Dear Diary... May 2021

Monday 31st May - Elizabethan Eating

We had also booked a late lunch for today as well, with us being away for the weekend I felt it was a tad unfair on The Love In My Heart to be cooking all day considering the long weekend we had. It was therefore a good idea to book one of our favourite places in Heaton Moor for that - and of course booking inside did at least mean that we would be able to be fine whatever the weather. Admittedly today though it did look rather nice outside so we would have to see if we could swap over and be outside instead later.

After a nice breakfast, I got myself changed and ready - I had been keeping an eye on some morning telly especially The Sheriffs Are Coming - which always seems to be good fun as the local sherriffs kick backside an take no prisoners making sure assets are seized in order to refund people who've won court cases. The dodgy as hell car dealer in Halifax along with the brothers' threatening behaviour really does show what a bad outfit that is - and I'm sure no one in their right minds would do business with them to be perfectly honest.

We headed off later and it was along Stockport Road and turning off just before Heaton Chapel and taking the back road to the station, and then from there along the main road and to the Elizabethan. Sensibly the parking charges had been dropped (about time!) and so we got a space under a tree for some shade later, and then got to the large garden at the front - and they had a spare table for us, so we switched the booking to be an outside table and all was good, so The Love could sit in the sun and enjoy herself - and why not?

I had the steak and ale pie - spot on, and The Love had the rather good roast chicken with chips and salad - and a proper half roast chicken too! We both did have the Manchester Craft Lager which was good, and I even went for the caramel sundae for dessert which was really good - a little bit indulgent, but then again why not? The time sped by and the staff were all lovely in there too - so one of our favourite places lived up to its reputation of being rather good all round. So nice just to do normal stuff all over again!

I did feel sad later on saying goodbye to The Love, but it was off to Leeds from Manchester Victoria on the train with an extended wait at Leeds because the 1916 train I was meant to be on was cancelled, and the LNER staff at Leeds were super nice and friendly (good on them!) and so got the 1945 without issue and with a nice window seat too - so had some Penfriend on (the title tune of Exotic Monsters being tune of the day) and that made the journey seem a little quicker, so that was good.

Sunday 30th May - Anniversary Adventures

It was thirteen years ago today that I met The Love In My Heart, and it's been the best thirteen years of my life, easily. If someone had said to me all that time ago that we would be together, all loved up and happy, I'd have bitten the proverbial hand off to take all that. It's definitely been such a positive thing for me and the many times we've had really does reinforce that. The Love got me a lovely card which was really classy and to the point, but said it all without too much, and I nipped out and got us a little breakfast to enjoy in the room, so that was good just to wake up and have plenty of hugs as well as something to keep us going til later.

We did have late check out in the room until 2pm, so this meant we could have another walk out and around the city centre. We followed the Royal Mile downhill this time and headed towards the Palace of Holyrood House, and that looked majestic from the outside with people doing the tours. The café was open though and you could just go there for a coffee, and so we both fancied that and had a relaxing coffee sat outside with the sun attempting to make a breakthrough as well which would be pretty nice if it was managing that.

We walked around where the Scottish Parliament is and also managed to get some good shots of Arthur's Seat along with plenty of people walking up the paths to the top there (must do that sometime myself again) and then we walked past the parliament and up Holyrood Road, cutting through part of the University back towards the Royal Mile, following a road we'd taken before towards Waverley station (and stopping off for some well earned Irn Bru, as you do) - and then after walking through Princes Street gardens, heading along the street and to the rather nice Oliver Bonas, which was really nice as per usual. We even walked the way past the art gallery and up towards the Royal Mile, and headed back down towards the hotel in a nice walking loop.

We rested for a while in the room before checking out, and it was nice to have that extended time, really did make it worthwhile. As we were having lunch in Brewdog on Lothian Road later, we headed up towards the castle and took the road down the side, and saw some great views looking up before then arriving at the Usher Hall with the Brewdog opposite. The voucher I had as a present (and we mentioned during booking) meant I could have any burger I fancied plus a flight of four small one third pint glasses (which looked super cute!) - and so I had Punk IPA, Elvis Juice, Lost Lager and Jet Black Heart, along with a burger which also had chorizo sausage and black pudding and barbecue sauce, which was ace (The Love's burger was nice too, she also had the Lost Lager.)

The staff I have to say were superb, really friendly and warm and welcoming, and even were appreciative we had the code and barcode for the voucher so they could sort all that out easily. They also were all spotlessly clean, were sanitising regularly and all face coverings on - and even if they had to turn people away (it's bookings only as per Scottish law) they were ever so nice about it - and even let us know a little bit later on when it was approaching the end of our allotted time but were again super nice. Goes to show - be nice to people and you get praise and repeat custom - I'd be more than happy to go back and eat there. And our server's favourite beer was also Jet Black Heart. Winning!

We then walked over to Edinburgh Waverley in good time for our 1630 train to York, and this time we got to see all the lovely seaside and the North East coast along the way, and I'd booked the table seats by the window so The Love had an excellent view. All was fine to York, then we had to faff going to platform 10 then platform 3 to eventually get the train - but it did stop at Manchester Piccadilly so that was at least something. We eventually got home later on and Brian the cat was being super cute when we got back, so was lovely to see him and round off our day ever so well. Tune of the day (and because we saw it on the Magnum advert earlier) is Soft Cell's version of Tainted Love used in that ad, but it's also one of The Love's favourite songs, so had to be there really - it is an 80s classic cover too.

Saturday 29th May - Edinburgh Excellence

It was an early rise for myself and The Love In My Heart - and not that Brian the cat made any difference to that anyway, as he gets up early and taps his Mummy for some food and playtime. With Brian all fed and having some playtime outside, The Love and I got ourselves showered and ready to head out. We were getting the train from Manchester Victoria at 8am as we were off to Edinburgh via York. We normally could have taken the train up to Carlisle and Lockerbie there, but engineering work prevented that one, hence the different route we were taking.

It was a nice smooth tram ride to Victoria, and a quick stop at Costa for some coffee meant we had a brew on the 0800 departure. As it turned out this train does go direct to Edinburgh, but there's no catering on board and not having that for four hours would be pretty bad. In fact that train only ran to Newcastle when I booked it, so did the split at York and was cheaper - and also allowed us to get a sausage or a bacon roll and a coffee from Costa before we headed on the 0955 train from York. It was really misty actually along the East Coast so we didn't get to see as much as we would like, but all appeared clear by the time we got to Edinburgh Waverley later on.

One of The Love's relations had very kindly got us both some lovely presents for Christmas, which we were both using this weekend: one was a one night stay at the Radisson Blu hotel on the Royal Mile, with a bottle of prosecco no less to go with that, and the other we were going to use tomorrow as a little present to me. It was really thoughtful and as we couldn't check in til 3, and as per Scottish Government guidance, we had booked places for lunch, tonight's meal and tomorrow's lunch, so all good there. We therefore headed to The Mitre which was very close to the hotel after we'd looked in a few shops. I had the chicken and mushroom pie, The Love had the traditional stovies which was good. As it was a Nicholsons pub, this meant their St Austell Brewery made pale ale, so a definite winner there for me and the staff were all lovely in there too.

We headed across to the Radisson to check in, and we had a nice room on the third floor and got ourselves unpacked. A few minutes later came a knock on the door, with a bottle of prosecco and two glasses in an ice bucket delivered by one of the staff. That felt nice! So we were going to enjoy that later on of course, and in the meantime we freshened up and headed out for a walk, first of all walking up the Royal Mile and towards Edinburgh Castle, with the dramatic views over the city and indeed plenty of people out. We even saw a newly wedded couple with the bride in her dress looking classy and beautiful and they walked down the mile for some pictures too - with everyone wanting to wish them well, so that was nice.

We followed the street down towards the Grassmarket, where I'd stayed before when I went to Edinburgh on my own back in 2006, and the market stalls there along with additional outside seating for the bars and so on felt really nice, and it was good to be able to see the vibe there - and we walked across to where the Greyfriars Bobby dog statue is, and walked through the church nearby to get there, which was surprisingly nice to do. We also passed the Museum of Scotland and headed back along South Bridge to the Royal Mile and back to the hotel, so we could get ourselves changed and ready for the evening meal tonight.

In fact, we didn't have to walk too far along the South Bridge and down to the Italian restaurant Ciao Roma, close to one of the theatres and a pretty busy and bustling place, even for 7pm. We were shown to a nice table where we could see the stained glass feature of part of the ceiling which looked lovely, and the staff were friendly, attentive and really welcoming too, so definitely a good thing from me. In fact, the fact it was so busy said to me we'd picked a good place to go - and we were not to be disappointed. They even had the Birra Morretti Sicilian regional beer, so simply had to be done!

The starters were ordered and both of those were really good - the minestrone soup I had was flavoursome and really warm and filling, and The Love's bruschetta with fresh tomatoes really did hit the spot and was excellent. The Love's main of the chicken with mushrooms in a cream sauce, along with a side of roasted potatoes, was superb and the sauce really creamy and properly home made, and I had the pasta with Italian sausage and mushrooms - and the sauce was also spot on as well as having some parmesan sprinkled over the top. It felt special and the tiramisu in a sundae dish I had for dessert really hit the spot too - it even had some chocolate chips sprinkled in. It was a meal that was fitting of the occasion for us both and totally lovely - I can recommend there highly.

Afterwards we headed back to the hotel, and I had the Champions League final on via BT Sport's Youtube. In truth I suspected Manchester City were going to lose because of previous defeats against Chelsea in the last month or so, and it proved to be the case here, with Chelsea winning 1-0. I had it in my mind and so wasn't disappointed really - besides which The Love and I had had a long but really nice day together, and as we drank the prosecco and chatted, it just felt all rather lovely to be away together to be honest. As they're from Edinburgh, The Rezillos' excellent Top of the Pops is tune of the day - as certainly we felt like rock stars having the prosecco in the room and all that!

Friday 28th May - It's Grim On Avanti Up North

It was a busy day in the office planned for me today, and indeed I'd have my weekend case with me as well as it was off up to Manchester for the weekend and to spend some special time with The Love In My Heart as well. As today was going to be a case of carrying the weekend case around, it was off to London Victoria and on the 38 bus to Piccadilly Circus and then to the office, dropping off all I needed there before heading around to Pret round the corner for some well earned coffee and a bacon and egg breakfast roll, because it was a little treat to myself.

The day was fairly good actually, plenty to be getting on with but also me road testing a number of things out which meant I had some action plans for next week. One of those tests was to package up and then ensure the new version of the telecommunications software Fuze worked well, and that was all good from that point of view - and as I was also packaging the new version of Chrome (which incidentally fixes the WebAudio issues that Google borked in version 89, so anyone who uses certain sites will find that they work again) so both of those will be in a planned change for next week too.

I was also road testing the proposal to the MECM client settings so that policy polling is a more sensible time span between rather than what it is now - primarily of course so we can look at ways of minimising requests to DNS, but on top of that making sure we're all good and stable. I can understand it a bit more if the system wasn't working, but it is, so a good time as much as any to evaluate that a bit and get things working the right way round - so doing a test run on a few machines for me made perfect sense, and all seemed well.

I actually had a paper ticket for tonight's 1834 train from Euston because I had to use a rail travel voucher to buy the ticket - and you can't use them online, so yet another reason to dislike Avanti West Coast - why you couldn't just have refunds is beyond me. Anyway, I got to Euston via the Northern Line from Leicester Square, and the station seemed busier than normal. I found out that due to power issues at Finsbury Park, services from Kings Cross were affected so people were going to Leeds via Manchester. Did Avanti actually realise that the Glasgow service would be rammed? Seems not, as it was a massive free-for-all for the train. Surely the sensible thing would be to let on those with actual reservations first, right?

Anyway, my 1834 train was busier but I did get my seat and people were being generally good. The at seat ordering service now includes coffee so I road tested it out and got a latte for the journey up (that worked at least) but I have to say that it didn't feel as slick or as friendly as I've experienced on LNER, and did feel a bit grim with the narrow windows and limited view from the seat. I thought back to the quiz I did earlier, and New Order's classic Regret being part of that and therefore tune of the day as well.

I got to Piccadilly and The Love In My Heart was waiting for me - always lovely. We headed back and had a drink together, and Brian the cat wanted his playtime outside as well as being adorable and wanting lots of fussing in between. He's good when he wants to be, and the three of us headed off to bed later with an early rise for us all tomorrow and the first time we'd been away together other than to each other's places since last August, so here was hoping for a lovely time.

Thursday 27th May - The Best A Man Can Get

The halcyon days of the over the top Gilette adverts, you know, you're looking good, you're looking sharp, you've come so far (etc), but still after all these years, I'd progressed from the Sensor to Sensor Excel and eventually on to Mach 3, which is what I use now. I must admit I do like to be cleaner shaven, a beard doesn't suit me and it also means that by all accounts I look younger, which is always a good thing (especially as I'm not that young any more of course.) As it happened, I needed some new blades and I needed a few bits for around the bathroom too so made the most of the lunch break from work and headed off into the centre of Croydon.

In fact, it was a double mission. I headed into Playnation Games first of all to see not only what 8-bit titles they had, but also to see what computers and consoles they had too. If I had more space in the flat then a Commodore VIC-20 might be re-acquainted at some point - the good thing is that the power supply, tape deck, joysticks etc can all be used from my C64, so that's a win, and of course it'd be pretty easy to locate some games again especially as they don't seem to be as collectable as other formats. Need to be sensible though at present!

It was then on to Savers, and it's always good to get some bargains in there. In fact, I got myself some deodorant, a bath sponge as well as some toothpaste and a new toothbrush (as my current one had been well used) - and then noted near the counter an offer on, where in a nice little box you get the Mach 3 razor and 12 blades for a mere £14.99. Bear in mind that normally a pack of 4 can cost around £8 and it's around £13 for 8 of them, that seemed a pretty good deal with me, and a fresh razor to boot too, so it had to be done!

I spent some time this afternoon checking a number of things to do with one of the systems, raised a change for next week in order to be able to effectively amend the time polling period for policies to be a slightly longer period (as we could do that and potentially save some calls to DNS too, so double win) - and then from there I was also able to provide an import file in the format needed for the import of data from our inventory system into the HR system. I've got the process nailed nicely on now and so was relatively straightforward to do - and although there was supposedly a handover to the Service Teams, the fact they're so snowed under and understaffed made sense for me to keep at it for now.

Later on it was nice to chat with The Love In My Heart, and Brian the cat being all cute with his "tickle me Mummy" pose, awww. It'll be so nice to head up and see The Love tomorrow, and we're gradually heading back to the weekend times we used to have together a lot as things move forward which is really positive (well apart from Avanti West Coast that is) so with that mind the rather ace Something For The Weekend by The Divine Comedy happens to be tune of the day - and with the weather looking nice, hopefully happier times ahead too!

Wednesday 26th May - Avanti Are Appalling

So, I'd planned a trip down for The Love In My Heart to come and see me in June, and we had already some time ago booked the train on the Saturday morning for her to come down to me, with a pretty decent price. The tickets for the Sunday going back hadn't gone on sale yet, and I knew that demand might be a little higher with the Euro 2020 championship being on and indeed England having a group game that day, but also with engineering work meaning late announcements of trains, I had sensibly signed up for a ticket alert to see when the tickets would be released.

So whilst at work this morning I saw I had a notification that tickets were on sale, and sure enough when I checked, the date had been released. But, no advance tickets. None. Nada. Not unless you were planning to head off either around 9am on a Sunday morning or 9pm on a Sunday evening and neither of those to be honest were much use either. I asked their Twitter account about it, and I got a response that advance tickets would be released throghout the day.

So I tried again later. Still nothing. And same early afternoon. And yet the same later. Anyway, in the meantime I had asked again about what was going on, and effectively the response was that they only had certain trips with advance tickets because of the football - but get this, if you wanted to go from Euston to Liverpool on the same day - no problem, Advance tickets available, just not on the Euston to Manchester route. So clearly it was in my view a deliberate ploy in order to charge people more for a particular journey and any excuse of "oh we have less seats" is complete rubbish too: LNER seem to manage okay.

After I reluctantly did have to look at booking a ticket, I then thought about how in the future (and as I've had to do for several weekends due to the Euston engineering works) I'll try and have to do a different route. In the past, I've gone LNER over to Doncaster or Leeds and then gone across: and based on prices alone that still seems the best option, especially when the Kings Cross to Doncaster part can be had for as little as £15, which you can't argue with at all really. I'll have to see how that all pans out later on.

I also later on enjoyed the latest episode of The Great British Sewing Bee, it was a really good watch with the winter outfits especially, and they also had in the opening stint a song they had used before: Never Do a Tango With An Eskimo by Alma Cogan - quite fitting for the theme and tune of the day too. I did like Damien's outfit for the made to measure: it looked classy, and the one Rebecca made would be something I could see The Love In My Heart wearing too, but The Love's favourite Raph won Garment of the Week, so she was pretty pleased with that!

Tuesday 25th May - A Pizza The Action

It was off to the office today, and I have to admit I did feel pretty good about going in as well. It's definitely helping me from a mental health perspective and also allowing me to be able to get out and about safely, and then progress on some testing without having to be faffing around carrying so much kit with me too. It was the London Bridge switcheroo on the way to Charing Cross, and a nice walk from there over to the office, and having activated a month's worth of coffee from Pret, it was a nip via there to get a nice latte to get myself up and at it in the morning.

I had a call from one of the service managers who had wanted me to do some testing with one of the older laptops to make sure all was well with one model. In fact we'd had some back which one of the team needed rebuilding and so I offered to do them and that meant I could do two for the price of one effectively. All was well with those and it proved that what one department had said about them not being supported wasn't true - and usually I'll always test on a lower spec model of machine to make sure that if it works on that, it'll work on all the higher specs too - and that's always a good thing.

I also after work decided that I was going to get something for tea before taking the train home - and so had a walk through Leicester Square and noted a couple of pairs of people who were a bit worse for wear and had a few drinks, so avoided them obviously and then headed to a pub not far from Trafalgar Square. Well, I would have done, except for the fact that the place I was going to go to had closed down. So it was Plan B instead, and so walked along The Strand past Charing Cross station and in towards Pizza Hut.

It was good to hit the hut as it were, and the staff were all friendly and nice, and I had a table all to myself. You effectively order from the menu on your phone and then pay for it that way as well, which I've done before and it worked pretty well. So they do a little nice meal for one where you get a side dish, a main (pizza or pasta) and a choice of drink and salad, plus tortilla chips, for £15.99. I wasn't meithered about the salad so left that off, but did have a meat feast with barbecue sauce, along with chicken bites and a mayonnaise dip and a refill 7Up, which the staff bring as needed. I could have had a Brewdog Punk IPA if I fancied it too.

It was pretty chilled out too and lots of old school 80s tunes playing in the background as I people watched close to the window and was able to enjoy my tea, and it was good to hear some of those and enjoy my tea, so felt very relaxed. It was really good to just to be able to listen and eat, and with the likes of Everywhere by Fleetwood Mac in my head (make that tune of the day) it was nice to then set off to Charing Cross, all fulfilled, and on the train homewards with a sense of having had a productive day all round. I like it when it's like that.

Monday 24th May - Mayvember Weather

To be honest, May is feeling more like November at the moment - incessant rain, lots of wind and plenty of swirling conditions all round. On the way home from East Croydon station last night I was battling some serious wind and rain (I was glad I had my waterproof coat on!) and it really did feel like it was hammering it down somewhat. In fact today it's been all the same too, lots of wind and rain and just enough of a pause for me to venture out to the local Sainsbury's to get some milk (as the other bottle was on the turn, lovely, milky milky) and it was sensible to get a couple of other bits at the same time too.

Today was focussing on getting the May Windows 10 updates out there to the masses, which all in all seemed to be working nicely. In fact this also included a full rollout of the removal of the Flash Player plugin for Internet Explorer, another move designed to make us all more secure and I'd had to wait until we knew for definite it wouldn't affect anyone (and if they haven't spoken up now, well it's too late really.) I must admit that I have been seeing more clients online now, so whether that's an upshot of the new MECM release or not, it's good to see that compliance is working pretty well overall.

In fact, one thing I was able to do today was to check the all staff report output we get from our HR system and compare that against the staff IDs I needed to check on the inventory system. In fact, I'd spotted one such employee type appeared not to be mentioned in the HR report, so I've flagged that accordingly - there may be a good reason for this, but it'd be good to know what. I also checked in with our service team over some staff requests for accounts where there wasn't an ID at present in HR either, in case there was some hold up somewhere to be investigated. Being thorough is what I do!

It was nice to kick back with lunch and a coffee and in fact I located the old Channel 4 Tour de France theme tune - namely a version of Give It To Me by Pete Shelley, which is tune of the day. For me that reminded me of the late 80s and 90s watching the tour, and indeed some epic battles. In fact the song originally started out as a Pete solo B-side before then going to be a song as a B-side by his band Zip - which is closer to the arrangement Channel 4 had. Then when Buzzcocks reformed, it ended up as an album track on the 1996 album All Set - and more punk sounding. I do still adore the Tour de France version though, even with its little shoehorn of Frere Jacques at the end!

The rain still was incessant later on and it really did feel like it was just non-stop, but it was good at least to chat to The Love In My Heart later on about the day and be able to rest and relax somewhat. I also did my lateral flow test for tomorrow (all negative too) and so that's a positive. I think that I've got used to all of the testing now and it's become routine and that's not a bad thing - it does mean I can get some sort of office normality during the week and go from there - we shall see tomorrow.

Sunday 23rd May - This Is How It Feels To Be City

Well, today was the day. The first time at the Etihad Stadium for around fourteen months, and in fact the first Premier League game I've actually been able to go to - as even when there were some relaxations to allow 2,000 fans in at some grounds, that didn't apply to Manchester, sadly. So I was pretty excited and pleased when I was able to win the ballot and be able to get a ticket for today's game against Everton - the final game of the season, I'd get to see the team lift the trophy, and it was a final home farewell for the club's all time record goalscorer, Sergio Agüero too. I had asked my good friend beforehand but he wanted to wait until fully vaccinated before venturing too far out, which I completely understood.

I had a nice breakfast thanks to The Love In My Heart, and Brian the cat was being as cute as ever, wanting lots of fussing and cuddles as well as playing ball too. In fact, I settled in and we had some coffee and worked out some things for next weekend, which we needed to sort out for the time we'll be spending together (and with a very good reason too.) With that done, it was time to head off towards the ground, and in fact I had to take the long way round, going down towards the car park and then upwards along the main approach ramp, so I could line up and get the ticket scanned by the staff there.

Once in, I noted that a lot of the facilities were shut - so the two outside bars were both closed, and City Square was also closed too - the idea being you'd go straight into the ground, which I did do. Once inside, I also noted that the food stalls were open so you could get your pies, burgers, chips, coffee and soft drinks, but all the bars were closed inside, so no alcohol for sale at all. I suspected that this was a regulation to put in place, as The Love did tell me when she went over to Asda that there was a heavy police presence checking for football fans buying beer from there too.

So inside I was, and got to the seat I'd chosen, level 2 of the North Stand right behind the goal and at the second row, but in order to aid distancing, the front row wasn't in use whatsoever, so in fact I had no one in front of me. Result, that. In fact all the distancing was pretty good, with stewards all on hand to assist, and of course a maximum of 10,000. In a 55,000 ground that was plenty of room and there were extra stewards on hand to stop any attempted pitch invasion at the end of the game too which was fair enough really - we can't go endangering the players with the Champions League final next weekend.

Before the game the Stockport band Blossoms (who are massive City fans) played a short set, and they'd do one after the game too - and a stage had been built below one of the scoreboards so it was all distanced and safe. So with that done, the rain hammering it down and the teams out, and the fans in full voice singing Blue Moon and the Inspiral Carpets inspired classic This Is How It Feels To Be City (with the other words of: "This is how it feels to be small, you sign Phil Jones, we sign Kun Agüero, Kun Agüero...) it was time for the game to start. Oh please, City, please, let's win and get a final goal from Agüero too.

The first half started with Everton attacking well but once City got into their stride it was pretty much over within the first quarter of an hour. Riyad Mahrez found Kevin de Bruyne who belted a gorgeous low curling shot from just outside the box into the bottom corner for 1-0, and the Belgian then set off Gabriel Jesús on his way as the Brazilian striker took on three Everton defenders before then slotting the ball into the bottom corner for 2-0, and it happened to be his 50th Premier League goal for City as well. Nice. There was even a penalty save from Ederson after Richarlison had been fouled by Ruben Dias, but Richarlison rolled around and as soon he saw he got a pen, he got up as if nothing had happened. That was it - he was booed for the rest of the game.

At half time I queued up and got myself a coffee and a chicken balti pie, which were both needed as it was a tad on the cold side outside it has to be said. With food and drink consumed and mask therefore back on, it was time to enjoy the second half. And enjoy we all did. Phil Foden was at the end of a nice move involving Raheem Sterling and he slotted home brilliantly on his left foot for 3-0. It was then time to make some changes, with Foden coming off as well as Mahrez and on came Rodri and best of all, complete with build up by the announcer, Sergio Agüero. Could he score with half an hour to go and cement his name into history I wondered?

So with the game progressing nicely, Everton took a throw in. Tom Davies was tackled by the excellent Fernandinho, who gave the ball to Agüero. He ran alongside two Everton defenders before then shooting with the outside of the right boot, and it was heading goalwards. Into the bottom corner. Agüerooooooooooooo! And it was 4-0. I saw the Sky commentary later on and Martin Tyler went rightly mental, and the whole team including Ederson came all the way over to embrace Sergio. It was a really pinch me moment, and I did well up a little bit, seeing Sergio doing for one last time what he's done for us for ten years.

But.. he wasn't finished yet. Oh no. A few minutes later and the ball was being played down the right with Agüero lurking on the 18 yard box. Fernandinho put in a cross from the right that de Bruyne would have been proud of, and Sergio met it with his head from twelve yards out right into the bottom corner. I had a perfect view of that header, and it was a superb finish. Two for Agüero, and in this last game he had set another record - the most Premier League goals scored at a single club, overtaking Wayne Rooney's total for Manchester United in the process. Oh yes. Get in!!

In fact, the hat trick could have even been on, had it not been for two excellent saves from the Everton keeper Jordan Pickford - one from a shot from close range, the other from a header from a corner. However, two goals for the City legend and beating another record and a 5-0 win, I'd have taken that all day long before kick off. Blossoms came back on and played one of my favourite songs of theirs, There's A Reason Why (I Never Returned Your Calls) which is tune of the day. They were almost as excited as the rest of us were as the players came out and Fernandinho lifted the Premier League trophy, with a final tribute video and farewell for Sergio Agüero. It was raining but I didn't care - to see the heroes again and to get a win and some more history, I'll have that. Needless to say I was buzzing all the way home on the train too!

Saturday 22nd May - Goals Unlocked

It was up and bright and early, and off via the train to St Pancras from East Croydon (no services to Victoria incidentally, so even if train / tube was an option beforehand, it's not today) before the walk over to Euston. I checked the Seatfrog app and there was a possibility I could upgrade to first class instead of being in standard - and so a few minutes from the end put in a cheeky bid - which I won! So for £10 I was in Seat J34 in first class, which meant a nice bit of breakfast and coffee for the journey up as well as a comfier seat. And cheaper than the now £15 plus for the Standard Premium upgrade (replacing Weekend First) where you only get a better seat and no complimentary drinks or food either, so win.

It was nice heading up in relative comfort, and the bacon roll was welcomed as was the coffee (and in fact another coffee just before Stoke too.) Due to the bad weather yesterday, signalling problems meant the train arrived in Manchester 20 minutes late, so Delay Repay will have to be claimed for that - for some reason since Avanti switched ticketing systems, the auto delay repay now fails. Shows how crap the service has been since First took over from Virgin - wouldn't have been such an issue back in the day. And if you are in standard class and use the at seat ordering thing they now do, it's nowhere near as good as LNER - you can't even order coffee!

Anyway, The Love In My Heart met me at Manchester Piccadilly and we headed back to her place, and Brian the cat had made himself very comfortable on the duvet. I took a really good picture of him there with the camera and he looked absolutely adorable (well he is Brian!) and later on he decided to sit on the pouffle and stare outside, before one of The Love's relations headed over with the youngest member of the family, who is also utterly adorable, so the 50mm portrait lens came in handy again and we got some really good pictures too which was appreciated.

With the weather potentially being okayish, The Love and I decided to see if Wine and Wallop in West Didsbury was open. It was, and we were able to sit inside, and chill and relax and be able to have a nice afternoon drink. The Love had the Camden Hells, me the Burton Road Simcoe (keeping it local folks) and it was just so good to people watch and have a nice relaxed vibe sat together. It was even the same when we headed on later into Didsbury Village and went into a few little shops before having a nice coffee together in Costa - and that was rather good too.

Later on we both got ourselves changed and ready and were heading off to the other side of Altrincham, close to Dunham Massey, and off to the Axe and Cleaver pub for some well earned tea together. We always like the atmosphere in there, and the tables were all distanced properly, staff all face covered, everything washed down to the nth degree, and really nice and friendly staff. I had the winter vegetable soup to start which was fab, and The Love had the paté which looked spot on too - and I was even able to have the local Dunham Massey Big Tree Bitter too. The mains were good too - my chicken and mushroom pie was spot on and The Love had the lasagne which looked piping hot and nice. I even had a mini cheesecake and a coffee for dessert too which was all good.

We headed home later after being well fed, and it was on with BBC One and the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest. Some of the songs had been on, but we did catch a number of them including Italy's entry from Måneskin - Zitte E Buoni, which reminded me of glam rock meeting The Darkness. Although somewhat a little OTT sounding, it was the public voting from everyone that launched it to win in the end, so tune of the day for that one. The United Kingdom entry wasn't that bad, and the singer James Newman took it all in good style, but nul points from the judges and the televoters, surely that had to be a political statement as opposed to the quality of the song...

Friday 21st May - Let's Get Quizzical

It was good that one of my colleagues had volunteered for the end of week quiz this week, and it was mainly around the more consumer facing social side of IT in the questions - such as when Facebook was founded, what certain acronyms mean and so on. It was actually quite a surprise to have known some of the answers but for those I wasn't sure of, just how intentionally things were set at the time - so you always started off with at least one friend in MySpace for example but it was always the same friend. I never used that anyway so wasn't particularly meithered I didn't get that, but there you go.

I did manage though to get some good ones right, such as the year that the Apple iPod was first released (and it's a fair while ago, let's just say that!) along with the likes of when the Nintendo 64 got a UK release. Again I'd never played said console, but was working out based on release dates of the likes of the Gameboy, SNES and so on compared to also the Gamecube and Wii, so if you knew the timeline you'd be able to at least work it out from there which was at least something.

I did head out later in the evening just to get a few bits of shopping, primarily because I had ran out of kitchen roll and needed some to do some cleaning of the oven and hob, and in addition to that, get some other household items as well to be sure all was good. It felt positive to be able to have everything neat and tidy, ready for next week, and pack the case for the weekend at The Love In My Heart's place - and indeed to see Manchester City play in person for the first time in absolutely ages.

With all that done, I have played the new album from Penfriend several times today - and if you haven't as yet ordered it, you really should. It's twelve class tracks and a real sense of a different outlook compared to Laura Kidd's former project, She Makes War. In a way that's a good thing and what is there is really leaving the heart and soul in the songs, whether it be the subtle electronica in the title track Exotic Monsters, or the really dramatic ending that is Black Car (my current favourite from the album, so definitely tune of the day for me that. I'll be listening to this quite a bit I suspect.

I did have to get a slightly early night though as it's an early train for me tomorrow. I definitely want to see if I can upgrade to first class cheap, and relax a bit on the journey, but I'll see what happens there. What I do know is that Brian the cat is going to be so adorable when I see him, and The Love In My Heart and I will at least be eating out tomorrow night in a place we know is taking safety seriously, so we feel a bit more confident about heading out and enjoying ourselves too.

Thursday 20th May - Close To The Haircut Edge

It was back to working from home today, and spent a fair bit of time this morning liaising with the staff in our China offices over a couple of things: one was to investigate what was happening with the way that the Google Drive application was refusing to accept a sign in via Google even though it is supposed to redirect via the application. Interestingly, setting the web browser to a proxy server seemed to work, so I suspect it's something amiss on the network or some form of blockage somewhere, but good to know nonetheless that all appeared to be pretty well there.

In addition, it was also a case of being able to create a new driver package too - as although one model had been ordered, it turned out it was the newest model that arrived, and had only just been released. As such I decided it made sense to be able to put the driver package together from the manufacturer's website and then get that all sorted in MECM. In fact, it was nice and straightforward to do, and it was soon having the content distributed accordingly ready for the folks over in our Shenzhen office to get working with tomorrow - nice and easy does it, very time.

Over lunch I reminded myself of some great tracks from the 1980s again, and this time the rather classic Close To The Edit by The Art of Noise. Several years ago Trevor Horn was doing a performance for the Teenage Cancer Trust, and he got the old AoN members and a lot of musicians on stage to do a fully live version of said classic, complete with Horn playing bass spot on and really giving it a nice lease of life, and with Anne Dudley on keys and having parts of the keyboard for each bits of sample parts (the car engine, the tums and the nice synth leads) - definitely tune of the day for me.

Later on it was off to Wimbledon Park and to the barbers to get my hair cut - the appointment system that they've had in place for some time has been working well for them and does mean that they can ensure the right numbers to get people in and have their hair cut well. In fact, it was nice that it was relatively quiet and we could both chat football - especially with our respective sides doing well at the minute. It was also good that I went a little shorter on top - just in case of course, but really did feel positive to get that all chopped off well it has to be said.

In fact, I was a little crafty travel wise and did a bit of a switcheroo to see if I could travel there cheaper. So, tram from Croydon to Wimbledon is the same fare as bus - £1.55, then tube to Wimbledon Park is £1.90 at peak, £1.70 off peak. But, if I instead get the 156 bus between Wimbledon and Wimbledon Park (which stops at the top of Arthur Road close by) then it counts as a bus hopper fare because the trams are the same fare - and hence the journey each way is a mere £1.55. And it worked flawlessly too, so that was almost £4 saved in all when you think about it...

Wednesday 19th May - A Pizza The Action On The Strand

It was another day off to the office today, primarily to do some further testing but also to assist the Service Team somewhat, as three of them were in today and were preparing some new laptops also for the new starters too - so plenty to be getting on with. I have to say that the train did seem a little busier heading into London Bridge, but then did the switcheroo to the train to Charing Cross, and had the walk across via Haymarket to the office, where I did notice the rather good The Tiger Who Came To Tea would be on the stage in a few months time - pretty good for those with children for sure.

I also spent some time today road testing a couple of Windows 10 builds but also to make sure that the theory I had over upgrades and Google Drive was right - and effectively did an upgrade from 1909 to 20H2 without Drive present, which worked first go, so that was at least something to bear in mind. I also was able to effectively look at the forthcoming new versions of Google Chrome and with a release date soon for version 91, it'd be good to get that packaged on release and be able to see what new features may be improved or may break.

I also did have a productive meeting with one of our service managers and worked out a business case for obtaining more licences for one piece of software, based on existing numbers and also being able to demonstate where some additional numbers may be needed and how we'd mitigate as well. I was then able to produce a couple of useful reports that I was able to work with and also then from there be able to project some additional numbers too - always useful to show your workings out of course.

After work I decided that I was going to treat myself a little bit to a meal and so had booked the Pizza Express on the Strand for 6pm, so plenty of time for me to walk down to there too. All was nice and secure and very clean too, it has to be said, and at present if you dine Sunday to Thursday there's an option of bottle of Peroni, or as I had the non-alcoholic Peroni Libera. Shame of course they don't do the proper red Peroni, but hey ho. I also had a really nice La Reine pizza and for dessert one of their dolcetti, a cute little desert (in my case a Lotus Biscoff cheesecake) and a latte too. All very lovely and the staff were also very friendly.

With the evening still young, I even headed over to the Porterhouse on Maiden Lane, managed to get a table inside and had the Oyster Stout too which was gorgeous, and that really did make me feel happy and relaxed inside with a good selection of tunes playing too, so that was definitely a nice return to be in there, and one of the tunes is an old favourite of mine, so the excellent Girl From Mars by Ash is tune of the day - I have very fond memories of seeing that band live at the Boardwalk in Manchester back in the day too!

Tuesday 18th May - Working Atmosphere

It was good to be heading to the office today. Being in there does make me feel more productive, but it's also notable that with the building work going on near me, it's a different sort of atmosphere too, which is pretty much what I need. I can't stand it when there's constant drilling noise in the background, especially as I'm keeping the windows open to get fresh air in (and of course there's air conditioning in the office, so always a good and sensible temperature to work in at any rate.)

So I decided that for the next few weeks I'm going to take a different route to work - effectively taking the train to London Bridge and changing there for a train to Charing Cross. From there I can walk around the top end of Trafalgar Square, on to Haymarket and then towards Piccadilly Circus and on to the office. It's a little bit uphill especially heading up Haymarket in the morning (of course later on this is all nice and downhill) but I worked it out to be around a 12-15 minute walk, so giving me another half mile plus or so of exercise as well as the half mile from home to East Croydon, so definitely worth it on the step count.

With that all done, it was mainly participating in some meetings but also being on hand for our service team to be able to help out somewhat today - and one of our temporary staff who's helping with one of the events came to me as there was an issue connecting to the printer. I had seen the error message before so dug out one of my emails to the service team and followed my own instructions, which worked and the staff member very happy indeed. I do like it when things work and the documentation is useful - and of course, road testing that yourself always proved to be useful.

I spent some time this afternoon checking over client compliance and progress for the Adobe Flash Player removal, which is now around 220 machines or so, and going well. I also had made available a new version of Google Drive for the Windows users as well as being able to have a fix published too that sorts out a corrupted profile for that piece of software - my colleague had been testing it and was really happy with how it all came together, so was able to get that sorted and publicised as well and that was a positive.

I headed back to Charing Cross later on and noted that although some restaurants were open, it did appear that not everyone seemed to have that same enthusiasm to get back and eat out - I think that caution was the key and indeed everyone might have gone a little OTT yesterday with the pubs being back open indoors, but maybe the fact you could eat and drink alfresco might have curtailed too much enthusiasm? In any case, it was good to be to able to listen to some Joy Division tonight, for obvious reasons if you're a fan and you'll know why, with Atmosphere being tune of the day.

Monday 17th May - Gone In An Adobe Flash

I had some changes planned for today after having had approval from my manager and via our Cyber Security team, so this was the first phase of removing Adobe Flash Player after thorough investigations showed that no one was really using it anymore, and it was all safe to remove and with suitable testing having been performed. I must admit I'll be glad to see the back of it - with the advent of HTML5 and such like, no one ever really needs it anymore and for old web pages, they just need to be updated properly or use some other way of displaying content in a way that is safe and secure.

As such, the first phase was to push out the Windows 10 update to our testing group to ensure that their machines had the update to remove it from Internet Explorer and indeed the operating system, and also to amend the Windows 10 build task sequence so that the new Windows WIM image (with said update already applied) meaning that any new machines built won't have it present, so effectively removing at source. Also, because some users or old builds had the old installers for the Chrome Pepper Flash or the Netscape / Firefox plugin, I'm using the Adobe uninstaller to remove those as it should well be done.

By the middle of the day, I can see that it was going pretty well: with 150 of the 400 machines with the plugin installed having come online, check the criteria for compliance I added in via a Powershell script in order that after uninstall I can check for compliance again, and then the uninstall runs. In fact, I suspect that a fair number of these machines might be offline for a while, so it's good that a big chunk of them ran effectively without any issues, which has to be a positive note for sure. I can see progress - so definitely on the right track today.

After work I then had a really nice stir fry with chicken, mushrooms, noodles and a schezuan sauce, which was a little spicy but pretty good overall - and I certainly enjoyed that as it was good to be able to wind down. I also played a few games on the Commodore Plus/4 tonight to further wind down - one of them was to record some footage for a little mini-review that I am doing for someone in the future, and spent some time tonight recording a little voice over to go with the footage. The game concerned wasn't the best, but I did redeem things later by having a blast of the classic version of Kikstart, which is different from the C64 version but still very playable indeed.

It was also good to spend some time listening to some of the new CDs I got for my birthday and one of them happened to be the rather good Mindset album from Blancmange released last year. In fact over the last few years Neil Arthur has been massively active in releasing material generally which is pretty good. In fact the title track sets things off really well and so that has to be tune of the day - and I can highly recommend the album in general - lots of nice use of electronica and some no-nonsense vocals from Neil as well. Time I think to go up the bloody tree again!

Sunday 16th May - Sidcup Sunday Strokes

I had decided that today would be a good day, weather holding out and permitting, do go and play some crazy golf somewhere. I knew that some of the local places were back open again and indeed one of the parks not far from Beckenham Junction has a good little course open at weekends (which I will plan to go back to at some point.) However, I fancied some outdoor shenanigans at a course I'd never tried before, and after some research I located Mulligan's Dino Golf, on the A20 close to Sidcup. And when I checked the map, it looked there was a bus I could get there, in fact the same bus I get to the other park where the course I've played before is, so all good!

So with online booking required, I simply booked a time and paid for the crazy golf. In fact it was much better value to play both courses for around £13 instead of paying £9 for the one course, so in theory I could pick the course I wanted to start with and head around there first when I got there. I left the flat and headed out to East Croydon tram stop to get the tram to Beckenham Junction, where I could change for the 162 bus via Bromley and onwards via Chislehurst to a road close by the A20, and a short walk then to the Sidcup Golf Centre where the Mulligan's Dino Golf was based. All was good when I checked in, and I could then choose my putter, take the two balls (one for each course) and a scorecard.

It was attempting to rain intermittently and the earlier rain had made some of the holes play slower due to the surface being saturated, but nonetheless when the sun came out it was actually pretty nice, so was able to get on with a good first round, first of all on the dino adventurers course, which was supposedly the easier of the two. The hole designs were good, even having one in a little cave, and potentially you could get a hole in one on some of them, especially one near the end where hitting in the top hole resulted in a pipe leading straight to the hole. I didn't get that though!

The second course, the jurassic explorers, was a little bit harder as you progressed. One hole was actually on an island with water surrounding it, and nets to stop the ball heading off, but was fairly tricky due to the obstacles. There was another cave hole too which was good to see, and one where you clambered up some steps to start, then had three holes which led the ball down to the bottom where the hole was. In fact I thought I did well hitting the middle hole which might have been the best option, and rolled out of the pipe reasonably close. There was a volcano hole late on too which was tricky, but all good. In fact, I got 47 for the 18 holes on the dino adventurers, 49 for the 18 holes on the jurassic explorers, and no score above 4 on any hole - no holes in one, but plenty of twos!

I went to the little on-site café and had a very nice latte (it was Lavazza coffee too, so very decent) and it was a good position to sit and watch the games of crazy golf unfold from, with a view of the last few holes and seeing how some would do on the 17th on the dino adventurers course too. I then took the 162 bus back via Chislehurst and via the Chinese takeaway that used to be the Hong Kong Garden as mentioned in the Siouxsie and the Banshees song (make that tune of the day) and I had timed things well, as the rain was lashing it down on both the bus to Beckenham Junction and indeed the tram home!

Saturday 15th May - London Loop Completed

It was going to be a memorable day no matter what the weather today, as I'd be taking on section 24 (and the final section) of the London Loop. It's been my most ambitious sets of walks so far, with the whole walk totalling around 150 miles, and I've battled through the intense mud in some of the sections as well as had some gorgeous views around outer London that you wouldn't necessarily know unless you either lived local or were exploring in a similar vein. Even the prospect of a rail replacement bus wasn't going to stop me for today, and so had planned some alternative options just in case.

First of all though, I was on the Manchester City website this morning. In a week of my birthday just getting better, including 3 numbers on the lotto on Wednesday and having had such a lovely day with The Love In My Heart, I also found out last night I was successful in the ticket ballot for the last game of the season against Everton and the first one with fans allowed back in. I signed in to the website, and sure enough there was the button to purchase my ticket online. It all went through smoothly and had the mobile ticket delivered to the phone no problem. Definitely was well worth booking the cheap seat on the 20:21 train home next Sunday whilst I still had the chance to!

With that done, it was off to West Croydon station to get the Overground to Whitechapel, but instead of getting off at West Ham or Barking on the tube and then getting the C2C train to Rainham, that was no can do because of the Barking Riverside track work. So instead it was straight on the District Line to Elm Park and then from there get the 372 bus which took me to Rainham station, where the walk started. That worked out pretty well to be honest and did mean I arrived in a reasonably good time - and not too costly either. The level crossing was good to go, so crossed over that, on the pedestrian bridge over the Eurostar tracks, and off we go.

The first part of the walk was a tad disappointing, heading down the Ferry Lane industrial areas and onwards towards the Tilda rice factory. Even the path close to the River Thames here felt a tad unloved. However, past the factory, things improved a lot. The path by the river seemed to be a well used path beyond a car park, and also plenty of people out and about litter picking and keeping things nice. I also spotted the concrete barges moored here permanently that were part of the D-Day landings, and they just seemed so odd and yet peaceful here. There was also a series of pirate signs as part of a pirate family friendly trail which actually looked good fun, and certainly made the riverside walk nice.

Actually, what was also good was that the space seemed quite green, even if some it appeared to be former landfill grassed over. The path by the river took you round to Coldharbour Point with its small lighthouse and beacon, and I could see Erith over the other side of the river, where I'd started the London Loop first section 18 months or so ago (little did I know of course we'd have a pandemic to contend with!) - and from there the path curved round towards the Aveley Marshes and the small beach that was Aveley Bay, with a view of the Queen Elizabeth II Dartford crossing bridge over the Thames beyond that.

Walking along the path with Aveley Marshes on the left, this occasionally rose to the river wall to see views over, but was nice to head towards the RSPB place here and close to Purfleet, with the hide for the birdwatches with lovely views over the marshes. I also liked the fact that the café was open and really nice staff served me a tray bake with a coffee which was a perfect place so sit close to the river and the marshes and admire the view. It certainly felt positive to be out and I knew also that the end was in sight.

I walked by the river to Purfleet, and the impressive former gunpowder magazine store, now a museum, looked impressive and once close to a hotel, it was along a path to the road and following this for a short time to Purfleet Station. This was the end of the London Loop. I had made it! It did feel rather special and the Network South East old signage at the station was also good to see. It has been a real sense of achievement today and took a moment at the statuion to take it all in.

It was so good to achieve that, and normally of course it'd be a train back from here, but not today. Instead I waited for a rail replacement bus to Upminster, where I'd then pick up the C2C train from there back to Barking, West Ham or Stratford. Their staff were on hand by the bus stop and mentioned that I needed to touch in with my Oyster at the station, and then the staff at Upminster would let me through the gate line. And that is exactly what happened - the rail replacement bus even passed Upminster Windmill on the way to the station and arrived close to Platform 1, and the staff got me through the gate no issue. Got the train to Stratford, hopped straight on the tube via Mile End to Whitechapel, and back on the Overground home.

As I paused on the train home, it made me realise that all the walking has been a really positive thing for my mental health. I've explored new places, I've seen lots of different countryside and rural walks I might never have considered before, and most of all, I've got that sense of achievement of now having completed the Capital Ring, the Jubilee Greenway and now the London Loop - which is awesome. As for tune of the day, seeing as Leicester City won the FA Cup and a certain singer happens to also be a fan, This Moment in Time by Engelbert Humperdinck is a good choice (and what the BBC closed their coverage with too.)

Friday 14th May - Saving With A Smile

I had booked my food delivery to come via Sainsburys this afternoon whilst working from home, and indeed I was able to have a four hour slot which is cheaper, with the hour announced earlier in the day via text and email. In fact this was between 4 and 5pm, which was perfect really. I deliberately didn't get things like fabric conditioner and dishwasher tablets, because I was going to head out to the local Savers this lunch time to sort all of that out (and it's cheaper it has to be said.) I got all the work laptop set up and ready to go for the day ahead today.

In the main, it was monitoring and testing to ensure that some new packages were created and also ready to distribute. In essence, after a conversation yesterday with a colleague, I had realised that not everyone is aware of the likes of the costs of Java via Oracle (desktop SE licences are needed these days) and so had already packaged the freely OpenJDK JRE version instead, but version 8, and so set to packaging version 11 of that, as well as versions 8 and 11 of the JDK itself in case anyone needed that. All was good, thus far, but noted there was a weird error when sending the package to one of the secondary DPs.

Anyway, I worked out the error - it was the way it was attempting to write a key to one of the MECM database tables and insisting that the primary key was already there when it wasn't - this can happen if for example you decided to send a package or application and rename it, so suspected something at play here. The easiest way to sort it is to effectively remove the content from the distribution points first of all, and then once removed and all settled, remove the package or application entirely - give it some more time and then re-create and redistribute. That worked a treat.

It was over to Savers at lunch time and I knew I needed a few household items, and so was able to get all of what I wanted for less - for example 35 Fairy Platinum dishwasher tablets for £3.99, which worked out cheaper than getting the larger pack for some reason, and that number was more than enough. I also got my Persil colour washing tablets and also some nice Comfort perfume deluxe fabric conditioner, both of which were also priced very fairly too. It's always good to sort that all out and I nipped into Sainsburys for a meal deal lunch on the way back as I needed to have some sustinence for the afternoon.

Later on the Sainsburys delivery arrived, and I think it was a new driver. She was very happy and cheery which was nice, and also mentioned how nice and warm it was in the apartment block - so explained that the heating pipes were right above her head in the false ceiling. All was delivered and it was just nice to see a friendly face - even with her face covering on I could tell, and she kept a safe distance back whilst I bagged the contents of the boxes so all was really good there. Isn't it all just nice when things work properly as they should do?

Finally to end the working week, it was the work quiz, and my manager came up with two rounds of general knowledge, the second with the answer being all numbers. I did get 6 points in each round, 12 in all, with the winner getting 13.5, so didn't do too badly. One of the questions was about how many of Henry VIII's wives was called Catherine (or a varint of, of course) and the first thing I could think of was all the lyrics of Ex Wives from the Six musical (which is tune of the day as I have the soundtrack CD, and it's fab) - and was pleased to get a couple of other questions too.

Thursday 13th May - Planning In The Middle

I had spent some time today working out and then raising a suitable change which will cover a planned event from next week - eventually this will result in the total removal of Adobe Flash Player from all our estate - as after some checks to ensure no one actually needs it for any reason (old software for example), it's a two part plan: first of all to remove the plugin installer from the machine using the Adobe uninstaller utility, which works really well and removes all those versions, and then applying the Windows 10 update which removes the in-built OS version for Internet Explorer.

In fact, once that update has run and Flash Player is removed, you can tell pretty easily to be honest - the control panel icon will be removed to indicate there's no way to configure, and one of the system folders has its contents cleaned where the add-on would have lived, and as such that increases security nicely. I've got our cyber security team online with the plans too and they're good to go with it (this is when having a good working relationship with other teams works dividends to be honest) and so that's firing nicely.

The other thing I did as a bit of a team effort was something our cyber security manager mentioned - for some of the older Dell laptops, it turns out there is a security invulnerability in one of the files it uses for the likes of Dell Command Update, their system update programs and other bloatware they tend to chuck on. A quick check showed that some machines, clearly not rebuilt since their acqusitions into our place, have a number of those pieces of software on. Dell at least have released a utility to remove the offending file so will be road testing that, and also looking at removing some of the other stuff with a few msiexec commands too.

I did pop out at lunchtime primarily to have a quick mooch in Lidl and to get some nice beers for the weekend. In fact their Middle of Lidl section was actually pretty good and had a number of nice new beers in as part of their craft beer festival - which started today, so timed that well even though I didn't realise! I got the NEIPA and also Forbidden Fruit from the Stewart Brewing Company (had their beers before, all good) and also the Gear Shifter from 71 Brewing, based in Dundee. £1.79 for a 440ml can so not that expensive either, and all look rather classy and nice it has to be said. They were supposed to also get in the Gipsy Hill Bandit for a mere £1.29 (bargain!) but didn't see any, and the Fourpure Last Train too. I might have to venture to another Lidl sometime..

In any case, it was good to have a walk out and spent most of the afternoon working out further plans but also sorting out a few bits around the flat and keeping things all neat and tidy as well. I was also able to have a lovely chat with The Love In My Heart later as Brian the cat spotted his dog friends Yoda and Chewie outside (aww) and then settled in to see Liverpool give Man United a good 4-2 beating at Old Trafford, which cheered me up no end. In fact, tune of the day is the ace Evapor-8 by Altern-8, especially as that's what has happened to United getting close to the title this season...

Wednesday 12th May - The World's My Oyster (Stout)

It was off to the office today and actually a really positive thing all round too. I definitely think for me that being in the office makes me more productive, primarily because I have all the tools I need close to hand to be able to do the job properly, can connect at proper speeds which is always good, and on top of all that, am also able to get all the necessary virtual machine wheels in motion. And that's particularly helpful when doing a build and capture thing to get the latest Windows 10 WIM image sorted with the updates from this month added after they were released on the Patch Tuesday as well - as I had to get those prepped ready for UAT testing too.

It was a smooth ride to create the WIM this time around, after adding a new virtual machine for this purpose last month, and all was pretty good. I also had to create a new driver package for a new model of the Lenovo ThinkPad T14s, as they now have a Gen 2 model of that - and our office in China seemed to have got some of the first batch of those. It's different to the Gen 1, and interestingly when my colleague sent me over the WMI query, that came up with Gen 2i at the end, possibly meaning Intel chipset (the laptop also has an AMD variant, so maybe using Gen2a for the AMD one?) One of the things I'd mentioned to one of Lenovo's UK sales folks the other week was the fact that you needed some way to differentiate properly for deployments, so maybe this was borne in mind?

After work I decided to head over to Charing Cross, primarily to see how far it would be to walk from the office, and with the premise that I could in future head there from Croydon via London Bridge to mean a train only journey to work, potentially cheaper than train and tube (or train and bus) and also meaning that I have options should I need them. In fact the walk wasn't that far, down Haymarket and round Trafalgar Square. I could potentially cut across Leicester Square and down by the St Martin's Church too so there's options, and it works out around 0.6 miles and 15 minutes ish.

Anyway, I had a brainwave - I knew I wasn't far from one of my favourite central London drinking haunts, and so had a wander up Maiden Lane to see if the Porterhouse had any outside spaces - they didn't at the time, but decided to have a walk up to Covent Garden, see the vibe there (which was very nice and chilled) and also noted that a number of streets had been closed to allow for outside eating space to take place. In fact, it was all pretty nice and the Ivy Grill near the Transport Museum was pretty thriving too with the way that they'd sorted the outside seating and umbrella covered space.

I did head back along Maiden Lane and spotted a free table at the front of the Porterhouse, which was mine, woohoo! In fact, the staff were really nice and friendly and presented me with a very good beer menu. Best of all, my favourite of their brews that they do, the Oyster Stout, was on tap! Well, rude not to, and so with their nice new branded glasses, it was all mine. It was very chilled out a nice way to end the working day with one of my favourite stouts and a space to watch the world go by to be honest, I did feel really happy and that has to be a positive thing really.

Later on myself at hme and The Love In My Heart at her place were both enjoying The Great British Sewing Bee (the theme tune is ace so tune of the day - I do wish they'd add a "cha cha cha!" ending though) - and with Children's week, lots of fab little outfits. I really liked Andrew's crab in the transformation challenge, that was well thought out as was his reversible jacket for the waterproof raincoat made to measure. However The Love said (and rightfully so, I agreed) that Farie's raincoat with the unicorn pattern and indeed the unicorn mane tail at the back deserved garment of the week - which little girl wouldn't love to be wearing that?

Tuesday 11th May - Back On Top

It was back to work today and at home for the day, although of course I am in the office tomorrow - as I do feel more productive in thee. Today was mainly about monitoring the new MECM client deployments and making sure all was good as it would be later today the 7 day deadline up for any new clients to be automatically updated and be given that timespan, before then going on a 1 day cycle as the majority had already been done. In fact, I switched over my criteria for the non-compliant clients so that anything less than the new current client version would then show up, and a quick test of that showed all was good and this will help track some down. Interestingly, one that was three versions out of date came online and updated today...

I also spent some time finalising a script I'd been testing with a colleague that would help to fix any profile related issues with Google Drive. I then realised that for the detection method (if being deployed as a MECM application) I could actually use part of the script, and set variables if either the registry key or the folder in the user's appdata folder was detected, and if either variable set, return null, or if none set (ie: there's nothing to remove) show as installed. This worked pretty well, and I even made a new icon for it in Software Centre so it showed a Google Drive icon but with a green first aid cross in the bottom right, to help distinguish it. Nice.

A couple of us were discussing some good dance tunes, and I pulled an absolute under-rated classic from the bag - the original version of Get on Up by Meitz. Now, there's actually a Commodore 64 connection here, as Meitz is Volker Meitz, who went by the handle of PRI and was a really good C64 musician, mainly for demos by the group Oxyron (see Coma Light 12 for example) and later on he became a dance artist in his native Germany. In 2003, the album Vertikal was released, and Get on Up was one of the singles from it - in fact the instrumental break from 2:30 on is very reminiscent of his C64 pieces. Tune of the day as it is a bona fide classic.

After work I was keeping an eye on the events at Old Trafford as Manchester United were taking on Leicester City, and a defeat for United would mean that Manchester City would be champions. In fact United had made numerous changes and even though it was 1-1 at half time I suspected that in the second half Leicester would go at them all guns blazing, and although not quite that they did at least get in front, forcing United to bring their big guns off the bench in an attempt to try and salvage something - even a draw would have meant it going at least to Thursday night's game against Liverpool. As it stood though, it was a matter of time..

And then it was all done, and with United's defeat, a third league title in four years for City, and two of them resulting from a defeat at Old Trafford, similar to 2018 when United lost at home to West Brom. I was just glad that it was all over to be honest, and it does mean theoretically that City can look at resting players prior to the Champions League final in a couple of weeks time. Either way, it did feel weird that it'll be won without any fans there until potentially the last game of the season, but it's been like that for almost all clubs apart from a few in December who were lucky enough to get some fans in.

Monday 10th May – Birthday Bonanza

It was so nice to be with The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat for my birthday today. I had got myself up and shaved and ready, and The Love brought in all the birthday presents and cards, and Brian of course was sniffing around the bags to be able to see if he could actually peek inside. In fact he popped his head up and moved towards me with a little cat kiss. Awwww, that made my day – just for this once he was going to be super cute towards me, and even let me give him some tummy tickles later, so that was all rather lovely. It meant too after I opened the presents that he dived into one of the gift bags for a little play – bless, he is just so adorable!

What was really nice was the effort people had put in to get me some nice presents – The Love’s relatives had got me some nice beer, a gift card for Amazon as well as a couple of films on Blu-Ray, all appreciated – and as well as that, a nice short sleeved Ben Sherman check shirt! Both my sisters had put some money in an envelope, my brothers got me some nice Jack Wills bath and shower stuff as well as a Joy Division photography book based on their visits to Strawberry Studios, and Mum got me (as I asked for) a gift card for HMV so I can treat myself to some new CDs as and when they come out too.

My friends had got me some great presents too – four films on Blu-Ray including the likes of The Goonies and Harry Brown, and three CDs including the new Cabaret Voltaire album as well as Blancmange and Travis, all really good of them. In fact when at home later I opened my presents from another good friend, and felt really spoilt with the new Pixar film Soul and its soundtrack CD too – along with Northern Soul, Life of Pi and Philadelphia on Blu-Ray. Way too spoilt to be honest, but it’s really humbling that everyone made such a nice effort this year.

And best of all, some rather wonderful gifts from The Love In My Heart too – although I’d argue the best gift of all is herself, as she always looks lovely and makes me happy. If I had that as the one present alone it’d always be more than enough. She got me a really nice black gingham Fred Perry shirt for the Summer, some Ted Baker Skinwear eau de toilette (I used to love this, and it’s been brought back as a limited edition) and a really nice dark green jacket from Uniqlo, which The Love herself says actually looked better than it did on the website, and I’d wear that to head out for lunch later – it felt really soft and comfortable on too which is always a good thing.

Later on we had booked lunch and so were off to Cheadle Hulme and to Gusto, where their outside terrace was pretty well covered from the elements – but with a mix of sunshine and showers, we were ready for anything. The staff were all lovely and all had a matching dark blue face covering to match their uniforms, and it really did feel safe and relaxing in the environment too with the tables distanced and we had patio heaters and a good covering of space too. We both decided to have a little treat so The Love had a nice glass of wine with a Meantime craft lager for me – I was tempted by the fact that there was proper red Peroni on in bottles, but you got a full pint of the Meantime and for less money – still, good to note of course.

For the starters, The Love had the tomato bruschetta, which looked lovely with all the fresh tomato and a crispy bruschetta at that too. I had the calamri squid with the lemon garlic mayonnaise, and that was stunning, it really did melt in the mouth. More melt in the mouth followed too as The Love had the chicken supreme for main and the chicken was so nice in the sauce, along with the potatoes, polenta and vegetables, and I went for the saffron risotto, which had the pulled three meats that they use in the lasagne, and was gorgeously lovely – best meal we’d both had in around a year or so to be honest. I had the tiramisu for dessert with us both having a coffee too, and just felt so relaxed, safe and happy, and The Love looked gorgeous in her Ted Baker jumper with a big bow on the right side, so beautiful (and thankfully no lunch spillage for either of us) so it was good to be out together and having a lovely time.

We even had time to head over to Homebird across the way, which is a really nice homeware and furniture shop, which The Love really likes – stating that some of her relatives would like this shop too. I can see why – it’s all so lovely stuff inside. And I had a surprise later too – one of my good friends had coded a little Commodore 64 demo to wish me happy birthday and got lots of other people in the Commodore 64 scene to send in some text for the scrolling message too, which was really good to watch later. There’s a link to the demo here, if you want to see it on the PC you’ll need the WinVICE emulator or something similar, but really massively appreciated and made me feel humbled too.

The time in the afternoon went by far too quickly and it wasn’t long before a little kiss goodbye for Brian the cat and several hugs and kisses for The Love as I arrived at Piccadilly station – and taking the route home via Doncaster. In fact due to the well known issues on some trains at the moment, my train from Doncaster had been cancelled, but I had made a reservation on the next train which was around 7 minutes later, arriving in London Kings Cross on schedule around 15 minutes behind what I would have done. I had Altered Images’ ace Happy Birthday in my head all day (so tune of the day) and it was really nice to have spent quality time all weekend but also some lovely time with The Love and Brian the cat too – far too nice a day!

Sunday 9th May – Out And About In The Rain

It was a very wet day for most of today to be honest, but having a good lie in and a nice breakfast certainly made the Sunday morning all very nice too, it has to be said. I really did like the fact that Brian the cat was just being all soft and cuddly with his Mummy, and wanted lots of fussing. In fact, we managed something later – we finally finished the jigsaw! It was an epic effort but as the last few pieces started to go in, it was only fair for The Love In My Heart to do all the work there and get those in, seeing as she had pretty much done most of Brian’s head in the jigsaw singlehandedly. It was all very nice to see it done.

With that mission accomplished, we decided that with the weather receding slightly, it’d be good to head out for a nice mid-afternoon drink but also to visit one of my friends too and see how they were doing – and with the rain relenting that would at least be something. In fact we did try to head to the same bar as yesterday but no joy there either – still busy. I think because it has the original glass terrace roof over the entrance which is quite a decent size, even if it is raining you do get some cover there and so of course no matter what the weather, you’re still good. We reverted back to where we went yesterday and the white wine was back, but also the Brightside ales were on, so a double win all round really.

After that, we decided to have a look at where one of The Love’s relations might be buying a house soonish after having an offer accepted, just so she could work out where it is, the amenities in the area and so on. In fact, there were plenty of local shops and a petrol station reasonably close by as well as a nice local park, and the majority of the houses did seem pretty well kept. The only downside might be that it’s facing a road with a fair amount of traffic, so a secure front gate would be a must for any little ones not to run into the road. Still it did all look good so I am sure that’ll be somewhere nice and it’s good to see the location as well.

We did then pop over to see my friend and his wife, who we’d not seen for a while, primarily due to shielding reasons and also to ensure that they kept safe. It was really good to see them and they had presents for my birthday for me (they are far too kind to be honest!) and it was good to see how they had been managing overall. I think importantly they have been able to get shopping deliveries and have been keeping busy – in fact knitting has been one thing keeping one of them busy and even had a nice knitted cardigan for The Love’s tiny relative, which was really sweet. The time sped by like it wasn’t there, but was really good and positive to see them both and definitely for me it’s one thing I’ve missed – having a good face to face in-person natter with a friend.

Later on we had some rather lovely chicken along with vegetables and a nice gravy for tea, and The Love settled in to the likes of Call the Midwife whilst I was watching the final of the World Seniors snooker, which saw David Lilley beat Jimmy White 5-3 and win the title for the first time – and he played really well. We both later on also watch Gods of Snooker on BBC2 – for The Love it was an era growing up in her house where both parents would always have the snooker on, so she grew up with the names of the time. The first episode mainly was on Alex Higgins, and a real sense of how the game was dragged up from the doldrums. Nice to see the likes of Steve Davis as well as fans like Gary Lineker and Richard Osman be interviewed, along with Smalltown Boy by Bronski Beat as a perfect backing – make that one tune of the day.

Saturday 8th May – In The Present Tense

After a nice lie-in for myself and The Love In My Heart (and especially Brian the cat, who was happily sprawled out without a care in the world) we got ourselves up, had some really good breakfast, and then got ourselves ready for the rest of the day. It was going to be a relaxed sort of day really, but The Love did have her sisters drop off some presents for me for my birthday on Monday, which was actually really nice of them. Some of them did involve some nice beers so was very good to have some extra supplies at The Love’s place of course, and indeed it was good to be able to relax and carry on with the jigsaw together.

We decided it’d be nice where possible to head out for a drink later on, and of course be sat outside if we could. First off though, it was over to see Mum. It was good to see her of course and she handed me some presents for my birthday from her, my brothers and sisters (all of which had got me a card and a gift which was very nice of them) and to have a nice coffee too. Of course, it was also good to note that my brother was back home too – so good to see him at least and be able to see how things were in his world (and by all accounts they were all good, so positive there.)

After that it was off to see if one of our favourite bars was open outside, which it was, but there was zero chance of getting a table to be honest, even though it looked like some of the seating had been extended around the corner too which was very good of them. We did have a backup plan of another pub, and so was able to go there and get an outside seat after having checked in. It was half decent weather but we did have an umbrella above the table so the light shower didn’t get in the way of us having a nice ale and a nice wine together, which is all good. In fact The Love had the white zinfandel rosé as the white wines weren’t in stock, but she likes that and so was a good change to make.

Later on we got back to the 1000 piece Brian the cat jigsaw. It was a case of us both working together and making good progress, with the left hand side background of the former bushes and hedges behind where I took the picture of Brian in the first place proving to be quite tricky – but once we started to get a few pieces in we were actually doing pretty well to be honest. It was good to be able to see it take shape, and by all accounts some fans had decided to congregate near the Etihad Stadium thinking Manchester City were going to win the title, but a 2-1 last minute defeat to Chelsea put paid to that. Had some fans not learnt from Bolton’s experience last week with a similar sort of defeat to Exeter City in their promotion push I wonder?

We did also have some very nice pulled pork burgers and all the trimmings for tea, with the meat tasting rather melty and nice, and settled further in the evening as I was keeping an eye on the World Seniors snooker and the two of us shouting out the proverbial answers at the telly when watching The Hit List – we do both love that and the initial five from five from five round (five songs, one per decade, and a top five hit) really does separate out a broad range of knowledge. I was particularly pleased to get Don’t Go by Yazoo (make that one tune of the day) as well as plenty of the other 70s and 80s stuff. Brian the cat? He was just having a lie down on the pouffle and watching the world go by. Because he can.

Friday 7th May – Testing Diversions

It was nice to be in the office today and also nice to be able to get on with plenty of things too – including some considerable testing. I wanted to see if I could add the correct task sequence variable to the upgrade task sequence, so that when you do the in-place upgrade (and having closed down all you need to as part of that) you can have the reboot delay set to 3600 seconds – ie 1 hour, so that you don’t have to worry about an almost instantaneous reboot. I knew that everything else worked but wanted to be sure that it was dotting the proverbial I so to speak.

Of course, it was handy that a new test machine had been sourced for me, and with the correct USB-C Ethernet adapter with PXE passthrough (primarily because the machine doesn’t have on-board Ethernet either) it was relatively straightforward to build that up and to ensure all was well with that machine – so all good there. In fact, once done, I let it then become a member for the upgrade task sequence collection, started it off and ensured all the programs it needed to close were closed (so far so good anyway) and from that, it then did what I wanted it to do (and gave me a one hour countdown for restart too.) Sweet, and nice to see that thorough testing reaps its own rewards.

Of course, it was a different path to take later when I was road testing some applications – as I wanted to be sure that they worked for both install and uninstall, so was good to be able to get a few more of them boxed off, including the community edition of Pycharm (the professional version is licenced but there may be a need to do that too as we have licences). Overall it’s good to try and get people onside to be able to realise that actually organising things correctly instead of a shadow IT doing things manually isn’t just much more efficient, but also managed correctly.

After work it wasn’t off to Euston this time, oh no. Because of the continuing situation with late ticket releases and Avanti, due to the Euston works most weekends, it was instead a trip via LNER to Doncaster and then across to Manchester via Transpennine Express. So a tube to Kings Cross later and all was well, and I was in good time for the 1833 train out there. However, the seat I was in did feel claustrophobic so I’ve reminded myself not to allocate that again if I can avoid it (Coach G, seat 01, but anything 01-04 is best avoided.) It was a nice easy switch in Doncaster, although the train from there took its time being stuck behind a freight train all the way to Sheffield.

I did get in Manchester a few minutes late but thankfully The Love In My Heart was there to collect me, and the two of us were all relaxed and chilled out together. Even Brian the cat seemed happy to see me which I didn’t think he would be. I noted the Brian jigsaw coming along very well and we settled in to watch the repeat of the Jonathan Ross show from last weekend, which meant a nice appearance from Paul Weller and band together with the new single Shades of Blue, which was pretty ace and definitely for us both, tune of the day.

Thursday 6th May - A Group Sort

Upon doing some checks today, I noted that in MECM, the distribution point groups showed that although all content seemed to be distributed fine, two of them in the main group showed that they were at an in progress state, despite all the distribution points showing that content was in fact there and all verified to be okay as well. It did make me wonder if something was up in terms of the way that the status was being returned for the content, or if in fact it was to do with the way that the database was reporting back content correctly. Either way, it did make me think about what was viable, so I started to have a think.

I then thought that possibly, as the group membership changes over time, whether in fact the number of members was being reported correctly for some content statuses, and thus miscalculating what was in progress: more so for example if you end up removing content before it's fully distributed (seen that happen before) or if the content's WMI query list on the distribution point fails to match for any reason, and as such means that said list is incorrect. However, with the points themselves having their weekly verification showing all was well, I could rule that out.

In the end, I thought that a query of the distribution points at database level was in order, and found a really useful SQL query online which I could run in SQL Server Management Studio to query the database directly. Having done that, I noted something: my group has 15 distribution points, but two of the pieces of content (both applications) said that it had distributed to 16, not 15, so clearly in my view a miscount. I remembered that I'd seen an issue in the past at a previous position where the best thing to do was to remove the content from the group (and hence the distribution points) and then redistribute. The moment the content was removed, I could see that the compliance was 100%.

So far, so good - and so then I redistributed the two pieces of content concerned, and this time they both were able to go out there, show a correct level of compliance after all done, and in fact running the SQL query again proved to be conclusive that all was well and sorted. Happy bunny. It's good when things work well and it's always a positive to be able to clean things up nicely. It also means tomorrow I can concentrate on a fair few other tasks that I want to test too.

I also headed out for a little walk to the shops later on, primarily to get a few bits for next week, and noted that the entrance area at the front of the apartment block is being resurfaced and with some new tiles too, which should look a lot nicer when done. The old concrete paved area was looking a bit tired, so good to see some maintenance being done and keeping things all nice and shipshape. I also was watching the world seniors snooker championship too (cue Drag Racer the proper snooker theme being tune of the day) and some good matches played on the first day.

Wednesday 5th May - Twelve Inches of Pleasure

I headed down to the post box of the flats and to collect an item from the post room that had been delivered yesterday whilst I was in the office - no less than an order from eBay with three 12" indie singles inside. The seller had stated that they'd ship up to three singles for the price of one, so actually made sense to get three ordered instead, all three of which I was after but one in particular was desirable for me - the 12" promo white label single of The Cygnet Ring's Banjos in Bengal, and another one for the collection of the band's stuff. I do have the regular 12" but to get the white label promo cheap too - that was a win.

I also had two other singles which I'd been after for a while, the first of which was Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine's Rubbish, and the original Big Cat release at that, nice. Of course there's also a very interesting cover of Rent by the Pet Shop Boys on the B-side, which I seem to remember appeared on one of those Indie Top 20 compilations back in the day. I quite like that anyway, so was good to be able to get that and give the speakers a good work out playing that with suitable aplomb.

The final was the 12" single of Flowered Up's track Phobia, with an extended version on one side and a remix on the other. I did like this track back in the day and definitely shows that they had a more edgy dance feel to some of their tracks, which would be explored of course later on when London dropped them and they went back to Heavenly to release the thirteen minute epic that is Weekender, on CD and 12" single only, with no edits whatsoever - you played the lot or not at all. For having the sheer bottle to call that out and insist on it being played as is the band deserve credit, and definitely having played the CD single again, tune of the day for me.

It was overall a good productive day working from home, but I must admit that the noise of the building work nearby does put me off a bit - it's usually the same time as when I am working, so that definitely for me has to be something that I'll factor in as a good reason for going into the office a bit more pretty soon to be honest (and not to mention the fact that it'll just be good to see people out and about anyway.) I did also note my manager completed the move back up North over the last few days, so that's also given me some extra food for thought too.

I also settled in later to watch the latest escapades of The Great British Sewing Bee, and recognised the bit near Canning Town where it is filmed. The Love In My Heart mentioned to me that the place where they have the coffee, an American looking diner, actually looks quite good, especially with a view over to the River Thames and the O2, so definitely will have to have a wander around there at some point soon to see what all the fuss is about. I was pretty glad that Farie did manage to do her garment of the week on time, and The Love has a soft spot for Raph, I think!

Tuesday 4th May - Office Space

I must admit, I'm much preferring the office over working at home at the moment for a number of reasons: not only do I have access to more kit and infrastructure and feel like I can actually get more work done in the office, but also at the moment there's a fair amount of building work going on during the day, which, when you have the windows open to let some fresh air in (as you'd want to do of course) it's rather headache inducing to hear constant banging and clattering all day. I might evaluate whether I actually make it more time in the office full stop, possibly going back to even 3 days in, 2 days at home, primarily to ensure that I get some respite that way.

Of course, the office also has nice air conditioning and with the likes of the Pret round the corner offering me coffee via the subscription (and even now with me paying the £20 after the free trial, it still proves worth it as it means I can also get a coffee at weekends when out and about etc) - it's not too bad. Granted it'd be nice to go back to the free posh coffee machines once more, but realistically I can't ever see that happening now, or possibly a soft drinks fridge would be good like we used to have in one office, and that was always helpful for some cool liquid when you needed. We shall see.

What did prove interesting today was something I was additionally testing: you can now do the Windows 10 upgrades using the in-place software update method, but as part of a MECM task sequence. This is actually really nice because if you have some troublesome applications which you need to close before you can do the updates, then this is the job for you. Actually with the application force closed first, and a suitable warning on screen, it felt user friendly enough which is good. I did however have something else in mind to test today and that did pass successfully too.

That was to use the software update based upgrade step to line up the different language flavours of Windows 10 we have out there (mainly English UK and English US, but also Chinese and Brazilian too) and with them all in one step, would it be clever enough to pick the one it needed - and it did! It also means you can have all the different language feature upgrades you need in one step, and it's intelligent enough to only use the one you actually want and then to get it done. The only thing I don't like thus far is the fact it uses a 30 second restart timer, be nice if you had longer to be honest but I may be able to set that yet.

Nonetheless, plenty done in less time - that's the sort of goal we all want isn't it? Even with a bit of staying back a bit, I definitely felt it was more than worthwhile to be able to get some tests done and it did also mean that the train was a little quieter on the way home too which has to be a definite plus. I feel uplifted just by being out and about to be honest, and I'll have to carefully consider how I balance the time, but positive progress is good. As for tune of the day, it simply has to be the theme from the Cheetahmen game on the NES - as myself and a few friends have released a Commodore 64 tribute to said game with music by me in the demo!

Monday 3rd May – Escaping The Wind And Rain (Sort Of)

The Love In My Heart and I both had a well deserved lie in, and with the weather looking a tad dicey to say the least, we weren’t particularly in a rush to go anywhere to be perfectly honest. I did give Brian the last of his Dreamies which did mean that we would need to head to Asda later on in order for him to have his supply kept up (because, as readers will of course know, he is the pampered prince!) and that at least would give a little bit of a break to the day of sorts. We had some nice sausage on toast for breakfast, and set about the jigsaw to see what we could do – and managed to get all the pieces in the top right corner, so pretty much all of one side is now done and some of the other where Brian’s face is too, so that was a positive.

We do however think there is a piece missing sadly – one that appears to be just below one of Brian’s eyes. From the pieces we have left we don’t seem to be able to spot it there, so was either wondering if a piece had been missing deliberately or whether it had been cleaned, swept or vacuumed up at some point. We did during the day get on with some further progress and managed to put some more pieces in, and that worked out pretty well as we had a coffee and escaped all the wind and rain outside that was pretty grim to be honest – no wonder a number of restaurants themselves had cancelled any outdoor bookings later on!

With that in mind, we did watch the third session of the World Snooker Championship final between Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy. The crowd definitely seemed to be more behind Shaun as he wanted to get the crowd pumped up, but also I think this was because of Selby’s tactics against Stuart Bingham in the semi final, which even the referee had pulled Mark up about. I know there’s different tactics and all, and I appreciate that potentially winning four world titles shows break building and tactical acumen, but I guess for some it left a sour taste of the mouth, hence a fair number getting behind Shaun. However, Mark being from Leicester does always have a bit of Kasabian to call upon as the walk on music, and in recent times has now gone to Club Foot, so that’s tune of the day without question.

It was a nice relaxed afternoon and The Love made some lovely tagliatelle bolognaise later on – she always adds some extra carrots in the mix which just gives it a little something extra and I quite like that. It was going by far too quickly today though and I soon was having to say my fond farewells to Brian the cat, who did miaow in a sad little way, aww, and then it was off in The Love’s car to Manchester Victoria station, where at least once inside the station was all dry, as it was hammering it down outside and we could both feel the wind blowing strongly as The Love had headed towards the city centre, so a bit meh all round.

As it turned out, the section to Leeds was on one of those Transpennine Express Nova trains, which was rather swish and nice all round, so that was very good indeed, and following that and an on time arrival at Leeds, it was on the 1916 departure to Kings Cross, and it was all comfortable and relatively relaxed as I had the iPod on playing some tunes and also keeping an eye via the BBC Sport app on the World Snooker Championship final. The Love was also giving me score updates too just in case, and she said that the atmosphere for the final session was electric, with Paul Collier the ref having to give warnings to some of the crowd for going a bit too mental. Selby won 18-15, but a good match by all accounts. I arrived home albeit blown with the wind and rain as I arrived at East Croydon station, hoping for better weather tomorrow to be honest!

Sunday 2nd May – Fierce Frolics

The Love In My Heart would have attempted a well deserved lie in this morning, but you can probably guess that Brian the cat had other ideas (oh yes he did) – he insisted on getting up early and wanting a play out as well as his usual tuna and Dreamies. Naturally once that was done The Love quite rightly headed back to bed, so let her nap for a bit and got on with the Brian the cat jigsaw with Brian himself all snuggled next to his Mummy on the bed – the words high maintenance spring to mind, as it’s all about him! He definitely did feel like he was the lord of the manor as per usual, and when The Love headed up, he just decided to nap on the bed!

We got ourselves changed and ready later as we were heading out for the first time in ages to meet a couple of friends. Knowing that due to outside drinking and dining only meaning less space all round, we had booked a place for lunch and also had then booked a place for drinks afterwards – knowing how busy parts of central Manchester were, unless you booked somewhere you didn’t have a chance of getting anywhere on spec necessarily, so thought it good sense. We met our friends at the lunch venue, Tarriff and Dale, and were a little disappointed that the tables weren’t as distanced as perhaps they should be, but at least we had cover as it had rained earlier.

To be fair though, the staff were good and it was relatively straightforward, there were QR codes to take you to the menus for food and drink, and they came to take the order as needed, so after ordering drinks, we then looked at the food. Sadly there wasn’t a Sunday roast option (if only!) but at least we were able to get something nice – The Love and one of our friends went with the cheese and bacon burger, I went for the nduja pizza, and our other friend went for this rather good broccoli dish and a side salad, which to be fair actually did look pretty good!

We had a further drink in Tarriff and Dale, and conversation flowed nicely between the four of us – it was a little on the nippy side due to it being a little windy and the location not getting much sunlight anyway due to the high buildings all around, but it was nice enough and the staff were good – I think they may need to revise the number of tables but I can appreciate they wanted to also make it viable for them to open as well – a bit of a conundrum either way. With the time approaching for our second booking, we made our way towards Fierce Beer on Thomas Street.

I have to say, Fierce had things much better organised, and kudos to them. The security bloke on duty was really friendly, and made sure we all checked in (either manually or via the NHS app) and kindly then asked a couple sat where we’d reserved the table that as the reservation had turned up, they’d need to move onwards. He then sanitised the table and seats for us too before we sat down, and handed us a menu for ordering the beer. In fact, as bookings came, he was being friendly to those already there to give them a nudge that a booking had turned up, so not upsetting anyone either. In fact later when we had 10 minutes left on our 2 hour timeslot, he let us know so we could be sure to drink up and leave in good time for the next booking – but did tell us if they didn’t turn up, we could stay if we wanted. Fair enough, that. And the staff who served the drinks were also friendly too – and had arranged the seating so people had their backs to each other on nearby tables. Win.

In fact, we did stay for the allotted 2 hours we had but thought it fair to ensure others had their slot later on. I did of course have their rather gorgeous Mouse Mousse chocolate stout, which is gorgeous and not too overpowering, and our friends had also got a pitcher of pilsner to share, which actually unlike most has a really nice taste to it – The Love was particularly impressed which was good to see. When we last met, we ended up in Fierce and it was just as good an experience today to be perfectly honest, so kudos all round. We had a lovely time overall and it was just nice seeing friends, plus they had given us our belated Christmas present (as we did them!) and that was also nice to do as well. I do think that gradually we’ll all be getting back to some sort of normality, but in the meantime was good to be out and about all together.

Later on we kept an eye on the World Snooker Championship final with the electric atmosphere from the Crucible, before watching the final part of Line of Duty on BBC One, cue Carly Paradis’ excellent theme tune as tune of the day. I suspect a lot of people were disappointed with the outcome of the finale, as The Love most definitely was, and initially it did feel a tad underwhelming it has to be said. Having said that though, when I thought about it later on, it actually did make sense how that ended primarily because of the realisation that no matter what, someone at the top will always sweep the work of anti-corruption under the carpet as it doesn’t correspond with the public perception. You’ll have to watch the finale and judge for yourself, but in a way I’m hoping the series and story arc is at a natural end and no further series are made.

Saturday 1st May – Seatfrog Saturday

Due to London Euston being closed the whole weekend for engineering works and the like, I knew that to head to see The Love In My Heart this weekend, I’d be having to go on a different route – so sensibly had booked the train from Kings Cross to Leeds, and from there to Manchester Victoria, with the plan being that it’d be a relatively cheap route (in fact, a total cost of £22.60 with £18.50 being to Leeds, £4.10 being to Victoria, nice.) So with that in mind I knew I hadn’t paid a lot, and noted via the Seatfrog app that there was a possibility of upgrading to first class on LNER, which might be nice to do.

So knowing those auctions close half an hour before the train departure (so that the reservations etc can be updated) I put in a cheeky bid of £10 to see if the upgrade was doable. I had my phone ping in Kings Cross when I arrived, and indeed I had, so that was rather nice – and with a reserved seat too of course (as all LNER services require one.) Sure enough, I got to my seat, and it was a single seat (first class is always 2 and 1) and a window view, albeit facing backwards but not too meithered. The staff checked the upgrade and the original ticket (you need both to be scannable, just a note!) and all was well. A bacon roll and some coffee for breakfast was rather appreciated too, and that went down a treat as I headed towards Leeds in a comfy seat and with my headphones playing Juanita Stein’s All The Way (make that one tune of the day)

Once at Leeds, I knew there was a Pret in the station, so as I had time before my second train, I used my membership to get a latte whilst there and meant I could have that on the train. Good job I did – I needed the coffee considering the ineptitude of Northern. They put a mere 2 carriage train on, and considering the train serves Bradford, Halifax and Hebden Bridge on the way to Manchester, a bit daft, and a conductor who seemed to take an age to open a door at any station, hence a seven minute delay arriving in Manchester. Joy. I at least had had a seat as I got on at Leeds, but still, meh. Thankfully the tram arrived in Victoria and so I was able to head off to The Love In My Heart’s place and gave Brian the cat a bit of a fuss, because he was hiding in the bedroom and looking out of the window for any other cats.

It was a relatively relaxed afternoon to be honest, and we continued with the jigsaw that The Love’s niece had got her – a mere 1,000 pieces and all of Brian the cat, so quite difficult really. The Love had managed plenty to be fair, and it was just a nice feeling to be able to get more done, and process the pieces gradually by some colours, so some of the all white sections were getting my attention to be able to fit the pieces in nicely. The Love later on made some rather nice tea – some chicken with vegetables and that really went down well with me – and she had got me some nice beers too including the Dark Arts one – so no complaints there.

In the evening I spent some time chatting with some friends online, and it was nice to speak to them all. In fact one of them had managed to get some Commodore 64 stuff prepared and ready to show, and it was nice to see that some work I had done for that had proven to be worthwhile. Beer and conversation did of course flow pretty well, so no arguments from me to be perfectly honest. The Love was keeping an eye on the snooker and it didn’t take long for Shaun Murphy to beat Kyren Wilson 17-12, meaning that Stuart Bingham and mark Selby came back on after they had got pulled off due to running out of time earlier – and Selby eventually won 17-15.