Dear Diary... December 2022

Saturday 31st December – The Story of the Blues

It was nice to wake up and have the happy little cute smiling face of The Cute Little One giving me a little wave hello, which was lovely. It was also nice to see that we’d all managed a good night’s sleep, and also that we would be able to have a nice little breakfast. The Cute Little One had some Weetabix and basically loved that, before then later having some toast as we had some sausage on toast to enjoy. She also was happy to sit on the sofa and watch some animation on Netflix, including a couple of Christmas specials from the Madagascar franchise (including a Penguins one which I have somewhere as an extra on a DVD) and a short film called Angela’s Christmas which she watched twice!

It was also nice to play with her and to be able to read some books, and give her a sticker book to add some stickers to the pictures. It was definitely also good to see that she was more assertive in what she wanted, so if we asked to put something on, she would either say no, or yes please. That’s one good thing that I should praise her parents for: they’ve been very good at making sure she says please and thank you if asking for something, and good manners from that age is essential, so definitely the right move to be made here.

I headed off later to meet my friend as it was a weekend of football fixtures which meant Manchester City would face Everton, and after a good away win at Leeds United earlier in the week, hopes were high that we could end the year well. But at the same time we lost to Brentford at home last home game and struggled to get over the line against Fulham, so was not taking anything for granted whatsoever. We got into the ground, I got myself a chicken balti pie, and was ready for the afternoon’s action with the prospect of rain being a very real possibility later on. Out came the teams and off went the game.

As Everton’s fans sung one of their 80s song, Spirit of the Blues, my friend reminded me of the Mighty Wah and their classic song Story of the Blues, which he and I both admired back in the day, so that Pete Wylie penned classic is tune of the day for definite. City pressed forward but something wasn’t quite right for me, but nonetheless after some crunching tackles it was a case of no quarter asked or given. City did at least make the breakthrough later as some good work on the right from Riyad Mahrez meant the ball being cut back across the six yard box and there was Erling Haaland (who else?) to finish, for his 21st goal of the season no less. Already!

The second half was stopped for around eight minutes as the earpiece and electronics from the assistant referee on the side nearest to us was malfunctioning, and they had to get it right. It stopped momentum for us though and on the break Everton looked more positive. What I didn’t expect was the defence to stand off the attack on the left hand side leaving Demarai Gray to score an absolute beauty in the top corner for the equaliser. It stayed that way and even with some changed and some 11 minutes of stoppage time at the end, due to earlier malfunction and constant time wasting, the score remained the same and it was 1-1, two points dropped and probably handing Arsenal the title, more so after their 4-2 win at Brighton later on.

I arrived back pretty wet due to the downpour that was outside, but soon dried off and we had a nice relaxing night in for New Year’s Eve. The Love had got some nice sharing food, so we had some prawn toast stars, some Cornish brie bites, chicken, pigs in blankets and all sorts. It was lovely, and we watched the final heat of World’s Strongest Man before then settling in for The Last Leg of the Year with some excellent guests including Baroness Warsi, Ellie Simmonds and Sophie Ellis-Bextor, who did all the little musical numbers between each break and was really lovely as she always is.

As we watched the opening part of the Jools Holland Hootenanny, it was time to reflect on a year of some transformation but also some sort of return to normality too. The Love was as lovely as ever and we did flick over to BBC1 to see Sam Ryder doing a Queen medley, and we both agreed though only three people could ever do justice to Somebody To Love, and that is Freddie Mercury, Adam Lambert and George Michael, and bearing in mind two of those are no longer with us, that list becomes pretty short. The chimes kicked in, and that was the end of 2022, so here’s to next year.

Friday 30th December – Lunch With Friends

It was another day of The Love In My Heart being back in work, and so for me I had arranged to meet a friend of mine for lunch – someone I used to work with when in Manchester that I’ve kept in touch with and been friends for a long time. We normally do try to get together at some point to have a good catch up and be able to rest and relax together. I knew it was a fair journey so I set off early, bearing in mind it was one tram journey followed by a change for a bus, which only runs once every half hour during the day, so timing was key.

As it transpired, the trams were spot on and was only a two minute change between trams at St Peter’s Square heading towards Sale, and at the station there I had more than enough time to walk into the centre, get a coffee from Costa and stay in, and then head back for the bus that I needed. I had pre-warned my friend I may be a few minutes early, just in case she was getting ready, and all was well when I arrived, hugs, a coffee and plenty of chatter including some news she had wanted to tell me but was waiting to tell me face to face. By the sound of it, she’s made the right decision and I think on reflection I’ve also been glad I left when I did too.

My friend and her lovely partner were having a little dine-in lunch for the three of us, so that was good. Her partner is a no-nonsense Northern bloke like me, so we get on really well anyway, but good to have more chatter and to see that my friend’s decision had been supported the right way and with everything taken into consideration. It was a nice light lunch with salmon, ham and cheese for making your own massive cob sandwich, and some salad if you fancied it (not for me, but a really nice looking one nonetheless) and that went down nicely, as did the mince pies with brandy butter and a coffee afterwards.

Plenty of conversation flowed during the afternoon, including some music chat and how their passion for Northern Soul meant they were gutted a local evening of said music had been cancelled (real shame that) and also their shared love of musicals and how they’re making some plans for the West End to see some. I had recommended Six for my friend’s daughter (who lives and works in London) and she had seen it and loved it, so that was a positive. The opener from that musical, Ex-Wives, is definitely tune of the day as that had been played during the Platinum Jubilee too.

Time went by far too quickly and said my fond farewells before heading back to Sale on the bus, and from there the trams were golden to get back to The Love’s place just after she had got back. We did also have a visitor tonight too – namely The Cute Little One, who was staying overnight with us. She had already had her tea but of course was happy to have a biscuit or two as well as watch the likes of the new Paddington series (“bear!” she calls out) before then having a bath and being ready for bed, and so it was all of us including Brian the cat all snuggled up later. Awwww.

Thursday 29th December – Betwixmas

It’s always a different time in between Christmas and New Year, more so that because The Love In My Heart has to return to work in those times. Between the staff she does two days out of the three, so was off yesterday which was a nice extended little break over the festive period. She was back into work today which meant for me it was a day to peruse the sales and perhaps get a bargain, as well as being able to take a walk elsewhere and get some fresh air too. With that in mind, it was a case of getting up, getting ready and then heading for the tram stop.

As MediaCity is in the same tram zone as where The Love’s place is, an all day travel ticket for those zones would work well, so I ended up on the tram and then heading there. It made sense as it’s quite a nice place to walk around and what was the Lowry Outlet Mall is now called Quayside, and the shops there may indeed be good value for bargains as some of them are outlet stores. Once at the tram stop, I did have a little walk around where the TV studios are and I did notice that what was Booths is now a posh Co-Op store, and stopped off in Costa for a nice warming coffee along the way.

I headed over to the Quayside shops and had a good look around. I did notice that a fair number of shops were closed now and that did make it seem less appealing. As to what was there, the Next Outlet was busy but more focus on the womenswear, especially in the sale items, and the Clarks Outlet was also tempting to get some more shoes as well. However, the main thing I did note was that the M&S Outlet’s furniture part looked like it didn’t have much stock at all and potentially there’s the option to close that, leaving a less appealing look.

I went back over to the tram stop and headed on the tram into the city centre, getting off at St Peter’s Square and walking down Cross Street towards the Arndale Centre. What I did discover was that the big Next not only still has the Costa in the lower ground, but now a Gap concession on the second floor. As I walked around the shops, it was noticeable that a number of premium stores were taking more space, and that all around Halle Square was more about the eateries, moving almost away from the upper dining areas that I remembered. I did manage to pop into Flying Tiger and have a good look around the new store: hopefully judging by the crowds, it’ll do well.

I didn’t really fancy anything to buy, to be honest, so I was able to head home later on and fuss over Brian the cat, and he really appreciated more Dreamies and some fussing too. The Love arrived back from work later on and the two of us had a relaxing evening in, with The Love watching the soaps and then us both tuning in to the third episode of the drama Riptide on Channel 5, which has been pretty good, and lovely to see Jo Joyner back on our screens too, she’s a much better actor than people give her credit for. Tune of the day is the soft guitar theme from that series.

Wednesday 28th December – Out To Lunch Again

It was out to lunch again today (well why not?) as The Love In My Heart and I got ourselves ready during the morning, I was able to catch up with some of the television I’d not been able to see over the last couple of days (primarily due to schedule clashes) and then once all sorted, we could head out in The Love’s car, and despite being stuck in some traffic waiting for a bin wagon to go past whilst doing its rounds, we arrived at my Mum’s in good time – she was pleased to see us and was all ready to head out. My brother and his girlfriend had dropped off their presents for us, and I had a framed pic of a replica Kraftwerk ticket from Manchester from 1978 – a nice retro thing.

We had booked lunch for 1pm at one of my Mum’s favourite places, the Cheshire Line near Cheadle. It used to be the old Cheadle North train station and occasionally you do get goods trains still using the line (so it is in use, sort of) – and from when we went last time, I know that the menu is rather lovely and also very good sized portions for the money as well. It was nice to not be in too much traffic and as we got there, the staff were welcoming and friendly as ever, and had fulfilled my nice request to be by the windows that face the railway line, so had a nice view (and it’s light and airy there too.)

Knowing that the mains were massive, we all skipped the starters, and I had a pint of the Brewdolph ale which did taste very festive indeed. The mains were all delicious – The Love had the smothered chicken which was very nice, and no lack of barbecue sauce or cheese to go with that. Mum had the rump steak done medium well which was very nice, and I had the gammon steak, and both of those came with a proper steak knife to get into the meat. They were lovely, and it was nice to have some good background music including REM’s Shiny Happy People, not their best song of course, but still enjoyable, so tune of the day.

Comversation flowed well and it was just nice to catch up and natter, and we decided to have dessert and coffee too. The capuccinos were in big cups and the latte was in a big glass, and enjoyed those. Mum had the chocolate fudge cake which was really warm and melty and lovely, and I had the lemon sundae, which had lemon sorbet, some meringue pieces, ice cream, lemon sauce and all sorts inside which was really gorgeous to have. We definitely felt like we got very good value, and the new menu comes out next month so I’m sure that we might have to pop back in at some point.

Once we had dropped off Mum back home, and she had had a lovely time, we stopped off at Pets at Home on the way home, and managed to get Brian the cat some cat treat sticks, some wet food and more catnip (as if you put that on the scratching board, he loves it and rolls over on the board) and also did manage to get a bargain in Home Bargains – the rather good Meantime Chocolate Porter for a mere 69p a bottle. Yes it is strong but I am sure it is one to enjoy on a late night!

Tuesday 27th December – Northern Lunch

It was nice to have a lie-in this morning, although Brian the cat of course wanted plenty of fussing and attention and was happy to wait for The Love In My Heart to get up so he could enjoy his little self. Once we were up and had some breakfast, it was time to get changed and be ready for later in the day. We were meeting some of The Love’s family for lunch at Smithfield Social in the Northern Quarter, which had been arranged by The Cute Little One’s mum as a way of us all being together. I know that the menu is always lovely in there and they have decent beer too, so was looking forward to it a lot.

The Love’s sister, niece and her boyfriend arrived just after 12, and once we were all ready with suitable coats to face the rain, it was off to the tram stop to take the tram into the city centre. It made more sense to do that primarily as it meant The Love could have a drink and we would be able to relax as well. In fact the tram was very very busy, I suspect full of people heading off to the sales and getting some bargains (hopefully) as well as heading out to see family as well if they weren’t able to over the last couple of days. We got to Piccadilly Gardens and headed through to the Northern Quarter.

We were first there in Smithfield Social, but a table for us all had been set ready to go, and then The Cute Little One arrived, looking adorable in her red tartan dress and tights, and their parents were full of smiles. The Love’s elder sister turned up with her daughter and boyfriend, so we’d all made it and were able to chatter and catch up whilst perusing the menu to see what we would all have. I had the Shindigger lush ale which was great, and for the main The Love had the chop with pineapple salsa and some lovely fries, and I had the fish and chips which was spot on. A number of the folks had the chicken burger which looked totally gorgeous.

The Cute Litlle One was being so adorable as ever, and she saw the paper lanterns above the table and wanted to play with them (or at least give them a little push with her hands.) I was able to lift her up so she could have a little play and she had the happiest smile on her face with giggles galore too, it was nice. It was a really lovely time all told and I know that it was special for everyone to be together and at least spend some quality time together too, which was nice. We headed back on the tram later and the weather had at least dried a bit, so didn’t feel as wet on the way.

It was good to just take things easier later on, and it was of course the start of the World’s Strongest Man on Channel 5 too, so of course had to watch that, with the first heat from Sacramento. Tom Stoltman, the defending champion, did the business so much so that he just had to register a time in the final event and qualified easily, but Kevin Faires suffered heartbreak again in the stone off as he failed to get the stone over and lost, second year on the bounce and the same error. It was good to watch and definitely for me good to see that a Christmas tradition was upheld at least. In the meantime tune of the day is the theme from World’s Strongest Man, sets it up despite being fairly minimal!

Monday 26th December – Boxing Day Walk

After a relatively late-ish night on Christmas Day, a well earned rest and lie in was very much welcome for The Love In My Heart, myself, and Brian the cat, who was purring happily all being snuggled up next to his Mummy. Awww. We did get up and have a nice breakfast together, and then had some telly on in the background as we both perused some of the sales online. In fact I ordered a birthday present for someone at the same time so it saved all the need of heading to the shops, especially as it was click and collect at the store for free (which I can collect when I get home) so that was a definite win for me.

Once we got ourselves showered and changed, we thought it would be nice to head for a walk. We decided that a walk along the local canal and into the centre of Manchester would be a worthwhile one to do – we’ve done this a few times and it’s always nice and scenic, and walks off the Christmas dinner to some degree (well I hoped so anyway.) We joined the path and followed this past the gasometer at the back of Bradford Road, then past all the old mills as it straightened out and headed gradually downhill towards the marina at New Islington.

It was nice in fact to be able to then follow the path along the marina and noted so many of the local places were closed, including Flawd (nice wine place) and Cask (nice beer place) and I guess some of that was to give the staff more time off too. We followed the marina to Ancoats and knew that a fair number of places there would be closed too: we already knew Seven Bro7ers Beerhouse would be, and it all seemed lovely and quiet as we passed the Halle St Peter’s along the way. We carried on walking towards Oldham Street and then followed that towards Thomas Street and the Northern Quarter.

It was a more relaxed vibe here too, and although again a number of places here were shut to give the staff some more well deserved time off, we did note that Terrace was open, a place we do like, so we ventured in there. I had the Vocation Bread and Butter cask ale, which was rather nice and light, and The Love had the Brooklyn Pilsner. We got a booth and sat comfortably with a nice light on each other and it all felt cosy and lovely too. We weren’t in any rush so later on I had a latte and The Love had a glass of wine, and that also was nice just to enjoy the relaxed vibe and a well earned reward for our walk.

We did walk back into the city centre and noted the shops were rather busy with sale shoppers, and of course that did mean that the tram back was also relatively busy, but we got a seat at least. We got back just as darkness was starting to fall, and enjoyed a nice chilled out evening watching the likes of the Festive Pottery Throw Down and the Big Fat Quiz of the Year later on, having some steak for tea too. In the meantime, tune of the day is the rather good Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney, as it was in my head as we walked together towards the city along the canal, feeling all happy and contented.

Sunday 25th December – Merry Christmas

It was nice to be able to have a lie in of sorts before The Love In My Heart and I woke up together, with Brian the cat wanting some fussing and attention (and of course some Dreamies too) – and it was just nice to head up at a more civlised time, have a coffee and a light breakfast, and be able to just put on some Christmas tunes in the background via That’s TV Manchester, which did include Wham’s classic Last Christmas, and as I know The Love really likes that one, that has to be tune of the day for me. It was good too that it was a cross-section of all sorts of Christmas hits, so even the Destiny’s Child version of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer got an airing too.

We opened presents that we had received from friends and family, and it was really nice that a lot of thought had gone into the presents that I got. I got a fair number of Blu-Ray films including Judy, Nightmare Alley, He Never Died and Lightyear, and the box set of The Young Ones (definitely watching that when I get home!) and also several different nice beers, a pack of four of which were from Beermoth which was a really good thing. I also got a number of CDs too, including albums from Brian Eno, Mexrissey, Beth Orton and Placebo, as well as the Manchester City 1994 home retro shirt too. That was all good and much appreciated, and The Love and I would open our presents later in the day.

The Love’s sister and niece same over for the day, and it was nice to have a good catch up and chatter with everyone, and all appeared well. The niece got The Love and me a voucher to use at The Ivy so we could go for a nice meal together, and it was a really nice relaxed setting too, as we had some snacks prior to the Christmas dinner, which was looking very good indeed. The Love was excelling herself in that department and the rather nice smell from the oven was tempting me to enjoy that. And that I would do, with the Christmas winter spiced porter ale that The Love’s sister had very kindly got me – hugely appreciated to feel the festive vibes that.

The Love arranges the Christmas dinner so it’s all on plates that we just help ourselves with, so I got some gorgeous moist turkey, mash, roast potatoes, carrots, broccoli, stuffing balls, Yorkshire pudding, and some very nice gravy. That went down very well and definitely was very enjoyable. We did finish the dinner just in time for the King’s speech, where King Charles III actually, I thought, came across very well and was able to empathise with the nation as a whole. Notably the family arriving at Sandringham in the morning was more low key and BBC News didn’t seem to be there for the entrance either – maybe something Prince William had an influence over.

The afternoon went by very quickly and as darkness descended The Love’s sister and niece headed home, and would then be off later to see the niece’s boyfriend who was at one of his parents, so the niece was almost doing a Vicar of Dibley with multiple Christmas dinners! We kicked back and relaxed, fed Brian the cat his tea which made him very happy indeed as he snuggled up on the pouffle, and then we were able to exchange our presents with each other. I was very pleased indeed with what The Love got for me: the 2021 F1 season review DVD, a lovely green shirt from Joules, a really nice cosy jumper from Very, and the Hugo Boss gift set which included the eau de toilette, a travel size version of the same, and a shower gel. I’ll feel very good in all that so The Love did very well.

Thankfully, The Love was also very pleased with the presents in return: Top Gun Maverick on Blu-Ray (especially as she does adore Tom Cruise), the new Sophie Kinsella novel in paperback (which she did thought she might have, but thankfully not!), a really nice posh black coat from Oasis that she was after, and the Miss Dior perfume. The advert had been on a lot recently and I kept thinking to myself “don’t go and buy any!” for obvious reasons. With presents opened and a snuggle on the sofa, we settled in for the evening and was able to relax together with the likes of Call the Midwife and then Gogglebox, so a nice way to wind down together and enjoy the time that we had.

Saturday 24th December - Reflection

Today, as I usually tend to do, is a moment at Christmas where I pause and reflect a bit. I think before getting on with feeling all festive and lovely, it’s important for me to remember those no longer with us and to remember them the right way. For me this involves a visit to two cemetries, and without doubt does involve some tears too. I know though it’s the right thing to do, and after getting up this morning I left for the bus into the centre of Manchester, then off towards the first cemetery and stopped there to pause, think and reflect. It was somewhat quiet too as it was still morning, so that felt a bit more private too which was what I wanted.

It was then on another two buses in total and to head to the second cemetery, and this for me is notable that it’s busier, and feels more open to the elements. I paused and reflected there, and it felt rather more sad because seeing The Muppet Christmas Carol at the weekend made me think of them for different reasons. I always feel the need to compose myself a little bit after that, and the walk into the nearby centre really does give me the time to get myself together. I can’t lie – I do find it difficult, but also know it’s the right thing to do and means I can at least then know I’ve done my duty at Christmas that way.

Once at the Costa it was nice to have a cheese and ham toastie along with a coffee, and that was nice to be in the warm inside, and the warm food and coffee certainly kept me that way too. I did note that there were some more relaxed Christmas numbers on, but nothing too offensive, but just background to relax to. Once done, I checked out the local shops and then took the bus, stopped off at another Tesco and managed to find the thing that The Love In My Heart was after, and got that as well as some Compeed plasters for the feet (as the new shoes were rubbing near one toe, so wanted to protect that) and then off on the bus to see Mum.

It was really nice at Mum’s actually, we had a good long chat about all sorts, and Mum was baking some rock cakes too which of course I had to have one of with a coffee later on. It was nice to see that she was getting things ready and would be having my two brothers there with their partners and one of her grandchildren, so that would be good. I think too that now she was able to have my brother-in-law sort the heating out, it meant it could be nice and cosy inside and be ready for everyone, so that was pleasing no end.

I left later on and headed towards the city centre, stopping off in Morrisons for a couple of bits and headed back to The Love In My Heart’s place. She had been out for lunch with The Cute Little One and her parents and grandparents on the other family’s side, so that was nice. And of course when I saw the pictures later on, The Cute Little One was absolutely adorable. The Love and I later headed to Seven Brothers Beerhouse in Ancoats where I could have the rather nice new Chocolate Honeycomb Stout too – so that was a rather lovely thing to share. Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather lovely Fairytale of New York by Kirsty MacColl and the Pogues, still one of my favourites at this time of year.

Friday 23rd December – The North Is Calling

It was an early rise this morning as I was heading up to Manchester for Christmas and spending time with The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat, and as I had packed the case last night it meant that I was ready to be able to leave whenever I needed to. It did feel sad as I knew it’d be the last day in the flat of 2022, but I knew it had to be done. I headed to East Croydon station, got myself a coffee from Costa, and headed through the rain to the platform and on the Thameslink service to St Pancras, ready to head to Euston for the train to Manchester.

The rain was torrential and incessant, and so even with a big coat on, it was a very wet me which got into Euston a few minutes later. Thankfully, I know the waiting room that’s always quiet, so headed to there and dried off (as they have heating on too) and kept an eye on the Seatfrog auction to see if I could upgrade my seat to be first class instead, just for a comfier journey and also to have breakfast too. As it transpired, I was the only one putting a bid on, so won and that meant seat K18 was mine, a table all to myself as it turned out (as it was on the +1 side in the 2+1 formation) and could put on the iPod for some tunes including Stuff The Tories by K**t and the Gang (make that tune of the day)

The staff were lovely and it meant that I was able to have some breakfast on the train too, a full English breakfast and with toast, orange juice and coffee, so that definitely for me was very nice. The scenery went past very fast too and the train pulled into Manchester Piccadilly pretty much on time. I headed down to then go to the tram platform and a tram came straight away, so that made me very happy. It was still raining in Manchester and so was glad I had the hood on as I made my way to The Love In My Heart’s place. Brian the cat came to the front door to greet me and of course wanted a fuss and also wanted some Dreamies as well, and why not?

Later on I headed off to the bus stop and to get the bus to my friend’s place. It was good to see him and his wife, and we were able to have a good natter about all sorts, including the World Cup, things with both our families, and generally have a brew and enjoy the time we had. In fact their dog Lola was being particularly lovely and just wanted fussing and cuddles, and was allowing me to stroke her and make sure she was all happy, so that made me pleased too that it was good to be able to just take things relatively easy and chill together, so that was good. We swapped presents too and I’ll open mine on Christmas Day, but I am sure they’ll be brilliant.

It was back on the bus to a large Tesco on the way home, as The Love had requested to see if I could get some wine glasses for her. I sorted that no problem which was good, and also was after another thing, but that was out of stock unfortunately. I got the bus back to The Love’s place and arrived back before The Love came back from her final day of work before Christmas, and that was a positive, and we snuggled up with Brian the cat, had a really nice posh burger and chips for tea from a local takeaway and watched some telly, including 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown and The Last Leg – with some nice moments on that Christmas special too.

Thursday 22nd December - Packing It All In

It was the final day of work for me today and working from home was a good move, so I could crack on with some documentation and also writing some end of year feedback for a couple of colleagues that I wanted to do. In effect it was good to be able to put the writing skills to good use, and be sure that there were some factual things said about each and how they're developing as people, so it was nice to be able to get that done this morning. I'd also updated some documentation for the Windows 10 build too.

In fact, it did show that people do read the documentation, as one of the staff in our office in Guangzhou messaged me to say he had a failed Windows build. When we checked the model, it turned out it was a ThinkPad E14 Gen 1, which is different from the Gen 2 model that had been in use. I checked the driver packages for both, and the Gen 1 didn't seem that much different, so added the WMI string for the Gen2 package, the member of staff was able to build, drivers installed, and all it needed was the extra AMD Radeon adapter which it had as an accelerator - but otherwise it was good - and due to being not many of them, that would work and he agreed, so positive.

Always nice to get some positives, but I did have a slight negative today and to be honest, I'm not quite sure if the tone of the email sent was intended to be put across the way it was, so not going to read too much into it. I did have a good chat with my manager and I think I've worked something out, so good at least to keep people in the loop and be able to at least make sure that the right information goes to the right people. Something to think on next year when we reconvene though to be perfectly honest.

I was able to get the packing done during the evening too, and managed to at least get all the clothes I wanted to bring with me, and had some presents to also pack into the case too, which was meaning that it did feel heavier than it might have wanted to be, but at least I've got a straight run on the train to Manchester tomorrow, followed by a tram over to The Love In My Heart's place. She had been delayed getting back home tonight because of the Manchester City League Cup game against Liverpool.

I did watch The Great British Sewing Bee celebrity special for Christmas, and it was really nice to be able to see a more relaxed version, with Sara Pascoe being a very good host (still miss Claudia Winkleman of course) - and The Love In My Heart did think that Johannes Radebe would win the thing, and he duly did, but some nice outfits from all four guests which included Rosie Ramsey also. A nice Madonna inspired outfit came to the fore too and a bit of Into The Groove was being played too (love that, admittedly, so tune of the day) and that was nice to relax with.

Wednesday 21st December - Last Day In The Office

I am working from home tomorrow as part of the last working day this year (primarily because we get the 23rd of December off in lieu of Christmas Eve) and so today was the last time this year I would head on the X68 express bus and head into the office. Becuase of that, I felt it was a sensible idea to be able to get myself a nice little breakfast treat, so stopped off at Costa close to the office and got a sausage bap along with a latte, as they do a deal where the breakfast bap is £2 with any medium or large coffee, so at least makes it a decent deal, and was good to have in the office.

I was then able to do some Windows 10 build amendments and get the latest WIM added along with new versions of Chrome and Firefox, so at least if anyone gets any machines readied between Christmas and New Year, they then at least can get some readied, which has to be something. I road tested all of that and it's been working really well too, so definite bonus there. I also spent some time today working on packaging some applications ready for availability via software centre, and some updated versions.

These were mainly for our folks over in China, so they use Feishu for their chat and messaging client because it generally works all over China (unlike say some Google stuff which doesn't always play ball) and it was good therefore to get the deployment version up and running - this behaves similar to how Slack does, in that when you then log in, the installer then does the install for that user. There's an International version called Lark, which you use in countries other than China, so you effectively get both and have them readied to deploy, so all good there.

I was on a roll and was able to also package up a new version of Filezilla as well as the Git programming language, and that was pretty good to get them sorted too, so for me it was nice to box those off and get it effectively running well. That meant that the day had pretty much been taken up, and was nice to get the weekly report submitted and be ready to at least have a hopefully quieter day tomorrow, but we shall see how that goes. I was just positive to be able to get things done today.

I headed off to Wimbledon Park and off to the barbers, and that was a nice relaxing time as I got the hair all trimmed and sorted for Christmas, and had a good football chatter with the staff there too, so that was nice. I think for me it was good to be able to get that done tonight instead of rushing tomorrow, and then took the bus and tram home and managed to work out what was needed to be packed and readied for the Christmas trip, before settling in to watch the latest instalment of The Traitors, and often it's been using Bury A Friend by Billie Eilish in the trailers, so that's tune of the day.

Tuesday 20th December - Wearing In

One of the parcels that came at the back end of last week was a new pair of shoes for me, courtesy of the Freeman Hardy Willis website. Do you remember when said shoe shop was pretty much on a lot of high streets? Well, there's a good online presence now, and they happened to have a pair similar to a new Clarks pair a friend of mine got, not the same pair (as they were £80 online) but instead a comfortable dark tan pair for a mere £38 plus delivery. And as it was £1 extra for 24 hour delivery, I thought, well why not, and they duly arrived in good time.

As I was working from home today and knew I'd just be around the flat in the main, a good time to wear them in a little bit and get used to walking around in them without feeling the need to be walking lots of distance and then thinking that I need to get home if not that comfortable. The good news so far is that all the comfort is there, and they're not rubbing on the heel at the back, which a lot of pairs these days tend to do unless I'm pre-armed with some Compeeds. I'll see how I fare later on, but so far so good - and they look smart too, so a wear in today and Thursday is a sensible plan prior to heading up North at the weekend.

And after some persuasion and asking questions, Avanti West Coast finally released the train tickets for Monday 2nd January, so I could head off back home Christmas and be there either side of the train strikes that are taking place (now every day from the 3rd to the 7th too incidentally.) At least by booking an earlier departure I know I can at least get to London not too late and make my way home, unpack and get ready for the next day back in the office, having already booked a desk ready. That does at least mean every train up to mid-February is pretty much nailed now, so I can at least rest and relax soon.

I was reminiscing earlier over lunch about mid 90s indie bands, especially as a lot of them are coming up to 25 years since their heyday. In fact after a mention online about the supermarket Iceland, I had to of course dig out the Bennet album Supernatural and play their single from it, Mum's Gone To Iceland (make that one tune of the day) which is a clever witty riposte to those taken in by advertising and getting things they can't afford, such as a new Nintendo game, and also mentions things like ice cream topping and prawn ring which was very popular in Iceland at the time.

The day went by quickly primarily as I was doing some investigative work into why a MECM distribution point was spanning two drives, and resolved that easily by using the Content Library Transfer tool which effectively tells the content to go from one drive to another, and resolve all the references within that library. It works superbly well and shows that for situations when needed, Microsoft have at least put some good thought in and saves so much time and hassle when thought clearly. Take note, Apple.

Monday 19th December - Office Quiet

It was off to the office today and it certainly was going to be quieter as far as I would see it - in fact a number of staff when I did the work quiz on Friday afternoon did say that it was the last time they'd be in and to see out the New Year too. I for one must admit I do have to question why work is actually open in the days in between Christmas and New Year - I've been lucky enough to take those days off (so for me it's the 28th-30th December) but I also know that The Love In My Heart is working two of those three days, which isn't good really. We did make sure though that out of those she has the 28th off, so we can do something nice whatever we wish to.

The traffic certainly felt quieter today and the X68 bus was shooting through fast until it had to turn round between Tulse Hill and Brixton due to the road being closed as a police cordon was across the whole road. So it was back to Tulse Hill, then along the side of Brockwell Park to Herne Hill, then go alongside the park and back towards Brixton that way - not massively long queues, but still, nice to be able to at least get into work at a reasonable time and especially with the rain coming down.

All the snow had melted away due to the change in temperature which was at least good, and so felt more wet underfoot than anything else, which I noted when heading out for lunch later. I did achieve the main goal today and that was to build both a Windows 10 22H2 WIM image with the December updates included, ready for a change on Wednesday that I'd be doing, and also a Windows 11 22H2 WIM image in similar vein, so I could start at least to test a Windows 11 build again, which I did later in the day and found all was pretty well.

I think the good thing today was that I was able to really crack on and get some plans formulated for next year - some I had already, but did note that the new version of the VPN client we use had hit over 2,500 machines, so a good milestone to do so especially as not everyone is around either. At least that way I know that all the testing and practice that we had put into place did work really well, and that does mean that we can be more confident for the future too - I think previously things hadn't gone so well with previous incumbents and said person wasn't as helpful.

It was nice to be able to kick back on the way home and after a change at Crown Point, to get back home at a reasonable time, have some tea, and then have a lovely chatter to The Love In My Heart. She had seen The Cute Little One yesterday, and yes, she was being adorably lovely as ever. Shame then I won't see her until later over the festive period, but I know that the cool Nana that The Love is will be on hand if ever anything is needed. In the meantime, with more strikes looming, tune of the day is Stuff The Tories (the radio friendly version, there's more sweary ones available) by K**t and the Gang, with a nice nod to ITV's wrestling coverage in the video.

Sunday 18th December - Catching Up

It was really nice last night to be in the company of several friends online, and have a good few beers as well as plenty of chatter. In fact I was able to have some very nice beers including the Layer Cake one (chocolate and marshmallow stout) and that went down very well indeed. I did have a quiz planned for the evening too which I think went down well - plenty of questions on the Commodore 64 and the music from games, which I know that the friends would be good at. It certainly was great fun to be able to do and the evening went by far too quickly and was very enjoyable indeed.

This morning I got up and having missed it last night due to the online chat, I did watch the final of Strictly Come Dancing. The Love In My Heart had kept the result of the final a secret and I had stayed off social media to make sure that I didn't know the result beforehand, which made perfect sense to do that and indeed to have some breakfast with a coffee and sit down and watch the final. Tess and Claudia set the scene and it was on with the final - three dances for all four finalists and then the decision made as to who won - different from previous where after two dances the lowest scorers would leave and the vote re-opened.

I suppose it made more sense having it as one long show without a break in between to pause the voting or whatever, and so only one round of votes would count. If I was judging it purely on the best one tonight I'd have probably given it to Fleur East and Vito Coppola - their three dances were all excellent and their iconic Destiny's Child / Beyoncé inspired routine with Fleur bringing the fierce was superb. Helen Skelton with Gorka Marquez as I'd expect did their Couple's Choice to Mein Herr from Cabaret, but with just the two of them this time instead of any supporting cast, and was superb in its execution too.

Molly Rainford and Carlos Gu were also very consistent, and their Prince inspired showdance routine was really good fun, and it showed a really sassy side to Molly that not everyone might have expected - and 1999 is ace so tune of the day for that. However, the eventual winners, despite lowest scoring overall with the judges, was Hamza Yassin and Jowita Przystal. I was pleased for Jowita as she had previously won The Greatest Dancer, which probably got her the Strictly gig in the first place, but to win? Nice. I do think though that their African beats inspired dance was their best one, the showdance for me seemed a little weak compared to the rest. But that's how the public voted, and I suspect probably a lot of people had them down as their favourites regardless.

I did also catch up with the latest episode of The Traitors as well, as I'd missed it on Friday night due to a clash with another programme. I have to say Claudia Winkleman dresses much better in this series, always looking lovely and classy. Some of the challenges during the day have been getting tougher, but also that round table in the evening is a real sense of no one wants to be there as they get voted off, and especially if they don't vote a traitor off. We shall see what happens in the final week of course but definitely for me it's been a case it all being rather tense!

Saturday 17th December - There Goes Mr Humbug

I had last night decided that I was going to go to the cinema today and watch the classic film that is The Muppet Christmas Carol. It is having a limited run for its 30th anniversary, and best of all, the song When Love Is Gone, which was deleted from the original release, has rightfully been reinstated, a move which I am sure many fans like me appreciate a lot. I did think about going to the Vue cinema near me, but it was fairly pricey, as was Everyman. However, there was a Saturday morning showing at the Odeon in Beckenham which was cheap (in fact £2.50 for MyOdeon account holders!) and so that was an easy win to book a ticket last night.

I had two options, either take the tram to Beckenham Junction and walk to the cinema, or get the 194 bus from East Croydon there. I got to East Croydon - no Beckenham trams, and so craftily got the 119 to West Wickham, and then that caught up with the 194, so was able to then get the 194 to Beckenham War Memorial opposite where the Odeon is. I went inside and followed the long corridor down to Screen 5 - and a wonderful art deco styled cinema screen and theatre look inside too, absolutely beautiful. And my ticket was for the premium seat, nice leather wide seat and very comfortable.

Needless to say, it was a very enjoyable hour and a half - and the early films don't have many adverts or trailers, always appreciated that is. So it was straight into the story with Gonzo as Charles Dickens and Rizzo doing Rizzo the Rat things, as ever. I always do like the opening song Scrooge which sets the tone, delivered in beautiful Muppets style of course, and the chorus starting with a gusto line of There goes Mr Humbug, there goes Mr Grim, which still used to get occasional sing-songs at my Mum's place as the brothers and sisters would watch that film with me at Christmas, happy memories that.

Having the proper version shown at last, and getting to When Love Is Gone, beautifully sung by Meredith Braun (and make that tune of the day) really sets the right scene. In fact, it was a lousy decision from Jeffrey Katzenburg who was the head of Disney Studios at the time and as Brian Henson rightly said, the end song The Love We Found is a direct counterpoint to that and to show the change in a different light. Seeing it now, I will have to get the Blu-Ray version with this back in, once there's a proper release of it (which there needs to be). In fact, Meredith herself re-recorded it for her second studio album, titled When Love Is Gone, a few years back, which is so lovely too.

I felt such a warm glow inside at the end - it's hard to explain, but had happy tears at the moment when Gonzo said "Tiny Tim. who did NOT die!" because it just underpins the whole lovely ending so well. It did bring back fond memories of some family members no longer with us who also loved the film too, hence me feeling a bit more emotional about that, but it's one of those moments I'm glad I've felt. I went up the road to Costa afterwards, had a coffee and just had a relaxing time just enjoying a nice warm drink before then getting some nice cards from the Beckenham book shop on the way to the tram stop.

The journey home, was, shall we say, somewhat eventful. All was well on the tram til we got close to Blackhorse Lane, and then the driver announced we'd be termating at Addiscombe, as the power had failed between Sandilands and East Croydon, so eventually when pulling into there, it was a swap over to the 312 bus back homewards. It wasn't ideal but was just thankful I had another route to take to get back home, and spent the afternoon relaxed and watching the semi final of the English Open snooker championship with Neil Robertson seemingly on very good form early on!


Friday 16th December - Quizmaster

So it was nice to be working from home today, primarily as I had a number of deliveries of final Christmas presents to arrive, and also to send a couple of packages off to make sure that I did make the last posting date - the only reason I was waiting til today was that one of the arrivals of packages actually had a present which I needed to wrap and send off. That said, I was going to use the Tracked 24 service anyway because I knew I could use the parcel postbox near me to be able to drop that off instead and save myself a long queue at the Post Office.

One of the parcels had in fact been attempted to be delivered yesterday but as they wanted a signature they didn't drop it with the concierge and so had instead taken it to a local shop, so ventured there this morning to go and collect that - all was well there thankfully. I also had my food shopping from Tesco arrive, but it did arrive late potentially due to staff shortages. The staff on the helpline were super lovely and helpful, and it shows that being polite and nice reaps its own rewards, and they gave me a refund of the delivery cost and a £10 voucher off my next shop. I'm pretty sure because I was calm and polite that the staff were kinder, so that says a lot.

Once all the packages had arrived, I was able to wrap up two final presents and get them sent off - this is when having a laser printer to print off all the labels etc works wonders, and at lunch time popped that in the parcel postbox. The final package to arrive was a little present to myself - some new shoes from Freeman Hardy Willis online that I'd seen, a nice dark tan leather pair of Clarks shoes no less. They're not the same as a nice pair a friend of mine got recently, but I am sure I'll look the part in them over the festive period and so on.

The late afternoon was taken up by me hosting a Christmas quiz for the work colleagues, and ended up with around 20 people taking part. I had three rounds, one each of music, sport and films, so had a good cross section of things to answer, including a round of potential jeopardy which everyone really liked the idea behind. Overall the winner got 43.5 points out of 60, which was very good going and shows I did at least set the difficulty level about right. I think too that it was good to be able to have some festive Christmas hits mentioned, and told staff in advance there'd be no Wham so anyone avoiding Whamageddon was safe to do so.

I must admit that it was nice too that I was able to present so well and that gave me some confidence too - and it can be a little nerve wracking at times. I think though for me that when I was giving the answers out, some of the team were like "I should have got that!" meaning some suitable earworm was given. That did include Queen's all time classic Bohemian Rhapsody, which of course was Christmas Number One (twice, in fact) and therefore tune of the day due to its all time classic status.

Thursday 15th December - End of Year Review

Well it was time for the end of year review, at work that is, not the one I'll soon be writing for the site incidentally, having already decided some of my favourites during the year in the last few days and including a mention for some that I've sent some mail to as of late, so some of you will have an idea already. It was another walk from Waterloo this morning after the X68 again decided to terminate early (meh) but thankfully this time around the gritters had at least been out and gritted some of the pavements, so that was a bonus for definite.

I was able to get some breakfast and then get to work, and mainly monitor things today to make sure that all of the necessary updates were being applied to get to Windows 10 22H2 and also any VPN client updates needed. The figures were looking good and that did mean that all the plans were working. I also took the time this morning to write some detailed end of year feedback for a couple of members of staff who have really deserved to have a lengthy piece detailing what excellent work they've done - and it's an important thing which has been encouraged at work a lot.

So came 12 noon and I was able to find a private little cubicle space in the office (we have these sealed units which are ace for this) and to have the meeting with my line manager. It went well. I was very pleased that the work during the year had been picked up on and also fed back with a number of staff able to provide me suitable feedback based on performance during the year. One thing that was picked up on was not just the numbers who had left me feedback but also the quality of those submissions, so that pleased me no end.

With me feeling positive, it was off later on the tube to Wimbledon, primarily as some new roadworks had been adeed to the delay the bus route and as such I didn't want to be stuck in that. It did mean that I was able to effectively look in a few card shops in the centre of Wimbledon and get some ideas for a Christmas card for The Love In My Heart as well as some other things. I did notice though that the Centre Court Shopping Centre is undergoing some redevelopment and the upstairs part is pretty much non-existent apart from H&M near the front - and even downstairs not that much going on now.

What I was able to ascertain though was the fact that it looked like some new owners were pumping money into the development and the upstairs may be containing a leisure climbing wall facility and also a posh gym. Obviously what was the Debenhams at the far end has long gone, and there's massive plans for a new atrium square, a retractable roof opening in Summer to give it more light and air, and to be a destination place. It's going to be interesting to see how they do and whether the same developers can perhaps weave their magic on Whitgift and Centrale in Croydon! All that talk of Centre Court though made me think of the tennis and Keith Mansfield's Light and Tuneful, aka the Wimbledon theme on BBC, is tune of the day.

Wednesday 14th December - Facing My Waterloo

It was a case of going slow and heading off to work on the X68 bus today, primarily due to the fact that at West Norwood there appeared to be some water works going on. I did note this on Monday evening and it took ages to get through it, and although it took its time passing the temporary traffic lights there, it did appear a little quicker at around a 25 minute queue. All was fine after that and the bus did speed through Brixton and on its way, but little did I know what was to happen next.

The bus pulled into its stop by Waterloo station on Tennyson Way, close to the roundabout where the Imax is. And then the dreaded four word announcement: "this bus terminates here" which was not good. You could hear the collective sigh from the masses, as especially today it was a strike day on the trains too so more would be piling on to other buses. In the end I decided to walk the rest of the way, across Waterloo Bridge and then around Aldwych towards the office. Now, if the pedestrian paths on the bridge had been gritted, that would have been good - unfortunately they weren't, so it was definitely a slippy experience as I headed across, but made it to the office in one piece thankfully.

So today it was time to deploy the new version of the VPN client that we use, and that was to be the same version across Windows and Mac too. I'd already deployed it to a number of test machines and all appeared to be well during that period, and it proved to be the case when it went live. We did see one instance where I think the user had been connected and then was disconnected during update, but then had tried to run it again half way during an install which failed, but then of course MECM detected that and went for a second attempt, and successful not long after. There's good reasoning for testing after all.

By the end of the day I could see that around 2,000 clients across Windows and Mac had had successful deployments which was a good number considering I knew a number of staff had finished for Christmas, but also went to show that all the necessary testing was right to do and that meant I was able to show the fruits of the labours. I know too that the Windows version had a number of security fixes which did mean we could secure more machines by doing that, so made sense now to be able to get some of that done.

It was a much shorter time journey home due to the roadworks being finished, and had a lovely chatter with The Love In My Heart tonight too which was good. I then switched over to watch some telly and did spot that France had beaten Morocco to get to the World Cup final to face Argentina, so Sunday's game is going to be two of the best teams in the world at least. Unfortunately due to the location, the lack of human rights for those in the LGBT+ community and so on, it's not one I'l want to remember, and so Pop Will Eat Itself's classic Reclaim The Game (Funk FIFA) is tune of the day - eight plus years on, still as relevant as ever.

Tuesday 13th December - Strikes

It was good to be working from home today, primarily as I knew that the train strikes would mean that other modes of transport would be considerably busier, plus it meant not occupying a space in our desk booking system and being mean to others too, so had already cancelled it at the back end of last week giving someone else enough time. I should add though that I do actually back the strikes, primarily because of the way that the Government interfered with negotiations to the point that they put driver only operation back on the cards as parts of the terms and conditions, hidden in clauses of the supposed "deal" and then expected the workers and their unions to accept it. I think not.

It's important to note that unfortunately a lot of the media seem to be towing the Government line here, despite some basic things which need to be noted: firstly, the accusation of "greedy train drivers" is a fallacy, because almost all the train drivers are members of a different trade union anyway, but hey, don't let that fact get in the way. In addition, a plan to close all ticket offices means leaving stations unstaffed and therefore inaccessible to those who may have specific needs. Remember folks: a driver only train stopping at an unstaffed station, meaning that for example a wheelchair user cannot get off there, is illegal and a breach of the Equality Act 2010. And yet train companies have got it away with it for years because the rail regulator doesn't have the teeth that it actually should.

So yes, lots to ponder, but when you consider also that the work of doctors and nurses was absolutely invaluable during the last three years especially (and despite what you may think, COVID is still a thing sadly) and yet theyr'e being asked to accept a way below inflation pay deal with all sorts of terms attached, and paramedics have seen the same, as have other key workers, you do think why they're not at all valued as they should be by the powers that be. Certainly for me, the reason why so many NHS trusts end up paying agency staff way more is because they cannot retain the staff who are underpaid massively, and no surprise if some are preferring agency work if it means more money (and costs back to the trusts, so the spiral begins.)

In all forms of life, a friendly face with a smile and someone who cares is always appreciated. A case in point actually was this lunch time when I headed over to the local Next to pick up an order that I'd made last week, and I had an email to say it was all ready to collect. The staff member was lovely, happy to help and got out the parcel, with a friendly face and a thank you. Little things maybe, but those matter. I always say hello and goodbye to the security bloke in the Sainsburys Local as, particularly during the period of face masks being required, he made sure calmly and politely everyone did, and ensured those that didn't were stopped from entering - and even now his keen eye stops any potential thief. It's a thankless task but being polite has never done me harm, and it's important to make sure you value everyone.

I did have to ring up one online retailer about an order that I had placed eight days ago. When I checked the order status, it didn't say it had been despatched and was still processing. I knew that the item I'd ordered was being shipped from their Netherlands warehouse, so had ordered much earlier to give me time. Anyway, I rang up said retailer and they first tried to fob me off of "we're very busy doing orders." Well, everyone else is managing okay - and normally despatching within 48 hours maximum, not over a week. I politely dropped in a hint of having to cancel and the tone changed of "oh, we'll contact the warehouse and check, then drop you an email in 24 hours time." Later today I got a despatch email from their courier of choice. Funny that.

It's been a busy and productive day and also finished off the Christmas quiz for work that a couple of colleagues asked me to do, so that definitely was a bonus to be able to get that all sorted. I have to admit that it was really good to be able to think of three different rounds, and even some jeopardy in one round, but should be good fun and it was something we did do a lot of during the early days of COVID, so in a way it'd be a nice way to end the year (as I know some staff are off next week) and from there be all festive. If I did have a round of Christmas songs that didn't make UK number one on release, then for me Ring Out Solstice Bells by Jethro Tull would b e one of them and therefore tune of the day.

Monday 12th December - 22H2 Is Go

So after some careful planning, documentation and formulating a plan for the next twelve months or so, I've hit the button to effectively get the Windows 10 22H2 update out there to the masses at work. The good thing is that the update is nice and tiny, a switcher update just like 21H1 was, and does also at least mean that it'll be a sensible and relatively quick one to get installed. It does then mean continued support well into 2024 for existing kit, and that we can phase in a Windows 11 upgrade over the course of time and not have to do a massive big bang approach either - there is method in my madness on this one, I do promise.

And after all the initial testing last week, it proved that it was a reliable and simple process (and the good thing is now that Software Centre and other MECM components are branded, so effectively making it much easier to get user take up as well) and so far, so good. I can see during the day, based on the time zones, that it'd hit the folks over in China first, and they were on the ball - this is why for example you make suitable comms for the service desk team staff so they're aware of the changes and that they are expecting things to be readied. And because it is dealt with like a monthly update, all works.

I had headed off early to the office this morning, primarily because of the fact that the snow and ice when I got back home last night was pretty to look at, but slippy to walk on. I was taking no chances whatsoever and had my walking boots on to make sure I had grip. The bus into the office did get more full than usual, and this was due to train cancellations due to frozen tracks and slippy ice conditions on the rails, but of course as I get on early I did at least get a seat. It was a huge delay getting home though due to the fact that there were gas works in West Norwood and the traffic was massively tailed back. No!

I must admit that getting home to a nice warm and cosy flat really did feel nice to be honest. I have the temperature thermostats set on a timer so they only come on as really needed, and if I'm in the office, they don't come on as they're not needed. Sensibly, I also keep lots of things powered off unless I really need them. I do know though I am lucky in that the flat is well insulated to start with, and so means that it does do a good job of being warm anyway, which is a positive bonus for me.

I did watch the dance off on Strictly Come Dancing tonight, after seeing the show on iPlayer last night (as I was on trains when it was shown.) I must admit that as soon as I noted Fleur and Vito were in the dance off with Will and Nancy, I feared the latter would be going home. And if based on the dance off alone, and as Anton du Beke at least noted, Fleur and Vito made an error, Will and Nancy didn't. I also liked their Madchester themed dance and a bit of Fools Gold by The Stone Roses is always a good shout - tune of the day for me for definite. I really noted that Nancy was quite emotional, but she is absolutely lovely too - and I think what she showed with Will Mellor was that if you put your mind to it, you can achieve. And they did.

Sunday 11th December - Smithfield Social Sunday

The Love In My Heart and I got up, and it had been a nice sleep and the weather thankfully had warmed up a little, so any of the snow and ice had melted away and it was at least dry outside, which was something at least. Nothing worse of course than it being slippy when you want to be looking good. As it turned out, The Love had a gorgeous top and some jeans to go with her boots, and looked really lovely, and I had a nice jumper on to go with my jeans, so wrapped up nicely but still looking the part.

We did head off with good timing to make sure the tram wasn't busy, as it was the Manchester women's derby at the Etihad today. A really good attendance there too of over 40,000 and a game that ended in a 1-1 draw, and some good football all round. I'm glad too that with the World Cup being on, that the domestic women's league is drawing in some sizeable crowds and showing that those Lionesses who won the women's Euros earlier this year play just as well, week in and week out, for their clubs too.

It was into the city centre for us both and then over to Fierce Beer on Thomas Street, where The Love tried their Mexican inspired Cerveza lager, with a bit of lime in, which actually tasted pretty nice, and I had the hazy pale. Our friends also joined us in there shortly after we got there, so that was nice to have an initial catch up and chatter together prior to lunch, and it was good to hear about their trip over to Heidelberg for the festive Christmas markets, which by all accounts was a rather ace trip.

We headed next door to Smithfield Social where The Love had booked a table for the four of us - good job she did because it was really busy in there overall and we got a table near the back, with some nice Shindigger Lush tropical ale on tap to have, which was lovely. We did also have the rather good Sunday roast in there, with three of us having the turkey, which was rather good especially as it was moist and a really nice taste, along with the vegetables and the gravy was to die for. The vegan option of the roast was also good and our friend enjoyed that immensely, really showing that you can do good stuff as options when the mind was put to it.

It was back to Fierce Beer later on for a drink and I noted that they had the co-op beer that they did with Mash Gang, called Very Small Moose, basically like Fierce's fab Moose Mousse, but with it being a 0.5% low alcohol version, and preseving all the lovely chocolate and vanilla taste along the way, so definitely enjoyed that a lot. The time went too quickly to say the least and had to say the farewells later as due to some trains not running as they should, I had to get an earlier train home and listen to the likes of CMU's excellent Lightshine along the way (make that tune of the day whilst we're at it.)

Saturday 10th December - Saturday Soiree

It was a really relaxed and chilled out morning on the whole, as both The Love In My Heart and I did fancy a lie in after a hard week's work, except of course Brian the cat wanted to be up and about and kept looking at The Love with his little eyes of "come on Mummy!" which was ever so cute. We eventually did head up and see a fair bit of the James Martin on Saturday programme, with Anton du Beke from Strictly Come Dancing as one of the guests - and he came across very well, as you'd expect actually.

We didn't have any of The Love's relatives around today - and as it turned out later on when we did head out The Cute Little One and her parents had popped over to drop off some Christmas cards, so we missed her (which would have been adorably cute all told.) What we did do was to head off to Heaton Moor as there's a couple of nice little shops that The Love wanted to pop in and have a look around. In fact she was able to find two nice Christmas presents whilst in one place, so that was pretty good.

We walked over to The Elizabethan and found a table to have a little drink in the afternoon - and this did mean I could have the Plum Pudding ale. For me, I wish that the JW Lees Brewery did this beer all year round, but it was still really good to be able to enjoy that, and we did get two little sides for a light lunch whilst in there. It was good to be sheltering from the weather, as it had snowed overnight and definitely felt rather slushy on some of the pavements, and potentially slippy because of that.

It was then over to see my Mum for a bit and have a coffee and catch up. It was good that Mum had been out to a couple of places during the week and had some good company, and was also all ready for Christmas with the tree up and looking nice, and it feeling homely there too. To save me a job on Christmas Eve too, Mum handed over the presents for me and The Love In My Heart (we did say she didn't have to get us anything at all, I should add, but it was appreciated) before we then headed off home to relax for the evening with a bit of telly and some beer and wine too.

We did note that The Hit List was on, a show we both do love and it was a celebrity 90s special, so it had Tina and Bradley from S Club 7 as one of the teams, and Lee from 911 and Sonia as another pair too. There were plenty of songs that they were getting well, but when it came to the final top ten round, Lee and Sonia started off very well but then faded badly as some of the 90s songs meant that they got them wrong and ended up with zero money won at the end. Some absolute crackers in there too, including She's In Fashion by Suede, so that has to be tune of the day - especially as The Love was very fashionista today!

Friday 9th December - Friday Freezeday

It was good to have a day off work today, in lieu of the fact that our workplace gave us all Friday 23rd December off, so that did mean that I could set off earlier for a train up to Manchester. I had already got myself a flexible offpeak ticket travelling with London Northwestern (Euston to Crewe) and then Transport for Wales (Crewe to Manchester) so whilst it may take a little longer, the offpeak return is £46.70, way cheaper than the around £100 you'd pay to go on Avanti Worst Coast if you did that on the day - or even more on some days before 10am when peak fares would kick in.

I managed to put all the presents that I needed to get posted in the post, so that was good, and then with the case already packed ready to go, it was off to East Croydon and the train to St Pancras, followed by a walk to Euston. I improvised a bit on breakfast as Sainsburys allow you a Costa Coffee from the machine in store to be the meal deal drink, so got that and used their new Meal Deal Plus to ugprade the main to a hot breakfast wrap, and some crisps to take with me for the journey later. Couldn't argue for all that for a fiver, and certainly worked out to be a rather tasty breakfast too as I boarded the 0946 to Crewe.

The train journey was all good and although a few minutes delayed, all got into Crewe well on time and in good time for the 1230 Transport for Wales train, which had only two carriages on so was pretty full. I did get a seat and the bloke opposite me had two cats in different cat carriers, a ginger cat called Simba and a black and white cat called Hermoine. They were so calm and happy in their little carriers, with mesh on them so they could see outside and say hello to anyone, so that made the last part lovely.

I got to The Love In My Heart's place and fussed over Brian the cat for a bit before then heading out on the tram to Ashton-under-Lyne and off to Rewind Collectables and Games. It was nice and quiet for a Friday afternoon so headed in and managed to pick up Berks for the Commodore 16, the re-release by The Power House, for a mere £1. Happy times, especially as it was coded by John Williams who also did the superb Timeslip for that format (and if you haven't ever played that, you really should, it is a great game.)

I got back to The Love's place later and after feeding Brian the cat his tea, I went off on the tram and to meet The Love In My Heart near work. I managed to get us a space in Wine and Wallop, not as easy as usual as upstairs was closed due to a function, but did have a very nice Saltaire Triple Chocolate Stout which was very very nice indeed. The Love had her Camden Hells and it was nice to catch up and chatter for a good while in there, before stopping off at the local Chinese takeaway to get some tea - it was really busy in there to say the least and had to wait a fair while for the food too.

We settled back at The Love's place and enjoyed the Chinese, the chicken and mushrooms I had was spot on, as was The Love's pork kung po. We did notice in both cases that there seemed more sauce, which was a bonus, as last time the crispy shredded chicken was lacking in that department. It was very enjoyable and a nice way to just relax on the Friday evening before the rest of the weekend, and watched Googlebox with lots of enjoyable comments on the week's telly, including a bit from I Can see Your Voice where actual Andy Bell from Erasure joined the bloke singing the classic A Little Respect, so tune of the day right there.

Thursday 8th December - Drill In The Darkness

It was another day in the office today, and I was glad that I was back on the desk I normally try and reserve - by the window and I get to see out over the street and it is pretty when it gets dark at the moment with some of the festive lights on, so that's nice. In fact I must admit I did feel like it was a rather good time to get plenty done, and road tested again all the potential Windows 10 22H2 builds prior to switchover earlier next week from 21H2. In essence, it's been a good way to finalise that the move I'm making is the right one, with an ongoing optional push on to Wndows 11 eventually at the same time.

Of course, what it does mean that with a longer support period for being on Windows 10 22H2, there's more time to phase in an upgrade and to potentially make it a smoother experience. We can even offer the opportunity for someone to have it if they wish (say for example if we replace their machine with a new one) which gradually will phase things in, so that is not a bad shout to do that to be honest. As ever, you always wait for an OS to get some maturity before moving people over, and all the initial foibles have been ironed out - no point in a corporate business being an early adopter for the sake of it.

What I did note also today was that we had a fire drill, and that resulted in a very long walk from the office to the new assembly point. The reason partly for that is that where the old assembly point was is part of a new building site, so for safety reasons it'd be unsafe to congregate there. Thankfully it looked like most of us have read the memo (very Office Space, I know!) and managed to walk to the right space, and in the dark and cold too I should add. I had one tune in the head when I got back - Fire Drill by MJ Hibbett from his new album, and that has to be tune of the day for those reasons.

It was a good journey home on the bus, and made myself some tea before having a good natter with The Love In My Heart. She was full of happiness after the wreath making last night, and the picture she sent me showed that it looked really good and I'll see what she made when I see her tomorrow night, so definitely going to be a plus point. Brian the cat was purring in the background during the phone call, and I could tell he was getting a massive load of fuss and cuddles from his Mummy, so definitely a plus point there methinks.

I've spent some time tonight watching the last two episodes this week of The Traitors, the game show with the ever delightful Claudia Winkleman as host. She dresses a lot better for this than on Strictly, always looking smart and in fact being able to deliver the bits of news to the contestants during the day when they're out from the castle doing the various tasks. No spoilers here, but the task in tonight's episode was pretty intense, as was indeed one of the round tables also...

Wednesday 7th December - Office Space

It was the first of two days in a row to the office today, and I have to say that a Wednesday on the X68 bus not only seemed quieter in terms of people on the bus itself, but also the amount of time that it took to get to the office too. Thankfully some of the roadworks have gone now, leaving a clean route, which meant I had a bit of time when I got to the office to get myself a little breakfast before starting the day. And well, why not to be perfectly honest, I needed the energy and the caffeine also to be able to get cracking.

It was a different side of the office to be sat on as I had switched the days in at short notice following the need to have a parcel collected yesterday. On the plus side it did mean I was near one of the colleague whom I've worked with in comms before, and she now has a slightly different role but still really lovely too. It was nice when one of her colleagues was also sat on the same bank of desks who had travelled down from Wigan no less (another Northerner, so of course that made me happy!) and she also seemed lovely too, so it was nice in between meetings to have a little chat and to be friendly, as life is well, too short isn't it?

I did the weekly report today to make sure I noted down everything that was needed in goodf time, and following a chase up from a higher manager, I had some cleaning up to do in terms of removing some records from one of our systems, which did at last make things neater and tidier overall, so that was definitely a positive for me. Always good when you're able to effect change. In fact, one part of the testing part of one change did go out today too - the new version of our VPN client, and that actually was working well thus far too, so all looking good and proving that the testing pays off.

It was nice to leave on time and for once it was almost straight away that the X68 came to take me homeward, and it sped through on the way home, so much so that I think it broke its own record for getting to West Croydon - in 61 minutes no less, so not too bad really. I was soon home in the nice and warm, as it was getting a tad on the cold side the last couple of nights, so that was appreciated to have the heating on nicely. I made myself a barbecue meat feast pizza, and that went down nicely to relax during the evening. Tune of the day is the superb 5000 Miles by She Makes War, a perfect start to the original release of the Direction of Travel album.

The Love In My Heart was out tonight making a wreath for Christmas, which was nice, and I must admit I do miss her when we're not together. I think we'd had such a lovely time last weekend and I think it was nice for her to come to me and for us to be both together and happy and doing wonderful things. If rail fares were cheaper between Euston and Manchester in the weekday mornings, then it'd be half tempting to work more from hers more, then travel down as needed to London, but that isn't cheap at all, so not a chance of that unfortunately. I just am glad that I have some options at least.

Tuesday 6th December - Reviewing The Situation

I had a busy day ahead working from home, so that definitely got me started off on the right note, and I did have a parcel that Royal Mail were collecting. They did that spot on at around 12.45 this afternoon so it was nice and easy to get that sorted, and can now of course track that on its way to being delivered too. And for less cost, always an epic win that one. In fact, I had ventured out to the post box this morning as I had a number of packages to send off, mainly cards with a little present in but also some Christmas cards to people too, so it was nice to be able to sort that all out.

As for the working day, it was a positive to reflect on what I had fixed yesterday and then be able to do some cleaning up today to make sure that all of what was being reported in was in fact correct. I had checked late last night and I could see a good number of reporting in, so will do the same tonight and make sure that there's a good level of consistency as that happens, just to be sure. The fact though that I can see things working out the right way definitely showed I was right in the theory I had.

I did have a walk out at lunch time, primarily over to the WHSmith not far from me to sort out a gift card as a present for someone, and then on the way back I did spot the Post Office was pretty busy, so this is when being able to print things at home was especially useful, to avoid all of that queueing malarkey. The other good thing was that this did allow me some more time to get some lunch from Sainsburys and kick back to enjoy that for the rest of the lunch break, thus making the most of the time there.

Later on I did settle in with some music, primarily the compilation that was put together by Henry Rollins with the Rollins Band members at the time, and plenty of guests along the way, to be a record for the West Memphis Three, with all the songs being covers of Black Flag (the band Rollins was in, of course, and pretty infuential.) It's definitely worth comparing a number of the original songs on the Damaged album compared to how they appear in the compilation here, and although much less raw and punk than the old versions, the new ones sound more polished too.

When you have the likes of the late Lemmy from Motorhead absolutely giving it all on Thirsty and Miserable, and Ice-T bringing his own experience of cops right to the fore on Police Story, and Mike Patton on Faith No More absolutely smashing it on Six Pack, you can see what inspired moves they were. Not to mention Corey Taylor from Slipknot on Room 13 too. But perhaps best of all is Rollins and a number of those folks mentioned above doing Rise Above with absolute gusto, and that's tune of the day - the message today is still as powerful as it was previously. And check out the live version Rollins did with Cyndi Lauper - she knows how to rock it too!

Monday 5th December - Patience and Posting

It was a work from home day today but I had already started preparations for posting some packages off to people and in good time for Christmas, especially considering the postal strikes that were to happen over the next week or two. In fact, I had prepared one package for a friend of mine to send and noted that for the same price as a standard small parcel, I could use Royal Mail's tracked 24 service, where they collect it from you and it's a fully tracked delivery. I liked the sound of that and so did the print at home postage plus then arranged a collection for tomorrow for Royal Mail to do the business with.

I had ordered some blank CDs yesterday from Amazon as I wanted to record some things on to disc (mainly some backups and maybe the odd tune) and so when I ordered it, I had the option to pick from a local shop via their collect hubs, and the one I chose was a few streets away and a place I've been to a few times as they do a good range of Polish and other beers. Anyway, that package delivered to that shop - free, but £4.99 if I wanted next day (unless I sign up for Prime, which is a no at present) so absolute no brainer to do that, and got an email when ready to collect, and collected without fuss. See, why can't everything be that easy?

I had a patient approach today at work as I was working on resolving an issue I'd seen since a couple of servers had migrated over to our new infrastructure, and it looked like clients for one of our systems weren't reporting in properly as they should. I had already asked to check a few things and colleagues had been responsive, but something was amiss. I went back to my machine as mine had been one of the ones affected, and thought "Oh hang on a sec, what are all these files doing here?" - and so had a brainwave. What if I deleted those bar the most recent one, and then tried a send to one of the systems? It worked.

So I was on to something. I then thought about testing this theory out on a couple of other machines, and utilised a Powershell script where you can choose the type of file to remove by extension, the folder you want to remove from, and the number of days since last modified you want to remove - handy for me as I wanted to keep the most recent file with an extension that details collection of info I wanted to send, and so ran the script remotely, that worked, and then attempted to send, and that worked too. That definitely felt like a positive, so going to progress that.

In fact, I came up with some Powershell scripting for Windows, which I could deploy via MECM, and then some bash scripting for Mac where it finds a file by extension and time modified in a certain folder, and then remove them, thus working the same way. What I think happened was that when migration happened and we had to roll back and find another way, somehow when data was being sent to another system (where the SQL database lived on a server being migrated) the files had been rejected and an error created, and then when re-sending in future, it was attempting to send an old corrupted file and failed. Cleaning those out and sending the most recent was working perfectly, so that was a positive.

It was good to be able to effectively sort that out and indeed send out some notes to a few tech teams as to what had happened and how I'd managed to look at resolving it. There's some positives there already from what I can see, and for me at least it has to be a plus point that I was able to take a deep dive in and investigate, work on being creative and working on a solution, and indeed one that met the necessary needs too. As a result of that win, it was time to blast out some metal, and nothing quite like a bit of Slayer to get you going, so the title track from Seasons in the Abyss is tune of the day.

Sunday 4th December - It's A Magical Place, Apparently

I was off to do a little bit of Christmas shopping today, primarily as I was able to have the whole day to do what I needed to do. In fact, it worked out well because I could get up reasonably early and then set off for the shops when they opened, hopefully avoiding some queues along the way. Generally a Sunday tends to be a little quieter than a Saturday but I would imagine that people would want to be getting home for the England game later on against Senegal in the World Cup, so that has to be something too.

It was on the tram over to Waddon Marsh and to the Purley Way retail stores there. In fact, recently, Smyths Toys opened there in part of the site that used to be Toys R Us and a couple of other places. Where that is there is now also an Aldi, so mental note made if I wanted to do some food shopping there at some point. It was over to Smyths first, and even though it was 11.30am and relatively early, the place was already very busy with lots of families milling around. Thankfully, I managed to get what I was after pretty quickly and so was out of there as soon as I could - I can only imagine the carnage later on.

It was then over the road to the big Sainsburys which now has a little Argos inside it (previously the Argos was next to TK Maxx but that one closed as it made more sense to be in one place.) Anyway, lots of people were queueing up for online order collections, but the present I wanted was actually in stock and available to pay for and collect, and collected this pretty quickly and without fuss. It was pretty good to see that I could just get out of there and ignore all of that queueing stuff, so was pretty happy with that. I hope that The Cute Little One will like what I have got her!

I headed back on the tram and stopped off in the centre of Croydon as I needed some more gift tags. In fact, when I went over to WH Smith I remembered that they had a clearance section upstairs. Not only were there plenty of packs of nice gift tags but they were all 50p a pack, and some were the same as the ones downstairs which were almost £2! So that did save me a fair chunk of money and that allowed me to get the ones I needed and then head out of there rapidly. Nicely done.

One final stop of the day was over to Poundstretcher. I knew that one of the presents I got needed AAA batteries, and there is nothing worse than having to scramble for batteries when a present is opened on Christmas morning. So I thought it sensible to get some batteries and they had Duracell ones there for a decent price, so that was all sorted. I must admit it was good that hardly anywhere was playing over the top Christmas songs and instead it was generally a more relaxed vibe. In fact I continued that later by playing the Fleetwood Mac Rumours album, and from there, the superlative Songbird, written by the late Christine McVie, is tune of the day.

Saturday 3rd December - Coal Drops Transmission

It was nice to have a lie in this morning, which I think The Love In My Heart needed more than me due to the fact that she had had a long week of early starts (despite being off work too I should add!) - and so I left her to rest and got up to see what was happening in the world. I did note that because of the football, Strictly Come Dancing had in fact been on last night, so thought it would be sensible to watch that on BBC iPlayer whilst I made the full breakfast.

It turned out to be Musicals Week, and six excellent efforts from all the couples. For me, the best routine was Helen Skelton with Gorka Marquez who did their Couples Choice to Mein Herr from the musical Cabaret. The Liza Minelli version was always iconic (make that tune of the day) and the routine really allowed Helen to shine massively. I know she's been through some tough times as of late, but what a way to assert control over your own destiny. Yes, you smash it with the sass and attitude, and go, girl!

I also liked Will Mellor and Nancy Xu's rather emotional piece from Miss Saigon, it was elegant and graceful and was a classic case of less is more. In fact to be honest all six couples were good and when the lowest score of the night is 34 out of 40, you can tell the quality right there really. It'll be hard to pick one to leave, it may be Kym Marsh and Grazino di Prima possibly, but still they should be proud of their routine from the musical Fame, leg warmers and all of course.

Once we had breakfast and got ourselves ready, it was off on the train to St Pancras, and from there we walked through Pancras Square and over the Regents Canal to go to Coal Drops Yard, which has a mixture of permanent shops within former railway arches and some pop up stalls. It's a really nice mix overall, and in the middle of the main central section they even had two temporary pop up curling rinks for people to hire out and have a go of, which was going to be fun for those taking part, and it looked it too to be honest.

We did like the fact that it was a really good use of the space and that the shops had plenty of independent traders, especially the pop up stalls along the side that was Stable Street Market - which also had a record shop and some really nice coffee places there too. We did cross over and note the queue for Dishoom before entering Granary Square and some of the market stalls there close to the Waitrose, which was good to see more independent places too.

After walking back to St Pancras and admiring the shops there close to the Eurostar terminal, we headed upstairs to The Betjeman Arms, where we'd booked a table for lunch. The inside eating area had a lovely view over to Kings Cross from the window, but also was a much more quieter and chilled out place overall, so that was good. I had the Proper Job ale and The Love had the Camden Hells, and for the main meal I had the fish and chips, which was gorgeous, and The Love had the pork with some nice vegetables and mushrooms, and a sauce to die for which looked totally yummy.

In fact the staff were really lovely, and the bloke who served us wanted to apologise for our food taking longer than normal, so gave The Love an additional free pint of Camden Hells, which was very nice. I had a latte later too and we were both all chilled out and had lots of lovely conversation before we left and headed back to Euston to make sure The Love was on her 1720 train back to Manchester. I did feel very sad that she was heading off home, but we'd had a lovely time and that was what was important for us both.

Later when I got home in the evening, I tuned in to the live broadcast of the Transmission 64 online Commodore 64 demo party, which proved to be really enjoyable. I had actually entered a tune created on my own C64 with SID chip for this one, and it was glad that people noted that I'd made an effort. In fact lots of great stuff all round really, the one line BASIC competition was really good to see how much effort you'd be able to create with just one line of that - and some really did the business too. And a wide mix of stuff in the demo competition too so definitely was thoroughly enjoyable - kudos to all involved there.

Friday 2nd December - Eating Out And Relaxed Vibes

It was a busy day ahead for us today, primarily as we were having both lunch and tea out so that was going to be nice for some different reasons. We did also want to peruse some of the shops in central London too, so it was nice to have a lie in, then get up and have a light breakfast and a coffee before getting ready for the day. As the lunch was going to be somewhere nice and posh, I put on my nice new Joules shirt, and The Love looked gorgeous in her dress, tights and boots - of course we both had warm coats on too because we knew it was going to be cold outside.

We took the train over to London Victoria, which was pretty busy, and the Victoria Line to Oxford Circus was also very busy, but we soon managed to head out, and took the exit towards Regent Street. We wanted to peruse in Hamleys toy shop and see if there was anything there of note for The Cute Little One. Well, the choices were massive, and to be honest, it would be difficult to decide on something because of all the cute things we could have got - lots of dolls' accessories, plenty of character toys, you name it. It was good to see though that plenty of educational stuff was on offer though.

We then walked back to Oxford Street and headed down towards Marble Arch, stopping off at a number of shops along the way, and noticed the displays in the likes of Selfridges and Marks and Spencer, and the interesting inflated characters climbing up the sides of House of Fraser, which was definitely a very different and arty display instead - quite liked that actually. It was also noticeable that the so called "American candy" stores were still around, and still look pretty dodgy to me, the same sort of places selling phone covers and suitcases and look especially tacky. No. Just no.

It was a right turn at Marble Arch and on to the Montcalm Hotel, where we finally were going to use a Christmas present from last year from our friends - a two course lunch for two with prosecco. We found The Crescent restaurant and the staff there were lovely, and asked The Love for the gift experience voucher, and showed us to a table, and we soon had water and the glass of prosecco on the table too. For the starter, The Love had a really fresh Greek salad, and I had the root vegetable soup, really nicely blended and with some lovely warm bread. We both had the chicken supreme for main, with vegetables and gravy, and that was spot on too. It was rather all lovely to have and of course being for free was an added bonus.

We walked along from there past Baker Street and towards Marylebone High Street, as a number of the shops in there were nice places we wanted to go in. Of course I enjoyed being in Daunt Books as ever, and The Love always enjoys the likes of The White Company, Caroline Gardner and The Conran Shop of course, always some really nice design ideas in there even if not all of them are affordable. We stopped off at a pub there we'd been in before for a leisurely drink, and that was a nice way to sort of keep the whole day very relaxed and chilled out, as we'd planned to do. In fact tune of the day reflects that: Friday I'm In Love by The Cure.

After that it was time to take the tube and train from Baker Street via Waterloo and on to Putney, to meet up with The Love's niece and her boyfriend. We went to their place first and really liked the Christmas tree they had put up, it definitely felt festive and nice, and had a good chatter in the flat before then heading down the road to where they had booked a table for four of us for tea - at the Prince of Wales pub. I had passed it when heading from East Putney tube ages ago, and it did look nice, so was nice to go in and be shown to a nice cosy table where no loud music was on and conversation and chatter was the vibe instead.

It was a thoroughly nice evening all told, with lots of conversation and it was nice to hear from the niece's boyfriend about his new job - he really seems to like it and it's more in tune with what he likes anyway, plus its given him some new ideas for experimenting and trying things out too, so definitely that was good. The waitress who served us was new to the pub, having recently flown over from Turkey this year and settling in to London after a few months in Cardiff. She was lovely, and was learning first hand the differences between the likes of cask beer, but sorted me out well with the Half-Time Oranges pale ale from the Sambrooks brewery, which was rather good.

The three others shared a bottle of wine, very civlised and all that, and we had our mains. We all had different too - one had the chicken burger (which looked ace), one had the sea bream, and another the fish and chips. I went for the pie but forgot to check if it was a proper pie, so was a bit disappointed with the pastry case and lid, even though the contents were good though - and nice veg and mash too. I also had the sticky toffee pudding and plenty of chatter flowed throughout: as I said, it was lovely.

We walked back to Putney train station and it was almost 9pm, which considering we'd got to theirs around 5.15pm showed what a good time it was. We got the train back to Clapham Junction and then to East Croydon, braved the wind going home, and then put on Gogglebox on Channel 4 +1 to nicely wind the evening down. Incidentally, it was good that they did show the likes of The Traitors amongst the programmes - and then Claudia Winkleman on Graham Norton as well, so that was a pretty good win really before heading for bed after a long but very enjoyable day.


Thursday 1st December - All Over Battersea

I had the day off work today which was a positive, and in fact the rest of the week off. This was primarily because The Love In My Heart was coming to stay for the weekend, and we were going to have some festive fun (and because it's December, that can happen.) I had booked the time so we could enjoy what we had together. In fact, I had it all sorted for today - get the bedding changed, have the Tesco food delivery arrive (and no substitutions, winning) and then make sure the flat was super neat and tidy, which I keep clean anyway, ready to rock and roll.

I headed off at 3pm and went from West Croydon via Farringdon to London Euston, even taking in a bit of the Elizabeth Line along the way, and had arrived in good time. Thankfully the train down for The Love was all good and on time, and did arrive on Platform 1 without any issues. It was lovely to see her as ever of course, and we made our way on to the Northern Line tube, but this time the Charing Cross branch, which would take us down through Waterloo to Kennington and then on to Battersea Power Station.

In fact, it was the first time also for me that I'd ridden the new extension to the Northern line, so it was noticeable on leaving Kennington that the concrete new tunnels were very much in abundance and much cooler than the rest of the Northern Line because of that. Once at the end of the line, it was up and out, with the imposing power station as was opposite us. It was good to see that the approach was all nice and neat in terms of accessibility also, and soon made our way towards the entrance.

So the main power station building effectively is in two distinct areas: there's the shopping centre, which is on a number of levels and has some rather posh shops as well as some nice individual design outlets, and also part of the control room is now a bar and restaurant inside. We did get some cards from Paperchase along the way, but The Love did note that some of the units were more luxury and it maybe would make more sense for some of them to be affordable - I totally get that. The other area, incidentally, are flats within, and I can imagine them not being very cheap!

We did walk along to the front of the power station and close to the river - with the rather nice ice rink and little bar there, as well as some expensive fairground type games if you wanted to try those out. However we did end up by the railway arches and had a nice warm outside heater, so we sat outside Battersea Brewery and had a drink - I got The Love a nice helles and for me it was a beer of theirs called Cacao Goes Moo (get it?) which was a rather nice drinkable session stout and packed with cocoa flavours too - it was lush it has to be said.

We then walked back through the power station and along the road to Battersea Park train station so we could get the train from there via Clapham Junction to East Croydon and then home - and that was nice to relax and have some food for tea including some rather nice chicken with dauphinoise potatoes and vegetables, which did the job. We settled in to watch the latest episode of The Traitors which was rather good, and turned over for one of the Fleetwood Mac concerts on BBC Four. There were some majestic versions of Mac classics but for me one of the songs penned by the late Christine McVie had to be tune of the day - and it was a beautiful version of You Make Loving Fun.