Dear Diary... May 2018

Thursday 31st May – Spaccanapoli, Shrines and Sunset by the Sea

The Love In My Heart and I got up, and once we had a coffee and were all changed, it was off out on what looked like a very warm day again. We really can’t complain about the weather this week, it had been lovely and warm and sunny and The Love has caught the sun really well (I have to be careful with Factor 30 but have managed to do so too.) It was a case of heading out for the day and discovering more of the city of Naples together, and that would prove to be a thoroughly good day all round.

We walked back towards the seafront and towards the Castel dell’Ovo, which was open (and it’s free) so we walked through towards the top and admired the view of the sea and seafront from there. We did also note the art exhibition inside part of the castle, with each piece symbolising revolution. Apparently this happens a lot, so well worth noting that if you do visit. We also noted that parts of the castle were closed off but had views through lookout arches and also some stairs leading to the chapel and the outer walls in part. The view from the turrets at the top was lovely, and the slope relatively gentle as we walked up and down from there.

After a stop off at a supermarket to get some lunch ingredients we stopped in the Villa Comunale park and had the lunch there, and we did note that many others were sat in the shade. We walked through the park and discovered the zoological station but this appeared to be closed, which wasn’t good to see. It was maybe due to maintenance but would have been nice to see their work with the marine life. We carried on and at the end of the park, we spotted a lot of tents being set up – this was for what was effectively the world pizza championship, and so many stalls with pizza ovens along the front being set up here – I’m sure that would be really busy next week!

We carried on and headed to the harbour and port at Mergellina. It was rather relaxed here with the boats in the harbour all rested and relaxed, and also the fishing boats carrying in their stocks too. There were many bars and restaurants by the sea and we stopped at one for a well earned drink, with the sun shining, the sky blue and the feeling of being by the sea just idyllic. We then headed off to Mergellina station which was a normal rail station and took the train to Piazza Cavour so we could explore the historic side of Naples from there.

I have to say that the Duomo, the cathedral, was rather a special piece of architecture. A service was going on so I was silent, and also it was nice that so much of the original cathedral was so well preserved, including the baptistery dating back from the 4th century and the oldest in Europe, to the crypt of Saint Gennaro and a nice explanation in both Italian and English about the saint itself. I was inspired by the building and The Love felt it was a special place to be. I certainly can appreciate the efforts gone into creating such a place of worship.

We walked down then and joined effectively the Spaccanapoli, a straight line which divides the city right down the middle. Here, lots of little shops and bars are all along the street, but also a sheer number of churches are along the way too. One of them is close to the Bar Nilo, which has its own shrine – that to Diego Maradona, who used to play for Napoli in the 1980s and helped them to two Serie A titles in that time. No photography was allowed unless you drank in there, but I could see some trying to be sneaky. We stopped at the small Museum opposite which had a café and a nice drink was had in there before continuing down all the way to Via Toledo, via even more churches along the way. In a way it reminded me of the Vielle Ville (the old town) in Nice, the same sort of feel.

We headed back to the hotel and later on were changed and heading out, and this time we were going to go by the sea and be close to the Castel dell’Ovo for the evening. We stopped off at the La Scialuppa restaurant and was able to get a table, although not overlooking the sea it was still rather lovely. I had the ham pizza which was again classic Neapolitan recipe, and spot on because of it. The Love had the chicken Milanese and this time it was breaded, and with some potatoes too. We did have a guitarist trying to swoon everyone with his classic renditions of songs, but was interesting nonetheless and added to the evening atmosphere.

On the way back we stopped off at a bar we’d been to earlier in the week, and The Love could have the Aperol spritz again and me the beer, but was really nice to chatter and be sat by the sea with the bar inside playing some classic Frank Sinatra at that and having a bit of a rat pack feel, and yet this worked really well overall. So “My Way” as he would have sung it is tune of the day – we’ve pretty much done the holiday our way and it has been lovely to explore a city with surprises and classic features.

Wednesday 30th May – Sorrentine Anniversary

Today was to be a very special day. Ten years ago today, I met The Love In My Heart, and my life changed for so much the better. It’s hard to put into words sometimes but I can honestly say that so many wonderful moments have been spent by us together, and indeed plenty of those have been in wonderful places. I know that her support with me moving down for the job I’m doing now certainly was a deciding factor, and me being able to support her in her career has also been really nice. I am so lucky and know that every day we spend together it a day that I treasure, and I love her tons.

We’d got ourselves up and ready and it was off on the Metro towards Garibaldi, and from the Western end of the Piazza Garabldi, we headed down towards Porta Nolana station, getting a pastry and a cappuccino from one of the local cafés there before we entered the station. The staff assisted us through the barriers and we were on the 0906 departure to Sorrento on the Campania Express train – more of an express train on the Circumvesuviana line as opposed to the normal train. The train arrived on time and staff guided us on to the front carriages including a number of people also heading to Pompeii on the same line.

I have to say it was a smart move: I’d heard of pickpocketing on normal Circumvesuviana trains and them being very hot in Summer and wanted to avoid that. Instead, the Campania Express version had the doors operated by a guard at stations, one door would open and anyone without a ticket wasn’t let on. Staff were also on hand to greet passengers when onboard, the train had nice air conditioning and also sped through past all the smaller stations only stopping at Ercolano (for Vesuvius) and Pompei Scavi before then speeding around the coast and arriving in Sorrento. It was a nice journey with a view of the coast and really did add to the sense of being there.

We headed to the central square in Sorrento, the Piazza Tasso, before then following the stairs down towards the harbour. This was very pretty with boats taking people to the neighbouring islands, and also the boats by the sea moored up really making it feel rather idyllic in the sunshine. In fact we walked down to where the beach area was, and it was mainly piers of chairs, tables and sun loungers. It was good to stop at one of those and have a cold drink in the café and admire the view, which was rather gorgeous all round with the blue sea and an area protected by rocks which was more like an outdoor lido for people to swim in.

We did take the pedestrian lift back up to the town (a mere €1 each but with barcoded tickets to operate the barriers before the lift, a nice move) and at the top a small park and church, where it looked like inside in the courtyard a wedding was taking place – how nice was that? We then walked through the many narrow streets of the old town, with plenty of ceramics, limoncello and crafts on sale from a number of independent traders. We did have a few samples of said lemoncello along the way, and also spotted a museum where Francis Bacon art was on display and some beautiful gardens where lemons and limes were growing in the trees – it just felt lovely.

It was time for lunch so we walked along the via Santa Maria delle Grazie, and close to one of the arches along was a stairway leading to the Sant’Antonino restaurant. This I have to say was the best meal we had of the whole week – the setting upstairs had an open air area with lemons and limes growing on the trees, a calm peaceful feel away from the hubbub of the town, and very lovely staff all round. In fact the food was just as beautiful: the salmon farfalle I had was even better than the one I have in Gusto in Manchester: plenty of salmon, soft farfalle and a lovely sauce, and The Love had the bolognaise which was plentiful in both pasta and meat alike, with a sauce to match. The wine and beer wasn’t expensive either, and we both felt rather relaxed and special together as we had our anniversary lunch. I can highly recommend this place to say the least.

We spent most of the afternoon exploring the old town streets and The Love got a couple of presents for people, and we stopped off in the Villa Communale park and admired the view from the top overlooking the sea, before we headed down the sloping path towards the sea, which even took you through some of the caves below the cliffs too on the way, which was also rather lovely. By the sea we walked past the beach huts and had a nice sit down by the harbour admiring the view, and I just thought of Shapeshifters’ “Lola’s Theme” with the words, feeling happy and contented – tune of the day for a number of reasons. Being sat by the sea was always nice anyway but especially here. In fact The Love did pick up another souvenir later as we headed back up towards the Piazza Tasso before we walked back to the train station for the 1659 Campania Express.

The journey back did have a couple of delays: mainly due to trains the other way being delayed on single track passing loops. We did enjoy views of the sea again though, especially at the likes of Pico Equense with its dramatic setting in between the cliffs, and that really did set the tone nicely as we headed back. It was then to the metro and back to the hotel, and that felt nice to get some air con after a rather hot but wonderful day out together. We got ourselves changed and were heading out for a meal for the evening too, and after checking one of the guides we were off in the direction of the Piazza del Plebiscito.

We had an evening meal in Rosati, a restaurant that mainly specified in pizza. The inside upstairs was very quiet and we had a view of the Via Chiaia as well. The Love had the Rosati pizza, which had a cheese base (no tomato) but fresh tomatoes, herbs, and proscuitto ham amongst other things. It was nice enough but not quite what The Love expected whereas my pizza with ham and mushroom was spot on – both of them had the Neapoloitan base on which was lovely and traditional. It was really nice and the red beer I had was good – and The Love did have a half litre carafe of wine for not much expense either. All was lovely there and a nice end to a really special day together.

Tuesday 29th May – Up In The Hills

It was a nice lie in for both The Love In My Heart and myself today after the long but good day in Rome, and it was nice to just relax and chill out before we were making a nice plan for the day – heading on top of the hills to see a castle and monastery that were atop the hill. We walked through the rather grand Galleria Umberto, with its shops and beautiful arches overlooking the shops and the beautiful tiled floor, and then onwards and off towards a different mode of transport for us today – the funicular railway heading from Augusteo on the Via Toledo to Piazza Fuga. It’s mainly under the hills but is often used by locals too which shows it’s a well run service.

Once there we followed the brown signs towards the Castel Sant’Elmo, which took you up escalators between streets and through towards the road down to the castle, with some majestic views. In fact on a Tuesday admission to the castle is half price, so a mere €2.50 to get in and have a walk around. Lifts take you up to the castle turrets at the top, where you can walk around the top and the views of the city from there were just awesome – words cannot tell you enough how good this is. For me, it was also notable that they had a television transmission tower and also had tiled inside an old guard post with impressive décor and really felt nice and cool in there as you admired the view of the sea beyond. Public art on display really added to the sense of being there and this was all good.

Once done and headed down, we walked a bit further downhill to the Certosa e Museo di San Martino, which was not just a monastery but also a museum as well. In fact the museum had exhibits including former royal carriages, plenty of art from the centuries, and also lots of figures and figurines, and plenty of those were arranged in the scenes of a nativity. In fact one such scene had very large figures from an original scene, and the 22 that survived were all on display. The monastery itself had a fair part of the church closed off to ensure that the floor could be protected accordingly but the parts you could see were clearly beautiful with stunning architecture and lots of frescos adoring the ceilings too.

We headed outside to the gardens where we could not just hear but also see some cats and their kittens. They looked slightly wild but were being regularly fed by the monastery staff, and were having a hide in the shade once they’d been fed and playing in the gardens. It was nice to see them being looked after and walking further down to the lower gardens showed some lovely views but also evidence of how the gardens worked and hedge tunnels with fresh fruit growing. It was good to see and we both really enjoyed the feeling of the space. I think for me also seeing their own version of the meridian line as one of the exhibits reminded me of Greenwich of course.

As we’d headed up beforehand we noticed a record shop with a café, Fonoteca. We decided to stop there for lunch and browse the records with David Bowie vinyl on display especially. “Oh You Pretty Things” was playing and so that’s tune of the day – and the staff were lovely as we were served lunch and beer, a gorgeous toasted sandwich and mine was actually one which catered for some intolerancies, with lactose free cheese, gluten free ham and mushrooms, and was spot on. Nice to see they catered for that but also the tables outside were round and decorated as if it was a vinyl record: a nice touch all round. We liked it there and it was good to be chilled out before heading back down to Piazza Fuga and taking the funicular back to Augusteo and walking alongside the shops in the Via Toledo.

We headed back out later on and to the Gastronomia LUISE which was in the square close to Augusteo station for the funicular. It was nice to have a beer and The Love had the pollo Milanese, albeit without the breaded topping but instead marinated in lemon with some potatoes as a side. I had the pizza which was actually the snack pizza individual size – it was very nice and was more like the deep pan small pizza you get in Pizza Hut. I have to say that it went down nicely and later on we walked down towards the seafront where an Aperol Spritz for The Love and a beer for me at one of the bars, with a view of the sea, was a lovely end to the evening.

Monday 28th May – Roman Holiday

It was a relatively early start to the day as The Love In My Heart and I had some coffee and croissants for breakfast before heading for our first trip on the Naples Metro, heading two stops to Garabaldi station for the central train station. The ticket machines took exact change only, but we had that sorted, and the ride was relatively fine despite being busy. It was a very deep underground line though which meant a number of escalators out (they did have lifts too incidentally) and then once out, along past some lovely shops and onwards to Napoli Centrale station.

We had booked the trains in advance with Trenitalia on their Frecciarossa 1000 express service, which meant for €19.90 each way for each of us the standard premium in coach 4 – free wi-fi via their working portal, leather seats, chargers at every single seat, and on top of that, complimentary refreshments, so a nice bottle of water, sweet or savoury snacks and a coffee for the morning – plus if you wanted it, a complimentary newspaper. The journey sped through the countryside, reached 300 km/h, and arrived a few minutes early into Roma Termini, the central station in Rome. It was a lovely journey and we both enjoyed that – with one to come back on later.

We headed to the metro station and got an all day ticket to travel around on – although walking may have been an option, it was pretty humid and so the aircon via the metro was a good option. We headed down and the first train was pretty busy as we headed west along to Ottaviano, and then walked down towards the Vatican. A number of people tried to stop us and sell us “skip the line” tickets at vastly inflated prices, one of them claiming that you had to pay to get inside St Peter’s Basilica and queue for hours (lie: free unless you want to climb to the top of the dome which was €10 and not €20 as they had said) but wasn’t having any of that, so we walked down and to St Peter’s Square itself.

The Love is a Catholic so for her arriving at the spiritual home of the Catholic church was a special thing and I gave her the time to take it all in and admire the view around the Piazza and the arches surrounding the church itself. We joined the queue to enter the Basilica, and to be honest it didn’t take that long, and including the security checks it was around a half hour or so end to end. It was certainly an inspiring place to be in once inside, lots of frescos, plenty of history and plenty of religion, including some live services in parts of the Basilica if people wanted to attend and pray. What did annoy me was that a number of guided tours were very noisy and ignored the clear silence “Silenzio!” signage outside. I’m not religious but I understand and appreciate the need to respect those that are, and admired the art and architecture. For The Love I can tell it felt special for her, so good to bring her here.

Once done and the square and all explored, we walked back towards Ottaviano station (no one hassled us this time thankfully) and just by the station was a little café where we stopped for lunch. The Love had a burger, I had spaghetti carbonara and we both had a beer, and it wasn’t that expensive either, and good to be a little bit away from the crowds and to relax with lunch together. It certainly felt rather good to be relaxed with music playing in the background, and that set us up nicely for the remainder of the day as we got back on the metro and headed towards Spagna and the Spanish Steps, of course for me made notable by Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.

Actually, and unsurprisingly, that was very busy, and spoiled by too many hawkers trying to sell you flowers and roses despite a clear and assertive no on a number of occasions. I honestly wanted to leg sweep a few of them to teach them a lesson, but thought better of it. We then headed through some nice city streets all pedestrianised and down towards one of the nice squares, complete with gorgeous shopping centre, before walking through towards the Trevi Fountain. It was packed with people but at least no scaffolding there currently, and certainly everyone was just wanting to either paddle in the water or throw a coin in. I felt it had kind of lost its way due to the sheer numbers not appreciating the architecture of the building above the fountain and the fountain itself.

We walked along towards Barberini station and got back on the Metro there, changing at Termini for line B (we’d been on line A all day to this point) and down to Colosseo for the colosseum. Even from the Metro station seeing this from the outside was nice, but seeing it close up was rather good. Again, plenty of “skip the line” hawkers, but it didn’t take us that long to queue and pay the €12 admission to get in. It certainly felt gladiatorial as we entered on the top floor, with a view down to see where the animals were kept underground and used to publicly execute people who were stripped naked beforehand. The arches and the sheer size was impressive, with plenty of history throughout and views through those arches to Rome as well. It definitely was well worth visiting and the late afternoon sunshine made for some lovely views.

We walked down from there and spotted where the finish of the Giro D’Italia had taken place yesterday and the stands were still there and due to be taken down. Once past that it was nice to arrive at one of my highlights of the whole week – the Altare della Patria (also known as Il Vittoriano), which commemorated the first king of Italy and the soldiers of the First World War. Made in marble, the stairs up were impressive, the war memorials guarded by two guards and the sheer size and scale showed a really impressive and historical feel, and certainly from an architectural perspective was a good place to be. I enjoyed that a lot actually.

We then headed back and along towards the Colosseum but diverted along one of the side streets and headed to the Al Cardello restaurant, and we had tea there. It was actually pretty nice all round: I had the salmon penne which was very nice, and The Love had some chicken in a nice tomato sauce and a side order of potatoes, and a nice draught beer to go with it for me and a wine for The Love. It was a quite relaxed place and away from the hubbub slightly, but better because of it. Lots of locals going about their business, and that felt more like a local place too. Tune of the day is “Amore” for definite, certainly felt the right mood for it anyway.

It was then the walk back to Colosseo metro station and onwards to Termini. Our 2025 departure back to Napoli Centrale was delayed slightly but once it arrived we got on, and the train was relatively quiet in our coach. In fact the nice complimentary refreshments for the evening included a glass of prosecco also, so we felt proper spoiled on the way home. It was a real sense of bringing the evening to a close and the train sped through, and made up some time before having to wait for a platform at Napoli Centrale where the train would terminate as scheduled. The train again was clean, comfortable, and fully staffed with all lovely staff – something that UK train travel clearly needs to aim at and take note of. Having the prosecco was a lovely treat and certainly justified the standard premium fare, and going so quick was good too. We got down to the metro station and timed it perfectly for a train to come in so got back to the hotel pretty quickly. A long day, but a good one!

Sunday 27th May – Castles and Palaces

It was nice to wake up on the Sunday morning and relative calm appeared to be in the city of Naples. I headed to the Sole 365 supermarket to get some croissants and milk so we could have a nice coffee from the Nespresso machine and some breakfast, and noted how quieter the road was. This was confirmed later as the road near us was closed off to allow a run to take place which took in some of the major sights of the city and actually finished in the Piazza del Plobiscito opposite the Palazzo Reale, a worthy place to end up. Plenty of runners were still running as we headed off out for the day - which would be of exploring and discovery.

The first stop for us both was the Castel Nuovo, which dominates the skyline from the hotel window and balcony view. The castle had some lovely features including some of the towers, which you could walk inside and enjoy the view from the top of those, and also an exhibition across three floors of art, which dated back from the 16th century. The top floor had the 20th century sculptures but also had an arched terrace with a lovely and relatively cool view of the city looking to the West. It was also nice to see that a number of artefacts were dotted around, and plenty of cannonballs in the main courtyard as well. It was a shame that you couldn’t get in some of the towers or explore the castle’s library but it did mention at the admission desk that not everywhere was currently open.

We then walked past the impressive Teatro San Carlo with tours available to explore the lush insides and onwards to the Palazzo Reale. I have to say this was an absolutely stunning place to visit and if you do go to Naples, this is a must. The grand staircases gave you an idea of the grandiose feel to the place, and exploring all the rooms with their impressive décor, paintings and flooring. The throne room was particularly majestic, but that was also lined with a superb floor and really did feel suitably royal. The outside gardens were closed off for maintenance but those facing the sea looked gorgeous and The Love In My Heart particularly would have liked to have ventured out to them. Lastly, the church inside was also impressive, with a large glass case of a nativity scene and various figures inside that. It did to be fair look really beautiful inside and we both were wondering how all of this was built. Definitely a must visit place if in Naples.

We walked down towards the seafront and stopped off at a supermarket to get all the ingredients for a little lunch, and once at the front, we spotted a space we could stop at facing the sea and had a sit down with our lunch. It did feel nice because of the sea breeze and the warm weather, and the ham and cheese sandwich The Love had made went down nicely, and that was good. We later headed along the seafront promenade towards the Castel dell’Ovo (which shuts at 2pm on a Sunday so was shut well before we got there) but what we did notice was the sheer numbers of people dressed up, mainly either for holy communions or just showing off on their days off. Some outfits were classy, some were way over the top, but certainly did show a sense of occasion.

It was then further West along the coast and to the Villa Comunale, the city park. It looked like it needed a little attention here and there but half way along was a nice little hut with outside seating facing the sea, and we had a drink there in the nice warm afternoon sunshine. It was actually a good way to just take it easy and feel chilled out together, and we could people watch as people walked past with their dogs and some had hired a bicycle like vehicle where two pedalled to go forward. The sea looked calm and despite the rocks people were still sunbathing there – rather them than me! We did have a nice walk back along the front and a lot of the restaurants were belting out some tunes too.

We later on got ourselves changed and ready, and headed off for an evening meal together. We decided to head off to a local place not far from the hotel, Il Pomodoro, and that was a good move. In fact the beer on offer was the Birra Moretti Grand Cru, which was utterly gorgeous and definitely will be having that again if I manage to locate it, that’s for sure. It was really nice, and went well with the pizza I had, a classic Neapolitan style pizza with some good toppings on. The Love went for one too, very different as it had a cream base, ham, and also croquette potatoes on! It looked good but definitely very different, so always worth checking before you order. We shared a tiramisu afterwards which was properly home made, and lovely too. The day had ended well and certainly for me I had “Sunny Afternoon” by the Kinks in my head, not least as that was pretty much our day later on chilled out, tune of the day definitely.

Saturday 26th May – Off On Holiday

It was a fairly leisurely start to the day for myself and The Love In My Heart, as we got ourselves up and ready to head off to the airport, our holiday due to commence. This year we were heading off to Naples in Italy and having a good few days there as well as days to Rome and Sorrento also, so definitely going to be a different and interesting holiday for us both. We took the tram to Manchester Piccadilly, and then the train to Manchester Airport, which was surprisingly quiet despite the Northern Rail strike that day.

There was a long check in queue for the Lufthansa desks, but we used the quick check in, all sorted, boarding passes printed, and we could go to the very very short queue where you could do the bag drop. Epic win all round there. It meant we could then get through all the security checks and onwards to the departure lounge area, where a nice breakfast roll and coffee from Pret a Manger, and to be fair to Pret, they didn’t charge any more than their regular shops – kudos to them for that actually. It was nice to relax and feel more chilled out before we headed off to the gate for the first of our two flights – in both cases we were going via Frankfurt which meant the lovely Lufthansa service all the way.

The flight was all good with the usual complientary nice sandwich and choice of drink (The Love had wine, me beer) and once through all the additional security checks at Frankfurt airport, it was onwards to the gate for the plane to Naples. It was all good on that side too and the flight was relatively smooth, and it felt rather nice as we landed at Naples airport. The baggage reclaim took some time and seeing an area cordoned off with left luggage caused us some concern, but ours duly arrived and off we headed in the direction of the airport bus.

I’d done my research on this, and it meant that the bus took you to the central train station and then on to the ports, and our hotel was close to the port – this meant we stayed on till the last stops and were the only passengers as everyone had piled off at the train station instead. The driver was helpful to point us in the direction of our hotel (which I knew where, but nice to feel welcomed by the driver of course) and off we walked towards Piazza Municipio and on to the via Depretis, where the Mercure hotel was that we were staying at.

Once checked in, all was good, and the room was very nice – working air conditioning, a nice big comfy bed, a Nespresso machine, and a nice shower and bathroom and plenty of clothes storage space, and free wi-fi too. We had a balcony from which we overlooked the street but also had a view of the Castel Nuovo also. We did of course note that there was building work going on around and near the castle, but this was due to the expansion of the Naples Metro, in effect extending Line 6 to join Line 1 at Municipio station – and any increased use of public transport is always good.

We unpacked our cases and after that found some bearings as we followed the road alongside the port and then went around the coastline, eventually ending up along the seafront and stopping off at a restaurant there for some well earned tea. The Love had the bolognaise and I had the carbonara, and it was good to see the world go by and also the telly had the Champions League final on inside, so a number of locals were inside watching the game and having a beer. The walk to here looked not so nice as did parts of the city we went through on the airport bus, and we had some concerns. However, once we’d had food we walked back up towards the Piazza del Plobiscito and that square looked lovely, as did the likes of the Palazzo Reale and around the corner, the Teatro San Carlo. This looked a lot better.

We finished off the day by heading to the Sole 365 supermarket and got there just before it was going to close, so managed to get some bottles of water and some beer, and as the hotel room had a fridge this meant that we were able to put the water in there and also have a well warned Peroni together. I saw the remainder of the Champions League final (make the anthem tune of the day) and it was interesting to see how the Italian TV coverage reported on it when neither side were Italian. It was a long day but ultimately meant we were here, and we’d do more exploring tomorrow.

Friday 25th May – Sorted for Summer

I had had a day of sorting out at work and making sure that I had scheduled in a number of planned changes for when I got back after my holiday next week. What was nice was that some of the changes I had done had worked really well – so for example I’d set up the BIOS updates for the HP desktops to happen first thing in the morning and they had happened successfully with no issues whatsoever, which meant I felt like I could of course go away and feel like I didn’t have to do anything in particular.

In fact I also spent some time writing up a lot of documentation ready for the next few weeks and checking it over, including a piece I had written for the Azure AD integration pieces into ServiceNow. I know I’ll need to do one piece on that when I come back to work, so that was pretty good all round to be able to sort out. I had of course written it originally but just wanted to get some minor revisions done, and that was then all sorted. Again, just good to get everything all done.

It was a happy me, albeit with large case in tow, that was heading to Euston at 5pm in order to be able to go to the First Class Lounge there. I was on the 1820 departure to Manchester Piccadilly and as I’d got a cheap deal (ticket for £30, bargain) this meant a nice glass of ale and a meal on the way – and of course that was just the start to a holiday and a week off I wanted. The first class lounge was also very relaxed too and that meant that I could chill with a coffee before boarding the train – which was busy primarily because of half term and the Bank Holiday.

The journey up was nice and relaxed and had some KMFDM blasting out of the speakers including “Kunst” (so make that one tune of the day) before having the evening meal – some nice pasta in a cream sauce with pesto, and a salted caramel cheesecake with fresh cream for afters, plus coffee and ale too. The train sped towards Manchester and I was so happy to be back on proper home turf as the city approached. I’ll freely admit that I get that same feeling whenever I am back but more so when you have something lovely to look forward to.

The Love In My Heart came to collect me, and we had a relaxing rest of the evening together snuggled up with Brian the cat, watching the likes of Gogglebox and then the Graham Norton show and feeling all ready for tomorrow, with us all prepared and sorted to go for the week ahead. We’re both really relaxed now and The Love having been off work for a couple of days even more so, it was good to be in the right frame of mind and we’ll soon be away. I can’t wait!!

Thursday 24th May - Humidity Central

As much as it was raining earlier, the only problem with that at this time of year is that it brings forward plenty of humidity and that really is clammy and uncomfortable. And so it proved earlier on as I was heading homewards on the train, and really sensed that without the aircon on the train, even with it being absolutely rammed due to a host of cancellations, it wasn't ideal. In fact I was able to tell that it was hammering it down with rain quite a bit outside and when I got off, it was the same. And all it is now is very very muggy indeed.

I did the final parts of the packing tonight for the holiday, so made some good decisions as to which t-shirts to take, which short sleeved shirts to take and all of that. In fact it was good to be able to pack sensibly and have all the clothes I wanted to take for not that much space, because these days I can fold things much better than I used to. In fact I also made sure that I took some hangers too, and some t-shirts that I like especially (so there'll be a couple of PWEI ones in there for example as well as other stuff.

I had a nice chatter with The Love In My Heart earlier. She had taken the car (aka Claudia) in for the MOT, and it passed with flying colours. It took some time so she was pleased that the place had some nice comfy seating and some coffee and soft drinks and books to keep you occupied at that time. It did mean though that it was a case of get that sorted and the car tax done (and a mere £20 for that these days, having an efficient car saves loads of money really) so that was a positive.

I also made sure that I not only had printed copies of all the things I needed for the holiday (train tickets I've booked in advance, reservations for the hotel, other documents etc) but also in the majority of cases because they're PDF documents I have placed them as a backup elsewhere too - somewhere where I can get to them if need be and means that both paper and electronic copies are sound. It's always well worth ensuring you're fully covered and sorted of course, and that was my way of getting it done.

I had a nice blast of KMFDM as I was packing, including the fab "Animal Out" (make that tune of the day) which has some great vocals from Lucia especially, with some really thumping drums and Industrial electronics along the way. It shows just why they're one of the most under-rated bands out there and how enjoyable their music is. I once suggested to someone I know "Well you like Rammstein, right? Well you'd like these too" and I'm sure that'd be the case.

Wednesday 23rd May - Almost Persuaded At The Hospital Club

It was nice to take the time to have a leisurely walk from the office after work and effectively walk down High Holborn and on the way to Covent Garden, and for a very good reason. Tonight I was seeing Swing Out Sister at the Hospital Club, which was going to double as a press night for the Almost Persuaded album. Although many of us who pledged for the album via PledgeMusic have had it for some time, it's getting an official release later this year, so fans who had pledged were invited to buy tickets for tonight's event, and I had done so in order to go.

So before I headed there I knew that there was a Wetherspoons not far away on High Holborn, the Peveril's Oak, which I used to go to for tea when MJ Hibbett's Totally Acoustic nights used to be at The Lamb not far from there some time ago. They had also added pizzas to the menu, so had a ham and mushroom one together with the Black Sheep Pathmaker ale. And that went down rather nicely all told actually, the pizza was spot on with big chunks of ham and a lovely tomato sauce and massive mushroom slices too. That set me in the right mode and it was soon via Holborn station and towards Covent Garden.

I found the venue okay but there appeared to be a queue round the side, so I'd joined it. It was soon clear this was for a special Frankie Boyle show recording and so it was a case of heading inside the Hospital Club, getting my name checked off against the list and then heading in the lift up to the fourth floor, where the Oak Room would be where all the action was. There was a bar round the corner, and it was a little slow, but the pint of Bitburger was £5.25 - not that cheap but I guess for Covent Garden around the going rate - still irks me to pay that much though mind you.

So everyone had assembled in the room and before too long on came Swing Out Sister. Corinne was still in recovery from her leg injury some time ago, so had a crutch which was decorated with flowers as she'd made her way to the stage, but was all in black apart from a nice silk scarf, very typically fashionista. All the band looked tight and Andy was ready to play the keyboard, and off we went, and the opener from the Almost Persuaded album, "Don't Give The Game Away" was first, some lovely dreamy instruments setting the tone right for the voice to soar above, really having space to breathe and flow. Gorgeous.

Naturally as the new album was the main reason for the soiree tonight, it was good to have plenty of songs from there including a laid back funky version of "All In A Heartbeat" for one, and my favourite from the new album "Which Wrong Is Right?" which had a really good vibe to it, and tune of the day for definite. "Happier Than Sunshine" really had a bright and breezy feel too, and so did the rather nice title track "Almost Persuaded" too. It certainly showed the sound engineers knew their stuff, as the sound was crystal clear, a point demonstrated rather well with "Everybody's Here" complete with allowing the percussion and keyboards to flow naturally and really add to the mix. Happy days indeed.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Swing Out Sister gig without that song. Yes, you know. "Breakout" had a really nice funk based rendition and was bang on form, and Corinne and Andy mentioned that thirty one years ago today, their debut album "It's Better To Travel" was number one in the album chart. Wow. That made me feel that time had gone by in a flash to be perfectly honest. We also got a lovely bright version of "Notgonnachange" before then really raising the roof with a storming version of "Twilight World" which really had both Corinne and backing singer Mim Grey really being gorgeously in harmony. And that was a lovely way to round off the evening.

I had a nice walk back to Covent Garden tube station with Twilight World in my head, resisting the urge to sing the "ba ba ba ba, ba ba, ba ba baaaa baaaaaaaaaaaaaa" part at the end of one section but instead just having a grin on my face, and thinking what a nice evening it all was. I for one definitely am looking forward to the fact that there will be more tour dates, as Corinne mentioned, and if it's anywhere near Manchester for me and The Love In My Heart, we will so be there.

Tuesday 22nd May - Manchester Together

Today, for many reasons, felt a rather poignant day all round. It was one year since the terrorist attack at Manchester Arena that left an indelible scar on those that were there, and one which was just so awful to have unfold on that fateful night. Words still fail me as to why anyone would want to attack those who were out to see one of their heroines perform and give joy and happiness in abundance, then to be met by the awful sadness of what resulted on that night.

My thoughts have been with my home city all day, and thinking of how wonderful my city is, how as a strong and defiant city how everyone pulls together through all the things that make me proud to be Mancunian, a strength of character, a togetherness, a spirit, a community and all wonderfully weaved with the inspirational music that this city produces. It has heart, it has soul and above anything else it has life, and that ethic will never be taken away, not by anyone, not by any terrorists, not by anyone who wishes to be evil, and certainly not as the city as a whole will stand together as one, showing that defiance and spirit.

So naturally I had my own pause at 2.30pm for the moment's silence, and found a space to be alone. Work wasn't commemorating it despite it being a national silence (and shame on them for not doing so to be honest) and it gave me the chance to think of those less fortunate and those who were thinking of those lost. I know that the city isn't defined by this - not at all, and I'd rather define the city with how that togetherness shone through, with Ariana Grande herself being one of the beacons of light in the darkness. Her thoughts are with us too today, and even if you're not a fan of her music, we should all be a fan of her as a person for her embodiment of the Mancunian spirit.

Seeing the musical performances in Albert Square on BBC News tonight really brought home how much together the city is, and how much that the spirit is unbreakableand present in abundance. All throughout the night, I thought of Oasis' "Don't Look Back In Anger" and how that song became almost even more anthemic last year, and definitely tune of the day for me. Somehow it just feels right to have that blasting out of the speakers tonight really.

I do feel though too that there's a desire for me to want to be up there even more now if at all possible, and certainly having The Love In My Heart with me in all of that is hugely important. When I do head up and spend time with her and in my city, it feels even more like home and there's a real sense of only if there was a job that paid similar to what I am doing now, I'd happily head back there in a heartbeat. However the realist knows for the moment that isn't happening, but it won't stop me adoring my city and living life in it when I'm there to its fullest. Born a Mancunian, always a Mancunian.

Monday 21st May - Planning Ahead (Unless You're GTR)

Plenty for me to get on with today, so wanted to try and get all the necessary changes raised that I need to raise in good course and in good time - some of which I wanted to get sorted before my holiday, some I am planning to after as well. However it would make a lot of common sense for me to be able to plan all of this and so had a thought process in place as to what to do when. In fact, I worked on getting those raised and it worked pretty well actually - it meant that everyone knows of those changes and when they'll be happening and why. It's always sensible to plan.

Well you'd think someone would have told both Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and Northern Rail that don't you? It was the first week of the new timetables and after hearing some news of cancellations on a Sunday it didn't bode well for the Monday. In fact I was able to board a train but it was standing room only all the way to London Bridge at minimum, where a fair number piled off and then it was a little bit quieter as it headed through the core towards Farringdon. Interestingly, it did seem that less people were going there then when they went via Blackfriars and not London Bridge. Wonder why that was...

But anyway, it transpired later in the day that GTR finally admitted to one of the BBC London journalists that they had a shortage of drivers that were route trained, most notably in the routes that they've taken over from elsewhere (such as the London Bridge to Rainham section from Southeastern, ironically also a Govia company.) You would think that a bit of cross-company working together would have been the order of the day wouldn't you? Apparently not.

But, there's something far worse lurking out there for GTR customers. It's their new "Pit Stop" staff manual for handling dwell time at stations and getting trains off promptly as soon as possible. In a document that made my blood boil reading it in full (which you can read for yourself via the Association of British Commuters, and I urge you to do so) it effectively states, categorically, "Do not attempt to place PRM (person of reduced mobility) on train if there is a possibility of delaying the service". It makes no mention of saying if all passengers are late, do not allow them to board (which would be the same for everyone) and singles out those who may need extra time to board with suitable assistance, and in all cases probably there a lot earlier than most passengers to ensure that they are able to get some assistance also.

It's a disgrace that we treat one in five people in this country so badly - that's an approximate figure of those who have some form of disability. And whilst those may not all be wheelchair users, they could be blind, deaf, have a mental illness, and so on, and would also need assistance just as much. This type of policy should never have passed via the rail regulator (really, the ORR need to grow a pair here and start showing some proper regulatory teeth) and it's just appallingly bad. Such things should not exist in this day and age and yet there appears to be an increase of this activity with them (and the DfT should equally hold their heads in shame too.) With that in mind, tune of the day is "The Problem" by KMFDM. Check the words out, but in effect the problem is the system, and the system is the problem...

Sunday 20th May - Afternoon Tea and Ale

It was a nice relaxing morning with The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat, and Brian was happy to play outside and be able to chase the sound of the birds in the trees and also take in the early morning sunshine as it rose. We did though hear the sound of drums, and plenty of them, and this was down to the fact that this year's Great Manchester Run had a half marathon running too: they went from Deansgate down Mancunian Way and some roads to the Etihad Stadium and then back to the city centre and to rejoin what is the 10K route later. You could just hear the drum beat as everyone went past.

Still, with that all done by lunchtime, it was off on the tram into the city centre and first off to The Bank pub on Mosley Street to meet with a couple of friends for the afternoon, with the St Austell Skipper ale being the beer of choice initially. It was nice to catch up and chatter for a while, and as the waves of the Great Manchester Run was on, we needed to be sure we got around the back of where all the start waves were, and it meant that we were able to head to the Townhouse Hotel for 2pm, where afternoon tea was to be ours.

The Love had had a voucher from Wowcher given to her as a lovely birthday present, meaning afternoon tea for four and a sparkling one at that, so a glass of prosecco to go with the afternoon tea. There were a few groups with the same voucher so suspect that it was a popular deal to entice people. As the hotel is close to where the start waves walk down for the run, we could see them all walking down and indeed some Manchester classics were being played outside including New Order's classic True Faith (so make that one tune of the day).

The dishes came out and it was an afternoon tea with a selection of small sandwiches, some nice little cakes on top and at the bottom some scones and clotted cream. It wasn't say as plentiful as other afternoon teas we had had before, but it was nice enough and we enjoyed it all plus some coffee to go with it, and it was really nice to have the small lemon cake plus the scone especially (jam first of course!) and that went down nicely. All the start waves for the run had finished and the cleanup operation was already commencing as we left the hotel and went back to The Bank for a while.

One thing we had noted was that they had bottles of St Austell ale behind the bar with a notice that you could buy them - not only to drink now but also to take home, which one of our friends duly did later. I had the Ruby Jack ale and that was very red and very fruity too, a nice mix overall and certainly flavoursome, and the Mena Dhu stout was obviously tempting as you can't normally get that either. But being able to have them for a mere £2.50 each was a veritable bargain and that for me was a really good thing - I was so tempted to take some home myself to be honest...

Saturday 19th May - Wedding, Wining and Dining

The Love In My Heart was going to be glued to the telly for the Royal Wedding during today, but I did have some gift vouchers to spend and decided that going into the centre of Manchester whilst all the build up and arrival of guests was a good idea, assuming that the city centre would be a quieter place. And my hunch was right: no one was around the city around 9.30am or so, and that meant I could leisurely head around the shops without any disturbances or queues of people. It actually made a lot of sense because I wanted to get some more clothes for the holiday.

First stop was TK Maxx as I had a gift card for there, and as I browsed around, I saw a nice pair of Ben Sherman jeans, and in my size, for not much more than the value of the gift card. Easily done, so one purchase and use of gift card later, and they were mine. I did then walk through the Arndale Centre to HMV and as the gift card was for £15, and that some of the chart albums were two for £15, I managed to get the new albums from both Manic Street Preachers and Blossoms at the same time. Result indeed.

I then walked to Gap on St Ann's Square and managed to get a nice pair of slim fit jeans in there on offer for a mere £15 as well, so that had to be done and that meant I got something nice and new for the holiday, having got three new short sleeved shirts for the birthday as presents. Sounds daft but it's always nice to get something new when there's a holiday in the offing. I did as well stop off at the Virgin Money Lounge for a coffee and a nice relaxing break before then heading back on the tram to The Love's place, armed with a bottle of prosecco for the right moment later.

So the Royal Wedding was starting and so I ended up seeing it and being quiet for The Love so she could listenm and watch. Actually, although not a Royalist or anything like that, I think having that priest go on for so long was interesting, and having a gospel choir singing "Stand By Me" so well (tune of the day is the Ben E. King classic, it stands the test of time well) but also the fact that it certainly was a very different ceremony, less pomp and circumstance but more about inclusion and equality, having nominated members of the public to be invited to the best views inside the castle, and the masses along the Long Walk getting the view of the couple as their carriage went past. We had a glass of prosecco to celebrate as the bride and groom kissed on the steps and all was well.

We later had been to see The Love's father and sorted out the hanging baskets in the garden, but also had a good natter with The Love's sister too before then heading back to The Love's place and getting ourselves ready to go out later on. We had booked The Midland in Marple Bridge and wanted to celebrate a few things with a nice meal, and so we were heading off on the tram to Manchester Piccadilly and then on the Northern train to Marple, which was typically Northern as a train - a dirty diesel, not that clean and a mere two carriages. But still we got there okay.

And we proceeded to have a lovely meal together. It was all nice to relax in there, and have a nice drink, and the mushroom starter I had was nice, as was The Love's little lamb koftas. She had the spit roasted chicken for the main which looked plentiful with a nice flavour, and I had the chorizo, crab and prawn linguine, really nice tasting and the pasta soft and gorgeous. For me, this was enough alone but then having a coffee with a small piece of cheesecake as a dessert was just heavenly. The Love and I had a lovely time together and she looked gorgeous in her blue top.

We then had a drink in the bar before heading back to Marple station and in good time for the 2136 departure back to Manchester Piccadilly and once back at The Love's place, we had a drink and I watched some of the tribute night to John Motson on BBC Two that was earlier, including Motty Mastermind where he hosted and four contestants including Alex Scott and Jonathan Pearce gave answers to footy questions, and then the best commentary moments of Motty in countdown. They were both really good and it was a nice end to a rather lovely day all round.

Friday 18th May - Chinese and Clucking

It was nice to have some relatively nice weather to be outside in during the lunch break at work, but also because I knew it would be a nice start to a weekend and heading up North again. During the day I spent a fair bit of time being able to work on a number of related things to do with ServiceNow, so got some announcements up and running for the training courses to hopefully make it easier for staff to notice and book them, but also that in fact we could utilise that in other ways for announcements and have it link to news articles and knowledge bases too.

I also had managed to do some further testing on the HP BIOS updates for the mini desktops we have: so 12 out of 12 mini desktops located near me were all updated successfully with the new version which means that in terms of hardware they have the relevant version to deal with Meltdown and Spectre etc, so all good there. I'll be looking at a further planned roll out of this but good in the meantime to make sure that everything was right and working as intended first, and that the hardware inventory showed what it should afterwards. Always good when you're able to do a controlled test I think.

It was good too that I think that I've been able to get a few things all out of the way prior to me going off for a week from next Friday and I can see that the hard work I've put in is starting to pay off slowly but surely, and that for me is always nice. I do like to be able to show that I've put forward some ideas and plans to get things working better, but sometimes you have to look at convincing people that this is the right move and the correct thing to do where possible.

I headed over to Euston later on and the train to Manchester was on time and all good, although it ran behind a bit before it got to Stoke on Trent and played catch up a little to arrive just about on time at Piccadilly. The Love In My Heart was waiting for me and we headed off down to the local Chinese takeaway near her place where the crispy shredded beef in sweet and sour sauce just had to be done - that was all rather nice and tasty to say the least. The Love had the chicken in Kung Po sauce which I tried a bit of and that was also excellent too.

We snuggled with Brian the cat afterwards and watched Gogglebox together: they had to comment on Eurovision which meant enduring that horrid winning entry from Israel again together with all the chicken clucking parts of the song - dear me, how awful. It was good to see that the families had a range of stuff to comment on but I suspect some were recordings because they were commenting on Eurovision and Britain's Got Talent, which as anyone knows is on at the same time. Still, good stuff, so Kodaline's theme to Gogglebox is tune of the day - it just works so well.

Thursday 17th May - The Puzzle of the Small Font

One of the things I had noticed both in the development and live instances of ServiceNow was that in the most part, the font is nice and readable across everything, which is all good. One exception that was noticeable and one we do use a lot is the journal of previous work notes and comments etc. This normally works pretty well and we're able to see all of that but since upgrading the font has appeared small. I've looked into the CSS and all of that refers to styles and documents etc, but that only alters some of the existing fields we knew would be alterable anyway.

I did a bit of further reading into this and it appears that it all relates to the way that the additional comments and like are as part of a "journal" which is an audited trail of the call if you like (understandable in that sense) and the whole formatting is related to the card based way that the UX has been designed so that you can have dynamic content. All well and good in that sense, I get that, but not being able to change the font so it's anything but pitifully small? Not particularly the nicest thing there to be honest.

I did find a couple of workarounds, one each for Chrome and Firefox, where you effectively make the minimum font size (in pt) for display at 13px, and that ties up everything nicely so that the contents of those cards are the same font size as the remainder. That does work but it is a workaround, and realistically, having also fired up a developer fresh instance just to check, it looks like it is by design. Not good. In fact the main reason for that is that there's underlying CSS as part of the main rendering CSS code which sets some of that content to 12px size, thus making it look smaller.

If I use the content inspector and use that to modify the cssx temporarily to see how it looks, taking the font size out is actually enough to make it look normal, but that has to be done in a few places, so definitely appears to have been done by design. But that design is... not so great. I'm going to experiment a bit more maybe on this but definitely for me it wouldn't have been rocket science to actually not specify a font size at all, or even better have a system variable to make that customisable in the form itself.

Anyway, more on that as I find stuff out, but in the meantime I took the time out to listen to the recent album by The Breeders, "All Nerve", and it's rather good. It's just a shame they're playing live when I'm not even here, but I am sure that it'll be rather good to be able to see them at some point. The title track is ace, so tune of the day that definitely is, and I can see this growing on me over the next few weeks as I listen to it more over time. Isn't it great when you can listen to some lovely music and take it easy?

Wednesday 16th May - How Did This Happen?

Free gigs, I like. Free gigs that have good music, I like even more. So when I'd heard that New York art rock collective Bodega were playing at the Lock Tavern in Camden and tickets were free, I managed to get that all sorted a few weeks ago which meant that it was going to be a nice freebie and another different venue that I'll have seen a gig in London in (I count this currently at my 26th different venue!) so that was good. I had had a good day at work checking over everything ServiceNow and prepping for all the necessary BIOS updates needed for the regional office kit, and so was good to head out of work feeling all good.

In fact I headed Southbound first of all and got the train from work to Elephant and Castle, for two main reasons: first of all, there's a good and much cheaper than the one near work Wetherspoons, that I used to go in when I used to work in Elephant and Castle, and on top of that, it's nice to see how the place is developing since I left working there. One thing still hasn't changed though: the station is abysmally bad. Seriously. And then you have the contrast of the gentrification and new flats with a large Sainsburys at the bottom of it.. contrasts indeed. Nonetheless a nice panini and Black Sheep Pathmaker can of ale were mine for a good low price (and a posh glass for the ale too) so that was all sorted.

It was then to the Northern Line station and on to the tube terminating at Golders Green which was on the right Edgware Branch of the Northern Line to be on, no faffing at Euston or Camden Town, straight up to Chalk Farm and off there for the gig. In fact it was a good walk past the Roundhouse and down the street to the Lock Tavern, a pub The Love In My Heart and I have been to before when we've been to Camden Market and escaped the madness around Camden itself. True to form, their real ale was still good and reasonably priced for London prices (£4.20 for a Calendonia Pale, decent too). It was nice so I sat in the beer garden at the back and had a chatter to The Love at the same time.

It was upstairs to the venue part - basically part of the upstairs bar and seating area is a tiny stage with everyone around it. And in due time, the support act H. Grimace came on first. They actually weren't too bad either, a good set of songs with the lead vocals and guitar of Hannah Gledhill really underpinning everything nicely, with good drums as well. They really did set the tone well for the night, and tracks such as "Royal Hush" were a good listen. Definitely worth me checking further methinks, and that was good. I headed outside into the upstairs beer garden for some fresh air and got a pint, and by the time it was all set for Bodega, it was absolutely packed.

And, with very good reason. Bodega (Tumblr site) (Bandcamp) were excellent to say the least. Two of the mic stands had old school corded mice wrapped around them, and some tracks had introductions with speech from computers, very arty I know. But crucially, the songs were nice and fast paced, lots of interactivity with the crowd and the band, and with Trix Belfigio doing vocals and percussion, and the fab Montana Simone on drums, the percussive force really underpinned the whole suite nicely. You have Ben Hozie up front with the guitar and vocals, a super cool bassist in Heather Elle, and crunching guitars from Madison Velding-Vandam to boot. All of that is a recipe for enjoyable fun, and fun it most definitely was. Not least as the fast paced set meant lots of songs.

And naturally as part of that, "How Did This Happen?" got a massive rousing reception, and tune of the day for me - and possibly single of the year for this year at the moment. Not just that, but the likes of "Jack In Titanic" really showed their slower side too, with something right out of the classic indie shoegazer feel. Another highlight for me was "Can't Knock The Hustle" which really sounded anthemic also. One nice song too was "Williamsburg Bridge" which Ben mentioned about the bridge being near to him - quite a nice story all round that was. All in all, really good fun, and it was a little warm inside the venue but all good nonetheless.

Tuesday 15th May - Upgrading

I spent a bit of time in the evening actually doing some work from home, but for a very very good reason. It was the day that we would do our upgrade in ServiceNow to the new all shiny Kingston version, and so I'd performed some final testing today to make sure that we knew that everything on our development instance was going to perform the right way and be stable for us going forward. In a good way I'd documented a lot of extra things that we'd managed to set that was different from the original, and so I had a nice list of easy wins that we would implement accordingly.

So it was a good day checking that, rolling out some Dell BIOS updates and testing they all worked properly (which they all did, so all good there) and really getting stuck in to lots of stuff moving forward. I know we'll have a lot more to do in the next few months or so, but the good thing is that we've actually pulled together a lot and are cracking on with plenty in the meantime. I even decided to have a nice walk during the lunch break and that was good to sit in the reasonably nice weather whilst doing so.

So I got home and the new She Makes War single had arrived too, so good to get that blasting out of the speakers on the hi-fi. Especially as realistically the two track single should be a double A-side, her cover of Culture Club's classic "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?" is ace, and really has a nice rocking out feel whilst still having plenty of emotion, so tune of the day there. Even better though was the fact that the other song is "I Want My Country Back", my favourite song of 2017 and one that hugely still resonates with me now to be perfectly honest. Get your fake news from the Daily Hate indeed...

I logged on remotely, and our external contact at Accenture had done his bit and informed me and the Service Delivery Manager that the job was in effect done, so all good there. I then ran through a number of checks and made sure that all was okay from the point of view of incidents, other types of call etc. Once done it was then good to get some immediate successes implemented, so hide the shopping cart on the service portal (we don't use or need it), make the two step standard change process a reality (much better) and a few other niceties that we wanted to get thrown in too.

All in all, that did mean I could then kick back and relax a little, but nice to see that all the planning was coming to fruition and for me the first major upgrade we've done to ServiceNow since we've started using it back in late 2016. The good news is that it all has appeared to go well so far and no doubt I'll be able to introduce some more nice features as I learn more about the back end and developer side, which is such an embryonic thing, but in a good way. I suppose too extra skills are always useful...

Monday 14th May - KMFDM Rocks

It was good to spend some time tonight playing some of my new CDs which lovely people had got me as birthday presents, meaning some nice music to listen to and blast out of the speakers whilst doing some writing and catching up with people on the phone, which is all good. The Kraftwerk 3-D album was first, essentially sections from all eight studio albums which they'd played on their 3-D tours over the years, really nicely put together as a single CD live set, which does at least give you the impression of being at one of their live gigs. For me, the likes of Numbers and Computer World together, especially with the 3-D graphics still works really well, and that was a highlight of when The Love In My Heart and I saw them live at Manchester Velodrome back in 2009.

It was then on to the two Blancmange albums that The Love had got me, and they were both excellent too, as I'd expect because I'd heard a number of tracks live when I saw the band in March this year. From the Semi-Detached album the epic opener of "The Fall" is superb, and Neil Arthur's vocals are awesome for this. Of course only being a Northerner can you get away with calling a track "Bloody Hell Fire" of course, but there you go. It's very much a more electronic feel than even their classic stuff, but that's no bad thing in my view.

Their "Unfurnished Rooms" album continues that electronic trend, and one that was only released last year complete with excellent vocals and a quite darker use of electronica, especially with the likes of "Anna Dine" and "We Are The Chemicals" along the way. There's still some rather good single contender moments such as the excellent "Gratitude" though as well, so they haven't forgotten that element either. And with a new album out this year too, it's almost as if they're more productive now than they were in the 80s. Funny how that often works when a bad reforms too.

It was then on to "Rocks: Milestones Reloaded" by KMFDM, which definitely for me was one I'd been looking forward to. Not enough putting together a compilation of some of their classic songs throughout the years, but to actually remake or remix them all for that album shows a lot of creativity. Of course my all time favourite is "A Drug Against War" and it was given suitable treatment here, and I remembered too that this was the version used for downloadable content for Rock Band 2 (I'm the top all time scorer on the Wii on this song!) and so that's tune of the day naturally, and it still rocks as ever.

In fact, the other highlight is "(Still) Sucks" which is a re-do of their classic "Sucks" single but still having the main core components of them taking the mickey out of themselves (in fact the line "We hate Depeche Mode" had people think KMFDM stood for Kill Mother ****ing Depeche Mode, a fact ironically quoted by them in "Kunst" the title track of said album and also present here, which also rocks. Spot the quotes from other KMFDM songs and albums in that one (and there's lots!) and the whole thing is just ace, and a near as perfect intro to what the band is about for those who haven't heard of them, and you really should.

Sunday 13th May - Centurions

It was nice to have a relaxing morning in with The Love In My Heart, although Brian the cat was insistent on wanting a play out, and more of a play out a lot of the time, as is his want. In fact he decided to just want to purr loudly until one of us got up so he could head outside and take in the fresh air, listen to the birds and look out for the tabby cat, who had come the night before and cue lots of hissing from Brian for obvious reasons. Still, it was good to get everything all nicely sorted and be ready for later.

We headed up the M61 later on and it was off to meet The Love's two sisters and father and head to an event that they generally attend each year as a thing that one of the local hospices have. It's one of those moments to pause and reflect really, and that is always something which touches me. They do have a guitarist and singer with some gentle songs that really do make things all warm and together too, and I think for The Love it's nice to be able to bring me along and make an effort to support her as much as I know she cares for me and supports me too.

Later on we headed off to what was the Hartwood Hall and which is now Goodwin's, and it's actually not too bad in there - The Love and I had been there before ourselves. I had the chicken and mushroom pie with mash and vegetables and I'm pleased to report that it was a proper pie, and it tasted rather lovely too, which was good. The Love had the brewer's chicken, her father the small fish and chips which was anything but tiny, and it was very nice all round. It was just good to have a nice natter and catch up with everyone and it was nice and relaxed on the whole.

Later on The Love and I headed back towards Manchester in good time to make sure I'd get my 1735 train back to Euston, and in the meantime, I had the Radio Manchester commentary on of the Manchester City game. Try as we might, we couldn't score but eventually right at the death the commentators went mental as Gabriel Jesús was fed a through ball from Kevin de Bruyne and he did the rest to score, and I went a little bit happy in the car as it was 1-0 with virtually the last kick. That was 100 points for City in a single Premier League season,so pretty mental that really.

In fact it was one of a number of records broken by the City team this season (cue Roy Castle's classic version of the Record Breakers theme and understandably tune of the day) - and plenty of them too: most number of wins in a top flight season (32), eclipsing even Tottenham's record from 1960-61, most number of goals in a Premier League season (106), most number of points (100), least time in minutes losing during a season (around 150), largest winning margin over second place (19) to name but a few of them. Impressive stuff and that sent me on the way home all happy.

Saturday 12th May – Platform 5 and Eurovision

The Love In My Heart and I pottered around the flat and allowed Brian the cat a chance to play out and have a bit of fresh air, whilst we were just fairly relaxed, looked up a couple of series on Netflix for The Love to watch (her new Blu-Ray player has the app so she can watch that on her telly now which is good) – and then we were able to also get ourselves ready and sorted for being out later in the day. It was going to be a nice relaxed day and a meal involved too, so nice of The Love to put on her black bird top from Warehouse which I had got her for her birthday, she does look gorgeous in it!

We took the tram from her tram stop into Manchester Piccadilly and then from there the train to Cheadle Hulme, which is very close to the Platform 5 pub where we’d be heading for lunch later on. In fact The Love and I had got a ticket not everyone knows about – the combined tram and train ticket, so you can go from any tram stop to certain train stations in a Railzone (as they call it) and pay one combined price, which is always cheaper than getting the tickets separately. Case in point: return tram ticket to Piccadilly - £3.20, return train ticket from Piccadilly to Cheadle Hulme - £5.60. Combined ticket for both - £5.80. No brainer really..

We had got there earlier than expected so we actually had a walk around a few shops including Homebird, which we always pass on the train heading to and from London (more so me when I pass it going homewards.) It was actually really nice inside and also had a good selection of cards, which we’ll note for future, and some lovely chairs, cushions and home stuff, so definitely one to come into again if I fancy a new armchair or something like that. That was nice in the afternoon and once done we headed to Platform 5, had a nice pint of mild outside and then headed in to meet with our friends for a nice chat and meal.

And that was exactly what it was really – a lovely time all round. Plenty of chatter, and lots of lovely food. In fact it was good because we had a quiet table by the window and that just allowed us all time to get on with things. I had the garlic mushrooms to start, The Love had the teriyaki chicken skewers, and one of our friends had the garlic bread with Lancashire cheese, plenty of it too! For the main everyone apart from me had the fish and chips and that looked spot on, especially the size of the fish, and I had the sausages and mash which was also gorgeous – lots of good sausages, quality mash and vegetables. Lovely. In fact so was the sticky toffee pudding that I had for dessert too, definitely good.

My friends had been more than kind (really, they spoiled me!) and I ended up with some lovely gifts, including the New Order live NOMC15 double CD, the CD and DVD of KMFDM’s “Rocks: Milestones Reloaded” singles collection (some remixed and reimagined) and also Kraftwerk’s 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 3D which were live tracks from their shows accordingly. Nice. And two short sleeved shirts too, one Helly Hansen one and another from Jack and Jones – I’d seen them both online at Sports Direct but they both were good, so nice that they did that – to be honest the CDs would have been more than enough.

The Love and I headed off homeward and stopped at Asda on the way to get some nibbles for later and then fussed over Brian the cat (we’d got him some Dreamies and dry food so he was happy) and then we settled in for the evening after watching Ninja Warrior to endure the annual cheese fest that is Eurovision. We thought it’d be good fun to at least watch it and see how bad it is, and there were some awful songs I admit. I did though quite like the Lithuanian entry (nice whispery voice over piano song which was lovely) and also the Hungarian entry which was full on Skipknot inspired metal, quite different for that really.

Of course the controversy had to happen during Britain’s entry, with SuRie belting out her song “Storms” which she was doing a really good job of, but then someone decided to invade the stage, take the mic from her hand, belt out some crap from his mouth before then being tackled by security. What was more concerning was that he could have been a terrorist or something, what would have happened then I wonder? Whoever that idiot was, I hope he feels the full force of Portugese law and is imprisoned for a long time. That said, the way SuRie carried on was a credit to her performance and guile and for that reason alone her song is tune of the day.

Inevitably, it was a case of when the judging happened, none of the national juries were that in favour of us as per usual, with only the likes of Latvia, Italy and Israel giving us any points. We did fare better in the people’s telephone voting but even that was only enough for us to finish 24th. Israel won, with their song “Toy” which featured a woman doing a chicken dance with some Chinese inspiration in the background including those nodding figures with arms, and for some reason everyone loved it in the public. Meh. The only good thing was that Italy’s song got a superb public vote and the song had a serious message, delivered well, and I’d have liked that to win. The Love’s friend had tweeted agreement that the Israel song was awful, but that’s Eurovision for you…

Friday 11th May – Long Day But A Good End

It was understandably a long day, primarily as I’d put a remediation plan in place to revert the software that we’d attempted to deploy yesterday and set it back to the older version. All the testing had worked and indeed on a fair number of PCs that deployment had worked. It hadn’t worked on some of them though and I was a bit curious as to why, especially when I know that the process at least had worked. So, I was able to look at some example machines and carry out some further investigation. One thing I spotted straight away was that one of the main files of the software was missing, yet shouldn’t be, but a reinstall showed that the service concerned failed to reinstall, not so good either.

However, that then led me to a couple of things. First of all, the detection method for the application has that executable and version being present part of the rule, and also part of the rule for removal in the task sequence I’d created to uninstall. I could change the task sequence to do that and that would at least ensure an uninstall first. But then I hit the nail squarely on the head. It was to do with our anti virus software. It seems that a definition update had then decided that the executable concerned was some form of malware, which wasn’t good, and therefore meant that it had been quarantined and stripped out – and hadn’t done that till yesterday. Coincidence yes, but still..

I got my line manager who looks after that side to add as an exception, as he agreed with my findings, and then once that was done, I amended the task sequence to detect another file being present so that the uninstall would work followed by a reinstall. The good news was that when I tried that on two unused machines, it all worked, all the files were back and the services they ran were also back too. Nice. In fact as my line manager was working from home I ensured the machine he was using was also sorted so he could be up and running on the Monday, so mightily pleased with that also.

I felt good about that and so was worth staying in work a little longer before then heading off to Euston Square and on to the Crown and Anchor for a well earned drink. In fact it was good just to chill out with some nice music although I could have done without a couple close by in their early fifties who were all over each other, and I mean touching everywhere, hand sliding up the woman’s dress, that sort of thing. Get a room, seriously! I don’t mind kisses, holding hands, nice little public affection displays as love is a lovely thing, but one line there was crossed massively.

It was then on to Euston for the 1800 train and that was stuck for a little bit as the train slowed to pass one at Watford Junction where a passenger had been taken ill, but it was nice to be able to chill out more with some tunes and that was good to just have them on, including Nine Inch Nails, Gary Numan, and Swing Out Sister, which ace tune “Which Wrong Is Right?” is tune of the day – it has such a film soundtrack feel to it and I just thought it was the nicest thing to listen to as the countryside sped past, and still in daylight too. I also knew that I’d be heading to see The Love In My Heart and that was a good thing.

At Manchester Piccadilly The Love came to collect me, and once we were all good, it was off to my Mum’s, where she made us a coffee and we had a nice chat. She had warned me that she was decorating but everything was all good, and was so nice to see her and have a good natter anyway. She did hand me her present and card (I had asked for Euros for holiday, so she got me some) as well as Euros from my youngest sister and a nice card, and my brother had got me a Track and Field style controller which would fit my Atari 2600 and Commodore 64 to play those joystick waggling games – he had tried to get me the game for the Atari as well but that was just too expensive (£50 for the NTSC version!!) but the controller was more than enough really.

We then headed back to The Love’s place where Brian the cat was wanting his fussing and love, as per usual, and it was nice to relax with some telly together. In fact The Love had given me some lovely presents from her family – more Euros for the holiday, some nice real ales, Paddington 2 on Blu-Ray and so on. All lovely. The Love excelled herself with some lovely presents and a gorgeous card – not only the cat one that arrived at mine yesterday but a cute one of Kermit the Frog looking out on the horizon of a lake. Awww. She had got me two CDs by Blancmange (their most recent two, Semi-Detached and Unfurnished Rooms) and also a gorgeous mug from the Fur Cats shop in Chorlton, which I’ll use as my mug here at The Love’s place, it’s lovely. And on top of that a really nice short sleeved Jack Wolfskin shirt which will be great for holiday too, so was massively pleased. The Love is so good when it comes to things like this and I’m really happy that she always makes a great effort for me – tells me a heck of a lot. Thank you so much, my love!

Thursday 10th May - Another Year Older

It's my birthday today, and that does make me another year older, and shall we say it was a mixed day of things really. Yesterday was pretty nice as I'd brought in some doughnuts etc at work and was able to at least give everyone a sweet nice tasty treat and be able to share the occasion a bit, so that was nice. What was actually nicer too was that this morning I opened the cards I'd had in the post, and one was from my friend, and the other was from The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat, with all cute little cartoon cat pictures on the front, which The Love had got from the lovely Fur Cats shop in Chorlton!

I was working from home today and it was a case of being able to have to spend most of the day sorting two things out: one was more pressing though and it ended up taking some time to analyse what had gone on and get a remediation plan sorted out. In effect a deployment of a piece of software was planned to go out, and all the testing showed that everything was indeed working correctly and working as intended. However, it looked like unfortunately that the deployment to the PCs (even though I'd deployed it to normal PCs too) had failed, and that was causing some issues.

I analysed what had gone on and found that for some reason, even though the installation should work, it was exiting out due to something that it was attempting to install not playing well, a driver that the software actually uses. I did an uninstall and then rolled back to the previous version after an initial restart, did the install of the older version, and restarted again to be sure, and surprise surprise, it actually did what it was supposed to do and work properly! So clearly for some reason it wasn't liking some of the Windows 10 builds for some reason even though they're technically the same.

With that in mind, what I decided to do was formulate a plan of action and task sequence which would effectively check if either version (old or new) was installed, remove it, then do a restart, reinstall the previous version, then do a restart. This actually worked really well in practice and that showed that not only had I managed to analyse things properly but come up with something to sort it out, so that was at least something. I'd also spent most of the day working with. I also managed to sort out a difficult issue well with a member of staff at another office, and some careful liaison worked well.

I did note later that today's post had arrived, and that meant that I was able to open some more cards and presents - nice of that to happen. My uncle, auntie and sister had all sent me a birthday card and a gift card inside, so that was nice to be able to have something to open and enjoy. In fact later on I had a nice drink of the St Austell Proper Black ale whilst listening to some ace music, including She Makes War's superb "I Want My Country Back" and make that one tune of the day because, like her, it is ACE. So there.

Wednesday 9th May - Sorting Out

It was good to be able to sort plenty of things out today, but primarily I was focussing on testing the BIOS updates that HP had provided for one of their models of mini PCs that we have. Even though they do have an AMD chipset, it didn't necessarily mean that they could well be exploited with vulnerabilities, and so HP like other major manufacturers have been working hard to get reliable updates out. It was good to get hold of them and be able to give them a thorough test.

In fact, that went reasonably well. Of course we know that in essence there'll be some beeps that happen when the BIOS is being updated as HP like to give you some audible warnings, probably just as well as it does appear that nothing happens on screen for part of it. Once the update had sorted itself out and had restarted, it was pretty clear that the new version appeared well, and then doing a hardware inventory scan via SCCM was all good for the future really - but good to see that anyway.

On the side of the Dell desktops, I've been doing them floor by floor in the building we're in so that I can keep track of what is where, and the good news appears to be that everything is pretty much all good for the floor I was distributing today. That does mean that one of the batches of machines are all going to be processed nicely and that also means that we're gradually getting there and making everything nice and secure. And with the laptops getting their updates when they're built, so we're getting those done at the point of deployment, it's really coming together well.

Later on I was able to at least get a reasonable stream of the Manchester City v Brighton and Hove Albion game and watch that. Of course it was Yaya Touré's final game for City, so that was sad really, but at the same time I was able to see that City still played with quality. An excellent finish from Danilo to open the scoring was cancelled out by Leonardo Ulloa's header after a calamitous mistake from Claudio Bravo, but City got back in front after good work from Leroy Sané set up a nice finish from Bernardo Silva, and 2-1 at half time it was.

City then upped the gear second half, and it was a nice move from a corner, again involving Sané and showing just why he was Young Player of the Year, and pulled it back gorgeously for Fernandinho to rifle one home and make it 3-1. Yaya came off to a standing ovation before the end, and then in the post-match presentation his brother (and indeed former City player) Kolo came out, which meant "No Limits" by 2 Unlimited being played (make that tune of the day) as the fans did the classic Kolo / Yaya Touré chant to the same song. All is well with the world there then!

Tuesday 8th May - Fabulous Final

And well, what a World Snooker Championship final it ended up being! It was worth staying up for as the drama of the final loomed larger as the match went on. I had last checked yesterday when out with The Love In My Heart with Mark Williams 14-7 up over John Higgins and thinking "this could be over sooner than I think!" as part of that. In fact Higgins had done well to win the next mini-session 3-1 and by the start of the evening's play be only 15-10 down, still a mountain to climb, but...

And but.. indeed. The Love mentioned it was 15-13 when I arrived in Euston and when I got back home after the mid-session interval the 30th frame was underway, and that proved to be some drama with a nice break from John Higgins making the score level at 15-15. Amazing stuff. Mark Williams went in front with the next frame and then made a century break in the one after that meaning that was the 84th century of the tournament (two shy of the all time record) and that would be one frame from victory.

In the next frame, Mark did a good break and had potted a difficult red, with a pink needed to mean John Higgins needed snookers. He missed, and John cleaned up with one of the best ever clearances ever at the Crucible under pressure to make it 17-16, and that was some effort too. I couldn't begrudge that one bit, anyone who could do that deserves all the praise they got. That was one final effort though as Mark then got enough of a break in the next to get over the line, showing enormous bottle to take some difficult pots on, and that was that and a 18-16 triumph in one of the best finals ever seen (Steve Davis also said it was, and he should know what a good one looks like!)

And true to his word Mark ended up doing his press conference after the match naked! He had joked with journalists before the tournament that he would do so if he won, and fair play to be true to his word. I can only imagine the amount of beer drank and the carnage that the after tournament party would have been, but fair play to him - his wife Jo convinced him to keep playing and now he's world champion, world number three and a mere £425k the richer. Massively pleased for him to be honest.

In the meantime, it was nice to be able to get a fair few things done around planning for the holiday as well today, so had a good chat yesterday with The Love In My Heart about what we could do and have some sensible plans in order. We know we're going to visit certain places but also want to where possible book some things in advance to be able to save the time and queues, and there's one place we both want to visit and it'll be for our anniversary together, so that will be lovely and special. I think too having some useful information in the form of the book I got the other day will help me to work out a sensible plan too.

For us both, and for different reasons, it'll be a holiday that we will both be enjoying, and so that will be good to do. I think too that it's often a case of that gives you the energy to recharge and to evaluate things somewhat, and I'll be doing that with some parts of me (although being with The Love is the one constant which will remain no matter what!) and see where that takes me. Ideally of course it's good to work and progress in the current job of course, but it'd also be nice to have the option of possibly working more often in the Manchester office occasionally, or even look potentially at a way of making things work nicer overall... we shall see. In the meantime tune of the day is the excellent "Everybody's Happy Nowadays" by Buzzcocks, reminds me of pogoing around on indie nights and just enjoying life, as we all should really.

Monday 7th May - Marple Monday

With the sun out and the weather set to be scorchio (a la Fast Show) The Love In My Heart and I thought it best to head out for the afternoon. We were originally going to look at going to Lyme Park for a nice walk around, and so we set off down the A6 through Levenshulme, Heaton Chapel, Stockport and on towards Hazel Grove in The Love's car. Unfortunately, we could see just after the lights in Hazel Grove that actually traffic was at a crawl, meaning it'll do that through High Lane and onwards to the park itself (the entrance normally has bottleneck tailbacks) so we decided to sack it off.

One quick turn around at the Hazel Grove park and ride for the buses later and The Love and I were off on the A627 round the back of Torkington Park, joining the A626 and heading towards the centre of Marple. The Love managed to find a parking space in the Memorial Park and from there it was a nice walk down to the canal path for the Marple Locks. Initially we followed the walk up towards Lock 16 and found the works being done on the top locks there so they were shut off to boats, but still good to see Top Lock House and the start of the Macclesfield Canal along the way.

We walked back down and followed the canal locks down to Lock 9, crossed the road and followed the road that goes towards the Aqueduct park on the other side of the canal, and followed that downhill with the shade and the trees being a nice welcome walk. Once at the bottom, it was then a case of following the canal path up all the locks, and diverted along one of the paths towards Brabyns Park before then heading on a path up and over the railway and back on the canal, then following the canal back to the Memorial Park. Overall a nice stroll and good to spend some time walking together hand in hand.

We then headed back towards Hazel Grove and off to the Fiveways pub for a spot of late lunch. We could have had the carvery but weren't so fussed about that, and so instead had a nice main, alfresco, with a mix of sun and shade for us both. I even had the Bootleg Spin Doctor indie lager for a change that wasn't too bad, and had the Wexford Chicken with some nice topping, and some gorgeously cooked chicken at that - lovely. The Love had the fish and chips which again looked spot on - and, proper plates!! Hurrah! I really don't like that block of wood and slab of slate rubbish to be honest.

It was a sad farewell later as I headed on to the 1735 departure to Euston, but despite the engineering works, the train did arrive a few minutes ahead of proection. This meant that when I got across to Victoria I could just about get the 2022 train to East Grinstead via East Croydon meaning that I got home at a reasonable time and in fact not that far behind normal, so good to make the time up there to be honest. This meant I could settle in and watch the remainder of the World Snooker Championship final (cue proper theme tune "Drag Racer" by the Doug Wood Band being tune of the day). More on that tomorrow...

Sunday 6th May - Typical City

So it was off to the Etihad Stadium with my friend as we knew that today Manchester City were going to lift the Premier League title with the chance to break some records along the way if we were to play well and beat Huddersfield Town. However, there was a subplot to this in that Huddersfield needed points where possible to avoid the drop and so were going to be battling for their lives where possible. City in the meantime looked like it was a day in the very warm sunshine and with Man U losing at Brighton on Friday night, a chance too to actually increase the lead overall.

With the weather all set fair my 1989 home retro shirt was on and all looked good as we headed up to the ground, and once inside it was time for our customary pre-match brew and natter. The side looked decent enough and it was a case of being able to head out and see how the team would perform. All the seats had a flag and before kick off these were waved to have a stripe of sky blue and white all around the home sections of the ground which looked pretty good really.

Let's just say that the match was instantly forgettable, and a case of both Huddersfield sticking ten men behind the ball at most times, inviting City to come at them, but City couldn't break them down. It was the same in both halves really and Huddersfield could have even snatched a late winner only for the save from Ederson, and indeed City did everything but score and break their defence down. I suspect that had it mattered more in terms of the context of the title, we may have gone more hell for leather with attacking options, but with the job done it wasn't necessarily a risk worth taking. A 2-0 win though would have seen three records broken, so would have been good. Typical City really.

What was less typical was when we got back to my friend's car and found that the right rear wheel had deflated - it had looked a bit down when he parked up but was completely down now. He rang up the RAC to get that sorted, but I waited with him in case there was any need for assistance. In fact I did spot in the rear boot of the car that there is a puncture kit including an air gun that plugs in the 12v socket and allows for a tyre to be inflated, and on top of that some liquid gel stuff to be used with it, but the RAC bloke arrived quickly, and after me negotiating with the car park security, we got it sorted in the end. My friend had unknowingly ran over a screw left on the road, the pointed part had gone right into the wheel and caused the puncture.

With that all sorted, The Love and I headed off later into Ashton-under-Lyne and to a birthday party that we'd both been invited to. It was really nice actually, the hot and cold buffet had the right mix and amount of food for everyone, and on top of that, the drinks were reasonably priced. What was also a nice bonus was that a couple of people who I used to work with a few years back were also there, and one of whom knows The Love (primarily from us both being at gigs together) so it was definitely nice to sit and have a good natter and catch up whilst listening to some good tunes, including a nice rendition of Scouting For Girls' "She's So Lovely" and so that's tune of the day - primarily as The Love looked gorgeous in her light green dress.

Saturday 5th May - Sunshine Saturday

Well, who would have thought it, a Sunny Saturday for the bank holiday in Manchester? But that's exactly what we were going to get, and Brian the cat was attempting to locate some shade as he tends to get quite warm with his fur on - his little blue play tent is just the thing for him to hide, and later in the day the decked balcony at the front of The Love In My Heart's place is in the shade, so means he can play out, watch the birds, and keep cool at the same time with a nip back into the flat for a drink of water or some Dreamies, as he does. He did look all cute and snuggly this morning though.

We headed off to the Asda first of all primarily to get some bits of shopping for The Love's father, whom we were visiting later. Once that was sorted it was over to his place, and The Love's sister was there too, and we ended up for the most part being sat in the front garden with the deckchairs out. It was nice enough with a cold drink to do so, and later on I headed up to sort out a couple of queries on his PC, so sorted out a reset of his Internet Banking password and then he realised his memorable word had been spelt wrong, hence he wasn't getting a log on. I sorted that too as well as scanned in an old picture and printed it out A4, and put a desktop shortcut to the bowls website he often uses (and added it to favourites too.)

From there it was over to John Lewis in Cheadle, for a nice and worthwhile purchase primarily for The Love, and for two reasons, one of which was due to a nice recent change in circumstances, but also as a bit of an advance anniversary present too. Her DVD player had finally packed in and wasn't playing anything, and she'd also subscribed to Netflix but wanted something capable of playing that (sadly the NowTV box doesn't have it or else that would have made the choices different.) What I did manage to see and checked prices online beforehand was a Sony Blu-Ray player which would still play all the DVDs of course but also have wireless built in and apps which included Netflix (the remote control even has a dedicated button!) - and it was price matched, so all good and purchased with no issues.

On the way back home it was a welcome stop off at The Gateway pub in East Didsbury, and we got a seat outside so The Love could soak up the sun and I could relax with a nice drink. In fact later on I tried the alcohol free Erdinger, and actually it wasn't bad at all, and was even served to me with a posh glass. Result. The Love had a nice cold drink too and it was good just to rest and relax for a bit together and chatter for a good while. I think too that we're both enjoying the fact that our weekends are quality weekends and that makes a big difference overall.

We got back to The Love's place later and once Brian the cat was fed and fussed over, I sorted out the connectivity of the new Blu-Ray player. The Love's father had given us a spare HDMI cable, so that was all sorted, and plugged it all in, connected to the wireless network with the right key, and then ensured that The Love's Netflix account was signed into when launching the Netflix app, and all appeared to be rather well. The app with the remote was nice and easy to use, and so The Love will no doubt be watching stuff on that as she needs to, and now has a Blu-ray as well as DVD option as she needs to for various films (some involving a certain film star with a first name of Tom...)

Later on it was a quiz show fest of sorts, with first of all Pointless Celebrities, which was quite entertaining, especially when in the head to head they had to work out the songs from various films including the likes of Titanic, and then Who Dares Wins, with one question (the 50 greatest snooker players) resonating with me especially, and I could have rattled off a fair number, and finally, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire with Jeremy Clarkson hosting (proper theme tune reinstated so tune of the day straight away) - and to be fair, he didn't do such a bad job actually. I wasn't sure about the ask the host lifeline, or the fact you now set the second point where you win at least that amount, but the 15 questions being back and the original stages of the money were the right thing to do...

Friday 4th May - The North Is Calling

It was a fairly busy day in terms of getting things done, but in effect I was planning for things to happen next week and also get the final bits done of the SCCM upgrade to version 1802, in effect releasing the new client from pre-production to production, and at the same time update our WinPE boot image so that it was able to talk effectively to the SCCM server. In effect part of the reason for doing this is not only the client binaries for the new SCCM client, but also the Windows ADK used (1709) will have all the necessary WinPE image and drivers, so always good to maintain that really.

It was also a case of working on some possible documentation that needed to be done, and finalising a potential go live date for when we update ServiceNow as well, so that is definitely going to keep me busy over the next week or so to make sure that anything is ironed out post upgrade and that all the necessary workflows et al work as intended. It was also good to propose some useful improvements going forward, including the likes of setting the discovery schedules differently (already showing as working properly) and one other thing, the LDAP AD import.

I say that with happiness primarily because of the fact that we've finally got an external supplier to admit that they didn't set their export stuff correctly from one of the updated systems we use, so that in effect we now have the correct data sent to us in CSV format for use in some SQL databases and indeed an eventual AD sync as well. All of that does mean that the data is now correct and therefore means that when ServiceNow pulls a LDAP import, that works correctly too - it always did work in terms of what it imported, but clearly if the data was wrong in AD in the first place, that needed investigating.

So that left me happy later on as I headed off towards Euston Square tube station and stopped off at the Crown and Anchor with a well earned pint of Proper Job to chill out for the early evening. The sun was already out to a degree and so people were sat outside, but the aircon was on inside and it was nice just to sit at a table and relatively chill out before the journey up North later on. It was well timed too as The Love In My Heart was meeting some former old work colleagues for a nice evening out, and so would be good to come and get me once done.

The train was just about on time and the aircon was at least working on the train so did feel a little nicer as I headed into Manchester Piccadilly. The Love arrived and by the sound of it had had a lovely night overall which was good, so was really happy. I know that it's good to get some form of balance and having people to meet and chat to is all part of that which is good. We headed back, snuggled with Brian the cat and ended up nattering about all sorts whilst watching a bit of telly. Tune of the day is the ace "Hit The North" by The Fall, a perfect example of the late Mark E Smith's songwriting at its finest.

Thursday 3rd May - Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?

Or, in the case of some annoying software I was checking over today, do you really want to make me cry? In fact it was just a case of instantly being annoyed by how one piece of software that one department uses works (or in fact doesn't). Here's a question for said publisher: if you're going to make an Enterprise based MSI installer available, all well and good. But you should either turn off the auto-update facility for users, which instantly installs another MSI version that isn't your enterprise one and breaks compliance, or keep your enterprise MSI in sync with the same versions and make sure you notify your customers when it's available.

I had to get quite clever in SCCM and get some compliance rules on the go. So, you install an MSI, the MSI has a product code, which normally for a SCCM application is specified by default as the de facto check to see if an application is compliant (it's after all not there before installation, but is after) - but because of the fact that an auto updater kicks in, and that you don't want to originally distribute the non-admin MSI (primarily as it forces subsequent updates to at least install per machine instead of per user) what I did was locate the MSI product code for that version and add an "either or" rule in for compliance, so later on if the application is checked, it deems either version to be fine, so the initial install works, update works.

One other thing I wanted to mention today was that the lovely She Makes War has a new single out soon, but you can order it right now. It got a first airing on the Steve Lamacq Show earlier today on BBC 6 Music, much kudos, and it was one of the live highlights when I saw her with band do a full band set in December last year, and a welcome surprise too. And yes, it is a cover of the Culture Club classic from the 1980s, but given that bit of edgy indie-ness with plenty of crunching guitar and a lovely vocal throughout. Needless to say it is tune of the day and one you should purchase immediately really.

It's worth noting too that there's only 200 copies pressed of said single, 100 each on black and white replica vinyl like print on the CDs themselves, a nice touch that. And you also get as the other track on there the superb "I Want My Country Back" which was my single of 2017, so that should tell you it's quality all the way here. Needless to say blasting both tracks out from the CD player and hi-fi separates will be an essential thing to do when it gets released and when it gets here to my place. Yaay indeed.

I think as well it's always worth mentioning that looking beyond the mainstream, there's a lot of good music still out there and well worth purchasing, by songwriters who clearly enjoy what they're doing but can write excellently catchy indie pop songs as well as the more serious stuff. So, I can highly recommend "Echo Bridge" by Gavin Osborn and the Comment Section, the rather good "Beneath Your City; As You Dream" by Robberie (worth it alone for the opening track about journeyman footballers!) and so on. So much good stuff, just got to look for it...

Wednesday 2nd May - Final Frame

It was good to be able to crack on with several things today, including working on some standard change templates and proposals. I've pretty much got the procedure all sorted for the templates, and that's really good that we can now use those and implement standard changes smoother and more efficiently. The other advantage to that is that all changes are of course in the calendar, and it also means that we've got a real handle on when and how they're going to happen, so we can plan ahead to a degree as well.

In fact one of the things we have to do every so often is to change the desktop wallpaper, and this involves some internal liaison with our colleagues, mainly from Internal Communications. The nice thing is I've got a good working relationship with that team, so once we'd found out that no one had sent me the next proposed background, they got that sorted and sent over for me, so I could then test it and make sure that it all looked spot on for what we need to do.

In fact Windows 10 actually has one setting to do with JPEG Import Quality, which is where, when an image is set as a background, it's transcoded into the user's profile as a file TranscodedWallpaper. Windows by default compresses this with an 85% quality rating, so the image may be small but the quality can suffer, especially when it is an image with text on it. What I found out is that the registry setting can be placed into the user group policy and so set that to 95% instead (the quality and file size is an exponential curve swooping up) so on testing this was a sensible compromise between quality and size, and worked nicely.

I felt good after that, and later on when I got home it was on with BBC2 and with the final session of the quarter finals of the World Snooker Championship. It was an epic clash between Judd Trump and John Higgins, 8-8 after the second session, and on the other table, Mark Williams was closing out nicely against Ali Carter. I suspected that the Trump v Higgins match would go close, and the interval meant Trump was leading 11-9 and fist pumped after a close frame win as he left for the mid-session interval.

It all turned dramatically on the 21st frame. Judd Trump got in front in the frame but didn't manage to get over the line, and in a turnaroud John Higgins put together a majestic break to really pull it out of the fire and go 11-10 behind. He won the next two with two classy breaks before Trump fought back to draw level once again. It was 12-12 and all to play for. And it was epic, with some of the crowd being a little over enthusiastic for Judd Trump, both players missing the odd ball, but in the end it was John Higgins who put together some classy shots and showed his big match temprament to win in an absolute Crucible classic, make no mistake about that. Tune of the day is the iconic "The Len Ganley Stance" by Half Man Half Biscuit, a classic snooker song and no mistake that.

Tuesday 1st May - May Day

It was a very busy day at work today, primarily as the main task I had to sort out was to get the SCCM instance we have upgraded to the newest 1802 release. This was already tested on our development system and proven to be working well, and once one of my senior managers had managed to get some things done he needed to do first (and at last minute) once that was done it was a case of doing the pre-requisite checking and making sure all was good to go before then going through the wizard and commencing the update in earnest, checking the log files and the necessary statuses as I went to ensure all looked good.

In fact I had spent some time with that but also was attempting to sort out a strange issue that had been reported later in the day with some of the authentication to printing not playing ball. I had a feeling I knew what it might be, but would need to run some checks to be on the safe side to ensure that was the case. In fact, so it proved to be honest, it turned out that one of the authentication services, which actually are for the terminals to verify the printer PIN against the list of users, was causing 100% CPU usage. I had to end that process and corresponding threads, and then restart the service. Once that was done, I got a couple of users to log in and authenticate and all seemed well again, which was good.

I did feel pleased at resolving that one quickly, and also was going headlong into some more testing, including testing potential ways that we may be looking at getting some of the other software we use updated, and on top of that working out a plan of action to get more of the desktops BIOS updated with the new versions that are all Meltdown and Spectre compliant. In fact to be honest there's lots to do and that's not including as much as I can get done around the ServiceNow upgrade and ironing out any bugs in the test environment thus far, which appears to be honest to be minimal, which is nice.

I did have a good natter with The Love In My Heart later on and it was good to hear from her after being in Sheffield yesterday. In fact she mentioned that a new tabby cat had been visiting near the flat and often stepping on to the outside decking, meaning that Brian the cat was getting all defensive, and not just marking his territory but also hissing a little at the tabby cat. To be fair, I've seen other tabby cats and a lot of them just want to have a fuss and a cuddle, but this one's showing bravado and doesn't appear to be scared of Brian whatsoever, with a sort of "Yeah, whatever" attitude also.

In the meantime I've been keeping an eye on the snooker as well of course and after a close morning session for both matches, the evening proved to be one sided on both fronts. Barry Hawkins really did play well and take his chances, forcing Ding Junhui under pressure a lot, and Barry stretched his lead to 11-5. On the other table there were key frames which Kyren Wilson pinched off Mark Allen with some clinical clearances, and I think Mark will be kicking himself. Kyren then got to be 11-5 up at the end of that session, so definitely was one where he can be mightily proud. Tune of the day is the proper snooker theme "Drag Racer" for obvious reasons..