Dear Diary... December 2018

Monday 31st December – End of the Year

The Love In My Heart was at work today so it was left to me and Brian the cat to get up a little later, and then for me to head off for a morning walk around the local park – it was good to be out and active and indeed to keep nice and fit where possible. I would be doing some walking later of course as I would be heading off into the city centre on the bus and then heading on the bus to the Trafford Centre. I decided on the express X50 bus and this was a good move – it’s on a diversionary route for a long while because of tram works, but seemed to be a really quick way to get there anyway.

I had a good look around a few of the shops before heading into HMV, and to be honest, pretty much everything I wanted to get was in stock at this one, plus a couple of extras I hadn’t thought about before, so I ended up getting two Blu-Ray discs that were on my list – Big Hero 6 and Coco, so more Pixar animated joy in the latter for me, and they both had an extra 20% off as well so all good there, two Queen back catalogue CDs, Suede’s recent album The Blue Hour and the solo album by Juanita Stein (from Howling Bells) as well, so nice to stock up on all of that and not pay a single penny either, and would have been more than satisfied with those as presents anyway!

In fact I only had one of the three gift cards left and this had just over £5 on, so back in Manchester HMV I picked up a David Bowie back catalogue CD I didn’t have to complete the set, and that meant all the gift cards were used and so was able to ensure that happened before any acceptance didn’t happen anymore. I didn’t want to chance it, although I have to say both stores were really busy anyway and people were buying music and films, so not sure where this supposed slump has come from – maybe because of the fact that these days a lot of fans buy from the artist’s website directly (more so if they’ve pledged for stuff as I do) as they feel it’s better more money going to them. That said though, I did ensure in both that She Makes War’s album was prominent in the S section – if you haven’t bought that yet, you really should.

Later on when The Love In My Heart returned from work, we had a nice quiet evening in, first of all watching some of the soaps and then later on putting in Oceans 8 on DVD. It was quite enjoyable actually, with plenty of good roles played by the likes of Cate Blanchett and Sandra Bullock, but also a good supporting cast including Helena Bonham-Carter, Anne Hathaway and perhaps most surprisingly of all, Rihanna. It was all good fun and definitely well worth a watch if you get chance to do so. That set us up nicely for later and it was a case of going between Jools Holland’s Hootennany and Madness at the Westminster Central Hall.

In fact, Jools won hands down really – the variety of music is normally better anyway but the fact that Michael Bublé was there and in person perked up The Love a lot, and so she was able to smile a lot when listening to him belt out versions of the likes of When You’re Smiling (so make that tune of the day) – and the usual crowd were in the audience, and with Ruby Turner belting out her vocals as well. In fact the time sped by and before we knew it the clock was counting down to midnight, we had the prosecco out and were ready to celebrate with a hug and a kiss to see in the new year, another nice new year spent together too.

Sunday 30th December – Betwixmas

It was nice to have a relaxing Sunday morning indoors with a nice breakfast from The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat being all cute and lovely, and resting up nicely on the pouffle as he usually does. We were heading out later to meet some friends for lunch and have a well earned meal out together to swap Christmas presents and have our own little get together, what our friend calls “betwixmas” as it’s that part of the festive period between Christmas and New Year, which is always nice to relatively take things easy and relax wherever possible of course.

I set off earlier than The Love later as I was heading into HMV to see if I could use up the rest of my gift card. Normally I would be saving them up for any new release albums in the New Year but with the current uncertainties surrounding the retailer, I thought it best to follow the advice of their own staff and get them used up. Not of course that I could see anything in the Manchester one that I actually really was after, so thought I might head out to either Stockport or the Trafford Centre tomorrow and see how that would all work out. I have some ideas from my lists I wouldn’t mind, including some back catalogue CDs but also a couple of new releases, and some films on Blu-Ray, but we shall see.

I then met up with The Love at the tram stop and we headed to the Northern Quarter and to 57 Thomas Street for a well earned nice pint of the Manchester Marble Bitter, with our friends already there. It was good to catch up and natter and the vibe was nice and relatively quiet, so was good to be able to chatter away without too much background noise, always a good thing. In fact our friends had booked a trip to Budapest in the next few months as it was another one off their list that they wanted to go and visit – mind you, it’s easier when it’s more affordable to a degree too.

It was then to Yard and Coop for lunch, a place neither The Love or I had been before. Surprisingly it was pretty good all round, with the emphasis on chicken (and lots of it). The Love had the chicken wrap which looked nice and with plenty of fries, and one of our friends had the Massive Cock burger, which was stacked up huge with all sorts and looked massively hefty (no way would I have ordered that). I went for the Dirty Bird, which was boneless chicken thighs with their signature buttermilk coating, and then with three different sauces, melted cheese and fries. It was very nice all round I have to say, and the staff were all lovely too.

We swapped presents during this time and our friends liked the presents that they got us, and had got The Love a nice little gift set which looked fab, as well as a little pub quiz game for me. And they’d also got us two tour vouchers for the Black Sheep Brewery tour, perfect for when we go to Masham in February – and that’ll be well used then I can tell you. We were pretty chuffed all round, and conversation carried on nicely and chilled out in Terrace opposite later, with their Bread and Butter ale being a nice solid session beer. In fact the music being played was pretty laid back, including The Rolling Stones’ brilliant “Gimme Shelter”, so that’s tune of the day for me for definite.

Later on back at The Love’s place we sorted out Brian the cat with his tea and later on watched the fourth heat of World’s Strongest Man (it was pretty tight all round, but was gutted for Mark Felix at the end as he lost out on the atlas stones.) We also saw a thing on Channel 5 later with the 20 top chocoloate things, including the majority of bars that I thought being near the top, so the likes of Wispa, Fruit and Nut, Galaxy and of course Dairy Milk being right up there. It was hilarious to see some of the celebrities chat about it including Hacker the Dog from CBBC (his usual Wigan humour was there) and Jenny Powell describing all her different ways she would eat a crème egg!

Saturday 29th December – About Time

The Love In My Heart and myself woke up and had Brian the cat wanting his usual fuss and love, and of course his usual amount of Dreamies. We had some breakfast and we spent the morning in watching James Martin on ITV compete with Merlin from First Dates making some rather nice New Years’ Eve drinks which you could do at home. Most people won’t know that he actually runs a pub as his day job and that being on that show is a side job for him – but you can imagine that if you know the pub he does work at, you’d go because you know you’d feel looked after!

We headed to The Love’s father’s place, where he seemed to be all well and we were sorting out all the extra food that he had got over Christmas, and made sure all was good there. In fact he was watching the Glasgow derby and we arrived in time to see Rangers’ only goal of the game, which was well made and taken. We also had The Love’s sister pop over as well and so had a quick catch up there. I was then off in The Love’s car and onwards to Cheadle to have a mooch in the sale at John Lewis and Partners (as it’s now called these days).

It was absolutely packed: the car park was very busy and we ended up getting a spot in the Sainsburys side which was much less full, and then walked through there to check some of the reductions in their sale before then heading into John Lewis. Unsurprisingly it was very busy and a lot of the sale stock was being snapped up pretty quickly. One annoying thing though (and this happens even when there is no sale on) – half the price tickets are never there and so you can never work out the cost properly either. Still, it was good that we were able to have a nice walk around, and later on it was a stop via Tesco to get some food shopping and a meal for tonight.

We rested back at The Love’s place later and we watched the likes of Celebrity Mastermind and Pointless Celebrities as well as World’s Strongest Man whilst having some tea together – she had got the really nice gammon which just melted off the bone gorgeously, along with some dauphinoise potatoes as well, delicious. It was just nice to take things relatively easy and to then have a nice little raspberry and lemon tart for dessert, gorgeous that was. Brian the cat was all being so well behaved so he took it easy and chilled out on the pouffle.

We watched the film About Time on Netflix later – it was something that The Love had recommended, and I actually found it very enjoyable, primarily because of the settings being partially in Cornwall as well as London, and also the fact that the acting was really good. The plot was sensible enough, and in fact Rachel McAdams looked quite charming as the love interest, very understated and pretty. Of course casting Bill Nighy as the father was an inspired move, even more so that in a key scene the really good “Into My Arms” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds was played (make that tune of the day) too. It was a nice cosy film and had some feelgood factor too – well worth a watch if you get time.

Friday 28th December – A Friendly Lunch

It was another day of The Love In My Heart at work, and a day where I had already arranged with one of my friends to meet up for lunch – it’s something we’ve done for a while now as we both used to work together and we’ve always got on well. I think it’s because we share the same sense of humour but also because we’ve got different experiences to talk about too. In any case, it’s always nice to spend some quality time like that, and so it was good this morning just to fuss over Brian the cat and make sure he had plenty of water and some Dreamies too.

Later on it was off on the tram first to the city centre and then changing trams there and heading to Sale tram stop, and the bus I needed to my friend’s place stopped right by there so it was nice and easy to swap over. I knew the bus times well so that meant I was able to time it all and get on the bus to my friend’s, which was relatively empty. I was soon at my friend’s place and it was good to see her, and she was showing me pictures of her birthday do which The Love and I went to in early July. It was good that so many had come and was having a good time too.

We then walked down to the Samuel Brooks pub, primarily because I knew that some decent ale would be on and they normally did decent deals on the food too. I had the salsa red ale which was very red and a nice dark red at that, so all was good there. My friend had some passion fruit cider and we ordered food too – I had the fish and chips (well, it is Friday) and my friend went for the stilton and mushroom topped chicken with baked potato – which to be fair actually looked very nice too. And with two meals for £12, can’t argue with that whatsoever, it was very nice and relaxed all round.

We caught up on plenty, as my friend still works where I used to, so was interesting to see how things were going and all the changes that had been made – especially with a sense of attempting to achieve more for less, but not realising that the likes of having to backfill some resources with contracted staff actually meant an increased cost overall (something which mirrors what I’ve experienced in other workplaces). What hasn’t appeared to change though is the fact that there’s still an annual push towards getting all of the machines sorted before the start of term – it’s an annual cycle I got used to, but definitely one which was a case of being part of your annual thing.

Later on back at my friend’s place she was telling me about the nice trip her and her partner had to Cornwall in early September, especially as it’s a place I love myself. They even stayed at the Dolphin Inn in Penzance and went to St Michael’s Mount too, so was good to see that they had a few places to visit that we’d done, and did an afternoon show at the Minack Theatre as well (it looked sunny when they were there too). It was just a nice afternoon all round and the time went by far too qujckly to be honest before it was time for me to say a fond farewell and head off on the bus back to Sale and the tram back to The Love’s place, where the evening was spent with soaps and World’s Strongest Man (the theme tune of which is tune of the day.)

Thursday 27th December – Walking With The Snowman In The Sales

The Love In My Heart was back in work today, so had a morning kiss before she left for work, and Brian the cat all being snuggled in his box. I did play ball with him later, only for when I wanted to retrieve the ball from near him, he swiped me with his paw and got me good and proper. He’s very defensive of anything like that so knew that he might not be as patient when he has the reassurance of Mummy being around. I cleaned myself up (it was a scratch down the left hand but not too bad) and then got myself ready to head out.

It was off to MediaCityUK and to The Lowry and so on, as I wanted to properly do the trail Walking With The Snowman – twelve statues of the classic book and film character painted with each of the twelve days of Christmas on. It’s on till January 6th so means that it’s a good activity for parents and children to do after their holidays too – and even before when we’d been there ourselves we saw that. So it was on the 216 bus to the city centre and on to the 50 via Salford Precinct and then down to the Lowry itself, and into the Outlet Mall to get the trail map and book and the first of the twelve there.

The trail takes you around Huron Basin, over the bridge towards Harbour City, back towards The Lowry and round the back to get a snowman there, then over the bridge to the Imperial War Museum and ITV Studios, then back over the bridge by there towards the CBBC studios where one snowman was placed close to the statues of Pudsey Bear and Upsy Daisy. It was then around to the Booths supermarket and back to the Blue Peter Garden and by the tram stop for the final one. It’s a good little walk and one which definitely keeps everyone entertained, especially as each of the snowmen has a letter on the base which you put together to make a Christmas phrase too – nice to see. Also, like Bee in the City, the statues are being put up for auction.

And talking of that for a second, it’s noticeable that there are still a number of bees still out there that were retained in their original locations – the one in the Blue Peter garden for one. I’ve seen also the one in Clayton Hall, Didsbury Library and as I passed the Pump House Museum on the 50 yesterday, I saw that one was still there too. I wonder how many others are still out and about? I’ve counted four so far, and I am convinced that there may still be more out there as well, but we shall see.

I headed back into the city centre and had a good look around some of the shops with the sales on. Admittedly it was still busy but nowhere near as busy as it would have been on Boxing Day. I did go into HMV and use some of my vouchers, and so managed to get the Tenacious D new album Post-Apocalypto as well as The Prodigy album No Tourists too. That was a combined cost of under £10 so can’t argue with that really, and after that it was good to head back to The Love’s place and fuss over Brian for the afternoon and also see the Welsh Grand National on the telly. In the meantime tune of the day is one of the tracks from the Prodigy album, “Timebomb Zone” which resonates of old school 90s dance style, no bad thing that either.

Wednesday 26th December – Boxing Day Walk

It was a nice leisurely Boxing Day morning with myself and The Love In My Heart all relaxed in the morning and pottering around the flat. Brian the cat did want some love and fussing and attention and insisted on playing out quite a bit and could sense the birds in the trees so was on bird watch for most of that morning. It was also nice just to be able to not think about work for a while and take things relatively easy. The Love was getting some stuff sorted for work tomorrow (she’s back in, boo!) and so decided to head out for a walk whilst she had some well earned rest.

My walk took me down to Philips Park and around the bottom of the park, following the River Medlock and then over to the cemetery and back through to the other side of the park, then following the former Clayton Mineral Railway viaduct towards the entrance to Clayton Vale. From there I took a walk along the main path and alongside the river, all the way to the far end of the vale, then followed the pedestrian circular route which took you uphill and along the tops, close to the entrances to streets with housing and then back down towards the rear of Ravensbury Primary and along the former cobbled streets back to Philips Park. It was around three to three and a half miles in all and was good to be able to get that done and feel the energy burned.

Back at The Love’s place, we then headed off to Asda to get a couple of bits, mainly washing powder and fabric conditioner as we both needed to put some clothes in the wash for later over the festive period, and then it was off to see The Love’s father. He had got a new cordless phone with answering machine twin pack for Christmas, and so it was easier for me to get everything set up the right way, make sure that the answer phone worked correctly, and that a fair few of the address book numbers were entered so he could quickly ring up the people that he needed too – all good to get that sorted.

Later on we headed back to The Love’s place and had a quiet afternoon and early evening in. We both played the little card game Mind The Gap that I got from The Love for Christmas, and it was rather good to play as well. The cards were all proper tube stations and proper lines that crossed them (note: no Crossrail of course!) and the special move cards helped nicely with judging when you want to play them too. We both enjoyed playing it and I can imagine that with say four or more players that would get pretty strategic with all the cards and options – especially with a number of stations only having one tube line so you need to be pretty crafty!

We did also watch The Big Fat Quiz of 2018 as well on Channel 4, which was good fun. Not least because of Claudia Winkleman of course, but it was good that we both knew quite a number of the answers, The Love explaining the whole Baby Shark thing as apparently plenty of younger ones are into that in a big way (it passed me by) – and also the variety of questions including the sports ones which I knew. Claudia’s team won, but basically Richard Ayoade and Noel Fielding were for the most dicking around and not taking anything seriously. It was good though that a number of songs from the year were remembered well too. However, tune of the day is the rather ace “Three Lions” by Baddiel, Skinner and The Lightning Seeds as one of the bits of the quiz mentioned England’s World Cup run.

Tuesday 25th December – Merry Christmas

It was nice to have a relaxed wake up on Christmas Day morning with The Love In My Heart, and Brian the cat was all cute and wanting a fuss and a love. He had woken The Love earlier and decided to want to have a play out as well, as is his want. Once we both got ourselves out of bed and had a coffee, we were all seeing the presents under the tree and were opening the presents which everyone else had got for us, which was rather nice all round to do so. We were saving our own presents for later on.

I did open the presents from my friends that I’d exchanged on the Sunday, and that was all good – I got the excellent “Year of the Clown” by 3 Daft Monkeys on CD, as well as the first Mélanie Pain album “My Name” also – along with two Blu-Rays – Mission Impossible Fallout and The Commodore Interviews – an extra companion set to The Commodore Story documentary which I was a part of. Mum had got me two shirts and a jumper, and the CD by Marnie, one of the members of the electronic group Ladytron whom I also quite liked, so a definite plus there.

Later that morning we headed off to pick up some of The Love’s relations and then off to see The Love’s father, where gifts were all exchanged between family. It was nice as ever that so many of them had got myself some presents too, including Incredibles 2 on Blu-Ray, some Costa Gingerbread Latte pods for Tassimo and gingerbread men, some ale and a HMV voucher or two as well as the soundtrack from the musical Six on CD. All very nice and very appreciated – and it does feel good that I’m truly accepted by all of The Love’s family as well.

In fact The Love’s father, brother-in-law and nephews and relations all headed off to a pub close by in the early afternoon and it was good to have some games of snooker and darts along with a drink – it was a nice way to wind down for the early afternoon as well. The Love’s sister came to collect a couple of us later and it was back to The Love’s place where the Christmas dinner was well underway in the cooking and it smelt rather nice – and that proved to be rather delicious as we had it later.

Conversation and drinks flowed as a number of us had plenty of chatter and a good drink to celebrate, and was nice that there was also a gorgeous black forest roulade to follow up for dessert, as well as prosecco and kir royale. I got out my gorgeous Greenwich Ale that I got from M&S and opened that to have later too, and the afternoon was just lovely all round. I think The Love’s relations loved their presents, especially the cute little picnic basket that had all the accessories in for a little picnic together – which I remember The Love picking up when she was at mine one weekend.

The Love’s sister dropped off a number of relations on her way home and that just left The Love, myself and Brian the cat with a relaxed evening together. It was good to be able to open our own presents to each other and be all cuddled up. The Love got me a gorgeous Ted Baker jumper, and also a nice pair of Ted Baker trainers as well which will be perfect for the next holiday we go on – she was so good and lovely to get me that. And as one final little surprise, a little card game called Mind The Gap all based on tube stations and the London Underground in general – excellent all round. The Love loved her presents too – I got her a nice bag from Rambag in all felt, some Hugo Boss Scent Intense perfume and a nice pair of shoes that she had been after too – so all lovely.

In fact other family and friends had also got me some lovely presents – including Edward Scissorhands on Blu-Ray, Rammstein and David Bowie albums on CD, the England is Mine DVD which is about Morrissey’s early life, the KMFDM Hell Yeah CD, git cards for HMV and TK Maxx, vinyl record like coasters, and that’s all good too. I definitely felt rather good today and being all snugly with The Love later was just the thing to wind down perfectly during Christmas Day – so all nice. And as of course it’s not Christmas till Noddy Holder says it is, Slade’s all time classic “Merry Xmas Everybody” is tune of the day.

Monday 24th December – Memories

I did the decent thing this morning, having got up early, and headed off to two cemeteries in the south of Manchester to pay a visit to those family relations no longer with us. It’s something I’ve tried to do every Christmas Eve and to have that time alone and to collect my thoughts is rather nice all round. I took the bus into the city centre and then to the first cemetery which was open and relatively quiet, and then did another journey to the second one and to spend a few moments there too. It was just the right thing for reflection and to think about the happy memories spent also.

And there were too – lots of happy memories in the past, lots of Christmas times where the family was the important thing and being together during those special times was just a good way to enjoy all the festivities. I reflected on that when I was in Costa later that morning having a gingerbread and cream latte and pausing for that moment to remember the happy times. It’s probably the first time I’ve got in early enough to have breakfast in there also so had a bacon sandwich to keep me going during the day.

I headed back through to the city centre and back to The Love In My Heart’s place later that day and we had a coffee and a catch up before heading out for the afternoon. We first went off to the Elizabethan pub, and we had a light lunch of their ace messy chips along with a Plum Pudding ale – gorgeous of course. It wasn’t as a busy as we thought but I think that was because people were saving themselves for going out in the evening instead which made sense. We enjoyed the quiet by the window and watched the world go by.

Next stop was my Mum’s to pop in for a coffee and a chat, and she had mentioned that my sister had got her a Google Home device for Christmas, but wanted someone to set it up, and as my brother was in Japan and I’d be at The Love’s on Christmas Day, she asked if I could sort it. I could, but had to get the Home app downloaded on the app store on my phone and then ensure the set up was done with Mum’s Google account, so took some tweaks to do and get sorted, but got there in the end and so we tested out various phrases to see what would work, and it did to a degree also.

We later on arrived back at The Love’s place and watched the Christmas classics such as The Snowman and then The Snowman and The Snowdog, complete with their great soundtracks (hence “Walking in the Air” is tune of the day) and later on then headed to the Chinese takeaway – we had to use our second choice of the Golden Dragon as the one near us was shut. All still good though as I had crispy shredded chicken in OK sauce and some egg fried rice, and The Love had the pork in schezuan sauce too. It was good to relax and have the tea together.

For the rest of the evening it was a mix of the soaps as well as one of the episodes of Only Connect where as per usual I blitzed the Missing Vowels round, as well as watching the Child Genius v Celebrities Christmas Special, with Rick Edwards and Jimmy Carr being particularly good against the children – and in fact blitzing it in their own specialist subjects as well as the final round of general knowledge. All was good there and we snuggled up together with Brian the cat to get ourselves all in the mood for Christmas Day.

Sunday 23rd December – Sheldon and Watership

It was nice to be able to have a relatively relaxed lie in this morning, even with Brian the cat being insistent on some playtime and some quality time outside. He was all being cute though and miaowing a lot wanting to play, and he definitely was having lots of outside time. It was also nice that we were both able to take things easy. I think too it was good that I knew I wasn’t going to be heading off on a train anywhere later on – which makes a change for a Sunday afternoon.

The Love In My Heart and I were heading off in the afternoon on the tram – but it was not into the city centre but it was out to The Sheldon Arms near Ashton under Lyne, so it was a change to get the tram from the other platform. It was hammering it down with rain though so it was a case of keeping the wet weather coats and the brollies on in between The Love’s place and the tram, then from the tram to The Sheldon Arms. It was good to get in and then get myself a little treat at Christmas – the Plum Pudding ale in there which I’ve been looking forward to quite a bit.

We were joined by some friends later as we were having a nice little Christmas get together. Conversation flowed well and so did the drinks and we caught up nicely with each other too. It was good to have some nice starters before a carvery main – I had the mushroom soup which was rather lovely, proper thick too. The Love did have a rather nice paté for her starter which was also good, and naturally I did have to have another Plum Pudding ale later on as well, so all was good there.

We exchanged gifts later on and I’d be opening mine on Christmas Day but I’m sure that all the presents were lovely. The Love did open hers later which included two books, a gift card for Zara and a cat scarf too, which was really nice and considerate of our friends all round. I know that they’ll have got me some lovely presents too which will be good to open on the morning. The time went by far too quickly and it was soon back on the tram towards The Love’s place and to rest and relax for the evening.

In fact, we were able to then take it all easy over the evening and watch some nice telly – including the second part of Watership Down, the first part we watched last night. It was a good piece of animation all round with some really good voice acting as well, and the plot did follow the book a fair bit too with some rather evil rabbits in the second part especially. I must admit that in hindsight more was probably spent on voice talent than animation but it was still decent enough. Tune of the day is the closing theme which was performed by Sam Smith, and did appear to be a nice way to close the thing off well.

Saturday 22nd December – Not Glad All Over

It was nice to have a snuggle with Brian the cat as The Love In My Heart and I woke up this morning. Brian had wanted some food and a play out despite the fact that it was chucking it down outside, but soon ran in as his paws were all wet from the decking. We both had some breakfast and it was then a case of me getting myself ready and with a couple of bags of presents heading off towards the city centre, and then to go completely old school on the 50 bus and over to my auntie’s place.

It was nice to see her and indeed two of her grandchildren who are both lovely. In fact one of them was in full Manchester City away kit and looking forward to the game this afternoon and had given me a score prediction. It was good to have a catch up and chat too, and later on swapped presents as well, so had a fair number of take home as well as ones I had brought. I decided to head off before the rain came back down again as it had been on and off all day pretty much – so then back on the 50 bus and towards St Peter’s Square.

From there I walked to the large Marks and Spencer opposite the Arndale Centre. I wanted the special and very nice Greenwich Ale that they had made with the Meantime Brewery, and has oak barrel aged porter which was in port barrels. I got two of the remaining five bottles and advised a couple to get some themselves, so they could enjoy it – and they did. So it was all soon gone – had to recommend it because it is just so lovely. That’s my Christmas Day with drinner drink sorted anyway, much better than the Chateau de Bobbins pretend sparkly I often used to have.

Later on it was off to the Etihad with my friend and for the final League home game of 2018 as Manchester City faced Crystal Palace. It was four points behind Liverpool after they had won last night against Wolves, so City needed a win. Palace had been in decent form lately and appeared to have their mojo back, so was definitely going to be a tougher fixture than in previous seasons. The game had a minute’s silence to remember the loved ones we lost and City noted former players for both teams which was appreciated by the Palace fans as well – good to see that.

The game kicked off and City were heading forward but with an unusual formation – John Stones attempting to do the Fernandinho role in defensive midfield, which didn’t work. Not John’s fault to be honest, but the rest of the team didn’t seem to gel the same way. That said, City did go in front as Fabian Delph put a cross in and this was met by Ilkay Gundogan with a well placed header to the take the lead for 1-0. All seemed well but the next few minutes were to change that – and indeed a real seismic shift in the title race at that.

First of all, it was a good move down the left hand side from the Palace attack and the ball went over to Jeffrey Schlupp and he hit the shot low and hard into the bottom corner. Kyle Walker should have done better to cut that out. And then a goal of the season contentder. Palace took a free kick, the ball was headed away from the City defence and it came to Andros Townsend from thirty yards out. He hit the volley with so much power it went into the top corner without any hesitation – a proper worldie that and 2-1 to Palace, which is how it stayed till half time.

At the start of the second half Sergio Aguero was brought on but Palace still went forward on the break – their shot hit the post and then the follow up was blocked by Kyle Walker who conceded a penalty. Up stepped Luka Miljevojevic and to be fair he doesn’t miss those and it was 3-1 to Palace. Defeat was on the cards and City didn’t look like scoring – and even bringing on Kevin de Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez wasn’t enough, although de Bruyne scored with a ball more of a cross than an intentional shot and the last minute scramble coming to nothing. Later on Match of the Day suggested we really missed Fernandinho and I had to agree: we needed that midfield defensive rock.

Later on The Love In My Heart and I watched the first part of the new adaptation of the book Watership Down, complete with animation and a host of modern day stars including James McAvoy and Olivia Colman doing some of the voice overs for the rabbit voices. It was all good although fairly long, and I could see it being a four part Netflix series too – the first two parts played as one last night. It also reminded me of the original film adaptation with Art Garfunkel’s classic “Bright Eyes” being a very fond memory – and definitely tune of the day for me.

Friday 21st December – Riding Home For Christmas

It was nice to be able to have a dress down day today and to get through the whole day with a lot of work to do – but plenty of good results as a result. We had to get out an emergency Microsoft patch for Internet Explorer 11 and that went pretty well all things considered – so was all good there. I also had brought some sweet treats in so they were appreciated by everyone and got through the day well. One final thing I was doing today was to test out a number of scenarios for wireless to see what could be done to improve roaming around the building: and so far that did look quite decent. More tests in the New Year definitely, but nice to be able to contribute.

It was good to finish on time and to head to Marylebone Road to take the bus to Euston. It was the number 30 this time around and it was pretty busy all round with people heading to the stations to take the trains home, as to be fair, I was doing. The traffic did seem a little busy as the bus headed to Euston itself but it was all good, and once in Euston it was nice to take the lift up to the First Class lounge and indeed to spot the new Signal Box pub, which certainly will be a nice bonus for passengers if they get to the station early and want to wind down before their train.

For me, being sat in the lounge was good, nice to have a free drink and to have a comfortable chair to relax in whilst seeing everyone else rush around for their trains. I did have to head down later to get the 1840 train to Manchester Piccadilly, and it was platform 14. It did seem a little busier because the train arrived in late from its previous journey, but when I got on my seat was all good, and it wasn’t full even as we set off so that was good – room to stretch out and chill out with the countryside in view in the dark outside.

I already knew that the hot meal wasn’t going to be an option tonight: a real shame that, but there was at least a selection of snack like dishes such as the roast beef sandwich which I had along with crisps and cake as well as a square mince pie with crumble on, which was fab. I really enjoyed that and they did also run out of real ale, so it was a Becks for me instead – still nice to have and to enjoy as the train was doing its best to catch up the ten minutes or so of lateness and arrived just after 9pm into Manchester Piccadilly, and it was down to the tram and off to The Love In My Heart’s place.

I arrived there and Brian the cat was all good and happy to see me – I suspect he knew that Dreamies were going to be his. The Love was at the musical Wicked with her sisters and nieces, so I made myself and a coffee and relaxed with Brian being all cute and wanting lots of love and attention. I even watched another of the series of the Sunderland Til I Die documentary on Netflix, and that was good, before then settling in for the night, giving The Love a nice big cuddle when she arrived and catching up, before watching the latter parts of the Graham Norton show together. Tune of the day in the meantime is Chris Rea’s classic “Driving Home For Christmas” which seemed apt as I watched the M1 top to toe in tailbacks form the comfort of my train seat.

Thursday 20th December - Final Push

It's the final push at work to get a considerable amount of things done, and to be honest it was a case of being sure that we were able to all pull together. On a positive note a lot of us did, and we really did have that team spirit of being together and working hard to get a result, which was really nice to see to be honest. The day did go by pretty quickly because of it, so it's a case of now all the remaining days down and one more to go. It did mean that I was effectively working on some stuff on a different floor whilst looking at some worthwhile maintenance tasks too.

I got home later and diverted via the centre of Croydon to get a couple of cards - but not just any Christmas card. For me, Christmas is also about remembering the loved ones no longer with us and there's a trip to two cemeteries. I don't like having a "merry Christmas" on those sort of cards, something more neutral with a Winter scene and a blank inside so I can write my own message is much more appreciated. And normally WH Smith is your friend for this, and so it proved too.

Later on at home it was time to get plenty of packing finished off for the trip to Manchester over Christmas. I had brought all the presents up in previous weeks so it meant I could just pack clothes in there, including my waterproof Winter coat (and I'll wear my wool one as it's more thick and smarter for the train journey tomorrow) - so all is good and sorted for the week and a half ahead. I must admit that it'll be nice to have a break and spend some quality time with friends and family in Manchester as well, looking forward to that a lot to be honest.

I also know that it'll be time for me to gather some thoughts and think about the next year ahead: it's going to be a new challenge ahead, both at work where I'm developing well and it's good to feel valued, but also to develop myself and to try and achieve more in terms of being a more known face around the place. In addition, I want to get back to using free weekends to take longer walks too - I want to finish the last two stages of the Jubilee Greenway (which I could do in one go) and then look at parts of the London Loop potentially or some of the Green Chain I haven't done too.

But in the meantime it'll be nice to just take it easy and have some nice times ahead - and I know when I get to The Love In My Heart's place tomorrow both her and Brian the cat will be full of happiness and I know that Brian will be getting used to having a fuss and a love for the time - and indeed he will probably get extra treats as a result. And I do want to go and see Six The Musical again if possible, it was a definite highlight for me this year. Tune of the day is in fact the finale song from said musical "Six" - the title theme, and such a nice uplifting moment throughout. You seriously need to go and see this. Now.

Wednesday 19th December - Howay The Lads

I spent some time tonight firstly heading off to James The Barbers in Wimbledon Park to get the hair all cut nice and short, and neat and tidy for the Christmas period. It was good that all the folks were in there and we had a good chance to talk football, especially as one of them supports Man U and one supports Liverpool, so the topic mainly was around Mourinho and the subsequent temporary appointment of Solskjaer today, and what happens from here. All good stuff, and felt a lot better for getting the hair all neat and tidy that's for sure.

I then watched the first couple of episodes of Sunderland Til I Die, a Netflix documentary that covers last season for Sunderland AFC. Unlike the Manchester City All Or Nothing documentary for Amazon, this really does have the other end of the wedge, and is akin to how City fell down the leagues between 1996 and 1998. Sunderland had been relegated from the Premier League, they bring in the new manager Simon Grayson and they then prepare for the start of the season.

I suspect the documentary makers were hoping that in fact it would document Sunderland's comeback and a season marked with a return to the Premier League. It looked okay after the first couple of games but then started to go steadily downhill, with the transfer window and not signing some of the players proving not to be ideal, and the fans getting used to not winning at home whatsoever along with the tensions clearly showing between fans - and indeed a 5-0 home hammering to Celtic pre-season not helping things whatsoever.

For me though it was fascinating stuff especially around the manager Simon Grayson and one of the board members Martin Bain, who initially appeared to be supportive but as the first couple of episodes wore on, you could tell was getting a tad frustrated at the lack of progress on the pitch. The club has a pretty large following all round and they are the lifeblood of that club, and it showed that when the fans were ringing phone ins asking when they were going to win a game at home, and really being the proper sense of normality in the whole thing.

Needless to say it's a must watch if you have Netflix, and if you don't, it's time to ask around any of your friends who have a subscription to watch it at their place. It's brutally honest and also honestly brutal, and apparently a second series is being aired to cover this season, so that'll be a contrast hopefully. In the meantime, howay the lads, and I can recommend that documentary to watch, and if you can, get to the point where you know Simon Grayson is going to be sacked, with the fans singing to the Welsh hymn "Bread of Heaven" (make that tune of the day) with the chant of "You're not fit to wear the shirt..."

Tuesday 18th December - Bye Bye Moaninho

I was at work getting some network stuff sorted with one of our external contractors when I had a few pings of messages on my phone. One of those was from The Love In My Heart who had informed me that Jose Mourinho, the manager of Manchester United, had been sacked from his job. I wasn't surprised in a way that this was going to happen but I suspected that it may have been a case of sooner rather than later, especially in light of being thrashed by Liverpool on Sunday - honestly, 3-1 was United getting off lightly, could have been seven or eight quite easily to be honest.

Part of me as a Manchester City fan did actually want to persevere with Mourinho a lot longer and at least past the January transfer window so that the side were stuck with what they had until the end of the season, and indeed the regular meltdowns on fan channels such as The United Stand and Full Time Devils have admittedly been entertaining viewing seeing them go on about bad 1-1 draws at home and not performing to a level that some of the players would have been capable of.

However, if I was a United fan, I would be pretty glad as well to see the back of the whinging Moaninho (as he was often called by City fans.) He didn't really inspire during his second season and although the team did finish second in the table, some of the performances were pretty below par during that time. In fact you could even say that the signing of Alexis Sanchez in the January transfer window was a catalyst for things going wrong - and us City fans dodged a bullet with that one I think. It didn't seem to be playing out too well with so many home draws, lucky last minute wins and a defence leaking goals too.

I must admit it was the first time in ages that I felt like a Manchester derby was going to be a Manchester City win last month - even with the usual derby day nerves. In fact the way that we strung 44 passes together and tore the United defence apart for the third goal was highly enjoyable of course and that really showed the superiority. For me too it was a sense the balance of power was still shifting over to the real Manchester and that didn't appease any of the United fans either. And of course I thoroughly enjoyed every time that we bear Mourinho and looked forward to his somewhat delusional press conferences.

I think too that the timing may well be to try and get someone in before January - but in a way I hope they don't, and just limp on to the end of the season. It was perhaps notable too that for the likes of Gary Neville he was indicating a more root and branch review at the club was needed, and that was perhaps showing just how far behind us they'd become. David Moyes is still within his contracted years at United, would be funny if they got him to the end of the season, and Sam Allardyce is available too, you know? I must admit as a City fan it's great to see them for once getting a difficult season under their belts, as we've all suffered that in the past and really come back from a long way further down than that. Tune of the day in the meantime is the ace "Seasons in the Abyss" by Slayer - a place I hope United go to...

Monday 17th December - SPOTY The Difference

I was on the way homeward on the train last night so knew I would miss Sports Personality of the Year - and so that was a definite record for me and to watch it back tonight when I got home from work. I definitely wanted to see what had happened as The Love In My Heart had kept me posted as to some of what happened including who had won, as I knew I wouldn't be able to avoid the news or someone telling me during the working day, and of course there'd be plenty of commuters on the train that might spill the beans, so at least knowing did help a bit anyhow.

I did watch it tonight and there were certainly a different feel to this year: the first being that only six nominees instead of twelve were selected and that from a panel rather than the old days of where you'd cast your vote by sending off a coupon from the Radio Times. Naturally as sports years go there was plenty of greatness, but no nomination for Ronnie O'Sullivan despite his record breaking number of Triple Crown tournament wins was frankly a poor choice - nothing against those nominated, but felt he should have been there in my view.

As the event went on there was a nice Helen Rollason award for Billy Monger the racing driver, presented by Lewis Hamilton which was nice to see. Shame that Billy's speech was cut off when in his prime and that was a bit poor too to be honest - granted he did get to speak later but that wasn't the point really. One of the highlights for me (and The Love had warned me about this as well as me knowing) was David Baddiel and Frank Skinner teaming up the The Lightning Seeds to do Three Lions there - definitely tune of the day of course,

It was also good that the England netball team deservedly got Team of the Year and indeed Moment of the Year for those last second wins, with Jamaica overcome in the semi final and Australia, in their own back yard, in the final, which was epic and rather superb all round. For me the fact that so many people are now taking up the sport is showing the true legacy of what great moments achieve. And think of it this way: if the Lionesses win the Women's World Cup 2019 (which could happen) what a great additional moment that will be to increase the awareness and pride of women in sport - long overdue for many, especially like me if you always support them. My view is that if you're good enough to represent your country, you're good enough to get behind.

As ever of course Gary Lineker was the consummate professional and was spot on, with Gabby Logan and Clare Balding also being very good too. For me though it was great to see that so many of the main nominees really came across well and were all proud of what they had done. Could have done without George Ezra at the end though, kind of spoiled the end of having the person who won taking the plaudits with their speech and the credits rolling - another thing that the BBC got wrong this year...

Sunday 16th December - Festive At Dunham Massey

The Love In My Heart and I had a double mission this Sunday - and both were achieved with suitable aplomb too. The first of those tasks were to head off to the Fort Shopping Park near Cheetham Hill as The Love had a present to get from Argos. We got there, located the item number, went to the till and the staff were pretty quick all round and have the click and collect all sorted. Happy days indeed, more so as we then headed to Outfit (which is sadly closing, boo) and managed to get another nice present in there, and indeed a new cat tunnel in B&M Bargains for Brian the cat!

After all that shopping it was going to be nice to unwind, and unwind we would do. The Love and I headed off towards the South of the city, and then on to the M56 and towards Altrincham and onwards to Dunham Massey. The car park was less full than usual but as we arrived we noted why: they have a Dunham Massey at Christmas event on which is full of lights and spectacular sights around the house and gardens. Of course though during the day it was still open and some of that was still viewable, as well as the little exhibition in the courtyard too.

We walked through towards the house and entered the courtyard and into the servants' quarters where festive displays of trees and decorations as well as some board games for the children were up - nice to see and a little extra as a member to get in for free. We also then decided to enter the gardens too and that was pretty lovely all round, especially as most of the lights for the light displays later were on. This included a nice long tunnel of lights similar to the one we've seen at Kew Gardens, lots of large lit reindeer including the smaller reindeer dotted around with the names on, and plenty of light balls on the floor.

Even better was the fact that we were able to see that some of the lights had accompanying music, so the likes of the Harry Potter theme and the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker (make that tune of the day) and that was all festive and lovely. In fact as we approached the mound and the orangery, we also spotted plenty more nice light displays and it definitely felt all lovely and festive. It is gorgeous all round and with some of the lights on we got a good impression of how it would all be at the night.

It was nice later on to have a well earned coffee in the café including a gorgeous latte, and that was rather nice to mooch around the shop as well before we then headed off to The Gateway for a nice little bit of lunch. The Love had the turkey dinner with a nice fair bit of the meat, the mash and vegetables all looked good, and I also had the Triple Chocoholic ale as well which was stunningly nice to be honest. It was also good later on that we let Brian try out his new play tunnel and he loved it, exploring it all, running through and feeling all snuggly. Aww...

Saturday 15th December – Another Three One

So it was an early kick off at the Etihad this morning as Manchester City were playing Everton – and with City losing to Chelsea last weekend, it was a case of us needing to come back and get a result today to go temporarily back top of the table. It was also noticeable how bad the weather was outside, with the wind and rain blowing pretty hard. Also, it was a case of there being freezing rain potentially on the horizon, so wasn’t going to be that warm anyway – layers were highly recommended and were definitely on in my case and in my friend’s too when we met up later that morning.

It was good to meet up and have a well earned brew together and catch up as well – it was all good and sensible to shelter underneath the stand to keep the rain and wind away from ourselves – and we could tell that we’d got in just in time before all of that rain started. We both agreed this was when as a footballer you would be earning your dosh playing in those conditions. It wasn’t going to be an easy game as I knew Everton were a decent side and also that it would be that the conditions would play their part too.

The game kicked off and City were heading forward, but so did Everton. Richarlison for them had a volley which he should have done better with and the occasional offside for City wasn’t helping matters either. However, it was only a matter of time before City did score, and it was a neat pass through from Leroy Sané that fed Gabriel Jesús and he buried the shot low and hard home for 1-0. The rain came down heavier and the freezing wind which was around –4 degrees really did make for a cold afternoon, and almost in the dark. I dread to think what the likes of Oldham Athletic would have been like today!

City played well enough in the second half – neat work involving the excellent Leroy Sané resulted in a cross aimed perfectly for the head of Jesús for 2-0 to City. Everton threw on substitutes for more attacking, and this resulted in their goal – a well worked move down the left and a cross that was met by Calvert-Lewin and it was deserved really. City then made a change of their own a few minutes later and put Raheem Sterling on. The first touch he had was to the meet a well weighted cross from Fernandinho and to head home for 3-1, and that was how it ended, a good win for City all round really.

Later on The Love In My Heart and I headed off to my Mum’s and we had a coffee and chat there, and was so good to catch up. She also handed us our Christmas presents so we could open them on the morning too. My brother in law was also there so it was good to see him and chat too, before we then headed back through the wind and rain and onwards to The Love In My Heart’s place, where Brian the cat was after attention, some tuna and some Dreamies as well, which pleased him immensely when he was all sorted.

We had a very nice evening meal including some steak, posh chips and a nice peppercorn sauce and even had sticky toffee pudding for dessert, and then settled in to watch the finale of Strictly Come Dancing. It was rather good all round, and all four couples really did do so well in terms of their performances. For me, perhaps the best of the lot was Faye Tozer and Giovanni Pernice’s nice tribute to Broadway for their show dance, and having "On Broadway" playing – based on The Drifters’ classic, was tune of the day for me as they really nailed it. In the end Stacey Dooley and Kevin Clifton won, a popular choice even if they weren’t the best dancers.

Friday 14th December – Divorced, Beheaded, Live

I must admit it was nice to have a half day off work today and be able to get an earlier train on the Friday afternoon up to Manchester Piccadilly. I got through a lot this morning including adding a number of scheduled changes along the way which was good – it meant that I was able to sort out some configuration correctness for when we’re having to get a fair number of machines ready for the back end of next week. In fact, it was nice that we were able to work through stuff together and be able to come up with a plan too.

I headed off towards Euston station and it was relatively calm traffic wise, so arrived there with plenty of time to get myself a sandwich and be ready to head on the 1340 departure to Manchester Piccadilly. I must admit it was nice to be able to look out of the window and see nothing but daylight for a change with the countryside looking crisp and clear – whizzing past most of the time apart from some minor delays near Nuneaton on the way back. I got in around three to four minutes late but nothing show stopping, so all good, and The Love In My Heart was there to collect me.

We got back to The Love’s place, had a good fuss over Brian the cat, and had a coffee before we would be setting off later for The Lowry, as we were off to see Six The Musical tonight in the Quays Theatre. We’d seen the cast perform at West End Live, and knew we were looking forward to this show too. In fact when we got to the tram station, we were able to board that and swap trams before the city centre, so that meant we boarded a pretty empty tram and therefore already had a seat before we got through Manchester Piccadilly and then onwards towards Media City via Salford Quays – and from there a short walk from the tram station towards the pubs and restaurants.

The Dockyard was going to be our first port of call, but unfortunately it was a bit too busy with people being out of their offices, and so we headed along the row towards Wagamama. We’d not been in together for a long time so it was good to go there for a change. I had my gorgeous usual chicken katsu curry which was spot on, and The Love had the tonkatsu, which was pork belly in the crispy breadcrumbs with the rice and salad along with some soy sauce, and that looked rather gorgeous too. I had the coconut reika for dessert (it was rude not to!) and that was spot on as ever – The Love and I even had a booth seat and that was special, which was really lovely to be on our own and just have that space to ourselves.

After a wall earned drink in the Quays Theatre Bar, and noticing the smaller versions of the snowmen in The Lowry itself, it was then time to take our seats for Six. We were in Row C which meant more legroom, and indeed also njce that we were able to relax. A mum and her daughter were next to me and the little one had a booster seat, so they were sorted. Dead on 8pm the show started, with the dramatic opener "Ex Wives" which set the tone perfectly for the really powerful show ahead – and tune of the day. They had mentioned that one of the six main actresses had an injured back so the show was going to go ahead with a few minor changes, hence the high chair for one of them concerned.

I have to say though: it was a superb show all round. The songs were full of content and related to each of the six wives as they were sung with passion and power, the outfits were classy and sassy, and the four female musicians playing the drums, bass, lead guitar and keyboards were also really accomplished, and them playing the songs live really did help make the show vibrant too. Granted, at around an hour and a quarter it’s not the longest show ever, but it was all killer no filler with the songs coming thick and fast, and with plenty of positive vibes and groove – a little close to the bone in some places mind you, but that was to be expected with its content.

We thoroughly enjoyed the show a lot and it was a sign that the place was full and happy people were leaving with a smile on their face was a real positive. In fact The Love and I told the mother and daughter about West End Live and recommended that they should go where possible as it would be very enjoyable. It was then for us a case of heading back to the tram, seeing all the lit up Daleks and the Tardis along the way, and then on the tram it had a number of drunk people not looking at all classy before arriving back at The Love’s place in good time to snuggle up and watch Gogglebox from earlier. All in all, a superb day.

Thursday 13th December - The Cold North Wind Blows

And I certainly felt it this morning as I walked to East Croydon station, that is for sure. It definitely felt rather nippy and was glad to have a bigger coat on and indeed the gloves too (I also need to dig out my beanie hat I think, that's going to come in use over the festive period for definite.) I certainly also noted that it felt a lot quieter on the train today both going to and coming back from work. I suspect that this is the week of many a Christmas do and so for those that are sensible, they may have booked the morning after off, understandable stuff really.

In fact I was able to get down the road towards work pretty quickly too this morning, and naturally all the news channels were all over Westminster with the goings on over the last few days, and especially last night. I did note that even BBC Business Live had Sally Bundock there outside Westminster looking all very Little Red Riding Hood with her red coat, most likely unintentionally, whilst Victoria Fritz had the nice warm studio. Wonder if they had to draw straws as to who would get where?

I must also admit that even though being a harder Northerner means that I tend to feel the cold less (cos I'm used to it and all) it did feel with the wind not so great. In fact the proper Northerner came out as one of our staff was mentioning about a Sunday roast and how some people just don't get Yorkshire pudding with it. For me, no Yorkshires, not a proper roast. It's like what The Love In My Heart said to me last night about Chris Moyles ranting about pies (and I agree) - all this ceramic dish and lid rubbish is just not a pie, and never will it be so either. We'd all like proper pies thank you very much.

I did also spend some time tonight playing some old school games, partly inspired by the fact that martial arts games had been mentioned in a couple of the online Youtube channels. One thing you may not know is that the title theme from the classic game Way of the Exploding Fist is actually a version of a mid 20th century Chinese traditional style composition called Dance of the Yao People - there's a section a quarter of the way in that is the very same. In fact that's tune of the day - and you can see why the game got inspired so much by it to be honest.

Of course, for us Commodore 64ers, that was a classic game, and completely of course meant anything after that had to better it. International Karate was good, but the sequel IK+ was even better - three players on screen, superb animation, lengthy Rob Hubbard soundtrack, lots of little effects such as the water ripples and the fishes diving in and out of the water, and of course the infamous hidden trick of pressing the S and E keys together... hehe. Still a great game and one that these days just has to be enjoyed hugely.

Wednesday 12th December - Confidence Or No Confidence

I arrived at work this morning and headed to the staff café on the first floor for a well earned coffee before starting. There are some television screens inside that are showing BBC News 24, and at around 0830 it appeared that all sorts of action was appearing outside 10 Downing Street with the Prime Minister Teresa May about to give a statement. There had been a required number of letters to the 1922 Committee to trigger a vote of no confidence, and that meant that she would be having to fight to stay as Prime Minister.

Naturally that was a topic of conversation at work but it also meant that I was able to get on with a number of things, including making sure I had carried out some additional testing. What I did find was that one of our internal systems for the procurement that is used has a Java applet running that is needed to produce invoices as an image to be printed. However, because it also uses an ActiveX bit of code to launch the applet and filtering is on, we may need to actually review that setting and have that turned off.

So I headed home on the train later with plenty of passengers on the train heading home and with the secret ballot taking place at Westminster. The BBC cleared their schedules in view of the fact that they wanted to present a half hour "special" on the no confidence vote result, with plenty of political correspondents despatched to Westminster and to May's home constituency in Maidenhead, to gauge reaction. Of course no one knew how it would go.

But the result came in, and 200 to 117 to win the confidence vote is way more than the 52-48 split on Brexit, yet the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg still insisting that the Prime Minister resigns. Err. as Andrew Neil of all people said "you lost!" and that was the case. Don't get me wrong, I am no fan of the Maybot, but to be fair a win of that margin is a win, and it's now up to the masses to actually get on with it. One thing's for sure the next few days will be interesting..

In the meantime Manchester City were playing Hoffenheim in the Champions League, and despite being a goal down Leroy Sané did the business from a free kick just before half time and a nice one two with Raheem Sterling meant a goal for Sané too. A 2-1 win meant a much easier last 16 draw, in fact City can only get Atletico Madrid, Roma, Schalke or Ajax, and when you consider who the group winners are... much easier. In the meantime the Heartbeat theme tune is tune of the day as it's sung along to "Leroy, oh Leroy Sané runs down the wing for me. do do do doo dooo, do do do doooo doo" etc...

Tuesday 11th December - Wrapping and Rapping

It had been a long and tough day at work and to be perfectly honest I just wanted to head home and get some well earned sleep, but to be honest I knew that I wanted to get the remaining Christmas presents that I bought yesterday all wrapped up and sorted. I did have plenty of wrapping paper anyway - so much so that I've actually probably got enough for most of next year as well, so I must remember that when it comes around too. It was good though to be able to have everything out and ready to go.

In some cases because people wanted a gift card for a present, that's a relatively small wrap, even with an envelope for the gift card, and a case of making it all look nice with a gift tag on - and getting that sorted. I also quite liked the fact that it was fairly easy to organise the paper into sections so as not to waste any, and I've been pretty good on that front too. For me, it's also been a case of then ensuring that I also wrote out a number of Christmas cards so I could then get them sent in the post too.

I think it's all good now and I can relax a bit more over the festive period knowing that everything was all done and sorted, and I know that the tree also looks lovely (with thanks to The Love In My Heart) - with the baubles and lights all looking rather bright and sparkly. The silver of the baubles is simple but classy really, and that's just what I like - not too over the top, not a shed load of tinsel everywhere, just a tree standing proud with its decor and all good.

I had a good listen to some classic Christmas songs including the Waitresses' iconic 80s clsssic "Christmas Wrapping" (make that tune of the day) and also admiring the tree too. In fact there was also a reminder to myself of the classic Harry Enfield English for Aliens sketch, where the aliens decide to spontaneously yell out "tree! tree!" every time they see anything resembling a tree, such as a lamp post., and of course entering the shop every time the narrator mentioned the word. Simple, but absolutely classic.

I've also been having a good think about work and about what I need to do in the next few weeks. It's a pretty scary time all round and I think there's a lot to be done, but at the same time it definitely needs some time and some thought to get everything ready and up and running accordingly. I've got plenty of thought what to do and indeed plenty of thought how to implement that as well and have been doing some additional testing, and we shall see what happens...

Monday 10th December - Christmas Completed

So it was off into the centre of London after a longer than planned day at work (primarily as I was wanting to test a rebuild process and was awaiting for a laptop to complete all of that) and to get the final few presents to complete off all of the Christmas shopping. Normally, to be honest, I'd have been done either before the whole Black Friday shenanigans or during that weekend, but it was a case of things just happened later than planned for whatever reason. So of course it was an advantage when your workplace isn't that far and walkable towards Oxford Street.

In fact it made sense to pop into Marks and Spencer along the way, and that proved to be rather good all round as I was able to get one thing I needed in there, with the staff being particularly lovely, and had a look around too. In fact I did spot the rather nice door stop in the shape of a cat, with little cats printed on it. Needless to say I had to let The Love In My Heart see a picture of that, as I know she has been after one - it might have some competition with Brian the cat of course, but still, all lovely nonetheless.

It was then a walk down Oxford Street towards Marble Arch, and surprisingly not as busy as I thought it might be actually, which is a good thing. I did note that plenty of shops were open later than normal for the festive period and all that, but it was also good that they appeared to be drawing customers in with the odd bargain here and there too, in a push to get more retail in the next two weeks. For me at least it was a positive to be able to nail the last few presents.

And it's all done now, so felt particularly proud as I headed off towards Victoria station and on the train home towards East Croydon, which as per usual picked up a shed load of passengers at Clapham Junction and was standing room only towards Croydon. It's perhaps worthy of note at this point that one job I'd applied for a fair while ago would have resulted in a change of transport there to get the bus, but that would have meant attempting to get on a train there to get home every night, which would have been energy sapping in itself to be perfectly honest. At least at Victoria it's the start of the journey so you have a better chance of a seat at least.

It was good to have a chicken korma that I made myself when I got home, and then spent some time wrapping up the new purchases, so felt quite good that it was all in a good cause and got all the presents sorted out. I just need to get some of the stuff sent in the post, and once that's all done it's pretty much done and dusted for another year. I did get another card today too so that was nice as well, and it's now just the countdown to begin, so it's on with the likes of Wham's ace "Last Christmas" (make that tune of the day) and off we go...

Sunday 9th December - Last Christmas..

It was nice to be able to snuggle up under a nice warm duvet overnight, and we both had decided to head to bed a little earlier to make sure we had a good night's sleep. I'd had this rather nice bottle of ale from Marks and Spencer in conjunction with the Meantime Brewery, and I would have to look at getting some more of that to be honest - was far too nice and certainly was just nice to relax to in the warm and then feel all cosy later. We both got up and I started to make a nice cooked breakfast for us both.

We were going to head around the centre of Croydon so we could look at some of the Christmas market stalls on, and also then have a mooch in the shops. The first stop though was Poundstretcher, and we managed to locate the pack of Christmas lights the same as what I already had, so that was all good and then got some Duracell batteries from Poundland up the road to go with that - so they would look nice when I put them up later on. It was then a walk towards the North End and the main row of shops.

In fact what was a bit annoying was that a fair number of the market stalls weren't open or they were already clearing up, despite today being the last day - you'd think they'd want business and not be packing up early to be honest. Most of the food stalls were closed, and some of the other items were either red Indian type outfits, or crystals and their supposed "healing" powers. I must admit that compared to some of the other markets I'd been to recently, it was a bit of a disappointment (understatement.)

The Love and I did go in Next and we did spot a nice table runner in the home section on show - and the assistant kindly told us it was with the Christmas stuff in the women's section, so up we went and I managed to spot the last one they had and so The Love got it, it'll look good at her place on Christmas Day. We also had a good look around more of the shops and even got the nice covered marshmallows from one of the stalls before heading back to mine with a well earned coffee all round.

Later on it was then on the train to Victoria and the tube to Warren Street and a walk round to the Crown and Anchor for Sunday lunch, and it would be rude not to. They even had the St Austell Brewery seasonal Christmas ale, the Proper Cracker, which was ruby in colour and you could tell it had spices in it - twas very nice. I had the chicken kiev, The Love had the fish and chips, and both were very lovely indeed. Conversation and drinks flowed as we chatted together, and that was all nice too. I did hear from one of my friends that he and his wife had been in an accident the night before though: thankfully they're both okay, but from the sounds of it, not a good way when you were going out for an evening.

We then headed back to Euston and it was time for a hug and a kiss for The Love before we parted, and I felt really sad. The weekend had gone by far too quickly again but was lovely, and I headed back to my place in good time for the final session of the UK Championship snooker final. The atmosphere was ramped up to the max and the excellent "Killer" by Adamski was playing as the players were being introduced (make it tune of the day) and that really set the tone well for the evening too.

Saturday 8th December - Walking In A Winterville Wonderland

It was a nice clear morning and alhough windy, it was nice and cosy inside. It was the perfect opportunity to put the Christmas tree up, and with The Love In My Heart coming later, we could decorate with the baubles and lights and then have a nice switch on. The good thing was that the Tesco tree I had has all the parts and branches intact, so meant that I could put it all together, assemble the base and stems, all the branches and then put it all up and it looked the part, with the little polar bear I have at the top. Ace.

I walked over to East Croydon station to meet up with The Love In My Heart just after 12 noon. She had had a good journey all round, and we soon were heading off back to my place and sorting out the case, then later on heading back to East Croydon, and in good time for the 1310 departure from there. This was in fact the first time I'd boarded a train from Platform 5, thus completing the Grand Slam of all six platforms. This train stopped at the local stations to Balham, which is what we needed, before switching to the Northern Line and heading to Clapham Common.

From there it was a climb up the stairs out of the station, and following the signs towards the common itself, where part of it had been set aside for Winterville, an alternative Christmas attraction and much less busy than Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. It was £2 to get in during the day, which was fine, and we had a nice walk around, spotting the indoor crazy golf course, the cinema showing lots of Christmas films (and massively sold out for those) along with the bars and food places as well as the likes of the dodgems and little funfair there.

In fact one of the circus like Spiegeltents had a small craft fair on, and that was really nice actually. The Love picked up some nice cards from one of the sellers there, and it felt all nice and warm inside too. We also went to one of the large food and drink tents and had lunch in there: I had a gorgeous ham and mushroom pizza, and The Love had the cheeseburger with some fries. As we walked around some of the rain was coming down, but even with that we were both impressed with the look and feel of the whole place, and were inside one of the beer tents later having some nice Goose Island beer and having a chilled out chat too. We could both definitely recommend that highly to everyone actually.

It was nice too to have a good look around the shops near Clapham Common, and for The Love, the likes of Oliver Bonas and Joy were two of her favourite type of little shops, but also Sass and Belle, which she adored. Lots of nice little things and plenty of cat related stuff which looked all cute, so that was nice. In fact it just felt rather homely and I could actually see myself in a café or two along these streets - although being in Zone 2, the prices are way more expensive for renting.

We then took the Northern Line, with a nice switch over at Kennington for the Charing Cross Branch, and up to Waterloo, and walked down towards the South Bank. Unfortunately the rain was coming down a lot at this time, so even though all of the stalls were lovely, it was not great with the weather. We sought refuge first having a mooch around Foyles bookshop, and as the rain slowed, then to the Understudy, the National Theatre bar. We like it in there anyway and had a nice well earned drink before then heading along the river and towards Blackfriars to get the train back homewards.

It was all good at mine and we put the decorations on the tree. One set of lights (the old plugin ones failed) but the other set was good, so I decided that we'd go to Poundstretcher tomorrow and get another set - they're battery too so no plugs needed. All the rest went up, the tree looked really nice. We then snuggled up and I made the tea which was lovely, and we watched Strictly Come Dancing together. We did note one of the couples danced to a favourite Nick Cave song of mine, Red Right Hand (make the original tune of the day) and the standard was ace throughout.

Friday 7th December - Solutions Not Problems

One of the things that I learnt years ago on a three day customer service course was that in fact not just that you own the problem (always) but actually it's always better that if you need to bring something up that you don't just state the problem: you offer a solution as well going forward and one which would be sensible to sort out. I was checking through some of the bugs and defects found so far when testing various pieces of software around the Windows 10 build, and someone had reported that Sophos was failing to complete all of its update properly.

Interestingly, I had checked a number of laptops and all were functioning, applying all updates without issue, and were able to fully do what they needed to do. So I went back to one of the new Lenovo X380 Yogas, and Sophos itself was loading and showing all the AV functionality etc on, but there's something as part of that in use called Sophos Patch which reports back to a central server what patches it may need over time. I ran an update manually and it appeared to fail on that install, and I'd already flagged that to our Information Security folks.

Luckily for me, I get on very well with one of our security analysts who is also a change manager, and we work well together because we're both of the "solutions not problems" mould. After a bit of investigating, we found that because the Yoga can be used as a tablet as well as a laptop with its flip over style, Windows treats it as a tablet PC and writes a registry value to tell it to act like one. Unfortunately, Sophos doesn't like that for its patch installer, as per this knowledge base article, recently updated and absolutely fitting our description.

The solution seemed simple: apply a registry key, then run the update, see what happens. The key had to be applied as a SYSTEM account, so the easiest way to sort that was a one-line task sequence in SCCM to effectively do a reg add and populate the value (overwriting it effectively) and then once done, and I could see that was done, was then to try to update it. And.. it worked! When you restarted that registry key is written back anyway, so you can then update accordingly - and the updates after that do work too. Neato.

So I've got a dual pronged plan of action: look at amending the task sequence to run that command line before Sophos installs (and WMI query it so it only runs on Yogas anyway) and then from there look at rolling out that tiny task sequence to a few of those and then invoking the update command. In theory that should work nicely as the update would need to happen before a reboot, but good to see that I could think of that one. Tune of the day is the ace "Vote Elvis" by the Popinjays as it got me in the mood for the train home..

Thursday 6th December - Totally Acoustic

It was nice after work to be heading to a gig, and actually it was walking distance from work too, so was good to be able to leave on time and then have a nice walk arouind Marylebone High Street, complete with the lovely Christmas lights and the also rather lovely shops too. In fact I had a good mooch around Daunt Books and that was rather good - they were getting ready for a book signing and that definitely was a case of all hands on deck setting up the tables and chairs ready, looking all festive too.

I did take a walk down New Cavendish Street, nipped into a Boots for a sandwich and then into Pret a Manger for a coffee, and took advantage of the free wi-fi too, primarily as any mobile on the O2 network or piggyback on to it (such as Sky, Lycamobile, Tesco and my provider Giffgaff) were all down, sending texts didn't play ball and so as I also needed to top up the Oyster for another weekly travelcard, that worked fine and I was able to watch all the world go by, as you do.

It was then on to the King and Queen pub, and timed it well to meet Mark (MJ Hibbett) and the lovely Charlotte at the bar, so was good to see them before we headed up to the room where the gig happens. Steve Hewitt was on his way too but his wife Meg was there already (who is also lovely) and we had a good catch up and natter, as plenty of people then were coming in and turning up in good time. It was to be three acts performing tonight and there was even a lyric sheet, the details of which would be revealed later.

So after the usual lovely singalong of the Totally Acoustic theme, MJ Hibbett was on first doing a nice little set. In fact this included the Christmas single for this year, "Last Christmas (in the EU)" which was pretty good all round - and nice to hear that live too. It also meant a nice good singalong later on to the all time classic "It Only Works Because You're Here" (definitely tune of the day) so that was all good too - especially as plenty of us all sang the chorus, and with some Waitrose mince pies that did feel rather lovely actually.

Next up was Dave Green and his 80s singalong - and breaking some of the Totally Acoustic rulebook along the way by having a couple of synths with backing to help the tune - he was playing acoustic guitar as well, and in the true style of an 80s singalong there was a Christmas song, no less than Wham's classic Last Christmas, which was sung with gusto from everyone. We also ended up belting out Howard Jones' New Song too, which of course was rather joyous, and ending with the Yazoo classic Only You, of course infamously covered by The Flying Pickets for their 1983 Christmas number one. Naturally of course it was enjoyable!

After a nice break to head to the bar and all that, on came the Popinjays. I'd seen them supporting The Darling Buds last year and were ace, and it was apparently their first acoustic gig. To be perfectly honest, they should actually do more of these as Polly and Wendy were ace together, really enjoying being more relaxed and having just the acoustic versions of the songs worked a treat. One of the fans guessed what song was being played as the second song and was promptly presented with a lovely red band t-shirt, a really nice touch actually. I enjoyed what they did, so for example Vote Elvis was loads of fun, and even though it was a little slower, it just felt rather cute!

It was good to have a natter with everyone afterwards and Charlotte mentioned to me that we need more pictures of Brian the cat (I agreed of course!) and the time had gone way too quickly - but was very enjoyable. It was a nice walk to Oxford Circus and saw all the Christmas lights before then on the tube and the train back home, and that was relatively calm. I arrived home and just felt a nice warm glow too, primarily because it was such nice times in such good company, and the first Totally Acoustic in absolutely ages!

Wednesday 5th December - InActive X

I have been going through the bugs and defect logs that have been reported by a number of our testers when they've been smoke testing all the desktop and web applications that were deemed to be Tier 1 and Tier 2 against the version of Windows 10 we'll be using. Interestingly, it looked like some of the web based applications only want to work with Internet Explorer (yes, really) and on top of that potentially might even contain out of date tech on them. One of the staff testing had noted one such site came up with a particular error so it was down to me to investigate it.

I replicated the same test using my own standard account to see what would happen, and I got the same error - and yet on my Windows 7 machine side by side, all was well. I then realised that in fact this was because Active X filtering was turned on in IE11 in Windows 10 (mainly for security related reasons, no bad thing) - and had been set by my predecessor in Group Policy, all sensible and a good reason to do so - so it was a case of temporarily over-riding the policy setting (fairly easy to sort) and then give it a good go to re-test and see what happens.

And you won't be surprised to learn then that re-testing showed that yes, it did work properly then provided ActiveX filtering was turned off. A chat with our Information Security manager and he agreed with me: really we should up security when we can, so see what the vendor says and take it from there. I've got a couple of contacts who may be able to help, so will be speaking to them tomorrow. But in the meantime I took a look at the said vendor's support site and Twitter account - and oh joy of joys, their statements basically say "We only support Internet Explorer versions 8 to 11." Really folks? In 2018?

In this day and age, having a web page for a software as a service that relies on one out of date, not that secure web browser, is a complete fallacy. Web standards are set for a reason, and so that the experience is the same not just cross browser, but also cross platform. Effectively the vendor has automatically locked out Mac and Linux users - and in fact trying both Chrome and Edge showed that the page refused to load because it deemed it not to be a compatible browser, and Firefox also when I tried later at home did the same thing. It smacks to me of bad programming and all that, but I'll see what comes out of it.

On a positive note (sort of) I had to take a different route home tonight but that did mean a stop off at Gipsy Hill, where I noted that the Gipsy Hill cat, Fanny, was all safe and snuggly in her little cat box, with a nice blanket all comfortable. I am sure during the day she'll be roaming the station and being cute as per usual, but it was good to spot her nonetheless. And when I did get home, it was crank it to 11 and blast some KMFDM incuding the ace "Krank" - namely the remixed version on their Rocks: Milestones Reloaded album, and so tune of the day.

Tuesday 4th December - Poundstretcher Purchases

It had been a longer than planned day at work, primarily due to me having to look at something which was a nice piece of PowerBI additional work which meant that you could connect to the main SCCM database and manage to extrapolate some nice pretty graphs and visualisation data into how you would want things to move on - and to be honest, it's not too bad either. The thing is though that it definitely did eat into the planned time to head home, so that did mean a later than planned tube and then train journey home.

The Love In My Heart had given me an idea with regards to not just when I host some friends early next year but in general - use the vacuum bags to save space on the likes of spare bedding and also any spare sheets, towels etc so that they take up much less room when not in use. To me it was a no-brainer and I had checked online before I set off that Poundstretcher was potentially the place of choice - and as there's one in the centre of Croydon open late, it was another no-brainer to go and check that out.

In fact, I managed to locate what I wanted at the back of the store - they had a multi pack of five bags, three medium and two large for around a fiver. In addition, I thought I'd check out what Tassimo pods that they have as they often get good ones in for not that much dosh, and they had the Morning Café XL pods in a bigger XL pack too - much like in the US, where it's 14 instead of 16 for the regular packs, but then 21 for the XL packs - and one of those for a mere £3.49? I'll have that thank you very much indeed.

I made myself one of the Morning Café coffees to have later and looked at my original spare single duvet, pillows and covers which I use with the spare airbed and last used when I had Mum stay over. I got the pillows into one medium bag, the covers and sheet in another, and the duvet into the large bag. Bagged them, used the ziplock at the top, then unscrewed the valve cover and used the nozzle on the Dyson DC07 on each, and yes, worked properly as intended. In fact it meant they were all shrunk nicely and I reckon that my wooden little box I got from IKEA to store all of that in now has a fair bit more space, so win!

In fact I may be looking at getting a higher tog duvet for over the Winter, and then my cooler one for the Summer can potentially go into another of the large bags, and be sucked in and fitted in the same box, so all good there I reckon. I think for me it's a good idea, and full credit to The Love for that one. I just wish you could do the same with other stuff too, but still. Tune of the day in the meantime is the ace "Sucks" by KMFDM which is a real self-mickey take in full on deprecating mode, which still even now makes me smile with the words..

Monday 3rd December - The Overnight Journey From Hell

I managed to get through today fine at work, although that was not helped whatsoever by what proved to be a journey and a half from hell last night - and one I really don't want a repeat of any time soon. In fact the fact I arrived home past 0100 today should give you an idea of how bad it was. So I'll set the scene. The Love In My Heart has dropped me off at Piccadilly station at 7pm, plenty of time for the 1935 train to London Euston and onwards to Croydon. We've had a hug and kiss, and I've had a lovely weekend with her all round. Later on I was wishing I was still giving her a cuddle.

I noted that the 1915 to London Euston had been cancelled, meaning that more would get on the 1935. The latter was already in the station and on Platform 7, so thought it best to get on early, get the seat. Sorted. In fact that was all good and comfortable, and despite a small delay to make sure everyone got on, we left Piccadilly a few minutes delayed, kept that up at Stockport and then arrived at Macclesfield. Nothing was happening for a few minutes here until the train manager announced that there'd been a fatality at Congleton and so we were going to be stuck here for a fair while.

So for around twenty plus minutes, nothing happening. We were then told to get back on if you had got off for some fresh air, and the train reversed back to Stockport - where it was then stood for ten minutes or so in the platform, then another ten just outside the station so that the driver could change ends again. By this time, the supposed fatality wasn't one and was an incident, and the person had been safely removed. So we could go back the way we came. Thing was that we could have diverted via Crewe and actually kept up the speed somewhat, even the train manager was completely narked at the fact we were being faffed around.

So it was back to Stoke on Trent on the usual route, only a mere 80 minutes or so delayed at this point. It was speeding nicely and even making up some time until we got to Rugby, and then had to divert on a slow line via Northampton adding to the journey time. To give you an idea, we arrived at Milton Keynes Central at 2250, and as it transpired the later 2021 departure from Manchester had already got past Watford and was only going to be a few minutes late into Euston. Officially, meh. And then...

To add insult to injury, the train then decided it had to follow a slow train heading into London so what's normally around a 30 minute run became almost an hour as it crawled towards Watford Junction and eventually into London Euston, and so arrived at 2347. Already that was too late for the last tube to Victoria at 2345 (in fact the tube station was closed off already) and so it was a walk to St Pancras to get the 0021 to East Croydon - thank heavens they run overnight for Gatwick related reasons. So it meant I got home around 0100, and to be honest,t the train manager did all she could and kept us posted but was being let down by poor management in the control room. Tune of the day is "Late Night, Maudlin Street" by Morrissey, certainly that was how I felt walking to St Pancras..

Sunday 2nd December - We're Walking In The (Salford) Air

The Love In My Heart had mentioned to me in the week that some of the staff at work had mentioned a rather nice thing at The Lowry Outlet Mall and all around Salford Quays and Media City - a little trail involving twelve figures of the perennial Christmas classic The Snowman, with each of them painted a la the Twelve Days of Christmas (partridge in a pair tree, five gold rings, etc etc.) Naturally it followed on nicely from the Bee in the City thing a while back, and I suspected it'd all be lovely.

The Love and I had breakfast, and had also fussed over Brian the cat. In fact he was all snuggly on the bed and allowed me to give him a lot of fussing over, which he doesn't always do, so that was good. We then looked at the weather and with it stopping raining, we headed off in the direction of Salford Quays, avoiding Regent Road like the plague due to its immense traffic delays, and it was abysmally poor - so we went via Chapel Street and down past Salford Crescent downwards - that worked well. We in fact used the Media City car park at the back of all the BBC Studios as it's a lot quieter and in fact not as mental as getting into the Lowry Outlet Mall park.

We had a nice walk towards the Media City part and immediately spotted one of the snowmen by the statues of Pudsey Bear and Upsy Daisy - and also noted near the Blue Peter Garden that one of the Bee in the City bees was still there - so if you missed out on seeing it, it's still around (good to know.) We then walked over to The Lowry, had a mooch inside the shop there and also saw the Two Turtle Doves snowman before heading inside the Outlet Mall and seeing the first one there too.

In fact it was good to have a look around the shops, and in Gap Outlet I decided with the offers being a massive 50% off to treat myself. I got myself a new jumper in a nice dark blue with a central set of stripes, and some stretch skinny leg jeans in a dark blue, much like the two pairs I have that are really comfortable and stretch just right as needed to - and they wash well also. Must admit I felt pretty chuffed to have got myself another shopping bargain as we walked around.

We did then walk around the back of The Lowry itself to get to see another snowman, and then back over to the Media City side to see a couple more and headed into The Dockyard pub for some well earned lunch as well. I had the chicken curry pie with mash and gravy (a mere £7.50, bargain!) and The Love had the Sunday Roast pork, which looked gorgeous and she said as much it was. We did also see another of the snowmen close to the Booths shop at the back of all of Media City, and so many families were walking doing the trail which was good to see. So "Walking In The Air" by Peter Auty from said animated classic is tune of the day - it really did feel all lovely.

Saturday 1st December - Three One

It was nice to have a relatively good lie in with The Love In My Heart, and Brian the cat was being all lovely and wanting a fuss and some cuddles, which of course he duly got. It was good that he was all content and was just happy to sit by the window and watch the world outside, although of course tabby cat sometimes lurks around and that does stress him out a little bit, awww. I have to say though that it was good that he was being all nice to everyone, running after the ball and playing football with it with his paws, and we settled in for Saturday morning telly and some nice breakfast.

The Love headed off to see her father and I had some quality time with Brian, he just wanted to be able to have a bit of a rest and look out of the window, but all was good. I then headed to the Etihad with my friend, and it was Manchester City at home to AFC Bournemouth in the league. City of course were still unbeaten in the league as well and a win here would put pressure on the teams playing tomorrow, but I said to my friend that Bournemouth are a good side and would go for it - and he predicted 3-0, I plumped for 3-1 as I thought they would score.

It was good to have a well earned brew and I even had a pie as well - the steak one for a change which was really nice actually - a proper pie! It's still not cheap at £4 though but there you have it. We got ourselves in the seats and noted that Sergio Agüero wasn't even on the bench - and so as a Fantasy League manager who had him up front, not good news of course. I was more concerned too that the side did lack David Silva so was definitely a case of resting players - not sure how wise that was but we'll see how that all pans out the game.

City kicked off and attacked in waves and it wasn't too long before the opener was scored. Some good work down the left involving Oleksandr Zinchenko and Leroy Sané meant that his shot was saved by Asmir Begovic, but Bernardo Silva was there on the follow up to smash home the opener. City though took their foot off the pedal and it was no surprise when a quality cross came in and Callum Wilson did what he does best and headed home a beauty for the visitors. 1-1 at half time and it was definitely going to be an interesting half time team talk I reckoned.

The second half started and City felt more purpose, in fact Raheem Sterling went on a run past five or six players and almost scored, the ball bounding off the post. He was influential more and more and no surprise when his one two with Danilo resulted in a shot from the right back saved, with Sterling first to follow up and score. It was another consecutive league game against Bournemouth that he scored in too! Awesome stuff. In fact City pressed on and a neat move involving Sané and David Silva off the bench put the ball in for Ilkay Gundogan to score. And 3-1 was how it finished. Why the hell didn't I put a couple of quid on the final score?

All was good and back at The Love's place, she had made a gorgeous creamy chicken casserole complete with lots of nice vegetables, and was perfectly warming for us both. Brian the cat wanted the cream but he did have some of the raw chicken which he wolfed down! We snuggled up and watched Strictly Come Dancing, being pretty impressed with Faye Tozer and Giovanni Pernice especially, but was also nice to see everyone really giving their all - no one was bad whatsoever. Tune of the day though has to be the brilliant "Don't Rain On My Parade" as performed originally by Barbara Streisand from Funny Girl - it was one of the dances and we'd seen the musical in London a while back, which was excellent.