Dear Diary... April 2021

Friday 30th April - Friday File Streams

It was the last day of the month, and quite a quiet and yet productive day at the same time to be honest. I had actually spent some time late yesterday and early today road testing a new version of the free Tableau Reader, with a view to replacing the old version. All appeared to be well and it definitely was a case of being able to check over it all working, and then once done have a cleanup of removing the old versions and going from there. I have to say it was also good that I could then send an updated list out of what we can make available to the service teams, so they're aware and to use the groups I've set up too.

I did also note as well that one of the things I'd spotted since the new MECM 2103 upgrade appears to be that there's definitely a better response from the administration console which is good, and also there seems to be a sensible increase of clients communicating an being managed by the cloud gateway. For us this was a real win to have this introduced along with the token based authentication, so being able to keep on top of all that really had been a good thing to do.

Later on in the day I also looked at packaging a new version of Google Drive (now called that instead of Drive File Stream despite being the same product) and that appeared to be using the same install and uninstall commands as previous. I handle the uninstall with a Powershell script that reads the path to the uninstall string from a key value (as depending on the version installed with updates, it can be in different places) and then sends that uninstall string as a command to run and remove the application - if anyone needs that one, do let me know and I can sort that for you.

I must admit too that it has felt a bit of an odd week overall, primarily because of the fact that the week seemed to be better later on and with it being a Bank Holiday next week, it's cramming some stuff in for next week too and having plenty to get done. The snooker of course has been entertaining and especially tonight as Stuart Bingham played Mark Selby in the third session of their semi final. I did think that Stuart was close to making a maximum in the second frame but just rattled the middle pocket with the 13th red - a real shame that. He also won an epic frame of over an hour with some tactical acumen and coming from behind to beat Mark Selby on the black, wow.

I do think as well that for me that I will look at going back to the office two days a week pretty soon - I've got more than enough lateral flow tests at the moment to keep me going, and of course that breaks up the week well. It's also a positive for me to be out and about, so will be on on Tuesday and Friday next week after the bank holiday, and that'll work nicely. I also will be able to then do some further testing I can't do at home, so again another positive to take - tune of the day in fact is the really good One Day Like This By Elbow, just the right feeling to be euphoric on Friday and get myself uplifted for the weekend too.

Thursday 29th April - Coffee Pods and Watches Fixed For A Bargain

It was an early-ish rise for me today as I wanted to take advantage of an offer from Costa Coffee as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations. After a few days a short while ago of any hot drink for a mere 50p (so had to try the toffee spiced latte as part of that of course) there was a new offer on just for today, where you could either get a cold can of coffee, or some ground coffee for the cafitiere, or packs of coffee pods (Tassimo, Dolce Gusto or Nespresso) for 50p each - limited to three packs in one visit. I knew that the Costa close by to me opens early as it serves commuters heading to West Croydon station for work.

Off I headed, and it was very much a case of no queue and plenty of stock in as well, so was able to get three different Tassimo packs - one Americano, one capuccino and one latte, and a mere £1.50 in total for all three, which means plenty of coffee stocked up at home to have during the day when working from home and also as a relaxing drink whenever I feel like it. Considering each of those packs are normally £5 each, I worked out the best saving was to get the pods, and that did mean I got them for 90% discount, effectively. That's really spot on isn't it?

I did have my jeweller's screwdriver set to hand (one of those is a perfect size for a Commodore 64 tape deck to align the azimuth heads by the way) which meant I was able to get off the back of one of my watches and it didn't take me long to locate and remove the battery. It was a SR626, which is also a number 377 by all accounts, and looking online the batteries were available, so I thought it might make sense to pop out at lunch time and see what I was able to get in terms of a replacement, and potentially one of the discount shops near me could be able to supply that.

So in I went into Poundland, and noted that there was a pack of different type of coin and cell batteries, and checking the front of it, they included the 377 number in there - 5 of them as part of a pack of 25 and made by Kodak, and for a pound. Well, that'll do nicely. I got home later and swapped the battery over, and put the case back on, and all is good and working. In fact, the other watch I have (the black and orange Superdry as well as a blue and green one) was the same battery too, so swapped that one over too and had them both up and running. Absolutely winning.

After a positive day it was back to the snooker tonight and the semi final between Kyren Wilson and Shaun Murphy, with Kyren having Sandstorm by Darude as his walk on music (make that tune of the day) and he was taking no prisoners either, with three centuries in this session tonight, taking the total to 93 for the tournament (the record is 100 so this might be broken!). The final frame of the session proved to be a real crucial one, as Shaun threatened a comeback but was thwarted and Kyren got the job done to be 6-2 up at the end - and that's a real foundation for him to go on and win, but we shall see.

Wednesday 28th April - Humans In The Office

I have to admit that it is always nice to be able to go to the office and actually have a normal conversation with colleagues and be able to do so much more than I can at home. It has been noticeable since the non-essential retail started opening a couple of weeks ago, that the trains to and from work have been busier, but still not as much as they were when all the current situation started. I have to admit it's been easier to get to Blackfriars first and then take the District and Bakerloo up to Piccadilly Circus the office, diverting via the local Pret to get my coffee via the app (as I know I'm going to be in a few times, their £20 a month proves more than worth it.)

Of course, with no coffee in the office, heading out to Pret in mid-morning and mid-afternoon to get the coffee really does break down the day nicely. Realistically, I can't see the coffee machines coming back (a real shame because they were fab) but I can understand why. The main focus of today though, apart from coffee, was to undertake the MECM 2103 upgrade as it had been released to the masses. My colleagues had the backups and snapshots sorted, and then it was a case of checking the pre-requisites. I did note that it needed some extra hard disk space so managed to get that sorted out, and then commenced the upgrade.

With that all successful and done, I then effectively got on with a fair bit of the post-upgrade testing. So the pre-production client went to the collection as always, and that worked flawlessly, which is good for when the new client goes out to the masses as well. I was also able to road test one of the new features - using a feature update from software updates as part of a task sequence for an OS upgrade. It means of course that you could effectively close any applications needed before it started, and it was good to run through that, and it seemed to be pretty positive too.

I do like the positives of course and was also finally able to get a few additional tests done with some physical hardware as well, so for me that was an added bonus to be able to crack on and get things done. I definitely enjoyed the different atmosphere of being in the office, and that really does boost my confidence too and the self-esteem nicely. It's good to be leaving for home and actually feeling like I've got a lot done, and that when I resume work tomorrow, I know that it's over the hump of the week with some positive vibes.

I also watched the World Snooker Championship tonight and it was a really good final session between Judd Trump and Shaun Murphy. Shaun was 10-6 up and Judd was fighting back so it was 11-9 at the mid session interval. The fans were getting behind Judd and when it went 11-11 the atmosphere went up another notch, only for Shaun to then up his game a step further, and two half centuries in the final two frames meant a 13-11 win and the world number one was out. Shaun's walk on music of Disco Inferno by the Trammmps is tune of the day as it seems to suit his persona somewhat!

Tuesday 27th April - Taking The (S)Train

At lunch time I took a walk to East Croydon station, primarily as I wanted to get myself a train ticket for a forthcoming trip to see The Love In My Heart. I know what you're thinking already: but you can buy your ticket online, can't you? Well, you could normally, but a while ago when a number of trains eventually were being cancelled and rescheduled, you could apply for a refund, but instead of having it credited direct to your bank account (which of course is the best way) the likes of Avanti West Coast insisted on issuing rail travel vouchers, which you cannot use online or on the phone either. Thankfully there's 12 months validity and all, but still, bit of a pain, right.

I had already used a couple of said vouchers a while ago when I was at Euston and booked a forthcoming trip to see The Love, and that does of course mean a paper ticket too (old school, eh?) and so would be the same here. The folks at East Croydon were very helpful, even if for some reason my valid rail travel voucher wasn't being accepted either with manually entering the details or scanning things in. However, it eventually all got sorted which meant at least that my journey was a mere £13 instead of £38, so can't argue with that really. I still have one voucher left to use, so could look at using that for the journey back and thus save a few more pounds if needed.

I also had a productive day today and a good one to one meeting with my manager - he's actually moving house over the next few days so the room he's normally based in did obviously look a fair bit more bare as I can imagine plenty of packing going on. To be honest, the thought has crossed my mind with the prospect of a even split of working in the office and working from home in future of whether it'd be worth my while doing the same and working out of Manchester. However, the train fares at peak times between Manchester and London are just too expensive by half, and on top of that, it'd also be a case of working out the free space I might have if I went elsewhere - I'd want somewhere at least as big as the flat or larger.

Thoughts all for consideration of course, as it may eventually be that I might go back into being in the office full time and then going back to a monthly Oyster card to cover all the travel costs too - which would at least work well. I am going in to the office tomorrow actually, and I've done my lateral flow test to prove that I am negative in the meantime, so that is a good thing. I've got used to doing those now and because I report them in with the employer's code (having registered previously) this means of course work are notified too and keeps everyone safe and in the loop - the only right thing to do really.

It was also good to have been able to get a decent amount of sleep last night - I honestly felt like words of Faithless' classic Isomnia (make that tune of the day) with for some reason me not resting the head as well. I think maybe I was thinking too much, so with an early rise tomorrow it'll be hopefully early to bed, but I'll see how it pans out. I do have some ideas about what could also be a cause, but nonetheless I just know that I always feel better when I've had some kip!

Monday 26th April - Rising To The Challenge

It was back to the week of being in work, and a nice surprise I had too this morning. I already had an inkling due to a chat I'd had with my line manager the other day, but always good to actually see it in writing. So when I checked our HR system and indeed the section for pay and payslips, with me being paid this Wednesday, it was the good news I'd been hoping for - I got a pay rise! To be honest, I didn't expect it especially with us all not taking a rise last year in order to make sure we still had a job, so felt positive that the hard work that many of us had done had been suitably rewarded. So that was positive.

In fact I spent some additional time today working on a spreadsheet and I'll have a chat with one of my service team colleagues tomorrow. In essence I know there's some machines which haven't checked in for a while, so need to be sure where they might be and I've managed to get a list together, but also crosscheck that with the hardware information for each machine and whether that they have our inventory client installed also, so that should give us some indication of what's going on.

With that done, I also did some further data manipulation to get some of the machine and user info for the HR system in the format that they need. I actually did the documentation for this last month, so was actually able to give that a full run through and check that it was working the right way, which it was, so that was highly pleasing to be able to do. And it also meant our HR folks got the info that they needed which they were grateful for also - always good when you're able to do that methinks. Tune of the day simply has to be Manic Monday by The Bangles, a classic for me even to this day.

I did head out briefly at lunchtime just to have a nice little walk, and was good to be able to see that with other shops open, it did feel a little more vibrant in the town centre now. Of course it'd be good if more shops had been able to open and weren't shut down for the long term, but of course there are the usual queues at Primark (no surprise there then) as well as Sports Direct. I suspect this is primarily down to the economics of things - they're not so expensive for items, so if on a budget you're going to go where is afforable. That said, I've always found offers on at Uniqlo where the quality is infinitely better, and for less money!

Later on after a lovely chat with The Love In My Heart, it was back to the snooker and the final frames of the second round. Admittedly, this didn't last that long as I suspected that it would be a relatively easy win for both of the match leaders: in fact Mark Selby didn't spend too long getting a 13-7 win over Mark Allen (even with an extra frame being played because they were pulled off a frame early) and so the quarter final line up shows 6 former World Championship winners out of the last 8. That is amazing stuff, and shows just how the cream really does rise to the top.

Sunday 25th April - Bent Coppers and Sporting Sunday

I had a bit of a lie in this morning, and once I got up and had some breakfast, I decided that I'd catch up with a series on BBC Two that I had wanted to watch at the time - which was the real life story of bent coppers in the Metropolitan Police, and narrated by Philip Glenister, aka Gene Hunt, the Gene Genie from Life on Mars. That was a perfect choice to narrate this and so I watched both episodes I needed to back to back with a coffee. It was intriguing at first to have the first inklings of dodgy goings on, complete with a hidden voice recorder in someone's car as they met with corrupt officers, and the whole thing exposed in the Sunday Times and leading to two convictions.

Then the late 1960s and 1970s brought about an increase in sex shops in Soho, many of them actually as part of protection rackets as it transpired, where the police would "raid" the shops but this was all planned to make it look like a crackdown, whilst those involved in corruption would take money from the owners, and indeed end up going on holiday with some of the self-styled "porn barons" at the time. The new head of the Met, a Mancunian no less, Sir Robert Mark, formed the A10 anti-corruption unit, and this led to changes, arrests and a good rooting out of the corrupt officers, including one of the main rotten apples as one of them put it.

After that it was time to watch some live football on proper telly, as Burnley went away to Wolves at Molineux. What I didn't expect to happen was that Burnley outplayed Wolves entirely, with their play down the wings really showing up the defensive frailties of Wolves. Chris Wood scored a first half hat trick (his first in the Premier League too) and also set up the fourth goal late on as Burnley were 3-0 up at half time and won 4-0, with a superlative performance that pretty much guaranteed their Premier League survival. The proper Match of the Day theme tune and on proper telly, tune of the day for me.

I then put on iPlayer and rewound back for today's Formula E race from Valencia. Thankfully none of the shenanigans of yesterday, and a lights to flag win for Jake Dennis, and his team were pretty crafty - they knew that they could run out of energy if the race went one extra lap so they told him to go slower in the final section and chicane and crossed the line just after the 0:00 timer, and so had one lap left, so he could effectively sprint to the line and win - an excellent result for him and he really did control the race throughout, a superb maiden win at that.

Later on it was the Carabao Cup final between Tottenham and Manchester City. It was a pretty dull affair to be honest, even with City doing most of the attacking, and even the onset of having fans there as part of a pilot and having them both cheer their teams on (which at least helped for the atmosphere) didn't make the football any better. In the end a set piece free kick resulted in Aymeric Laporte heading home for 1-0. Perhaps he might not have been on the pitch with a less lenient referee, but there you go. I'll have that thank you very much, and although still feeling a little meh about the last week's events, that was at least something.

Saturday 24th April - Windmills On My Mind

It was back out to do another section of walking the London Loop today, and with two sections to go until I complete the loop, I'll most likely be looking at doing the rest of the Lea Valley Walk next (I did two sections the other week as I needed to stay more local.) It was up at a reasonable time and off to West Croydon station once again, this time getting the Overground to Whitechapel and then changing there for the District line all the way to Upminster Bridge. It was noticeable that the tube train got busier at Barking, with people either leaving there after shopping or heading onwards to the likes of Elm Park and Hornchurch.

Once off at Upminster Bridge and spotting the London Loop information board after the ticket barrier, it was a little diversion up the hill from the station and to see the beautiful Upminster Windmill. It's been in a long renovation period and with it almost complete, it did look rather lovely and all white with the sails all ready to go. In fact, the visitors centre to the left hopefully will reopen as will tours once things settle down, and I'll have to come back once that happens and make a visit for definite. It was a rather good way to start the walk and heading back down the hill towards AFC Hornchurch, it was going to be following the Ingrebourne River for the next four miles or so.

It was heading through Gaynes Parkway Open Space and following the path by the river over to Hacton Parkway, and the river was winding to the left side as I crossed a series of paths and bridges, and once over a little wooden gate it was into Hornchurch Country Park, with the Ingrebourne River to the left. It was good to follow this and after a couple of right left turns, the Ingrebourne Valley Visitors' Centre was in view. The café was open on the other side and with the view over the marshes from the benches, it was a nice place to sit and have a coffee for many. I was carrying on though as I knew I could grab some lunch at the end.

As I followed the path and curved uphill and then down a steepish slope, I noted a World War II pill box to the left, and from inside those defences, it had a good view out to the marshes and the river, complete with the feeling of being protected heavily inside, which was key. Another one was visible further up the path with a good view of the river also, and after heading around Albyns Lake, it was a left turn by the farm and up towards Ingrebourne Hill Park, complete with its mountain bike paths, and that did all look rather lovely, it has to be said. In fact, all the green paths really made it all lovely.

It was onwards to Rainham, which did look rather nice with its village feel, and the mural on the wall close by to the large Tesco was definitely a case of that. The small war memorial and the church also added to that feel, and it was from there a short walk to the train station and the end of the section. In fact, I saw the Eurostar train speed along High Speed 1, which runs close by to the line here, before heading on the C2C train from Rainham to West Ham before changing for the tube and then the Overground back to West Croydon, all for a mere £1.70 each way, absolute bargain!

Later on I settled in to watch the snooker (cue proper version of Drag Racer by the Doug Wood Band being tune of the day) as well as the Formula E race from Valencia. And what a shambles that was. Due to the fact that the leader had passed the finish line with 15 seconds to go plus 1 lap, it was 2 laps to go, but the energy left was only enough for one lap for almost all the field. Someone within the FIA got their sums ever so badly wrong to be honest, and that spoiled things for me badly. If you're going to get people into your version of motorsport, make it exciting but don't make it farcical, which is what this was.

Friday 23rd April - Surround on a Friday

Today with me working from home and working on some reports in spreadsheets to determine some asset related issues, as well as packaging new versions of Adobe Reader, Firefox and Chrome for the core build applications, as well as Acrobat Pro XI for some users' machines that had purchased a licence, some music in the background was always welcome. I decided that some surround DVD-Audio discs on my rig were really good to listen to and give the new subwoofer some more warm-in time at the same time.

It was on with the rather nice Philip Glass score from Koyaanisqatsi at first, perfect background music for the day ahead and the lengthened soundtrack here on the DVD-A disc really does show off some of the drama that the whole film did have - groundbreaking as it was only to music, no speech throughout. Rush's iconic 2112 up next and naturally the rather epic side one title track has to be tune of the day - the seven sections that make up the whole suite really do feel like it's telling its own story. I like the fact there's a comic book of animations that are on the disc too, and really shows the track in a different light but in keeping with how it was.

I also played another cracking DVD-A disc I hadn't played for a while too - Sea Change by Beck. It was a very marked departure from his other work at the time, mainly dealing more acoustically and with a slight Americana twinge of heartbreak and lost love, and really does hit home emotionally. For me, perhaps something you should rediscover too. I also played Dream Theater's self titled album which has the excellent introduction with full string arrangements before heading headlong into The Enemy Inside, one of my favourite tracks of theirs - and my does it sound gorgeous in full surround too!

Later on it was then a chance to play some classics, so on went Rumours by Fleetwood Mac (The Chain of course with its iconic bassline is an absolute must, but Songbird also with the piano just being so perfectly placed in the surround mix really helps too) and then A Night at the Opera by Queen, with of course Bohemian Rhapsody on there, but there's so many other tracks people forget about, such as the barb of the opener Death on Two Legs, and the John Deacon penned You're My Best Friend, which is a great song too, and a perfect single really. And not to mention the rather epic eight minutes of what was the opener on side two of the original LP, The Prophet's Song.

Finally, the snooker was also pretty good today to be fair. The cracking match had to be Anthony McGill v Ronnie O'Sullivan, and the morning session showed how good Anthony was, and Ronnie did tonight pull it back from 10-6 down to 10-10, and both players traded frames until it goes to 12-12, and in the decider although Ronnie had a chance, Anthony took his well and got over the line with a quality break under pressure. Fair play to him and certainly now he's got a great chance of progressing very deep into the tournament.

Thursday 22nd April - Promotional Pushes

I had had a nice arrival in the post yesterday, which was something that I had ordered from a seller on Discogs, and an item that was another for my collection of music by The Cygnet Ring - and that had also prompted me to update the sister site yesterday. It was a promotional CD from Warner Brothers that they did from around 1991 onwards, and this one was number 26 from 1992, and had a selection of forthcoming singles and tracks to play in order to promote the songs on it. Of course, the idea being that if you owned a record shop you could play these on repeat and get those singles played, and I'm pretty sure some of these winged their way to the likes of HMV, Our Price and other retailers at the time.

Of course, track 7 on the CD, Love Crime by The Cygnet Ring, was the main reason of course to get it, so I had this promo compilation release with that on. But looking at the track listing, there's a considerable number of other tracks which I definitely liked at the time or hadn't heard back then but gave a spin now, so was good to play the CD. I'm convinced that someone really wanted Marc Almond's The Days of Pearly Spencer to do well though, this was the third of four of these compilations that the song appeared on, followed by the AOR rock of Mr. Big after that.

ZZ Top's version of Viva Les Vegas is up next and I do remember this being quite a decent charting hit at the time, complete with the iconic beards in the video of course. Nick Kamen is on next and the track here is okay, and ironically reminds me of the sort of stuff The Cygnet Ring did, but that band did it better of course. Track 5 though is one of the CD highlights for me, the 1992 version of The Sisters of Mercy's Temple of Love, complete with Ofra Haza on guest vocal. Still to this day a goth classic and tune of the day for me - it just has that added air of Eastern mystique along with the driving rock that it was.

The Wildhearts do a good track with Nothing Ever Changes but the Shoes next, and The Cygnet Ring on after that, and then we get into different territory, with the likes of Julee Cruise (remember Falling from Twin Peaks?) and Mellow State, whoever they were, with an inoffensive dance number. The other CD highlight is up next though, with k.d.lang's excellent Constant Craving and still has a really good feel to the song even now. I just thought it was very different at the time and today still stands up wonderfully well. Rod Stewart doing Elton John up next - not that good but I can see why people liked it.

Argubaly the weakest three tracks on the CD are next from the likes of Tracy Chapman, Simply Red (Thrill Me? I think not!) and then Tevin Campbell before giving way to the rather wonderful Jane Siberry as the final track with The Life in the Red Wagon. It's just spellbinding and shows off Jane's wonderful voice (those who love The Crow film will knoe her song in the soundtrack) really, and it's a shame that a lot of stores may have turned off the CD by then so you may not have heard this. Still, an intriguing set of tunes and of course a good way for stores to get some ideas as to what people may have wanted to hear.


Wednesday 21st April - Back in the Office

It was back to the office today and the first time that I'd been back since the shops and pubs were more open than before, with of course outdoor hospitality and non-essential shops allowed. Granted, they had been open when I was there last week, but it didn't feel that busy as such. Certainly it was much more busy today when I had a walk out at lunch time, and actually treated myself to some nice bargains in Uniqlo including a nice check shirt more for work, and a pair of boxer shorts and socks too, total amount, around £12. Couldn't really complain about that one bit to be honest.

I did have a fair bit to do today which kept me very busy, including a decommissioning of two MECM distribution points that no longer needed to be there after some extensive testing last week. In fact I was getting on with that well but was also dealing with a colleague on a support call, and was able to work out what the state of play was with an application being particularly icky and the way it's designed: even the member of staff said that the financial institution concerned were well known for using out of date technology and applications, and had to work out a suitable kludge to get it all to work - not the best thing ever to be honest.

I also did note this afternoon as I sorted out some applications to be be packaged that it just felt a nicer atmosphere being in the office, especially with some staff being in and getting about their work as well. I think next month there'll be a gearing towards 50% capacity at maximum by the look of it, so glad that our Facilities folks have pre-allocated my space that I asked for in advance so I've got the next few weeks plotted out well. It's all working well thus far and for me being in the office really does work wonders: and got plenty of self-tests to do at home when needed as well.

The pub near the office was open for outdoor seating only, and as there happened to be a spare table as I headed out of work, I thought I'd treat myself and have a well earned pint of Ice Breaker pale ale. It actually was all good too - the tables had a QR code to scan in for check in, and then the staff took your order and you paid on your debit card via contactless, all working nicely. I must admit it did feel nice to have a drink and just watch the world go by too - so that was pretty nice and a good way of working out how safe it all felt in a controlled seating environment too. We're all going down the pub, as Sham 69 belted out during Hurry up Harry (make that tune of the day).

Tonight it was on with the snooker, albeit not for that long as Barry Hawkins didn't waste any time in getting past Matthew Selt 10-3, and after a close first session, Mark Williams won five frames on the bounce and got past Sam Craigie 10-4. I have to admit that it's not been a good year for qualifiers getting through, and potentially there may be a maximum of only three qualifiers (and possibly only two) getting through to round two - such is the nature of the nerves of so many at the Crucible.

Tuesday 20th April - Final Frame Thrillers

It was nice to have a second day off work, and this time instead of taking a number of walks, it was time to stay in and chill out, with the World Snooker Championship from the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield being live across the BBC with the continuation of the first round matches. I have to admit that it's been mainly the top 16 seeded players going through up to now, with only Jamie Jones impressively beating Stephen Maguire as an exception (which I always thought had shock result potential) but still, there has been some quality snooker nonetheless and that's a welcome distraction from all the football shenanigans.

In the morning, it was the final session of Jack Lisowski versus Ali Carter. Both players were in good form and playing well and as a former finalist and maximum break achiever here at the Crucible, Ali's a tough player to beat and one many of the top players wanted to avoid. It was blow for blow with some frames being really exciting going one way and then another. In fact, so many of them were close that it could easily have been 10-7 and game over, but when Ali Carter went 8-6 up I did wonder if he could finish that off. 8-6 though became 8-8 as Jack roared back.

8-8 then became 9-9 and it was our first final frame decider of the championship. Both players had chances but eventually Jack Lisowski produced a quality break of 60, under intense pressure, and despite a spirited attempt to force some snookers from Ali Carter, nothing was doing and it was Jack who got through 10-9 and will face Neil Robertson in the second round. Certainly Ali was as determined as ever here and on a different day he'd have converted from 8-6 to win 10-7, so fine were those margins really.

The afternoon session proved to be a very tense affair with some quality snooker being shared between Ding Junhui and Stuart Bingham. Bingham, being a former World Champion, had to qualify this year as he was seeded 18 and I thought this did have some upset potential, as good as Ding Junhui is. They were trading breaks and some quality clearances throughout and due to a couple of tense long frames, by the time it got to 6.20pm it was past the cut off for playing another frame, before the evening session started.

As such they had to wait until one of the matches finished in the evening session, and once it did, out they came, with the score at 9-9, and a final frame decider. Stuart Bingham played a quality break of 70 and that was enough to win the match, and a real sense that snooker was the winner, and a shame someone had to lose that. I had backed Bingham to win in an online predictions competition I do, so I get double points if the unseeded player wins - so that was good. I almost got the correct score of 10-8 too, but never mind! Tune of the day is of course the proper snooker theme, ie: Drag Racer by the Doug Wood Band, and I mean the original, not the ham-fisted remix we get nowadays.

Monday 19th April - Looping Around London

It was nice to look forward to a couple of days off work, and today with the weather looking to be decent, I thought it would be a perfect time to head off and continue my quest to complete the London Loop walk. I have four sections left to go, and with the next two being around four miles and a bit each, I thought it might be nice to see how I do after the first one, and if the need was there, I could then do the next section as well. I was up and ready and had caught up on both Line of Duty and the F1 from last night, so didn't have to watch anything I needed to.

I set off for West Croydon and got the Overground to Canada Water followed by the Jubilee Line to Stratford, then swapped over for TfL Rail to Romford station, and after grabbing some hand gel from the Aldi close by, it was all in good time for the 375 bus to Havering-atte-Bower, where the pleasant village green greeted me as I got off the bus. I also then headed past the Royal Oak pub, and turned right into the little cut through and onwards to what was designated locally as path number 7, to follow this towards Paternoster Row.

It was along some farmland edges, then down and across a field with a solitary tree and passing the old gate which was part of the entrance to Pyrgo, a house lived in by Henry VIII and Elizabeth and Mary too - only the gate exists now, but good to know the historical importance why it was still there. Up and over more farmland following the path, and down Paternoster Row itself and skirting round a caravan park before getting to Noak Hill and a very nice looking pub with outside seating. Let me tell you, I was tempted to go and have a drink outside, but more walking to do.

After following the Carter's Brook and spotting the deer close by on the other side, it was then time to cross over and follow Paine's Brook towards Central Park in Harold Hill, cutting through and across there and towards the A12, crossing this carefully before then being in Painsbrook Open Space and getting to Harold Wood station. I was a little warm but the local Co-op close by meant I could get a meal deal lunch and make a decision on whether to then do section 22, having completed section 21 in a pretty good effort.

Section 22 mainly followed through Harold Wood Park at first, nice with the little herb garden curated by friends of the park, before crossing a bridge into Pages Wood, plenty of trees everywhere and a really nice new bit of nature here too. I liked the wooden displays of the animals which served as a little trail for families to follow, and crossing over the Ingrebourne River and uphill to Hall Lane, the view from here was rather lovely. I crossed over the Southend Arterial Road and followed Hall Lane for a bit more until I got to a roundabout, and followed the road downhill.

This led to a little woodland before then crossing the Ingrebourne River again, and then heading along past the playing fields of Emerson Park School and then along some farmland, skirting the edge of here before then clambering up and across behind some houses and off to the main road, crossing over the Overground line between Romford and Upminster and curving around towards the final destination of Upminster Bridge station - and it was getting pretty warm by now and that was good that I knew I'd have air conditioning on the District Line!

So all good and two sections done, which means two to go and around nine and a half miles left, which I'll probably do in two separate stints. I might do one this Saturday provided that the trains and tube allow me to do so, and then in mid-May that means I can complete the London Loop and that will be very good to do. I have to admit that it's been good to go exploring elsewhere and I think that section 20 might be another one to walk again at some point, that's been my favourite so far. In the meantime tune of the day is the excellent Getting Away With It by Electronic, just suited the mood perfectly of being in peace and quiet.

Sunday 18th April - Northern Quarter Niceness

The Love In My Heart and I had managed to book somewhere for a bit of lunch out on the Sunday afternoon, so we could sit outside and have something to eat, whilst still following all the current guidance that we need to. I think that for us both we had been used to having a nice Sunday out together, so definitely for us we wanted to see how it all went. Both of us got ourselves showered and ready, and I was keeping an eye on the Martin Gould v Yan Bingtao morning session of the snooker, with the Chinese player snatching a couple of frames, so 9-5 instead of 7-7 really.

We headed onto the tram into Manchester city centre, and the double tram was a little busier, but not as packed as it might have been. We were able to have some time to check some of the shops too, so I did venture into Debenhams for the closing down sale. It looked like a lot of the stock had already been taken that had fitted in my size as well, but also it was resembling a jumble sale in places, and it really needed a tidy up. I was semi-tempted by a couple of shirts but decided to resist instead.

It was then time for us to have some lunch and it was off to Yard and Coop on Edge Street. As we had booked in advance we didn't need to queue for a walk-in, and that was a sizeable queue too. We were shown to the table and it was really good to get everything ordered as needed - you scanned in a QR code, checked in, and then followed the menu and ordered everything online. That worked well and we had some wine and pilsner delivered, and it was good to have a drink and chat together, and even the weather was nice!

For the lunch we both had one of the specialities of the restaurant - Dirty Bird - which was buttermilk chicken with spicy barbecue sauce, cheese melted over the fries and lots of really nice seasoning on the chicken too. It was totally spot on and really did fill the gap nicely as we both enjoyed it - and had a nice pilsner each later to wash it all down with. The staff were spot on and were all wearing face coverings, even outdoors, so making sure they were all doing their bit and safely too. This was really good to see and I'd happily go back there at present. Good job!

We also then headed round the corner to Northern Soul, who had taken some kerb space opposite where their restaurant was for outside seating. We checked in and had a table there and were able to have a drink together too outside, which was also nice - The Love even had an aperol spritz too, because she could! It was so nice being out and we both felt really happy, so was a shame that I had to then head to Manchester Victoria to start my train journey home. We had some long hugs and kisses and it felt like that we were on another step to normality too, but was so good to be outside together doing the thing we normally do on a Sunday. Tune of the day is the excellent Out There by Swing Out Sister, it just felt the right vibe for us both today.

Saturday 17th April - Crucibles and Chelski

It was an earlyish rise for me this morning, and due to the royal funeral later on, the coverage of the World Snooker Championship had been moved to the BBC Red Button from BBC Two. What I did want to see was fans back at the Crucible after a long time away, and with the event being part of a Government pilot, it would also be good to see who would make all the effort. This of course includes negative tests but they have to be supervised lateral flow tests - you can't do the same ones at home, so that will put people off.

It was though rather good to see Hazel Irvine back where she belongs - front and centre of the BBC presentation team. It felt a bit more normal with her skill and consummate professionalism, and although the introductions were muted as Rob Walker brought the players out, mindful of the fact of the funeral later, it was certainly good to see snooker back with a crowd. Ronnie O'Sullivan did struggle to get going against Mark Joyce, but I think the debutant also had his own nerves to deal with, and that showed over time as Ronnie somehow managed to get 6-3 ahead despite not being on such good form. Kudos too that for the walk on music this morning, a bit of Motorhead's The Game for Martin Gould was blasting out - tune of the day.

We did later watch the royal funeral, and it was all very dignified but also quite a scaled down experience, with all the current guidelines under the pandemic being stuck to. I thought that was actually the right example to be set to be perfectly honest, as this shows that if it's good enough for them, it should be good enough for everyone else. The small choir and their somewhat haunting songs in the chapel somehow added to the finality of it all, and I know that it actually with cameras was at times a bit uncomfortable intruding into a family event.

Later on I decided to open the Legacy 25 ale and watch the FA Cup semi final with Manchester City taking on Chelsea at Wembley. I suspected though that the line up was a bit too much of an overhaul and we would struggle somewhat to be able to get things right. Sadly it was proven to be honest. Chelsea looked the better side and deservedly took the lead early in the second half through Ziyech, and that was how it stayed. It wasn't good enough and questions now need to be asked about that team selection, definitely for me too many players looked like they couldn't be meithered.

The Love and I had some rather nice steak pies for tea with all the trimmings on the side, which was rather good, and once we had settled in together we were spending time keeping an eye on the F1 qualifying (that was pretty good, gutted Lando Norris had his best time deleted due to track limits) and also then saw more of the news and what had happened today. Certainly it was a more relaxed day together and we had something nice planned tomorrow - but the weekend of course was going far too quick, sadly.

Friday 16th April - Diversions

It was a morning to be working from home, and so I was able to get a considerable amount done in the time I had. I set up the user acceptance testing deployment for early next week for the April Windows 10 updates, and was also able to check over maintaining a few things around MECM too. Importantly for me also a package arrived which was the thing I had waited for, and at the same time another package I had sent out due to some eBay sales was confirmed to arrive safe and sound in Germany, where it had been sent. I was concerned due to the way things have changed with international post.

I was on a half day today primarily to head up a little earlier to Manchester to be with The Love In My Heart this weekend. As there's a number of weekends where engineering works mean not many trains allowed to enter or leave Euston, it means the main part of the line between London and Manchester is affected. As such I had worked out a diversionary route which effectively was just as cheap (or not cheaper) and meant I could get there, so was doing the route up today with the route back on Sunday. I've occasionally had to do this before too but good to know it may even be a more longer term possibility now I don't get discounts with Avanti West Coast.

So it was off to St Pancras on the train, but this time instead of walking across to Euston, it was a short stroll next door to Kings Cross, and to board the LNER train to Leeds, and then from there head across to Manchester either via Northern or via Transpennine Express. So, on board with LNER and those new Azuma trains, and all was good. In fact all trains were reservation only to help make sure social distancing was available properly, and not just that - an at seat catering service which you ordered via your phone. I tried that out and ordered a latte - it all worked superbly.

In fact, I did feel really comfortable on the way up and arrived in Leeds on time. I was able to then see the time for the train to Manchester Piccadilly - and it said delayed. Wasn't happy, but soon it transpired that the train had left Hull on time, not reported in at Brough but then at Selby all seemed well, so thankfully it was back on track as the train arrived in Leeds, which I boarded and got my seat for the trip across via Huddersfield and Stalybridge over to Manchester - all was good.

The Love In My Heart came to collect me and we stopped off at the local Chinese for a very nice takeaway indeed - the king prawn with mushrooms was much needed to be honest. It was also lovely that she had got me some very nice Black Sheep Legacy 25 ale (ooh yes!) and we settled in to watch Gogglebox and then the postponed Graham Norton show from last week which of course meant Tom Cruise, so The Love was very happy to say the least (understatement) and that really was good. With all the talk of the Top Gun sequel I had the classic tune from the original film, Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins, in my head, so tune of the day it most certainly is.

Thursday 15th April - Jabbing

So it was up bright and early for me and off to the local shopping centre's upper mall, where I'd be having my appointment at 8.05am to get my first of two does of the COVID vaccine. I must admit that I didn't hestitate to book the other day, and the booking was easy. As I arrived, I noted several other people who had also booked an early appointment were also heading up the upper mall too, and all queueing patiently and with face coverings on, as you'd expect really. In fact as you got to the first stage, the lovely member of staff there gave you some hand sanitiser a then a surgical mask to replace your own face covering with - ideally for sterile related reasons of course.

It was then to hand over the appointment number to the member of staff: again lovely, she noted it all down, checked who I was, and then it was over to another lovely person this time to make sure I had all the medical information provided and to check that all was well with me. I'd be getting the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine, but that was fine by me - my Mum's had it and she's not had any issues either, so felt confident genetically as well as scientifically. All was well there and then it was a little wait whilst the nurse was all ready to go, and quite quickly I was ready to go.

I had put on a short sleeved shirt so that it was easier for the nurse, and rolled the rest of the sleeve up whilst the nurse did her thing - she was also ever so friendly and efficient too, and didn't waste any time with getting the first jab done. I now have the card which shows I've had the first dose, and of course had already made the appointment for the second dose too, so was all good. Everything I have to say was really well run and shows that when it's all handed to the NHS to deal with, it all runs properly - compare that to the track and trace mess with private companies everywhere. Not just that, everyone was absolutely lovely, and made me feel happy and smiling too - I certainly did on the way home and treated myself to a Greggs breakfast too. Because I can.

Of course today's date isn't going unnoticed without solemn thought, especially for those of you who have lost some of your loved ones through the current situation, but also thirty two years ago, when 96 Liverpool fans headed off for the FA Cup semi final at Hillsborough and never returned. It made me so angry over the years that so much had to be done to battle the system for justice, and the heckling of Andy Burnham in 2009 was potentially a turning point - to be fair to him, Steve Rotheram and others, they listened, and they realised the injustice, and set about working with the families and opening otherwise closed doors in order to push forward.

When the verdict of unlawful killing was finally correctly delivered in 2016, it was a watershed moment. I was so pleased because it could have been any set of football fans that day, in grounds where police treated all football fans as hooligans no matter what, and fences meant that crushes and barriers were possible anywhere - so their fans' fight was really the fight of all football fans too. Needless to say: justice for the 96, as always, and only fitting that Gerry and the Pacemakers' version of You'll Never Walk Alone is tune of the day - because like the late Sir Captain Tom Moore had stated in the current pandemic, no one ever had to walk alone - and although justice in terms of responsibility is still an ongoing trial, the exoneration of the fans was a big moment that showed, just occasionally, the right side of justice can prevail.

Wednesday 14th April - A Tale of Two Offices

It was off to the office today, which did at least mean that I would be able to get plenty of on-site testing performed that you can't do at home, particularly with a view that we can decommission a couple of MECM distribution points provided the testing goes well - so always good to be able to rationalise the estate somewhat. In fact I had got to the office relatively early and there is a Costa Coffee nearby, so of course it'd be rude not to take advantage of the 50p coffee offer at the moment and have some of that (and why not I say!)

I started off being one of the first in the office, and due to current staffing levels having some extras taken on at present, it was busier than I've seen it for a long time. But because of that, I certainly was able to note that it felt much more alive, as did I, when getting things done. In fact I road tested a couple of bits of Windows 10 update testing, as well as put together some new driver packages at the same time. The main thing was to also attempt to get the new Windows 10 WIM image built with April's updates included - but for some reason the Create WIM step in MDT was being icky. I had an idea though so would think on that one later.

After some further tests and lunch it was off for a walk from one office to another, via Leicester Square and along Long Acre at the back of Covent Garden and off to Kingsway near Aldwych for the other office. In fact, a Costa is close by here (so more 50p coffee, large toffee spiced latte this time round) and there was only one other person on the first floor so was nice and quiet. I mainly wanted to ensure that both PXE and build testing with the IP helpers going to the main servers would work, and they did - in fact I timed two Windows 10 builds and the time was comparable with beforehand, so all good there.

I did finally get to the bottom of the virtual machine and MDT build issue for the WIM - it was the VM itself for some reason. Not sure why but it seems that the network adapter had reverted back to a legacy one, so I created a fresh VM with snapshot in Hyper-V with exactly the same settings for generation, hard disk etc but the only difference was having a standard network card. This worked, and did mean the capture worked too - so did have to hang by a little later than planned to get it finished but was worth it.

Later on after a lovely chat with The Love In My Heart, it was time to watch The Great British Sewing Bee - with its new location not far from Canning Town tube and the O2 across the Thames as well. I must admit having 12 in a close contact cohort (hence they could film together and be secure) was a slight increase but did affect the quality of the contestants somewhat: some excellent designs in all three challenges, and Raph's buffet dress with all the broderie anglaise was rather excellent - I want to know who made the matching face covering for the model to go with it!

As ever with Sewing Bee, the music is always pretty spot on to keep you watching what unfolds - whoever gets to pick all of that really does well to suit what's happening - and indeed some nice more vintage pop tunes as well which adds to the whole quaintness of the programme (yes, I said that q word!) - but also having Cathryn being a big David Bowie fan and calling her cat Ziggy Stardust (I approve) and playing Space Oddity as well in her intro - fab! Got to be tune of the day - obviously. She at least didn't get eliminated first round, but no other spoilers apart from that. And yes, I do still miss Claudia.

Tuesday 13th April - Appointments Made

So today it was announced on the news that those in my age group could now set up their appointments to get their COVID vaccination. I must admit that I had noted that three of my friends had had theirs but they live in different parts of the country where they may have gone through the ages a little quicker (and one was for valid medical reasons too, which is fair enough) so I was patiently waiting my turn. I knew of course that the NHS website was going to be stressed under considerable load as so many people would have seen or heard about that announcement and wanted to get their appointment in.

I waited a little while after breakfast and settling in to my work for the day - and sure enough when I did that the website came up straight away. Patience, young Jedi, patience. I already had the NHS number (word of note: make sure you speak to your GP or use their online website if they have one, or the NHS one to get yours - much easier if you do) and so was able to breeze through the form and not only make my first appointment for this Thursday but also a second one eleven weeks later to make sure I actually had both before I'd be going on holiday this year. That for me is going to be a big plus.

At lunch time I did a reccy to head out to where the centre is and to locate it, as it's within a shopping centre close to the flat. I can see why they picked there - there's lifts to that location and a tram stop close by too, so should be easy for most to get to without any problem. With that done I also headed into Playnation Games as they were back open and had a good mooch - I actually picked up four Commodore 64 cassette games for the bargain price of £2.50, so will look at testing those and rekindling some old memories of some of those games in particular.

It was also good today to be able to take a little bit of a walk and get some fresh air and I think based on my walk on Saturday, it's certainly been a good thing to keep me going from both a physical and mental health point of view. Of course now I can go a bit further, hence the London Loop was coming back into play for me to walk. I do have some time off work next week so might take on another section as well to get that done, and it's not massively long.

There was also the first day of the final qualifiers for the World Snooker Championship, called Judgement Day. It's always good to see that the final round is best of 19 so replicates what it's like to be at the Crucible and the nerves and tension still there for many, with Rob Walker and Ken Doherty doing a cracking job on commentary all day. Of course it'll be interesting to see what happens when the tournament starts, but all eight who got through tonight have been there before - cue the classic snooker theme Drag Racer as tune of the day of course.

Monday 12th April - Pharmacy Posting

I had sold a few things on eBay last night, and two of the items being sold were actually going to the same purchaser - but they were based in Germany, which meant a check of the current regulations (fun) and also what the costs would be. For the size of parcel being sent, it was actually more efficient to use DPD Local and use their drop off service to drop off at a DPD Parcel shop. This also meant you got a bar code sent to the phone which the assistant then scans in and you have all the tracking from there to destination. I did some careful checks with the purchaser and they were happy.

So with the parcel all packed and ready, and the necessary customs paperwork done and attached to the parcel (yes, there's copious amounts of that) it was then to locate the nearest parcel drop off, and it was a pharmacy around a mile away that also happened to be on a bus route from near the flat, so definitely winning. That would also mean that the hopper fare would also kick in, so not expensive either. I made my way on the 312 bus and soon located the pharmacy in question, and with face covering on (as you rightly should be still doing by the way) time to head in.

The staff in there were absolutely lovely, and sorted out the bar code, scanned in the label and printed it off and gave me the label receipt as proof of posting. They would then have DPD collect from there and all was well, and gave the tracking link and the proof of me sending to the buyer too so they were aware of what was going on - only fair really. At the same time, as they had the rapid tests which I'll need to take if I want to be heading to Sheffield for the World Snooker Championship (tickets go on sale on Wednesday) I thought it sensible to get a pack of them so I can take them as needed for non-work related reasons, so sorted there too. The test kits are free by the way, before you ask!

I must admit that it's been good to get the teeth into a couple of work related things today - and one of which appears to be (yet again) a fault of Google and the way various parts of its now Workspace suite operates. Add an email signature? Sure, but if you copy and paste from a document with an image as part of the signature, it'll create a temporary image which expires in 30 days, and of course that 30 days happened to be over this weekend. So instead the image should be saved locally or on Google Drive, then added from there into the signature. Mmmkay.

On the other hand though I did have some good news today which did at least make me feel happier and motivated, so that definitely was a plus point. In fact after the snow of this morning (yes really!) the sun has come out now and it is rather delightful out there - not that warm still but nice to see some pleasant weather coming, which will hopefully bode well for this weekend when I'm with The Love In My Heart. Tune of the day is the ace Lola's Theme by Shapeshifters, a tune we both like and just seems apt with the sun being out and being such an uplifting tune!

Sunday 11th April - Beerfest and Capture

On the way home after my walk yesterday, and also in preparation for a rather good online chat with friends last night, I headed into M&S Food just to see if they had any beers on offer, as sometimes they do if they want to clear out some stock. I was so glad I did as several really nice beers were reduced to £1 for a can, which was rather nice. I ended up getting two of the Beavertown Nanobot, three M&S own brand Salted Caramel Porter (actually made by Meantime!) and both Salty Kiss and High Wire from Magic Rock, as well as another M&S citra ale brewed by Oakham too. A rather nice selection all round to be fair.

Today I also thought about ways I could do video capture of some of my old games and systems if I wanted to (for example) demonstrate I could get a high score, or indeed to make the quality decent. I already had the rather good 8-pin DIN to S-Video and composite lead from Retro Computer Shack, and then I realised something: my Onkyo AV amp has both inputs on the back, so why not utilise that and see what I can come up with? In fact, when I tried it with my Commodore Plus/4, S-Video showed some vertical line oddness but composite was fine, and the amp itself was doing suitable upscaling (and of course I could control the output to be 4:3 as well to be the same as the system.)

The other good thing is my Onkyo amp has two HDMI outs, main and sub, the main goes to the telly and you can set that to use the AV amp or the television speakers. The sub then goes to a HDMI capture dongle attached to the laptop, and firing up OBS Studio showed it as a capture device, and set OBS to do a 4:3 capture, and boom! Done. I played a couple of games and captured some footage from them, and actually it did work pretty well. It does mean I can take that and do some editing with whatever program I find the best for me to use that is free, and see what happens there. Nice though to be able to do it nonetheless.

Of course, I was also keeping an eye on the Formula E race from Rome later in the day. Although BBC do have it on red button, the same broadcast is actually live on Quest (Channel 12 on Freeview folks) which means that you can watch it live and not have to wait - and the world feed is the same regardless, so Jack Nicholls and Dario Franchitti on comms, Nikki Shields in the pit and Vernon Kay presenting. It actually proved to be a tense race with a late safety car meaning a mad final lap dash with plenty of crashes and indeed some people also running out of usable energy.

Later on was Line of Duty (cue excellent Carly Paradis theme tune being tune of the day) and it really was a good episode all round, with plenty of drama and a particular scene of high octane adrenaline which was really good to see. Of course, no spoilers here, but I can highly recommend a catch up on iPlayer if you didn't get to see it. There's a real moment at the end of the episode too which is going to lead into an interesting final three episodes. The only person who of course knows what is going to happen is Jed Mercurio himself, and the cards are held very close to the chest there.

Saturday 10th April - Back on the London Loop

Now that lockdown restrictions have been lifted slightly, this does allow me to travel a little further afield to take some walks, so decided that today was good day to get back to walking the London Loop and to be able to progress with a view to completing it later this year. I really will see that as an achievement well done, so was up early and off to West Croydon station to take the Overground to Whitechapel, tube to Mile End and on the Central Line tube along the Hainault loop, changing at Hainault for the shuttle service on to Chigwell via Grange Hill. I did wonder about the old television programme when passing through there.

It was downhill from Chigwell station and then uphill towards the church and Ye Olde King's Head pub, then following a path towards some farmland, through some fields and down and uphill, mainly walking along the edge of ploughed fields and on to a diagonal path across some ploughed land, and over to the Chigwell Row water treatment works, which you skirt around. It then leads to nice path through some meadows and the white blossom trees out looking rather lovely, so that was nice to see.

Once the end of the lane was reached here, passing the private houses, it was then on to Chigwell Row and through the little wood here, preserved by the Victorians, and across the road to Hainault Forest Country Park. This was very nice and as you passed the Go Ape climbing frames and assault courses, a nice surprise was to my right - the Hainault Woodhenge - a tribute to Stonehenge with all the outside figures a central plinth all carved of wood. It did prove to be popular with families taking a walk too which was very nice to see, and then to the lake and around there to a path at the side of the forest.

Heading around the path and towards the woodland again, it was then along the path uphill and right to the permissive path which crosses the golf course. It was down following the yellow markers in the trees and across the golf course again, then heading down to the farmland. The London Loop path has changed here due to farmland permissions, so follow the green signs and all was good. It then took me past a farm and to the left to a bridleway with some lovely horses in a wide open space all content and relaxed. In fact as I turned left and headed up Clockhouse Lane, more fields to the left with horses in too.

It was at the top of the hill a right turn through the woodland of Hainault Country Park, and a steady climb towards the village of Havering-atte-Bower, passing the pine trees and the old signage and as I entered towards the village, the riding club on the left. The village is so quaint, a lovely village greeen with the St John the Evangelist chrch behind, and the place has been here since 1042. It was all rather lovely here and I had timed it well to get the 375 bus back to Romford (bear in mind the bus runs every hour and a half, so that's a sensible reason to time it.)

I got the bus and back into Romford and off at the train station. However, the train station was closed due to engineering work, so looking at the bus times I had an alternative plan - I got the number 5 bus over to Barking, and picked up the Hammersmith and City Line tube back to Whitechapel to take the Overground train home. The extra bus journey counted as a Hopper fare so no extra (yes!) and of course avoiding zone 1 meant cheaper tube and overground fares too, so a definite win.

Of course, the Grand National was on later in the day, and so nice to see ITV continuing to use the theme music from the film Champions (composed by Carl Davis) which for various reasons is quite emotional to listen to this year, so definitely tune of the day for me. And did myself or The Love In My Heart win? Nope. But history was indeed made as Rachael Blackmore rode Minella Times to win - the first female jockey in history to win the race. There's potential to be nailed on Overseas Sports Personality of the Year right there (bear in mind her Cheltenham triumphs as well) so something to note.

Friday 9th April - Big Sur and Big News Takeover

It was a relatively good day working from home, although a lot of it was actually on the Mac today. I was road testing the upgrade to Big Sur, now the paths have been cleared with software being upgraded to make it all possible. I have to say that it was good to see if the update downloaded (all 12GB of it) which it did without issue, and then was able to run the relevant script afterwards to make sure that the upgrade then ran, and it seemed to work well which was a bonus.

In fact I had actually amended a couple of configuration profiles yesterday so added a couple of extensions needed to be approved for our VPN client, and it seems that we didn't need to upgrade it straight away as what I had allowed worked on Big Sur too which was a surprising bonus. I have to say that it was good that I was able to split up those so the M1 Macs (which can't do the Kernel extensions either) work with whatever they need to have configured - although there are other worlds of pain in terms of some of the software just not working full stop.

Where I had the fun and games was actually rolling back to a previous version. If you boot to Internet recovery mode, it's of course going to offer you Big Sur to reinstall instead of Catalina. I found the key sequence which instead boots to the recovery menu to put back on the version you had when the Mac was shipped (in my Macbook Pro case, it was Sierra). I had to also delete all the disk partitions because Sierra didn't understand APFS, so formatted it journalled, installed the OS, then found the link to the App Store for the Catalina upgrade, did that, and the disk converted to APFS too, so that was a bonus. I can then go again on Monday.

I have to say that of course with another news event happening today, I do feel for the family of the bereaved and certainly they should be allowed to have their moments of mourning and reflection in peace. I do however object to the BBC's actions of showing their News Channel output all day and all night on BBC Two, so simultaneously broadcasting the same across three channels, as well as cancelling all of BBC Four's schedule on Friday night. Have they not thought for those who don't want constant news bombardment and indeed something to watch that they might want to make their own choices? Pretty disgusting behaviour to be fair.

I did have a lovely chat with The Love In My Heart later on and we both settled in to watch Gogglebox later on - at least Channel Four after an extended news bulletin did go to normal and allow people something to watch. I did like the fact that they've all been doing Line of Duty each week and concentrating on scenes from that as well as plenty of other good films and TV. Be interesting next week to see how they cover the news from today and the reaction from them for sure. In the meantime tune of the day is perhaps a little poignant, namely The Last Post, which every November gives us a chance to pause and reflect, and I did a bit of that today when I heard the news.

Thursday 8th April - Contemplation

I had a break from the work at lunch time to have something to eat, but also I wanted to pause and have a think about a few things. Admittedly, I'm not always finding it so easy to work from home: not because of the fact I have a nice comfortable cosy flat to live in, which is always warming and never cold, and not even because of the fact that my colleagues aren't supportive: because they are. I think for me there's a real sense of loneliness and wanting to have some sort of human interaction with other people and it needs to be real too. I tend to find that having things virtually a lot of the time is actually a real turn off.

My workplace made an announcement that effectively moving forward only one office in central London will be open: and effectively it's the one I have been going in on occasion, so that's a good thing. But at the same time I know capacity will be reduced and it'll be a case of booking the time and space in as well. I just found it so nice last Thursday that I had interaction close by with my manager and was able to sound out ideas and discuss togerther, and got more done in less time too. Where I think it's a real struggle is that although I do try and head out at lunch time for a walk and some fresh air, there's just that sense of alone.

At least when I am at The Love In My Heart's place, I do have Brian the cat to be with and he is do adorably lovely and at least is a gorgeous distraction with plenty of little cute faces offered. I can't have any pets in the flat though (as I had contemplated a cat, but then again the time I'd spend away from home would mean I wouldn't be looking after it properly). I think once I start getting more into a situation I did last Autumn where I was able to do two days in the office during the week and three at home, which broke things up a bit, that might be a bit better.

I have though also contemplated a few things in addition such as possibly looking at working out a way if I would be able to move back up North, but still retain the job I have, and then if I need to head to London to do some testing I could potentially work a way out to go down one or two days a week and for it not to be too expensive. It'd work out cheaper for a flat for example (particularly if not city centre) and would also mean less travel expenses to be with The Love In My Heart too, so there's food for thought there. We wouldn't necessarily have to move in together as I know she likes her space, but still.

I also listened again to She Makes War's 2015 Pledge (and then released in 2016) album Direction of Travel tonight, as it was five years today since the 2016 release. It was nice of Laura (now as Penfriend) to take an insightful look back and really give depth behind some of the songs. The track from there which is still one of my favourites, 5000 Miles, is tune of the day - the gorgeous bass lines, the synth break in the middle and strings from the McCarricks give it all that sense of longing, all the way through, and it really is majestic. Oh, and if you've not got that album (was my album of 2015) then you really need to get it - and the vinyl at that!

Wednesday 7th April - Fighting Warrior Frolics

It was good to get back not too late last night, and the train journey was at least relatively calm and quiet. In fact although the train did arrive late into Euston, I had headed across to St Pancras and made the train home I was going to get anyway, so that was all good, and settled in for the night when I got back. All was well, and this morning when I got up I headed to pick up a parcel that had arrived for me over the weekend - which was the other present that I had ordered for The Love In My Heart - which might have arrived on time had the delivery folks at Whistl got their act together. Ah well.

I did have another package arrive later in the day which was a nice rewarding thing too - it was a few Commodore 16 and Plus/4 games but amongst them was possibly the rarest Mastertronic release for that format - the Mastertronic + re-release of Fighting Warrior. It transpired that this was released in 1989, a year or so after the previous Mastertronic C16 release (C16 Compilation, with one unreleased game being the highlight in there.) I loaded the game up later on and it worked, and so meant that I could give it a further run over later. Still though, nice to have finally got that one.

It made me think a little too that during the current state of affairs it's been nice over time to reunite myself with so many games that I loved on that format too. Needless to say that Tutti Frutti went back on later too and that's a classic Shaun Southern game of its era (and classic theme tune too, so definitely tune of the day) - I still can get to around level 10 on this on average, so nice to be able to play through that and show the Acid Apples what for. Sometimes it's not just about the idea, but also the execution and how well that plays. A playable game makes me very happy indeed it has to be said.

I did later on keep an eye on the World Snooker Championship qualifiers, this time with Stephen Hendry playing his second match against Xu Si. In fact, the Chinese player played very well and was actually on a maximum break coming up to the tenth red, which would have also been match as well as frame ball. He did try to double it in to keep the max going but no can do, but after Hendry attempted to get back into the frame, Xu potted the final red and that was it, he had won 6-1. Granted Stephen would at least get some prize money for beating Jimmy White, but he'll know himself that much more practice is needed.

It really did feel like the end of an era with White, Hendry and indeed Ken Doherty all out, but in a nice piece of good news, more details came through about the way it'll work for those attending the Championship, and it really is going to be nice to see crowds, complete with full testing and of course crowds building up, and with a full house for the final. Naturally steps will be taken at each stage of course to see how that all operates, but definitely a good thing that snooker has proven to be ahead of the game in terms of safety and only right that it's rewarded in some way.

Tuesday 6th April – Working from Manchester

It was working from home today, this time at The Love In My Heart’s place. We had got up together and ready, and it was nice to start the day with a kiss as The Love headed off to her workplace for the day. Brian the cat did spend most of the morning by the bedroom window, all curled up and peaceful, but later in the day after having some Dreamies at lunch time he did decide to surface and was able to snuggle on the pouffle, even allowing me to give him some tummy tickles as well as the same time. I must admit Brian does get all lovely when he wants a fuss and a cuddle so was really pleased that he was able to do that.

As for work, I spent some time catching up on what had been going on over the Easter period, and noted that in fact there was a relatively minor issue with one of the deployments. I soon noted that thankfully this wasn’t down to the way that I had had to segregate the configuration profiles for the Mac for our antivirus solution due to the new M1 chips, which was a relief, but instead it was down to the fact that some enrolments didn’t seem to stick properly (for example if the machine had been assigned to another use and that user hadn’t initiated an enrolment) so it was good to see that it was nothing too untoward there.

I also had a couple of productive meetings today where I was able to put some ideas forward and was also able to do some further road testing of the cloud based build process, this time getting our folks over in China involved to see how robust the process would be for them. I think once we’ve got it thoroughly tested all worldwide, we shall see what happens but so far all has been positive and it’s definitely been a really good proving ground to show that actually we have ways of working which may suit a sensible alternative if we have to go down certain ways. I think too that this will prove invaluable going forward, so hoping it all works well for our Asia colleagues.

It was also a case of liasing with a colleague and getting the inventory server sorted for the new certificate. For the web based back end application it was a case of importing the certificate and relevant chains including the intermediate CA, then once done it was a simple change in IIS to get it all done, easy. However the standard port 443 clients communicate on to the back end still showed invalid, and a read of the knowledge base document from our vendor soon had me on the right track and so was able to get that up and running correctly – was very pleased I’d managed to do it and indeed remember some of the netsh commands to go with it!

I did feel sad later as The Love In My Heart arrived back from work as it meant I’d soon be heading homeward after spending a good few days and a long weekend together. We were at least together for The Love’s birthday which was nice, but of course you want to be able to spend more time if you can. I did though on the way spot the Borussia Dortmund team coaches on their way to the Etihad for tonight’s game so that is at least something – and I know The Love and I have had a good time too. A good few kisses and hugs were shared before it was time for the train, and I did feel sad – but tune of the day is a reflection of the optimism when we’re together, namely You and Me by Attack! Attack! – a tune I can still rock out to on Guitar Hero to this very day, even on expert drums!

Monday 5th April – Monday Meander

It was nice to have another day off work as Easter Monday is a public holiday here in England – although other parts of the world don’t have the same so as a result some of my colleagues in the US were working today. I must admit that being used to a different set of public holidays and taking those into consideration is always something that is an added dimension as part of any planning – for example you wouldn’t want to plan any major rollouts during Thanksgiving for the same reason that you wouldn’t want to do at Christmas either – too many opportunities for people and machines not to be around.

After a long lie in and a late morning breakfast or brunch with a lot of Escape to the Country on the telly, which pleased The Love In My Heart no end, it was off for me to do a little walk over to the local Asda to get a few bits for tonight’s meal in. I also noted that Brian the cat’s favourite tuna and prawn Sheba cat food was back in stock, so needless to say that it was a no brainer for me to get him some (and he of course wolfed that down for his tea later on, he was a very happy cay indeed.) I also got all I needed for later and some bottles of water for The Love as well.

In the early afternoon I set off for a walk along the Ashton Canal, heading East this time and towards Ashton, crossing underneath the main road, following the factories on one side, passing the Strawberry Duck pub as the locks headed up to Edge Lane, and taking the curves on to the canalside marina at Droylsden, where I would head off and to the shops for a few bits there. In fact it was a good walk as the weather was clear and the walking shoes were more than up for the job – and got some nice bits in Home Bargains including Coke Zero with Cinnamon for a mere 29p for a 500ml bottle for me to try out during the day tomorrow when working from home.

I arrived back later on and myself and The Love snuggled up for some afternoon telly together and watched the latest press conference from the Prime Minister. I was a bit angry at the end that he had used it to effectively make false allegations about the handling of the finances of TfL under the current mayor Sadiq Khan when in fact when said prime minister was mayor of London, he had actually left a massive amount of debt behind for someone else to clean up. It was a clear case of attempted points scoring detracting from the fact he wasn’t answering questions about the likes of the passport or certification scheme that he wanted to see in. Typical of what Government is about these days, sadly, and it irks me more than it should be to be honest.

The only good news was that things were on track in terms of the step phases out of lockdown, which meant from next Monday 12th, you can go and get your hair cut again (mine is booked for the 15th) as well as being able to have non-essential shops open and if a pub has a beer garden, you can use the outside tables to have a drink – not having to have a substantial meal this time interestingly enough. I do know some nice countryside pubs with outdoor seating so there may be options there to explore further down the line – and if you have to book then so be it. That said, it might be mad the first week or two so waiting for it to die down a bit could be the most sensible approach to be honest.

Later on I managed to get a live stream of the first round of the World Snooker Championship qualifiers, with Stephen Hendry against Jimmy White – just like the old times. It was turgid going in some frames but Hendry eventually won 6-3 and progressed – can’t see him going any further but it did feel a tad nostalgic to say the least. The Love was engrossed after the soaps with a drama on Channel 5 as well which looked good, and I also was able to imagine I was at the hallowed Crucible with the iconic Drag Racer by The Doug Wood Band (make that tune of the day) so all was good there.

Sunday 4th April - Easter At Lyme

It was Easter Sunday today and myself and The Love In My Heart had booked to be able to enter Lyme, the National Trust property just outside Disley, on the other side of Stockport. For years it was Lyme Park and only recently has the National Trust renamed it Lyme, more because of the estate itself being not just the parkland, but the house, gardens and so on. I knew today would be a potentially busy day with limited bookings so had booked us both a ticket a week or so ago when they were available - and as members, it was free of charge to do so.

After some really nice breakfast and a coffee, and getting ourselves ready, it was time to head off. I had my walking shoes on and The Love had her wellies on, but the weather did look dry and it hadn't rained for a couple of days, so hopefully not muddy and should be good conditions for a nice walk. We soon were heading along the A6 road through Stockport, Hazel Grove and a little traffic in High Lane before arriving at Lyme. There was a queue of cars but we noted a few were being turned round - and these were because they hadn't booked in advance.

We were soon on our way and parked up in the car park, which admittedly wasn't so full. I stopped off at the kiosk to get some rather nice Snugburys ice cream in a tub (and why not) and then headed uphill towards the hall, where you could enter the gardens with your membership. We followed the gardens around and past the lake on the other side, and it was a lovely view of the hall from there as it normally is, especially with the blue sky out. We did note that one of the paths was closed off, and when we followed another path, we soon saw why.

Normally the rhodedendron path ends up crossing a stream via a little stone bridge, but with the storm damage a while back, that had been washed away and so was being repaired. As such the path we took did allow us to head back uphill and towards the far end of the gardens and the orangery - that was closed but of course was nice to see all the roses inside growing well, and we sat outside here for a small while to enjoy the views over the deer park and the scenery as well, which really did relax the soul rather nicely. We did note on leaving the gardens plenty of Easter eggs for the families who had completed the trail.

We exited out of the hall and onwards along a grassy path before then turning left and heading downhill all the way over to the Timber Yard, where the cafe was open and no queue, so got a nice latte and got The Love a cold drink, and we sat by the lake there all relaxed and chilled out, before then walking round the other side and back towards the car park, with us having had some nice fresh air, and some good exercise as well as spending some quality time together, so that was lovely. In fact tune of the day is Lovely Day by Bill Withers, for that very reason.

Saturday 3rd April - Birthday Bonus

Today was The Love In My Heart's Birthday, and so was really nice to be able to spend the day together with her, but also to be able to do that in this current situation definitely had to be a plus point for me too. We got up and it was nice to have Brian the cat to be able to snuggle up on the bed and look at all the wrapping paper that he could potentially play with later on. It was nice that I could see all the lovely presents that she got as well and there were plenty of lovely things, and that made it all feel even nicer.

She had candles from friends, a nice picture frame with the definition of auntie from her niece, lots of bath stuff, a nice little bottle of cava and some Next Just Pink, some money, and so on. She opened the gifts from me which were a lovely Biba clutch bag and also a top from Joy, which fitted her really nicely too. I was pleased that there were so many nice cards too and that really made the day feel a little bit special, even though of course we couldn't eat out for lunch which would have been nice to have later on.

One other really nice gift that she did have was a full afternoon tea laid out on three shelves in this round shelving unit, which had sandwiches, the likes of French Fancies and little cupcakes, and also some scones with clotted cream along with fresh strawberries and blueberries. That was really nice, and we had the sandwiches for a light lunch later on and had the little bottle of cava to share too so making it a little bit of a bubbly lunch as well - and why not we thought? With us all set and the weather fair, it was off for a walk later on.

In fact, we were able to head out for a walk down the local canal together, although just past half way to the city centre we noticed that the path had been part barricaded off, and as we headed down later, one tunnel had a complete block and we weren't able to pass. We suspected that work was going on somewhere - indicated by a tiny notice we saw on the way back, which wasn't really much use. It did make me wonder if there should have been a diversionary route signposted to get us back on the canal path further down later on.

In any case, we did head back to New Islington later on and had taken a couple of little cupcakes with us, and went to the Cotton Cafe as part of Halle St Peter's for some lovely coffee, and had that in the square outside. In fact Amy Winehouse's version of Valerie played whilst queueing for take out in the cafe, so that is tune of the day as I know The Love quite liked that. It did feel rather nice though to at least be out and have had some lovely time together today. I have to say that we really did try to make the most of it all.

We were also able to have something nice for tea later on as The Love had been to Marks and Spencer in the week and had got their Easter dine in. So we had a rather nice free range chicken along with some honey glazed carrots, roast potatoes, mash, broccoli and gravy, so almost a Sunday roast but on the Saturday evening which was all rather nice. I have to say that went down very nicely and capped off a rather lovely day together, and so pleased that we were both able to do that and make the birthday feel that little bit more special.

Friday 2nd April - The Not So Long Good Friday

It was a bit of a lie in today for myself and The Love In My Heart. Brian the cat was all snuggled at the end of the bed and definitely wanted to be able to curl up even further and had a fuss over. It was good to be able to not think about work today at any rate and so we were both in the mood to relax and chill out, and had a nice little sausage toastie for breakfast as well which was rather good all round - just the pick me up with a coffee needed to have the day ahead together, and make the most of it too.

In fact it was one of The Love's relation's birthdays today, so we were heading out to see them first of all. It was actually really nice because at least of course the rule change meant you could be in a private garden outside, and it was rather nice to be at least spending some quality time together. In fact lots of lovely presents had already been given, and The Love's presents were also lovely too. It was also good to be out and I think the fact that it meant The Love could spend some quality time really did make the most of it.

We then also headed over to see my Mum as well - and again this time around the front garden would be the place to be. In fact Mum had gone the extra mile for getting a really nice Victoria Sponge cake to have with a cup of coffee whilst we were able to catch up and both Mum and my youngest sister had both got The Love In My Heart a present for her birthday tomorrow - which was very nice of them and something we'd open tomorrow. It was also good to see that Mum was all good and had an appointment date set for her second vaccine dose too.

Later on we had a quick visit into Asda, primarily to get some bits for over the weekend, and we also were able to get some cat food for Brian the cat too - the normal Sheba wasn't available but we were able to get some rather nice tuna and prawn Encore instead which I am sure he would love to bits. In fact, we got back and Brian wanted plenty of cuddles plus some cat food as well, so it was good to be able to have some more fussing before we thought about her own tea and decided that a Chinese takeaway was a good option to take.

It was all lovely - I had the crispy shredded beef in sweet and sour sauce, and The Love had the chicken and mushrooms, both with fried rice and we had some spring rolls to go with it. It was more than filling for us both, and we then later settled in to watch Gogglebox which had plenty of good moments from this week, including a quite infamous appearance from Matt Hancock on This Morning (the theme tune of which is tune of the day) - and was nice to see some Graham Norton as well later on, although I think The Love is excited about next week's show.

Thursday 1st April - No Fools

It was a time to be able to head to the office today, and after having head my negative Covid test yesterday, it was all good for me to go in. My manager was coming in today and he was having the test as he arrived, and so was able to take that and make sure he had the all clear before heading to the desk and into the office. I must admit it was good to see him person to person, especially as I was able to discuss a few things face to face and get it sorted there and then which is the easier way of doing things, to be fair.

In fact, I was rolling out a revised version of the configuration profile to Mac machines via JAMF Pro today so that all the Sophos config was correct but also any of the prompts you may get would disappear as the system would automatically handle any approvals by being as part of approved system extensions, those that need full disk access or Kernel based extensions. All appeared to be going well apart from a few which seemed to be causing an error which I wasn't at all happy with, so wanted to work out why that was happening.

In the end I was able to work out what it was. It turns out that Macs equipped with the new M1 processor, the ARM-based new Apple silicon, doesn't like to approve Kernel based extensions, because the way that the Kernel differs between processor types means incompatibility. So I was able to work out that the architecture type was returned back from the hardware inventory, which was arm64 for those processors. I excluded those machines from the config profile, then created a duplicate profile but removed the Kernel extensions section.

I then scoped these to be the Apple M1 chip Macs only by using the hardware query I mentioned, and lo and behold, all the other necessary approvals were totally spot on. Happy days all round I think, so was able to get that sorted out nicely, and it also meant we had the smart groups set up for future reference if we needed them as well, so definitely that was a positive one all round to do. Happy days, and that meant I felt positive ending the day on a high before heading off to Euston to get the train up to see The Love In My Heart.

Euston did seem a lot busier than normal it has to be said, and it was good to be able to get my seat and relax for the journey up, listening to some new music I had added to the iPod based on recent purchases, including Cabaret Voltaire's Shadow of Fear album and the rather epic Vasto is tune of the day - and with plenty of pounding rhythm to keep me going. The train was delayed into Manchester a little but not too bad, and The Love In My Heart met me at the station which was all lovely - a few days together lie ahead which I know will be special.