Dear Diary... July 2018

Tuesday 31st July - Quake Quandry

So, for old school gaming's sake, I decided to undertake a little bit of a challenge and get Quake 1 up and running on one of my boxes (Win 7 64-bit). I knew that in effect the difficulty might be unpacking the original content from the CD, but also if the GLQuake version would actually work without issues on the PC as well. The graphics card has some nice Open GL support, so in theory, be good to hear the classic Nine Inch Nails title track again (make that tune of the day as I can play that on audio CD at any time) and see how well it would run on a modern box.

As I suspected, my original of Quake 1 is the DOS installer, which means in effect that the DEICE.EXE used to decompress the packed files won't work. So, download and install DOSBox, get an instance running. Once done, copy the quake CD installer folder to a folder on the hard drive (say C:\QUAKEINSTALL) and then mount that as a drive (easier to mount a folder as a drive to be honest). I then fired up install.bat from DOSBox, accepted the default install, and I could see on the hard drive that a Quake folder was being added inside the QuakeInstall folder. It took some time to unpack, but.. it did work. Yes.

Next thing was to copy the extracted Quake folder to the root of C:, having C:\Quake, and then getting the GLQuake patch (glq1114 to be precise) installed - this searches for C:\Quake by default, so let it do its thing and install. Now, the extra bit people miss. In the Quake folder there's now an opengl32.dll, which is the special DLL that 3dfx cards look for and use. You want to use your graphics card's version which will be in your Windows system folder, so simply delete the one from the Quake folder. Done that? Fire up GLQuake. It works!

Nice, huh? All I then had to do as one final step was to add a shortcut to GLQuake.exe with the -width 1920 and -bpp 32 settings, and yeah, full screen at 1920x1200 at 32 bit colour, have some of that! And admittedly, playing it on such a nice monitor was actually quite entertaining, not least as it meant that I could have the soundtrack on to add some extra spookiness (it'll play fine without the CD in the drive by the way) and also then run around and see how it all played, and played pretty well.

Considering that Quake is after all dating back from 1996, the fact it still played on a relatively decent box that I've had for a few years now and worked fine is testament to the fact that the code is pretty robust all round. Quake 2 being Windows only was much easier incidentally: install natively, add the 3.20 patch, set your video to OpenGL at full screen etc, and off you go. Job done. Frametest without vsync showed a stupidly high frame rate, so all good. But it's not about the fps of course, it's about playing old school games just for the hell of it when I feel like.

I could have of course dug out my little Shuttle Win98SE box (which I use with relevant cables to transfer old Commodore 64 disks to the PC) and played it on that, as it does have a decent AMD processor with nVidia Geforce 2 MX on board, but you get the idea - playing it showed that it wasn't all about the fancy stuff necessarily, but the gameplay being that which you could enjoy. Even my old Win95 Cyrix box back in the day with a 4GB Matrox Mystique card quite liked this game (albeit in software mode, although I did get an add-on Matrox m3D PowerVR card and did run it in PowerVR OpenGL mode later..)

Monday 30th July - Starry Eyed

So it was back to work today, and the weather originally this morning was looking a little wet, hence the jacket came out. I didn't necessarily need it later on the way home from the train station though as clearly the weather had improved, but nonetheless good to keep dry at all times. On the plus side, I was doing a fair amount of testing in ServiceNow to ensure that everything had worked correctly that I implemented - including a Knowledge Base article to point people out to which software was free, which was licensed and therefore point them to the correct form to fill in.

Hopefully that will tie in nicely, but also had a client catalog script tested too which basically allowed for you to verify a field to be a certain number of characters, and if less than that, the field wouldn't be allowed as your character length was too short. Ideally what we want is for people to provide a good sound business justification for being able to order something and not the usual "I need it" that they would type in. I suppose too that it means that anything without a sound justification will be refused flatly to be honest.

I also did some additional testing during the day of a few other things in both ServiceNow and SCCM, so all appeared to be very well on that side too, so will be plotting some proposed changes from tomorrow now I've done all the testing I need to. One final test that I did involved firing up a new developer instance of the brand new only released last week London version of ServiceNow. What I wanted to test was to see if any incoming email would transfer to the work notes if they had emoji characters in, and amazingly, it did, substituting them for four question marks instead.

I headed homeward later and it was nice to be able to relax and listen to some more of the new albums I'd got, and so tonight was mainly about "Dove" by Belly. I'd seen the band live last month and they were really good, so it would be sensible to play that album and play loud. It came across really well and reminded me of their live set, so "Shiny One" really did stand out as it had been when it was the single (make that tune of the day) with some lovely layered guitar. And after all, isn't that what it's all about? And the closing track "Heartstrings" is also gorgeously lovely - but wait..

There's a twelfth track, not detailed in the track listing on the back of the CD cover. After some research, this is called "Starryeyed" and is actually a beautiful acoustic number - and one which I remember from the live set last month too. I really like the fact that the album winds down with these two tracks back to back, and mellows out this way. I must admit that with a new Kristin Hersh album out later this year, it's a good time to be a fan of the Throwing Muses' and their side projects' catalogue!

Sunday 29th July - Raining On The Parade

It was raining most of the night and indeed when The Love In My Heart and I got up on the Sunday morning, it was raining incessantly too. I was hoping it'd bring some much needed fresher air to be honest, as sleeping in my flat had been pretty difficult to be honest. We both had managed some sleep and it was nice for The Love just to lie in and relax whilst I sorted out a few things. I later was to sort out a little Word template for her too so felt pretty pleased about that to be honest.

With the rain still not so good, we decided that after breakfast we'd head out and have a nice mooch around the shops, which is pretty much what we did. A number of those shops are inside shopping centres anyway and The Love wanted to get some cards, so it was a good idea to get round. I did see a couple of possible nice shirts inside Debenhams, but will more sensibly be using the gift card I have for there for some possible new work trousers (only downside with new job: have to wear trousers) so had a peek at those. The Love did like a skirt for work which was a reduced bargain, but did they have her size? No. Of course not.

We had a good look around House of Fraser as well as Next, and also then a good walk around some of the card shops to get some cards, and that was us sorted. It was still hammering it down though so I took my shirt off when I got back and hung it in the airing cupboard to dry off (that was quick too) and then later on we got everything ready and were heading off to the train station. It was a case of this time heading off to Farringdon and getting the Hammersmith and City line to Euston Square.

Because, as is our tradition, it was off to the Crown and Anchor for Sunday lunch. The place was pretty busy becuase part of it was sectioned off due to a dog's first birthday party (seriously, I kid you not!) - and The Love got chatting to the female owner later at the bar. Anyway, we got a table and I had the pie which was gorgeous, The Love had the fish and chips which also looked good. I did try the Strawberry Hells Forever lager from the Camden Town Brewery which was pretty nice, but even nicer was the Jaw Brew's "Fathom" dark ale, utterly gorgeous!

I saw The Love off at Euston, although the trains were delayed and that meant she was delayed getting home (Brian the cat had to wait a little longer for cuddles and Dreamies) and I got home and played the new albums I'd ordered that were delivered earlier today (yes, Sunday delivery) and so on went Bodega's "Endless Scroll" album which of course included the excellent single "How Did This Happen?" and so that has to be tune of the day all round - a perfect way to wind down on a Sunday night...

Saturday 28th July - Str-eat-life

It was nice to be able to relax this morning, sort all the bedding out and replace it, wash the other one, make sure that all was good and tidy, and then spend some time listening to some classic Siouxsie and the Banshees, as you do. In fact when listening to the classic Hong Kong Garden it reminded me of how the actual song is named after the takeaway in Chislehurst, Bromley, where Siouxsie lived. It is named something different now but it's still in the very same spot, so one day I'll have to visit and most likely get chicken chow mein to takeaway - a moment in music history and all that.

I headed to East Croydon station later and met with The Love In My Heart who had come on the train down this morning. We were going to have a chilled out weekend together and it was lovely to see her as ever, and she looked gorgeous. We got back to mine and relaxed with a cold drink and sorted all we needed to out before then heading back out for the afternoon. We took the train to London Victoria and then the Victoria line, but this time staying on beyond Euston and swapping at Highbury & Islington for the Great Northern train to Alexandra Palace - and we had to wait a bit for that one!

Once at the station we walked over the bridge and along the road up to the hill to the palace itself, and for good reason. Streatlife was on again which is where there's stalls of street food and craft beer along with music and DJs, and with the weather warm and a little windy, we had a nice mooch around the stalls initially to see what we wanted. I went in the food queue and The Love in the beer queue, and she was served first and got me a nice dark porter whilst she got a Belgian lager, and I picked us up two posh cheese burgers with chips. The Love had brought the little picnic blanket with her and so we sat on the hill in the park facing the palace with our food and drink.

That proved to be a very nice relaxing afternoon together - we had drinks and the burgers were ace, we chilled out and listened to a band playing who were doing different cover versions of songs in a nice uptempo almost happy way, including Steve Winwood's "Higher Love" which I really like, and so that's tune of the day without question. It was also good later as one of the craft beer stalls were close to the steps down to the park, so wasn't that far to head up and get something later, and I tried a nice paler ale this time which went down well also. In fact the only thing was the wind that was blowing, but that was to be expected when high up. We could see the Olympic Stadium and Orbit, The Shard, and even Tottenham's New White Hart Lane ground taking shape too.

The time sped by as we chatted happily together and it was just so good to be chilled. I think for us both that we both enjoy just taking our time when we can to just pause, and certainly in Cornwall last year we did a bit of that which was a positive. I think too that you don't always need to be spending lots of money, just being with each other is actually more than enough. We admired the view, chatted, and just felt happy together. Simplistic I know, but it's true. As every day passes I know how lucky I am.

The wind and weather looked a tad cloudy later though so we ended up walking down a path downhill and then following the road along the bottom which took us back to where we started near the train station. We were going to go into the Starting Gate pub opposite the station but it was packed, so we instead got the train back to Highbury & Islington and stopped off for a drink there before we then got he train and tube back to mine. Later on I'd put in a pizza in the oven to have together and see the F1 qualifying from Hungary, which proved to be rather wet!

Friday 27th July - I Hear Thunder

Well today at work proved to be excellently productive all round actually. Not only did someone feed back to me via the ServiceNow forums on a way to get the widget to display the knowledge base article top 5 by the keyword, but a bit of investigation further revealed that you could actually add another query criteria for the keyword itself by its sys ID (in case you have more than one) and that worked pretty well, meaning that the articles we'd like to have shown on the front page can be done. It's nice when things work well isn't it?

I was also on a double roll today as I was also checking into some of the issues we'd had around one of the servers being a bit low on disk space. I had had the same hunch as my colleague and we both thought badly downloaded Windows updates were the problem, and we worked on the same solution. Result was around 20GB of disk space claimed back which has to be a positive thing really. And on top of that I was also then able to get some ground rules laid out for the forthcoming internal knowledge base too - so definitely feeling positive about all that work too.

So I could see that the clouds outside were looking a tad on the dark side as I left the office to head for the train, and sure enough a rumble of thunder came hurtling sonically, which was very very loud. I got the train and that appeared to be on a go slow approaching London Bridge and then again just after Norwood Junction. By all accounts lightning had hit other areas though. Needless to say it looked like it was going to wee it down at any time soon so definitely wanted to avoid that if I could.

Literally five minutes or so after I got home, I saw several flashes of lightning and then some thunder, followed by a massive downpour for around an hour or so. It really was rather wet so was glad to be inside and not getting drenched to be perfectly honest. Needless to say I was playing some tunes too including the excellent "Thunder" by Renegade Soundwave (make that tune of the day) as I own the 12" remix Thunder II which came out in 1990, and the original version was on their "In Dub" album, a CD bargain from a Power Cuts record sale in Manchester if memory serves me well.

In fact I do think Renegade Soundwave were massively under-rated, only name checked by Pop Will Eat Itself in the lyrics of "Can U Dig It?" (PWEI knew their stuff) - and RSW were also ace. Lots of cracking dance choons including the likes of "The Phantom", "Brixton", "Biting My Nails" (a cover of the Genevieve Waite track from 1974 but done so well) etc and the iconic "Probably A Robbery" as well, including the immortal line "If you want my advice get it all above board, just pop into Lloyds and get yourself insured" before any robbery happens. It really has some iconic rap style vocals and a real London sound to that all too, another example of how ace they were..

Thursday 26th July - Heatwave

My, it was bloody hot today. And hot overnight too, so much so that the lack of air proved a tad uncomfortable for sleeping. Thankfully my brother was able to get some shut eye before his trip off to Reading, so I made us some bacon on toast for breakfast along with some grapefruit juice and that got us all sorted before we decided to head off to East Croydon station. We got the train to Farringdon and then from there I made sure he headed on the tube to Paddington to change over for Reading. It was good to see him and also sad to say a farewell too - I'm sure more retro gaming would have been good later!

I had a pretty productive day at work and spent some time investigating something which is of some annoyance. So, when an email arrives into ServiceNow and it contains emojis, the email body and the text can clearly show them fine. However, because the content of the email goes in as a comment and work note initially for the email record, the problem is that when you do that, the email stops instantly at the first emoji it hits. Normally this is because of the fact that the field for the comments and work notes is a journal field and so can't handle utf-8 string characters, but..

I did see a couple of different ways online of how to manage that, but in one case it had to do a HTML to text conversion and then strip out the character coding. That did work and make it all plain text and all but then the mails didn't show as they should do when they were being converted to text. It's a case of deciding which was the lesser of two evils and working on that, but definitely something to contend with all round really. I definitely think it was a positive all round that at least I have an idea.

I headed over to Wimbledon Park tube after work and to James Barbers to have the hair cut. The good thing is that the place has aircon, so felt nice and relaxed as I chatted to the guys and had the hair nicely trimmed how I have it. It was very warm outside though and definitely felt nice on the tube to Wimbledon, but no aircon on the trams meant it was unfeasibly hot as I headed back to Croydon and home. The temperature in the flat measured 31.5 degrees centigrade when I arrived back home, so windows and the juliette balcony door open as soon as I could.

I had a nice relaxing evening on the whole listening to some music and spending time as well chatting to both The Love In My Heart and then Mum who wanted some information as to how to get around Cornwall by bus - and not as easy as it sounds but doable from what I could see. With that in mind a bit of 3 Daft Monkeys had to be played (they're in Cornwall after all!) and so the excellent "Agnes The Giant Killer" is tune of the day - still one which I enjoy listening to now..

Wednesday 25th July - Brotherly Retro

It was nice evening all round tonight, as I headed off to Euston from work and to meet my brother, who was on the 1415 departure from Manchester Piccadilly. With the weather being unreasonably warm to say the least, I'd already worked out a fully air conditioned route back to East Croydon, so definitely well worth doing that of course. We met up and walked past the Crown and Anchor on the way to Euston Square, and from there over on the Hammersmith and City line to Farringdon, and a platform swap later and on the 1649 to Horsham, which was reasonably quiet actually - we got seats which tells you a lot actually.

We took a leisurely walk through the town centre in Croydon so I could point out a few things such as Boxpark where all the football celebrations took place, the shops and the likes of the board game café Ludoquist as well as some good pubs, which we'd be heading to later on. It was very very warm still and even with the windows open at my place I knew it was just really warm, so decided that it'd be good to head out for tea, and I'd heard that the Green Dragon had aircon, and yes, it did. That was a good thing so we decided after checking the menu we'd have food and drink in there.

My brother is a real ale person like me so the excellent selection in the Green Dragon was spot on, and we got a good table by the window and had plenty to chatter about. We got on to the subject of old games and how we'd only really spend hours on games if the weather was bad, or else we'd be out on our BMX or whatever - whereas kids these days spend far too long on games only. The food was very good too, I had the meat feast pizza which was spot on, and he had the burger which looked very good and actually didn't need a massive mouth to try and eat either - lots of things on there but not too much in your face so all was good. In fact I even had the sticky toffee pudding for a mere £3.25 - it was nice too.

So all the talk of old games had got me thinking - he mentioned the old Commodore Plus/4 we had back in the day (and I have one now in fact) as a friend of his was deciding whether to check the loft out and he said definitely - I agree, we did find a fair few bits in my old place when I cleared out, so good to get that all sorted to be honest. So when we got back to mine later, I got out the box with all the bits in, and hooked it all up. We soon had the analogue signal tuned in, and even had the joystick adapter for using Atari type joysticks (essential that) and played some games.

First up was Kikstart, and this version is different from the classic C64 version but still good - effectively a time trial for each level with five lives maximum to head across the various obstacles. As ever with Shaun Southern classics on any format, very playable, which is why it was on next with Tutti Frutti. Good old Super Strawberry heading to crush the acid apples in a sort of cross part inspired by Dig Dug. Massively addictive fun though and for us a classic we remembered so well and enjoyed playing.

On then went Icicle Works, which was Plus/4 only and very similar to the C64 release, same programmer, same layouts, everything. The music is still as addictive as ever though (make that tune of the day) and we certainly progressed well in the game seeing some of the different screens. It's notable too that you can actually drop snowballs on top of the penguins to get more present parts to complete the level, but also that some of the levels are really difficult to work out - perseverance is the key for definite. Massively enjoyable though and definitely one we remembered back in the day.

It was then on to some more Mastertronic games incuding Video Meanies, which was pretty good back then although in some of the rooms you can't touch the background border, making it really a case of spot on timing and having the patience to reap its own rewards. Kane was insanely difficult for the second level where it's the wild west shoot out and you got shot, and BMX Racers, if at all possible, was still worse than the C64 version (and that is awful). Still, a good night wort of entertaining old games to play along with good company - can't say fairer than that really.

Tuesday 24th July - Machadaynu

And so another really warm day followed today. It's not necessarily so bad in the office, where the aircon is blissful, but the oppressive heat that hits you, especially at lunch time, when you do leave. I guess it's much nicer when you're either by the sea or on holiday (as The Love In My Heart were a couple of months ago in Naples) and you have a little breeze, although the humidity in Naples admittedly did match how it often was in Manchester in parts though.

The Love In My Heart had mentioned to me that for her, it was a case of humidity and some rain earlier, especially not good when there were outdoor activities planned for her line of work today! Still, I suspect that some people will welcome the wet weather and hopefully fresher air that came with it. I can't see any rain until Friday sadly so it's a case of soldiering on. I did say though to my manager that I'd rather be in the office instead of working from home on the Thursday so I've not got all that to contend with and he agreed that was sensible.

Talking of the new job for a second, my current HR team did get in touch as they'd finally got the reference request and have been processing that. Hopefully everyone else I was able to put people in touch with will have done their bit and been able to sort their end out too, so we shall see. I was also asked for a copy of the ITIL Foundation certification, so handily I remembered to keep a PDF of that safe so it's to hand when I need it - always good if it's electronic to have that sort of thing backed up. I must admit I do now want to get started and to give my all to the current job to leave on the right note.

I got home later and spent time sorting out the flat, but also sorting out the spare airbed as well. I've got my brother coming down to stay overnight as he's off to Reading on Thursday, and it proved to be a lot cheaper (and less money) for him to come down on the train on Wednesday afternoon and then take the train to Reading on Thursday morning from Paddington instead of having to go from Manchester on a Thursday morning and pay absolutely shedloads for the privelege. The other good thing is that the evening train back he'll be getting was also cheaper as Crosscountry were offering 15% off on their advance tickets. Win!

So it's at times like this that I don't have to use a foot pump to have to pump up the airbed but instead just use the electric air pump and it takes less than a minute to get that sorted. Once done and all the bedding was on, it meant it was all good, as I'm meeting him straight from work tomorrow, thought it would be easier really. In the meantime once that was all done I kicked back and watched some classic old telly, namely the second series of the classic BBC2 series Look Around You, which I have on DVD.

For me, the first episode, the Music one, is still a classic to this day, with all three entries to the "Music 2000" competition all having variations on the name Tony (Tony Rudd, Toni Baxter and Anthony Carmichael) and the likes of Olivia Coleman and Peter Serafinowicz in fine form, along with Josie D'Arby and Robert Popper as the four presenters. Imagine Tomorrow's World done with a touch of sarcasm throughout and it's pretty much that. In fact tune of the day is "Machadaynu" by Tony Rudd (played by Kevin Eldon) as it's just a real mickeytake on acoustic guitas blended with off the wall lyrics, hehe.

Monday 23rd July - Heatwave and Humidity

It wasn't bad enough that it was very very warm outside (32 degrees centigrade, 90 farenheit) but also the humidity made it all feel really close and horrible. I was so glad that at least in the office the air conditioning was on and working well, which allowed me to concentrate on a number of tasks I had during the day. One of which was to see if I could sort out how to re-arrange the catalog menu in ServiceNow that I had looked at on Friday, and by the looks of it, it was doable.

So, in essence, what I had to do was to define which sys IDs of the catalog items I wanted to effectively limit the query to, and with some assistance via the forums, I managed to work it out and then add that in. I added the nine IDs in and once done, it arranged itself alphabetically for the items I wanted to feature. The good thing is that we can use this way to promote newer forms and so help aid and direct users towards that as we add them, definitely a positive move methinks all round.

It was then also documenting plenty of more stuff today including how to effectively re-send an email sent from ServiceNow. This would allow us to ensure that if someone claimed that they didn't get a notification to approve a request that they would then be able to have another one sent - we wouldn't do this all the time but it was good that we were able to do so, and having done some testing, it appears to work the way we want it to. And as a result one line manager had approved the request straight away after we did a re-send. Nice!

I also spent some time documenting one of the SCCM tools that is always handy for admins to use, and that's the content library cleanup. It was added in version 1702 upwards and allows for you to check the content library for any free space you could theoretically get back, and the "what if" scenario gives you a log file with prospective benefits, so you can do that before you then do the actual cleanup and sort it all out. It works really well and in fact with one of the regional distribution points I gained back some space, so all working well.

Later on the way home I decided to get some cold drinks from Poundland along with some more ice cream from Iceland and that came in pretty handy as the weather soared in the early evening before finally dropping a tad as the sun decided to go home for the night. It did feel really warm though so was glad to be able to take it relatively easy and relax with some quality tunes, including some classic 80s Depeche Mode. With that in mind, I blasted out a few of their albums and from that, tune of the day is the rather epic "More Than A Party" which always sounds a bit sinister in my view...

Sunday 22nd July - Guitar Heroes

It was nice to just relax this morning with The Love In My Heart. It was cloudy but still quite humid, but less of an intense heat and so Brian the cat was enjoying his little self having a play out during the morning. As for us both, we got ourselves ready after breakfast and decided that a nice walk in the afternoon followed by some lunch was in order, especially as I was heading home a bit earlier than normal on the 1615 departure, primarily due to engineering works causing delays later but also as there were less trains running later on, so wanted to be sure to get home.

We headed off in The Love's car via the petrol station to get some fuel, and then decided it would be pointless heading anywhere close to Fletcher Moss to try and park up where we were going, so headed around the back towards Parrs Wood Road and managed to find an on-street spot there which wasn't blocking anyone's driveway, so from there it was a little walk back down Millgate Lane and towards Fletcher Moss Gardens. We saw the ice cream van parked up and then headed up the hill towards the Alpine Tea Room.

From there we saw that the Guitar festival was on - an afternoon of people playing the instrument around the gardens and park with a tent close to the tea room being the main stage, which was good. In fact there was a record stall organised by the folks at Deco in Withington, so that was good. I had a mooch in there and The Love had a chat with the lovely lady at the RSPB tent, so all was good there, before we then went along the rockery and had plenty of guitar players (and even a flamenco dancer) along the way.

We walked along the path that took you through the woods and ended up alongside the row of trees that takes you towards the River Mersey, and did our walk around the paths there before crossing path as part of the flood plain and back up to Parrs Wood Road, heading to the car and off to lunch at The Gateway which I have to say was very nice indeed, I had the buttermilk chicken burger, and The Love the ultimate burger, all good there, as was the Mary Jane ale too. Gorgeous.

Time went by far too quickly though and soon enough The Love was dropping me off at Piccadilly for the 1615 train. I did have to sit backwards though as the train came in reverse formation but as that meant the shaded side of the train heading back down, all was good there and had the earphones on listening to the likes of acoustic brilliance such as She Makes War's "The Best" so tune of the day there - suited the mood of acoustics I'd been listening to in the afternoon that did.

It was roasting hot on the Victoria Line and was so glad to get off at Victoria, only for Southern to fail spectacularly, only putting on a four carriage train to Reigate despite services going to be busy for engineering works on other lines and despite the heat, no aircon whatsoever. I was dripping with sweat (really attractive, not!) when I got back home and then as the night air cooled slightly, it was on with Channel 4 Plus 1 to watch the highlights of the German Grand Prix - and pretty dramatic that was too!

Saturday 21st July - The Ale Trail

The Love In My Heart and I had a relaxed morning having breakfast. The weather was overcast and a little cooler than the heatwave I've had down South, so it was good to be able to allow Brian the cat for a play out. Although of course he now likes to jump over the large fence at the front and clamber over, then sit on the grass close to the trees and look for any birds or flies there and swipe his paw at them. Needless to say if either The Love or I head out, he runs back through a small gap in the fence and back towards the front room - and we must have been out a dozen times between us this morning!

We headed over later to see The Love's father. Her sister was there as well so was good to catch up and chat about The Love's niece's graduation which happened this week at the University of Lancaster - so good to see some pics of the ceremony and how it all went. It's always good to see how other universities organise theirs, I remember speaking with a couple of former MMU colleagues a few weeks back and how intense the whole filming process is, especially when there are lots of them back to back to be done.

Anyway, from there we were going to see my Mum, but she was out and suggested that we both join her for a drink. What she forgot to mention was that she was with two of her friends too, but no bother, and add to that the pub she was in didn't exist - apparently the name The Little Gem is given by locals but it's actually called The Vale Cottage. Once I was able to work out where that was and directed The Love accordingly we went in, and it was surprisingly nice - they had a good selection of real ale on, and Mum's friends were also nice to us both which was good. It was nice to see Mum being out with friends and making the most of the time she has, although I suspect her friends may need convincing on her Cornwall idea!

After that we went back to Plan A, and that was to check out two beer places located under the railway arches close to Manchester Piccadilly station. Thankfully the 24 hour car park was close by, and although £3.50, that was for a full 24 hour period so wasn't bad if you wanted long stay on the cheap to be honest. First off was the Track Brewing Co in arch 5. They had a glass deposit scheme so you paid £3 extra for the glass to have your beer in, but got that back if you returned it. I guess at least it meant that if you did take it with you then you've paid for it anyway and stops glass thefts. I had one of their nice cask ales which was gorgeous.

Then it was over to arch 13 and to the Cloudwater Brew Co. As it turned out this was their last weekend here before they moved to their proper brewery tap location next to their brewery itself, on a small Industrial estate down the road and near the Parcelforce depot. I had their very nice lighter ale, which was a mere 2.9% and gorgeous, and The Love had the light lager, which was refreshing and nice - as were the glasses that they were served in. It was very busy in here, so much so that one of the staff had to stop people coming in to the arch due to the numbers involved. Lovely beer all round though.

Later on we had some gorgeous gammon steaks with potatoes and vegetables for tea, and that went down really well. In fact we watched the Pop Map of the 80s thing on iPlayer from BBC Four last night, where Midge Ure and Kim Appleby focussed on London and Manchester. It was fascinating to hear from Corinne Drewery from Swing Out Sister (although they were classed as London when Andy Connell from the band is Mancunian - meh!) as well as Peter Hook and Shaun Ryder. So many classic tunes in there but they also interviewed Gerald Simpson (aka A Guy Called Gerald) and of course "Voodoo Ray" had to be played - make that tune of the day due to its aceness.

Friday 20th July - Manchester Is Calling

It was a pretty busy day at work but was glad really, as I wanted the day to finish quickly, so I could head home, have some tea and then head off later after a shower back to London Euston and on the 2040 train up to Manchester to see The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat, who I hadn't seen for some time. I must admit that it's one bind of being based down here during the week: I do miss The Love a lot and if anything we really do make the most of the time that we do have when we are together, which is good.

I was working on some improvements to ServiceNow which I'd really like to see implemented before I finish with my current job, and on the positive side, I was able to look at the forums today and work out a possible idea how I'd implement one thing. The service catalog page normally has the nine most popular items but we instead want to choose our own items: primarily this is because there are some options which are popular which users have selected which we want to be able to hide, so they don't select them automatically.

It looks like the relevant widget that controls this can be edited, but not being an expert in the scripting language used, was looking for some pointers. I think I've got one but will need to spend some time in the development instance testing this out on Monday and see what I can come up with - the good news is that it looks like it's something which we can modify and do, and for sure that's definitely going to be an improvement of sorts. Felt rather pleased that it looks possible anyway.

I got home and had some tea and then with the weather looking rather warm and humid, I was able to get myself ready and be out. As I wanted to avoid the extreme heat of the Victoria Line, I instead took the train to Farringdon and swapped platforms there for the Metropolitan Line (which has aircon, yaay!) to Euston Square. Of course that did mean that I was able to then head over to the Crown and Anchor for a well earned drink before getting on the 2040 departure, so that was a positive anyway.

The train was relatively quiet, and so had the iPod on and blasting out some of the classic tunes I've got on there, including the rather good "The Same Old Rock" by Roy Harper (make that tune of the day) as that's a rather epic twelve minutes or so, so definitely good to listen to as the countryside breezes past at speed on the train. I then headed down to the tram station and took the tram to The Love's place, and when turning the door, who was there to greet me but Brian the cat looking all cute! Awwww... that was so nice. He even let me give him a bit of a fuss before a hug with The Love, which was appreciated. Nice to have a quick catch up and then rest and relaxation for the weekend ahead.

Thursday 19th July - The Age of the Train

One thing I've been trying to keep on top of is to ensure that I get the necessary trains booked to and from Manchester in advance when I see The Love In My Heart for the weekends, or similarly when she comes down to see me. The engineering works going on over the Summer months have meant I've had to book the Sundays coming back often later than originally planned, not always ideal of course. In a good way though it's meant that I've been on alert when they do go on sale and am able to get them cheaper.

One exception to the rule has been the last three weekends at the end of August when Euston is completely shut as the station gets lots of work done to do with HS2. I had already booked two Sundays and diverted around Sheffield and down to St Pancras, having to buy a ticket for each leg. However, I did think about going via Birmingham (Crosscountry to New Street and then Chiltern from Moor Street) but Chiltern advised me that due to increased capacity (Virgin trains from Birmingham go to Euston of course) they wouldn't be selling any advance tickets for those dates. Be nice if they put that on the website, but there you go.

Anyway, I worked out another way which would also mean a cheapish option too, it worked out around £26 in all. I'd take the Transpennine Express from Manchester Victoria to Leeds, then LNER from Leeds to London Kings Cross. That seemed to work out well, so was then a case of getting both times organised and then getting it booked. Thankfully I'm not having to do that every time and to be honest I'd much rather go for an earlier time of day but then the Leeds to London bit becomes a tad on the expensive side. At least it does mean that I can get up for those weekends.

At the same time I did book the last Sunday in September, and knowing that Manchester City's game that weekend wasn't scheduled for live telly, I was able to book my normal 5.35pm Sunday departure without too much fuss and at a decent price too. It does make a massive difference when you're able to do that and get to some form of routine to be perfectly honest. I definitely think though that it's worth noting just how worth it the 20% off being a Man City fan with Virgin Trains is - I can only imagine how much I've saved over the last two and half years worth with that.

I spent some time tonight listening to Midge Ure's excellent "Orchestrated" which was really nice string and orchestra versions of classic solo and Ultravox tracks complete with Midge on vocals. It certainly is much different than the album releases in a lot of cases, particularly my tune of the day - "Death in the Afternoon" which was originally on Ultravox's often overlooked Rage In Eden album. It builds up with an introduction and sweeps for around two minutes before a string bass kicks in and Midge's vocals, and really is a hair standing on the end moment. It's awesome stuff.

Wednesday 18th July - New Album Wednesday

After picking up two albums from Wow and Flutter in Hastings on Saturday, and indeed having the new Beth Rowley album delivered over the weekend (and signed, too with a little heart, aww) I thought it'd be nice tonight to kick back a little and take some time out to listen to the new purchases. Certainly for me the first new Beth Rowley album since her wonderful debut "Little Dreamer" released back in 2008 (yes that long!) and that album was released just before The Love In My Heart and I met, and an album we both grew to love massively and have playing in her car on a nice sunny day - still great now in fact.

Having seen her live a while back we both knew that she had gone for a slightly more rootsy blues feel rather than have some of the songs with pop sensibilities. Did that make it any less listenable for me? Probably not, but I know that's going to divide opinion amongst those who have Little Dreamer I guess. A lot has happened in ten years though. What is for definite is that Beth's voice is on pretty fine form all round, notably in the distinct opener "Shut It Down" which sets the tone nicely (and thus tune of the day) - it certainly may take some time to grow on me, but grow I definitely think it will.

I next turned to one of my Hastings purchases, "The Bride" from Bat for Lashes. I've admired Natasha Khan's work for some time now, and indeed her 2012 album "The Haunted Man" is a thoroughly enjoyable listen even now, with the wonderful "Laura" still majestic from that particularly. And I wasn't surprised one bit to enjoy The Bride as well, with the haunting "I Will Love Again" beautiful, defiant and perhaps a real sense of being a late night listening piece. Whatever she does, she does well and it's not difficult to appreciate either to be honest.

I also of course had to sing along with one track from the other album I'd got, The Flaming Lips' "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots". I had wanted the DVD-Audio version of this as I suspect the sound effects and stuff would have sounded awesome, but trying to get that at a reasonable price wasn't happening, so getting it cheap at the weekend made sense. The Part 1 of the title track is the one I've actually sung on one of the Rock Band games (because it's such good fun!) and certainly all the nice wibbly sound effects just add to the whole thing well.

After raving about Little Sparrow's excellent "Just 3" EP the other day, I went back to the 2014 debut album "Wishing Tree" (my album of 2014 in fact) and that was just gorgeous to listen to again. Certainly the title track is particularly lovely, as is the opener "Polly" which just oozes class, and the lovely and haunting "By My Side" is a case of using the instruments to suit the mood rather well. Oh, you don't open this album as yet? Well, you really should, so here's a link for you to go and buy it. Sort of now.

Tuesday 17th July - All Sorted

It was a productive day, mainly spent on further getting some tweaks sorted in order that our planned upgrade to Firefox would work correctly. In essence, I needed to do some detection to ensure that any previously installed FrontMotion MSI release was spotted and then removed. I managed to get the product codes for the last few version MSIs that we had pushed out along with any configuration files. What I managed to get was a way of doing a check with a reg query, and if it returns an error level 0 (meaning it is there) that it removes that version with a msiexec /X <product code> /q - neat I know.

I then added some checks if anyone had manually installed the standard Mozilla install of Firefox (good going forward this too) and if so then remove the installs using the standard uninstall helper with /S, then pausing for a little while to let this settle, and remove the remnants of the folder - then use the new install with an .ini file passing all the installer configuration, and finally copy the preference files such as mozilla.cfg. It took a few tests but I've happily got that nailed now which is good.

One final thing I did spot was that in the config file, it stated that updates should be disabled, but the "updates" buttons in both the options and Help > About were present. So I made that a lockpref preference instead along with one for turning auto updates off at the same time - and this worked very well indeed, so you get a message "updates have been disabled by your administrator" instead. Neato. That'll help massively and I did a further deployment test before running as a user, and that all appears to be working pretty nicely. I was pleased to get that all sorted.

I had some time on my hands tonight so I watched the Blu-Ray "From The Ashes" which details the legendary 1981 Ashes cricket Series between England and Australia, with great interviews from the likes of Sir Ian Botham, Rodney Marsh, David Gower, Mike Brearley and the late Graham Dilley as well. Certainly seeing those fortunes change over time with Tom Hardy's narration is certainly still as memorable as when it was when I was little, yelling at the telly hoping Botham would smash another four at Headingley. It was definitely the right moment when the country needed a boost.

Along the way the makers of the documentary were clever enough to licence some 80s classics for the parts of that - such as the riots that preceded the 3rd Test with The Specials' classic "Ghost Town" and the Royal Wedding, with the 7" single version of New Order's "Ceremony" on there (make that tune of the day) and all of that added to the feel of being back in the day. I must admit too that it was good to note that where possible the original footage from BBC was used for the coverage, so plenty of iconic Richie Benaud commentary along the way too - and these things matter massively. Good job all round.

Monday 16th July - Humid and Helpful

It was another humid and muggy warm day today at work. I must admit the one thing I've been glad of is aircon in the office: and certainly for the new job one thing I had checked out on interview is whether the place did have that or not. It does make a difference when you can concentrate on the job in hand without feeling really overheated in a stuffy office. I think too that for me it's allowed me to get on with things properly and then sweat it all out at home later where there isn't aircon (and the sun sets on my side of the building so it's always warm with the sun coming in)

It was nice though to put through some changes together which would benefit everyone in ServiceNow too, including setting up a way of not having as much a timeout, so a 60 minute timeout across the board but also a way not to rotate the login authentication (primarily because you had already authenticated with a secure single sign on via ADFS anyway, so no need to have to re-send that auth again). I did have some changes to propose to put through during the day and so tried all those, and they submitted first go without any issues which was a positive thing.

I also spent some time checking over a possible way to look at removing the old Firefox MSI version releases before installing the new version with an installation script to do the job. I could actually pull off a registry key to define the MSI version installed, but each version has a different product code for the installation and a command to remove, so I'd need to do some checks if the key and values existed and only then look at doing a necessary removal. I need to do some more tweaks but I am getting there with this.

I headed homewards later and watched the second part of the BBC Four series on the Pop Map of Britain in the 1980s. It did have a good section on Glasgow including a bit on Altered Images (I still adore Clare Grogan now) - and Clare remembered the day that Dead Pop Stars was to be released as a single (tune of the day as it's a really good Goth track actually), it coincided with the death of a famous musician, so the single did have to be immediately canned on first release. Notable, that.

For me it was a real revelation seeing much more in depth to Kim Appleby than just in her Mel and Kim pop star days, having real musical passion for all sorts of music and presenting things well alongside Midge Ure. I've found a higher respect for her for definite, and she also chairs the Best Contemporary Song category for the Ivor Novello awards too. Impressive. In fact it was good in the first show when she'd been to Coventry and spoken with those who formed The Specials, and it was a real passion shown too. Respect indeed.

Sunday 15th July - Allez Les Bleues

It was a nice relaxed morning for myself and The Love In My Heart, and we were able to have a nice full breakfast and be able to enjoy the time together, all chilled out and relaxed too. It was good to watch the remainder of the BBC Four pop map of the 1980s opening episode, and it meant that it was nice to see some information about more of the cities on the pop map, including a good look at Sheffield including the likes of The Human League, Heaven 17 et al, which was fascinating stuff. They also played The Human League's early classic "The Path of Least Resistance" so that's tune of the day.

We also took our time to be ready to head out later as there was no rush, plus of course it also meant that we could head over to the Crown and Anchor, where I'd booked us a table for 3pm ready for the World Cup final later on. Of course I'd booked the table thinking to be on the safe side if England had got to the final, but still good to be sure of a seat anyway. In fact it was relatively chilled out when we arrived there later and the aircon was on also, so felt nice. They had the tennis on so The Love could watch Novak Djokovic (who had beaten Nadal in an epic yesterday) against Kevin Anderson. Djokovic was taking no prisoners and was well up in the second set when the TV coverage switched for the football.

We had Sunday lunch in there and it was nice to be able to have lunch together - The Love had the roast chicken and I had the chicken, leek and mushroom pie which was gorgeous, full of chicken also. It was good to have some nice gravy with it and some chips and vegetables too, epsecially the fab carrots also. We'd got a drink and were all set for the France v Croatia final, with The Love heading for her train at half time with Euston nearby.

The first half was entertaining: France had put in a free kick which Mandzukic headed into his own net, but Ivan Perisic later equalised for Croatia. France went forward, put a ball across which was haded towards Perisic and the ball hit his hands down by his side. France appealed, the referee said no but then had to go to VAR, and then a penalty was given. It was a crap decision to be honest, and not really the way to want to to 2-1 up at the break, but that was that. The Love gave me a hug and kiss goodbye and headed to the station.

The second half was more of France dominating and Paul Pogba scored with a second shot on goal after the first one was blocked, followed by Kylian MBappe scoring and being only the second teenager to score in a World Cup final after Pelé. Of course, then it would be a howler from Hugo Lloris to let Mandzukic in for 4-2 and that's how it ended, France winning their second World Cup and showing real team spirit with flair. I suspected the way that they beat Argentina that they could win it, and they did. So football is coming a la maison instead, which will mean Paris being a hive of happiness right now.

Saturday 14th July - Happy in Hastings

It was a nice relaxing morning with some breakfast and coffee served before we got ready and changed to head out for the day. The Love In My Heart and I had looked at going to somewhere by the sea for the day and I'd recommended a trip to Hastings. I'd booked the advance train tickets together with Two Together Railcard, which meant a mere £3.30 each on the way there and £5.60 on the way back, can't argue with that really. We'd booked on the 1003 train so it was off to East Croydon station and through the barriers, eventually, as apparently Advance tickets don't work on the ticket gates. Meh. It works for most other train operators that.

Anyhow, we boarded the 1003 and on the right carriage (the front ones go to Ore via Eastbourne and Hastings, the rear to Littlehampton) and after Gatwick Airport we got a seat, and was glad we did as it got busy when the train divided at Haywards Heath, and was pretty busy all the way through to Lewes and Eastbourne, where a lot of people got off. The train headed along by the sea towards Cooden Beach and Bexhill which was nice for The Love to see the view and soon arrived at Hastings.

We walked down the hill along to the shops and then turned right towards America Ground, and stopped off at Wow and Flutter for a little record shopping. Even The Love approved of the place, which was good, and lots of nicely organised vinyl and CDs. In fact I decided upon two CDs, "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" by The Flaming Lips (the title track of which is tune of the day) and the Bat for Lashes album "The Bride", both for a mere three pounds each. No complaints there and the weather was gorgeous as we walked west to the pier.

In fact on the pier we had lunch and a drink together, and that was really lovely actually - the restaurant in the pavilion had outside seats, so we could sit in the sun, I had the Honey Dew ale, and for lunch The Love had a burger, and I had prawn and salmon linguine which was stunningly nice, and not that expensive either for both meals. We were both pretty happy all round with that, and we walked around and explored the pier for a while admiring the little beach huts of shops and the view from the end.

We walked along the front and headed towards the Old Town, passing the likes of the trampolines and go karting as well as the crazy golf courses before heading off top the West Hill lift, the funicular railway that takes you up towards Hastings Castle. That was quite nice to head up hill and at the top the café offered some nice views over the town too. We walked around to the castle and explored the ruins of the old castle, which stood very close to the edge of the cliffs. A map showed you how much of the cliffs have been eroded over the years but was good to explore around and see the dungeons as well.

We had a cold drink in the café at the top of the West Hill, and admired the view before heading back down and exploring the old town, and all of its little shops with plenty of little gifts and nice places to explore. It was good to see lots of the old shops and be able to see how the narrow streets would be a perfect place to have a drink and also do some shopping too. We then headed back along the front and off to the crazy golf, where we'd play the classic course. The Love beat me with less shots taken overall and was knocking in plenty of 2s along the way, and only one hole in one from me. All good fun though it has to be said.

We headed to a nearby pub for a nice drink, which was all lovely, before heading back through the town centre and off to the train station in good time for the 1824 train back. It was nice to admire the sea views again and then pass by Plumpton and its racecourse on the way home, and got in East Croydon on time. We relaxed at mine with some tea and then settled in and snuggled up together, watching the telly and having the windows open to get some air in on a gorgeous and sunny day out together. The Love enjoyed her time there as well which was good.

Friday 13th July - Epic

Of course, many years ago at Wimbledon, I remember tuning in to BBC2 to see the evening events over two days (and then hearing about the final day) when John Isner played Nicolas Mahut on Court 18 in the first round of 2010. The final set was 70-68 in favour of Isner, and truly mind boggling on all counts - 11 hours plus playing time, over 100 aces from each player, and they only went off after the second day's play due to bad light, having gone on for seven hours or so as part of that second day.

Fast forward to 2018 and Isner had made his way to the Wimbledon semi finals today where he was playing Kevin Anderson, who had won an epic fifth set against Roger Federer in the quarter finals and had been used to a couple of long matches in this tournament already. Both had serve reputations and both of whom were willing to go toe to toe, but what would happen today I wondered. I was keeping an eye on the score periodically in the office whilst I was sorting out a couple of standard changes, and was not surprised that the first three sets had all gone to tiebreaks.

As I headed home on the train, with a delayed train getting to my station actually meaning I'd get home earlier, I went past the big screen that they've had up in Croydon High Street showing the tennis, and it was 7-7 in the final set. I sensed another possible epic and after a quick nip into Sainsburys for some bits I needed, it was on with the telly when I got in. And yes, still going on, and it was carrying on holding serve with each player doing what they could to keep going.

I really wished at this point that John Inverdale would just shut up though - he and John McEnroe were getting on my wick with their inaneness. I was enjoying the match without them going on about how a tiebreak should be at 6-6 in the final set all the time - just let the players get on with it. And so it battled on to 10-10, then 15-15 and then 20-20, and still going. Certainly for me that was gripping stuff and you couldn't be distracted from the television either whilst seeing it. It's now the longest semi final in Wimbledon history and passed that some time ago as it went past 4 hours 44 minutes of Djokovic v Del Potro a few years back..

It went on until a break of serve finally happened, and it was closed out by Anderson to win 26-24 in the end. It was so long that in fact the roof had to come on for Djokovic v Nadal, and it had just started when heading to East Croydon to meet The Love In My Heart. We headed back, had some beer and wine and relaxed watching the first three sets of the match before eventually it was called time at around 11pm with a third set tiebreak won by Djokovic to be two sets to one up.

As a final thing we watched some of BBC Four's "Smashing Hits: The 80s Pop Map of Britain and Ireland" which had Midge Ure and Kim Appleby heading around the UK locating home cities where the 80s were defined. It was notable that Coventry was mentioned for the home of 2-Tone and indeed of course The Specials' classic "Ghost Town" being synonymous with the era, so tune of the day obviously for that one. It was a really good watch but could only watch some of it before it was time to head to sleep for a nice day out tomorrow..

Thursday 12th July - Deflation and Inspiration

I must admit the general mood of everyone heading into work today was just one of feeling rather flat and deflated after the result last night. I think it was a reality of the Summer of football and cheering England on felt over, even though there is the third place play off on Saturday against Belgium to consider and also win, because that would mean the second best senior men's result (behind the 1966 win and would be better than the fourth place in 1990.) It was at least a case of heading to the office and getting on with plenty, as is my usual thing.

In fact it turned out to be a productive day for a number of reasons. First off, I was able to actually take some time out to look into how we'd get Firefox 61 out there. Previously we used the Frontmotion MSI version and that's been fine, but they've not had any updates since version 59 (60 was the Quantum release) and it was a concern that we needed to be up to date. As such, it was a case of looking at the installer and sorting out a different approach. In a way, I know you can set an .ini file with all the options you don't want the installer to do, and that also does that silently.

The piece of rubbish about that though is that the .ini file you reference has to be an absolute path, no variables allowed, so in essence I'd have to ensure that file was copied locally first and then referenced with the installation command line. The plus side though is that it ensures no installation of the maintenance service and also no desktop shortcut, so a pretty much epic win all round really. I need to do some further testing around how to ensure the old version is also removed at the same time, but will do so tomorrow..

Because something else cropped up which needed some urgent attention. One of the pieces of specialist software which is being used at the moment has an address lookup facility which uses a web resource to locate the address based on the postcode. That had stopped working for some reason and appeared to be a particular error, which was either something web related with out of date certificates or looking like .NET Framework related. I had a chat with my line manager and raised a support call with the software company, so hope they come back with something.

In the evening I spent time sorting out the flat for when The Love In My Heart comes down for the weekend, and also had the delivery from Tesco arriving with the food shopping too. It was really good to be able to have that arrive on time - using the four hour window means you get the delivery cheaper, and you do get a text to state on the day the time. In fact that arrived just before the start of the one hour window which was perfect really, I was then able to kick back and relax.

And with very good reason, as the new EP "Just 3" from Little Sparrow arrived a day early from its release date. A lovely three track EP too with the title track being a rather fab cover of Madness' "Baggy Trousers" but more stripped back with strings and a gorgeous vocal, and really wonderful for it, so tune of the day. There's also the song "Tender" from last year as well as the rather nice "Dry Your Eyes" as well, and really is beautiful. Seriously, go and buy it. Sort of now.

Wednesday 11th July - Gutted

So work all done, it was off on the train home. And as I expected, way busier than usual to be honest. I did sit in first class as it was declassified till the end of this week, so that was a good decision made because the train filled up massively by the time we got to London Bridge and on the way down to East Croydon. On the way home I stopped off at Waitrose and surprisingly they had a few good real ales on offer, so got some Bath Gem, Black Sheep, St Peter's Organic ale and I noted in one section that they had some world beers, including two Peroni ones I'd never tried. So I went for the Gran Riserva Rosso as well to have with the football later on.

Naturally everyone was heading home to either be down the pub or in front of the telly for the football as you would expect, so it was good to be home in more than good time, have a cold drink, and have something to eat and be all ready for the anthems and the start of the game with the mood still very cautious but hopeful that at least we'd put up a decent performance. Of course it was a case of singing the anthem with the folks and getting ready - and I felt very very nervous.

Those nerves went after five minutes on the clock as England had a free kick. Kieran Trippier stepped up and curled the ball gorgeously into the net for 1-0. Mental! I could see the scenes everywhere as the players were celebrating, the fans all round the country in the big screenings were going for it, and that feel good factor was good. The only gutting thing was that we didn't increase the lead further in that half - Harry Kane had a good chance but the keeper saved well, and a couple of other shots went just wide as well. 1-0 was good at half time don't get me wrong, but I did feel we'd need a second.

And I felt Croatia would come out much better in the second half, and that they did. They regrouped well and went on the attack, and it did feel like it was coming in waves at time which we rode the luck a little bit with. No such luck though about the way that Ivan Perisic met the ball from a cross with his outstretched foot to finish home well and to equalise. I'd opened the Peroni Gran Riserva by now and that was gorgeous but it was nervous sips as the game could have gone from us in normal time, but we dug deep and still believed something could yet happen.

In extra time Croatia did look still lively and it took a good stop from Jordan Pickford to keep out Mandzukic. John Stones had a header cleared off the line so England had recovered, but as the game went on I suspected it would just need one moment for the game to be won. Sadly, that did fall to Croatia as the ball came across, Mandzukic lost Stones for a second and that was all he needed to shoot the ball home for 2-1, and with ten minutes left and Kieran Tripper having to go off injured after we'd used all our subtitutes, an even more gutting feeling.

Try as we did England couldn't equalise with one final free kick coming in and being headed away, and that was then that, out we went. Admittedly Croatia were the better side from the second half onwards and overall, but England had done much better than I ever expected, and to get to the semis they all still should be proud of what they managed to go, and get the nation believing in the team again. The fans sang along to Oasis' "Don't Look Back In Anger" (that's tune of the day definitely) and it just was a gutting feeling really, but at the same time we should still walk on with the heads held high tonight.

Tuesday 10th July - The Calm Before The Semi Storm

It was another day I'd set aside to look at some documentation and to get things done. I had bounced some ideas off around some additional options for asset management in ServiceNow which we could achieve, and actually it was good to be able to try those out further and test them. In fact what I was able to see was that in fact by a few variable additions and a system property change, we could actually get sorted some information as to assigned users where possible for certain machines. That looked good and I'll be writing up the change for that tomorrow.

I must admit it was really nice to have a good chatter with The Love In My Heart without any fear of her phone battery on the house phone dying, which it had been for some time. She'd had her cordless phone for as long as we've been together, so she got a new one at the weekend and used her Nectar points on the way to saving some dosh off it. It's been better all round and I think despite the fact that it was a fairly lengthy day at work for her, the nice thing was that Brian the cat has been all lovely and cute and that's a positive for her to come home to as well. I do miss him.

But.. and a nice but, there's a cat around the corner from work who lives in and outside the White Bear pub not far from the office who's more than happy to have some strokes, attention and a fuss over, despite being an older grey cat. Bud is his name and there's nothing more that's liked than Bud sitting on the high stool people watching and looking for the next person to be drawn in by cat cuteness and have a love and fuss over. I must admit it was nice to see him all preened and proud and certainly the boss of the street where the pub is (on the way to Sainsburys where I can get lunch, so always good to note.)

I did see the France v Belgium game later and to say that was a tight and tense affair was an understatement. It was a very close run thing with no one wanting to give anything away and it all getting niggly in parts. I must admit that part of me wanted Belgium to win, especially for Vincent Kompany and Kevin de Bruyne, but it was niggly. And then France get a corner, the ball comes over and Marouane Fellaini misses the run of Mtiti, and it's in the back of the net. 1-0 France, and they held on from there to win comfortably in the end. Gutted, but I suspect that it was coming.

I'm trying as well to be fair not to get too excited about the semi final tomorrow night, primarily because I remember 1990 and how gutted I was, and to be fair, staying up till 2am watching the women in their World Cup semi final in 2015 and losing in the last minute of stoppage time due to the unluckiest of own goals. I know that was bad enough, so am being all low key in the hope that I won't build it all up too much. In the meantime, tune of the day is the ace "Dance of the Mad" by Pop Will Eat Itself - it reminded me a lot of 1990 and seeing them live for the first time a few months after said semi final..

Monday 9th July - Documentation Day

It was good to be able to spend some time at work today getting on with plenty of documentation, which is stuff I know I'd rather get done sooner instead of later. One such task was around getting a process sorted for how to create reports in ServiceNow, especially as the newer user interface for this in Kingston is much better, and so did a whole write up on creating a sample report, how you'd best share that and have visibility, and also how you could amend and modify to your content as needed. It was very good also then to have that to hand as a manager wanted a report schedulding.

That also involved writing some more documentation as to how to create the relevant schedule along with being able to amend that, show the prospective content of the email, but also see how that works. And it did. So I've got that sorted for a weekly report to go out to that manager and he was pretty pleased I sorted it. It was also good to document another process for adding a business service in as a configuration item and selectable change accordingly, so all good there.

It was nice later on to focus attention on Wimbledon for a change instead of the football. Their reluctance to put back the men's singles final from its start time of 2pm to be earlier is daft: if England do get to the final, there'll be empty seats, as there were on Saturday afternoon on Centre Court. They don't even show it on Henman Hill either, which is daft too - surely that would have also been a ticketed event for people to go in and see! Ah well, the good news in the men's draw is that the main top seeds are through and the remainder looking all good.

So with Federer and Nadal through, Djokovic well on his way and Del Potro two sets up, the women's draw has been shock after shock with none of the top ten seeds left in. This paves the way either for someone different to step up to the plate and have an inspired fortnight a la Marion Bartoli, or of course of a certain number 25 seed in Serena Williams to go and win her next title. That would be some story and as a fan of said player, I really hope she does it (The Love In My Heart is a fan too - one of the few women players she'd watch!)

With the weather cooling a bit here it was good to be able to sort out a ton of washing and feel like I could iron it and not break sweat everywhere before then listening to some classic football songs including of course the classic "Three Lions" by Baddiel, Skinner and the Lightning Seeds. Football might just come home and with that in mind I've booked a spot in a nice pub on Sunday afternoon ready just in case (and if not we'll be having lunch there anyway...!) so all should be good. Said classic song is tune of the day.

Sunday 8th July - Scorchio (again)

It was good to have some sausage barms for breakfast in the morning and chill out with some video clips of other classic football chants (including one from Buxton about one of their players) and also a real sense of having lots of other retro gaming mentions such as comprisons of some of the Last Ninja games, a feature on the infamous Cascade compilation Cassette 50, which is notoriously poor to say the least, and that really sped the time on somewhat.

We all left around 11am with a view that we would get together later in the year for another meet up, and for me that was good to know. I have pencilled in some dates for the diary already and my friend dropped me off at Doncaster station to get the 1139 departure back to London Kings Cross. It was warm going back down South and I knew that the weather was going to be mighty grand, but also knew the train would be busy (and it was). I had the iPod on and blasted out some classic metal, so Slayer's "Seasons in the Abyss" is tune of the day just for the pure escapism as the train headed a little delayed downwards.

From Kings Cross it was a walk across to St Pancras and get the delayed 1356 train back to East Croydon. Thankfully the air con was on and it wasn't too bad a journey overall, and once I'd stopped back at Sainsburys to get some cold drinks and also some milk, it was perfect timing to get Channel 4 Plus 1 on and start to watch the British Grand Prix. I enjoyed the pit line interviews with many people and it was somewhat sad that it was the last one to be shown on Channel 4 (from next year, only the British Grand Prix is free to air, and it depends on who gets the rights to do it). The intro from Murray Walker was superlative, he is still the man.

The race itself was dramatic as Lewis Hamilton collided with Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis had to battle back from the rear of the field, and due to some incidents involving going too fast towards turn one and going off the track, safety car came out, and then again when Romain Grosjean and Carlos Sainz Jr collided at Copse - two into one did not go there. It bunched up the field but as a number had pitted for tyres Valtteri Bottas had stayed out, and this was to be a downfall as Sebastian Vettel charged past to win, with Hamilton eventually finishing second - could have been a lot worse for him to be fair though.

Later on I watched, on recommendation from The Love In My Heart, a fascinating documentary about the 2008 Wimbledon final between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, often cited as one of the best tennis matches ever. It was great hearing them both chat about the game, both class in their own ways, and the journey that got them to that match too. It was also classic hearing John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg etc saying that those sort of rivalries drew you on to be better, and it was true. The match in 2008 had rain delays and at 7-7 in the final set, going past 9pm, there was a danger of them having to come off, and apparently it would have done so at 8-8. Nadal broke the serve though and won the next to win an epic encounter, and the respect both players have even now is plain to see - such a good thing and it's why so many of us British fans love and respect them too.

Saturday 7th July - Doncaster Weekender, Day Two

It was nice to wake up and feel more refreshed after a good night's sleep, and it was also cracking that my friend had made some superb sausage barms which went down very nicely with us all, and a good coffee too so that got us all sorted. We saw what was going on in the news and also were able to see some classic football videos of chants including the likes of the infamous Barnsley away game at Rochdale where the fans had a plant pot, were putting it on heads and singing "He's got a plant pot on his head / She's got a plant pot on her head" where applicable. Quite funny that was actually.

It was off on the bus into the centre of Doncaster, and we were surprised that the buses did take contactless payments (the 54 to the centre runs near our friend's house) - but also the fare was a massive £3 as well. Considering a day ticket is £4.50, may have been better doing that if we'd have known the price beforehand, although my friend did say a taxi would be cheaper coming back. In truth probablty cheaper getting there too! Anyway, we soon made it into the town centre and off first to the Tut 'n' Shive pub where they had a guest ale brewed by Chris Kamara, called "Unbeerlievable" pastiching his classic quote!

It was good then to head off through the town centre and head then towards the old market and the Red Lion pub - which had an outside beer garden, perfect to enjoy a nice porter in the good weather. Scorchio it was, as was the tables, so had to be a tad careful there. It was good though to chill out there outside and of course the prices weren't dear either so definitely a bonus there. We headed then off to where we'd be watching the football - the Hallcross pub. They do all cask ales for a mere £2.50 (bargain) and even the likes of Grolsch for £1.99 a pint. Can't argue with that one bit, and the England's Dreaming ale from Acorn was stunningly nice.

We got a table in good time and chilled out before we then had a massive amount of people in the pub all watching the screens for the England v Sweden game. We weren't sure how this was going to turn out overall, but as the game started we looked positive and went for an early goal with some good chances being created. I had a feeling that we needed to take advantage and with a crowd cheering the team on and with some lovely ale it did make for a very nice atmosphere actually.

And then.. it happened. England won a corner and I had a feeling that we might score from this given our record in set pieces. The ball came over, Harry Maguire met it perfectly with his head and the ball hit the bottom corner with some aplomb. Get in! And as my friend said, doing an impersonation of a famous Man City fanzone fan, "Take that Ulrika Jonsson! Take it take it take it!" which was pretty good. And of course as the game developed on England had some more chances but couldn't take them, and 1-0 at half time was pretty much all what we'd wanted really.

The second half started and early on Jordan Pickford pulled off some good saves, so all was good there, and we kept going. From another corner the ball had broken down, made its way to Kieran Tripper on the right hand side, he found Jesse Lingard who crossed the ball in for Dele Alli to head home from close range. Everyone went mental and it was 2-0 to England which was pretty impressive to see mass singalongs to the likes of Three Lions, and from there on in it was pretty much plain sailing all round.

The final whistle went, it was great, lots of happy faces, us four singing along to Three Lions, and everyone embracing and shaking hands, hugging, just a really nice place to be. It was good to see it with friends and we've not gone this far in the men's game in 28 years (props too to the women for getting to the semis in 2015 and getting third place by beating Germany) and that was ace. Later on as the pub got a bit quieter New Order's "World In Motion" was being played and we sang that en masse together, another ace moment, and tune of the day for obvious reasons.

We also headed off for some food later, and a couple more drinks before heading back in a taxi to our friend's place - and a mere £5 or so for the journey which was very reasonable actually, plus a nice friendly driver. I can see why my friend uses them actually. It was a relaxed rest of the night with us watching some retro stuff and also seeing the highlights of the England game later on, and it had been an awesome day and a really good couple of days all told, always good to get together.

Friday 6th July - Doncaster Weekender, Day One

It was nice to have a day off work (it always is of course) and it was a case of heading off to Doncaster to meet up with three of my friends for a weekend which would involve retro gaming and music memories, plenty of beer, and as we'd worked out a plan for the World Cup quarter finals, some football as well! Of course as all four of us are passionate about our respective teams and have been watching the World Cup and cheering England on. It was still really hot as well so we all imagined that having a few beers on Saturday was going to be order of the day but also in a nice relaxed atmosphere too.

I headed off to East Croydon station and even in the off-peak current timetable, Thameslink proved yet again that they were unfit to run a service - delaying one train too long meaning passengers had to head from Platform 2 to Platform 4 (and no working lift at East Croydon either) - just what you want. Thankfully I did get a seat despite the train being busy, although I did arrive at St Pancras International later than planned. I walked across to Kings Cross and could see my 1203 train there at the platform, so headed over, located my seat, all sorted. Or so I thought...

An announcement came over the tannoy that the 1203 was cancelled, and the train would form the 1233 instead, so reservations non-existent and I thought straight off that the train would be packed. It would have also been sensible for LNER to effectively declassify first class and so get those arriving for the 1233 on there, would have been sensible - but this didn't happen until the train was almost ready to go. Myself and the other passengers close by stayed where we were and it was all good as we set off, albeit it was absolutely packed as I expected. And warm too because the number of people outweighed the air conditioning available.

It was a relief therefore when the train eventually arrived into Doncaster, and I'd warned my friend beforehand so he knew it was late, and he was there at the station for us. We soon got through the shopping centre to the car park and headed back to his place, which was relatively speedy. We were there a few minutes and within that time the other two folks had arrived: one had in fact got there before my train arrived but had found a local place to have a drink in beforehand.

All was good and it was perfect to catch up with each other and watch the France v Uruguay game. France did the business quite easily in the end, and helped by a Uruguyan goalkeeping blunder of the highest order to say the least. It was good just to also have that on and be able to natter, and before too long the very nice ales were opened. I certainly enjoyed the St Peter's Plum Porter for a start (need to locate that sometime) as well as some of the dark beers, and later on the Belgium v Brazil game was on so we also looked to be watching that one as well.

And some game that was - Belgium went a goal ahead with an own goal from Fernandinho following a Vincent Kompany header. And later on Kevin de Bruyne scored a stunning long range strike to add a second, so both Belgian goals had plenty of Man City involvement. We also ordered food from a local takeaway which had been recommended by my friend, and that was ace - the barbecue chicken and mushroom pizza I had was gorgeous and well worth it, and that went down nicely as we were chilled out. Brazil pulled a goal back but Belgium held on to win and that was a well deserved win all round.

Later in the evening we watched some retro gaming videos and also used the online DeepSID player to play some classic Commodore 64 tunes. I had also mentioned some Tangerine Dream tracks that had been covered on the C64 as well, and one of those was the brilliant "Midnight In Tula" from the White Eagle album, so that's tune of the day for me. We definitely reminsced with other retro classics and before we knew it the time had passed towards 1am, and so it was time to head to a well earned sleep with a big football day looming tomorrow..

Thursday 5th July - Retro Dreaming, Part Two

So with the VGA cable all now sorted (managed to source one - hurrah) it was back to the Shuttle PC setup and to see what I could do. The Shuttle was connected to my standard PC monitor (I have DVI and VGA inputs so I use the DVI for the PC, so all good there) and then once done, all the keyboard, mouse etc plus the all important XA1541 cable was connected, followed by the disk drive itself. I fired up the PC and at first it needed to have a key pressed to set the BIOS back to default (most likely as it hadn't been on for some time) - and once done, I was able to check a few things and all seemed good.

Importantly, I remembered that when I did set the PC up to use with the likes of Star Commander some time ago, the parallel port card was set to LPT2 (as the onboard motherboard had a port but wasn't ever used because you needed a special cable to actually use it, such was the nature of the Shuttle boards back then.) So I checked that, all still set, and also checked the configuration, still good. I connected the drive, all switched on, and voila! I could read those disks happily and was able see the contents, copy the files and copy the disks.

So for a good few hours I spent time copying around a fair few disks, many of them were actually double sided disks so it was actually around fifty disk sides in total once I was done, but it worked pretty well actually. All the data was there, and only the odd disk came up with an error due to its age, so was good to get that done. As it happened I'd spotted a couple of disks what my friend had sent me, and wasn't sure if he had them or not, so ensured those were duly transferred and then emailed later.

It was good to check through the old stuff on the PC later and check the disk images were all archived nicely - it appeared that they were which was a positive. I even spent time checking over one set of disks which had some of the old work tunes and demo parts on I had made back then - nothing new I didn't know of but nice to have them safely archived anyway. In addition, I also spent some time checking through a couple more of what I'd transferred, and so good that a) everything still works and b) I can archive stuff if I need to. Awesome.

In the meantime I went retro with the football classics in preparation for this weekend and of course the classic "World In Motion" by New Order just has to be there and tune of the day - it's an all time classic New Order song anyway but of course having John Barnes rap on it, and indeed being able to still do that to this day. Barnesy even did a version for the Mars advert with him doing same rap, and it just for me gets the spine tingling every single time.

Wednesday 4th July - Retro Dreaming, Part One

I'd had an email from one of my good friends wondering if there was a chance I had one of his old Commodore 64 disks he'd sent out, with a special edition of a demonstration program (aka "demo" to those in the know) and possibly other things. I had of course wanted to make sure that I also archived anything I needed to, and in the past I had a little system ready to do the job, which I still have with me. I had built a little Shuttle PC with Windows 98, a working PCI parallel printer port card, and had all the cables for connecting up a Commodore 64 disk drive (the 1541 to it)

The Shuttle had come with a carry case and so the keyboard, mouse etc all fit into that perfectly well, as does the transfer cable, the XA1541. However, I was checking it all and realised that for some reason I had no VGA monitor cable. The Shuttle didn't do HDMI or DVI out, and had no little VGA to DVI adapter (or else that would have been very useful). As it turned out, I switched on the PC anyway and checked that it actually did power on, and all appeared to be well there. I'll have to check it out tomorrow once I get a VGA cable sorted and see what I can find.

However I did check the last batch of disks I had transferred as disk images and found something useful to send to my friend anyway which I did. I also noted of course that some of my work disks when I composed music more regularly on the Commodore 64 were there too so it was well worth me checking those out. In fact I did note some working in progress versions of some of the stuff, so I'll definitely have to check them out sometime. It's always good to archive this sort of stuff.

I was going to watch Wimbledon, but, unbelievably, it was chucking it down with rain there. I'm only a few miles away from there myself but it was dry and humid here, but instead it was raining and the covers came on, and matches were called off pretty much across all courts. BBC did though show a replay of the likes of Agnieszka Radwanska going out and struggling in the early part especially, and it was good to see the likes of Sue Barker doing her thing around the courts and being as consummate as ever.

Talking of professional presenters, I did see a superb documentary on BBC One later paying tribute to Barry Davies, who is doing his final Wimbledon at the grand age of 80. He for years was a superb football commentator too, with the classic "Interesting.. very interesting! Look at his face!" line to Franny Lee when he played for Derby against Man City as one example. He commentated on all sports but perhaps his finest moment was the 1988 Olympic men's hockey final as England scored to lead Germany 3-0. He famously said "Where were the Germans? But quite frankly, who cares?" and that epitomised the mood of the nation watching that final with him. Tune of the day is in fact "She's The One" by Robbie Williams, as Barry commentates on the ice skating during the video itself - neat eh?

Tuesday 3rd July - But We Don't Win On Penalties...

So after a warm day generally and glad at least to have some form of aircon in the office, it was onwards with the day's main event, the England v Colombia game on the telly. I managed to get home in good time and had some beer in as well as being able to have a pizza and get myself sorted before the kick off. I was nervous, primarily not because of the team per se but knowing how abysmal the record is on ITV when England are in the World Cup - we hardly ever win on there. Ever. So the odds were stacked against us it had to be said.

However, England had a sense of belief about them, inspired by their manager Gareth Southgate, to go on and do something. I suspect his experience of being there and done it is something to pass on, but also he just seems to have the team playing as a team - the last time that really happened was the late Sir Bobby Robson, so that puts it into perspective. And of course with Harry Kane banging them in for us, and being top scorer, it really did seem like we had someone up front we could rely on, the first at a World Cup since Gary Lineker to do the same.

So England started the game brightly, and it started to get a bit niggly with the Colombia players putting themselves about a bit. I have to say that Barrios was very lucky to stay on after he'd clearly headbutted Jordan Henderson as a free kick was ready to be taken, and Harry Kane was hauled over in the box but the referee didn't see it or else it would have been a penalty then. It was clear that disruption tactics were the order of the day and that wasn't good.

But England kept at it in the second half, and as a corner came over Kane was bundled over and almost ridden on like a horse to ensure he didn't get the ball. It was right in front of the ref, he pointed to the spot - a definite penalty. Then the Colombian players were scuffing up the penalty spot deliberately and basically doing what Man U used to do and surround the ref at all times. Kane walked away calmly, wasn't having any of it and slotted home the penalty for 1-0. Get in!

It wasn't to completely last though despite England's best efforts. Colombia came back at England and even though it looked like we were going to hold on, especially after a superb save from Jordan Pickford, from the corner it was headed in for a very very late equaliser and 1-1. Stuffing knocked out of us and during the first half of extra time it was a real sense of they could have scored and made it harder for us even more, but England held out and in the second period of extra time we had a couple of chances: Eric Dier's free header from a corner was one.

And so then to the dreaded penalties. We never win at a World Cup on penalties. Ever. So even as the likes of Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford slotted theirs home, it got to Jordan Henderson for the third pen, and the Colombian and Arsenal goalie David Ospina pulls off a superb save. Noooooo! Not again! But wait.. Colombia then hit their next pen against the bar, and Kierian Trippier did superbly with his, so 3-3 and pretty much sudden death. Up steps the fifth penalty taker for Colombia, and.. Pickford has saved it!! YES! Get in!

Of course I knew we still had to score, but we'd never get a better chance right now than this, and after his save in normal time, he deserved that save for the pen. Up stepped Eric Dier, and he went low and hard to the bottom left corner. It went in. YES! No way! England have won a penalty shoot up at the World Cup! I must admit I was going mental in the flat and I could hear all the fans in the pubs close by singing away and cheering, with "Three Lions" being belted out en masse everywhere, so tune of the day without question there. Hard to believe we'd done it but we had, so roll on Sweden on Saturday..

Monday 2nd July - Design Mode On

I had had a proposal from the team leader about something which they wanted to implement as a process, and having thought about it, I looked at it from a different angle and said "why don't we do it as a ServiceNow request with a workflow that works all round?" - and that surprisingly met with approval and a nod to make it so, in true Picard from Star Trek TNG fashion. So with that motivation, I set to work and planned to document the process as I developed it in the development instance, meaning it'd be a lot quicker to implement in the live system as well as all the work had been done in development - not daft me you know.

So it was relatively straightforward - we had a similar form we could copy and then change the bits needed, that was easy enough to do, and then from there work out a plan of action. So I needed an approval group for the IS Security people, and to place them in that, and once that was done, then effectively make sure that the workflow included a stage for that approval group to approve, with a path for approve and decline. In fact for that I added a reason code to the field in the requested item table so that we could effectively populate that as a decline reason too which made sense.

I got cracking on with the workflow and once done associated that with the new catalog item and gave that a run through. In essence, that worked nicely and I tested out the different workflow scenarios as to what would happen when you approved and when you declined at the new stages that I had added, and in all cases, they worked rather well actually. I was pleased and so am awaiting feedback before I implement that in live, and that's all good thus far anyway, so nice to achieve something concrete today as well.

Later on I headed home and stopped by to have a peek in the new Veeno place that's opened in the centre of Croydon. Actually it's really nice - good job done all round with the wood and the tables, and the nice little private dining area where you can have a taster menu and sample lots of wines and food. The manager Pedro also told me that they're looking to extend their licence so that some of their nice wines and beer can be bought to take home with suitable discount: it'll happen soon enough I think. The good thing was also that they had Menabrea beer on tap (nice Italian beer that) and everyone seemed really friendly - already noted somewhere that The Love In My Heart and I need to explore further. They actually have one on Brazennose Street in central Manchester too!

I also noted that part of High Street, which had been pedestrianised for a while, now has an area with green carpet, deckchairs and a large screen which is showing Wimbledon on there. That complete with some strawberries and cream for £2.50, and a Pimms and Lemonade for a fiver, rather not too bad actually. It did make me of course wish I was going to proper Wimbledon, but still, nice to have that on. No Andy Murray, but I did see Serena Williams win, and of course that was met with cheers in the crowd too. Nice idea all round, and of course the theme tune to Wimbledon - "Light and Tuneful" by Keith Mansfield, is tune of the day...


Sunday 1st July - Northern Quarter Sunday

The Love In My Heart and I had a well earned lie in, with even Brian the cat deciding not to meither too much and instead was having a curl up in the curtain and snuggle up to sleep moment, as he is prone to do. It was nice actually because we both woke and just were all snuggled and happy, and it's a feeling of contentment that I really appreciate. We had breakfast and Brian had a good play out, chasing any flies away in the warm weather before we got ourselves up and ready.

We were meeting a couple of friends for Sunday lunch and a nice excuse to get together and catch up after we'd both been on holiday (ourselves to Naples, they to Nice) - and so The Love and I headed to the Port Street Beer House first of all. It was good to have some rather nice Thornbridge Brother Rabbit ale, and that was nice and golden like the sunshine was outside. We sat outside and our friends joined us for a drink, so all was good there really, and we nattered about the holidays. In fact, the time was going too quickly (again!) so it was off round the corner to Tariff and Dale for lunch.

We'd booked a table but in essence we didn't have to: in fact we sat upstairs because it was that quiet, which seemed nicer all round - the exposed brick and a more utilitarian feel took getting used to, but they had decent ales on all round, so happy there. We ordered their little starters where they did five for a fixed price, so we had ham and cheese croquettes, some breasola ham, some cheese, haddock fish fingers and also some mackerel pate, complete with bread and balsamic. That did the job nicely.

The main was a tough decision for me: Sunday roast or pizza? Hmm.. In fact I went for one of their pizzas from the wood fired oven and was so glad I did, it was some air dried ham and cheddar cheese on top of a lovely tomato sauce base and a thinner crispier sourdough pizza. It was stunningly nice actually, as was The Love's Sunday roast ham complete with vegetables and all the trimmings. In fact the food was very good, and they had Meantime Yakima Red on as well so that was me also mega happy with that. It was a good meal all round and certainly good to go somewhere different for a change actually.

We headed back to the Port Street Beer House and had the Red Willow's Headless ale, a nice session ale which always goes down well. The Love had the Veltins lager and all was well as we sat outside and chatted some more before we left to head to Piccadilly Station so I could get the train homewards. It was a lovely afternoon all round though and a nice way to round off the weekend perfectly actually. The train journey home though was bloody slow because of a cancellation at Crewe meaning more people piled on to the train I was on, meaning that the aircon wasn't fully functioning either, and got into Euston a mere twenty minutes behind.

By the time I did get home I felt all warm and horrible, and needed to open the windows to the flat in order to try and get some cooler air in. I did though watch the F1 and that was pretty dramatic in Austria, notably as Mercedes ballsed up the strategy and also had both cars retire with issues, and that wasn't a happy Lewis Hamilton either. Was glad Max Verstappen won though. Needless as it is to say, I still adore "The Chain" by Fleetwood Mac as the proper F1 theme tune, so tune of the day is an easy decision all round really..