Dear Diary... December 2021

Friday 31st December – Walking To Lunch

It was good for The Love In My Heart to be off work and so we could have a nice long New Years’ Eve together, being relaxed and content and doing the things that we want to do. In fact, it was good to have a longer lie in this morning and relax that way, and then when we did get up and have a light breakfast, Brian the cat was wanting plenty of fussing and cuddles along the way. We both had a shower, and was rather good to have the hot water back on and operational, it has to be said. We also thought it’d be good to have a nice walk later on, and so got ourselves ready.

We decided to do a similar walk down the Ashton Canal that I had done the other day, as the weather was mild and the sun was even making some sort of appearance. We headed towards the towpath and once past the cobbled downhill part to the canal itself, with a boat heading through one of the locks which was nice to see, it was then following the path towards the old mills facing Old Mill Street and Bradford Road, and the new housing developments which backed on to the canal itself. Once we then got towards New Islington, it was a right turn towards the marina noticing that the nice wine shop was open and people were sharing a bottle of wine by the basin – and why not.

Once past the marina and into Ancoats we thought it’d be good to head into the Seven Bro7ers brew house and have a nice beer there – the pilsner for The Love and the Sling It Out Stout for me, which is always lovely. We had a nice little lunch too – with some gorgeous nachos with cheese, sour cream, and a nice salsa and some fries to go with them. We enjoyed those as well as the beer and conversation, and definitely for me we could have easily stayed in there for more beers too. However, we did want to have a mooch in Oliver Bonas, and after a visit over to the Epicurean nearby and looking at all the fab beers on offer (and got myself a couple) it was over to Piccadilly station.

We went into Oliver Bonas and The Love had a good look around and was thinking if there was anything that she fancied with the gift cards that she had for Christmas – there were plenty of nice things in there but definitely nothing that she was after. We then took the tram back which as absolutely packed to say the least but had emptied out a fair bit at New Islington. We both surmised that because the trams on this line were being curtailed at 5pm due to staff shortages, everyone was heading homewards in good time. That made perfect sense really, and once home, Brian the cat wanted a fuss and plenty of cuddles, which of course he got.

Later on we had some nice nibbles for tea and settled in to watch the final heat of World's Strongest Man before then having a couple of drinks and watching the likes of The Last Leg of the Year, where Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline was getting some play (and make that tune of the day) due to the review of the year and the England football. It was good that they had a fun quiz again hosted by Josh Widdicombe, and then after that it was the usual switch over to BBC Two for Jools Holland's Hootenanny, a cut down version this year and filmed at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, where I've walked past when doing the Thames Path walks as of late. It was mainly Gregory Porter, Ed Sheeran, Lulu and Joy Crookes in the studio combined with archive performances, but as the clock headed towards midnight we reflected on a year where being together was more valuable than ever.

Thursday 30th December – Bowling Bonanza

Whilst The Love In My Heart was heading off to work today, I was staying in for most of the day. We had an appointment with a heating engineer coming as The Love’s heating had gone off the night before. Thankfully the system that is in the apartments is one that you can have a maintenance agreement with, which means that you’re able to get the callouts, parts and fixes done for a monthly payment, which works out best all round. It’s made so much sense for The Love since she’d signed up for it because it's a specialist system so having the right people for the right job is priceless.

The engineer turned up and thankfully he was able to quickly identify the fault. It turned out that one of the electrical relays inside the system was faulty, so rather have it open and close as needed to turn the supply on and off as needed, it was locked into the on position due to it going, so the element had overheated, and therefore the system had shut itself off for safety – hence no heating. Once the new relay had been fitted and the system had been reset, he checked it was coming on correctly and showed me the old relay – completely burnt out and not working. I checked later and turned heating on – and all good, so happy times. Tune of the day is The Heat Is On by Don Henley for obvious reasons.

Later on I headed on the tram to Ashton under Lyne and hopefully was going to a retro gaming shop called Revival. However, once I got into Ashton and found the shop, I noted that the shutters were down and it was not open – and sure enough they had put a message on their Facebook page to say due to illness the shop was closed. I headed back to The Love’s place on the tram and Brian the cat was quite happy to play ball for a little while, so he was definitely really pleased. The rain was coming down and wasn’t so good, but was heading out later for a nice evening and no rain was off to stop me.

It was time to take the tram again, having already purchased a day ticket earlier on, and so following a change at St Peter’s Square, it was off to East Didsbury and to the Gateway pub to meet up with my brothers and the younger brother’s girlfriend, where we were going to munch some tea together before heading off for bowling. It was nice to have a mixed grill with the Brightside Darkside porter ale, and we all tucked in to some food and drinks and chatted – it was nice to see everyone and be able to relax too. We also had plenty of chats about old games and old telly too, so definitely felt positive.

It was then over to Tenpin where I had booked for us a nice deal for the bowling – two games and a drink for a tenner each – no complaints about that really. In fact, I was able to have a pint as part of that offer so had plumped for that, and we got lane two, so was on the left hand side away from most of the masses. Each lane now had separation screens and unless drinking, you had to wear a face covering too, so plenty of precautions were being taken which made sense to us all. There were also a good range of bowling balls for each lane so we didn’t have to wander and get another set where they might have been handled elsewhere, and in the middle of some lanes down the alley plenty of balls were stored away.

I didn’t expect to get a strike on the very first bowl, but that’s exactly what I did – thankfully there were 10 medium balls for me and I just got into the groove all round. In fact, I won the first game by a fair margin, and my total of 170 was my best ever performance when bowling, so was really pleased with that overall. The second game saw everyone up their game well, and going into the final end, myself and my two brothers all could have won. As it was, the middle brother won by two over myself (144 to 142) and we even had some good tunes playing in the background, so definitely a good atmos. The arcade part had some games on and my two brothers went for it on Halo, so was all good. We all had a great time and it was a nice way to have some fun and quality time and be able to catch up too.

Wednesday 29th December – A Friendly Face

It was good today to resume a bit of a tradition around this time of year – and to meet a friend of mine who I used to work with for lunch. We made the sensible decision last year with the country on the verge of lockdown and also pubs not opening to not meet up – particularly as my friend is slightly immunocompromised, and with a view that once things were a little better we could do so. The good news was that I had my lateral flow test this morning, and it was negative. I did that because it was the right thing to do and to make sure that I wouldn't be causing any issues for my friend either.

It was nice to have some breakfast with The Love In My Heart and relax with a coffee before she set off back to work – she has to work between Christmas and New Year but has worked it out with the other staff so she does two days of three and therefore gets New Years' Eve off, which is a bonus. I got myself ready and then headed off for the tram stop, as I knew that a tram and bus day ticket would do the job today. My friend lives the other side of Sale, so it was a straightforward tram trip to Sale, and then from there to get the bus over to my friend's place. I did have a quick walk in Sale centre and noted that Tim Horton's had closed down some time ago – shame that as it was good to have a coffee in there.

My friend was really pleased to see me and it was good to be able to natter and catch up – with plenty having happened to both her and me. In fact with her explaining the current work situation, it only reinforced my view that I got out when I did and moved to a job in London – particularly with the lack of welfare shown to the staff. That was a direct contrast to my current situation really, and she also explained how her daughter who lives in London (and was up for Christmas) had been headhunted for a new job, and is now commanding a very good salary and position. I'm pleased – I've known her daughter since I've known my friend and know she works hard so that was a good positive to know.

It was then off to the local pub not far from my friend's place, and it was a really nice relaxed lunch together, with a good pint of the Lowry ale for me and the Desperado beer for my friend – it was two bottles for £6 so we thought, why not? The lunch menu also had two meals for £10, and that was value indeed – I had the fish and chips which was lovely, my friend had the vegetarian chilli which was also decent. Conversation and beer flowed nicely, and the background music in the pub was also very relaxed and decent, including the original version of Feel The Need In Me by Detroit Emeralds (make that tune of the day) – my friend recognised that straight off and very much her soul era so was pretty happy that came on!

The time went by far too quickly to be honest, and it was nice to have a very relaxed lunch. We headed back to her place and by this time her daughter and her partner were both around, as well as her brother, so was very nice to chatter with everyone there and really have a good afternoon. In fact, some nibbles came out including salmon, ham and some bread and crackers, so had those with a coffee (and later a mince pie with Bailey's cream, which was rather lovely!) and that was all good. It was a real positive to see everyone too and her brother had joked about getting the live football on the other night before realising it was on BT Sport and not Sky – not that for him as a United fan it was worth it! He did joke with me about being a City fan but I explained that was my position all my life, so reaping the rewards now was only fair really.

It was a very positive day all round, and I think for definite my friend and I will have to get together before Christmas next year, any restrictions allowing, and it was definitely a boost for us both. I got the bus back to Sale and literally got onto a tram straight away so that was a positive, then was able to get home pretty quickly. Brian the cat was waiting and had some tuna, but wasn't liking his normal tuna and prawn Sheba, so when The Love got home not long after, she tried him with the tuna in gravy, and he was much happier with that and scoffed it – which is good to see. He was being all cute and cuddly and wanted nothing more than cuddles from his Mummy. Awww.

After having a delivery from Domino's for tea, and then watching World's Strongest Man, it was on to watch the Brentford v Manchester City game on Amazon Prime. The Love's NowTV stick has the app on, so plugged that in the TV in the spare room and watched that in there so The Love could watch Emmerdale and snuggle with Brian. City played okay throughout, and a nice cross from the right from Kevin de Bruyne found Phil Foden, who scored with a neat finish. Brentford battled well and had some chances of their own, and we had a second goal from Aymeric Laporte disallowed for offside, so in the end it was a good result – more so as Chelsea drew at home with Brighton, so eight points clear going into the new year. Happy me!

Tuesday 28th December – Canal Walking

The Love In My Heart was having a well earned rest today, and deservedly so, as she was back in work tomorrow. With Brian the cat being all snuggly with her, after some breakfast I thought it would be good to get some fresh air and head out for a walk along the Ashton Canal and towards Manchester city centre, maybe seeing some sights along the way. I set off and headed towards the canal towpath, which in parts where the cobbles were near the lock was a little bit slippy, so did tread carefully to make sure that I didn't fall over as that would have been embarrassing.

I followed the canal under the low railway bridge near New Viaduct Street, and then this curved round to be a straight line and at the back of the former factories along Bradford Road. As the canal headed towards the city centre and New Islington, the former factories gave way to new build houses and apartments, and it definitely felt like a change of scenery. Not far from the Little Learning Ladder Nursery, I was able to turn right and follow the water path along New Islington Wharf, crossing a few bridges and passing by the likes of Cask before arriving into Ancoats.

It was good to have a walk around and I was thinking about having a coffee in the Halle St Peter's café, but that wasn't happening as it was closed until the start of the New Year, which did make some sense to be honest. In fact apart from the Co-Op and Seven Brothers, everywhere else was closed, and I guess the extended bank holidays made sense for the staff to have a rest. I decided to head back along towards New Islington Wharf and then cross over the canal towards New Islington tram stop, and follow the tram line via the main road towards Holt Town.

Once there, I then followed the path that runs alongside the tram, and it's the walkway that you can take from the city centre to the Etihad Stadium, that was originally opened when the Commonwealth Games in 2002 was held there. I headed around the stadium and the shop was open, although it was notable that there wasn't many people around but had Supra's fab version of Blue Moon in my head, so tune of the day. It was then back towards the canal and following the path back towards The Love's place where we were able to relax for the afternoon with Brian the cat more than happy to play ball with me and bounce it back.

In the early evening I decided to sort out booking some trains for the next few visits to The Love – with the fact that there weren't any new restrictions as yet and the fact I could re-arrange if needed, I could book with some confidence at least. I also had a good watch of the next heat of World's Strongest Man with Tom Stoltman and Mark Felix both doing pretty well for the UK in this heat, so was good to enjoy that too. The Love also made some really nice chicken with potatoes, roasties and vegetables for tea, and that was so nice of her and we had a glass of the Kylie Minogue prosecco to go with that too – we should be so lucky!

Monday 27th December – Going Not So Wild In The Aisles

Brian the cat had been a little bit poorly overnight and had a little tummy upset, so had been sick a couple of times. That had kept The Love In My Heart awake a little bit, especially as Brian was tapping occasionally to try and get his Mummy up. I thought it best to let The Love have a lie in and for me to be up and about for a bit, and ended up catching up on some telly and then relaxing with a coffee and some toast – it was a nice leisurely way to be up and especially on a Bank Holiday where it seemed that it was quieter than it would normally be at The Love's block of apartments.

Later on we were planning to head out for a walk, but the rain decided to come down pretty heavily and curtail those plans somewhat. We did however have a Plan B and that was to head off to John Lewis and Partners in Cheadle and have a mooch around their sale stuff to see if there was anything that we both fancied. The Love did see a really nice Joules jacket, which I must admit would look gorgeous on her, and there wasn't that much in the men's department the floated the boat. If you wanted to stock up on beer, their beer advent calendar was reduced in price though and that would get you through New Year and beyond for definite.

Nothing much took the fancy to be perfectly honest, and we did venture into the Sainsburys next door, where actually a fair bit of their sales stuff was pretty nice, and it was tempting to get some nice new towels for the bathroom as well as some other homeware bits. It was actually not so busy, but good to head around and The Love did manage to find a nice little present for someone too, so that was a positive. It was then off to head over to Didsbury and to go back to our original plan, and to have a late afternoon lunch / early tea at The Didsbury.

I was glad we had booked because the place was pretty busy, and I think that was down to the lack of staffing somewhat. We did manage to get some nice beer for me and a wine for The Love, and then from there we decided on a nice main meal. The Love went for the Hunter's Chicken which looked very good, and plumped for a gammon with egg and pineapple with a cola rum glaze and some chips – that was spot on too. It was pretty busy inside and we had some lovely conversation whilst enjoying our food, before heading back to The Love's place to relax with Brian the cat.

Later on was the start of the heats of World's Strongest Man, an annual staple which I always enjoy watching. This year's contest was in Sacremento in California, and I have to say that it looked very hot indeed to say the least. The first heat involved four time champion Brian Shaw, and he was in no mood to relinquish anything as he powered through the heat without difficulty. The stone off was an epic battle and they went to the final stone at least twice before Maxime Boudreault got through to be the first Canadian since JF Caron to get to the final. The iconic theme tune is tune of the day.

Sunday 26th December – Nine Goal Thriller

The Love In My Heart was all sleepy, as Brian the cat had been a little sick overnight and so had kept her awake a little, so I let her head back to sleep with Brian, and I got up and had a coffee. Thankfully, today's game was still on, so was good to know we weren't falling foul of cancellations. I had the Covid pass ready on the phone, and once we had some nice breakfast, I got myself showered and ready to be out later and wrapped up warm with a jumper ready. It was good to be up and also managed to watch some of the horse racing from the Boxing Day festival at Kempton Park.

My friend was on his way so headed over to meet him near the Etihad, and we had got there a little earlier just to be sure that we had time to show the Covid passes and get entry to the ground. All was good with the checks and there were plenty of warnings that you would be checked, so no one had any excuses. We got a brew inside the ground and had a good natter about all things football as well as music too, so was nice and relaxed prior to taking our seats with the kick off looming. Leicester City had turned us over 5-2 at the Etihad at the start of last season, so of course it was going to be a good test depending on which side of theirs turned up today. 808 State's classic In Yer Face (tune of the day) introduced the City team as ever.

Five minutes in, we got an answer. A lovely ball forward from Fernandinho found Kevin de Bruyne, and his swivel turn and low drive found the bottom corner for 1-0, so all good there. I didn't expect us to get a second either, but as a corner came over both Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte were wrestled to the ground, it went to VAR after the ball was cleared, and sure enough we did get a penalty which Riyad Mahrez buried against his former club for 2-0. That was pretty good and City kept pressing, although an excellent save from Ederson from a James Maddison free kick showed what Leicester were all about.

City had a flowing move down the right hand side and after the cross was cut out by Kasper Schmeichel, it fell to Ilkay Gundgoan to bury it in the bottom corner for 3-0. Raheem Sterling was then fouled inside the area and a much more definite penalty this time around. He dusted himself off and did the same as Mahrez and buried it into the top corner. Twenty five minutes had gone and City were 4-0 up, but to be fair, Leicester had their chances and I had a feeling that they might come out with some fight in the second half and try to at least show some pride and effort.

And did they just! Whatever their manager Brendan Rogers said at half time it certainly worked, as they hit us on the break and defensively for whatever reason we looked a mess. James Maddison started and finished a counter attacking move superbly for 4-1. Five minutes later, a lovely ball from Kelechi Iheanacho found Adeola Lookman and he buried it under Ederson for 4-2. It was getting nervous now, and even more so a few minutes afterwards when another good move forward and a shot from Maddison rebounded off Ederson and the crossbar, and Iheanacho finished from close range, and it was 4-3. I can remember Newcastle coming back from 4-0 down against Arsenal for 4-4 – surely we weren't going to be falling to the same fate?

A few minutes later City got a corner and the ball came in, with a header from Laporte finding the botom corner for 5-3. Relief all round, although virtually straight from the kick off Iheanacho had a shot saved from Ederson, and also a missed header from close range from Marc Albrighton could have also made it 5-4 too, so they did have their chances. Thankfully as a corner came over later on, Ruben Dias' header found Raheem Sterling and he was able to finish from very close range and make the final score 6-3. A nine goal thriller was a real exciting game for the neutral, and we were both relieved that we had managed to get another win and remain top of the table.

Later on at The Love's place we had a brew and also The Love had made a really lovely lemon sponge cake which was gorgeous, so we had a piece of that and it was all good from there. My friend headed home later and the two of us settled in for the evening, with the Britain's Strongest Man heat of World's Strongest Man, with exciting battles in all five events and Tom Stoltman edging out Adam Bishop for the title, and a late swing in the castle stones meant Graham Hicks finished third. Some superb events though which bodes well for the Christmas tradition from tomorrow of the five heats and final, always a superb fixture in my place.

Saturday 25th December – It's Christmas!

The Love In My Heart and I got up, and Brian was all being good and just wanted fussing and cuddles as we surfaced for the day. We weren't being picked up until later in the day, so could relax in our pyjamas and be able to open some presents together. I must admit it was nice to have got some lovely presents from friends and family, which included a number of CDs and Blu-Ray films, as well as a really nice check shirt from Next as well. The Love and I decided to give each other one present each, primarily as we could wear them during today. I loved the Calvin Klein watch that she got me, and she adored the Olivia Burton bracelet with the bee on, and this was rather gorgeous.

We had some breakfast together, and Brian had a play outside, with some of the Christmas classic songs in the background on 4Music, which of course included the classics from the likes of Slade, Wizzard, Shakin' Stevens and so on, but because The Love adores it so, tune of the day is Last Christmas by Wham – which had it not been for Band Aid that year would have been number 1 when released in 1984. That said, George Michael was therefore number 1 and number 2 in the charts that year which was at least something. The Love's sister and niece came to collect us as we were off to another relation for Christmas dinner and indeed to have first Christmas with the youngest family member.

The Love had had a phone call in a panic as they hadn't got any Yorkshire puddings for the dinner, but on the way I spotted a convenience store that was open, so went in, and they had said item, so paid for that and we set on our way. Needless to say they were very appreciative of our pit stop, so that was nice, and we settled in to the cosy front room with the youngster being all cute and lovely in her dress, and wanting to explore everything that she and others had got. In fact, the three in one activity walker that The Love got for her was a massive hit – she loved all the sounds and things to play with, and you can sit down or stand with it, or walk around, so she was being utterly adorable, and let me hold her and give her hugs too.

We also noted that the house looked a lot more settled since we visited after they moved in, so all the downstairs was all good, the bedrooms all were ready to live in, and it really did feel very homely indeed – notably the dining table all laid out for the dinner and it fitted perfectly into the space too, so we all felt like we had room too. I have to admit it did feel rather good and we had a prawn starter followed by the Christmas dinner, where you could just go and get the bits you wanted and add to the plate. This is always much easier to be honest, and everything tasted really nice,especially the roasties and the mash, so went down rather well all told. Foals played in the background and it just felt all relaxed and happy, with Maggie the dog being all cute and wanting lots of fussing (which she happily accepted from me.)

The time went by really quickly to be honest, and I think that both The Love and myself had a really good time – she looked gorgeous in her dress, and I felt so lucky to be with her too. It had been a lovely day and her relatives really did make me feel welcome, and the little one was so adorable. I was also pleased they liked her present from me – I got her a little Miffy sweater which had all flowers and little drawings of Miffy on, so of course had to be done. I also really appreciated that the Layer Cake beer from the Brewdog selection had been saved for me so I could have that with the dinner.

We got back to The Love's place and we relaxed with a beer and a wine and exchanged the rest of our presents – we saved the best til last! The Love very kindly had also got me the Frank Sidebottom Timperley Bigshorts mug (you know she had, she really had) as well as a gorgeous green jumper from Uniqlo and the Paul Weller orchestral album with the limited book – which was ace. The Love also liked what I had got her – this gorgeous bee jumper from Joules in blue with a blue and gold trim, with the bees embellished on, and the new Sophie Kinsella book – perfect reading for her when she wanted to settle in for bed too. We watched the Christmas special of Call the Midwife and also the best of Gogglebox for this year, and were happy and relaxed as we snuggled up with Brian the cat. What a day!

Friday 24th December – Moments of Reflection

The Love In My Heart headed off to work, and later on I left her place and was heading off on several bus journeys of my own, all covered with the Dayrider ticket, and having my Christmas Eve moments of reflection. There are two of my relatives who are no longer with us who are in two different cemeteries, so had planned a schedule of bus routes to get where I needed to be. In fact, I veered off schedule slightly which did mean I got to the first cemetery early, and had a moment to pause there, and this allowed me to then be able to get the next bus ahead of schedule.

That did mean that I was then able to arrive a good half hour ahead when I got to the second cemetery, and it already looked pretty busy. I was able to have a moment to pause, reflect, and did feel a little upset inside, but I know that being able to spend this time alone to have that moment is important to me – you never forget those that you love dearly and you always should make that time. Once done, it was a short walk to the local Costa and had a nice Christmas coffee as a little treat to myself – the toffee penny latte was rather good and even got said Quality Street sweet as well.

Later on it was off to my Mum's, and to spend some time with her on Christmas Eve. My brother and his girlfriend were there as they were with her parents tomorrow, and my youngest sister was also there, so was able to have a sandwich, some coffee and a good catch up with everyone which was nice. We did have a slight giggle as my brother recalled that Mum couldn't work out that reading and the town of Reading were the same spelling despite being sounding different – originally in her plans for going to Cornwall earlier in the year, she'd have changed trains there hence the source of debate!

I then headed over to the city centre on the way back to The Love's place, and managed to nip into Morrisons for a couple of essentials as well as get some Sling It Out Stout beer for me which is rather lovely, so thought it worth treating myself to some. I got back to The Love's place, fussed over Brian the cat, and sure enough The Love arrived home after finishing work for Christmas – she was back in on the 29 th but at least was able to have a few days off with me. She had made one of her really good lasagnes for us and it was all very nice to enjoy together on Christmas Eve.

We settled in for the evening with some telly and also some music, as we were road testing iPlayer on the Blu-Ray player as she had had some issues as of late with connection. Top of the Pops from Christmas 1978 seemed to play pretty well and it was good to hear some of the classic songs from the year, despite there being three different Boney M tracks, including Mary's Boy Child which was Christmas Number 1 for the year. For me though, it was great to hear the likes of Brian and Michael, Abba and best of all Wuthering Heights from Kate Bush, obviously tune of the day for me – I still adore this today. It was all snuggly with Brian later as Christmas Day approached.

Thursday 23rd December – Heading Home For Christmas

It was good to be up and about, and with some final tidying around the flat all sorted, it was time to head up to Manchester and to be home with The Love In My Heart for Christmas. Unlike the Chris Rea song, I wouldn't be driving home for Christmas (but make it tune of the day anyway), but taking the 0920 train from Euston to Piccadilly. A check this morning showed that it wasn't cancelled, so all good, but as I got to London Bridge on the way to St Pancras, I thought I'd better check what was happening. And sure enough, it looked like the 0920 was cancelled, but I knew I could board the 0856 train before that, even though I wouldn't get a reserved seat for that one.

I walked over to Euston from St Pancras, knowing that having checked the train capacity, it wasn't packed, and I thought it sensible to go to Coach C as it's unreserved, and then get a seat there. That worked out well and even got my old favourite seat C26 by the window, and near the luggage rack, so all good. I settled in, and the train was delayed slightly out of Euston due to some signalling issues – which would later on be more delays for more trains so was glad to get out of there to be honest. Once past all that, I got a breakfast meal deal and settled in for the journey, arriving in Manchester around ten minutes late but all comfortable.

It was then on the tram to The Love In My Heart's place, and all was well there with Brian the cat wanting a fuss and some Dreamies. He was being ever so good, either sat on the bed or the pouffle, looking out of the window without a care in the world. I made myself a coffee once I had unpacked, and was then watching some telly and being pretty relaxed. I was home and it felt good, and I know the next week and a half or so being with The Love will be rather lovely. She was at work today but would come and meet me later, as I headed off to get the bus over to see a couple of friends.

It was great to see them both, and I had presents for them too, so was a good time to do a present swap as well as a catch up and a good chat about all sorts. One of them had had their booster jab over the weekend so all three of us were fully boosted, and I'd tested myself before I set off which was negative, and made sure all was good. It was nice to be able to spend some quality time with them and have a coffee, and put some of the world to rights at the same time. My friend reminded me that we'd need the Covid passes for the football on Boxing Day, which I had ready and good to go, so all was good there.

The Love came round later too to pick me up on the way home from work, and it was of course wonderful to see her. She was so happy to see everyone as well, and we headed back to her place with numerous fusses and cuddles for Brian the cat of course, and had some tea and settled in for the evening. I must admit that it just felt nice to be back and the three of us were happily spending time together. I kept reminding her that one more day and we'd all be good for Christmas, and to power through tomorrow at work. Nonetheless, Brian wanted to make sure when it was bedtime I knew he was the boss of the bed!

Wednesday 22nd December - Festive Haircuts and Bees

So it was the final working day of the year for me as I have four working days on leave, with tomorrow and then the three days between Christmas and New Year. Because the Monday and Tuesday after Christmas Day are both Bank Holidays (because of the way Christmas falls) it means just three days in between - and this year due to performance, our workplace all have Christmas Eve off. It didn't happen last year and I ended up taking it as leave anyway (as I don't really want to be travelling up on Christmas Eve itself) but good to know that I was on the final straight today.

In fact, I had planned and change and was executing it, to effectively have .NET Framework 4.8 on some distribution point servers that needed it, in advance of any future MECM upgrades. All bar one were all good and successful, but the other one appears not to have had any updates installed since February this year despite reporting that it had. A backup opinion from a colleague seemed to show the same as me, so it may be worthwhile in the New Year to remove the DP role, then get Windows Server reinstalled on the server from scratch, then add back in the DP role and sort it that way.

Anyway, after work it was off over to the barber's and the usual wizardry was performed by them in good time, and felt a lot better afterwards for having the hair all short and good to go. Last year of course I wasn't able to go and so had to do the trim myself which was a bit of fun and games - so definitely good to get it done to be on the safe side. I did note that it did seem quieter on the trams to and from Wimbledon, pretty indicative of the way things appear to be generally on public transport at the moment - just not chancing things really.

I had a nice chat with The Love In My Heart, and that was all good, and having sorted and tidied the flat and packed the case, it was time to settle in for some evening telly - with Christmas Sewing Bee. New host Sara Pascoe, and new location of a mill close to Leeds (I think it's in Pudsey if my research is correct) which looked pretty and seemed to be a good space to have the sewing room - plus it's not London either so argubably might have been safer to film at. Not sure if the new full series will be done there or not.

In any case, the four celebrities had to do a nice applique jumper for the first challenge and after recycling material into party outfits, they then went for a made to measure with Christmas past influences. I liked Anneka Rice's jumpsuit (very her of course) but also a really nice Good Life vibe about Reverend Kate Bottley's lurex party dress. Anthony Cotton went Dior chic with a black dress and massive red bow, which of course Esme loved to bits. All of that with some classic Christmas songs in the background including Shakin' Stevens' Merry Christmas Everyone, so that has to be tune of the day - hard to believe 36 years ago this year it was number one!

Tuesday 21st December - The Shortest Day, The Emptiest Office

It was off to the office today in order to get some final bits of work sorted out and indeed to carry out any final testing that needed to be put in place before the New Year. As it transpired, the office was very very quiet indeed - there were a handful of people in, and that was it. Social distancing was therefore really easy (obviously) but despite that, I stuck to the current guidance, so masks when not at desk and so on. In fact, the calm and quiet setting was much more constructive for me to get plenty done, and that's what I did.

I set about retiring and removing any applications and packages that had not been in use or been superseded, with a view that removing content from any distribution points would claim back some space (very useful of course) and indeed it would also mean that I would be able to then keep things neat and tidy. In fact, what I did note was I'd retired a chunk of packages a few weeks back to was time to get those removed, and that was good to get sorted and to claim some more space back along the way.

I did head out to Tesco at lunch time and that felt quieter, and managed to get the Meal Deal sorted and be out of there pretty sharpish - they did have Jethro Tull's under-rated Christmas song Ring Out Solstice Bells, so tune of the day there. Other places around were busier with shoppers and that proved to be the case later on, so definitely was keeping well away from any of that. The other thing I did note was that in general there was a bit more caution about where people were walking to, and how many of them were a bit more wary - understandable considering the current situation at least - but also why I was keeping out of the way as much as possible.

I was supposed to be off to the barber's after work to get my haircut, but they called me as someone had taken out the power for the whole road and therefore wasn't able to remain open today - but as their appointment system meant they could prioritise bookings first, they got me in for the same time tomorrow so all good there, and that'll be a positive. It shows too that good customer service means that you come back - and they've been ever so good and my regular place since I moved down, so got to be positive.

When I got home later on and had a lovely chatter with The Love In My Heart, I thought about next year and looking at potentially some places to stay around my birthday or our anniversary. Ouch. Expensive. In fact, the apartment we stayed at in Amble earlier this year, in early July I should add, which was lovely, was around £600 dearer for a week towards the end of May. Madness, and shows the pricing and demand has gone through the roof. In fact that seems to be the case at other ideas I had (including staying in a cottage at a railway station on the lovely Settle-Carlisle line too.)

Monday 20th December - The Gradual Wind Down

And so with this week being the final working week for me, as I've got some days next week off, the final week of work for the year begins. I must admit it's good that I've got the option to work from home and it's been recommended again for some time now anyway, and this meant I could get myself set up and ready to go but also be able to do some documentation and testing, so that took up a fair part of the day. As well as that, I've been working out a suitable plan of action for some things happening in January.

I must admit that it's been also good to work out those plans, primarily because I then know that I can put things in a sensible sequence: so upgrade the version of SQL Server that's being used in MECM (as it needs to for support reasons) second week of January, then get 21H2 as default build and get upgrades out, then upgrade MECM itself to 2111 the week after - which all is a sensible phased approach of doing so. In addition, this does mean that I can then make sure each step works correctly before proceeding, and it'll also mean that the pre-requisites are satisfied for the upgrade nicely too - so definitely a winner there.

I also today spent some time looking at some of the potential ideas we may have for next year and how we'll handle any new acquisitions: things are moving pretty fast on that score and it's sensible to have an idea of what will happen where: thankfully my manager agrees and we had a healthy discussion today about what some of those plans might look like - where we get involved and how we'll be able to then make things work well for us all. It's good to have some thought processes now and not be surprised later methinks.

After work, I did settle in and watch Only Connect on BBC Two. Of course we're now at the quarter final stage which means it does get more difficult to be honest, but was pretty pleased that there was a football related question on the connecting wall which I got straight away - football teams from the Netherlands including the likes of VVV Venlo and Heracles! What was bizarre was hearing Nick Knowles' attempt at performing John Mayer's rather good Your Body Is A Wonderland, and had to play the original (tune of the day) to redress the balance a bit, such is the nature of obscurity in quiz shows now.

I am heading to the office for the final time this year tomorrow, and my test was negative (I always test the night before) which was good news. I think for me I've just got into the routine of regularly getting myself tested anyway and I think more so under the current climate it makes a lot of sense. I really want to be sure that I'm going to do the right thing and I know that when I do at least head up to see The Love In My Heart that we'll have a quieter but lovely time nonetheless.

Sunday 19th December - Walking The Thames Path

Having chatted online with my friends last night and having a very good time of it, it did mean that this morning first thing I was up and watching the final of Strictly Come Dancing on BBC iPlayer. I did think Rose and Giovanni were going to win, and they did, but I have to say John and Johannes were superb too, and if they'd have won, I'd have had no complaints. The highlight for me though was not Ed Sheeran's new single, but who was dancing to it - it was superb to see Janette Manrara back on the floor where she belongs with her husband and fellow pro Aljaž Skorjanec, a delight to behold. Claudia's outfit wasn't that good either, something The Love In My Heart also pointed that out to me later.

Later on it was time to head out for a walk, after I postponed it (sensibly) yesterday. To be on the safe side before I set off, I tested myself with a lateral, and was negative. I have no symptoms but absolutely wanted to be sure. I knew that too it'd be case of getting the train to Clapham Junction, heading out of the Grant Road entrance (the one near Platform 1) and then getting the 170 bus to Albert Bridge, where I would start section two of the Thames Path North Bank walk. It was good that the bus was pretty quick and the six miles ahead I knew would roughly take me a couple of hours.

It was a nice start to the walk, with the Chelsea Embankment giving way to Chelsea Bridge, Grosvenor Railway Bridge with Battersea Power Station opposite, and then off towards Pimlico, Vauxhall Bridge and Millbank. It was tempting to head to Tate Britain for a coffee, but pursued onwards and soon arrived at Lambeth Bridge and towards the Houses of Parliament. It was a little busier here but the gardens nearby with the statue of Emmeline Pankhurst did provide some welcome relief and was a greener space to relax in as I walked through.

Once I'd avoided the masses close to Westminster Bridge, the North Bank of the Thames is a lot quieter than the much busier South Bank, and I had to cross the road a couple of times due to the super sewer works going on. I did see the two sphinxes flanking the monument not far from the Golden Jubilee Bridge, and then carried on towards Blackfriars, noting the two dragon statues that stated I had left Westminster and was in the City of London, diverting around Blackfriars station and back on to the path again.

The final stretch was mainly by the river, diving underneath the likes of Southwark Bridge, Cannon Street railway bridge and London Bridge before then getting towards the Tower of London and its pier for the boats and the tower itself, with the bridge looming large to complete the six miles in just under two hours, so about right for the walking pace that I have. I also then was going to cross over and back towards London Bridge but there weren't many trains back from there today, so instead walked along towards Shadwell, turned right on the road to Wapping and got the Overground from there back to West Croydon - it's also a lot cheaper doing that too!

I watched Sports Personality of the Year later on BBC One (the iconic theme tune that used to be used is tune of the day) and it certainly did have plenty of achievements to celebrate. I must admit I was surprised the England football team got team of the year: yes they did well but didn't win the Euros (I'd have gone for the Olympic and Paralympic team, or Chelsea Women FC) - and I sort of thought that Emma Raducanu would win, but good to see Tom Daley getting a decent amount of votes too.

Saturday 18th December - Writing in Saturday

With various tube lines being on strike meaning more people on buses and trains potentially, and the last shopping Saturday before Christmas, I decided that taking a walk today along the Thames Path (and with potentially protests outside Parliament Square where the route would take me) wasn't really going to be the safest option, so thought it would be better to postpone that til tomorrow and instead get things done in the flat as well as write some things as well that I wanted to do.

I did need to head out into the centre of Croydon both to Savers and Poundstretcher, the former to get mainly cleaning stuff as well as also some new razor blades for the Mach 3 (they do a pack of 12 for around £19 which is much better value) and that proved to be good - the staff on the door would give you hand sanitiser and a clean basket, and generally were keeping numbers right. Shame that some people decided the rules didn't apply to them when it came to face coverings (and clearly were just ignoring it) so kept clear, and got all the bits I needed without issue. In Poundstretcher I got the Hob Brite oven cleaner I needed as well as some Tassimo pods too for nice coffee, so epic win there.

It was good to be back home and with the window open to let some fresh air in, I settled in for a relaxing afternoon of mainly watching some video on Youtube, mainly some metal stuff from Andrea Boma Boccarusso, who is a male Italian metal guitar player of note. He shreds all the classic riffs and it's a good education for some to discover some metal bands you may not have heard or indeed play. One of the things he's put up recently is almost like a short history of metal, with various styles shown and some classic recommendations, including Black Sabbath's Paranoid (damn right).

In fact it made me get out my remastered version and play that album in the full glory of quadrophonic sound, as the quad mix is there on the disc as well resembling the way that the albums were sometimes released in the 1970s. Of course, side one is brutal and the opener War Pigs, for me, is still one of their finest and tune of the day without question. It also goes to show that sometimes an album can stand the test of time and be defined by its sheer greatness, and this is definitely one of them. If I was alive in 1970 when it was released: album of the year, without question.

It was also nice to get creative and write December's poems today: a few things have sort of inspired me to write about them so I got up and did that. I think for me when I get tranches of inspiration I can write quickly and think on the feet: I don't always get inspiration that quickly but it's good when it happens. Today was one of those days, primarily I think where a good mug of coffee from the Tassimo has served me well and allows me to think onwards. And of course, get some nice fresh air and think about things.

Friday 17th December - Dissecting Disk Images

The last working Friday of the year for me (because I have Christmas Eve off in case you wondered) and certainly one that seemed pretty busy. I had the work Mac out ths time and it was a good opportunity to package some applications that needed doing - so new versions of both Tableau Desktop and Tableau Reader, to mirror those that I did yesterday for Windows. Thankfully in both cases, the DMG disk image inside has a package PKG which means it's nice and easy to get a JAMF Pro policy to distribute the installation and get that working pretty well.

Docker on the other hand, a world of pain. The DMG disk image has a drag and drop to applications, but unless you run it and then assign the root:wheel rights afterwards and to be sure that it's done the business of setup post-install, you can't just pick up the .app package from Applications and neatly put that together into a PKG package, sort of annoying really. I got it done though and although you still need to run the user elevation at the start on first run, that's no different than if you dragged the image to applications anyway, so at least the install is consistent and it works, which has to be something.

I must admit too that it was also good to see an increasing number of Windows 10 machines become fully compliant and overall be on the correct versions they need to be. In a good way, the move to 21H2 planned in the New Year is much less obtrusive (because it's effectively a simple switch update) and does mean a much easier way to keep on top of things, and not a 4GB download or so. It's argubaly worse on Mac OS as one of my colleagues in Cyber Security is road testing Monterey as well and the upgrade download for that is a massive 13GB or so, crazy really.

What in both cases it shows is that in a real world corporate environment, especially if home broadband working from home is increased, is that it can't really wash with the masses if you're having to be able to sustain that level of download each time. Obviously in an office with fast links, that download becomes small, but bear in mind that not everyone has superfast broadband at home, so it's worthy of note nonetheless. With everything shaping up well, it was time to sign off for the weekend.

I had a relatively quiet night in but I did settle in to watch some telly and indeed have a lovely chat with The Love In My Heart as well. It was sensible not to head out too much to be honest as I want to be right before Christmas, and not risk a positive test (for obvious reasons). I did however listen to the excellent Danny Elfman album Big Mess, and one track that hit out especially for me was his new version of Insects, originally done when in Oingo Boingo, so that's tune of the day for me without a doubt.

Thursday 16th December - Emptiness

It was off to the office today, and with the recommendation to be more at home, as well as back to being 50% capacity in the office itself, it was no surprise that the train towards central London was a fair bit quieter, as well as the bus being quiet and indeed the office was also very quiet. That was no bad thing as that allowed me to get on with plenty of what I wanted to do today, which was a good thing. A bit of application packaging was in the offing for me today to help remediate some issues that had been seen with a couple of pieces of software, so a bit of time was spent getting those sorted.

One of which, Docker, seems to have a silent install command, calling the executable with install --quiet after the exe name. But.. this effectively runs a command window to do the install with all of the text progress, then comes up at the end without any note to press a key, but you have to in order to exit. That's just plain daft, and a bit of investigation shows if you call it via Powershell using start-process and using the -NoNewWindow parameter, it correctly exits out at the end without any issues whatsoever. Certainly whoever coded the installer really needs to pay some more attention to detail, but that did mean I could road test and get working well a deployment via MECM, so all good.

I also was able to look at both Tableau Reader (free) and Tableau Reader (licenced) today and got the new versions of those up and running well. In fact, there's a not that well documented switch you can use so any previous versions are removed when the new one is installed - the default behaviour is to keep multiple versions on which seems sort of daft to me. Anyway, the switch worked fine, so using REMOVEINSTALLEDAPP=1 on the installer command line works a treat. You'll also need ACCEPTEULA=1 if you're using a silent install line too, as it's one of those where if you don't select that, it doesn't work.

On the way home I decided to stop by at Belleville Brewing in Wandsworth Common, primarily to get some of their lovely beer for the weekend (and why not?) as well as possibly have one in there, with the premise that Thursday night would be quieter, and it was. I even had the cosy space with the soft cushions on sofas made with pallets as the base (clever recycling use here) and that was nice whilst I had the Southie Stout, named after Southfields whch is down the road from Wandsworth on the way to Wimbledon. It felt lovely, although being a milk stout, if you're lactose intolerant or vegan then that's no good for you, just as a heads up.

I did decide later to take home a couple of cans of that as well as four cans of their rather nice micro IPA Sunlight, which had been reduced to £1.60 per can. Definitely a good'un and at that price, well why not? It was good to be home later and have a good natter to The Love In My Heart and watch the latest qualifying heat of World's Strongest Man from the AO Arena in Manchester, with the deadlift event being particularly epic to say the least. It's all warming up nicely for the big one over Christmas and New Year, bit of a tradition of mine to be honest. With that in mind, the theme tune is tune of the day - just sets the tone for the drama ahead.

Wednesday 15th December - Agüerooooooooooooooooooooo

Today was a sad day for me as a Manchester City fan, and a day I knew that was coming - in fact my friend and I had chatted about the possibility last night before we saw City demolish Leeds United. Effectively, and after signing for Barcelona a few months ago, Sergio Agüero is retiring from football. I actually saw the news on the train heading back down to London Euston this morning after The Love In My Heart had dropped me off to the station this morning after coffee and breakfast, so all good.

To put into words how much Sergio Agüero is a legend of a Manchester City player is somewhat difficult. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been there for his first Premier League game against Swansea City, off the bench and scoring two goals, and indeed for his last Premier League game against Everton (bear in mind this was a ballot of only 10,000 fans being there) - with him coming off the bench and scoring two goals, the second of which actually proved to be pretty significant as I'll reveal further on. The goals in between ranged from the sublime to the superb but always seemed to be the important goals at important times.

None of course were perhaps more important than that goal against Queens Park Rangers, meaning we came back from 2-1 down in stoppage time to win 3-2 and win the Premier League title for the first time (and our third top division trophy after the 1937 and 1968 wins) and snatching it away from Manchester United made that even sweeter. It was just so well controlled under pressure and for that to go in as it did and do the honours was nothing short of superlative. It's still for me one of the greatest moments of my life and the fact it happened just after my 40th birthday made it all the more special to say the least.

Not just that though: the stats speak for themselves. 12 Premier League hat-tricks, an all time record eclipsing the great Alan Shearer (and if you beat him you know you're good), the fastest five goal haul in history, in 22 minutes against Newcastle United, the most goals from an overseas Premier League player (184) and that number is also the most for a player for a single club, beating Wayne Rooney's 183 (now you know why that second goal against Everton mattered.) He also got 20 goals a season for five seasons on the trot, equal to the legendary Thierry Henry - and the fourth highest goalscorer in the Premier League of all time too.

The records for City are even more monumental: all time Manchester City leading goalscorer with 260 goals, most Champions League goals (43) and most league goals (184 as above) and in addition to that, the honours board whilst playing for us: five Premier League titles (2012, 2014, 2018, 2019 and 2021), one FA Cup, six League Cups and three Community Shields also. Just a joy to see him put the ball in the back of the net on so many occasions and many of them will live long in the memory of any Manchester City fan like me who absolutely loved him. Somehow it seems fitting that tune of the day is Supra's version of Blue Moon, because having that play out loud when we won the Premier League because of that moment from that legend, special.

Tuesday 14th December - Seventh Heaven

I had today and tomorrow off work, primarily because I was heading back up to Manchester to watch the midweek game between Manchester City and Leeds United. Originally it was meant to be a Wednesday but had been pulled to a Tuesday for the likes of BT Sport to show the game. With Man Utd's game at Brentford called off due to a high number of COVID cases, the focus would be on us in the main to see how we'd do. So it was off to East Croydon station and then towards London Euston in good time for the 1120 departure to Manchester Piccadilly, and the train was thankfully nice and quiet.

The Love In My Heart was taking some time owing off and indeed had done the early shift at work too which meant that she was able to come and meet me at Piccadilly, and we would be heading off for lunch at The Elizabethan in Heaton Moor. This of course did mean (at long last) Plum Pudding ale for me, which I've been waiting to have for ages, and was well worth the wait, as well as some fish and chips for lunch with The Love having the tower burger which did look very nice I have to admit. It was nice to have a midweek lunch together and that certainly was an unexpected but welcome bonus for us both.

We then headed to Didsbury village and to a card and gift shop that The Love and I both like - Harriet and Dee. They had some lovely cards and we were able to get some nice ones we needed, and I got two local photography ones with them being a winter scene in the snow, and all blank for writing a message in, which is exactly what I was after - so that's good. We then were back at The Love's place and making sure that Brian the cat was getting plenty of fussing and cuddles (and his tuna and Dreamies of course).

Later on my friend and I headed to the Etihad with the game being an 8pm kick off. We got our customary brew and reflected on the Formula 1 shenanigans at the weekend, so explained how it all was how I saw it. He didn't realise it was on free to air, otherwise I think he might have watched Channel 4. We took our seats and all was set with the names of the players projected onto the pitch with the stadium in virtual darkness inside and 808 State's awesome In Yer Face blasting out (make that tune of the day) - I have to say it looked pretty cool.

City kicked off and despite a chance missed by Bernardo Silva, didn't take too long to get going. The excellent Rodri chased a ball towards the box and the keeper had to make a save, and the ball came out to Phil Foden to finish. City's 500th Premier League goal under Pep Guardiola in this, the 207th game, that's pretty impressive when you think about it. And the boys in blue were not done yet, oh no. Later on the ball was crossed from Riyad Mahrez and it met the head of Jack Grealish and in for 2-0. Nice. Later on also another excellent ball from Rodri found Kevin de Bruyne who slotted home superbly for 3-0.

With pie consumed at half time, it was on with the second half and not long after the start, a run on the right from Mahrez resulted in a deflected finish, but nonetheless all good for 4-0. City had a goal disallowed with Phil Foden offside, but a few seconds after that the ball came back towards de Bruyne, who rattled it powerfully into the top corner with some pace - the keeper was never going to save that - for 5-0. It equalled our wins against Arsenal and Norwich earlier in the season, but could we perhaps go for more, we both wondered? We want six chants emnated around the Etihad.

Not too long to find out either. The ball was crossed in and Aymeric Laporte's header was well saved, but it came out to John Stones to have a shot on goal - the first of which was saved but he reacted quickest of all to the rebound and made it 6-0 with a power finish. It was mesmerising stuff, and the final flourish was given when a corner was well headed in from close range by Nathan Aké - so 7-0. This was Leeds United's equal highest margin of defeat in any league game, and the equal highest Premier League win this season (Chelsea beat Norwich 6-0 earlier this season.) Just superlative stuff from City tonight, and we both absolutely loved it!

Monday 13th December - In The Post

So the start of a working week and indeed a work from home directive generally, again, with the premise being to do so if you can. We had already been pretty much forewarned at work this was going to happen anyway, with them reducing capacity in the office and as long as you wanted to go in with a justifiable reason (lack of Internet, mental health etc) then you could, but strongly recommending of course a lateral flow test to be sure you're negative before you go in, which I have been doing anyway as a matter of course.

After last night's rather short notice announcement, it did mean of course that inevitably vaccination centres had long queues (especially walk in ones) and there was a shortage of lateral flow tests available if you wanted to order a pack online with even local pharmacies saying supply wasn't enough for the new demand. The thing is though is that a moment's notice announcements don't do anyone any good, and adds stress and worrry to people enough already who might be thinking that in all honestly they'll have to scale back Christmas for whatever reason.

I did manage to note today that with last week's changes in place, a number of users hadn't restarted or switched off their laptops for some time, so this meant that one service in place which now has a new configuration setting won't as yet adopt that until of course it restarts - as it needs a service restart. Still from those that have done I can see it's made already a good set of benefits, so can't complain too much really. Just pleased to be able to have this in place earlier rather than later.

Later on it was sending off more packages in the post with cards and presents in them - the last of the bunch to be honest as it would then be bringing a bag of presents up to Manchester tomorrow and that would at least mean that it's all pretty much sorted. I have to say that for me it's been a case of a lot of presents not being really big, so has helped that I've been able to post them off, and print at home has been a massive boon - saved me lots of time and hassle to be perfectly honest.

I also this evening spent some time listening to some rather good albums that will most likely be making my shortlist for the end of year review. This includes Dream Theater's most recent release A View From The Top Of The World, and the single Invisible Monster is pretty epic, showing of all the excellent progressive metal that they do in a distilled six minute form nicely with James LaBrie's vocals on top form - and definitely for me tune of the day. Well worth checking out if you've not done so already.

Sunday 12th December - Duel In The Desert

After having a nice lie in together and some breakfast, The Love In My Heart and I were settling in for the early afternoon to watch the finale of the Formula 1 season. Sensibly Channel 4 and Sky Sports came to an agreement where Channel 4 could show the final race on proper telly, but they'd have to have Sky's commentary and coverage (although their own commentators would do their thing later for the highlights show later in the day.) Hamilton and Verstappen level on points, Verstappen on pole and Hamilton second on the grid, winner takes all.

We were quite pleased to see that all the build up did focus on the other drivers too, such as it being the final race for Kimi Raikkonen, and also the fact that it was George Russell's last race for Williams before heading off to Mercedes to partner Lewis Hamilton. The grid walk was done and plenty of people there including Usain Bolt and Stormzy doing their thing, and then it was off for the formation lap and fifty odd laps of some hopefully exciting racing to boot.

The first lap commenceed: Hamilton got ahead, and within a few corners Verstappen was sending one up the inside, Hamilton took the escape route out but went ahead because of it, and then would he have to give the place back? No. Which was the start of some ridiculous decisions all round by the FIA race director Michael Masi - how we miss the late and great Charlie Whiting. The majority of the race after the start was incident free, with the main bit of excitement being Sergio Perez doing the team mate thing superbly and holding up Hamilton so that Verstappen could catch up, and all within the rules (as racing for position.)

With a few laps left to go and a virtual safety car been and gone, it was a crash from Nicolas Latifi that brought out a safety car. This is where it all went a bit AWOL. The rules normally state either lapped cars can overtake the safety car, or none do. Instead Masi went for the five lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to be able to unlap themselves, then bring the safety car in at the end of the lap (also not correct according to regulations.) Of course, Verstappen had pitted and got fresh tyres on.

That meant a last lap showdown as if the whole thing had been orchestrated for TV. Naturally Verstappen got past and he was able to win the race and the world title, but it was galling for Hamilton as he couldn't risk pitting under safety car as it could have meant second place and if the race finished under those conditions, no good for him really. However, it was a case that clearly the rules weren't followed by the FIA and Masi themselves, and I felt sorry for Max: he had won it on track but clearly the officiating meant it wasn't the fair battle between he and Lewis Hamilton which really would have been a fairer outcome.

I should add I didn't mind whoever won either: but just poor officiating really left a sour taste in the mouth, which at least was remedied by having a nice Sunday Roast out at the Ashlea in Cheadle with The Love In My Heart later on - I had the turkey and it was really nice with fluffly roasties, tons of gravy and a massive Yorkshire pudding. The day had gone by too quickly and I didn't want to be saying goodbye to take the train back home down to Euston, but that I had to - and had The Chain by Fleetwood Mac in my head (for obvious F1 reasons) and that's tune of the day for me.

Saturday 11th December - Taming The Wolves

After some nice breakfast from The Love In My Heart, it was time to go and meet my friend and head over to the Etihad Stadium for the Saturday lunch time kick off, as Manchester City were facing Wolverhampton Wanderers today. Wolves had only lost narrowly in their last couple of games, and City had lost shockingly to RB Leipzig during the week, so wanted to bounce back and stay top of the league. This would also put pressure on both Chelsea and Liverpool playing later too, so all good.

It was dark and cloudy but at least dry as my friend and I headed to the ground. I had been able to get us a brew inside and we had a good sit down and chatter on the concourse about all sorts, and was good to have that quality time before then heading to our seats and ready for the game, with Joy Division's all time classic Love Will Tear Us Apart playing before the game (make that tune of the day) and with the team news being a good selection, hopes were high for goals and a good performance.

The first half was a real sense of cat and mouse: City were attacking constantly but occasionally Wolves would attempt to break, mainly through Adama Traore, and that was something to be careful about. I also noted that some niggly fouls from either side were creeping in too. City did what they could to score but they hit the bar, and their keeper made some pretty good saves. Ruben Dias was booked and we had to be careful not to fall foul of the refreee. My friend said it'd be a red card here today.

And he was soon proved right, but in some circumstances! Raul Jimenez was booked for a foul on Rodri, and was arguing with the refreee quite a bit which wasn't good to see. However as a free kick was being taken he decided to block it being taken and therefore the referee had no option but to give out a second yellow and a red card - within thirty five seconds of each other. That was completely daft and if I was a Wolves fan, I'd be a tad furious about him letting the side down.

City did eventually score but it was a tad controversial: a Bernardo Silva cross was intercepted by Joao Moutinho, and the referee (and VAR) claimed it was off the arm and therefore a penalty - but certainly looking at it again I wasn't that sure. I'll take it though and Raheem Sterling took the penalty and scored, and made it 100 Premier League goals at the same time which was a good stat for him to realise. City pressed on but didn't get a second and hung on at the end for a 1-0 win, but was glad that we did the business.

Later on after the other football results had come in, The Love and I settled in for the rest of the evening with some rather nice spiced butternut squash soup for a starter with some bread, some nice steak for a main with a sticky toffee pudding afterwards for me. We also watched Strictly Come Dancing and it was great for Rhys and Nancy to start with a rousing Tango to Queen's classic One Vision, and all four couples produced some superb efforts - the Argentine Tango from Rose and Giovanni was just beautiful also. Going to be hard to pick one to leave out of those four to be perfectly honest!

Friday 10th December - After Effects Won't Back Down

It was off to the office today and to have a pretty productive day to end the week overall. I was adding some new versions of the standard applications to the Windows 10 build task sequence, which included new versions of Chrome and Firefox along the way. The good thing was that I had road tested a couple of things on the Tuesday when I was in, so made perfect sense to go live with it all. In fact, the telephony software we use also had a new version so was also able to add that at the same time and get things working nicely.

I also was feeling the after effects of having had the booster jab yesterday - they did say that you might experience some cold and flu symptoms as a reaction. And so it proved: mainly a slightly blocked nose to a degree but also some level of coughing (thankfully not lots and I was warding most of that off anyway with the likes of some paracetemol to leep me going.) It was positive to at least get some bits from Boots at lunch time to make sure I would be able to dose up during the weekend if I needed be - the rest of me all felt perfectly fine though.

During the afternoon I noted that on the other side of the office, with the Friday being a quieter day, that the distancing preparation was in place for next week. I also noted too that even for a Friday it did feel much quieter than it has been, so that might bode well for any days that I might come in, in that it'll be quieter somewhat. After work of course it was off on the tube to Kings Cross, and the last time this year at least that I'll be doing a diversionary route via Doncaster to Manchester.

I got a meal deal for the train ahead, and managed to get on the train and to my seat without any issues, and all good. The train was two units of five, and you couldn't move between the two: and this was an issue as the rear unit I was in had no catering available, so glad really I got my food before boarding. All was well and on time as it headed to Doncaster, and changed over there in good time waiting for the 2042 train to Manchester Piccadilly, which was relatively quiet even when leaving Sheffield to be honest.

I got to Manchester, The Love In My Heart picked me up and the two of us headed to her place with Brian the cat on the pouffle being as adorable as ever. I have to say though that the Christmas tree looked absolutely gorgeous and that really did make for a nice festive feel as I got back, and we settled in to watch some Last Leg followed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in concert on BBC Four, so I educated The Love on the likes of the superb Listen To Your Heart (make that tune of the day) and I Need To Know. Early classics from them for definite.

Thursday 9th December - A Welcome Boost

It was another fairly normal day working from home, with a view that I'll be in the office and heading up to Manchester for the weekend's football and other things. Definitely for me, it was a productive day too as the culmination of several days' work and testing meant that things were falling into place nicely, and working pretty well. I like it when I've managed expectations somewhat and got people on board to see the common sense way of working that I like to implement.

Unsurprisingly after recent annoucements, it was confirmed that the office from Monday would be back to a maximum 50% capacity and fully socially distanced, with the main premise to work from home. I did sort of expect that to be perfectly honest, and that's good that I've prepped a bit for that, but even so, it shows that at least they're taking things seriously. And of course that does also mean that because I had booked the distanced side of the office anyway, I was unaffected - and no surprise either, all Christmas parties cancelled so that the premise is we get as much chance to be with families as possible - sensible that.

It was off to the local vaccination centre at lunch time to get the booster. I knew it might be busy but what I didn't expect was how busy it was going to be - I checked in and the queue was half way along the upper mall of the centre where the vaccinations were taking place to then be screened and checked. Things did move gradually though and the volunteers were really nice and friendly - which helped a lot. One of them did tell me that they've had around 1,200 people per day in the last week, almost all booster jabs, which shows that at least people are taking up the offer when called.

Once through to medical screening, all was well there and I was soon able to then be in the queue to be vaccinated. The staff were all lovely and made sure that the arm was all comfortable, in it went and that was all good. I did have to wait in the waiting area for some fifteen minutes or so to be sure that I wasn't getting any effects from it, but that was me all done and sorted for now, two plus booster done and certainly doing my bit to make sure I protect myself and others.

Later on I got myself all sorted for the weekend and packed a case of clothes, but also had an extra days' worth added in there because I would be back up in the middle of the week for another Manchester City game as well as Saturday's match - it'd also mean no case needed either so that would be less hassle all round. It was also nice to play some tunes from the new albums including the rather good Storm to Weather by Grace Petrie, so that's definitely tune of the day for me.

Wednesday 8th December - Sick Of Being Lied To

It felt today as if as well as work we were going to see some more changes in how the UK was going to be dealing with the current situation and indeed with the new Omicron variant. In fact, I had managed to bring my booster dose forward slightly to tomorrow (with the premise being that the sooner the better so I give it as much time to settle in well before Christmas) but of course all the main talk, even at work, was about the constant lies of the Government, a video released last night showing various staff laughing in the face of all of us, and how basically it is a completely disgusting way of showing it's one rule for them, another for the rest of us.

It sickens me to the core, it really does. We've all made sacrifices. I ended up not seeing certain members of the family for months on end to keep them safe, and even now with one of my friends, we're fully masked up at the football to ensure we're both as safe as we can be (and we do have our vaccination status to hand at all times just in case) - so when you see people clearly thinking that what they do is above everyone else, it rankles deep in the stomach. I think of all those much less fortunate who've had the loss of a loved one and not even be able to say goodbye or to be able to touch them in their final moments, but had to respectfully be distant and obey all the rules in hand.

Leadership is showing an example. The Queen did it with the loss of her husband, Prince Philip - numbers in the church were limited, she was alone with her mask on having to grieve in her own private space without anyone there to comfort her. As someone who isn't big on the royal family, it said to me that she was respectful of her people and wanted to say we were all in this together. Other world political leaders have set an example to their people and as a result compliance has been good, and that the way things have been dealt with are much better. Take for example Angela Merkel. Tsai Ing-Wen. Jacinda Ardern. Clear messaging, leading by example, and as a result taking the country with them.

So what we do get here? A lying, bumbling idiot who clearly was using tonight's press conference with the Plan B restrictions some scientists had been calling for weeks ago to go in place as a distraction tactic for the parties that took place against regulations last year, which quite rightly have angered people up and down the land. Even diehard Conservative members have rang in phone ins today quitting their membership. Trust is important. If you have trust in what your leaders do, it's easier to comply. But when the leader doesn't wear a face mask in a hospital setting, not in a crowded Parliament or indeed not when he should, it's fairly damning of the thoughts of many of "Well, if he doesn't do it, why should we?" - and so the cycle continues.

Quite frankly, I'm sick of being lied to, as are so many of us. The only thing we can do is to look after ourselves, because this Government isn't capable of doing that nor are they fit for purpose. There's an excellent piece by James Mitchison in the Yorkshire Post which I suggest you read, it's spot on. And, when released on December 18, please do download tune of the day - Boris Johnson is Still a F*****g C**t by the Kunts, which mashes together a bit of Depeche Mode, the classic Timelords (early KLF) song and indeed even bits from the Addams Family into something we can all belt out together.

Tuesday 7th December - A Day In The Office

It was off to the office today and had plenty of changes to instigate and get sorted when I was in there - I had planned it around me having a couple of days off, so definitely for me at least meant I could put some plans in place, operate them and make sure all was well. In fact, one of them was to roll out the new version of 7-Zip, which of course we generally include as it's more flexible and can include some obscure formats to extract ensuring we can receive anything. As well as add to the Win10 build to replace the old one, it went out to clients and the success rate was even better than I expected.

Another thing I did as part of another change was to effectively ensure a registry key is set for an installed product, but only if the key exists. In terms of a compliance item and baseline in MECM, I did it in two stages: first of all, check for the existence of the key in place - so if there, mark as compliant. Those that are compliant become members of a MECM collection where the next item then says set the key value within to what we want. Part of the reason for doing it this way was to make sure that we only set the key where it was needed (as if it didn't exist setting the one value alone would be pointless) and also so we can see how many actually are using the program (not just installed) because the key is set on run normally. Method in the madness, I promise you that.

One upshot of one of these things is that it means that because the change involves setting a drive letter much higher than C, it allows Windows 10 upgrades to go through without any issues, so we can round up some that maybe as yet haven't done so, automatically. So just a thing here: if you're using any form of cloud based storage, and you want to allocate a drive letter or mount point for example, if a drive letter, don't go lower than the hard disk letter (normally C in a lot of cases) as that's when testing is what blocks the upgrades. Something Microsoft probably won't fix, but a heads up anyway.

I did have our training and comms team close by to me today, who are lovely, and were able to have a good chatter to them both about all sorts. I must admit even though it was the socially distanced side of the office, it was good nonetheless to be able to make sure we could chat at a distance and be able to catch up a bit. They did explain that the office was pretty much central from their locations (one in South London, one in North London) so made sense to arrange to be in on the same day and co-ordinate.

I must admit that it was nice to be in but even nicer to be at home later, where I relaxed a bit and after listening to the radio of Manchester City's loss in Leipzig (not that it mattered as we would top the group anyway) it was good to chat with The Love In My Heart but also be able to kick back and enjoy a rather nice listen to the new album from Grace Petrie. Hard to believe that Connectivity is her ninth album but for me the rather acerbic barb that is We've Got An Office In Hackney says a lot more about the music industry than you realise, and so tune of the day for me.

Monday 6th December - Thames Path In The Rain

As I was off work today, I had plenty of things I wanted to be getting on with. One of them happened to be getting few things sorted for presents and also getting some cards readied to be sent out to people too, so a walk to the local post office to get some stamps was in order, as well as making sure that I had enough padded envelopes to pack up things I needed to and be ready to send off. Definitely I think for me this year I'm posting more instead of making trips out to people - primarily because it was easier to be able to get that done for a number of reasons.

I set off later for the tram and headed to Wimbledon, changing there for the District Line to Putney Bridge and then got the 74 bus towards Lillie Road in order to start my walk - it was Section 1d of the North Bank of the Thames Path. I got to The Crabtree pub and followed the riverside walk for some time, noticing the mud everywhere on the low tide and warning signs not to walk on it (because it can be like quicksand.) I had to soon divert around Craven Cottage, Fulham's ground, as work was being done on the stand that is literally on the banks of the river!

Once round there it was through the lovely Bishop's Park complete with small lake, and then towards Putney Bridge and the start point of the Boat Race, marked by a really nice piece of public art on the river side just after the bridge too. It was then back via the tube station and avoiding The Hurlingham Club, and diverting by its park before then following a road by the river. Unfortunately due to the Thames super sewer works and some new housing developments which meant the path was closed off (meh) not much riverside views until after Fulham Sainsburys, then it all looked rather nice with the vintage lighting.

By this time the rain was coming down incessantly even more which wasn't so nice, and glad I had a waterproof coat and walking shoes on, that was for definite. I passed Imperial Wharf and the Karen Hardy dance studios (the same one as who used to be on Strictly, by the way!) and then after passing under the Fulham Railway Bridge with the Overground crossing above me, it was then over Chelsea Harbour, and skirting around the Chelsea Creek and all the new housing developments too.

On to the home stretch now and once past some more new housing, Chelsea Embankment came into play and it wasn't long before arriving at Battersea Bridge, crossing the road and along to the Albert Bridge. It has a two ton limit, so no buses or anything, but the way the bridge was modified over the years, from being cable stay, then suspension, then beam, showed a lot of ingenuity to keep it going. It's lit up by 4000 LED lights at night too, incidentally. So walk done, and hopped on the 170 bus towards Clapham Junction.

I did have a nice walk around the shops near there and I have to say it was really nice just to be able to mooch around. I did get some more Christmas cards (although I realised later I didn't necessarily need so many) and then headed on the train home from Clapham Junction, where I swore I saw Alex Polizzi on the platform! All in a day's nice walking and exploring, and certainly for me as I was listening to some music later, namely Lukhash's Code Veronica (make that tune of the day) it was positive to have exercised a bit and to really make the most of a nice day off.

Sunday 5th December - Lunch For Three

The Love In My Heart and I were up relatively early today as we were heading into London a little earlier than normal for a Sunday. Part of the reason was that The Love's niece was heading down on the coach today to London and primarily to start a new job as well as stay with friends, and it made sense to meet up at Victoria near the coach station, head towards Euston and then be able to have a lovely lunch together - I had booked the Crown and Anchor as Sunday roast would be an option to say the least.

Later in the morning the niece informed us she'd be getting off the coach on Finchley Road and heading on the tube from there due to delays and so would meet us at Euston instead of Victoria, so we headed off earlier, got on a very busy train to Victoria, and then from there got the tube, which emptied out at Oxford Circus to say the least, and off to Warren Street to walk over to Euston Square (as the met line goes there). We just missed her but caught up at Euston and so all was well with the world, and stopped off in Cafe Nero for a coffee to be able to sit and chat and stay out of the rain coming down.

We headed across to the Crown and Anchor, and that was all good in there. We had a higher table close to the Christmas tree and felt very festive, so all was good. In fact once we got some drinks in, we perused what we were going to have, and in the end I went for the fish and chips (as I'd had the pie on the Friday) and The Love and niece both had the half roast chicken with all the vegetables and trimmings, which went down very well indeed. I of course simply had to have the sticky toffee pudding for afters too along with the Stay Puft ale again, I do like a good porter me.

It was so nice to catch up and we had a lovely time, and the time went far too quickly before we then headed over to Warren Street so she could head off on the tube to friends, and myself and The Love had a nice walk down Tottenham Court Road, had a good mooch in Heal's (as you do) and ended up at the bottom end of Oxford Street and had a look also in Flying Tiger (as The Love hadn't been in one for some time) before we then headed back towards Euston.

We headed up to the Signal Box pub on the upstairs of Euston station, managed to get a table there and were Whamageddoned within around ten minutes with Wham's Last Christmas blasting out (make it tune of the day) and so were having a nice drink and relaxing in there before we headed down to the platform, and I actually worked out the right one so The Love was able to get on the train first. We had had a lovely weekend and it went too quickly for us both, but was so nice to enjoy together.

Saturday 4th December - Christmas At Kenwood

After having a very nice and full breakfast this morning, The Love In My Heart and I were all set for the day of some shopping but also a nice visit over to the festive light show at Kenwood House in Hampstead later on, which we're going to for the first time (first time also they've done such a thing) as getting tickets for Christmas at Kew and indeed the one at Crystal Palace Park, Lightopia, was also of a similar sold out state for a Saturday evening. And we thought it's somewhere different too, so why not.

We headed out of mine and over to East Croydon station and off on the train to Farringdon, changing there for the tube to Baker Street, and we were soon heading along to Marylebone High Street, which The Love and I always like having a good mooch shopping in. I must admit actually that we both really do like the nice shops but also the fact it's much more chilled out than anywhere else in central London, even for December. It was a lovely look around Daunt Books, and also the likes of Caroline Gardner too, where The Love got herself a new face mask (she has two from there already which fits her well) so made sense.

We stopped off for lunch at the end of the high street in a lovely pub with wood panelling inside and an upstairs dining area, which was very chilled out too so that was good. In fact, the Angel in the Fields had lovely staff and the gammon and eggs I had for lunch was totally spot on, and The Love had a cheese and pickle sandwich with chips which was also very good too, and a nice drink each too. We then ventured via St Christopher's Place towards Oxford Street and the chocolate shop with all sorts in including Tim Tams. It was way too busy to back on the tube.

And off from Bond Street on the Jubilee Line and towards Waterloo, where we went along the travelator of doom underneath the station before getting out at the South Bank. It was nice to follow the South Bank for a while, stop off at some nice market stalls, and we decided it might be sensible to have a mulled wine along here, so stopped off at the Anchor pub close to Cannon Street railway bridge and that was really nice to have a lovely mulled wine (not cheap though!) but it was all good.

We got to London Bridge via Southwark Cathedral and Borough Market, which was all lovely, and then from there headed on the tube which was very busy, and changed at Camden Town for the Northern Line to Archway, the High Barnet branch at that. Once at Archway we headed across from the station and waited for the 210 bus which would take us to Highgate Village before heading along the very top of Hampstead Heath and towards the entrance for Kenwood House, and in perfect timing for the admission time too.

So off we went around the Christmas at Kenwood show, and overall it was good, albeit if not the longest trail ever. They did have light versions of the likes of rabbits, squirrels and badgers in the background and the front of Kenwood House was lit up with snowflake projections which was lovely. They also had a laser show later on as well as a light tunnel to walk through. The projection at the end outside the front of the house with the festive finale and the robin saving Christmas was lovely, so all of that was really good. There were some decent food stalls too, and we had something to eat there in the food market by the house.

However, some of the paths were very muddy and should have been covered by the same material they used in the market, and also the queues in parts were very slow to move, so you were standing around waiting for people to move as well. I think on the whole that it was good though, and I'm sure any teething issues can be ironed out for next year and so it can feel more festive with perhaps a different route. We got the 210 bus back to Archway and it lucked out for us with the tube to London Bridge and train home so that was good.

Once we got back to mine we settled in with some drinks and watched tonight's Strictly Come Dancing, which had some excellent routines, especially Rhys and Nancy's Argentine Tango which was excellent, and thoroughly deserving of the joint best score of the night. It was also a superb catch lift from Rose and Giovanni too, with a tune that The Love adores because it's been in the likes of Bridget Jones' Diary, and so tune of the day is This Will Be (An Everlasting Love) by Natalie Cole, which pretty much sums up how I feel about The Love, hopefully everlasting for us both!

Friday 3rd December - Wrapping And Meeting

It was nice to be able to have a day off work today with The Love In My Heart coming later on, so was able to make a start on wrapping the Christmas presents I'd already purchased. I had got some lovely wrapping paper from Waitrose and gift tags to match, so was able to get things sorted there and be ready to wrap later on. I did have a couple of packages to pick up, so headed off into the centre of Croydon during the morning and was able to get the click and collect all nicely sorted. It was so easy to be able to pick things up without a massive crowd.

I did have the Sainsburys delivery come early in the morning too so had all the shopping in for the weekend, and also could then wrap up everything that arrived. In fact one present arrived mid afternoon via DPD as well so that was a positive - saved me waiting around reception for it too. I had also ordered a few things this morning too so knew that they would arrive early next week, so pretty much the majority of the shopping has been done and sorted for the festive period, thankfully.

I left mid afternoon and noted that it was very busy with kick outs of schools and colleges, but was able to head on the train from East Croydon to Victoria, then from there go across over to Euston on the tube and arrive in good time. The Love was on a train arriving at 1706, so that was running nicely (although according to The Love it was very busy) and once arrived, it was nice to have a massive hug at the station then head along towards the side exit of Euston as we had somewhere nice to go to for tea.

It was over to the Crown and Anchor for tea for us both, and good job we reserved a table as it was busy tonight especially with those having a small Christmas get together with crackers and all sorts. We got some nice drinks and had a good catch up chat first of all before then deciding what to order from the food menu. Of course I went for the pie which was as gorgeous as ever, and The Love had the steak sandwich with horseradish creme fraiche, onions and all sorts, and looked rather good (it was spicy though.) They even had the Stay Puft ale so that was me all nicely sorted too.

With tea consumed well and the peak hours of the tube gone, it was over to Warren Street and then to Victoria for the train home to East Croydon. Back at mine we watched Top of the Pops 1984 which was the Christmas special, and this included the best songs of the year, so Frankie Goes To Hollywood were on twice, and one of those was Relax (so tune of the day for me that one). They did also have the masses of Band Aid at the end with Paul Weller miming the Bono part of the song (you know which bit!)

Thursday 2nd December - Out On The Town

It was back to working at home today which did mean I could get plenty done today before a visit from The Love In My Heart tomorrow for the weekend, which I'm looking forward to very much (as I should do). I was able also to run some tests and work out just why that one application was failing - and to me it definitely seemed to be missing files or services on one of the app servers somewhere, so will need one of our colleagues to be able to conduct some further investigation on that. The good news is that at least by being thorough it's being appreciated, so that has to be a definite plus point.

I also had a couple of deliveries of Christmas presents which was good - not least because I had been to Waitrose the other night and picked up some gift tags and wrap so I could get things wrapped up and organised, which has to be a plus point without question of course. I also was able to get a few more bits ordered and definitely feel like I'm on the last leg of getting things sorted before the festive period. The good thing this year is that a lot of presents aren't big in size, so won't necessarily need to be trundling big bags with me everywhere as well as the case over that time.

I left home after work and was heading off into central London to meet up with a few work colleagues as we had planned a get together to celebrate both the completion of a couple of major projects and also a pre-Christmas drinks thing too. This one at least meant that if for example anything did happen, I'd have time beforehand to still go. After consideration, the 17th one is just too close and too much of a risk to take to be honest, and so won't be going to that, so considering this more of a little bit of a do.

In typical Southern Rail always letting you down fashion, there were signalling issues just south of East Croydon so took me time to get a train to Victoria, then from there headed on the Victoria Line (which was rammed, most likely due to the Tottenham v Brentford game later on to be fair also) and got off at Oxford Circus then walked across to the Green Man pub for beer in there. The selection of beer was very poor indeed (I mean, Doom Bar. No, just no.) and so it was on to the Brewdog Punk IPA for me, the best of a not very good bunch it has to be said.

It was nice to catch up with everyone and have a good natter about all sorts - plenty about football and indeed later on the pub showed the Man U v Arsenal game including a rather controversial opening goal. We did all think that as any injury was caused by Man U's own player, the goal should stand, and that's what VAR came up with also. It ended up being the Cristiano Ronaldo comeback show with two goals, but still. It was just nice to see people although I suspect that my head might be feeling it a bit more in the morning, and tune of the day is the tune that they're using for the Amazon Prime football coverage - Makeba, written by Jain.

Wednesday 1st December - Primed For Silva

It was another day off to the office today and quite nice too as my manager was also in the office, so good to have some face to face chat and conversation, mainly whilst we were heading off next door to Whole Foods for a well earned coffee during the day and then spending time outside with coffee and catching up. It was also a good sign that despite the office being busy everyone had adapted the new protocols and that definitely felt positive - a case of everyone's in this together and keeping safe as much as we can. It felt a good thing to be honest.

I also had an email from Amazon again at this time of year offering me one month's free Prime membership - and with a couple of forthcoming games of football being on said channel including the Manchester City game at Aston Villa tonight (and I can always use the fast free delivery for any remaining Christmas presents) it was pretty daft not to do that. I have the app on the telly as well and so I can watch the game from the comfort of my own sofa without having to do too much. That said, once I knew Andy Townsend was on commentary pundit duties, I was eternally grateful for the option to switch to crowd only noise. Goldie Lookin' Chain have a rap about said commentator - definitely worth a listen and tune of the day for me.

It was good to see a resurgent Aston Villa under new manager Steven Gerrard give us a decent game, more so second half, as I don't mind Villa at all. Even Prince William turned up to watch (who to be fair has long been a Villa fan) so by royal appointment, City turned up. And did they ever! We had most of the play in the first half and midway through a nice run down the left by Raheem Sterling got him to the byline - he pulled it back all the way to beyond the edge of the 18 yard box where Ruben Dias smashed it into the bottom corner. I mean, he's our defender and a quality strike and all that!

City pressed on and Villa got more into the game. The opportunity came to clear and a peach of a ball from Fernandinho found Gabriel Jesús on the right hand side. He pegged it down the right and Bernardo Silva was on side in the middle. The ball was crossed over and from the edge of the box Bernardo hit it superbly, side footed the ball into the top corner with sublime skill. When even some of the Villa fan vlogs say what a quality goal it was (and fair play to those) it says a lot about how much that goal was a classic. 2-0 at half time and going well.

I always knew though Villa were going to come back into it so it was no surprise at all when Olly Watkins smashed home low from a corner and he did really well. Villa had other chances and needed some agility from Ederson in net and some good defending to keep Villa out - and at the other end Jesús should have done better with a chance fed to him from Bernardo Silva. However I will take the three points and another win to keep up with both Liverpool and Chelsea no problem, so that's all good.