Dear Diary...

This is my diary. How things are. Or something. Please note that the diary is archived month by month, so feel free to click the links for the archives:


Thursday 13th December - The Cold North Wind Blows

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 12th December - Confidence Or No Confidence

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 11th December - Wrapping and Rapping

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

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

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

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

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

Monday 10th December - Christmas Completed

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday 9th December - Last Christmas..

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 8th December - Walking In A Winterville Wonderland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 7th December - Solutions Not Problems

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday 6th December - Totally Acoustic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 5th December - InActive X

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 4th December - Poundstretcher Purchases

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

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

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

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

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

Monday 3rd December - The Overnight Journey From Hell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 1st December - Three One

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

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

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

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

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

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