Dear Diary... March 2018

Saturday 31st March – Boat and Horses and Another Win

It was a fairly relaxed day today with Brian the cat just wanting to head off out onto the front decking and have a play out, watching the birds in the trees as he did so. The Love In My Heart and I had breakfast and then got ourselves ready to head out later on in the day. Brian was being particularly feisty chasing wind blown leaves up and down the decking, showing off some of ihs agile skills. He's a one for that, but I guess if it keeps him happy then that's the main thing.

It was off to meet some of The Love's relatives later on and we were heading off to the Boat and Horses not far from the M60 junction on Broadway going towards Oldham. We've eaten in there before a long while back but these days it's now a carvery and rotisserie, so you get plenty of choice for the meat and vegetables, and at a pretty good price too. It's similar to other JW Lees pubs such as The Sheldon Arms which is near Ashton, but that does mean a decent selection of ales, and as such I had the Arkwright ale, which was pretty nice all round.

It was good to catch up with The Love's family and have a good natter with them all: both The Love's sisters, her niece and her father. I think it's always good to have a table where we can all sit and chatter that's not too big, and it felt good as a result. Three of us including me had the carvery and the roast beef and gammon were spot on, with plenty of really nice veg to go with it. One of her sisters had the cheese and onion pie: it was a slice of a big pie instead of a full proper pie though, and the remainder had the small fish and chips, which still looked reasonably sized anyway.

It was very nice to be out, and we said our goodbyes later in the afternoon and headed back homewards. I stopped off at the Aldi close to The Love's place, and picked up four bottled ales for under a fiver, including the really nice Coffee Porter, brewed by the Brains brewery in Wales. I had that later and it was gorgeously nice, so had to enjoy that as The Love was being suitably engrossed with the semi finals of The Voice (each to their own) – and once back at her place later I kept my eye on the final scores before then locating a stream online to watch the Everton v Manchester City game.

And wow, what a first half of football that was. David Silva crossed from the left and Leroy Sané volleyed home with just four minutes gone. That was good, but then so was a really nice move involving Sané and Kevin de Bruyne before he crossed for Gabriel Jesús to head powerfully home for 2-0. It got better as a ball down the left released Silva, and he was on fire, so put a perfect ball into the box for Raheem Sterling to strike it home for 3-0. Excellent stuff, and although Yanick Bolasie scored a well taken finish for Everton in the second half, we had taken our foot off the gas somewhat and were also resting players for Wednesday's Champions League game at Anfield against Liverpool. An excellent win all round though which means we could beat Man U next Saturday and clinch the title, which would be awesome!

The Love and I settled in later and watched Pointless Celebrities, with Steve Davis being particularly good and winning with Sarah Ayton. They got stuck on the jackpot question with songs by the likes of The Killers and Kings of Leon though, but still they did well. Also Who Dares Wins made us both laugh: one pair got to the prize question twice, and they provided the third answer in the lists wrong on both occasions, meaning no money at all. The second of those was the 250 most popular girls' names, so there was plenty of room for error. And she picked Jade, which has gone out of fashion for some time now.. how the mind boggles.

The Love watched The Voice later which I did reluctantly (not a fan to be fair) – and it was a case of the contestants “making it their own” with cover versions of original classics. One took on “In The Air Tonight” by Phil Collins, and I suspected would be through as she belted it out. The big surprise in a nice way was the classical opera duet Belle Voce, who did a rather nice film score operatic version of “Skyfall” by Adele from said James Bond film, and it worked. It was good to see the public voted them though as they saw something different, but just made me also want to blast out the original. As it is, tune of the day is actually the original of another song featured on there, Prince's seminal “When Doves Cry” - which the contestant didn't do such a good job of...

Friday 30th March – The Busy Good Friday

It was a relaxing sleep overnight and with my case already packed, it was a case of getting up and dressed, ensuring my camera battery was all charged, transferring some final tracks to the iPod, and then once done, and all the flat checked, it was off from there and to East Croydon station, on a busy train to London Victoria, down to the Victoria Line tube where it wasn't so busy (and possibly because the Northern Line had engineering works all weekend, plus people could have a lie in) and I was soon at Euston. I had some spare time so went into the little Costa and took advantage of their coffee and croissant deal, and had that for a relaxed breakfast.

It was then on to the 1100 departure for Manchester Piccadilly, and admittedly the train journey was pretty busy all round. I was glad to get my seat and had plenty of others sat around me, and there didn't appear to be hardly any spares. I had the headphones on and was listening to some of the new albums I'd recently transferred to the iPod, including the new Franz Ferdinand one, “Always Ascending”. From that, the excellent track “Slow Don't Kill Me Slow” is tune of the day and I also had some Kraftwerk on as the train sped through the countryside and arrived at Piccadilly with a few minutes' delay. The Love In My Heart was waiting though, which was nice.

Back at The Love's place, I unpacked the case, and we chilled out in the afternoon with Brian the cat and with some daytime telly as well including The Love's favourite Escape to the Country and then Tipping Point, which part of me watches to see how thick the contestants are with the questions. But today was even funnier, some didn't know how to time the drop so that the counters would land flat and not on top of the other ones, so wasted their goes pretty much in an attempt to score points. I wouldn't have been able to contain my laughter!

Later on we headed off and to my Mum's, as she had invited us over for tea, and my brother and his girlfriend, and my sister and nephew were there too, so Mum was cooking for seven of us in the end. We were having lamb along with a selection of vegetables, Yorkshire puds and gravy, and it was very nice actually. The good thing was that it was nice to catch up with my brother and learn of his further adventures in London locating bike shops (which is what he mentioned when we met for lunch a few weeks back) – and he'd managed pretty well all round. By the sound of it their house is taking shape, albeit pretty slowly, but at least they're living in it now.

It was good to relax later on and have a coffee after having some nice sticky toffee pudding for dessert, and that was really nice all round. In fact Mum made me laugh when I was talking about seeing Blancmange and their hit “Living on the Ceiling”, where Mum got confused with “Dancing on the Ceiling” by Lionel Richie. Her TV does have some Smart TV functionality so I was able to put on the Youtube app and show her the proper video to the Blancmange classic, with my brother and his girlfriend also recognised too, so that was good. The time went by way too quickly and before long we were heading off home and having some time to chill out before we then would have Brian the cat cuddled up to us as we headed to sleep.

Thursday 29th March - Home, Living on Video

So it was a chance to work from home today and get plenty done that I needed to do. In fact I was spending a chunk of time documenting some processes and making sure that those were nice and easy to understand, having to give everything a good test and be able to effectively document as I go. I think it's easier that way as often it's a case of knowing what you did and which way that you did it, so definitely was pleasing to get that one all done and dusted.

My main focus later in the day was to look at fixing a couple of minor issues in our service desk system ServiceNow. One was easy enough: just a case of making a catalogue item inactive, because it wasn't in use anymore and that because the software in question is actually available for free across the board on our standard build, no point having it feature either. Good to be able to get that one all sorted quickly, and then I could move on to getting the change done to finish off the day nicely.

So all was done, and I'd officially broken off for Easter, so quite pleased really. It was a case of getting a few things sorted, packing the case, and then settling in for an early evening and being relatively chilled out. The important thing was to make sure anything I needed to bring with me was all sorted, so presents wrapped, camera battery and phone battery being charged, Two Together Railcard (new one) replacing old one (I'll be using that with The Love) and all that. It'll be nice to head up North actually.

I spoke with The Love earlier and she had explained that Brian the cat had been out with her in the car to see one of her relations. It was a test run for Brian and you could tell he was getting a bit moany in the cat carrier and the movement of the car, but bless, he was happy enough when he got there having a sniff around and a play, and then later on when back with The Love he was by all accounts all snuggly cat and being good. I'm sure he'll be having plenty of fuss and cuddles from tomorrow onwards from us both!

I also watched Top of the Pops from 1985 on BBC iPlayer too, and that was pretty good, not least because it had the awesome "Living on Video" by Trans-X (make that tune of the day) - not least because that track was eventually used for the loading music for all games from the Commodore 64 software publisher Elite for a considerable amount of time - a decent cover by Mark Cooksey adorned that. It always meant that the games took a little less time to load, albeit of course with a bit of a tune to help you along..

Wednesday 28th March - Haircuts and Cats

It was good to be out on time after work and managed to get plenty done, resolving a number of issues along the way for people. In fact I did feel quite positive that I had got a lot done and was able to feel like I could break off for the working at home day tomorrow, getting documentation done en masse, and then feel ready to head off for Easter. I must admit that some days are better than others with the work situation, but on the whole I do enjoy what I do and it's always a nice thing to crack on with plenty.

So it was on the train from work to Wimbledon and then once there changing over for the tube and off to Wimbledon Park and to James Barbers for my hair cut. The staff in there did their usual magic with the scissors and I did feel a lot better for getting a lot of the hair taken off, so that was good. In fact they had BBC 6 Music on in the background and Steve Lamacq was belting out some cracking tunes, as is his wont, and one of those is tune of the day - the really good "How Did This Happen?" by Bodega - definitely going to have to check more of that out. And I got myself a ticket for their gig in Camden in May, so something to look forward to.

So with hair all sorted, it was back to West Croydon on the tram and then from there it was on the train to Gipsy Hill, and for good reason. I wanted to check out one of the microbrewery bars which was near the train station but also to see the famous cat who patrols the station, belonging to one of the owners living nearby. The cat now has its own Twitter account which the owners run, and it's always plenty of fuss and love in the morning as she heads around the station. Shame then that Southern were appallingly bad - the train was announced to skip stations so I had to change at Crystal Palace and head to Gipsy Hill on another train.

I got to the station platform and could see the cat in her little box in the grass close to the platforms and the Oyster readers. It did look like that she was having a cat nap in the early evening, but nice to see that the cat was there and I'll have to pop back one day and give her a fuss and a love. I do miss Brian the cat when I'm not at The Love In My Heart's place, so was nice to have some cat contact. And the bar close to the station looked all good too, with plenty of beers on tap, so definitely going to have to pop over there with The Love when she's next down I reckon.

Anyway, got back home later and all was well, and had some tea and settled in for the evening, keeping an eye on the women's football and the Champions League scores - both Chelsea and Manchester City got through to the semis, so pretty pleased with that. And... of course with the international break over, it was good to natter in the hairdressers before about the next few weeks' worth of football and how getting back to normal is just the thing after the international break - and two big weeks for City looming, that's for sure..

Tuesday 27th March - Jamie Vardy's Having A (Sort Of) Party

It was England v Italy tonight on ITV, one of the last friendlies for England before the World Cup in Russia, and that does mean of course two things: first off, the game's on proper telly so everyone can watch, but second, it has to be watched with the sound off. Sorry ITV, but it does, especially while you still insist on using Glenn Hoddle as a pundit. I will never forgive him for his derogatory comments about people with disabilities that got him rightfully sacked as England manager, and of course he wasn't exactly the best England manager either come to think of it.

So the sound down, and it was always going to be an emotional occasion with the likes of Jimmy Arnfield, Cyrille Regis and Davide Astori remembered well by both sets of fans, and a nice touch all round with the applause for all three. In each of their own ways they'll be remembered, and for me the likes of Cyrille Regis overcoming racist abuse and proving his worth on the pitch as a cracking player for me showed the way for many other footballers to play, no matter what their skin colour - in my view, if you're good enough, that should be the only criteria for playing for your country. Simple really.

The first half was a little disjointed, but some good quick thinking by England led to the opening goal. We were awarded a free kick after a foul, and it was very quickly and correctly taken by Jesse Lingaard, straight into the path of Jamie Vardy who smashed it into the top corner for the opener. Of course the referee had to double check with the VAR thing, but it wasn't too long for once and showed that the thinking was right and that the goal was a worthy one to take the lead in any game - excellent stuff all round really.

In fact the second half was pretty much one way for most of it - England progressing forward, showing some good skills and one twos all round, and although Italy are a side in transition, it does show England are actually doing not so bad. I think the real test will be come the actual World Cup itself of course, but it was positive to see that there's actually a sense of togetherness within the team and playing for each other. I do think that some players having moved clubs at the end of last season have found a happier place with their new one too, always helps that. The late penalty given away due to VAR though did kind of spoil the mood though, and that wasn't good to see.

Elsewhere, plenty of Manchester City players on the scoresheet in their international friendlies: Nicolas Otamendi scoring for Argentina against Spain, Gabriel Jesús scoring the eventual winner for Brazil against Germany, and Kevin de Bruyne scoring the fourth goal in Belgium's 4-0 win over Saudi Arabia. It bodes well for when they come back to the club this weekend for four games in the last two weeks which will very much shape our season hugely. In the meantime, The Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony", used by ITV and based of course on the orchestral version of Rolling Stones' "The Last Time" is tune of the day.

Monday 26th March - Ain't No Party Like A Wii Party

I felt the need to have a nice wind down after a busy day at work, and so once I'd had some tea and settled in for the evening, and with the batteries all charged, on went the trusty Nintendo Wii. Hard to believe I've had the console for over ten years or so now and still get a lot of pleasure from playing some of the games there - it's just so much good whole hearted fun. And after having a good game against The Love In My Heart yesterday, I thought "well why the hell not?" and so switched it on, controller at the ready, and good to go.

So it was on with Wii Party, and indeed it was on with the Board Game Island. There were three computer opponents to play against, which made the mini games to play for position and extra dice quite hard in places to make sure that you could roll further if you could. It was still a good game all round, especially the mini games such as the chin up champ (think being as fast as Brian Jacks from Superstars back in the day) and also the hurdling, the one versus one game of the spring bouncing - and in fact I broke my own personal best this evening so was pretty pleased with that overall.

It was a very close run thing by the time that the players got to the top of the island, with both me and a computer opponent needing a 6 or more to win, and we had both rolled 5. A win in the next minigame meant I went first, and so managed to use the two dice to roll the 6 needed, so all was good, but all very close and indeed very good fun too. In fact I went back and did the bingo game and that had a mixture of ticking off your Mii characters from the board as well as winning mini games to get an extra Mii of your choice ticked off. Ironically one of the computer opponents won the minigame but chose the Mii of The Love In My Heart and that meant I won instead - result!

The mini games make this all the more fun though, because they've crammed so many of them in for some variety, and the likes of the lofty leap swinging through the jungle, and the massive ski jump (jumbo jump that one) all make for good fun, and of course in the style of the old classic Epyx "Games" series, you always have something funny happen when you don't get it quite right, adding to the entertainment value. And that definitely for me makes it all worthwhile.

I also spent a bit of time listening to some 80s tunes as well, and the whole of Blancmange's first album "Happy Families", because I can. In fact of course it was notable that "Living on the Ceiling" had its lyrics changed on Top of the Pops so that bloody became cuckoo, having Neil Arthur sing instead "I'm up the cuckoo tree" - somehow not the same of course. On that same album, the excellent "Feel Me" really does build up well throughout and so that one is tune of the day accordingly.

Sunday 25th March - Lights Out, Away We Go

It was nice, even with the clocks going forward, to be able to have a relaxing sleep and lie in, and I got myself up and about to make some nice breakfast for us both, so it was bacon, sausages, mushrooms, scrambled egg, toast and for The Love In My Heart some tomatoes as well. I do like making a nice full breakfast when The Love stays, and we both enjoyed that together a lot before we got ourselves ready and changed later on. It was also good that we both felt very chilled out and observed Lorraine Pascale teaching someone the cookery basics - someone who wanted to be a chef but had to follow the family business. Interesting stuff that.

It was then a case of having a relaxing early afternoon and having charged the batteries for the Wii, we had a play of that and put the Board Game Island game from Wii Party on. It was all good fun, with The Love playing some of the mini-games really well, but we were both beaten by the computer opponent who got to the top of the island and rolled the six needed to win. It was very good fun though and we had spotted a possible issue with one of the remotes if the Wii Motion Plus was attached to it, but removing that seemed to be just fine. I'll have to keep an eye on that I think.

We then headed off to East Croydon station and due to earlier incidents, the trains that came to the station were ram packed. We managed to get on the second one but it only started to empty a little at Clapham Junction, and once at Victoria it was across to the tube station and on the Victoria Line, getting off at my favourite station Warren Street (not hard to guess why eh?) and from there, it was the short walk to the lovely Crown and Anchor pub for a well earned lunch together.

And so it was as lovely as ever. I was going to try the salmon fishcakes but they kindly let me know that they only had one left, and they normally serve two, so I changed the order to the fish and chips, which was rather lovely it has to be said. The Love had the Sunday Roast chicken, and it was a proper half of a chicken complete with vegetables and nice gravy, and all looked gorgeous. They still had the Shed Seven Simple Pleasures ale on too so that was me sorted, and I also went for a porter later on which also did the job very nicely indeed.

It was a sad farewell at Euston later, but she did tell me later that Brian the cat was all good and having lots of love and cuddles, so that was nice. I got back, Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" (make that tune of the day) blasted out and I settled in to watch the Australian Grand Prix higlights. It was a good race, settled by some opportunism around the virtual safety car where Sebastian Vettel got ahead of Lewis Hamilton and stayed there till the end of the race. Kudos though for Fernando Alonson keeping Max Verstappen at bay for lap after lap...

Saturday 24th March - Frozen

It was nice to have The Love In My Heart down at mine for the weekend, for a change, and so it was a case of me sorting out the bedding, getting everywhere especially nice and tidy and all good for when she would arrive later. I did need to nip out in the morning as I needed some batteries for the Humax Freeview recorder remote (they're AAA instead of AA which all the other remotes are) and a couple of Duracells for 75p at Poundworld later, all sorted, so set the Humax box to record the F1 qualifying and race highlights on Channel 4 this weekend so I could watch them later on at a better time.

All the trains for The Love were on time, so she let me know when she was at Victoria and on the train to Reigate which stops at East Croydon, nice and quiet compared to the packed Brighton train that had left a few minutes earlier, proving that waiting sometimes works really well. It was lovely to see her of course and we headed back to mine, had a coffee and then I put in a nice posh pizza to share for lunch, which had ham, mushroom and mascarpone cheese, and tasted spot on. In fact the F1 qualifying was on Channel 4 when having lunch, so we watched that together before then getting ourselves ready to go out later.

I had got us two tickets to see the play Frozen at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Nothing to do, I should add, with the Disney film, but a powerful drama with the likes of Suranne Jones in it instead. As such, we thought it'd be nice to spend some time in central London, so headed on the train to London Bridge first of all, and using one of the nice new exits, walked through the Hays Galleria of shops and to the River Thames, then walked along, under London Bridge itself, and followed the Thames Path and then past the Golden Hinde boat.

It was then past the Clink Museum and through the cobbled streets, under Southwark Street and carrying on alongside the Thames, past the Tate Modern and to Blackfriars, then following further to the independent shops that are close to the ITV South Bank Studios on Gabriel's Wharf. In fact The Love picked up a present whilst she was there for one of the little shops, and it was good to mooch around there, and indeed the shops in the Oxo Centre before that such as Suck, so that was all good. The weather had held and I must admit it was a nice leisurely walk together.

We stopped off at The Understudy, which is the ground floor bar at the National Theatre. There's always decent beer there (albeit not always cheap!) and so a Meantime Yakima Red was mine, oh yes. In fact it was good to sit down and watch the world go by inside there and just relax and chill for a while before then heading up the stairs by the BFI and to Waterloo Bridge, and we walked across there and towards Covent Garden. We were going to go into the Porterhouse for drinks and food, but it was packed with people watching the Boat Race due off at 5.30pm so we walked towards Trafalgar Square, found another pub and had food and drink in there instead - in fact I had a rather nice dark ale to boot, so all good.

It wasn't far from there to the Theatre Royal Haymarket, and we took the steps up to the Upper Circle floor, where there was a bar, and although not that cheap, still reasonable compared to some for West End theatres. We remembered it more now from when we saw Breakfast At Tiffany's with Anna Friel a good few years back, and of course being a bit more further forward in the upper circle was good. We were front row of that which claimed a restricted view, and indeed the very front right corner was a little obscured, but The Love was able to sit up and see the main part of the stage with no issues, so all good there. The steps were steep down to the seat though, so definitely a case of being careful as you walked down, not to mention the aircon at full blast.

It was a very enjoyable play to watch, although very deep and dark in places too. If you wanted happy smiling drama, this was definitely not it. Instead what you did get was three outstanding performances from Suranne Jones, Nina Sosanya and especially Jason Watkins, who really did put his character across well and with a full Midlands accent really giving an added sense of locality and depth. As I said, it was dark and you may find some of the subjects in the play a little disturbing, but the way that the three characters' stories were merged into how they all had something in common was a really fascinating watch. If it does tour, I can highly recommend it, but do be prepared.

We walked back to Charing Cross and got the train to London Bridge, swapping there for the train back to East Croydon and then homeward. We both hadn't watched Gogglebox and so spent time on All4 watching that together before then me putting on Synth Britannia at the BBC, with some classic synth inspired performances from the likes of Roxy Music, Human League (a track I really like too), Yazoo, Gary Numan and perhaps one that The Love and I massively still adore, "New Life" by Depeche Mode, so tune of the day is that. It was a long day together and one we both really enjoyed.

Friday 23rd March - Progression

It was good yesterday to get my teeth into some planned work, and to look at a redesign of some of the forms that were available in ServiceNow and customise one further for a server request form. I had managed pretty well, and was also preparing one of our servers on our test network for a piece of setup and configuration that we wanted to get underway today. So, in effect, we're looking at utilising the software update point in SCCM so we can do Endpoint stuff, Office 365 stuff, as well as Windows updates, but not being that impressed with the feature previously, it seems to have matured a fair bit.

So yesterday I'd upgraded one of the servers I used to test distribution points from 2008 R2 to 2012 R2, so it matched what the main server had. I also then removed the software update point role from the main test network site server, and then once that was done, realised that of course you'd need to ensure that WSUS was set up on the server to be used for the software update point. Importantly, a few things to note: first of all, you needed to make sure that just the WSUS console only (not all the extra bits) was installed on the site server, as it would interact with the admin console to do its bit nicely.

It was then a case of setting up a SQL Server 2012 instance for the database so that it could be set up on the same place as the update point. In the real world, we'd be using our SQL cluster and having one of our SQL experts get the database side all sorted of course, but it was good for testing to see that feature installed, which it did. It took some time for the old role to be removed then the new role to be added on the server, but the good news was that we could see in the log files that it had started to do a synchronisation of the updates needed, and so was leaving that well alone to take some time.

I spent time progressing on a bit of scripting in Powershell this afternoon and assisting a colleague with something so that we could remove a user profile folder that we no longer needed. In fact it was good practice for me anyway to get into some way of doing the configuration myself and being able to determine some of the ways you'd get some bits done. We wanted to remove a folder on the server, and knew that the profile folders were determined on the AD object, so using some of the AD commandlets we were able to get that information and output it to a variable, so came up with some code as an example.

The tricky bit was getting the attribute to string, but using the -ExpandProperty <propertyname> was key to get the text out. I could then do a second variable based on the first one and then appending the other bits needed, but worked really well as a calculated field and that was good to get into practice. I think for me it's nice to get some new challenges under the proverbial belt and move forward, so did feel pretty positive about that. Tune of the day in the meantime is "World In Motion" by New Order, still the best England song ever and one that John Barnes did his legendary rap on, and he did that during Sport Relief tonight!

Thursday 22nd March - The Crucible Is Calling

So I checked my leave calendar at work and my entitlement, and realised that actually due to the fact that The Love In My Heart and I's holiday is actually during a Bank Holiday week, it meant that I didn't have to take all five days of that week off of course. As such it was effectively one extra day gained so I thought that it would be good to make use of it elsewhere and see what I could get up to. I am actually not scheduled to head to Manchester towards the end of April, so a Monday or Friday off there would be quite nice all round.

So, I checked the official World Snooker Championship ticket website and found that there were tickets left for the 1pm afternoon session on Monday 30th April. Ooh. So, knowing also that today was the last day that I could potentially book leave on our HR system until a couple of weeks' time due to some system upgrades, I thought it best to get the request in, which was approved. As such I then was able to see the ticket I wanted on Table One, and get that booked.

It was then on to the trains, and this is where it works out rather well. London to Sheffield is normally run by East Midlands Trains (owned by Stagecoach) and it's normally around two hours or so between the two. However, you can also get tickets for those trains via another Stagecoach owned company, Megabus. Up till recently you could also book South West Trains tickets the same way till the franchise changed to different owners and became South Western Railway. Anyway, having done it before, it's the same East Midlands Train, you just show your booking reference to the ticket inspector, board on one of the unreserved coaches (not an issue) and away you go. Simple.

So with that in mind I checked the times, and the trains on sale included 0856 from London, arriving Sheffield 1100, and Sheffield departing 1929 arriving 2133, pretty good all round. If the afternoon session finishes earlier, I can mooch round Sheffield, have tea, spot players for the evening session and then get the train home, and generally have a chilled out day. The total cost of those trains there and back? - a mere £22. Absolute bargain that, and looking on the normal EMT website, one way is around that cost, so win win all round, and of course it means it's all good to go for then.

Talking of the snooker, I have been watching of course the Players' Championship on ITV4 from Llandudno (finally the host Jill Douglas announces it correctly!) this week, and it's been top notch stuff so far. Mark Williams beating Ryan Day means that Ryan is a mere £162 ahead of Mark Allen for that all important top 16 spot. However, Ryan isn't in the China Open, so if Mark Allen wins one match in China, positions are swapped, but if not, it could potentially be the closest ever margin between qualifying for the Worlds automatically or not. All to play for then and so the proper snooker theme, "Drag Racer" by the Doug Wood Band, is obviously tune of the day - still a classic!

Wednesday 21st March - In The Middle Of A Retune

It was already going to be one of those days even before I got to work, as the attempt to board my normal train to work just felt a little unsafe and ended up getting the next train to London Bridge, and then seeing how mental the traffic was, getting the 521 bus might not have worked out so well to get to St Paul's, so walked it to there instead and then to work - I still arrived on time but obviously took a little bit longer. In fact there were some faces of worry and gloom when I got in, not least because yet again the office was freezing cold, not very good that really.

Anyway, one of our staff had queried why they weren't able to raise a request via our help desk system ServiceNow. I checked the users, and it looked like the nightly LDAP user import hadn't run correctly for some reason. A bit of further investigation and I found out why - it seemed that the MID server instance that is used for the LDAP discovery service was turned off, and so a reboot of the server in question showed that it was operational and working correctly, and I was able to get that side of it sorted.

Most of the day in fact was spent sorting out some issues, and one of them was affecting log in for a group of users who use one particular piece of software. In fact when we investigated further, we found out that it was creating a number of folders within a the users' profile folder, and in some cases this amounted to something like 20,000 to 30,000 folders or so, all empty. Of course downloading all those on log in, empty or not, was taking time, and of course slowing it down. Remove them from the profile folder, and then get the user to log back in, absolutely night and day!

It's always good to get those things resolved, and talking of resolutions, tonight was where I spent time doing a retune of both my TV and my trusty Humax Freeview recorder. The main Crystal Palace transmitter had some multiplexes moved, which I was pleased about as the COM7 multiplex that has some of the HD channels was constantly not getting a strong signal, and now it's been moved to a better channel all round. In fact doing the retune tonight was easy enough, and once done, everything appeared to be tons better.

All good there, and indeed, I managed to get a few other things sorted tonight too once that was done, so reconnected a network cable between the Humax box and the router, so of course now I can use the TV Portal there should I wish to as a backup to the one on the telly, always a good idea to have that in mind. In fact, it was still pretty smooth for BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport, testament to the realibility of that box, and set some recordings ready for the F1 at the weekend on Channel 4. Yes it is back and yes that means Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" being blasted out, tune of the day for sure.

Tuesday 20th March - Stat Attack

It was good to allow one planned change to settle in, and this was a case of allowing all the logging of ActiveX plugin usage, having it all recorded in WMI, and it all reporting back into the SCCM hardware inventory so that we could see how it would capture the data of the ActiveX plugins activated and used. I had suspected of course that Adobe Flash Player (updated by Windows updates for IE automatically) were going to be up there, and so it all proved.

So in effect it was a case of writing the query, getting the data from the new fields in the hardware inventory (pretty easy to do actually) and once that was done, you could simply copy and paste that into Excel and get some useful information out. The "remove duplicates" option was useful just to see all the unique IDs of the CLSID strings for the various ActiveX plugins, do a nice bit of COUNTIF to see how many times they were activated, and then be able to analyse that in terms of popularity and usage too. I was pretty impressed with the results overall though, shows that all my testing work paid off handsomely.

In fact it was intriguing to see that in fact the largest usage by far was Flash, and then after a bit of digging, I discovered why - the main Intranet page which staff go to as their homepage for the web seems to use Flash Player on there and invoke the add-in. Ah, interesting that, so of course any launch of IE by any user is going to invoke that of course. Taking that out of the equation would be interesting in order of stats so I may do another column which would count the sites visited and their totals, just to get a cross reference of what happens where.

I know that our Information Security new person (once one of our second line team) has been pleased that we've been able to be professional in this approach and be able to pull the data together, meaning that we can then raise a proposed change to only allow certain ActiveX addons to be allowed to be used, with the remainder then blocked by default. I think realistically that the way we'd need to look at this is assume non-safe until we've verified it really and that makes perfect sense completely.

I had a nice relaxing evening watching the Players' Championship Snooker on ITV4, and that was good to watch, but even better was that when I looked online at the World Championship Snooker tickets website, there was a ticket for the first morning of the championship. I managed to snag that and get trains sorted, so that was one very happy little bunny let me tell you, and so "Drag Racer" by the Doug Wood Band is tune of the day - and I just SO wish that the BBC would bring it back as the proper theme tune...

Monday 19th March - Toasted By Thameslink and Marvelling at MDT

It was back to work today and after having the Friday off, it was a case of catching up in the morning, making sure that any queries that had been presented to Friday had all been sorted, and then once that was done and I'd attended a couple of meetings, working on a solution to a little problem that my team lead had spotted. Effectively, the MDT Deployment Workbench was working fine, apart from if you wanted to look at the Windows PE information for the deployment share, which would crash out with an error annoyingly.

I did some further testing on a similarly built VDI and found that I'd had exactly the same result, which meant it was reproducible and also solvable, so spent some time looking into that whilst also working on a test of a HP EliteBook 820 G3 along with its new BIOS update to bring it up to speed to the new release which has the correct CPU microcode enabled (essential for the likes of securing the Meltdown and Spectre stuff) and that test worked really well. So positive so far.

In fact I went back and did some further investigation into MDT and compared against my working machine. The main difference was that I didn't have all the Windows 10 ADK components installed, just the ones I needed for MDT itself. In fact all the components were mainly 32/64 bit apart from a couple which were 64-bit only (UE-V and Application Compatibility Toolkit) and these had a registry entry detailing the kit location. However.. this was the same path that MDT referred to when erroring out.

So.. first thing: I edited the registry entry for the Kits location, and once done and restarted the Deployment Workbench, it allowed me to view the entry and not crash. In fact the two entries for those ADK features showed that these referred to the Program Files location (instead of Program Files (x86)) which was most likely why. Changing the registry key back and then removing the two features from the ADK, and starting the Workbench also still worked too. So.. I suspect that somewhere it had got into a tizzy and the snap-in for MDT was looking for 64-bit native ADK stuff first, and failing that, it'd then look at the stuff in the Wow6432Node part of the registry. Annoying, but at least I've got a workaround.

In fact talking of workaround someone really needs to tell Thameslink that their new snazzy Class 700 trains are just awful - especially the fact that the heat becomes unbearable on them all the way to Blackfriars and then as people start to get off, the air con goes on full pelt! It goes from boiling to freezing in seconds and clearly is a massive fault with the whole fleet, proven by anyone who has seen the hashtag #ToastedByThameslink out there. It doesn't make for a comfortable journey with those rock hard ironing board seats of course, so tune of the day is "Comfortably Numb" by Pink Floyd, for a variety of reasons...

Sunday 18th March - Cheshire Circular

The snow had fallen considerably overnight and The Love In My Heart had told me that she had been woken by Brian the cat and she noticed how much snow had indeed fallen. Brian even had a play out in the morning and left some nice paw prints in the snow, cue awwww from me as he did. In fact it was really heavy in places but as the morning started to progress, we noted that in fact most of the pavements and roads were melting the snow away nicely, and we may be able to head out for the afternoon, especially as I wasn't in a massive rush to get the train either.

We decided to head off to Little Moreton Hall, just South of Congleton, and pay that a visit as we hadn't been for a while. The main A34 road was clear and the likes of Capesthorne Hall with its gardens looked lovely in the snow as we went past, and it was soon getting to the centre of Congleton and following the road onwards and past the garden centres and to the entrance to the hall. It was still very cold outside and the wind was quite biting, but nonetheless the gardens did look lovely, especially the box hedge one.

Inside, the hall wasn't that warm although one real fire was on and that was rather nice and toasty to be around. In fact one of the rooms was closed and they'd actually taken part of the floor apart to show you the restoration work being done, which was a clear case of being able to repair the flooring and stop it from completely caving in by adding supporting beams and then recovering with the same lime dash originally used. Some of those rooms really do have higgledy piggledy floors anyway, none of them are at all flat.

It was a nice mooch round and we had an idea to head off to Nantwich via the back of Crewe, then heading off to Snugburys Ice Cream just north of there. We followed the signs, headed through the centre of Sandbach (which was pretty lovely actually) then around Crewe and then to Nantwich, and instead of following the A51 we went through the centre, along the Welsh Rows, and then along to the A51 again and we soon spotted the Peter Rabbit straw sculpture and arrived there, were I dashed in for an ice cream - I had the carrot cake flavour one and it was gorgeous!

We had planned to go to the nice canalside pub close to Acton Bridge, but when we got there it was pretty packed all round, not just in the car park but inside, and we'd thought that the carvery there was a nice option. Instead it was following the road back to the M56, and then through to Princess Parkway and on to West Didsbury, where instead we stopped off at the Greenfinch. The Love had the Sunday Roast which was decent enough but some of the veg were overcooked, and I had the steak and ale pie, with chips and peas, and that was better. The pub also had some music playing and it was 80s all round including Madness' ace "Baggy Trousers" and so that was tune of the day.

We headed back to The Love's place and chilled out together, even having time for a piece of the rather gorgeous lemon drizzle cake that The Love had made (I'd had a few pieces during the weekend, it was gorgeous!) and then a game of Scrabble too, with The Love making some good moves all round, especially the not very often used NIFF in the bottom corner for triple word and 30 points, so good use of two Fs together. One of my best moves was having OX and XI with the X on triple letter, so 50 points instantly there for me.

It was then off to Manchester Piccadilly later for the 2021 departure to Euston, and it was a sad farewell with kisses as I left. However at least I had booked first class (it was a mere £3 dearer than standard) so got the picnic snack box thing complete with a coffee, so that went down nicely as the train headed South. I got the tube to Victoria and managed to get the 2317 train to East Croydon, then walked it home through some of the remaining snow left. It was a long day, but a good day...

Saturday 17th March – Marple Bridge with Snow and Wind

As The Love In My Heart and I had breakfast this morning, we spotted the wind and snow coming down quite a bit, and that was quite heavy. It had been snowing elsewhere and so it was a case of seeing how the weather would work out and to be careful when we headed out later. As I hadn't been up in Manchester last weekend I thought it'd be nice to take Mum out for Mother's Day belatedly and also just have a nice afternoon together as well.

We headed off to Mum's early afternoon and soon arrived, and advised Mum to wrap up well with the wind and snow, and before long we were off through Levenshulme, around the back of Stockport and through Offerton towards Marple, heading down the hill past the train station to Marple Bridge, and we managed to find a spot by the side of the Midland at Marple Bridge pub, where we were going for lunch. The wind and snow was still coming down a fair bit so we were glad to be by the warm fire inside and having a pre-lunch drink.

In fact the place had only reopened a few days back after a refurb, and it's been well worth it. The stairs had changed to get to the restaurant part with lots of nice tables, and some of which were right by the window so you could see out to the village and the River Goyt too. It was a nice setting, and once sat down in a table by the window, we could have a good natter and then wait for our starters to arrive. And they were good. The Love had chicken with a small pot of a katsu-like sauce and vegetables, and that looked spot on, and my stilton creamed mushrooms with the bread was the usual awesomeness.

It was a tough decision for the mains, although Mum was pleased she went for the cod and chips, as the cod was really nice and white and cooked well, with the triple cooked chips being enough but not too much, and they did garden peas instead of the minted peas for Mum which was good. I had the gammon with eggs and pineappele, and a prper big slice of pineapple it was too, no mucking around here. Two eggs too, note! The Love had the burger and that looked rather good, especially with the fries and relish on top.

We had dessert later and both Mum and I had the nice idea of the mini dessert with a coffee, so we both had the apple and blackberry crumble with custard, and me a latte, Mum a capuccino. The crumble was really good with tons of fruit and a nice pot of custard too – and just enough to be filling without being too much, and that was a nice end to the meal too. Mum was happy, and we later on had a little walk around the shops in Marple Bridge to find that not many of them were open – I suspected that the owners were based in places stuck in snow and so could not get to the shop to open. It was very windy with snow blowing horizontally though so we headed off back to Mum's for a coffee.

Later on it was back home for the two of us and we settled in with some nibbles and watched Gogglebox from Friday night and that was as usual entertaining, especially the reactions to One Born Every Minute and later on The Voice, where some of the contestants went way too over the top to do “fresh” versions of songs for their knockout rounds. It just made me pine for the originals all day long to be honest and with that in mind the original of “Masterblaster” by Stevie Wonder is tune of the day – certainly felt that was what the wind and snow were attempting to be today!

Friday 16th March – Knutsford with Gusto

Having the Friday off work was rather nice for both myself and The Love In My Heart, and so after a leisurely wake up and some breakfast, we decided to head off somewhere for a while. After some thought we decided to head to Knutsford and then go round some of the nice shops there. It was good to head along the M56 then the new A556 and come off for Knutsford, following the road to the town centre, and eventually finding a car park with spaces (the one we'd usually go to was full.)

It was a nice leisurely mooch around a number of shops, especially as there were plenty of really nice independent retailers that had lots of lovely items, some of which were pricey but worth it such as one gift shop that had an art gallery with a really nice Lewis Hamilton painting – around £400 but I can imagine that hanging up nicely in a diehard fan's front room with pride of place. In fact plenty of the other independent retailers had some lovely stock in all round.

We then walked to the Angel pub and had a nice light lunch – The Love had the soup which looked really nice and I had the garlic creamed mushrooms with enough bread on the side to dip into the creamy sauce as well, which worked well. Add to that some Two Hoots ale and all was very well with the world. It was good to be in the nice and warm too as it had got a little bit colder, and then later on headed back homewards.

Tonight though was really nice. We were off out to Gusto on Lloyd Street in the city centre to meet up with The Love's family and more importantly her niece, who was 21 today. It was good to get there on the tram and be at the bar for a drink, with a Peroni for me (no real ale unfortunately) and it was good to spend some time catching up first before getting to a table with higher chairs than normal for our meal. And of course the meal was very nice indeed it has to be said. I had the butternut squash soup to start, nice and thick and with some pumpkin seeds and crème fraiche too, so that was good. The main was one I've loved previously in Gusto and thankfully still as good now, the salmon and dill tagliatelle. It was gorgeous, and really full of the salmon as well (no skimping here). The Love had the spaghetti bolognaise and that was rather gorgeous as well, so both of us were happy bunnies.

As was The Love's niece who not only had lots of nice presents from friends and family and her boyfriend, but also was able to enjoy herself hugely and have a good time. The staff were also really warm and friendly, and afterwards The Love and I reflected in the pub that it was a nice positive time had by all. Tune of the day in the meantime is the excellent “Happy Birthday” by Altered Images, a classic 80s track and somehow the title had to be the reason why!

Thursday 15th March – Hit The North

I had the Friday off work and so it was going to be nice to head up North for the weekend earlier than normal. In fact talking of trains, it was good to take advantage of the Virgin Trains sale, and so had booked the Friday before heading off on holiday to be in First Class back up to Manchester, and an additional trip up North too for the mere £11 in standard class. All good of course.

For me though it was a case of working through the day, and had a course this morning to attend, which was an introduction to Power BI Desktop. The good thing was that it was nice to go through some of the basic functionality of the software, show how you can import various data sources, and then work with that data to get all sorts of visualisations and when you click on one it then shows the others based on the way that you've filtered the first one.

A fun exercise in the second half was done too which was credit to our trainer for thinking of it, it effectively took two data sources of highest grossing films and the top ranked films on IMDB, then manipulated that data so that you could cross-reference both accordingly and then visualise that data nicely. In fact what was surprising was that only 50 out of the top 250 ranked IMDB films were also in the highest grossing list, which to me says a lot to be honest – it's not always the case that the highly regarded ones have done so well at the box office either.

The afternoon was mainly spent sorting out the way to collect ActiveX plugin data based on a setting to log the ActiveX usage in IE, then enable a WMI class, import that in SCCM and ensure it's then part of the hardware inventory collection cycle accordingly. Doing this on a test basis worked really well on the test system which meant that I could then get it all sorted with live and be sure that it worked – which it appears to do nicely. I'll roll out a Powershell script early next week and then collation should be all good. Happy days.

Even happier was a trip to the Crown and Anchor pub on the way to Euston station, and they had the Shed Seven Simple Pleasures ale, brewed by the Rudgate Brewery in York. Excellent stuff all round, nice ruby red taste, and of course a proper ale, as it should be. So tune of the day is “Going For Gold” by Shed Seven, a mid 1990s alternative classic at that! It is getting better all the time as I headed up North and partly in the light too, which admittedly was rather nice...

Wednesday 14th March – Distribution Meltdown

It was good to be able to work on several things at once at work, but one thing which was a slight puzzle was that the main SCCM distribution point showed that one piece of content was still distributing, despite the fact it shouldn't be, and that the logs also showed it shouldn't be either. So, I decided that running a one-off content validation task would be a good idea, and that normally will check all the content and make sure it's all correct on the distribution point. It took some time but it did show that all appeared well, but.. the content in question was still processing.

I did a bit of further digging and found that the offending piece in question was actually a task sequence, which for some reason was being treated as a package for processing. Not ideal. Normally if you distribute the task sequence, what it actually does it check all the depndency content, sees if that's on the distribution point or not, and if not, it will show you which ones you can actually distribute to. The main one didn't show when I checked that either which showed to me that all the content was there anyway.

In fact I had a hunch in that it may have been that the task sequence object itself was corrupted, as I'd seen this previously. I made a copy of the one in question, and then once done and all references to the old one removed, I removed the old one, and hey presto, that did the trick, the content now shows green and all good with a tick, so good to at least eliminate that error and get things sorted. I always think positive where possible in those situations.

I got home later and realised that I needed to use some ingredients prior to any use by dates, and with me not being home till Sunday night, thought it best to be able to use up the mozzarella cheese and the chorizo and make my favourite chorizo pasta bake. It cooked well and it was enjoyable to have something nice and warm before the colder weekend ahead. I must admit it was also good to be able to still cook it well and get all the timings right. Bonus!

I'm also looking ahead to a number of gigs, if I can get tickets that is. The Meltdown festival at the Southbank Centre has some interesting ones, with Nine Inch Nails most likely going to sell out quick despite the ticket price. I must admit though that for me being able to see Kristin Hersh would be good, so I'll be keeping my eyes open tomorrow. One day in the future I'll need to use my Strange Angel privileges but this is a during the week gig so any extras I wouldn't be in time for.. still, tune of the day is the still to this day haunting “Your Ghost” by her, it's still almost twenty five years on a beautiful song

Tuesday 13th March - Crunching Krypton Factors

I did some number crunching at work today, primarily because one of our team wanted a report on what software shows installed in Add/Remove programs, and they pretty much wanted everything possible - and thankfully this sort of stuff is what SCCM is pretty good at collecting. One report ran, output to Excel and so could be used accordingly, job done, and even pointed out what the standard ones are so that we didn't have to think about those to a degree either, which made perfect sense really.

In fact it was then getting together some nice scripting so that I could output the AD groups' names for installation groups for pieces of software so that I could get that sorted too - it worked really nicely overall and that meant I could output those into a nice CSV for ease of use and reference. Certainly use of the pipe to split commands but also concentrate on the results and further filter them was a bonus, especially the Export-CSV command to do your magic and get all of that sorted. It's good when it all works!

In fact, when I got home later, I decided to also celebrate a little by revisiting more 80s classics that I still adore, and so on went the classic "Who's Afraid of The Art of Noise?" by The Art of Noise - experimental and of course pretty ahead of their time. The likes of "Moments in Love" are pretty classic, but perhaps the one track everyone remembers is "Close (To The Edit)" which really did put all their best bits together - lots of "doish!" drum samples, found sounds and a real sense of experimenting with synths and other instruments. Interestingly, the "Hey" voice, which belongs to Camilla Pilkington-Smyth, was of course later sampled by The Prodigy for "Firestarter" so that alone makes the AoN classic tune of the day.

Effectively a number of earlier tracks were built around a central track "Beatbox" of which the "Diversion 1" version is on the album, and the single version, effectively "Diversion 10" was another. The band of course then became in demand, and wrote the ironic late 1980s theme tune to the brilliant TV show The Krypton Factor, with Gordon Burns (but of course) hosting it. It was a really good memory of growing up, and the "Influence" compilation has it, instrumental, and in its full fifty odd seconds, minus Burns and the audience but plus all the magnificent synth and "doish!" bits perfectly intact.

When they did a relaunch of said show a few years ago with Ben Shephard hosting it, The Love In My Heart and I went along to an audience recording of one of the episodes. I was massively disappointed. Ben compared to Gordon Burns was nowhere near as good, they tried to go a little OTT with the green everywhere, and the theme tune was pretty awful, nowhere near The Art of Noise's classic. And it wasn't even a proper assault course, not like the one in Holcombe Moor near Bury that was used for the original. Noooo.

But anyway, number crunching, one final thing I guess. I also looked back at previous years' gigs to see what gigs that I had been to, and I reckon that my most number of gigs in one year was most likely 2008. I managed a total number of 39 in that year, and all over the place too, Leeds, Glasgow, Halifax, London and Manchester. For the most in one month, I harked back to 2009, where in May of that year I ended up doing 9 in all, the last six of which were in an eight day period from 22nd to 29th May, and four in four consecutive days. Wowzers!

Monday 12th March - Twenty Five And Counting

I've had Blancmange songs in my head after Friday night's gig at Under The Bridge, and so I had "Blind Vision" in my head as I was off to work on a rather warm train to say the least", so that song is tune of the day. It's been perhaps noticeable that for me that the start of the working week is a real chance to get things sorted, and certainly for me today I managed to get on top of the way that we would be able to look at collecting information on ActiveX usage for SCCM. In fact, I got it doing exactly what I wanted it to do, so here's in effect what it needed to do.

First of all, it was a case of setting the Group Policy setting for the user, so that the ActiveX logging was enabled. For Windows, it places a csv file in one of the Local Appdata folders as the information is logged. However there's additional information that can also be recorded to WMI, provided you've then run a Powershell script accordingly to enable the WMI class and set that up, which can then be utilised and added to the SCCM hardware inventory to collect the information required. And it's all neat when it works and provides all the information that our Network security person needs.

I was flushed with that but more so with some updating of things later that I realised a couple of facts about gig going - for years I've kept a diary of which gigs I went to and when in terms of looking back at what ace times I've had. I also devised a spreadsheet of all the venues I've been to as well, primarily just for my own interest but also helps if you know you've been somewhere before in terms of what facilities they have, access and also the prices of ale and whether you're better off near the venue taking it all in a pub first - the answer is often with one key exception being the brilliant Holmfirth Picturedrome!

Anyway, Friday night's gig actually became my 25th different gig venue in London overall. For the purpose of clarity, I only count a venue as being in London if it's within Zones 1 and 2 - anything beyond that really belongs more to the place where the venue is, so for example I've seen gigs in three different Croydon venues but they don't count towards that total. It's quite a feat, more so as I'd say around half of those was actually before I moved down South and would come to the capital occasionally for weekends away and take in gigs during that time.

In fact, another stat for you: my 24th different venue in London (Servant Jazz Quarters in Dalston where I saw the brilliant She Makes War) was also my 100th different gig venue overall, and I'm now at 102 in total, with Leeds First Direct Arena a few weeks back seeing Morrissey another new one. I further delved into the stats and I've visited 25 different towns and cities along the way, with Falmouth being the furthest South and Glasgow being the furthest North. I'd have quite liked to have done a gig in Inverness when I was up there a few years back but nothing doing - or indeed to do one abroad for the whole experience. Mind you, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Lille are all doable by Eurostar now, so who knows?

Sunday 11th March - Stats on Sunday

I did venture out during today to the centre of Croydon, primarily to get a birthday present to one of my relations, and of course did ensure that I wished Mum a happy Mother's Day - and she liked the card and gift I had got for her, so that was nice. In fact the shops were busier than I thought, you'd think it would have been the restaurants busier with people taking their mothers out for lunch I guess. I'll be doing the same with Mum next weekend which will be nice, and in a way it'll be a bit less busier and more about an everyday normal menu instead of a special and often overpriced menu - not daft sometimes you know.

I also was able to have the food shopping delivered earlier - I had taken advantage of a discount from Tesco and had booked a four hour slot for this morning, and was advised it'd be between 10am to 11am, so no complaints there. In fact everything did arrive spot on, and I'd realised that I'd ordered a fair bit of stuff, but this is to keep me going for the next few weeks, so getting those essentials in and getting one larger shop to get them done wasn't necessarily a bad thing either.

I thought of some stats following my exploration of Ramsgate and taking the train journeys there and back yesterday. I do have a spreadsheet which has the ORR station usage, but it's also a useful thing for me to tick off which stations that I've stopped at in my time (sort of like All The Stations, but not doing so in an intense time either) and see where I've been to on my travels. Of course yesterday did mean several new stations I'd never stopped at before (some of which were more lovely than others) and that upped the count somewhat.

The way there had 12 new stops (the only one I'd been to before was Ashford International a few months back) and on the way back had 7, so that was 19 in all. That now brings my round total of stations to 690, and bearing in mind there are currently 2,563 stations with another one opening, still a lot of travelling to do and plenty to tick off all over the place, although I could if I wanted do lots of suburban lines out of London I don't normally travel on in a blast of raising the numbers up. With that in mind, the theme to "All The Stations" is tune of the day.

I do at least have a shorter week next week due to me being off on Friday (heading out for a meal with The Love In My Heart and one of her relations for a birthday) so I'll do my utmost to compress five days' worth of work into four where possible. It's worked out well in terms of most of the time when I'm off it's been on early shift, so not had to inconvenience anyone too much, positive that. And I guess now I've got to think about where the next train journey will take me...

Saturday 10th March - Raining in Ramsgate

As I had a weekend where I wasn't heading up North, and having sent my Mother's Day card and gift to Mum in good time, it was good to be able to head out for the day and go exploring. Originally I had a few ideas but as I didn't know what the weather was going to do, and when I compared prices the two advance tickets weren't that much cheaper, plus I'd be restricted to certain times of train, it was a sensible move just to get a Super Off Peak Day Return on the day from central London to my destination.

I'd decided to go and head off to Ramsgate and explore the harbour and the beach and that part of the Thanet coastline in Kent. There was the 1020 train from London Bridge, so went to East Croydon and got the train to London Bridge, then got my ticket and headed off to Platform 7 for the departure via Pret a Manger for my coffee - due to the escalator works, Costa inside the station was closed for the weekend, otherwise of course I'd have headed there as was my choice.

The journey on the way down meant I took in new routes and stations, so it headed via Sevenoaks and Tonbridge towards Ashford International, then veered off left to the lovely Wye station (small platforms and rather nice), then Canterbury West and on to Ramsgate itself. It's worth noting, having checked it on the map, that the town centre and seafront is around a mile walk from the station, made easier on the way down at least by most of it being downhill through the High Street, passing churches and the Micro Museum, which was shut until Easter or else I'd have gone in there for definite.

I got to the harbour and seafront and by this time it had decided to rain, and continued to do so for a bit. I was undeterred and made my way up and along the West Cliff, seeing the harbour from above, and also the old and restored Victorian shelters you could sit in and admire the sun (or of course stary dry too.) I then headed down a long set of stairs and walked along the harbour, with arches built into the cliffs and road above that had various shops, cafés and restaurants, all pretty nice that.

Once alongside the harbour I spotted the local maritine museum and next to that a building very much like a Victorian pavilion - which is now a Wetherspoons pub. Inside though the decor and restoration has been done well, and lots of pictures of how it was as the Royal Victoria Pavilion, with the look and feel being a concert and music hall as well as a large open space, with the balcony upstairs and large windows affording a rather nice sea view all round. I did have lunch and a drink in there and saw the rain get a little worse and then ease off which meant I could head onwards.

It was then off East and along the seafront, with part of the space behind boarded up, which appeared to be marked for redevelopment of some sort. There were some small amusement arcades and of course the 2p falls plus grabbing machines. I walked along the front and towards the East Cliff, with its murals decorating the shelters to keep you dry from the rain. It was a nice view of the beach and the sea from them and later on I walked up a set of steps which had shelters built into the cliffs to have a nice view, which was a good little surprise as I passed the old and vandalised sun shelter and walked back along the road at the top, reaching the bandstand later on.

It was then down the hill along Madeira Walk, passing the old cliff lift, the gardens with waterfall and back to the Royal Harbour, where I walked along the other side and towards the West Pier, with its historic Grade II listed lighthouse at the end of it. It was rather nice actually, and over the other side on the East Pier is a former old building and now a posh brasserie with views over the sea - even though it clearly didn't look much from the outside it has to be said.

The rain had eased off a while back so was nice to see the Royal Harbour with dry weather and indeed a little sun peeking through. It was a nice walk through some of the pedestrianised shopping streets and followed a different route (mainly one for cycles) which took you uphill, via a different way into Ellington Park and through there to the road to the train station, and timed it well to get the train to London Victoria which started here. This took an anti-clockwise route up to Broadstairs and Margate before heading west to Herne Bay and Whitstable (where The Love In My Heart and I had a lovely time last year) and then Rochester to Victoria.

I arrived home later on and it had been a really nice day despite some of the weather not being good. I do wish to head back to the Micro Museum when it opens for the Summer, and I also would like to head over to Margate as the pinball museum, which was in the centre of Ramsgate, has moved there to be a part of Dreamland, so will be fascinating to see what the state of play is there. In the meantime, "Getting Away With It" by Electronic is tune of the day with its classic opening line of "I've been walking in the rain just to get wet on purpose" and although maybe not intentionally, there was a certain appeal of taking some photographs of the harbour with the rain coming down a little.

Friday 9th March - Up The Bloody Tree Under The Bridge

It was a good positive day at work, and got plenty of investigation done into something I'd been thinking of for some time - being able to capture the Internet Explorer ActiveX usage information. Microsoft had two different articles, both of which effectively utilise the unused IETelemetry class. As an added bonus, Windows 10 by default can collate that information into WMI, very useful for particularly SCCM as you can easily extend the hardware inventory to collate that class - epic win. Or so I thought..

As it transpired, everything was added correctly, the class was added to a test machine, that class could then be imported into the SCCM hardware inventory, but nothing appeared to be collected, despite setting all the recommended settings to on. I had a further look into this, but didn't as yet get any further, unless you particularly have to use the Enterprise collection method instead (more data, and potentially more overhead for users which is what we don't really want..)

It was positive though, and I was also feeling uplifted as I was heading off to a gig later, so off on the tube via Edgware Road to the District Line to Wimbledon (you get a seat that way at peak time!) and then off down past High Street Kensington and Earls Court and down to Fulham Broadway. I've been here before as The Love In My Heart and I stayed at a Travelodge not far away, and of course it's round the corner from Chelski FC's ground Stamford Bridge, which I was heading to later, their Under The Bridge venue which is literally under the ground!

First off out of the station and into the shopping centre, and off to the Wetherspoons inside. They didn't have the order and pay app available for that pub, but I was able to order food and a pint and manage to keep a table. It was the fish Friday thing, so of course that had to be done, and the fish was pretty nice all round. That and the pint for £7.25, can't argue really. I also went for a coffee later because you can how have any coffee and refill for free with their posh new machines, and it's Lavazza coffee too, so decent stuff all round.

It was then the short walk to the ground and to the Under The Bridge venue. Once inside, I fell in love with the place. Really well shot photographs of musicians, all well framed, adorn the outside walls, and I spent a fair bit of time looking at them and spotting the likes of Paul Weller, Mark E Smith, Robert Smith, New Order, Siouxsie Sioux, Ozzy Osbourne and many many more. They even had the Meantime London Pale Ale on, so decent enough beer, but £5.50 a pint across the board, the only negative really - and that's just a little bit too much to be honest.

The support act Bernholz was effectively one man with a keyboard, other mixing devices and two microphones with all sorts of effects going through them. One song went into another and to be honest, it just felt a little bit dull. I suspect it probably works a lot better listening to that more experimental stuff on CD than it does hearing it live. Only the appearance of Neil Arthur from Blancmange to join in for the final song was a good thing, and that at least lifted the set a little.

I had a beer, got a good spot where I could see the stage, and on came Blancmange, and I have to say it was rather excellent all round. A good mix of the old and new, the new being tracks from their 2017 album Unfurnished Rooms which on the whole were really well played out, and with live guitar too. Neil Arthur's voice was on fine form and in between songs his broad Lancashire accent came out, which as a Northerner I wholeheartedly approve of, of course! The band also opened with the epic "The Fall" from the Semi Detached album, which Neil devoted as a tribute to Mark E Smith, much appreciated from those in the know.

The new album tracks were good as I mentioned: "Anna Dine" and "Gratitude" being particularly good, and on top of that "What's The Time?" certainly keeping that electronic feel as well. Also excellent was "Last Night (I Dreamt I Had A Job)" from the Commuter 17 album too. Of course the old stuff went down nicely, not just the hits but also the likes of "Running Thin" and a really pulsating version of "I Can't Explain" too, and that got the crowd going nicely indeed.

Of course, as soon as the opening bars of "Living on the Ceiling" started, everyone had a massive smile on their face and were singing along, notably of course the "up the bloody tree" line, and that for me is tune of the day - it still sounds excellent. Having that, "Feel Me" and then a storming version of "Blind Vision" which really did hit well, notably the guitar accompanying the synth superbly, really did get the masses dancing as well. Great stuff, and that was much appreciated too. I am sure one of my friends will have wanted to be there as he quite likes the band himself.

After a short pause the band came back on for the encore: initially the keyboard player and Neil to do their version of ABBA's "The Day Before You Came" which with just piano sound and vocal was wonderfully nice, and then of course to send everyone home on a high, a storming rendition of "Don't Tell Me" which was a perfect end to a great gig. Nice venue, excellent main act, good (although not cheap) beer, and 80s haircuts everywhere, simply ace. I was humming a certain song most of the way home, and the tube to train swap at West Brompton worked perfectly and meant I took just 27 minutes from Fulham Broadway via West Brompton and Clapham Junction to East Croydon. Win!

Thursday 8th March - Bargains and Bad Sequences

So I had given up any hope of possibly getting a cheap ticket for Morrissey at the London Palladium on Saturday night (I was thinking the upper circle might have been cheaper, but I wasn't paying £95 a ticket for the stalls or royal circle, not a chance) and so decided to go with my original plan to see Blancmange at Under The Bridge tomorrow night. I knew the tickets were around £25 so it was a case of seeing who'd charge the least booking fee. I headed to See Tickets and - what's this - Early Bird tickets still on sale, and for £15? Yes indeed. I sorted that, purchased ticket, and felt rather chuffed all round.

Of course that meant that I was having some of their songs in my head during the day at work as I had something nice to look forward to tomorrow, so make "Blind Vision" tune of the day while I'm at it. In fact the day proved to be a mixed bag, but one thing I had worked out was that for some reason one of the task sequences experienced corruption. It wasn't installing applications and investigating further seemed to be that it wasn't allowing the new additions to inherit the task sequence policy correctly - a sure fire sign of a bad object. Duplicating it and running it appeared to work first go, so there you go.

In fact I also worked on a few other bits and was on hand as two of the staff were in our Manchester office - they needed to reimage a laptop, and that went well, and then renamed a badly named machine and had to wait a little bit for it to get back into AD. It also experienced some weirdness with the wireless card, but a simple netsh interface ip reset all and restart cured that one nicely, so that's always handy to do if it gets itself into a bit of a tizzy. I know that the stuff I do is appreciated, which is a good thing.

I headed back to Sports Direct after work, as I'd purchased a pair of shoes for work a week or so back, but to be honest after wearing them for a day or so, they scraped the right heel badly and tore the skin off, so something definitely up there. To be on the safe side I swapped for a different pair in my size, and when I got home and tried them on, it all felt a lot better and more comfortable so I knew that I had made the right decision. Of course no refund was possible, so exchange worked the best way anyway..

And with that, it was then settling in and watching the telly for a bit, seeing some Masterchef and generally relaxing a bit, having a good chatter with The Love In My Heart and discussing the next planned weekend, and it was nice to hear her voice actually. I do miss her lots and when we do have a weekend when we do our own thing, as it will be this weekend, we do appreciate the time we have but also this does mean when we go get together, it's quality time and that's pretty important to be honest.

Wednesday 7th March - The Chiptune Story

Some of you may have noted that several months ago (last May, in fact) I headed off to the place of a fellow Commodore 64 enthusiast (Mat) in Cheam so that a documentary film maker could head over and have us both chat about said machine. Some of that footage, I know, is in the main feature documentary The Commodore Story, which I've watched the preview of and will be out in Blu-Ray over the next couple of months. For those who backed it, there was also the promise of an additional disc, called The Chiptune Story, with focus on the SID chip and how that inspired many people, myself included of course.

So it was good tonight to see that I'd had an email last night from the producers letting me know that it was available online for Kickstarter backers only to be able to view. What I didn't expect was the footage of myself to actually feature, never mind a fair number of minutes between either myself or myself and Mat chatting about all sorts. It definitely was a nice surprise, and always a bit uncomfortable I suspect watching yourself back on the big screen too. I'm glad I was watching that alone to be honest!

One thing though that came across, and not just from me either I should add, was the clear enthusiasm people had for that special SID chip and its very special sound, from fellow fans and also the heroes of the time, the composers, with the likes of Rob Hubbard, Ben Daglish, Chris Hülsbeck and Matt Gray in particular. To many of us growing up in the 80s these guys were household names, and often people would actually buy the game not because the game was necessarily any good, but because the soundtrack was by one of their heroes. It'd be like me watching a film now knowing that Clint Mansell had involvement in the soundtrack to be honest.

It was definitely a very welcome surprise, and I hope that those watching will understand the pure love that there was at the time for how that particular analogue sound entranced a whole generation of us all, who realised that it was not just about the mechanical sound but also the emotion that it carried, with the vibratos, arpeggios and other square, sawtooth and triangular waveforms expertly crafted together. Tune of the day is the rather epic "Thalamusik" by Rob Hubbard, the loading theme to the game Sanxion, and perhaps the finest of all his soundtracks (and there's a very impressive list to pick from believe me!)

So that was the shining light of the day, and definitely a nice surprise for me. I know that I can be quite shy at times so being able to do this and speak about something I enjoy rather than be all behind the scenes took a lot of doing to be perfectly honest. I'm not one for going on about myself either primarily because I prefer others to do that if they feel that what I've done has been useful for them - it's just the humble way I am. Hope everyone who gets to see it enjoys it.

Tuesday 6th March - The Clearout Continues

It was nice to see in the evening tonight that I'd had some more bids placed on some of the DVDs that I'd put up for sale on eBay, and that a number of those were going to sell, admittedly not always for massive amounts, but it does mean that, over time, any stuff I don't need anymore is going to someone else who would like it, and that's always a good thing. In fact the final band t-shirt (for now) that I've sold was posted off this morning, so it definitely feels like the chest of drawers and the wardrobe has plenty more space for clothes, and keeping it to a lesser amount is probably more useful to get wear out of what I have in the long term.

On a positive note too, I did spot that a couple of the PC games I have worked on my Windows 7 box, so was good to be able to note that when listing them on eBay this evening - at least it means that the potential buyers know that it's been tested and known to work correctly, and buyers can be more reassured by that. Obviously most Windows games in DirectX mode should work, but always good to be able to confirm. In fact, it was half tempting to play them a bit more, but resisted.

I know when I've had previous moves, from Mum's to my house in Manchester, then from Manchester to here in Croydon, being able to clear out stuff has been a positive thing. In fact due to the house sale in Manchester it was a case of getting shut of all the things I didn't need anymore, so the likes of the fridge freezer, dining table and chairs, futon sofa bed, all that sort of stuff, and that helped me get over the first few months of living down South and commuting to work etc, and keeping things ticking over nicely. I'm now in a reasonably comfortable state as I was in Manchester, and hard to believe that in a couple of months time it's been two and a half years down here.

But there's probably still more to clear out over time too, so I had a good think about some of the small things in storage in the flat and wondering if it's actually worth also getting rid of that as well, so don't be surprised if I decide to have another blitz of stuff on eBay. I also thought positively that any money I do make can go towards spending money for the holiday, and doing a bit more of seeing nice places and doing nice things, so there's also a good thing to look forward to as well.

I guess too that when you're able to get things sold off, it does mean that I keep things more minimal and that if I did ever decide to move onwards, I know I won't have as much stuff to get shifted, it'd mainly be clothes, the hi-fi and AV stuff, CDs, the Commodore 64 and Atari 2600, and all that, so definitely less to take. Maybe in the future if I am still here I might look at somewhere else in terms of location but it'd have to be nicer than the flat I'm in and for less rental, so probably asking a lot to be fair.

In the meantime, tune of the day is "The Desperate Kingdom of Love" by PJ Harvey. There's something beautiful about this song which I adore, the slight sparseness with just Polly and a guitar, and her voice being soft and lilting throughout, much more of a calm feel than her more sometimes on edge pieces. It's one of the songs that I turned to when I had my recovery period between 2006 and 2008, and just told me that the world wasn't as bad as I thought after all.

Monday 5th March - Lack of Crew

It was back off to work today and with the weather back to some form of normality, it was rather packed on the train again to get to work. That's the only downside with doing the later of the two shifts really, the trains in are just overflowing and it's pretty much impossible to get a seat to be honest. It was good to get off and head to the office, where all seemed all good thus far and I had some time set aside to do a batch of testing in order to see how a new feature I'd enabled in SCCM would work.

I must admit though that it seemed like the day did drag somewhat, even with me spending plenty of time getting things done and keeping a keen eye on some of the deployments to ensure it all worked. I did spend some time late in the day with one of the new colleagues as one of the antivirus installations was failing. I'd worked out that this was because the old installation was registered to the old server, and kept looking to that one for its configuration, and soon managed to get that sorted so most pleased to end the day well.

It was also noted that on the train home, the train took what will be its eventual route from Blackfriars via London Bridge and onwards to East Croydon. However, what wasn't good was that the accessible toilet had a door fault which meant the door wouldn't open or close and therefore be unusable for anyone who needed it. I did report it of course to their Twitter team (no guards on board Thameslink) and so that would have to be fixed. What I didn't expect though was a horde of displays at East Croydon showing trains not running due to lack of train crew, yet again. There are no strikes. Seriously, what the hell?

It does make me wonder where this supposed "largest driver recruitment drive" went, and how still over-reliant they are on the overtime goodwill of the existing drivers, largely gone to a degree due to protracted disputes and the way that some staff have felt treated too. All people of course want to do is get from A to B and be able to commute, but at the same time it would be nice if you could actually rely on there being a driver to drive the train in the first place...

It was good to get plenty of stuff done at home including sort out a few eBay sales and sending them off, and that's more clutter cleared out nicely. There's another batch of stuff I am going to add though as it's good to be able to make some more room and feel like I've got less to carry around and more space in my flat really. It's good to periodically do this and for me it's been really good to get that done. So tune of the day is the excellent "eBay" by Weird Al Yankovic, describing all sorts that he had bought from the auction site - goes to show too that your clutter might be someone else's treasure..

Sunday 4th March - Chelski Conquered

It was off to the Etihad Stadium with my friend to see Manchester City's game against Chelsea in the Premier League. Having been to the Emirates on Thursday night and seeing us give Arsenal a good panning (which would have been more had we not held off second half) it would be interesting to see if Chelsea were going to go for it or if they decided instead just to be a bit more defensive and try and hit us on the break. Either way, another win here would really put pressure on Manchester United's game at Crystal Palace tomorrow night, so definitely well worth us doing the business.

It had been raining on and off most of the day but had stopped when we were heading to the ground, with the snow notably melting away a fair bit too, and my friend had said it was the first time he'd headed out with all the snow so was good to be out for a bit. We had our now customary pre-match brew, and all was well as we noted that Arsenal had lost again, this time 2-1 at Brighton and the fans were clearly not happy with plenty of Wenger Out banners in the stands. It'll be interesting to see what happens over the next few weeks there, that's for sure.

The game kicked off and it was all City heading forward, with Oleksandr Zinchenko being pretty good on the left hand side - maybe over enthusiastic for one tackle and getting booked, but on the whole a positive player and one that really did allow Leroy Sané to run down the left and scare the Chelsea defenders a bit. It was also noticeable that Chelsea were not playing any strikers but basically having Eden Hazard furthest forward, what that said about their strike force said a lot.

Out came the teams for the second half and those late back from their beer and pie would have been gutted. City went down the left and David Silva put a cross in across the six yard box, met at the far post by Bernardo Silva whose shot bounced over the diving Thiabult Courtois for the opening goal, and 1-0, a mere thirty four seconds into the start of the half. Good stuff from City, and that was to be the only goal of the game as it turned out. We went for more but the Chelsea defence were firm and clearly were just going for damage limitation, only going for it at the end bringing Olivier Giroud on as a token effort.

So, 1-0 it finished, and City stand proudly a massive eighteen points clear of Liverpool in second, with United to play on Monday night, and with nine games to go. We're getting there, and not the best performance maybe on balance but the job was done patiently and professionally, and I'd take 1-0 wins all the way to the end of the season to be honest. I certainly was pleased as I headed back to The Love's place, where she had made us both a gorgeous chicken casserole for tea, delicious it was.

I fussed bit more with Brian the cat, and eventually it was time for me to head to Manchester Piccadilly and head on the 2021 train back to London Euston, later than I normally get but this allowed me to be travel quieter, and as First Class was only three quid or so dearer than standard when I booked, it was a no brainer, with a snack box, coffee and water to accompany me on the journey down, and having the rather nice "The Boys in Blue" by Manchester City in my head (make that tune of the day) as the boys in blue, as ever, will never give in!

Saturday 3rd March - Cosy on Platform 5

It was nice to have a relaxing lie in, and Brian the cat was being his usual cute self, although he had spotted another cat outside and was insistent on Mummy waking up and letting him outside to have a bit of a nosey around. He did eventually settle and resumed his usual spot at the end of the bed though so that was good, and we snuggled up together and had a bit more of a rest before getting up, and getting ready to head out for the afternoon. I knew Mum was out with friends as she'd asked me about what bus to get to certain places, otherwise we may have popped in.

It was off to The Love In My Heart's father's place, where the Burnley v Everton game was on. He was off with one of The Love's relations away for a few days on Monday so The Love was sorting his case out and clothes to pack, and I was also checking over the PC out and making sure that it was connecting online, apparently it hadn't been when Sky were doing some upgrades the other day but seemed fine now. In addition, his Kindle hadn't talked to email for some time but I suggested to The Love's sister it probably needed the password re-entering correctly. That done, all emails coming in, so that was nice and simple.

It was then off in The Love's car and off to John Lewis in Cheadle for a mooch around. We thought it'd be good to go there and it was relatively busy in the afternoon it has to be said. We did though manage to see some ideas for forthcoming possible presents, and if money was no object, there was a gorgeous Ted Baker dark blue leather jacket which she would have looked gorgeous in, and I would have happily purchased it. It was not particularly cheap mind you, hence the money no object comment..

We decided that a nice late afternoon early tea was on the cards, and so it was to Platform 5 in Cheadle Hulme, where the trains whizz by the station close by, and the ambience is always nice, especially with some good food on offer too. They even had the Chorlton Pale Ale, so had some of that, and The Love had the burger with bacon and cheese, it looked good, and I had the fish and chips, even with a little side portion of scraps too which was much appreciated. I also had a coffee and a sticky toffee pudding for dessert, well it was rude not to, to be honest!

Later on we snuggled on the sofa and it was good to relax and chill out. We decided to go old school and put on a classic film on DVD - namely Top Gun. The Love of course would be happy as that was classic early era Tom Cruise, and for me, it's just a good 80s film and of course a good soundtrack - let's make "Danger Zone" by Kenny Loggins tune of the day - simply because it really does set the scene well for the action to come during the film. It's aged pretty well actually, still some good action scenes there and of course the classic romantic bit with Kelly McGillis in there. And for those Pointless fans, well worth noting that Meg Ryan is in this film as is Val Kilmer, may be worth remembering for those final rounds.

We also booked some tickets for a theatre show too, which will be nice for when The Love next comes down to see me. I'd fancied going to a show and we noted that the drama Frozen was on at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, with Suranne Jones formerly from Coronation Street and most recently excellent in Doctor Foster. We'd been to that theatre before so we thought it'd be good to go, and got some decent seats for £25 for the Saturday night performance, didn't want to pay a massive £95 in the Royal Circle show. The price disparity between levels is just scary really..

Friday 2nd March – Battling Through The Snow

It was a good job I'd got up earlier, and also left the flat a little earlier in terms of walking to the train station and to get the train to work. The wind was still howling a lot and around the platforms staff were huddling around anything other than the already packed waiting room in order to avoid the cold. Still, the train was much emptier as I suspect that people hadn't been able to get to the station in the first place, with the icy wind really blowing the snow across the tracks also. Was pleased to get into the office and to be in a relatively warm place.

My colleague and I were checking the trains on a regular basis to make sure that all appeared to be running well, as much as it could be. In a lot of the South East though all wasn't well, Southern were cancelling trains left right and centre, SouthEastern effectively told passengers not to travel whatsoever, and South Western were cancelling trains with a maximum 8pm finish. Our management were checking up and requesting that if any of us needed to leave any earlier, we could do.

I had actually got a lot done today, processing five planned changes, the main one getting one of our Azure AD directories all synchronised with the portal to connect to our help desk software, so spent time with my colleague in our Server Team getting this all done. It worked flawlessly, and the Service Delivery Manager was mightily pleased in order to be able to have that all up and running. It's always a positive when we're able to get things done and have stuff sorted out, and for me particularly it's been a good one to get the teeth into.

Our management came around to see a lot of us early afternoon and said to us that if we needed to leave earlier, we could do. I checked with Virgin Trains and they had relaxed the ticket restrictions and so I could use my advance ticket for the 1820 train on an earlier one. As we'd left around 3pm (only an hour off my finish time, and had put a fairly long shift in anyway) it was off to Euston with my colleague and she could get her train and I could see about getting one myself.

As it happened, the 1520 train was delayed and was in the station and so I was keeping an eye on the platforms, and managed to get to the right one sharpish, straight to Coach C, and got a seat on the train. I had a coffee on board and relaxed with some tunes as the snow was sweeping past everywhere only seemingly less so when the train reached Stoke-on-Trent. It did arrive in Manchester Piccadilly around half an hour late at around 1800 but that worked out fine as I could have a quick coffee in Pret a Manger, then when The Love In My Heart had let me know she was on her way home from work, I headed on the tram to her place, with hugs for her and Brian the cat.

It was good to be in the cosy and warm and as an unexpected bonus this meant that we had a bit longer together tonight, and that was much appreciated also. It was also good to feel that warmth as the cold all day was definitely one to battle through, with “Sno Cat” by Kristin Hersh being tune of the day, especially as Brian the cat had been out in the snow earlier in the week and deciding that he didn't really want to be out and making paw prints in the white stuff, so definitely one to note...

Thursday 1st March – Repeat Performance

I was working from home today and was pretty pleased to be doing so – the weather was rather windy and snowing outside and so to be honest it was good to be in the warm, have a coffee from the Tassimo whenever I wanted to, and also be able to get plenty done without too much bother. Of course, I was also keeping an eye on how the weather was progressing, as I was heading off to the Emirates Stadium later to see Arsenal play Manchester City, and obviously didn't want to set off if it was abandoned.

The game was still on, and so it was off to East Croydon station to get the train to Victoria. I would have got the Overground from West Croydon to Highbury and Islington, but the Overground was severely delayed, so off to Victoria, going mainly against the raft of passengers and then on to the tube to Highbury and Islington. I had got there around 6pm and knew it was going to be busier later so it was off to the local Wetherspoons for the Thursday curry deal, which meant curry and a pint for a mere £7.10, can't complain at all really.

It was then the walk along the Holloway Road and off to the ground, where the snow was all around the outside. In a way it was probably good that it was left so I could crunch the feet through the snow instead of slipping on the ice. I got inside, had a coffee and then made my way to the seat, which was third row from the front and with a decent view of the goal too. It was noticeable that the City end was completely full by kick off, but the Arsenal contigent was missing, especially in the top tier. I'd say there were around 25,000 to 30,000 there, so when the attendance was read out as around 58,000, that was a case of disbelief to say the least.

City kicked off towards the other end and all seemed to be good, with nice flowing passes and runs down the side. One of those was from the impressive Leroy Sané, who took on several players, cut inside and then passed the ball across the box to Bernardo Silva who curled home an absolute beauty into the top corner. 1-0 and happy bunny. Even more so when City surged forward again and some neat movement between David Silva and Sergio Aguero meant that David had passed three defenders and lifted it over Petr Cech into the top corner for 2-0. Awesomeness.

And if that wasn't enough, a move down the right involving Bernardo Silva and Kyle Walker passed the ball into the six yard box and Leroy Sané was there to glide it home in the bottom corner, almost in slow motion for 3-0. It was awesome. City fans started singing the chant to “Gold” by Spandau Ballet (make that tune of the day) with the impressive lines of “Who needs gold, gold, we've got two Silvas you know, David and Bernardo, we're indestructable, we've got Agueroooooo” - ooh yes. And in addition with ultimate irony singing “There's only one Arséne Wenger” to the Arsenal fans, who are cheesed off with his management at the moment.

The second half petered out as City took their foot off the accelerator, not needing to do much more to be honest. Arsenal did get a penalty but that was well saved by Ederson, who is fast gaining a reputation for saving spot kicks, and that was pretty much that as the game fizzled out, the City fans in good voice and being about the only people in the ground at the final whistle. City hadn't won at Arsenal in the league since 1978, and although I'd seen two draws there the last couple of times I'd been to the ground, to see that win was pretty excellent all round.

I headed along back to the tube station and it was nowhere near as busy as I thought it was going to be, with everyone seemingly leaving early. I checked at the station and the Overground was still up the creek, and so took the tube to Victoria, and there it seemed to be carnage as the trains were a bit bobbins with Southern staff directing people to a platform with the train leaving already – duh. Still, I managed to be able to get the next train to East Croydon and battled through the windy conditions to head homewards. Needless to say that Arsenal Fan TV was highly amusing to watch their reactions to the “performance” as I headed off to bed...