mo Salah (who else?) to take it around Ederson and then chip the ball over the City defence for 1-1 on the night, and 4-1 to Liverpool on aggregate.

It was game over from there really and another goal from Roberto Firmino meant that Liverpool won on the night and 5-1 on aggregate, and it was a disappointing night for City overall. I wasn't surprised in some way as we'd left it all to do, but I just hope that we can regroup and get the two wins needed to clinch the league title and make sure we did at least get two titles this season to show something for our efforts. In the meantime tune of the day is the classic "The Boys In Blue" done by the 1972 Man City squad with Godley and Creme, and like it says, the boys in blue never give in...

Monday 9th April - Bunged Up And Battling

It was a case of a busy Monday today, and plenty of rain to contend with on the way to work as well. It wasn't very nice and when I was bunged up with a cold anyway, it wasn't the ideal weather to be out in either. I certainly felt the real sense of a lot of crap coming out of my nose during the day, which is not ideal, but also means at least it was going out one way and not being kept inside. However that sense of relief was short lived as well as being bunged up, it was also a case of another part of me not being bunged up and generally me needing the toilet a fair few times today, not too happy all round with that but at least it meant that I was hopefully getting rid of something.

I had a quarterly review meeting today which went well (I think) and it's been a case of consulting what I need to do, what needs to be set, and because of a fair few other things going on, making sure we prioritise what we'd need to look at. On a positive side on that front, I was at least able to show that we'd made progress generally in some software deployment, monitoring, things like that, and was good to get some reports run and show that I had actually produced some of the requirements we were after, so generally quite positive really.

I did have some fun and games though battling with the not so good Axure RP installer, as due to the fact it uses InstallAware it had decided not to want to install as a SYSTEM user. Now, normally, you can use the DESKTOPDIR attribute and specify that folder and that works round it all nicely, with a silent install working. I say normally because right near the end of the installation, Axure would hang, and yet as a user with admin rights, it would work. I did some monitoring and further testing and found out why.

In effect, at the end of the installation, some fonts are copied to a folder in the Axure installation, and these are then attempted to be installed as Windows fonts. However, the installer uses a very old version of the InstallAware add on for font installation, and probably fails as a SYSTEM user. I extracted the installer with 7-Zip and examined the MSI inside, and spotted that there was one install switch which could be set to TRUE or FALSE to install the fonts, so that switch (A6306B0F7) could be called as a parameter. So I ended up with this for the install paramaters:
AxureRP-Setup.exe /s DESKTOPDIR=”C:\Users\Public\Desktop” A6306B0F7=FALSE

Nice, and it works too when I tried to deploy it to a number of my test machines in SCCM. Clearly something is amiss but it goes to show that you should always test things reliably before you get thngs deployed to machines or users. I did still feel bunged up when I got home so I thought that a hot lemon and dosing myself up generally would work well to try and get rid of that bunged up feeling. Tune of the day in the meantime is the excellent "Mario Balotelli" by Ruff Sqwad with Tinchy Stryder, primarily as I had noted Mario tweeted about the derby and how the challenge on Agüero should have been a penalty. Once a Blue, always a Blue, we're with you mate. Why always me?

Sunday 8th April - Delays by Death

It was nice to snuggle up with The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat, and Brian had in fact wanted to wake up his Mummy and head off outside, even if the weather wasn't 100% at the time. In fact I slept reasonably well, most likely because of the tiredness due to travelling considerably over the last day or two, but also I hadn't slept so well at home for some reason and it therefore made some sense to be able to try and just get a bit of rest and feel somewhat more relaxed all round.

We did have breakfast together and I went through some ideas for a presentation with The Love, and it was good just to be able to get some ideas jotted down and to be sure of the way that the presentation would look. In fact that worked out nicely because we could share the thoughts and be able to work together, which was actually pretty nice all round. I guess too that for me it was about being patient, appreciating what would be sensible, what would work and what actually is practical. It's too easy after all to go into Death by Powerpoint (and we've all done that.)

Later on we headed off out for a walk. We were going to walk around Fletcher Moss but there was nowhere for The Love to park, whatsoever, and it looked pretty busy all round, so we felt like a bit of a change and headed off to Bruntwood Park near Cheadle. It was slightly changed since we last went, one of the main buildings is now a hotel, called Oddfellows on the Park. It's not very cheap in terms of prices either it has to be said when we checked it later, but the outside terrace that the bar has did look nice, and the building also has the park's café and even a salon too.

We did also note that there's a well maintained (and free to use) BMX track at the very bottom end of the car park, along with the pitch and putt course. From what I could see on the price board it appeared to say £16.50 per person per round, but when I checked the website later, it was actually £6.50, but with a £5 refundable deposit to hire the 9 iron, putter and ball as you went round. It would have been sensible if the signage in the park was made more clear though as I'd have deemed £16 plus to be a rip off and not worth the effort of taking on.

Later on it was off to The Ashlea in Cheadle for some well earned Sunday lunch, and the pork was the choice for both of us, which was pretty nice. In fact I had some real ale too and the Robinsons Brewery in Stockport now have one called Beer Baracus, complete with a picture of Mr.T on the pump clip (of course he played BA Baracus in The A-Team so you can work out the connection there.) It was enjoyable, and we had a relaxing time together before we headed off to Piccadilly station for a hug and kiss before I headed off on the 1735 back to London Euston.

I was listening to the likes of Kraftwerk's "Trans Europa Express" (make that tune of the day) and the train was all going well but we started to slow down just past Watford Junction, coming to a complete stop just North of Harrow and Wealdstone station, and with good reason. Once the train crew had been advised what was going on, it turned out that there was a fatality on the line and so we couldn't move until the police had checked everything over. As it turned out it was on the slow line but all the checks had to be made (around about an hour or so) before we could move. I just feel sorry for the people on the train involved and indeed whoever it was that was hit, and shows just how dangerous the railway can be.

Saturday 7th April – Game of Two Halves

I got up around 6am having had a reasonable night’s sleep despite also being bunged up with a cold, and so once I’d woken up it was a case of getting a shower and changed and off to East Croydon station. The train was good, the tube was lovely and quiet, and in fact I’d arrived in more than good time to be able to get the 0735 departure from Euston to Manchester Piccadilly. That felt pretty good actually, at least it meant that I could get up without too much trouble, and it was nice and quiet on the train. I had go go in the unreserved coach C, but I could get my former usual spot of C26 by the window and luggage rack. Good to be back there..

I arrived into Piccadilly and got the tram to The Love In My Heart’s place and she and Brian the cat were all good. We spent the morning getting some stuff sorted and I also made sure that Office had a suitable update on The Love’s laptop so we could look at a way of getting the PowerPoint design sorted, and that seemed to go well. The important thing was that at least we’d be able to work on what would be sensible and what would also work nicely, and once that was all done it felt like she had a better sense of what was needed to be done, and that’s always a positive.

We headed over to her father’s place later for a chat, and he had the Everton v Liverpool game on which to say the least was pretty dull, apart from Everton having a couple of chances to put the game to bed and score late on, which they missed rather annoyingly. However, it was good to see he was all well and was even contemplating doing the same break he did last year, staying in Blackpool and then going to the Grand National to see the race. I think he rather enjoyed it last time out and in fact the same hotel did lots of other breaks that included all forms of tribute acts including an Olly Murs one!

That done, it was back to The Love’s place and later for me off to the Etihad with my friend for the Manchester derby. It was simple: a win would clinch the Premier League title for us. However, any other result would delay things, and it would be nice admittedly do get that nipped into the bud and make sure all was well there. Hopes were reasonable but I also knew after Wednesday’s defeat that we needed to bounce back well and do so for the whole ninety minutes, not just in phases when we felt like it. With that in mind, we both like everyone else made ourselves loud and proud prior to kick off and it actually felt like a good atmosphere.

The first half went well, it was nip and tuck for a while but we did look good going forward. The ball went down the left and was miscued out for a corner to City. From the corner, it was met by the head of Vincent Kompany and he drilled the header home for 1-0, and that was enjoyable – not least for my friend who had put a bet on 10 minutes prior to kick off at 33-1 for Vinny to be the first scorer, not a bad move that! A few minutes later some neat work down the left with Leroy Sané and David Silva allowed Ilkay Gundogan to turn on the ball and slot it into the bottom corner for 2-0. Excellent stuff, and it stayed that way till half time. Some City fans in the concourse were celebrating a bit too early in my view, as my friend and I have seen that sort of thing fall apart (2011 Charity Shield for example) so wasn’t going to do any of that till we knew we’d actually won it. The bloke who sits next to us echoed our thoughts: go again, be professional, concentrate.

And in true game of two halves tradition, that did not happen. The warning signs were there that a rocket had clearly been given in the United dressing room, and after some neat chesting down by Ander Herrera, the ball fell to Paul Pogba to smash home for 2-1. Two minutes later, the ball was crossed in from the left and Pogba rose above Nicolas Otamendi to head home for 2-2. It was horrible to watch but at the same time was the complacency my friend and I had warned about, not good enough. And it got worse, as a free kick was placed home by Chris Smalling for 3-2 to United. I didn’t feel disappointed, I felt angry by the side letting us down so badly.

City brought on de Bruyne, Jesús and Aguero. In fact the controversial moment was yet to come as Aguero was about to pull the ball back to shoot but had a sliding tackle from Ashley Young crash right into his ankle. Surely a penalty right? No. Nothing given, and in fact from that moment on I suspected we were going to get nothing whatsoever as a number of City players were being booked as some cynical dives were going in and protests left right and centre, it was getting a tad ugly. And so it ended, still 13 points clear at the top with six games left, so two wins from those would clinch things for us anyway, but would have been nicer to get it sorted. The meltdown in the second half wasn’t good enough and in fact the only thing was that all the pundits agreed we should have had a penalty and a red card to boot. Morrissey’s “Disappointed” sounds seriously appropriate to be tune of the day for that reason…

Friday 6th April – Not Going North

I did some final checks with the new MID server instance for ServiceNow, and found that the discovery times performed were quicker – and much quicker at that. So, instead of the discoveries taking up to 2 hours or so, we were talking around a quarter of the time and at maximum in some cases, an hour, so that sort of speed improvement is a good thing – it shows that we specified the server correctly and have the right amount of overhead for what it needs to do. That made me feel happy, as did the fact that all the amendments to the server request form I was asked to do, have been passed in the development phase so I can make those live.

I did have an interesting issue to resolve which I worked with two colleagues on doing so and find the cause. It seemed that when some of the users’ data was imported into Active Directory, the department was missing off the leading character so would show oddly. Of course, this is used for an LDAP import from AD into the likes of ServiceNow as well, so was important to get right. After poring over the import script that was proven to be correct, and our SQL expert found the answer, which we both had suspected – trailing spaces on the system used were causing field truncation and hence the opening character going as a result, so the classic case of garbage in – garbage out.

After heading home later and having tea, it was off to Euston to get the 2040 train back up to Manchester for the weekend and to see The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat. I had got to Euston without too many issues but seeing all the departure boards show “delayed” was a tad worrying to say the least. I had a quick check around and heard the announcements, and it transpired that there was a line side fire just North of Wembley, close to Kenton, and that meant that the whole line was closed, so no trains coming in, no trains going back out either. I didn’t know how long this had been going on for, so waited to see what happened.

As it turned out Virgin were asking anyone going to Birmingham to take the train from Marylebone to Birmingham Moor Street, and so a couple of groups looked a bit puzzled. I pointed them in the direction of getting the 205 bus to there from outside Euston as then at least they could get a train – granted it might be busy but at least they would have an option, so it was good to help out. The enquiries desk was completely rammed and nothing was moving on the trains, so I thought that a sensible tweet to Virgin would be in order to ask if my ticket was valid for the day after, so I could go home if need be and come back the next day.

Sure enough, Virgin confirmed it and so after a final check, I could go home and returned back via Victoria on a packed four carriage train (Southern Fail at it again.) I got home and trains were now running but had to go at a massively reduced speed through the area affected. I did check later on and the train I was going to get departed an hour and a half later than planned, and due to the slowness part, got into Piccadilly at around 1am, a mere two hours plus delayed. I was glad to be honest I went home, and so tune of the day is “Home” by Pop Will Eat Itself, it was good to be back home after all that and not spending hours at Euston..

Thursday 5th April – Busy Bunny

It certainly felt like a very busy and productive day at work today, and spent some time with our test system and test network to see if I could bottom out an issue why the software update point we’d set up didn’t always respond to the commands required. I took a look initially to see if all the settings of the point were correctly set up, and they were, so knew that it wasn’t going to be that necessarily. However, when I looked at some of the logs I had a better idea of not just what the issue was, but also how to ensure that it would be suitably resolved.

Effectively, the site server system account normally would have full rights (sysadmin) on the SQL database used so that it could talk to it and ensure that it is populated when the updates are in sync. Not unusual of course when it comes to SCCM. However, I could see in this case that because the server role was set up on another server (mainly for keeping things separate) and the database was on that same server, it needed the SYSTEM account of that system to have the necessary rights. I corrected that in the SQL Management Studio and, badabing, all started to work as I wanted it to and with no errors either. That’s what I call a result.

Most of the other part of the day was spent checking the way that our new MID instance for discovery for ServiceNow was talking elsewhere. One thing we’ve all noticed is that the old server would send out warnings about the CPU usage in particular, so when we specced up the new one, we effectively made sure that it more than met the RAM and CPU requirements, which was sensible. All the discoveries have been routed to the new server to use to perform and the good news is that thus far no errors whatsoever have happened in terms of the reporting of errors. I suspected that the old server had no headroom so that jobs were queued. It’ll be interesting to see also if the discovery time performed is any quicker as any overhead saved here would be an epic win later on.

Later on at home I spent a fair bit of time sorting some stuff out for the weekend. One of our friends is heading to Nice in June, and I still have the old AA City Guide I got when The Love In My Heart and I first visited the French Riviera back in 2011, so knew where that was and got that out to pack in the case. The Love had also mentioned to me that she wanted to get some PowerPoint stuff done and had a spare pen drive ready plus some useful pointers in terms of content creation and flow, so got that sorted too. In fact it left me some time to listen to some classic tunes from the 1990s, and so on went “Unbelievable” by EMF, a real sense of thinking how classic it was pogoing to it but also a sense of being at indie nights back in the day – tune of the day no question.

I had of course taken a little bit of stick from some Liverpool fans at work over the defeat last night, but at the same time knew that nothing is ever over till it’s over, and for me a definite sense of the morning after the night before. The only thing that made me smile was that because I was honest about the fact we’d let ourselves down, it was appreciated that I took it all the right way. There are times when you just have to do that. Elsewhere in the snooker, it was a case of seeing what would happen to Mark Allen after he lost to Mark Williams, and so there were still two players who could potentially win the China Open and knock him off the top 16 – so this weekend may prove to be a nervous watch to say the least..

Wednesday 4th April - Clash of the Titans

It was good to be back at work and to get my teeth into plenty of stuff: in fact I had two meetings back to back during the morning, one of which was my regular one to one, and the other being a positive and constructive meeting with regards to the server request form I'd be putting together in ServiceNow, so all good there too. It worked out rather nicely all told and the morning sped by with me being nice and busy overall, so definitely good to get stuck in and get cracking as ever.

It was also good in the afternoon to start the initial part of decommissioning the old SCCM 2007 system. In effect it was good to put through a planned change where I'd be effectively removing the discoveries from running, so there'd be no multiple records appearing in both systems anymore. It's then a case of gradually removing the old records, then from that once any remaining systems are decomissioned that still use Windows 7 and talk to that server, then getting rid and making sure that we're all nice and clean on SCCM 2012 only. It makes perfect sense to do so, just a case of one thing at a time.

I had a good surprise when I got home: the latest issue of the excellent Freeze 64 fanzine, that for some reason had been lost in the post and the editor Vinny Mainolfi very kindly sent me a replacement. It was worth it alone for the excellent interview with the legendary Commodore 64 programmer Shaun Southern, who made the likes of Kikstart, Kikstart II, Hero of the Golden Talisman, and many more. It's well worth a purchase and subscription if you're a Commodore 64 fan generally.

So on to the Liverpool v Manchester City Champions League first leg of the quarter final at Anfield. I have to say that if the atmosphere hadn't been already hyped up to bits, an extra bit of needle was there before the game as the Manchester City team bus, on its way into the ground, had bottles and other objects thrown at it by some of the Liverpool fans, making the bus completely unusable for the return journey back to Manchester. Those were the sort of idiotic actions that got English clubs banned from Europe in the first place, and there's no room for that sort of behaviour.

The game of course started at a furious pace and it was no surprise when the ball broke loose in the City area and the ball went from Roberto Firmino to Mo Salah, and 1-0 Liverpool. It got worse too with a thunderous drive from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain making it 2-0 and a real sense of delirium around Anfield, which was to only get more so when another poor defensive effort meant that a cross came in from the right and was met by Sadio Mané for a third goal. 3-0 down at half time and not very good at all, we didn't look at the races at all. Granted I know Liverpool threw away a 3-0 lead at Seville last season but I couldn't see us getting a single goal at Anfield at the moment..

So the second half started, and I hoped that we'd actually perform a bit better. We did have more of the play and Mo Salah going off was a big boost to say the least. However City couldn't get a goal and the only possible other positive was that Jordan Henderson's booking means he's out of the second leg, and that might be also useful. It wasn't really the result we wanted and to be fair, Liverpool did deserve the win - sometimes you just have to accept it and move on. Tune of the day is the rather good "Sad Day" by Blancmange - sums up that post-game feeling really..

Tuesday 3rd April - Happy Birthday My Love

Today is The Love In My Heart's birthday, so was nice to be able to take the day off as an extended Easter break and spend it together. In fact it was nice to wake up, have Brian sat on the bed ready to play with any wrapping paper to be opened, and she opened up her cards and presents from friends and relations. It was nice actually: she had got a ticket for Wicked when it hits Manchester to go with her sisters and nieces, and plenty of chocolates and some wine too, plus a necklace from my Mum, a nice bottle of the new Next perfume from my sister (really kind of her that) and posh wine from my brother. And on top of that, lots of nice things from one of her friends - all L'Occitaine de Provence stuff. Ooh yes.

The cards were all lovely, and she opened mine, which matched a mug she has and also the wrapping paper I got for the presents. In the end and due to my clever waiting to get some of the things on offer, I got her a nice Ted Baker crystal bracelet, which clasps and fits really nicely onto her hand, and a top from Warehouse inspired by artists from the Barbican arts centre, complete with birds on a green on black canvas. I know she will look gorgeous with that on, so was more than happy to get it. In fact in terms of presents, I think she did well - especially when later she told me one of her relations got her afternoon tea for four at a hotel in Manchester!

We had decided to head out for the day and so went up the M61, round the back of Euxton and through Croston, and down the A59 to Rufford Old Hall, a National Trust property that we hadn't been to before. It was pretty nice with its Tudor looking exterior and design inside the Great Hall, especially the screen to make it less easy for people to enter the hall and have guards positioned correctly. One notable thing I should mention: inside photography is only allowed in the Great Hall, as the guide told me that a lot of objects in other rooms are subject to copyright currently, and although they are negotiating this, they had to put a sign up to inform people, which is fair enough. I of course abided by that.

It was nice too once we'd explored the house to walk along the formal gardens, one part of which walks down towards the local church (so back in the day would have meant the Hesketh family had their own private walk to worship) and the paths that ran alongside the Rufford branch of the Leeds-Liverpool canal, as well as some statues of herons and Canadian geese on the garden walls. It was a nice enough place to visit, don't expect to be there all day though!

We did after a little excursion into Burscough Bridge and peruse the canalside (and indeed the fact that many of the shops on the Wharf were closed, which was sad to see) it was time for lunch and so off to The Grapes in Croston, where we'd eaten before and we knew the food was nice. And so it proved once again. In fact we noted how many people were having the afternoon tea (has to be booked 24 hours in advance) so we've made a note how good that looks and may have to go there in future to try it out. I had the mushroom carbonara and if I was a proper vegetarian, I'd be well happy with it, lovely creamy sauce, tons of mushrooms and spot on pasta. The Love had the chicken supreme which was also brilliant, but nothing was as brilliant as the sticky toffee pudding I had for dessert. Best one ever. It's that simple.

We headed off later on and back to The Love's place before the traffic got too busy, and we snuggled up watching Pointless, and one of The Love's favourite songs "Lola's Theme" by Shapeshifters was one of the answers in one of the rounds, so that tune is indeed tune of the day. Of course it was nice to chill out for a bit and then later on headed to Piccadilly station to get my 1915 train back to London Euston. It was a lovely long weekend and The Love had a nice birthday, which was what mattered to me, and it was a really happy time. I'm so pleased it all worked out!

Monday 2nd April - Marple Bridge Midland Monday

It was another day of eating out today, this time with two more of our friends. In fact it was nice to book somewhere that they hadn't been to, but we had been and where we knew that the food was gorgeous: The Midland at Marple Bridge. It's been refurbished recently and has been reopened and looks rather lovely inside: and it's actually accessible too - there's suitable parking in the car park for the pub (and another public car park next door) and the rear entrance is all level too, and that's easy to get into and with a large loo as well, so definitely one I can recommend all round.

The Love In My Heart and I had a relaxed morning, fussing over Brian the cat and even allowing him out despite the not so good weather, and we soon were heading off out via Levenshulme, Heaton Chapel and the back of Stockport before following the A626 through Offerton and then towards Marple, turning left to follow the road and down the hill past the canal locks and to Marple Bridge, and The Love used the big free car park and we soon were heading inside for a pre-meal drink together. I had for a change one of the Siren Craft Brew beers, and they were pretty nice actually (although only in bottled form, no cask)

The manager had expected us and had ensured a table easy for my friend to get to, and when our friends arrived he directed them towards the entrance, and I was at the other end waiting so I could guide us all in. We got in, and all was well, and got a comfy table with nice chairs. In fact, The Love had an offer for a bottle of house prosecco when four dine, so we obviously fancied some of that and three of us shared it between us, so that was good. In fact despite being a Bank Holiday Monday, the fixed price menu selections were also still on: so unintentionally that was money off too!

It was good to catch up with our friends anyway for a good natter, and certainly the nice relaxed pace and ambience helped considerably in that regard. The Love had the karage chicken again, much like chicken katsu curry albeit with vegetables instead of rice, and one of our friends and I had the same starter (in fact same main and dessert later too!) - the really nice mushrooms with stilton and a gorgeous toasted bread to go with it. All was well there, and we couldn't help but notice one family nearby behaving in a really annoying way: no control of their children and allowing them to run around. When you have people walking with hot food, this is not what you want to see.

The mains were just as lovely: two of us had the gammon, with a chunk of pineapple, lovely eggs and chips, The Love had the fish and chips, and my friend had the margherita pizza, which he said was gorgeous, a nice base that wasn't over the top and really flavoured well too - naturally we took the large tomatoes off, but still pretty grand all round. Naturally I had to have the little crumble with custard and a coffee as the mini dessert option, which is a good move, and my friend had the vanilla ice cream with cookie that looked pretty divine all round, we were all mightily pleased with that to be honest.

My friends had got The Love a lovely present: a really nice blue floral top from Warehouse which had a see through lacy bit on the arms, and had a cami underneath built in so that it was just flowing and nice. I am sure that The Love will look as gorgeous as ever when she wears it, that is for sure. I was just happy all round and the bill came to less than we expected because of the fixed price side, so we were all very happy indeed with that, and that was good to see. We'd all had a good time and the time had sped by to the late afternoon and early evening!

Later on The Love and I relaxed back at her place with Brian the cat wanting lots of fuss and attention as he does, and we watched the soaps (The Love's favourite of course) and then in between that a bit of Only Connect, with the theme tune being tune of the day. I was pleased to get some of the connections although The Love did find it rather odd and not her thing: I do admit that I like the missing vowels round the best still and was racking them off nicely, as did one team who won at the end by a single point!

Sunday 1st April – Easter Day and Eating Out

It was a nice relaxed morning on the Easter Sunday with The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat having a nice little fuss and lots of attention. He did play out for a little while and was happily chasing the leaves as they blew in the wind. Of course later on when a tabby cat walked past the flats, he was more than happy to peek out and see what was going on – although the cat was clearly sniffing around the space where Brian had been, so clearly was seeing what was going on, as he does.

Later on we got ourselves showered and changed and off out for most of the day, and heading on the tram into the city centre. Normally we'd have got off at Deansgate Castlefield but due to engineering works the tram wasn't going that way, so we got off at Piccadilly Gardens and walked past St Peter's Square and Manchester Central on the way to Deansgate, and once close to the station, off to Atlas Bar where we were meeting up with friends first. Of course, the only downside to that place is no proper real ale, and the IPA was a press the button one, no. Still it was good to catch up and have a good natter before we'd then head along towards Castlefield Locks.

It was off to Dukes 92 and to have a nice late afternoon lunch/tea in there, with lovely staff and food all round. We did have one of the booth tables and due to the way they're a semi circle, I sat on the high chair so that The Love could have more room in the booth. The starters were ordered and all lovely: I had the tomato soup which really was well blended and nice, and The Love and one of our friends had the chips, coated in cheese and gravy. They apparently are really popular and it's not hard to see why: it just seemed nicely indulgent for what it was.

The mains were gorgeous too: I had the cod and chips which had a good batter and some lovely triple cooked chips, and The Love had the Sunday Roast pork with plenty of vegetables and gravy: it looked lovely. Both our friends had the fillet medallions: nice chunks of steak with a good sauce, along with some French beans and triple cooked chips, and all seemed very nice indeed. We did note that the guitarist and singer who were playing songs had an eclectic catalogue of covers, including the ace “Basket Case” by Green Day, so that's tune of the day.

After a lovely meal we headed across to Lock 91, right on the canal locks close to Deansgate Castlefield station. It was a former lock keeper's cottage but have some nice deals on a Sunday including one of their guest ales for a mere £3 a pint, and for city centre, that was good. In fact I had that which was spot on, and The Love had some wine (In fact the house wine was also £12 a bottle as part of the offer, so is well worth considering if you're having more than one large glass) – and we actually ended up spending some time in there having some of the guest ales and drinks and generally chattering for some time.

It ended up being around 8pm by the time that we headed off, so was nice to have an extended afternoon and early evening out – normally when that happens I'm on a train home so it's always good to have some more time. In fact The Love and I got the tram back through the wind and then snuggled up on the sofa with Brian the cat watching some telly and being chilled out together. It was a really nice sense of being together and having a longer weekend really did make a difference for us both, and having such good company was also a really nice bonus. It's always nice when that happens and so I'm hoping the weather holds for the next couple of days.