Dear Diary... August 2021

Tuesday 31st August - Quietly Does It

I have to admit the day after the Bank Holiday certainly felt a lot quieter in the office, and that was a good thing because it meant I could get plenty of work done during the day. I think people might have used the time to have an extended long weekend or even take the rest of this week off. Interestingly during some conversations today I've heard some staff proclaim they're glad to be back in a more conducive working environment, primarily if they've had to improvise and make the most of a small space to try and work from - and this way they've got all the desks, the comforts of a nice coffee machine and also the fact it's just a nicer atmosphere too.

I think for me I've noted the difference in myself as I've been in - it certainly showed for me last week being in three days on the bounce, and with all the building work going on not far from me, the noise of constant drilling and hammering can be deflected a bit with the windows closed, but then you've got the heat from not having any windows open (and of course because of current situation, you want to let some air in too, so it's a definite catch 22 type situation anyway.) But for me the calm still quiet feeling was definitely something that I wanted to enjoy, so it did mean plenty to get on with.

For a fair part of the afternoon we were liaising with one of our colleagues in Salt Lake City, as we had put up some infrastructure in Oregon and wanted to see if as a controlled test whether PXE booting from there to the Oregon side was doable and if you could pull down a Windows 10 build as well. What we found was once the IP helper was configured, a PXE attempt was made but there was no response back from the management point and a timeout. I had it worked out though: I suspected that the firewall wasn't allowing traffic from the distribution point over ports 80 and 443 to the management point, which you have to allow (so it can acknowledge requests both ways). The Configmgr documentation does mention it properly too so it wasn't as if I was suggesting something out of the ordinary.

Anyway, with that all sorted, PXE boot happened and showed a response. Admittedly it did take some time but it got there in the end, so that was at least something - and I'll of course get the necessary TFTP window size tweak done next which vastly increases the speed of downloading the boot image to the machine initially. I do think though that realistically the slow traffic will mean that inevitably that it'll be less quick to do overall, but it's a trade off (as these things always are) so we'll see what happens and go from there methinks.

I headed home and it was relatively okay all things speaking, although it was nice to be at home and to take things relatively easy, having some rather nice chicken and mushroom stir fry for tea, and a nice chatter with The Love In My Heart before I then played some of the CDs I got yesterday - and therefore blasted out some Foo Fighters and the classic Monkey Wrench on that album (make that one tune of the day) - I've drummed on that on Guitar Hero Smash Hits as well. Because I can.

Monday 30th August - On The Tusk Lion Trail

After a lovely weekend with The Love In My Heart, it was a Bank Holiday on my own for me (The Love is back at home with Brian the cat, and he is happy to see her of course.) I decided that I'd follow the tusk lion trail, which is a trail of 27 lion statues in central London, the majority of which are in the main shopping areas around Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden, as well as a couple out in the City of London. I knew too that setting off early would be better mainly because it would mean less people around. So it was on with breakfast and off to East Croydon station.

Once there, it was on the fast train to London Victoria then the 390 bus to Oxford Circus, and a walk down Carnaby Street to see the first two lions there - which all looked resplendent with no one around. Then down to Glasshouse Street, close to the office, as I had seen the two there so was good to get them done. The plan then was to walk to the Burlington Arcade to get the next two, but that wasn't open til 11am, so would come back for those afterwards. In view of that, I went to the Ritz hotel and got the one outside, and the three in St James's Chuchyard were visible but the gates to the yard were locked, which isn't good if you've got families going around is it?

I got the ones around Jermyn Street and St James's Market, the two at Waterloo Place, followed by one at Trafalgar Square (designed by John Cleese no less) and the two at the St Martin's in the Crypt outside. It was then a walk to Covent Garden via Cecil Court (one there) and in Covent Garden itself, one is outside the Royal Opera House, the other is in the main market central piazza, all decorated with beer like phrases and called London Pride. It was then across to Leicester Square to get two there, and Piccadilly Circus for three more including one designed by Noel Fielding, and one by Ronnie Wood too, so that was impressive.

I walked back down to the Burlington Arcade and it was just about to open, so went in and got those two, and that made the total 25. From there I took the 9 bus to Aldwych (noticing the new two way traffic system around there) and then the 11 bus towards Bank station, but was on slight diversion to Cannon Street. I could have taken the 15 before if I knew that, but anyway, it was a short walk to Cornhill where.. no lions! I had an inkling on the website the two lions had been removed, but a bit of a nightmare really. I guess when they do go back up I'll have to head back with the camera to complete the set, but still. In the meantime, the set is here.

I then headed from Cannon Street station to Greenwich and had a mooch around the record shops. I did in fact notice the basement section in Music and Video Exchange with lots of CDs, in fact 50p each or four for the mere £1 price. I managed to get four CDs I liked in all, plus the 10" single of Pop Will Eat Itself's 92 Degrees re-release single (worth it for the funky mix of Another Man's Rhubarb, so tune of the day is that one) and it was nice to mooch around the markets there too. All in all, a good day!

Sunday 29th August - Paddington and St Pancras

It was a nice relaxing lie in for both myself and The Love In My Heart today after a couple of days out, and we had some nice breakfast to get ourselves sorted for the day. I was also keeping an eye on the wheelchair rugby at the Paralympics as The Love got herself ready with Great Britain facing the USA in the final, with the USA having beaten Britain in the group stage. The Love had noted that Steve Brown from Countryfile was on commentary and this was of course because he was the GB captain at the London 2012 Paralympics in the same event too.

It was amazing stuff from the British team - not least in the final quarter as they had some valuable turnovers to be able to get inching away - and as the clock was ticking down, some game management to make sure they used their time to get points and take that time away from the American team. It was gold for the British team and it was so well deserved too, and a superb performance against a very very good American side, and the sportsmanship afterwards was great to see too. It shows that the competitive and fair spirit that exists in the Paralympics is something a lot of other events could learn from.

Later on The Love and I headed off on the train from East Croydon to St Pancras - with various works meaning that effectively it was the case of one train per hour in each direction and being relatively busy because of it. We got to St Pancras and walked down Midland Road to the British Library where we had got tickets for the Paddington Bear exhibition there. We soon found the gallery where it was, and had a good look around - although the exhibition was smaller than I thought to be honest.

However what was there was fascinating: the original typewriter Michael Bond used to create the first stories, original typed letter to the agents for requests for publishing, a first release copy of A Bear Called Paddington, and even the front door of one of the houses used in the stop motion version of the 1970s Paddington TV series as well. It was fascinating too to see the David McKee artwork for the Paddington books, very similarly styled to say Mr Benn which he also illustrated, and lots of clips of the TV series and films for the children to watch too. It was good but maybe needed some more space to show everything.

After a coffee in the British Library we headed over to St Pancras station and into the Betjeman Arms for lunch - the staff were lovely, the beer was lovely and the fish and chips I had was really nice. The Love had the half roast chicken and that was good also - really nice with all the vegetables and roast potatoes also. It was nice to be able to relax and in fact see the Eurostar trains come and go with people arriving - and it reminded me of the Philip Glass version of Bowie's Heroes which they used on the Eurostar advert, and it's tune of the day - and really was nice to relax there. We made our way to Kings Cross for The Love to take her trains home via Doncaster, and we had had a lovely weekend.

Saturday 28th August - Magical Marylebone and South Bank Schmoozing

It was a nice relaxed morning for myself and The Love In My Heart - she was getting some well earned sleep and I was watching the Paralympics on Channel 4. To be fair, they've done a superb job all round and it really does show that the presenters all know their stuff, and having the likes of Clare Balding on too shows how seriously it gets taken - she really does get passionately behind the equestrian events of course but really has empathy for all the athletes and parents who can't be there to share the big moments. And there were plenty of golds for Great Britain today too - not least the C1-C5 mixed sprint relay which had an immense final lap from Jody Cundy to take the title away from China. Superb stuff, it really was!

After a full breakfast and coffee and orange juice, we sort of had a loose plan for today - head to Marylebone High Street for the nice shops there, and down to the South Bank later for a mooch too. In fact, it was really nice to see that the weather was holding okay albeit a bit cloudy, and we were soon on the train from East Croydon to London Bridge, where we'd change for the Jubilee Line up to Baker Street. It was pretty noticeable with the queues outside Madame Tussaud's close by there, and we soon were making our way through the churchyard and on to Marylebone High Street.

First off was off to the Conran Shop - lots of nice design things in there and a massive Miffy night light (and Boris the bear too) which looked adorably nice. Still no café there anymore which is a shame, and we did later walk further down and have a look in both Anthropologie and the Caroline Gardner shops, as well as The White Company too, which had adorable children's items for the Love's little relations - just so soft and cute. We did notice a nice flower and plant place had opened up near where the LK Bennett shop used to be - and had a gorgeous coffee sat outside there.

I also checked the Manchester City v Arsenal score - and wow! 5-0 to Manchester City, absolute demolition job against Arsenal. I suspect the AFTV channel will be full of upset Arsenal fans who will be wanting Mikel Arteta gone, but obviously made me happy! We had a mooch in Daunt Books as well which is always nice to look in and admire the really nice stock they have - and the iconic stained glass window and upper floor of shelves, before the rain started a little and so escaped to the Prince Regent pub for a nice pint of Proper Job for me and a wine for The Love - and well why not?

After that the rain stopped, so off back to Baker Street station and the Jubilee Line had a Waterloo departure much quicker than Bakerloo, so despite the longer concourse walk from the platform, was still worth doing. We got to Waterloo and then onwards to the South Bank - exploring around the Between the Bridges temporary section of bars and eateries, which looked okay, but £9 for 9 holes of Plonk Crazy Golf and £7.50 for the tejo throwing game was too expensive - no wonder they had turn up and go slots available. Hint: lower the prices and you might get some customers.

We walked onwards to the Understudy bar at the National Theatre (one of our favourite places) so we could sit by the river and people watch, and it was nice to have a beer there and just relax too. I have to admit that it was also noticeable how many tables were reserved, so well worth noting for future if we fancied having something to eat there too from the street food bars close by to the bar also. It was then onwards to Butlers Wharf where The Love went into the rather ace little shops there and had a mooch, and onwards to the Oxo building for more nice shops before off to Blackfriars for the train home.

It was nice to have a mooch around, and Marylebone was much quieter than the South Bank, it has to be said, and it's always nice to enjoy some nice shops too. We later on had some nice Wiltshire ham gratin for tea, and that was all good, and The Love settled in to watch some Royal documentaries on Channel 5 before me watching Match of the Day later on (theme tune is tune of the day) and could see the Manchester City thrashing of Arsenal with Micah Richards on full form as well - always entertaining to watch.

Friday 27th August - London Beer Lab Lushness

It was nice to be off work today and with good reason - The Love In My Heart was coming down for the weekend and tonight we were finally heading off to London Beer Lab in Brixton to redeem the voucher we've had since Christmas 2019 for a beer tasting session of 10 differen beers there. In fact we had previously booked it and then had to postpone three times because of the current situation, so to be able to finally go was a good thing. I had the Sainsburys food delivery this morning and also had the bedding to swap over as well as get a little bit of cleaning done, so was up relatively early to get all of that done.

It was then off to East Croydon station later to meet The Love, who had been on the train from Manchester Piccadilly at 0755 to London Euston (to avoid massive price hikes!) then tube and train to mine. It was of course lovely to see her and she did look gorgeous, so that was good. We got back to mine and after sorting out the case and having a coffee and chilling out, it was time to head out for the rest of the day. We did have some spare time this afternoon so was going to spend that around Kensington before heading off to Brixton.

First off though, a spot of lunch, and we were off to Ludoquist near me, which meant some nice sandwiches (the barbecue pulled pork panini I had was gorgeous) and also The Love's cheese and ham toastie, coupled with some nice beer and wine too and 80s tunes, so Don't You Want Me by The Human League is tune of the day. We then headed to Victoria and got the District Line via Earl's Court to High Street Kensington and from there headed towards Kensington Palace. The Love wanted to see the statue of Princess Diana that had been put up in the sunken garden, and needless to say that was pretty popular with people, with all the points to peek through the bushes taken as vantage points for picture taking.

We headed back to Kensington High Street, and went in Uniqlo (The Love got herself a new top in the sale there) and then to Whole Foods and also HEMA, the last time we'll be visiting one in the UK before it shuts next Friday. A lot of the items had already been sold but The Love did find a few things useful for work and at home and paid the grand sum of £2.50 for them all, so that proved to be okay in the end. We also were going to go in Oliver Bonas but that had closed, but did go in the posh and cute childrens' shop Trotters, where lots of cute things The Love could get for the little ones in the family were there too.

We headed then to Victoria (the Circle Line was at least running so bonus) and then took the stairs to the top of the Market Hall opposite Victoria station and had some nice Brewdog beer there whilst watching the world go by. It did feel a little cooler up there but was nice to relax, and before long it was time to head to the platforms at Victoria and get the Southeastern train one stop to Brixton - quieter and much more civilised than the tube, although Brixton train station itself isn't the nicest. We did also visit the David Bowie mural close by and admired the art and all the messages people had put up - even some recent ones people had Sharpied on to the glass.

It was a very short walk over to arch 41 where the London Beer Lab was, names taken and all called in to head upstairs in the arch where the tasting was taking place. There were around 25 of us so pretty full, and the staff explained the beers as they brought them up, all in 100 ml measures in little science lab type jugs (well they are called London Beer Lab after all, right?) - it was pretty nice to see that they started with the more softer lower alcohol beers and gradually built this up to the really strong stuff later on too - so you could see how they were all different tastes and developed well.

The Love isn't a huge beer drinker, but did try the ones we had and I think for her the two favourites were the Kaiser Pils pilsner and later on the Sleeping Limes gose, which was actually really refreshing - I liked that one as well. I also loved the Tip Top Citra which really did have a nice citrus feel to it, and the Le Sauvin which did feel it had a wine like kick to it as well. I do think though the London Beer Lab need to be more generous with their timings - they said 90 to 120 minutes but realistically speaking you need 150 minutes to be perfectly honest - they were free and easy and casual and all which is nice, but some had to leave early, assumedly because they had other things booked.

As it was, I did have to ring the pub we were having food in later, The Commercial in Herne Hill just down the road, and rebook for half an hour later. They were cool with that and in fact it was a nice chilled out atmosphere in there with a good beer selection also. The Love had the fish and chips, and I had a really nice pie and mash. The staff were lovely and it was just a nice way to have something enjoyable to eat and end the day well before heading back via Victoria to East Croydon at home. It had been a long day but a pretty worthwhile one and I certainly enjoyed the beer tasting experience for definite!

Thursday 26th August - Haircut and Happy

It was a fairly busy day in the office today, and to be honest, the three days being in on the bounce made me think that actually it might even be better longer term to do more days in, although two is still a nice number at present. I think what will decide it for me ultimately is how much I want to necessarily be at home all the time during the week - as nice as it can be, I do feel much more productive when in, so I'll have to see how that pans out and take it from there to be perfectly honest.

I did however look at making some plans for the 2107 MECM update now it's landed, and obviously being able to do to changes to get the pre-requisites nailed is something. I'd also realistically look at a further update to get the SQL Server version upgraded to 2017 from 2012 as the 2012 support runs out next year. In essence, it shouldn't be too difficult, but I think there's ways that you have to tackle it carefully so I shall read up the documentation on that and take it from there too.

After work it was off on the Piccadilly line to Earl's Court, and change there for the District Line to Wimbledon Park to get the hair cut. It was another member of staff who was there tonight, and just as good, so felt really positive afterwards. He did say it had been quieter for the last two weeks or so but having spoken to the boss they reckon that it'll pick up as children go back to school and want to look all smart with their cuts (as do the parents of course.)

I also noted that Wimbledon Park tube station now has a lift to the platform but did think TfL have scored two own goals here - firstly the wider more accessible gate is on the other side to the lift entrance corridor - surely putting them straight opposite might have been easier? Also, although the platform is now accessible, the train has a gap which requires a ramp to be utilised. Surely it would have been better to do the platform work as well, get level boarding onboard (after all only the District Line stops there anyway) and make it completely step free? That would have been much better.

As the trams were not fully running at present, it was over to Wimbledon, then the train to Clapham Junction via Earlsfield, then train to East Croydon. It didn't work out too bad, but good to be able to get home, have some tea, speak with The Love In My Heart before she comes tomorrow, and also then sort my Mum out with a plan of action for booking trains for a future trip to Llandudno (cheap tickets not on sale yet) and also take advantage of the Northern sale and be able to go to Southport from Manchester Victoria midweek with her friend for £1 each way, nice. Tune of the day is Mad Train by André Brasseur, a real sense of being quite foreboding and future telling back then!

Wednesday 25th August - Back to the Office

It was back to the office today (in fact I'm doing three days in this week to see how that works out with three on the bounce) - and it did feel a lot better after yesterday's shenanigans. In fact one of my colleagues in the US dug out an interesting blog on why things happened yesterday with Apple and MacOS, primarily due to some implementations in the OS that they decided to keep schtumm about and allow people to find out the hard way that so much of their software didn't work anymore. They effectively blocked the RSA SecurID mechanism and that meant enterprise headaches worldwide, not just us.

The fact we were able to resolve it and install the new version pretty quickly was a bonus, but it also showed that effectively enterprises are to a degree looking at moving away from Apple due to these sort of impositions without giving necessary due warnings to the user - it even surprised RSA themselves who are now locked in negotiations with Apple. Which sort of reinforces the point really, and that was mentioned today also so it was abundantly clear it was nothing necessarily we had done either.

Anyway, today I spent some time on a planned change getting the necessary new pre-requisites installed for future versions of MECM. Version 2107 upwards will now require at least .NET Framework 4.6.2, with version 4.8 preferred (which is pretty much across all recent Windows 10 versions anyway client side) - as well as the latest Visual C++ 2015-2019 libraries as well, and that also means that site systems and servers work well too with that setup. My colleagues had performed a snapshot backup and I then was able to get on with all the necessary installations and then reboot the server as needed later on. The job's a good 'un.

I did later on take the bus and train route home to see if I was able to get home quicker this time round, and a straight run on the 38 to Victoria and the train home at 1754 said so. However miss that one and it was wait til 1805, which means the walk to Charing Cross then trains is about similar. Tomorrow though it'll be on a different route to get the hair cut first of all anyway, so that'll definitely be different. I do admittedly need it doing, it is getting a tad on the thick and long side so to get it all good before The Love In My Heart comes over makes a lot of sense.

I had a good little play on the Nintendo Wii later, putting some good scores on the bowling and frisbee golf together on Wii Sports Resort, followed then by three rounds of Fun Fun Minigolf, doing each of the courses once. It was good fun still and it certainly really reminded me of the evenings myself and The Love In My Heart would spend having such a good time. It doesn't always have to be the most fancy graphics or sound, but te key thing is if the game is playable and fun - and certainly the case here too. The title theme from Wii Sports Resort is tune of the day as it's such an uplifting one to suit the game too.

Tuesday 24th August - Apple's Anarchic Asphyxia

So it turned out that during today we were getting a number of calls from some staff that the Cisco Anyconnect VPN client, which we use for VPN connectivity and has been rock stable for everyone throughout, was now being flagged by Apple as potential spyware and therefore refusing to run properly in some cases. Initially we thought that it might be something that may have just affected the odd user or two, but a bit of deeper delving into the issue and we saw why. It looked like the latest cumulative update for all the recent MacOS versions, including Mojave, Catalina and Big Sur all had some security features added in which seemed to be a common ground from the machines noted.

Previously, we knew that due to the way that system and kernel extensions had been added by Apple and needed to be populated by a configuration profile in JAMF Pro in order to manage the workload for us, we had already gone to the trouble of including all of those settings in, so naturally we wanted to check that they had been applying (which they had, so that's good.) Next thing to do was to then look at the latest (4.10) version of the client and see on a machine if that resolved it. We had a user we could trust to do so as well as one of our Cyber Security folks, and job done, seemed to be fine.

So next up: package it. Now normally when you expand the DMG and mount it on the Mac, and run the pkg installer, there's some choices within that which doesn't just include the VPN, but other features too including the likes of Umbrella etc. We didn't need all that, so needed a way to effectively tell the package we only wanted the VPN component. Cisco had a document but was a pain to effectively do as you'd need to extract the DMG, add a config to that, then resave the thing and then unpack it every time. I found a much better solution on the JAMF Nation forums which when followed correctly worked a treat - effectively unpack the PKG, change a file within to only allow the VPN to be installed, package back the PKG and run that. If you want to do the same, the post is here - and I can highly recommend it.

In effect, my config was even simpler, just have the one line for the VPN, and when package was flattened, boom. I could run that, see it only had the VPN component, and off it went. It also meant we could do a silent installation and distribute that via JAMF Pro, and we tested it on a number of Macs which worked very well indeed, so all good there. We did also have some reports from a set of users who needed it quick, so we included them and they were all up and running again, so definite win for us there in the end. It did please me that I'd managed to work on something to resolve an issue, but was a tiring job.

I must admit I did feel the need to stock up a little on some nice things for the weekend, having already done my Sainsburys order and got almost all I needed. They didn't have Azera coffee cheap or any decent beer, so a quick trip on the 119 bus from near the flat and off to Morrisons, and it was heavenly - quiet, staff all with face coverings on incuding a friendly security guard too, and felt lovely and safe. They had the St Peter's Plum Porter beer too, so some of those and the Cranbourne Poacher was mine. In addition, the rather fab low alcohol Big Drop Milk Stout too, so had to get that of course, and a couple of other bits - and I knew the Azera was £3 here, so win. More reasons to shop at Morrisons, as their 80s jingle used to go (make that tune of the day) and all good to end the day well.

Monday 23rd August - Distribution Dilemmas

It was a busy day working from home today, primarily as I had a new version of a software package to check over and test. It's actually one I have to do a sequential dependency on for deployment, as there's a main Windows installer first (all good there) and that's then followed by a little bit of scripting that has to run per user in order to copy the configuration files correctly to the user profile. It does work well and I've got the detection method pretty much nailed, but it's still interesting to remember what I had to do to make it all work correctly, and indeed when.

A fair bit of time today was checking on one of the distribution points as part of the weekly checks I do and noted that the validation task of checking the content was present for each package there had failed. A cross check showed all the packages were there but for some reason the WMI entries weren't. Granted, I could actually distribute everything again but what a pain that is. So I checked and found out what the answer was, and it was to do with the way that the WMI entries are listed - and found out a way to re-add them to the WMI itself on the distribution point server.

This involved two processes, one of which was to run a SQL query on the database and determine which packages were stored on the DP in question, and the SQL also constructed a Powershell statement for each package, which you could then run in Powershell on the DP. And once done, all the WMI had been re-populated, so then it was a case of re-running the validation task and checking that all of the content matched in both the content library and the WMI itself, which it now did and showed a green tick again. Happy days all round for me for that one.

I also this afternoon then worked on getting a distribution sorted of the package I'd done earlier, now that the DP error was fixed, and that meant the content was there and I could road test everything properly, which worked a treat to be honest. I think for me that it was important to be able to make sure I keep things ticking over, and there's a change planned for later this week so I can get the pre-requisites in play prior to the MECM 2107 upgrades too (as they're needed, so makes sense to do them in advance and get things operationally correct beforehand.)

Of course it was a double bit of quizzing later on as the new series of Mastermind was on with Clive Myrie (and theme tune of which is tune of the day.) He did very well actually and really had the authority but with a less ascerbic feel than his predecessor. I do think though the nerves of being in that black chair do show for the contestants still though, a contrast compared to the almost jovial difficult as hell quizzing of Only Connect of course, with Victoria Coren Mitchell looking rather resplendent in tartan I have to say.

Sunday 22nd August - Dash at Doncaster

It was nice to have a relaxed morning, although Brian the cat insisted on being all snuggled up to his Mummy for long periods, and wanted nothing more than a fuss and a cuddle. In fact he even waits until The Love In My Heart has had a shower, and then gets in himself so he can catch the drips of water along the way. It's adorable to see when he does that and does end up with wet spiky hair for a while afterwards, which is also lovely. We had some breakfast and then got ourselves up and ready, as we had visitors later.

And of course that meant the youngest new relation of The Love's family coming over, and as ever, and now at six months old, she was utterly cute. I do make her giggle and she does have a big broad grin when she does smile which is nice, and The Love still has a Sooty puppet, so out came that so I could keep her entertained and amused, even doing the Sooty whispering in the ear actions as well for added realism. I must admit it's so nice to see that The Love is managing to get some quality time spent too, because I know that for her it's such a beautiful thing. Brian the cat did decide to hiss at one of The Love's relations for some reason though.

The Love and I headed out to lunch later on and it was off to The Elizabethan in Heaton Moor for some well earned food and drink. We got a parking space fine and indeed we also got an outside table too and the weather was nice enough to dine alfresco, so we thought why not indeed. I noted the Sunday Roasts were on but also some of the specials seemed appetising too, so The Love went for the roast pork and I had the haddock and chorizo risotto, with a poached egg on top too. I have to say it was the best thing I've had in a while: no skimping on the fish or meat, and lots of really well cooked risotto rice and the poached egg was just that added extra touch too.

We headed off later back into the centre of Manchester and to Piccadilly station for me to get the 1718 train to Doncaster, and it felt sad saying goodbye of course. But in the station, it turned out that the incoming train was late, so it meant the train left 15 minutes late and even keeping to that pace, it would be tight for the connecting train at Doncaster (the 1855 to Kings Cross.) I kept an eye out via National Rail in case the incoming train was late, but that seemed on time, and the train arrived the same lateness at Sheffield and Meadowhall. In fact, make Two Minutes by Train by The Caretaker Race tune of the day.

In the end I arrived at Platform 4 at Doncaster at 1852, so had to dash off at the door, down the stairs to the subway, along and then up the stairs to Platform 3, and turn around and round the corner for Platform 1. The train was there and made it on with two minutes to spare. Phew! I had a well earned coffee afterwards as I think I needed it to relax, but was pleased I'd be getting home at a reasonable hour - and even an awaiting driver change at London Bridge later wasn't that bad really. I was just pleased to have had such a good weekend and more time with The Love - and that meant a lot.

Saturday 21st August - City, Let's Be Having You!

So for the first time in a very long time I'd be off to see Manchester City with my good friend and the first time with a return to full stadiums. I had of course been very lucky enough to see the last game of last season with a limited crowd in attendance and see Sergio Agüero get his final two goals for the club, breaking a Premier League record of the most goals scored for a single club at the same time. I think that this season will be wide open but the fans being there will make a lot of difference when needed, and that was proven by Brentford's win against Arsenal last week.

I had advised my friend to head out earlier as I knew the new mobile ticketing system might mean a slower take up of getting in the ground, and he was glad he did as the traffic towards the ground wasn't the best either - primarily due to the building work for Co-Op Live and the reduced car park capacity as part of the main one is still being used as a test centre for Covid also. We got ourselves over to to the ground no problem and a scan in of the phone with the tickets was relatively easy, so that was good.

Once in, coffee and tea purchased, it meant we could have some good chatter time and catch up a bit too, which is always nice, and we were also noticing that the rain had stopped and it was a little humid, so coats off really. I must admit as the kick off approached I did feel excited but also a little nervous: and as my friend is more susceptible to infections, I pledged to keep the face covering on to help protect him also, only right really. We did notice a few that sit near us not there, and the attendance was around 3,500 under capacity, so some don't feel quite ready to come yet. My friend did say that he did have the option to postpone the season ticket for a year too which was good of the club to offer that.

Onwards with the game, and it was a demolition job by Manchester City as the right hand side combination of Kyle Walker feeling Gabriel Jesús was instrumental. First off, the ball to Jesús down the right meant a cross into the box which Grant Hanley could only kick towards his goalkeeper Tim Krul and it fumbled over the line for 1-0. After a good Ferran Torres effort was disallowed by VAR due to a foul in the build up (not so sure when we saw the replay on screen to be honest) we pressed on, and Jesús's cross this time was met by the knee of Jack Grealish for his first City goal, and 2-0 at half time. We'd have taken that at full time to be honest.

More of the same in the second half for City though as the team were determined to do the business and show the rest of the league they were back. After a corner came in, some poor Norwich defending handed the ball to Aymeric Laporte and a well taken low shot to the bottom corner was 3-0 and effectively game over. Jesús turned provider again with a simple tap in for Raheem Sterling for 4-0, and a perfectly weighted ball from Ruben Dias meant that Riyad Mahrez beat the offside trap and it was a nice slot in the bottom corner. 5-0 was the final score, and you do have to wonder how bad some of the Norwich defending was! As for tune of the day only Supra's version of Blue Moon will do - if City can reinstate that on a match day please, that would be grand!

Friday 20th August - We Can Be Zeroes

It was another day of working from home today but managed to get quite a few things done in the space of the day too. In fact I received a report that I had asked our HR team to schedule for me, and that arrived in good time. This allowed me to cross reference some of the reports I'd been working on and making sure I had an updated spreadsheet of machines not checking in for over 90 days to various systems, and a possible reason for that. So for example if someone is on maternity leave, a perfectly legitimate reason of course. It also means we can keep track of what's going on too.

I had also put the finishing touches to going old school with extracting more tunes from old Commodore 64 games, including some written in BASIC by the same author no less. It looked in one case as well as if the type-in listing had been keyed in with one small minor typo, but that was enough not to set the volume register for the sound chip correctly, and instead of playing a small tune on the title screen, it played nothing. I soon was able to sort that and indeed report the findings to the folks at Gamebase 64 also as I'm sure they'd be interested in that one.

It was off after work on the train to St Pancras and from there the short transfer over to Kings Cross to get the 1833 train to Doncaster. It's often becoming the train of choice at the moment primarily because of the fact that it means I get to Doncaster in good time for the 2042 train to Manchester Piccadilly, and of course way cheaper that way than Avanti West Coast too. I had a hunch when I got towards Kings Cross that it might be leaving from the same platform as the last two times I got that service - Platform 0. And the hunch was proved right!

This was to prove useful more so because the normal 9 carriage train run was replaced by a 5 car, so no seat reservations at all. That meant being there early meant I could board first, get the nice comfortable seat with proper window view, and job done. All was well there and got to Doncaster fine, switching over for the train to Manchester no problem, where The Love In My Heart very kindly arrived to collect me, so we could arrive home to her place safe and sound and immediately get a nice fuss over of Brian the cat, aww bless.

In fact we ended up watching the top hits of 1999 thing on Channel 5. There was some undisputed rubbish songs on there but there was also some rather good ones too, and as it had been raining in Manchester earlier in the day, the Travis classic from that era, Why Does It Always Rain On Me has to be tune of the day. Naturally some of the big dance tunes of the year did feature in there such as Blue by Eiffel 65 and Better off Alone by Alice Deejay, but number 2 in terms of sales was Shania Twain's Man I Feel Like a Woman complete with its Robert Palmer pastiche video - bit of a classic video that.

Thursday 19th August - Unsafe Release

So I went to the office today, and I have to say I was not the happiest person in there. I suspected for a while now that the policies in place to protect employees were slowly being not followed by some people, which then leads to the domino effect of more and more not doing the same. This was brought into more sharp focus recently by the fact that someone who was in the office last week (thankfully well away from me) had contracted the C word, (not cancer either) and therefore there were potential risks to a number of staff. This brought it home that no matter what our useless Government says, things are still very much out there.

Anyway, I noted this morning some findings and decided that the best course of action was to brief our health and safety folks as to what was noted. I had a good response from them and they were appreciative of the fact I had made them aware - and more so that I had someone else also respond who said that they were disappointed to learn this. I was glad in a way because it showed that my wish to speak up was listened to, but also that I know actions will come from this. I don't like to be the one to cause any fuss, but as I mentioned a while back here, being in has done my mental health the world of good not being stuck in the flat all the time (and having Brian the cat plus The Love In My Heart present with me at her place during lockdowns also was an immense help) - so why the hell should I put my physical health and wellbeing at risk?

I also today managed to get the newer semi annual channel version of Microsoft 365 apps for Enterprise out there as a package in our build task sequence, and that worked really well. So in effect for those that still need it, we can include that version (and I'll raise a change next week to make it so) which will be good. I've also got some other plans for removing the versions of Office now not licenced because the user doesn't have a valid licence anymore, and the removal setup I had via the Office setup worked really well, so update that, make sure I test it again, should all be good I think.

Incidentally, I also noted tonight on the trains home that the trains did seem busier but this was in part due to GTR (Govia Thameslink Railway) being utterly bobbins as usual. They had already pre-cancelled a number of trains with a revised timetable, then cancelled more due to a shortage of train drivers - surely that was the idea of the revised timetable? So as a result, the train home from London Bridge was rammed so much that I let it go - I refuse to get on and put my health at risk. And many were attempting to board as the train was about to leave - an unsafe release almost happened which would have been pretty bad to be honest at peak time.

I did get the next train home and got a seat, but it did make me wonder if in fact I may need to look at a possible hours revision on the day I am in the office, maybe do 7.30am to 4pm or something so that I can travel a little bit away from peak time and actually feel a little bit better about going in? I'll have to weigh up the options and take it from there, but nonetheless what today told me was that I'm not going to tolerate being in any space I still feel unsafe in, so I'll need to do something about it for myself as the Government don't give a hoot about you. As for tune of the day it's going to be the epic We're In This Together by Nine Inch Nails, as they've cancelled touring for the rest of 2020 to be safe themselves, and the band are in this together to show an example.

Wednesday 18th August - Neighbourhood

It was good this morning that I had an email from House of Fraser telling me that the two pairs of trainers I had ordered would be arriving today. Even more so, they had arrived in a package at the reception of the apartment block by around 10.30am, less than 24 hours after I had ordered online, so in effect this meant a rapid delivery to say the least. I checked both boxes and they were all good, and I'll have to look at wearing in the new pairs over the next few days just to be sure that there's some give in the leather as well as being able to make sure that my heels don't suffer (looks like they should be fine, always good to check though.)

After work I went sort of old school and looked at some Commodore 64 games that needed the music extracting from them - namely the bits of code that play the music and the data for the music itself. Normally this can be in a self-contained block of memory with routines to initialise and play, fairly easy. Not always though. In some cases it might even be written in the BASIC programming language and it's a case of getting the lines of code you need and nothing else - this is where the Action Replay cartridge with its extended options of deleting multiple lines comes in very handy indeed.

Anyway, one such "game" per se was actually a tie in with the American educational series Mister Rogers' Neighbourhood (minus the u for our American spelling friends) - the full title being the name of the series and subtitle being Many Ways To Say I Love You. In effect it's a sort of an electronic greetings card maker where you get to choose the picture, the message you want to convey, electronic stickers to add, and most importantly, the music itself. This was where some checking of code came in and to work out where in memory the music data was, and how certain bytes of memory had to be set to be utilised by the player code itself.

In the end I worked out that the music selection offered six pieces of music, three of which were based on popular nursery rhymes and effectively the same notes played across all three channels (namely Frere Jacques, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Brahms' Lullaby, the other three being from the series itself including the theme tune Won't You Be My Neighbor? sung by Fred Rogers himself. There's a charm to that all of its own and so effectively tune of the day there. The other tunes are It's Such A Good Feeling and There Are Many Ways To Say I Love You (which I guess sort of had to be there really didn't it?)

Anyone who's seen the film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood with Tom Hanks may have got some more understanding of Mister Rogers himself, but certainly it was interesting to see how it translated a popular children's programme into a useful education tool for computers (namely Commodore 64 and Apple II, as they were the most popular in the US at the time.) Certainly curios like these are always intriguing to see how the world of home computing even then was shaped by the world around us.

Tuesday 17th August - One Pair Or Two?

I had been mulling over whether to get one or two new pairs of Fred Perry trainers, primarily because the dark blue pair I've had for some time have started to come apart at the back of the heel after considerable use. Even after me glueing on the heel at the back with some super glue a couple of months ago, both of them came apart over the weekend, and I decided that it may be better to get another pair, either say one in a dark blue or one in black, and had a look online yesterday to decide the best course of action.

In fact, I put a shortlist together in terms of both value for money pricing and indeed for the option of being able to get them ordered and delivered, and ran them by The Love In My Heart last night. She said that they all looked good and it was up to me - but I did think that as two pairs were in the same store, if I did want to order them both (one pair blue the other black) that might be easier. And as an added bonus, both were in my size too. As I had recently managed to save some money when I'd ordered some jeans from Next to top up the wear there (and in fact most of them were under £15 a pair) then I reckoned I could do it.

So once I'd sorted out a fair number of things in the morning at work and had got some lunch from the local Tesco, I decided that I could get a percentage cashback via Top Cashback and went for it - both pairs ordered, and in fact the cost of next day delivery was only slightly more than the charge to pick up in store, which would also take longer too. What the hell? It was an easy decision really, and so they should come tomorrow and I can look at getting them tried on and settled in a little (might need some Compeeds at the ready initially to be on the safe side..)

Later on at work I also realised that I could do with packaging a new semi-annual channel version of what's now Microsoft 365 Apps for Enterprise (all these name changes, meh) - but interestingly, a fair number of the options have changed when you look to package the installer in the MECM console, using the customisation online to create the XML config. Thankfully you can sack off that Bing bar for the install (good) as well as other components you don't need. You can also ensure some default file types as well as put the whole thing together, and that worked pretty well on the whole as it normally does. In fact the only thing it really did need was a way of having the Office progress window not show (a sort of display level = none would be nice.)

Still, that ended the day well and a nice chatter with The Love In My Heart was a good one with Brian the cat having decided that her laptop would be a warm and cosy place to sit, until he had his playtime later. It was also nice that she had managed to get herself a replacement monitor at work which was much better as it was height adjustable so perfect to be able to view with really. I must admit having those in the office, where I was today, helps a fair bit too and makes the day progress nicely. As for tune of the day I've had the Indoor League theme (aka Waiting For You by André Brasseur) in my head due to spotting the bar billiards table at one of the pubs near work, so resisted the urge to sing the vocals for that...

Monday 16th August - Only Connect With Victoria

Of course, one of the pleasures I have on a Monday evening is the excellent Only Connect on BBC Two, and indeed with the utterly brilliant and witty Victoria Coren Mitchell as host. She really has a dry sense of wit that just adds to the proceedings (and not to mention making the contestants feel far more at ease considering the sheer hardness of the quizzing itself.) Tonight saw three computer programmers up against a team from Sheffield, and it was quite intriguing because of some of the questions (which I got incidentally) - and the very first question was a music question too.

It was good to hear some classics in that round, and the final of the four clues was the iconic Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division (make that tune of the day) as well as Rip Her to Shreds by Blondie as the second clue - which I really like too. Add to that a bit of the Manic Street Preachers in the first one and you could tell that was my question straight off, which I got after the second clue - but wasn't of course saying no to hearing some of the Manchester classic naturally, it has to be said. And the 24 hour clocks converted to years connection was fiendish, but having known Only Connect started 2008 that did help me.

Another really intriguing question was in the second round: the blood group represented by most common, derived from letters in the NATO alphabet. Yes, it's that sort of scrambling of brains that we like always on Only Connect, that is for definite. I did get the rails question with the final one being monorail, and the key was having known that the tube runs on four rails (two outside and two inside) and then knowing some other services run three rails (Snowdon Mountain Railway) which was able to get me to work backwards. I must admit I did have a giggle as they scrambled to guess circle line (which technically does have two termini - Edgware Road and Hammersmith!)

After the connecting walls, the final missing vowels round really did have some excellent clues, especially the set of four that were 21st century words - I got all four including subprime, hashtag, furlough and covfefe (yes, that did get included!) Later on there were types of names and the type of artist which included of course Harry Houdini and escape artist. The team captain of the programmers was on an absolute roll during this round, and actually almost singlehandedly pulled back a ten point defecit here which was impressive stuff!

I must admit that part of me would love to go on the show (and yes, there is the part that would like to meet Victoria) but also because it's such good fun to rack the brains over difficult things and test the brain power a bit more too. Part of that is that I like to push myself in a fun element and if it means that I get to learn new things along the way, then that's good of course. I think too that you do need an outlet to take the mind off things after a day at work too, so there is that also. If you don't already watch it, then you know you should. You really should - you'll thank me for it.

Sunday 15th August - Sunday With Friends

It was nice to have had a good night's sleep last night, and Brian the cat broke his recent tradition of sleeping on the headboard and instead snuggled up to Mummy overnight, so he was all purring contentedly this morning, especially when The Love had showered and was getting herself ready to head out later - Brian just sits there, normally on the make up brushes, and is there by her side. It's quite lovely actually as he'll occasionally roll over a little bit and just ask for a tummy tickle, which he loves when given. I know, it's sweet isn't it?

I too headed into the shower and got myself ready for later on as we were meeting two friends for lunch and some drinks as well - a nice way to relax on a Sunday afternoon before I got the train home. We hadn't seen them for a while too, so it was good to set off, albeit though on a tram replacement bus. What was worse was that the bus was taking a route into the city centre bound to be busy with traffic, so we actually got off the bus and walked our way to the Northern Quarter, which was a more sensible thing to do, and we got there just about on time. I do hate being late!

All was well with our friends and they were happy to see us, and we had a lovely Sunday lunch in TNQ. I had the squid and whitebait to start, with The Love having a salad, and all was good there. I had the roast beef and she had the roast lamb, all good, and one of our friends had the roast beef and another went for the vegan option, which was quite a nice tagine dish and really did look quite colourful and full of flavour - we did mention a place nearby that was pretty good for vegan dishes, so that was nice, and conversation flowed about our respective holidays and how nice it all was.

After having a well earned sticky toffee pudding for dessert (because I can) it was then off from TNQ and round the corner to Fierce Beer for drinks - and we managed to get an inside table as we predicted it was going to rain (and it did for a while.) It was table service in there which was fine, and I was overjoyed to see the Cranachan Killer raspberry ale back on - needless to say I had that. Added to that Jesus and Mary Chain's awesome Reverence playing in the background (make that tune of the day) and all was well - and I even had some of the ace Mouse Mousse stout later too.

Time went by far too quickly to be honest and it was lovely seeing friends and it being very civilised and normal, which was good, and we walked back towards Port Street so our friends could head to their car and we walked back to Piccadilly Station so that The Love could get the tram replacement bus and me my train home. It was all over far too quickly, and as I gave The Love a kiss as I headed into the station to get the train, I realised how lucky I was to have such a kind and loving girlfriend.

Saturday 14th August - Withington Walls

It was a relatively on time and less hassle journey up to see The Love In My Heart last night, and I have to say it was really nice just to snuggle up to her and Brian the cat overnight. In fact Brian came to the door when we arrived back from the station and he did allow me to fuss over him and give him some strokes and cuddles, so he was definitely being nice. In fact, he got up this morning and was miaowing for Mummy to allow him some playtime outside, because he can. He was being utterly adorable doing so though.

We had a relaxed morning with some breakfast and James Martin on in the background, and I watched the first of the new season of Football Focus, with Alex Scott at the presenting helm now. Overall I thought that she did a very good job, and it was good having the likes of Dion Dublin and Micah Richards as the studio guests who would be able to be really nice and bounce conversation around too, so definitely a plus point all round. Of course, it was nice to see the feature on one of the Brentford fans and their win last night, especially the way said fan got a really nice greeting from the manager at the end of the game - that was so heartwarming.

After The Love's sisters had been round for a chat and catch up, we headed over to Withington in South Manchester as there had been a recent piece of artwork commemorating the late Anthony H Wilson, the founder of the legendary Factory Records, and felt it a good idea to go and see it for real. It was also handy becuase that meant I could see the other famous Withington Wall with the mural of Marcus Rashford on there too, so we killed two birds with one proverbial stone, and even had time to head into Wilderness Records too and have a good mooch at the vinyl too.

We then went to West Didsbury and of course it was a deserved stop at Wine and Wallop, where some really nice Titanic Brewery ale was on the cards for me, and we got a nice spot by the window as we relaxed together and out of the rain that was starting to hammer it down a fair bit. It was nice to chatter for ages, then we headed back home to feed Brian the cat, followed by a trip out to the local Chinese takeaway for tea. I had the chicken with mushrooms and egg fried rice, which was lovely, whilst The Love went for the roast pork in satay sauce, which was spicier than she thought it would be.

After that we decided to just relax with a little bit of telly and after The Love being fascinated with the documentary on Channel 5 about Princess Anne and her daughter Zara, it was then on for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire (theme tune of which is tune of the day). One of the questions which the contestant refused at £250,000 was a snooker one and I knew the answer, and would have got it right - but as The Love rightly says, the questions are only easy if you know them. Very true, that.

Friday 13th August - Vinyl Revival

Whilst working from home today I decided that with no meetings taking place and me having to get lots of data analysed, I needed some music in the background to work with in order for the task to appear less mundane and indeed to get things done well. So I thought about it and realised that it'd be nice to give some vinyl singles and albums a spin, especially as I'd spent some time last night sorting out some of the racks and moving the 10" singles to the second smaller storage unit where I had some space, allowing a bit more freedom for the 12" singles and LPs to flow.

So it was on with some nice Industrial sounds first of all, and some Front Line Assembly at that. I remember picking up a couple of their 12" singles one year in Power Cuts in Manchester (Wax Trax US import 12" singles at that) which meant I got the rather brutal and powerful Iceolate as one of them, and wow, that still kicks pretty hard as well as No Limit as well. Years later they'd sign to Roadrunner Records, more known for metal, and I of course had to play the 12" of the mighty fine Millennium single as well (in fact that one is tune of the day because it still rocks very hard indeed as well as the extended remix being a good remix too.)

I did head over to some LPs as well, so it was a mixture of all sorts to have a bit of variety. The first one to go on was Kaleidoscope by Siouxsie and the Banshees, which of course features the likes of Happy House on there, and that's a superb track especially with John McGeoch's guitar, so well worth checking out. You could see how the band's gothic feel was developing too, and as someone who could never be a proper goth but does wear black on occasion, it certainly is an album with more depth than you actually realise.

It was on next to Transvision Vamp's debut album Pop Art, again something which I seem to remember getting in Power Cuts sale cheap (and how I miss that shop). For me at least, their debut was often under-rated because of the attention all focussing on Wendy James, when in fact the song writing was being done by Nick Christian Sayer and he knew how to get the best out of the band (and Wendy) to produce some pop gems, and the opener to the album Trash City really does get things going ever so well. Yes, there's I Want Your Love and Revolution Baby too (the latter reissued when the band started to get popular) and even before the second album Velveteen with its almost ten minute long title track at the end.

And then on to a real classic, namely Gary Numan's The Pleasure Principle. Hard to believe that the album starts off with the instrumental Airlane (not many albums do that now, and Ultravox doing Astradyne on the Vienna album being the other notable of its time) and then some absolute classics: Metal, Films and M.E, the source of Basement Jaxx's Where's Your Head At of course, and it continues aplomb on side two as well with the likes of the long Conversation followed by the all time classic Cars.

Thursday 12th August - Decommision

It was off to the office today and it was pretty nice to have some good working air conditoning in the office, and it definitely was useful when the weather was a tad warm and muggy outside, it has to be said. I have to be honest that it was good as well having the additional benefit of quick network connectivity (not that the broadband is slow at home of course) so I could effectively get on with the main task in hand today which was the decommissioning of the MECM secondary site.

I had recommended a while ago that the secondary site wasn't needed really, as long as there were suitable backups of the main site server and database for any form of fallback required, and that the number of clients to be managed by it were way below a safe limit anyway, so made perfect sense. As it transpires there's a number of servers in one location being decommissioned anyway, so thought it wise to plan the change to get this removed. I had already in preparation removed the server from any boundary group references, and anything hitting that AD site would be managed by the main server boundary instead, so all good there.

It was then onwards with sorting out the removal of roles - so the distribution point content was all removed first followed by the distribution point role - always a safer way to remove the data and remove the point cleanly, and then next to de-advertise the management point and remove the role as well. Once all of that was carried out, it was then to hit the site itself, select delete followed in the next option by uninstall. This is always the safest way to do the removal because the uninstall when the site is online is always the cleanest too, and sure enough I could see uninstall progress in the GUI and in the logs on the server side.

Around an hour later, all was done. I uninstalled the MECM client from the server, notified the teams of a restart to come, and then once all done, it all looked good, so was able to advise one of the teams that it was ready to remove whenever they were needed to do so. In fact, I had already checked before removal that all clients were reporting into the main site or via the cloud management gateway, which they were as well which was good. And as an added bonus, it really did appear as if everything felt smooth and ran well too, so definitely for me a job very well done.

I headed via the side streets towards Charing Cross, as the likes of Leicester Square can be a tad busier, and headed to London Bridge, swapping over for the fast West Croydon train which meant I got a seat (little things, folks!) and before I knew it, it was on with the oven and hob and made myself a nice chicken katsu curry for tea, which was a nice way to relax and celebrate a job well done all round. I have to admit that it was good too to kick back and listen to the Lukhash album We Are Stardust, with the excellent opener Cyberiad Theory being tune of the day.

Wednesday 11th August - True, That

It was a day of being at home and working from home, but also an opportunity to be able to write a bit of documentation and have some well earned coffee whilst doing so. I couldn't help but notice too as the work was progressing today that I seemed to be popular for people to contact with a number of things to resolve. I take this as a compliment to be honest, primarily as I know I can quickly find out what's going on and suggest a few paths forward to be able to do so.

In fact, this afternoon one of my colleagues in our service team was going to rebuild one of the small Intel Nuc PCs that we use for the meeting rooms, and it needed doing so because it needed a fresh Windows 10 build (it was on an old version having been in storage during the lockdown phases of the current situation.) As it turned out, the IP helper for PXE in the building that the colleague was in was turned off, so I suggested heading back to the IT build room and build it there - and yes, it worked first go without any issues. It's good to be able to provide some pragmatic but sensible advice.

Anyway, something landed that I couldn't ignore today. Imagine if you will one of my favourite musicians who composes for a lot of gothic films, notably Tim Burton ones, as well as the theme from Weird Science of course, as well as someone who has for over thirty years help redefine Industrial music in its modern form. Then put them together in a really moody dark and uncomfortable piece of music complete with haunting piano, and what do you get. Absolute genius. Danny Elfman and Trent Reznor, take a bow, and definitely for me True is tune of the day - and possibly for a fair while of this year, without question. It just hits me in all the right places.

I also noted after the swimmer Adam Peaty had mentioned bringing back the iconic The Superstars series where sports people competed against one other in different sports to their own, how much there was mention of the likes of Brian Jacks especially, but also Brian Hooper, Malcolm McDonald, Keith Fielding and so on. In fact, the rower Helen Glover had already stated that she'd like to defend her 2012 title (the last time it was held i the UK) and had actually replied to one of my tweets stating as such.

But in all seriousness, definitely I'd like to see that back - and especially if enough people want to take part and make the event work. It could all be held in Manchester, and at a few sites close to the BBC Media City headquarters, plus of course you could have the cycling in Manchester Velodrome, make it iconic like the old days of the Ahoy Stadium in Rotterdam for European Superstars. Seriously, this needs to happen and I'd love to be able to see it so too.

Tuesday 10th August - A Pride of Lions

It was off to the office today, and as I headed out of Charing Cross and across Trafalgar Square towards the office, I did notice the fact that there was a massive set of reproduction prints of original artworks in special mounts that were being put up by the National Gallery - a sort of way of being able to bring the art to the public and put them on show. That was actually really nice to see and being so close to the National Portrait Gallery, I can imagine that being an added bonus for anyone who visits there.

What I did also notice at the far end of the square as I headed towards Haymarket and to the office was statue of a lion, and upon closer inspection, it turns out to be one of twenty seven such statues, all differently painted but in effect the same lion shape, as part of the Tusk Lion Trail, which is happening in a number of cities across the world, including London. In fact, when I got to the office, right outside on the pavement were another two, all freshly out for the day - and as I would find out, the first day they were available to view. The one near Trafalgar Square had John Cleese no less have a hand in it.

At lunch time and indeed when I left the office later, I couldn't help but notice that families and children had their maps with them and were walking around checking them off as they went, which reminded me of the likes of Bee in the City in Manchester as well as Gromit Unleashed in Bristol. Part of me would love to walk around and get them all with the camera, so maybe I might need to find a way to do that before the exhibition finishes. Certainly though parts of central London did seem busier - not sure if this was due to the tourists flocking in more but it certainly felt like it.

As the trains were a bit goosed heading from London Bridge to East Croydon and the ones that turned up were rammed, I was already on a train heading to Hayes (the one in Kent) but would stop at Elmers End. So I actually just stayed on that one and then picked up the tram at Elmers End back homewards. It did take a little longer but I got a seat (bonus) and less of a walk home when I got the tram too, so good to know I do have an alternative route home if I need one from the office. Ideally it's good to be able to react quickly and take advantage of transport if I can.

I did watch Celebrity Masterchef later and it was entertaining enough, the main surprise being that Bez of Happy Mondays fame was doing actually pretty well. In fact, I'm going to give their version of Step On tune of the day as Bez didn't twist melons, man, but he did make a carbonara the nice and proper way and got praise from the judges too, so good to see some passion in there. The Love In My Heart and I were debating if Duncan James from Blue had a facelift or not, and Su Pollard was her usual over the top self, but that's how she always is so no point toning it down...

Monday 9th August - Sorting Out Sheets

It was a work from home day today and I had plenty to do - so it was good to make sure I had some breakfast and also a nice strong coffee to set me right for the day ahead. Most of the day was in truth about investigating a couple of things, but also it was a case of writing off the machines that had now gone their own separate ways with the separations that had completed over the last week two - and they had been rebuilt for the company that took over the separated sections. In a way this did mean some nice bits of cleaning up, but was pretty glad to have got that done as it gives us a more true picture of what's out there.

I also did some investigation into an issue why a particular Excel spreadsheet was failing to open for certain members of staff. And I soon found out two main issues: the first being links to files which no longer exist or the user has no access too (not great) but worst of all, Formula names that had references to other non-existent spreadsheets not just within a shared drive, but within OneDrive, Sharepoint and other web links too. Clearly it had been inherited along the way and had been passed down a fair bit, but clearly to me that some work needed doing.

Once I had removed the formula names and references, the spreadsheet reduced size by over 40% in file bytes size (yes, really) and also seemed to open a lot quicker because the references were no longer there either. That was a good bit of work done and I plan to look at sorting out anything else tomorrow before feeding back to the member of staff concerned. Clearly to me at least it goes to show that sometimes you need a different perspective to see what the problem might be - and it's not necessarily anyone's fault per se, just an accumulation over time to unpick.

I did also get all the recycling sorted later and had an arrival of a package too - a new Jack Wolfskin short sleeved shirt to go alongside the existing navy and green ones I have - this one is blue and orange check and actually works really well. I was able to source this from the same online shop as the green one for a mere £16.72 plus postage, and that's not too bad at all. They wash well, they wear well and they last, so a definite good reason to get one to be perfectly honest. I think too that they've also proven comfortable when out on my longer walks, so another good reason.

I watched Only Connect (the theme tune of which is tune of the day) and the usual rock hard questions and the fab wit of Victoria Coren Mitchell too. I must admit I do love the missing vowels round and that does appeal to my semi-logical nature especially. One of teams even called themselves the Muppets (I assume after the classic family TV show and not the Northern slang word) - and Victoria even had some red tinted glasses on tonight to match her red outfit. Not sure if it's something she'll wear for the remainder of the series, but nonetheless interesting...

Sunday 8th August - Wonderful Westerham and Chartwell

I decided today that it'd be a good day to visit Chartwell, the former home of Sir Winston Churchill nonetheless, and also to head around Westerham and to the brewery in particular, which is always a nice walk to through a rural path and indeed to be able to have some nice beers there as a reward for that walk. I also knew that the 246 bus to Westerham does extend to Chartwell on a Sunday, which is a really sensible move by TfL (although why that can't be all week long, I don't know.) Anyway, I had some breakfast and then with my walking shoes on (as it had been raining a fair bit but also so I had good grip for any paths) it was off to the bus stop to get the two buses I'd need.

The journey on the 119 first of all was a bit of an adventure as the driver was unsure about the diversion in West Wickham and almost went the wrong way, and had to radio in to the depot for guidance. Thankfully that was all sorted and I got to Coney Hall in good time for the 246 which takes you via Keston, Biggin Hill airport and then Biggin Hill before descending down the hills, over the M25 and into Westerham and its lovely central green, before then following the road out of the town and to the car park for Chartwell - some really difficult bends for the bus as well to be fair!

Once there, I got my ticket and normally it's gardens and woodland, and a timed ticket for the house. Knowing I had some time before I could enter the house, it made sense to head uphill and explore the woodland. This included the Donkey Jack's Caravan, a replica of one there which Churchill allowed a woman made homeless to live in and call home. There was also the tree house built for the children to play in and the dormouse dens as well, and a really nice woodland walk it proved to be, with some lovely views over the wealds and plenty of scenery along the way. I really enjoyed that, and good to see families doing the walk too.

It was time to enter the house and the timed ticket meant that not too many were in the house - and photography was allowed without flash. All the guides in each room were lovely and explained how much they wanted to keep it as it was, a home from home for Churchill, but also a place where he could work if need be, without the need for all today's technology. I loved the library with its ladder for the high shelves of books and its writing desk, and Lady Chuchill's bedroom with its four poster bed (and a writing desk too) - and the huge dining room with its views everywhere - that was lovely. It felt nice too.

The house all explored, you exited to the gardens, and they were really nice as well - the rose gardens were spectacular with the Marlborough Pavillion, and the Garden Rose Avenue was where you'd find chickens and also the Marycot - a little play house for the daughter Mary to play. The studio at the far end of the gardens was where Churchill painted, and lots of the paintings were on display inside. It really did feel like a home where you could live and escape the world around you - perfect to unwind and to feel like a family, and so glad it's all been kept that way too.

Everything was all good for the 246 back to Westerham - and from the green I went past the church and the Darent Car Park and along the walk via several fields, which takes you past fields of corn and along to Beggar's Lane, and across there was the Westerham Brewery. Their bar inside was open, you checked in and they showed you to a table (as it had been raining, there was some space free, on a warm day you are best to reserve one) and all their food and drink ordering was recommended to use their app (but they had other options if you didn't have the tech.) It was a lovely space inside and the tanks of two of their beers were above the bar, with a big screen showing a documentary on BBC iPlayer also.

Anyway, the app was a doddle, and for the food the brewery teams up with local street food type sellers to provide food, instead of them having a kitchen. It made sense, and today you could have moules marinere, but also what I had - some gorgeous meatballs in tomato sauce, and some skin on chips to go with that. I ordered that and the Summer Perle ale, which was lovely and light, and sat and admired the place - it was lovely. In fact you could order the beer in thirds, two thirds or a pint, and the thirds meant you could have a flight of three which was nice. I did go for a two thirds of the Nitro Stout later, and that was gorgeous it has to be said.

I walked back to Westerham feeling rather good, and across the fields and back to the green, all in good time to get the 246 then the 119 back home, which actually took 50 minutes in total, so good stuff really. I'd had a lovely day out and I'm sure that The Love In My Heart would have enjoyed it if she were here too. As for tune of the day I had noted earlier today that one of the rhythmic gymnastics teams were using the theme from The Onedin Line as part of their routine, which was a cracking choice, and I loved that theme when I was little (and still do today) so there you go!

Saturday 7th August - After The Storm

I was planning a potential walk today, but when I saw the weather this morning, and how this carried on during the morning, I decided against it and that I'd go and visit some record shops locally later on when the weather eased off. I was just pleased that I had had a good night's sleep, especially with all the continued work outside going into the late night sorting the drainage out. I got myself showered and ready and settled in for the morning to watch the Olympics from Tokyo with the second to last day of coverage after an exhausting women's marathon that was on late last night.

It was a pretty good day for gold medals for Team GB with another two of them being earned, with the boxing producing its first gold through Galal Yafai's superb performance, especially knocking down his opponent in the first round. Then I noted that the modern pentathlon coverage was on red button after the fencing bonus round, and it was then on with the equestrian event. It was of course the random draw of the horse and then getting to know it that proves their level of control, and the British hope Joe Choong had two fences down for 14 faults, but his score of 286 kept him in front. Some really did have nightmare rounds to be fair.

The laser run of the shooting and running (a la biathlon) is a proper test, and unlike biathlon, you stay there til you hit all five targets with the laser pistol. Joe Choong had one bad shooting round which allowed some to close up, but he was keeping something in the reserve tank clearly. The Egyptian athlete Ahmed Elgendy who had started 13th aced the shooting and had a superb run, and was level with Choong at the start of the final lap. However, Choong's holding back on the run proved crucial as he sprinted for the line on the final little climb and from that point never looked back - deserved win and the first time in modern pentathlon Olympic history the same nation had won the men's and women's events.

The athletics ultimately had one final surprise but well deserved medal too, with a superb bronze for Josh Kerr in the 1500 metres, running the second fastest British time ever (only Mo Farah has run faster) and paced his run superbly to keep in touch with the leaders and almost was able to catch the Kenyan athlete Timothy Cheruiyot for silver, but not quite. That was a medal I didn't expect, and it goes to show that it's often been the surprise medals that have shown people raising their game. Unfortunately it ultimaely did mean we ended up with no gold medals at the athletics, first time that's happened since 1996.

As the weather had dried later, I decided to head out and do a little bit of record shopping - first off to 101 Records not far from me - where a decent selection all round was there, but nothing jumped out at me to necessarily buy. I also then headed on the train from West Croydon station and off to West Norwood to have a look in the Book and Record Bar - again, nothing doing but it was nice to be able to see the stock in - and there was plenty of it too. Lots of good vibes of music playing in both shops, and I did see some 12" singles I already had, such as Cabaret Voltaire's excellent I Want You - so definitely tune of the day for me that one.

As the weather was still dry, I took the train from West Norwood along the line to Wandsworth Common (all the W stations today) and off to Belleville Brewing, where a seat outside their taproom and a rather nice Sunshine (micro IPA) was mine to be had - it was really nice actually and the vibe was good. I did also head to Lidl on the way home and got four beers from their craft beer festival in the middle of Lidl specials - two from Drygate: Hoppi Polla and Seven Peaks, the PL from 71 Brewing (a lemon and hibscus sour!) and Jute from Salt (which I've had before from Tesco and is nice) so all good to stock up there. The less said about the Community Shield performance and result for Man City though, the better...

Friday 6th August - Success

I had a number of successes at work today which were almost as good as some of the Olympic ones that were happening out in Tokyo, but more on that one later. So, first of all, I was carrying out some further investigation into an issue with our inventory system that I've noted since we upgraded it a while back - in that the correct Lenovo model, collected by WMI and stored as a registry value on the machine for the inventory to pick up, was being picked up in the back end database fine, but didn't always translate to the front end correctly (when in fact it did every other time pre-upgrade.)

Having had a few conversations with the vendor in a support call, they've confirmed to me what I suspected - a change to the update job that runs which updates the front end somehow isn't performing as it should. In fact, I was able to prove over yesterday and today that what appears to be happening is that although the machines report in fine, for some reason if any data is in one of the database tables, and not showing a recent date, it's removing the data prior to being imported in the front end, and then, the next day around, as it doesn't see anything, reinstating that data. This means if a machine reports in daily, as most do, it flip flops between the two, and was able to show that.

Naturally, the easiest solution I can see would be to in effect revert the stored procedure as part of the update job back to the version that worked, or indeed, revert back the whole version if other changes mean that the change in itself wouldn't be necessary. It does make me wonder though how much testing had actually gone on and whether the vendor actually takes some of the complaints seriously - in fact, another customer has reported the same thing so picked up as a problem case anyway. Fingers crossed, but I'm sort of pleased that it's nothing that we've done at our end and that it's down to them now - which is reassuring.

During lunch time was a good time to catch up on some Olympic action, and having seen Laura Kenny and Katie Archibald having totally dominated the women's madison cycling event in the morning and smash it by a massive degree, it was over to the modern pentathlon where Kate French was fifth after three events going into the combined laser run, running and shooting. The points gained determine how far behind you start, and she was 15 seconds down to begin with. But wow, some excellent running and accurate shooting later, and by the start of the last lap she was out on her own and won by 15 seconds to take a surprise but richly merited gold medal!

Over on the athletics track, a mere two medals for Team GB wasn't great, but hopefully today a little better. Laura Muir went in the 1500 metres with a decent chance of a medal, and actually did beat Sifan Hassan well to claim a deserved silver and break the British record at the same time - impressive stuff. Of course, Faith Kipyegon was superb for Kenya to win, but nice to see her and Laura share the lap of honour after and seemed to be happily chatting too. It meant a lot for Laura after so many near misses (similar to Holly Bradshaw's bronze in the pole vault) so all good there.

The 4 x 100 metre relays were last up and despite a botched first change the British team did well enough for bronze behind Jamiaca and the USA - if only the perfect run they'd had in the semis could be replicated, but still good. Heartbreaking for the men though as they missed out on gold to Italy by 0.01 seconds, but an excellent run and silver from the quartet nonetheless and they got the baton round cleanly, something the USA men didn't do with botched changes in the semis and missed the final completely. With guaranteed two silvers in the boxing that might be golds, added to bronze for Jack Carlin in the men's cycling sprint, not a bad day all told really. Alphaville's classic Big in Japan has been in my head most of these two weeks, so obviously tune of the day - because it is a classic.

Thursday 5th August - Sunshine Before the Rain

It looked to be a reasonably sunny morning as I left home a little later than normal and headed off to East Croydon station. I had worked out that the trains the way that they are meant that most likely the 0746 train would be very busy, but the one after (0751) to London Bridge in theory should be quieter. That theory proved correct, with the departure boards for the first train stating it was potential standing room only - so wise. In fact it was a nice switcheroo at London Bridge for Charing Cross, and off to the office for another busy day of work ahead of me.

In fact, it was nice to be able to get plenty done, and with some nice aircon keeping me all the right side of refreshed. It was good to have the opportunity to get plenty of testing sorted before rolling out an uninstallation deployment of some software we had been using in a test, and that appeared to go very well (as did the removal I should add too.) The good thing is that I was able to create a query based collection so only those machines who do have the software should actually be a member, and so far, so good.

I was also able to note down and explain the double update scenario for those users on Windows 10 2004 upwards - so if you don't have the May cumulative update, you need to have that first, then you can have ones after that. I had actually had to reinstate the May update the other day and then catch those machines which needed it, so got those numbers down well and they're now almost all on the latest July update too. Keeping things securely up to date is a positive for sure, so it's good that we are in a good place.

I did manage to get back from Pret mid-afternoon before it started to chuck it down with rain, and that rain stayed there for most of the day. I hadn't brought a jacket along as I thought it was going to be dry, but instead had a different plan - so got the 453 bus from right near the office to Elephant and Castle, then took the 468 from there all the way home. It did take longer of course but it did mean I'd keep out of the rain, and indeed was able to get back cheaper too as the hopper fare kicked in, so £1.55 for me. Happy days.

I had some nice tea later and had a good chatter with The Love In My Heart - who sent me a picture of Brian the cat all sat on the top of the sofa, perched there happily. He's gone back to being his creature of habit and resting on top of the headboard on the bed too, which is something worthy of note. I do think that on occasion he tends to swap things around but at the same time be very clingy where his Mummy is concerned, which is sort of nice. In the meantime, Squeeze's classic Cool For Cats seems somewhat appropriate and is therefore tune of the day.

Wednesday 4th August - The Thin Line

It was a bit warmer at home today and I certainly felt the warmer air inside, especially during the afternoon when the sun comes over the side of the block of flats. I must admit that part of me does want to treat myself to one of those über air coolers from some manufacturers, but wondered whether in fact if being in the office more with lovely aircon might be a better option instead. We shall see. In any case, I was able to get everything set up ready to go this morning and check in with progress of a number of machines that needed the May update, and they worked. It's now done around a third of the machines needed. Nice!

I also spent some time as well checking over a few things with a colleague to see if we could effectively remove a former piece of software from a couple of machines. As it turned out we already had a working script to do so, and as the machine was enrolled in JAMF Pro for Mac, I could simply add the machine to the scope and let it do its magic. And it certainly did that, which was pretty good. The key is that of course the commands have to run as the root user, which JAMF allows to run as, so that does mean you've effectively got things working the right way, which is what we want.

I stopped for lunch and it was perfect timing to see the two ends of the Olympic Games spectrum - on the one hand, seeing Ben Maher have to go last in the show jumping and pull of a clear round to go into a six person jump off was one thing - and then the fact that he had to go fourth in the jump off, and pull off another clear round was mental. In fact he was 0.17 seconds in front after a scintillating fast round, and importantly, clear. With two left he was of course guaranteed a medal and as the other two riders afterwards went quick but not quick enough, another gold for Team GB after a sailing gold earlier (and added to Sky Brown's fab bronze in the skateboarding.)

On the other end was the heartbreak in the heptathlon for Katarina Johnson-Thompson. I'm half thinking if she is cursed in some way. Clearly she performed superbly in the hurdles and did have some strapping on the left leg which affected the high jump, and even with a decent shot put she was down to fifth. The final event of the 200 metres started well enough, but then a calf tear in the right leg put paid to everything - and even though she hobbled to the line, she'd be disqualified for a lane infringment. It was truly awful to see, and shows just how on the limit being close to injury a lot of athletes are, especially in the multi-discipline events.

It shows just how thin the line is between success and heartbreak, and it's why sport can be so inspiring both ways really. You can of course try as hard as you can and those that do will be rewarded, even if you make it there, that has to be something too. I think as well that for a lot of people, seeing the British team do pretty well is a boost of confidence that we all need - and if that inspires someone to get out there and do sport, that's got to be good hasn't it? As for tune of the day the old version of A Musical Joke by Mozart that the BBC arranged for the show jumping theme as was is it, and of course Raymond Brooks-Ward on commentary. Those were the days!

Tuesday 3rd August - May I Update?

Back to the office today after an extended weekend, and to be perfectly honest, I function much better when in the office than I do at home, so much so that I'm weighing up whether I increase the number of days per week that I am in from two to possibly three, we shall see. Although the trains are getting busier, no doubt about that, it does seem that a more hybrid way of working for most seems to be the way. I was also pleased to note that at least on busier commuter routes such as mine, the compliance for wearing a face covering (even though it's now a personal choice on Thameslink, Southern and Southeastern) seems to be between 80% and 90% - which does give some reassurance.

In the office I spent time checking over a couple of things to do with updates. So, it looks like Microsoft have reissued the in-place upgrades to Windows 10 20H2 and 21H1 so that the new binaries included actually include version 1052 (effectively the June 2021 update included.) I think this was primarily because of the fact that if you did upgrade and no updates were added, you may be at an update before May 2021 - and you then have to install that one first before the latest cumulative, which seems pretty daft to me and does break the Microsoft promise that only one cumulative was ever needed.

It's also meant that I've had to go through the fun and games of reinstating the May update for MECM, and on top of that ensuring that the expiry of that update is set longer (6 months instead of say 3 for supersedence) - this way I can deploy out to 2004, 20H2 and some 21H1 machines where they don't have at least version 985 (which is the May update) - and then once they get that, they can then go for the latest cumulative no problem. It took some time to do all that but it looks like it'll play nicely, as I could see some machines now downloading that update ready for install.

Incidentally, the in-place upgrade as was previous was version 631 (November 2020) and would normally apply the latest updates online. But, if you've delivered the setup package via MECM software updates, and at the point of install (because the source files are all locally there) and if not online, it stays at that version when installed, so without reinstating the May update, no can do! Odd I know, but there you go. Nice to see though that the action taken should resolve it, and Microsoft themselves even admitted it was an issue and how to work with it.

I arrived home later on having made a diversion via Pret to Charing Cross to get a cool drink, and indeed to get some test kits in the Boots in Charing Cross also, and at London Bridge got a much quieter Southern train to West Croydon. It was good to catch up with the Olympic action and see how well our sailing team was doing - rather well as it happens with an on the line finish for one of the golds. Made me think of Rod Stewart's Sailing song (tune of the day) as that's also the source for many a football chant too, especially with the new season just around the corner.

Monday 2nd August - Southern Daysave Adventure

After the train of pain last night, maybe it was a bit daft I'd be heading out on the rails again - but generally during the week the trains tend to be more reliable (famous last words) and I did want to do something nice on the extra day off that work had granted everyone. So on Friday, I got myself a Southern Daysave for today. So what's one of those then? It's an off peak all day ticket you can use on the Southern rail network (so no Thameslink trains folks) - and during the week this is after 10am, with some exceptions about some station departures between 1600 to 1900, but at weekend, off peak is all day. Southern don't actually advertise it that well and you do have to rummage to find it, but well worth checking out for £21 for an adult.

Off I headed to East Croydon and nipped into Pret for a bacon roll and a coffee (the coffee of course being part of my monthly subscription thing) so all set for the first train of the day, the 1011 to Eastbourne and Ore. The train divides at Eastbourne, so made sure I was in the rear four carriages which would then go onwards to Hastings and Ore. It was as ever a nice air conditioned journey, and you can see Plumpton racecourse from the station platforms too. In fact close to Cooden Beach you get to see the sea, and that carries on for a while until close to St Leonards before arriving in Hastings, so generally a nice trip to make - and on time too. Win!

Once at Hastings I headed down towards the pier, and I knew that the Wow and Flutter record shop was closed on Mondays (or else I'd have been in there!) so was a nice walk down the pier, and I noticed the massive set of benches for the beer garden at the end of the pier. It was a little too early, but noted how it all worked and thought it sensible to be back later on. I then walked down the seafront and towards the old town, and stopped off of course at the crazy golf. In fact the owners of the three courses do a deal where you can play all the courses all day and have fish and chips too for a really good price, so if you're a fan, well worth doing that!

In the end I just stuck to the classic crazy golf course, the one that the World Championship is played on. I did okay in the first nine, scoring 24 strokes, but was better on the back nine, especially from hole 15 onwards, as I scored three holes in one in the last four holes, championing my inner Marc Chapman (look him up) as I did so, so scored 18 on the front nine, and that meant 42 in all. Not bad, but need to see if I can do better next time - think the course record is something like 28 or 29. I then headed off to one of the better takeaways and got myself a jumbo sausage and chips for lunch.

It was then an explore of the old town with its lovely little shops and along to an amusement arcade, which had two pinball machines. Wow! I simply had to play one and although Ghostbusters appeared to be working, it wasn't accepting coins. The Star Wars one was and it was immensely good fun, so much so that I got a replay score meaning an extra free credit, so two games for the price of one. I then walked back to the pier and had a really nice pint of the Mangolicious pale ale, and sat admiring the view over the sea from the end of the pier. I really loved it and just wished that The Love In My Heart was with me - maybe we'll have to go when she's next here?

Anyway, I walked down the seafront to the West this time and arrived in St Leonards, which was nice, especially the rows of independent shops walking up hill from the seafront and to St Leonards Warrior Square station. In fact I had timed things better than I expected - I got the train back to Hampden Park outside Eastbourne and swapped platforms there for the train to Lewes, and then had a few minutes there to swap for the train to Seaford. I'd never ridden that branch line and had looked at the walk along the sea front in Seaford too, so on the class 313 coastway train past Newhaven Town for the Dieppe ferries, and then along to Seaford itself.

Seaford was a nice little town actually, lots of independent little shops and cafés and certainly did feel nice. The seafront itself was pretty quiet but did have some beach huts for people to rent and admire the sea view and pebbly beach, and I walked first past the Morello Tower to Splash Point, and admired the white cliffs - I didn't fancy a cliff top walk, so went instead along the promenade for a couple of miles, stopped off for coffee at the boating club at the far end, sitting down to admire the sea. It was a nice quiet walk and really did make me appreciate that calm serenity of it all - not a resort as such but somewhere you'd take a picnic to and hire out a beach hut to spend a day by the sea.

The two miles had effectively taken me to Bishopstone station, which had two entrances as I found out later, the one I came up from off the road from the sea, and another in a octagonal tower and footbridge over what was an old second platform (the steps to that were fenced off) and supposedly an Art Deco building. It did look a bit unloved and the ghost platform especially, but all was good train wise and departed for the train to Brighton via Lewes, with me passing Falmer and Brighton and Hove Albion's ground there too, then over the viaduct after London Road (Brighton) station into the centre of Brighton itself.

I walked down to the seafront (remembering just how far the station actually is from the seafront of course) and then over past the pier to the Pirate Crazy Golf course that's been built near there. It's 18 good holes and all nicely themed with the likes of the film music to Pirates of the Caribbean playing in the background. In fact it worked out well as a group of 5 allowed me to go ahead, and overall I played pretty well, scoring 22 on the back nine and then 19 on the front nine (eight twos and a three) - and although no holes in one, a total score of 41 was a pretty good effort I think. I enjoyed that a lot actually.

It was then back via the shops and onwards to a local pub to have some well earned food and a drink for tea, and that set me up nicely to walk back up the hill towards Brighton station, heading out on the Southern train back in its red Gatwick Express livery back to East Croydon, which only stops at Haywards Heath and Gatwick Airport along the way, so took a mere 44 minutes to head back which was decent. It had been a good day all round and a real railway adventure, taking in a branch line and town I hadn't been to before, falling in love with Hastings again and indulging in some crazy golf too - and well why not? Tune of the day is the ace Two Minutes By Train by The Caretaker Race, which I had in my head as I had my railway adventure.

Sunday 1st August - Train of Pain

The Love In My Heart had a well deserved lie in as I spent the morning watching some of the Olympics action from Tokyo. It was a very exciting end to the golf - not for the gold medal as it turned out, but actually for bronze. Seven players tied and so they all had to take part in a play off, and this would start at the 18th then use the 10th, 11th and then the 18th again until a winner was found. Two of them fell foul at the 18th first time round including Paul Casey of Great Britain, another three including Rory McIlroy came a cropper at the 11th, so it was left to CT Pan of Taiwan (not this Chinese Taipei rubbish, IOC, Taiwan is a proper country!) and Collin Morakawa, the Open champion, who hit his second shot into a deep bunker on the 18th. Pan was sensible as in the rough, laid up to the left, and then had two shots to win bronze, which was well deserved.

After getting up and sorting out Brian the cat, the two of us rested up and watched some more Olympics action from the athletics, and I was engrossed with the high jump final. In fact, it was down to Barshim of Qatar and Tamberi of Italy, who had both done perfect first go attempts at all their jumps before failing to clear the next height. The organisers wanted a jump off to decide, but Barshim had asked if in fact there could be two gold meals, and both athletes agreed to share the win - the right and sporting decision and a really respectful thing to do. That wasn't Italy's only gold either as minutes later Marcell Jacobs took a well deserved win in the blue riband 100 metres event.

Later on we decided to head out for a late lunch and so went to the Lloyds in Chorlton. Even though to be on the safe side I had booked a table, in hindsight I didn't need to. The Love and I had a lovely lunch with her having the Sunday roast gammon with all the trimmings and some cauliflower cheese too, which looked very plentiful. In fact she gave me the broccoli as I could then have some extra vegetables with my steak and ale pie, which was very lovely indeed. I even had a nice pint of the JW Lees stout later on as we both chilled out and saw some more of the Olympics whilst chatting too - it was all very nice. Some good 80s tunes on too including A-Ha's Take On Me, which is tune of the day.

I fussed over Brian the cat a bit later and fed him some Dreamies which made him very happy, and then it was off to Manchester Piccadilly to get the train to Doncaster and onwards to Kings Cross. The train was in at Manchester Piccadilly and got myself all sorted as I headed through the Peak District over to Sheffield. As the train was coming in to Doncaster I saw that the train had a running departures board and I couldn't see the one I was after for Kings Cross - which was a bit concerning, I was wondering if it was cancelled or whether I needed to get another train.

Anyway, it transpired that due to a Crosscountry train breaking down near Chathill, other trains including mine were stuck behind it. The train got into Doncaster an hour late (meh) and lost some more time around Retford and Newark, meaning that when I got to Kings Cross I was over 75 minutes late. Delay Repay for the full £15 fare kicked in, but not the point really - just annoying that the breakdown was somewhere where it'd be stuck behind. I managed to get to St Pancras and on the train to East Croydon, but it was fairly late when I got home and got to bed - third week on the trot on a Sunday I've had train pains..