Dear Diary... December 2017

Sunday 31st December – The End of 2017

The Love In My Heart still wasn't fully well and still full of the horrible cough and cold and bunged up ness that has been this Winter's flu. Having been through that I've at least not managed to catch it again so am pretty relieved. That said, it was sensible for me to at least allow The Love to have a well earned long lie in and rest with Brian the cat being nurse at her side. Awww. He was being really cute and lovely, and just snuggling up to The Love to keep her nice and warm in the bed, awww.

I decided to head out for a walk and so started off at the National Cycling Centre, admiring the BMX mural on the wall close to where you go over the bridge. It was then down into Philips Park and to admire the former BMX racing track that is still used as a park facility by kids today, although some of it has started to become overgrown. It was then past the allotments, down the hill and over the bridge over the River Medlock and through the cemetery before descending along Riverpark Road and off to Clayton Vale.

It was the first time I'd walked through there and it was nice to follow the main path through the vale itself, at first heading through all the trees, then going over the bridge over the River Medlock and following all the path along the river, which had some paths going off up hills from the valley with plenty of steps. In fact I followed it all the way through to the end where the visitors' centre and café is, and headed then to Edge Lane, following the road uphill to North Road, and walking all the way along there back to Clayton Hall. It definitely did me good to get a nice walk in.

Later on The Love and I had some nice tea, all courtesy of the M&S Dine in for Two, so we started with the Croquille St Jacques, shells filled with potatoes and scollops, rather posh. We had the beef bourbignon for the main with some rosemary potatoes, and added some broccoli and some carrots too, which really did mean as hearty meal. I had the tarte au citron later for dessert, enjoying also the nice Rocking Rudolph festive ale at the same time – it was the last one I had of the Christmassy beers so thought why not.

The final heat of World's Strongest Man was on, and that was a group of death with Zydrunas Savickas, Nick Best and Terry Hollands all involved. In fact the lead changed hands at the end of each round, and the axel press was the crucial event. Best just managed 1 but that was enough for third, and with 0 meaning 0 points, Hollands failed and that was costly, as was a miscalculation in the elephant carry. Best won that and beat Savickas, who survived last man standing for the final. Was gutted for Terry Hollands but I hope he will be back next year.

As the clock drew closer to midnight, we snuggled up and saw most of the Alan Carr Specstacular, and then turned over for Graham Norton which was really good, especially with Suranne Jones and Gary Oldman, and we switched between the Jools Holland Hootenanny on BBC2 and Chic with Nile Rodgers on BBC1. Either way some quality tunes were being played and it was a case of turning over at the right time – and we did most of the time. So Chic's version of “Get Lucky”, a Daft Punk classic which Rodgers had a hand in, is tune of the day – and timed well to just finish before going to the midnight chimes of Big Ben and the fireworks.

May I wish everyone a New Year full of love, peace, happiness and much more besides, and that 2018 will be a better world than 2017 was. We can only hope, but there's positives to take from the year which are often overlooked by negatitivity, but the real sense of community spirit and determination as shown by those reacting to the attacks in Manchester and London Bridge, and the pulling together for the Grenfell tragedy shows that when people do get together for a common good, it's a much more powerful force than the evil around us.

Saturday 30th December – New Years' Eve, Eve

It was a fairly leisurely day today with The Love In My Heart and I all relaxed. I did head over to Asda this morning to pick up some shopping and make sure we had plenty in for the New Year ahead, and also that meant it gave The Love a nice lie in with Brian the cat being all snuggly. Awww. It was a really good time to go shopping though as Asda was pretty much empty, and all the sale stuff had been carted off and looked almost normal now. I did manage to locate all that was needed but also had to improvise on the selection of cough medicine for The Love a little bit.

Later on we headed off to see The Love's father, and he was in good spirits all told, and was as ever keeping an eye on the football and racing, as well as seeing some documentaries over Christmas for Andre Rieu. He was on the lookout for some blank DVD cases to store some discs in, so we did some checking to find where he could get them, but also had his Kindle out and that had some space which needed clearing off, so got all that sorted and left it charging once it was done.

We then were off to The Fort shopping park in Cheetham Hill, primarily as Marks and Spencer were doing a dine in for two for £20 for New Year, and we thought it'd be easier to do that rather than faff around with anything else. In fact, the place was pretty busy and the offer was popular, but we did get what we were after and so that was good. I did head over to B and M Bargains to see if they had any ale on discount, but not much in there this time around. It always amazes me how much stock does vary between stores, but did note that they had the Black Sheep's “Brian” ale too.

We then went to Mum's for a while and had a good chatter with her, and sorted out a little thing on her laptop so that the home page would actually go to the proper Google homepage for her rather than use the new tab look with all the previously visited sites as panes to click on (which annoys her somewhat). We also were able to hear how things went when she headed to my brother's house and what stage they were at in the doing up of the place – by the sounds of it, progress was at least being made so that was good to hear at least.

We headed back homewards, and spent a nice quiet evening in with the likes of spring rolls and little chicken kievs for tea along with some crisps and dips. I saw Eddie Hall do a professional performance to win his heat of World's Strongest Man, and we saw Guess The Star on ITV1 where stars were disguised as music legends doing performances. This did at least mean Motorhead's classic “Ace of Spades” got an airing, so tune of the day there, and of course it was actually Mark Charnock who plays Marlon in Emmerdale in disguise. I got it before The Love did, yet she's the soap addict! I win.

We finally then caught up on All 4 with the Christmas edition of Bake Off. All the faults since it moved to Channel 4 were unfortunately still present: the ad breaks spoiling the flow (although less so on catch up) and Prue Leith not only being really annoying but also revealing beforehand what the technical challenge was. You'd never catch Mary Berry doing that to be honest. Still it was good at least to see some of the old contestants and of course Paul did a brilliant bake with the snow globes too!

Friday 29th December – Lunch and Tea With Friends

The snow came down this morning, albeit for around half an hour or so, before it then turned to rain which turned the snow into slush, so wasn't that pretty when I left this morning. Once I got to the tram stop and got the tram and bus combined ticket, I was on the tram, changing on the way, and off to Sale to meet one of my friends for a good catch up and lunch. In fact, I got to Sale early and the bus to my friend's place would come along later, so I noted in Sale centre that a branch of Tim Horton's had opened, so thought it'd be worth popping in for a coffee.

Their own freshly brewed blend was effectively one that was brewed in the last 20 minutes or so, and pretty nice (and for £1.19 for a decent sized cup, not too bad). I do wish though that despite being a Canadian company they wouldn't go to American English spelling on their boards though – case in point being the word flavour being incorrect. Meh indeed. It was very busy though as I suspect people were going to try it and see what they thought, and notable that Costa down the road was relatively empty!

I got the 19 bus to my friend's place, and we had a good natter and catch up over coffee. Her place always looks lovely, and with some nice comfy sofas and the phone connected to the telly, she showed me her and her daughter's trip to Dunham Massey for the Christmas light show, which did look very pretty – a la Christmas at Kew. Once all ready to head out, we walked down the road to the Samuel Brooks pub, where we'd eaten before and knew that the food was lovely.

And so it proved too – and the Red Admiral ale was very red and very nice too. I had the steak and kidney pudding – a proper suet pudding and with tons of gravy, and my friend had the smothered chicken with a jacket potato and salad, and admittedly did look appealing also. We had plenty of time to catch up there and have a good natter about both the jobs, and the way that things were going for us personally. It was certainly very relaxing and it's been a case of the time going so quickly for us both in the last year.

We then headed back to her place for more coffee and chatter, and her brother was there too so it was nice to have a chat with him as well, and it was very comfortable and chilled, just the sort of thing that was needed. I have to say too that the frangipane mince pie I had was gorgeous too. Time passed so quickly and it was lovely to be able to spend time with my friend and have such a good afternoon. We had a hug goodbye and I headed on the bus back to Sale before getting the tram into central Manchester.

It all worked out well as The Love In My Heart was heading into the centre and met me at St Peter's Square – I had arrived two minutes before she did. As we were early we headed off to the Waterhouse for a drink where the Brightside Stout was on and that was delicious, and well worth a pint of as well. Once that was done, we headed towards Bock Bar on Tib Lane, and headed to an upstairs table where our friends were sat and awaiting us, and they were early, so all good there.

The food was much better than I expected actually – and I had the Shed Head ale which is always decent. The Love had the French onion soup which she said was really nice, and I had the pommes frites to start, a nice bowlful and just enough to keep us going before the main course. We had gone for two of the sharing boards, one fondue based, so that was a nice big bowl of their recipe with some rosti potatoes, crudities and some sausages as well.

The other sharer though was a massive hit, the carbonade flamande. It was really nice beef that melted in the mouth with a gorgeous bourbignon sauce, and mushrooms with it too, along with more rosti and some bread. It was perfect to dive into and definitely a dish I'd go back to and share at a moment's notice. We all agreed that was lovely, and I even had the Liefmans fruit beer later to finish off, which was surprisingly nice actually, although the demi-size was more of a half pint so for the price (£3.10) a little expensive, as were a lot of the stronger beers!

We swapped some presents too and our friends had got The Love a nice set with some comfy slippers and also some bath and body products, which looked perfect for a bit of pampering. They had also got me this really nice little circular box with four packs of music quiz questions – and we did spend some of the time asking the questions and seeing who would get what. The Love In My Heart did surprisingly well actually and of course she got Kenny Loggins' “Danger Zone” being from the film Top Gun (make that tune of the day) so all was good, and a lovely end to a lovely day all round.

Thursday 28th December – A Walk In Lyme Park

After a fairly chilled out morning with both myself and The Love In My Heart having a lie I, and then me watching classic World's Strongest Man on Youtube (the 1990 final where Jon-Pall Sigmarsson had a dramatic comeback in the final event) we thought it would be good to head out for a walk, once the rain and hail from earlier in the morning had receded somewhat. It was certainly changeable weather and even when we set off in The Love's car it was definitely a case of seeing how it would all go.

Along the A6 was a changing landscape as we left Hazel Grove, as the new road has been built to meet the A555 link road to Manchester Airport, but that road is still being built. It certainly was then noticeable when we headed to High Lane before then turning into the long drive to Lyme Park itself. You could still see some of the hail on the ground from earlier and it was a case of it being slightly wet underfoot. The car park was sectioned off so not all of it was open but The Love and I managed to find a space.

It was then up the new path up to the house (the old steps have now been removed and the path slopes up, so possible for wheelchairs to take that route if there's enough power in the arms or electrics) and through the courtyard to the gardens. The main lake was frozen over in parts with only bits of the edge showing any water, and as we walked along, along the rhododendron walk, we were able to see how much the trees sheltered you from the cold wind that was blowing around the hills. We did a loop around the bridge at the far end and back to the orangery afterwards.

Once through the gardens we then left the house and took the roads downhill and turned off to the timber yard area, and the lake near there was also suitably frozen with only a small part which had melted, where all the ducks were unsurprisingly. We went to the timber yard and explored the shop there and we could see despite the weather many families heading to the Crow Wood playground to burn off all that extra Christmas energy – and that was actually pretty nice to see overall.

We left later on and stopped off at the Fiveways in Hazel Grove, having the carvery for a late lunch, which was rather gorgeous all round. I also had the Bootleg Brewing Co's Mistletoe ale which was rather gorgeous and felt all festive, with a definite smell of mulled berries in there. I do like the warming winter ales, and that kept me nice and cosy as we headed to Sainsburys on the way back for some cough and cold stuff, but also The Love got some wrapping paper for next Christmas for a mere 50p a roll, which simply had to be done!

It was good to head back later and we chilled out for the evening with The Love watching Little Women on iPlayer plus Emmerdale, and then it was on with heat two of World's Strongest Man, which was of course dominated by Hafthor Julius Bjornsson – he threw the gold bullion bars over the bar like they weren't there, and the final stones elimination round was dramatic, and at one point I thought Luke Stoltman was going to win it – but Martins Licis had too much and deserved to get through. The theme tune is tune of the day – it certainly gets you psyched up for the competition ahead.

Wednesday 27th December – Going (Not So) Wild In The Aisles

With The Love In My Heart still a bit coughing and spluttering with a cold, I thought it nice to give her some time to rest with Brian the cat, and I would head into the city centre on the tram and peruse the sales. I even put on my nice new Fred Perry beanie hat that The Love had got me, which looked good, and I needed it too because the weather was pretty cold and windy out there. I certainly felt it as I walked from The Love's place and headed to the tram stop – as it's pretty exposed to the elements.

I didn't have too long to wait for the tram and soon I was in Piccadilly Gardens, and took a walk down Market Street and into TK Maxx. I saw a few things but nothing jumped out at me, and as I had some gift cards for HMV, that was next stop. I did look at several things there but a lot of what I didn't get from my lists weren't in stock, and only one thing possibly caught the eye, which I might just get when I go back home in the new year, Midge Ure's “Orchestrated” album with full on orchestra versions of some solo and Ultravox classics – you can imagine how the likes of “Vienna” would be in this way.

I did head over to Fopp as well and had a good mooch around there also with plenty of vinyl that I could see on display too – a nice thing to see. In fact there were the new Morrissey single on 7” and two David Bowie singles in picture disc format. They weren't cheap though, the Moz 7” for example being £7 and the Bowie ones £13 each. Granted that they are a small run, but indie labels manage to do so for less than that price, normally £3 to £5 or so. Might be a case of knowing diehards would pay any price, but still not ideal really to be honest.

I headed off to the Virgin Money Lounge where a coffee was mine for the enjoying, and sat upstairs watching the world go by before heading off to Gap for their sale, and being tempted by a jumper or two, but as I had one from there for Christmas from The Love, I thought it best to wait for a bit – but still, some nice stuff in there. I then had a walk back through the Arndale and mooched in a few more shops before then deciding to head back on the tram – which took some time due to tram delays and also due to some scroats being idiots at one stop despite being told by the driver that they weren't allowed on.

Back at The Love's place it was nice and cosy, and Brian the cat was being his usual cute self. We went for a bit of an 80s fest on Chart Show TV as background, and one thing was all the number ones from 1983 including Duran Duran's excellent “Is There Something I Should Know?” which is tune of the day as it's still ace. We also had the likes of Spandau Ballet, Culture Club, and Flying Pickets as the number one at festive time. It was nice to be relatively chilled and all good to go...

Tuesday 26th December – Boxing Night With Family

It was actually really nice not to need to do much during Boxing Day itself. In fact The Love In My Heart and I had a lie in and eventually got up and had some breakfast after a while, but no real rush to be honest, primarily as we didn't need to be anywhere during the day. Brian the cat was getting lots of love and attention though and I got some nice pictures of him playing with a piece of wrapping paper and hiding behind it, which he seemed to be more than happy with!

In fact, I didn't need to get out of the pyjamas till later on, and I got showered and changed and ventured over to the local Asda which was actually open today, primarily to get a couple of bits for The Love and also some cat food for Brian. In fact it wasn't that busy really so it was a case of being able to get around, get what I needed and get out of there, and The Love was happily catching up on the likes of Emmerdale from Christmas Day (which in her own words she said was rather weird) and able to take things relatively easy.

We booked a taxi for later, and it did the usual trick of missing where the gates were to The Love's place and going all the way round the back of where she lives, and then we had a phone call from the driver to come back to where we were. Even more so, the driver didn't actually know where he was going originally and so had to rely on us for direction before the sat nav app on his phone kicked in. If that was London, and not passed “The Knowledge” that would have been a sacking offence really. At least we did get there to Mum's and on time too.

It was a relaxing evening overall, with Mum doing far too much food for the buffet and stuff no one eats (tuna or salmon and cucumber sandwiches). Unsurprisingly the popular stuff such as the cold meats, sausage rolls and crisps were going first, and so did the cakes as well. Mum did do a nice trifle which went down well as well, and I was glad I brought some beer myself so I could have some decent ale at the same time. It was also good to see one of my brothers and sister along with one of Mum's friends too.

Some of us were sat in the front room and I did see that School of Rock was on Film 4 so put that on as background, and of course enjoyed the title theme from the film immensely (make that tune of the day) which always is a bit of a feel good factor to the film. We spent more time chattering away and there were some additional presents too – my brother had got me CSI Season 14 on DVD plus Nouvelle Vague's “I Could Be Happy” CD, and they had got The Love a nice Jack Wills bath set too. There was also a gift from my sister – the Paul Stewart autobiography, and my nephew also gave me a gift card for IKEA, which I have an idea what to get in the New Year from my local one.

All in all, a nice night, and good to spend time with people. We did get a taxi back and this was much less hassle than going (primarily as Mum's address is easier to locate and the driver knew where he was going as well) and so it was nice just to chill out later and catch up on some telly before heading for bed with Brian the cat looking all cute and lovely as ever – and in fact the pictures of him I'd put up on Flickr earlier in the day had proved extremely popular to say the least!

Monday 25th December – Merry Christmas

It was nice to wake up on Christmas morning cuddled up with The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat, which is always a good thing. In fact The Love was heading up to put the turkey in the oven for Christmas dinner, but we kept each other company and chatted during the morning as Brian was getting lots of love and attention. We also opened the presents that we had got from our relations, a fair number of which I had picked up from my Mum's yesterday and some of which I had an idea of what they were, but was still intrigued.

It was good that a fair number of selections from my Christmas list were to be had, including Fleetwood Mac's self titled album and Depeche Mode's Music for the Masses CD as well as the Trainspotting T2 Blu-Ray from Mum, HMV vouchers from my sister and nephew, the Manchester City 2016-17 season review DVD and The Good Dinasour on Blu-ray from my uncle, and also CSI Season 15 on DVD from my nephew as well. That was all rather good all round.

One of my friends had also got me the new Marilyn Manson CD and The Crow on Blu-ray, and also my auntie got me a Debenhams gift card and a Ted Baker set from Boots which I really liked, which was rather good. It was a good way to start the day and plenty to watch when I get home in the New Year, that's for sure. We did have some bacon on toast for breakfast, and that set us up nicely before we then were heading off to The Love's father's place to see some of the family there.

It was nice and relaxed there, and had a good catch up with most of The Love's family and headed off to the local social club later for a beer and some darts. We did round the board and The Love's nephew won, beating her brother in law and myself handsomely. It was good fun though. I also got some nice presents too from them: The Love's youngest sister got me some lovely ales and the Jenson Button autobiography, and The Love's elder sister got me some ale, and two Blu-Rays, one on the Williams F1 team and one on the Ferrari F1 team, plus Grand Prix: The Killer Years on DVD from The Love's father too, which was rather good.

Later on myself, The Love, her youngest sister and niece headed back to The Love's place for a nice chilled out Christmas dinner. The Love excelled herself with the turkey, stuffing, roast potatoes, carrots, Yorkshires, broccoli and gravy, and it went down a treat – was gorgeous. I had the Black Sheep Blitzen ale with it and so felt all very festive, and we had some nice dessert too – I had a little mini roulade with toffee and pecan nuts and cream, and it was lovely. It was good to have a good natter and catch up and it was wonderfully relaxed to say the least.

Four became two later on and The Love and I watched the Doctor Who Christmas special, which was symptomatic of most Steven Moffat episodes of the last few years (ie: not that good) but in a good way, nice to see Jodie Whittaker get introduced properly as the new Doctor. It would be interesting to see how that'll work next series although they need someone better than Moffat to write the episodes. It was nice though to see a nod to the first doctor throughout at least, and then it was the swapping of our own presents.

And some lovely presents from The Love as well which really made me feel festive as well – a nice striped blue jumper from Gap (we were in York together when I saw it, so was rather lovely to get it), a Fred Perry red and black striped knitted hat, which is very much in the style of Manchester City's old away kit, Kraftwerk's German version “Trans Europa Express” on CD, the Cornish “All The Stations” t-shirt in the first design (an gorsavow oll) – meaning I now have both designs, and so that was all lovely. The Love appreciated all my presents too, especially the bee necklace with a little “C” which would go with the grey bee top that I'd got her whilst we were in Joy in Richmond a few weeks back. It was just nice to have such a lovely time to ourselves too.

We settled in for the evening and watched Paul O'Grady: For The Love of Dogs, and Paul ended up taking one of the dogs to add to his family at home, and also the hour long Christmas Day episode of Coronation Street with plenty of drama. The Love also of course was well up for watching the special of Victoria, as the loved the original series, and that was a good thing to fill the time nicely. In fact the day was all very nice, with lovely presents from everyone, and a real sense of being together and being loved too, and so with that in mind “Merry Xmas Everybody” by Slade is tune of the day – after all it isn't Christmas till Noddy Holder says it is!

Sunday 24th December – Chilled Christmas Eve

It was nice to be up and relaxed with The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat, and we didn't need to be up early and about so that was a good thing. In fact it was just good to mooch around the flat in the pyjamas and even see some old classic songs on Top of the Pops Christmas on BBC iPlayer, including songs that were in the charts in previous Decembers gone by, including the rather ace “What Is Love?” by Howard Jones, which is tune of the day for me. It definitely was good to be able to take it easy.

In fact it was a chilled day all round – The Love and I went round to one of her relations' to drop some presents off first, then it was off to see Mum. In fact it was nice because my youngest sister was also there – and she had the very good news of a new job to inform us of, so well done her! Mum made us some sandwiches and even dug out the frosted fancies, sort of the Chistmas version of the classic French Fancies, and had a coffee and chat for the early afternoon. It was really nice overall and we spent some time catching up and having a natter together.

Later on we headed off to have a pre-Christmas drink. My youngest sister had told me that The Elizabethan would be packed, and we also remembered that they'd have a carol service on, so instead it was to West Didsbury and to Wine and Wallop, which was very civilised and lovely as ever. In fact The Love had a mulled wine and I had this really nice Millstone Stout which hit the spot in so many nice ways – and being sat upstairs watching the world go by was a really nice thing to do. It certainly was a case of enjoying the afternoon together.

We did pop by the little Tesco in Levenshulme, my old former haunt, on the way home, and got some food for tea as well as some wine and also some bread, and it wasn't that busy either, so was good to get that sorted and be back at The Love's place later. It was nice to have a chicken and bacon pasta bake, and Channel 4 was our companion for the whole evening, including the likes of The Snowman, The Snowman and the Snowdog, and then my all time favourite Christmas film, The Muppets Christmas Carol, which is still really good fun and features all of your favourites in a really nice version of the classic – and Michael Caine as Scrooge was inspired casting.

After that it was a Child Genius v Celebrities Christmas special, and the celebs were very good, especially Cathy Newman from Channel 4 News and Dom Joly, who really did excel in all of the tests he took part in as well. It was expertly hosted by Richard Osman as ever. After that was Gogglebox 2017, with the critics on the sofa telling exactly what they thought of this year's programme. Nice of them to have a tribute to Leon Bernicoff (of Leon and June fame from the show) who had passed away yesterday and at least that meant the show was a good tribute to his direct and stinging critique over the years..

Saturday 23rd December – Festive Four

I was up relatively early this morning as I needed to do a few things before the Manchester City v Bournemouth game later on. It was off on the tram (and later bus) first to Southern Cemetery via a tram change at Cornbrook and getting to Barlow Moor Road stop, then from there on the 23A and 42B buses to Mill Lane Cemetery in Cheadle so I could visit there too. Some of my relations are in each one, and I felt it the right thing to do to go and visit those who are no longer with us and have a moment of poignant pause and reflection to remember them.

It's always a little bit upsetting for me and so it's good to head into Costa Coffee in Cheadle and have a pre-Christmas festive coffee. In fact I had the gingerbread and cream latte along with a raspberry and almond slice, and was rather nice – more so because I had enough points with my Costa loyalty card to have them both for free, which is always good. In fact it just felt like a moment I could have to think about those departed and think of the good memories we also had, and feel more positive too.

It was then on the 11 bus towards Benchill and took the tram from there, going via Roundthorn, Northern Moor and Sale Water Park before passing where I'd got off earlier, and a change at Cornbrook took me on the tram back to The Love's place which was good. I stopped at Asda on the way back and got some last minute bits for The Love, including some medicine, eggs, mushrooms and all that sort of thing. It was pretty busy in there so was quite pleased to be able to get in, get what I needed and get out again.

Later on my friend and I were off to the Etihad Stadium to see Manchester City's final home game of 2017 against Bournemouth. We had won 16 league games on the bounce, could we possibly make it 17? Team news looked good with David Silva back as well as Vincent Kompany, and Sergio Agüero up front too. I was hoping for a win and my friend thought that it would be no issue in terms of the win, so we would see what happens. The teams came out, the crowd roared ready to go, and off we went.

In fact it proved to be a really good performance, despite not being at our best. A lovely curled pass from Fernandinho found the diving header of Sergio, and he expertly steered the ball home for the opening goal, and was onside too. We didn't get more goals in the first half but chances were being created and it was a case of being patient and seeing over time if we were able to keep going and pass the opposition into submission. It was a really good half time too with some bizarre It's A Knockout type race in Christmas costumes to win some prizes.

In the second half it was more of the same, and a pass from Sergio found Raheem Sterling and he steered the ball low and hard home for 2-0, and substitute Bernardo Silva put in a perfect cross to the head of Sergio for 3-0. In fact there was still time for Danilo to come off the bench, peg it down the left in a one two with Sterling, and then place the ball in the bottom corner and make it a very easy 4-0 win, and so that meant 100 league goals scored in a calendar year, 100 home goals for Sergio, and a host of other good records for the Blues too.

I headed back to The Love's later on, and in the evening The Love and I met up with two of our friends (in fact the same friend I'd gone to the football with) and we had a meal in the Sheldon Arms near Ashton. In fact although there wasn't the carvery on, it was still nice to have the messy chips to start and the steak and ale pie for main, and my friend had the scampi in a basket which was also good. I had ice cream as did my friend and we all had tea or coffee to finish (and I'd had a Plum Pudding ale earlier on) so that was good, and we also exchanged presents too.

In fact I got some very nice presents from my friends: they'd got me the retro 1989 Manchester City home shirt complete with Brother sponsorship on (I had the home and away shirt from then and wore it with pride during the 5-1) and also the Kristin Hersh book “Wyatt at the Coyote Palace” along with the Damon Hill autobiography book on as well, so that would keep me nicely busy. They'd also got The Love a Biba coin purse and some nice slippers from Zara Home too. All was well, and even some festive Christmas tunes on such as “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses (make that tune of the day) and with Man U drawing at Leicester, City would be clear by 13 points, what a present!!

Friday 22nd December – The Final Countdown

It was the final day in work for me for 2017, and it was nice to not only be on the earlier train to work, but also to find it relatively empty, with hardly a soul around East Croydon station and also lots of seats. In fact it looks like, at long last, some of the Thameslink class 700 trains have finally got the pull down tables retrofitted – if I'd have known that there would have been a coffee from Costa purchased and drunk on the way to work just to get me additionally in the mood.

In fact, there was a fair bit for me to do, especially as it was a case of getting a few things set and ready for next year, so I tested the new version of Windows 10 ADK and the new version of MDT on the test server, and made sure that I also raised the change for the live server also. I had also managed to get to the bottom of a couple of minor issues and there was also a case of one piece of software failing last minute, so spent a fair bit of time in the early afternoon resolving that.

Our HR director had instructed that IT could go home just after 1pm, but as I had a train to catch later I thought it was best to stay in the office in case any other issues came up, and it also allowed me to get on with some additional testing, especially as the TPM firmware update for the G1 series of HP laptops had been released. The good news was that I was able to get that checked over, which worked well, and documented the process that was needed to be taken, so in fact it was a pretty good afternoon to get things done.

I left around 4pm and headed off to Euston, and straight into the first class lounge as I was travelling on the train to Manchester later. Surprisingly despite today being supposedly the big get away for Christmas, it was pretty empty in the lounge. I had a coffee and a mince pie, and had a sit down and relax. In fact looking at the concourse it didn't seem as busy either. I think this might have been due to the strike only being cancelled last minute yesterday and so people may have made alternative plans.

In fact, even the train later up to Manchester was eerily quiet. There were three people in my carriage including myself, and although food and drink was being served, no hot food due to the late strike cancellation. However I did have a really nice posh turkey and bacon sandwich, crisps, cake, coffee and some of the lovely Wreckless ale as well, so really good. I had the iPod on to keep me company as I travelled up through the darkness and the likes of Morrissey's “Spent The Day In Bed” was keeping me happy, so tune of the day there without question.

At Manchester Piccadilly The Love In My Heart was waiting for me and it was lovely to see her, and we had a nice relaxing chill out time at her place with Brian the cat wanting lots of fussing, love and attention as ever. It was nice just to chill out and relax and The Last Leg was on, so that was quite entertaining – and having Ed Milliband on as well as other guests actually proved to be quite a good thing really. It was good to sort the case out and be all in the nice festive mood now. Hurrah!

Thursday 21st December - Expecting the Unexpected

Quite a few nice and unexpected events happened today, and it actually made the day a lot nicer. First of all, I actually got a seat on the 0754 train from East Croydon to work. This is pretty much unheard of and I suspect a lot of this is down to people already being off over the Christmas period - a fair number of schools will have finished yesterday so I can well imagine that it would be easier for those parents to take the time off and be sure that they can have some quality time. So it was a nice change to actually sit down and take the journey into work, put me in the right frame of mind for the day.

In fact the day went pretty well anyway - the deployment I'd planned for the touchpad mouse driver had hit something in the region of 200 laptops in the first day and a half or so, and was nice and smooth too - so all that testing which I had done proved to be massively worth it. In fact I got on with testing both Adobe Flash Player 28 and the new 18.009.20050 release of Adobe Acrobat DC, and those both were all working nicely - installed first go and were all good when testing out the browser features and indeed to see how they would operate with reading various types of document.

My team lead had called me and a colleague in for a meeting this afternoon - he is on leave tomorrow and then doing the two days between Christmas and New Year. We had a constructive meeting which was all good and we thrashed out some ideas for the start of the year, and I knew I had plenty to be getting on with as well which was definitely a plus. Our new member has settled in really well, having been promoted internally, and she has been really positive overall. What I didn't expect was him to get us both a little gift each - a Man City mug and personalised mouse mat in my case, which was very nice actually. Unexpected, but hugely appreciated by me.

And then as I was about to head home tonight, even better news - the train strike on Virgin Trains has been called off. This makes me happy as I was heading up tomorrow to Manchester and the strike would have meant no catering on board, no access to the First Class lounge, but at least now my ticket will be worth it, as I can chill before getting the train, and have my tea and beer when heading up. It might still be that my train might not run, but I can always get the one before or after, so feel mightily positive about that. Hurrah!

In the meantime, at home it was a case of sorting out the large case and packing what I need for the trip up to Manchester for the festive period, whilst also listening to some really good tunes and watching the qualifiers for World's Strongest Man at the same time. Tune of the day is the excellent "Don't Know Enough About That" from Gavin Osborn and the Comment Section, from my album of the year "Echo Bridge". It's infectiously catchy and really does make you think "do we all try to pretend to know more than we do?"

Wednesday 20th December - Looking Back and Forward

I spent some time tonight compiling my 2017 review, detailing some of the really good music and stuff like that which happened this year. I must admit that it's always been good to keep up the music passion and be able to enjoy the stuff I like, and being at some quality gigs this year really does give me a sense of happiness. More so of course when you're with good company, as I've been with my friends to various of those gigs, and some alone were very close to me (one was literally across the road from my flat!) - so a real sense of looking back on what for me was an enjoyable year musically.

I'm also looking forward in a way, and setting up some ground work for some things I'll have planned in 2018, which includes having the SCCM client on all servers, and then using the Software Update Points to be able to then schedule in patching for those servers at appropriate times and being able to categorise them much easier too. In fact some of the testing I've done is basically where we install the clients on some servers and see how everything should still work properly, and it does thus far.

I've also set up some collections for each type of Windows Server (2008 without R2, 2008 with R2, and 2012 R2) and the idea behind that is that they can be categorised accordingly for any updates which are needed, because we've established by the collection query which OS they have - just makes things a tad easier all round there. It also means in the long term that we'll be able to have things more consistent and it becomes part of the server builds in future, so definitely a positive move there all round.

I also did one final test on one model of laptop that I needed to do testing on before rolling out a SCCM task sequence to laptops that updates the Synpatics Touchpad driver found on the majority of HP laptops. As it transpired the version of the driver often has an admin option which when enabled allows some keystrokes to be recorded - bad. The best move was to therefore include it in all the driver packs possible (which is done) but for existing kit, ensure that using the dpinst command that the new driver was added - and all seven different models I tested all worked with the right one, so happy about that.

As I smile to myself as Bristol City beat Manchester United 2-1 in the Carabao Cup, and think of how much that it wouild mean to that club as a scalp tune of the day is from someone based in Bristol, She Makes War, with the ace "I Want My Country Back", a song I've played more than any other this year I reckon and one which really does resonate with me a heck of a lot. Not least of course because plenty of the subjects are what I care about, keeping the ban on fox hunting, ensuring the NHS is properly funded, and not casting aspersions on a whole group of people.

Tuesday 19th December - The Wimbledon Spirit Lives

It was off to my usual hairdressing haunt of James Barbers as I needed to get the hair cut for the Christmas festive period, and know that they do a cracking job and don't charge the earth for it either. In fact it was nice and quiet when I got there with me only me in, and the staff said they had been busy for most of the day so I think I timed a nice run well there. I must admit it did take some time to get there due to some idiots deciding to cram onto the District Line tube and push the doors open when the driver had repeatedly asked to mind the doors as they were closing. It's not as if it's the last one for an hour or something, the mind boggles really.

Anyway, the hair was all sorted into neatness and it felt good to be able to get off the mounds of thick hair and look all shorter and smoother for the time ahead. As is my usual thing, I normally give them a fair bit extra as a little Christmas tip, and I don't mind doing so because a) they're a really nice bunch of people who look after you b) they're always spot on with the cut and c) finding a good hairdresser is a tricky thing to find, and the fact that I don't mind travelling to Wimbledon Park should tell you all you need to know.

I did get to Wimbledon and noted outside the station that Wilko is now open, so noted that to be useful for getting some household bits and not having to get the bus to Bromley or the train to Sutton and then walk all the way down the main high street to it there. The tram stop was absolutely packed though and I did manage to get on, only then for the tram to take its time letting people off and on at every stop, and then without warning, terminating early at Wandle Park so everyone had to get off and wait for the trams behind. Just what I needed!

Still, I managed to get quite a bit of ironing done when I got home and had Channel 5 plus 1 to thank for the latest round of qualifiers for World's Strongest Man: namely Britain's Strongest Man from the Doncaster Dome. Eddie Hall, aka the Beast, was in impressive form to say the least, and he won well, finishing all of the six events either first or second. Laurence Shahlaei did rather well throughout too, nailing the equivalent event to the car walk in a rather quick time, so good to see. Of course this is all a warm up for the big one with the final on New Years' Day, as you do.

After last night's music listening, I again spent tonight listening to two classic Roy Harper albums, namely "HQ" and "Stormcock", which in my view are the best two, with Stormcock just edging it. For me it's an album of two halves for HQ, with "The Spirit Lives" being a real statement of how bad religion is, and therefore tune of the day for that reason. "The history of religion is the history of the state, incestuous exploiters of a catalogue of hate" goes the second verse, and somehow that seems rather true actually...

Monday 18th December - Final Push

It was the first day of the final week at work, as although work is open between Christmas and New Year, I made sure I booked my annual leave early, and also made sure that I got a couple of days after New Years' Day to ensure I could see the football as I needed to over the festive period. With that in mind and with the trains being as busy as ever this morning, it was the start of the final week of work and a chance to get plenty done over the course of the next few days.

In fact I spent some time working on our admin tools task sequence after some feedback from the team lead in the initial testing phase. I'd worked out how to stop KeePass looking for updates by ensuring we had a modifed lock down configuration file, and then also a little batch file to clean up desktop icons no longer needed after installs, plus add a Start Menu shortcut for Win Dir Stat - it seems to install per user normally and so places the shortcuts in the admin user's profile, so for system user, no can do. I made sure of course that we got that one sorted.

There's a couple of final issues in terms of being able to get some of the software to work - for some reason System Center Operations Manager admin console failed to run correctly, with an error occurring during running, so need to see why this is and work out a suitable way to get that fixed - I have a feeling this might be due to some other stuff being installed. In addition, there's also the issue of making sure that the older version (2012 SP4) of SQL Server Management Studio is installed - unlike the new versions you have to use the full SQL Server install but then just ensure only the management studio components install.

It was also a case of staying behind last minute to get an issue sorted with one user where everything else was all working with their upgraded laptop bar the start menu - but we soon managed to work out why that was and put some steps into play to get it all fixed nicely, so felt like I could head home and at least feel flushed with success. And indeed later on it was a case of getting Channel 5 on for the qualifiers of the World's Strongest Man from the Giants Live events that took place - and somewhere there's got to be a World Record deadlift happening I suspect. And needless to say, the atlas stones!

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather excellent "Time To Be Unkind" by She Makes War, which was one of my highlights when I saw her live last week with band. On the album it's from, Direction of Travel, there's also a guest appearance from Mark Chadwick of Levellers on there too, which really does do a nice call and answer response, taking the tune to another level. Of course for me the whole album is ace, but this stood out live last week with solo ukelele too...

Sunday 17th December - City Centre Changes

The Love In My Heart and I had some breakfast, and once that was done and we got ourselves ready, we were going to head into Manchester city centre, primarily as The Love needed to pick up a couple of presents and we could also have a good mooch around the shops too. The weather wasn't exactly being nice though as it was raining a fair bit, so we braved it as we set off in The Love's car, and used one of her favourite car parks at the start of Oldham Road just north of the Northern Quarter, so all was well there.

We decided first of all to head into Teacup on Thomas Street and treat ourselves to coffee and cake in there - we both had the Victoria sponge with a helping of proper raspberries inside and some clotted cream to go with it. It was of course gorgeous and we felt it was nice to give ourselves a little Sunday late morning treat before we headed off to Debenhams where I had a good mooch at some of the coats and some nice jumpers in there and The Love got a present sorted whilst she was in there - so all was well.

We also walked down Market Street, I went into TK Maxx and did see a reasonably nice Ben Sherman jumper and took note of it so I might treat myself after Christmas if anyone gets me a gift card for there, and also The Love picked up another present. We then went round the Arndale and noted that near the likes of Hotel Chocolat, there's now a shop named after her which does the likes of bags and jewellery. It seemed okay in there actually and we were all good to go heading round the likes of Oasis and Top Shop, the latter for a present.

We then walked to where WH Smith was, except it wasn't where I expected it to be. Where it was had been a staple site since the Arndale opened and it had never moved in all its time of being there, until recently, and we located its new place eventually. It was a sign of change as plenty of shops along towards the square where Wilko is were all being renovated and done up, so a sign of the changing times of retail in the centre. We did head over to Unit 7 in the Royal Exchange for some cards, and ended up in the Virgin Money Lounge with a coffee and a chill out and escape from the shoppers and rain.

Later it was off to The Bank on Mosley Street for Sunday lunch. They had the Wild Holly ale from Thornbridge Brewery so all good there, and we both had a pie, The Love had the shepherds pie and I had the beef and amber ale pie which reminded me of the pie that is in the Crown and Anchor. The Love had got the Christmas Radio Times so we did the quiz in there, and was all nice to chill and relax, before we walked back down Oldham Street past the likes of Vinyl Exchange and then to the car, where The Love dropped me off to get the train home.

When I got home, I had recorded Sports Personality of the Year, which was still on, but my trusty Humax recorder allows playback whilst still recording, so set it off from the start - and opening the show well was Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds with their single "Holy Mountain" and that was tune of the day - and with Noel being a Manchester City fan, he had a flag proudly draped around the band's equipment, and had some good banter with Gary Lineker later on.

As for the actual award, I was pretty pleased to see Sir Mo Farah win, but was also surprised that Lewis Hamilton didn't get more of the vote to be honest, although the tax issues might have counted against that. Certainly Chris Froome had a number of votes too but the current issues around the asthma medication may have also counted. I was also pleased Jonnie Peacock got third - a real boost for Para sport, and Jonathan Rea clearly was a very popular three times World Superbike winner too. Always a nice surprise to see others to do well. On a negative front, the four female nominees were the bottom four in terms of votes, and there's not been a female winner since 2006.

Saturday 16th December – Sweet Sixteen

It was off to the Etihad Stadium with my friend for the 5.30pm kick off as Manchester City faced Tottenham Hotspur. City had amazingly won the last fifteen league games on the bounce and were unbeaten in twenty games overall in the league, and we knew from the past that Tottenham were generally one of our bogey teams overall. I also was keeping an eye on the late kick off due to floodlight failure between Stoke and West Ham – as Pablo Zabaleta plays for West Ham and I want him to do well – he's once a blue, always a blue in my eyes.

We got a brew as we got in the stadium and we always use that time to have a good catch up and natter which was good – and in fact he mentioned that he might be having some time away with his wife over the Christmas period as they want to go and see something in Blackpool during that time. I hope they can get all that sorted as it'd be good for them to have something to look forward to – and on top of that it's always good to give yourselves a little treat over the festive period.

With the weather approaching a little cold spell and with fog attempting to set in over the skies, City kicked off and with suitable pressure applied straight away – Sergio Aguero fired a couple of shots wide, and some good runs from Leroy Sané really did mean that the Tottenham defence were stretched. I had a feeling that we would score sooner rather than later and we were really pleased when Sané crossed from a corner and it met the head of Ilkay Gundogan who headed low into the bottom corner past Hugo Lloris in the Tottenham goal, and so 1-0 City. Excellent.

I'd have taken 1-0 before play as would have my friend, and Tottenham came out early second half with some intent. City though were determined not to give anything away and gradually got better, and after a substitution to put Gabriel Jesús on, a move down the left meant the ball went to Kevin de Bruyne and so he whacked it hard into the top corner, and the despairing hand of Hugo Lloris couldn't stop then chance going in. 2-0 did feel a lot more comfortable than 1-0 it had to be said.

City got a penalty later on, and we thought Raheem Sterling was going to take it but he didn't, and Jesús missed. That might have been costly on another day, but a flowing move down the left with Ilkay Gundogan and Leroy Sané meant that the ball went across to Raheem Sterling who had the simplest of tap ins for 3-0. This was to be 4-0 late on as the ball from Bernardo Silva found Sterling who feinted the ball through the legs of Lloris and had an even easier tap in! Although there was a late consolation from Christian Eriksen, it was a really good performance from City and 4-1 was awesome – complete with Supra's ace version of “Blue Moon” (make that tune of the day) and all was very well with the world.

I got back to The Love In My Heart's place, and with her out for the Christmas do with work, I settled in to see the remainder of the final of Strictly Come Dancing. All four were pretty impressive but I was also quite pleased that Joe McFadden and Katya Jones won, they really did show masses of improvement and had such a good journey – and all four finalists were all excellent – any one of them could have won to be honest. I do think though that the public probably related to Joe (and also Gemma) more and that probably did influence the vote a little bit. Still, was good to see...

Friday 15th December – Christmas Jumper Day

So it was the annual Christmas Jumper Day, and as where I work were effectively the main protagonists of such a day, it seemed only the right thing to do to actually wear a Christmas jumper, and after getting one from Debenhams on Tuesday, I had the really nice little bulldog with a Christmas jumper on, which did look rather good and classy all round. In fact it was nice to be able to be on the train and feel that it was going to be the start of what should be a lovely weekend, and The Love In My Heart suggested we had Chinese later for tea which was a good call.

Work was busy as ever but I was keeping an eye on several things happening over the course of the day: especially the fact I was scheduling a live deployment of some software early next week as well as testing out some of the Group Policy planned settings that I wanted to implement to make sure that all was well there. In fact it was good to be able to crack on with a lot whilst still being able to try and pursue a few starting points to a number of pieces of development work: in fact it's the busiest I've been all week.

In the afternoon, as part of the tie in that the workplace had with Arsenal's football team, the Arsenal mascot Gunnersaurus came around the office, ensuring that anyone who needed to donate their £2 for wearing the jumper had done so, and was offering selfies with the mascot in exchange for raising more money so all was good there. In fact the lovely lady who had to wear the Santa costume and outfit and walked round deserved a medal for being so patient and polite all the way throughout.

I had finished work and so headed on the tube towards Euston Square and then walked to Euston to get myself ready to board the 1800 train to Manchester Piccadilly. Due to train strikes, not all trains were running (mine was) but also no catering on board whatsoever. In addition I spotted that the First Class lounge wasn't open either which wouldn't be good next week if it was the same for me. The train also took a rather long time between Stockport and Manchester for some reason: stuck behind a slow service for some reason which wasn't good. Eventually I made it into Piccadilly where The Love In My Heart was waiting.

We headed to the local Chinese takeaway near her place and we got tea: she got the roast pork in Kung Po sauce, and I tried the crispy shredded chilli beef in sweet and sour sauce. That was actually really nice, almost as good as the crispy shredded chilli chicken I used to get from the Chinese in Levenshulme back in the day. It was a really nice sense of enjoying the food together and having Brian the cat come and get a love off The Love whenever he felt like it too – so that was nice.

We snuggled up on the sofa together and it was a case of then settling in to watch Top of the Pops on BBC Four, which was part of the Christmas Special from 1984. This included the likes of Frankie Goes To Hollywood (twice) as well as Thompson Twins' “You Take Me Up” but also for me and tune of the day was the impressive “Wild Boys” by Duran Duran, still to this day one of my favourite songs of theirs, and as Band Aid was number one, they had a number of people mime along to the song and sing the parts – Sting having to do several!

Thursday 14th December - Elsewhere

I spent the afternoon actually not with my team, but hotdesking and spending time with the folks in our Supporter Care department, who apart from being absolutely lovely, are the ones who take a fair number of the phone calls theat we get in work, and handle them professionally with a smile. They've been having a periodic issue with their call centre software in that occasionally during a call transfer it drops connectivity, and so after some discussion with them, I arranged to head up there and be ready if something happened to see what could be done.

And of course, in classic "It Only Works Because You're Here" fashion, everything did work because I was there, and the member of staff all afternoon had functionality all good. In fact I also remediated for one user who appeared to drop off the call queue and added them back in, and they were then getting calls properly. They appreciated that as wanted to do their bit, and their team leader is lovely and spent time chatting with me whilst working about walking the Capital Ring, cats, and what Christmas Jumper we'll be wearing tomorrow. It was a good experience all round actually, and I'm going to nominate the MJ Hibbett song "It Only Works Because You're Here" to be tune of the day for obvious reasons!

It was good also to spend some time at home sorting out all the washing and making sure that the bag was all packed for the weekend from tomorrow. I've got the last of the presents to bring up and that means that next weekend it'll just be the big case with clothes and stuff in ready to go - and that makes much more sense to be honest to do it all that way. From my own point of view, it also has meant that it's going to be hopefully less hassle as well!

In the meantime though I also did some testing with some driver updates that we needed to send out that my colleague had spotted - it was due to the Synaptics touchpad software apparently having some hidden function to record what was happening for diagnostic purposes. Effectively all the drivers do update and install using the inbuilt dpinst.exe function, but depending on what had been installed, the exit code can be different from 0, which is not ideal. And so with that in mind I created the packages in SCCM but used the run command line option to run them, then ensuring the exit codes were entered as valid. Job as they say well done.

So testing all seems decent and that would be a positive going forward, so good. In fact I think that it's always good to have some positivity and that reflected on the chat I had with The Love In My Heart later on too. And it's coming up towards Christmas so definitely a time to be reflecting on the year and spending time with the loved ones too. I just hope that the remaining few days at work are just hassle free and that I can get on with plenty in that time!

Wednesday 13th December - She Makes Two

It was a nice different evening tonight as I was heading off to Dalston to the Servant Jazz Quarter club where She Makes War was playing. In fact it was going to be different as it was an evening with She Makes War, where it was a mainly solo acoustic set in the first half, and then a full band in the second half. I have to say that it was good to have that as an idea, and as I left work and walked towards the bus stop to get the 243 bus, anticipation was high. The bus soon went to Old Street, round the back of Shoreditch, and then up the A10 through Hoxton and Haggerston.

I actually stayed on the 243 bus to Stoke Newington as I wanted to get something for tea, and knew that from previous walks on the Capital Ring there was a good pizza place, called Good Pizza, and so it proved, we're talking 12" mushroom pizza for a mere four quid, made fresh to order, and absolutely gorgeous. In fact I could have easily had more toppings and spent more, but thought to keep it simple and enjoy the rather lovely food. It was noticeable that families were there too all being casual and dining so that was good.

I then headed back on the 149 bus to Dalston, had a coffee in Costa and then made my way to Servant Jazz Quarter. It was a small venue, and the bar was tiny, with three beers on tap including the Kona Big Wave, which was actually pretty nice too. The gig venue part was downstairs and was delightfully small, you'd be looking at around 80 maximum to be honest. It wasn't completely full despite being sold out, but this was mainly due to people not realising that two sets were on and so thought they'd be missing the support. Ooops.

So, on came She Makes War, and for the first part of the set it was mainly herself but occasionally with Charlotte on the cello (from her band). It was nice to hear some old and new songs, including some of my favourites from the "Direction of Travel" album including "Please Don't", delivered with suitable gorgeousness, and "Paper Thin" complete with the ukelele having its starring role, mirror that with "Time To Be Unkind" as a really nice opener. It was good that Laura mentioned that recording etc wasn't really a cool thing, and people put their cameras and phones away, so we could all concentrate on enjoying the music.

It was really good that she had sorted a working megaphone out because this meant that the opening set closer "Delete" had its added impetus when that section came in. It still sounds just as much a piece of performance art as well as music too, and she wandered around the crowd with the megaphone. At this point a couple came in not realising they'd missed some of the set, but they were nice and spent time chatting with me in between sets (as well as being nice and quiet during the second set), so hello to Ben and his wife Morgan, if you're reading!

Out came the band for the second half, so we're talking drums, another guitarist, bassist, and cello and backing vocals making a rather nice five piece all round. Of course this meant a rather gorgeously loud version of "Drown Me Out" along with "In Cold Blood" and some really old classics from the Disarm album including "Slow Puncture" too. But the highlight for me was a full on version of "I Want My Country Back" which I sang along to - in full, it just sounded brilliant and definitely tune of the day for me - I felt that passion when singing too. Isn't it great when songs do something to move you?

More lovely new album stuff followed and "Devastate Me" was particularly good showing how we're all distracted by the phones etc and how to break free from that - always a good idea. And.. there was even a really nice rock guitar cover version of Culture Club's "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me" and as someone who was around to enjoy the 80s original, I really liked thtat a lot and sang along too. The time went too quick, it was 10.30pm and time to head back to London Bridge and then get on a ram packed bobbins Southern Rail train home. Even that though couldn't dampen the enthusiasm I had - thank you Laura and band for a great show!

Tuesday 12th December - Jumper Round

After work today I decided that I needed to go and get the Christmas jumper sorted out. This was primarily because of Christmas Jumper Day this Friday, and also because of where I work I couldn't really not get into the spirit and not wear one. I also wanted to try and get something which actually wouldn't look too tacky to wear either - some of them are just a little over the top and for me it's a case of finding a nice balance between the two. I had seen some ideas in Sainsburys of all places, so it was off on the tram from East Croydon to Waddon Marsh first of all.

And that proved to be not so good. They did have one which lit up when you activated something inside but that was a little bit expensive, plus the sizes weren't right for me either, so boo there. I thought that TK Maxx just over the road might have had some options too, but no, they clearly didn't. In fact I couldn't spot a single jumper of sorts either, unlike the other day when The Love In My Heart and I were at Manchester Fort and saw loads, so that was worth noting.

Anyway, I thought that there might be late night shopping going on in the centre of Croydon so I took the tram and headed back to the Centrale stop, and went into the shopping centre there. Not all the shops in either Whitgift or Centrale were open though: I'd say mainly the big stores were looking at 8pm openings tonight. I did peruse most of them and did have some ideas in my head - and Primark had virtually sold out of all of theirs (not that I was getting one from there anyway but notable to see.)

In the end, I did manage to get one and from one of the stores, and it's not over the top but nice, and will at least mean that I can get into the spirit of things on Friday when the day happens. In fact I was thinking that it might be something I could at least get some wear out of during the festive period and then keep during the year for the next Christmas festivities - after all why spend more than you need to for this sort of thing I wonder? In a good way, it's a wise investment but also means I know where I am - so all good there.

Tune of the day is a Christmas song - but not as we know it. To get me in the mood for the She Makes War gig tomorrow night, I noted that Laura had herself done a Christmas cover a few years back - a version of the Waitresses' "Christmas Wrapping" which most supermarkets and stores will have on their Christmas playlists every year. It is a nice version though, much less horn section and much more synth like, not a bad thing, and a good singalong too. Yaay!

Monday 11th December - Cheggers Plays No More Pop

It was good to be heading back to work and with two work weeks to go to Christmas. It was also good to catch up a fair bit after having Friday off and also being able to get lots sorted out, so made sure that the deployment of the likes of Google Chrome went well (the new version appeared to have worked nicely so all good there) and also look at some development work with ServiceNow during the day as well. One feature we did want to implement didn't quite work the way I wanted, so need to find out some more information and work from there.

I did find out around 2pm from a work colleague that Keith Chegwin had passed away. I must admit that it did make me feel rather sad, not least because it was part of the childhood that had gone with it. When I was much younger, there was of course Multicoloured Swap Shop that he was a part of, but the main thing for me was the iconic Cheggers Plays Pop game show, with two teams in red and yellow pitting their wits against pop questions and also games with inflatables with the chart sounds playing in the background.

Of course being Mancunian, this was filmed at BBC Manchester Oxford Road, a place I passed all the time on the way into the city centre, and many local schools in the North West did feature on there. It did have a real classic theme tune with some nice guitar work, and that's tune of the day - highly evocative of the time but also full of bounce and getting everyone in the mood to enjoy the show a lot. In fact, it ran for almost nine years with a sense of enjoyment throughout.

There's several things that I suspect that Keith would rather not have done, Naked Jungle being one of them - there was one pilot for a reason, and it was pretty low brow to be honest. However, being an all round entertainer there was plenty of time to bounce back and be on other series, and the infectious nature of being a sunny side up personality was just the thing that a lot of us needed when the world isn't always at its nicest either, so there you go.

It was good to relax tonight and enjoy the tree being all lit and looking festive too, and used the new wok for the first time to get some chicken curry sorted out. I must admit it's a lot easier using that - even if it is a lot bigger than the pan I used to use, and really does work well to keep the heat in and make the food nice and warm. It was butter chicken with some mushrooms and some rice as well as some naan bread - and just the thing for a rather freezing cold day outside too!

Sunday 10th December - Snowy Derby

The Love In My Heart and I looked outside of the bedroom window, and noticed that some snow had fallen overnight. Not enough to settle on the roads, but certainly enough for the roofs nearby to show that they had indeed been graced with the white stuff. It did stop early in the morning though and so unlike other parts of the country that had had six inches plus of snow, it was relatively calm in Croydon. We did have a lovely breakfast and were ready to face the weather a bit later on.

In fact we did just that as we ventured down to Surrey Street Market to check out the Canadian themed market that was on offer during the afternoon. It wasn't that busy due to the cold weather, but there were some nice stalls selling maple syrup, some hand made goods and other themed items, plus a coffee stall doing a roaring trade with some Tim Horton's coffee. I think the weather had meant not all of what had been planned was taking place though, so it wasn't necessarily all on.

We got back to my place and had a game of Scrabble in the afternoon and saw that the snow was coming back down and that wasn't nice to see - mainly because we wanted to head out later and get The Love back to Euston for the train. We did thankfully see it stop and so timed our exit at the snooker mid session interval and then was able to walk up to East Croydon to get the train - and that went without a hitch to Victoria, then the tube to Warren Street and onwards for lunch.

And it was back to the Crown and Anchor for our last Sunday lunch there of the year. We did enjoy it hugely though, with some lovely ale on tap for me and wine for The Love, plus some gorgeous food - the beef and amber ale pie for me for one, which was stunningly nice. It was just good to natter in there and really reflect on a lovely weekend together, and on the way to Euston I'd noticed all the places close to the station such as the former Ibis hotel and the former Calumet shop all been compulsorily purchased as part of HS2 - oh joy. I've stayed in that Ibis back in the day!

The Love and I had a hug and kiss farewell at Euston as she headed home on the train, and I got myself back to Croydon where I noted Boxpark was showing the Manchester derby on the telly from Old Trafford, so I watched most of that in there. City went ahead through David Silva, only for Marcus Rashford to equalise right on half time. City though went back in front through Nicolas Otamendi and so it stayed at 2-1 and City won, with the snow coming down at Old Trafford a bit too. But I'll take it, oh yes, another win in the Premier League and a defeat of United too - and so playing Supra's "Blue Moon" at full pelt only seems right somehow (and tune of the day at that...)

Saturday 9th December - All Christmas Loved Up

After a nice restful lie in, The Love In My Heart and I got ourselves up and ready, and had some nice sausages on toast for breakfast to get us in the mood for the rest of the day. It was good to potter about seeing some of the James Martin on Saturday thing too (Rachel Allen was even being a bit flirty to be honest!) and once we'd got everything all good to go, it was off to East Croydon station and to head towards the centre of the capital. In fact, we had a cunning plan..

That plan was to change at Clapham Junction and head on the train to Waterloo so we could start there and walk along the South Bank all the way to London Bridge and so take in any Christmas markets and just the nice view generally. It worked well getting into Platform 1 at Waterloo and following the pedestrian walkway to the back of the Royal Festival Hall and heading up and over to the Southbank Centre, and did a left at first to check out the space that had the Rekorderlig cider house (the hot cider was expensive though) and then back along.

In fact we stopped off at the upper floor rooftop bar in the Southbank Centre, where in Summer we've stopped in the warm to admire the view. They had some heaters and a tent and it was a so-called "Finnish Sauna" - it wasn't that warm but they did have Glögg for The Love and coffee for me, so all was really good there. It was good to look over the Thames as ever and see the river boats go past, and also after that we walked past the National Theatre and the book stalls, and onwards towards Blackfriars.

After that we thought that there might have been a Christmas market by the Tate, but not this time around - a shame, as last time was good. We had at least perused the stalls before by the Southbank Centre, and there were the craft shops in Oxo Tower so that was nice to look around, and as we approached London Bridge and beyond, there were some more Christmas stalls on the waterfront too, and we had a large bratwurst for lunch along the way. It was festive and certainly being able to sit by the river and have lunch was nice.

We got back to London Bridge station and took the train back to East Croydon, and later on we were relaxed watching the rest of the snooker semi final, then being relatively chilled out watching Top of the Pops Big Hits from 1981 (make Soft Cell's version of "Tainted Love" tune of the day) and then getting ourselves ready to head out for the evening. The Love looked absolutely stunning in her really nice dress and boots, and I really felt so lucky to be taking her out.

We went and had a lovely evening meal at Tre Fratelli, one of the restaurants along Croydon's Restaurant Quarter. We've eaten there before and the food is lovely, so well worth going again. In fact we both had the minestrone soup for starters which was delicious, and really wholesome, and the mains were stunning - I had the carbonara with penne pasta, and the sauce was lovely and creamy and full of bacon in there too. The Love had the chicken in cream sauce with mushrooms with some vegetables on the side, and that really did feel stunningly nice also. We loved the really good friendly service from the staff, and also the welcoming feel we had throughout - and had no hesitation in leaving a good tip, especially as the price was very good for what we had too.

We ended up then heading back to near mine and in the Green Dragon pub, which had recently had a refurb inside. The good news was that this wasn't at the expense of the beer selection or the atmos, both of which were still excellent. We're talking eight cask ales, another eight on tap behind the bar, and multiple ciders too. In fact the other good thing was the still reasonable prices, a large white wine and pint of the very nice Truman's "Roll Out The Barrel" with some vanilla in there - gorgeous - for just over £9. For parts of London that's considerably reasonable actually, and set the evening off perfectly. A lovely day with the woman I love - what more could I ask for?

Friday 8th December - Oh Christmas Tree

I had the day off work today as The Love In My Heart was coming down to see me for the weekend, but I was also glad in a way when I saw what was happening with the trains. Power failures meant whole signalling systems and other things down, and people were taking two to three hours to get into work. Granted I'd have been able to work from home and not have to worry about traipsing in of course, but to be up and just relax during the day, get the shopping delivered, and then get all the house sorted was a bonus.

I got the Christmas tree and the decorations out and noted that for some reason I only had one set of lights, so managed to nip out and get some more - they were the LED lights and battery operated with 3 AA batteries, so no plug, and not just that either, but they didn't loop back to the plug like my other set, so can go in one long sring all the way around as needed. I put the lights on, the polar bear I have on top, and The Love said she would help with the decorations and so was all chilled out, watching the snooker in the afternoon.

The trains were still not brilliant but The Love managed to spot the departure to Reigate from London Victoria at Platform 19 first and got a seat before it became really busy, and arrived virtually on time to East Croydon where I'd walked up to meet her. It was lovely to see her as ever and we headed back to the nice warmth of the flat, had a coffee and were soon sorting out the decorations for the tree and putting the tree up. I must admit the LED lights are a little less bright than the plug in ones, but do feel a little more festive for somee reason.

I made us some tea later on and had in some nice Tesco Finest stuff, so we had the chicken in white wine sauce with leeks and some dauphinoise potatoes as well - it was really nice too. I did that a little early so that The Love could settle in and watch the soaps and chill out, and in the commercial breaks I'd be keeping an eye on the quarter finals at the UK Snooker Championship. It was a good compromise and meant that we were both happy and snuggled up.

We also did see Gogglebox later and it was always interesting to see what they'd made of the week's telly, especially the likes of Strictly Come Dancing but also how other shows such as Blue Planet II were gripping the nation. It was also good that the tree really did make us both feel in a nice festive mood and we were certainly feeling like it was a good opportunity to almost be like it was Christmas and get snuggly. Awww, I know. Tune of the day is the rather good "Magic" by Cabaret Voltaire, a definite more house inspired track they did but so spot on, and the uplifting feel of it certainly captured the magic in the air today.

Thursday 7th December - The Sunny Side

It was nice to be out after work tonight, as a fair few of us in IT got together for a Christmas night out. In fact we'd all been asked to bring some food along so we could have a little bit of a buffet and feast at 4pm beforehand, which was good, and that meant lots of snacks, sweet things and even mince pies to set the tone nicely. I had been testing out some things following yesterday and found out that for the SQL Server Management Studio install, it needed to have the tick box to run as a 32-bit application for the installation. Normally this isn't an issue, but after doing a check running it and seeing it show (x86), thought it best to do that - and it worked first go. Often overlooked!

I had brought in biscuits as part of the food thing, and others had brought in bread, cheese, a really nice roasted ham with honey and mustard, all that sort of thing. It was nice although probably didn't need endless naff versions of Christmas songs playing in the background but there you go. It was however nice to be able to get in the mood and feel festive, and I did have one of my Patrick Grant shirts on so looked smart and ready to hit the proverbial town.

In the end, we headed off to Simmons, a bar not far from work and there's a few of them in Central London. What is key is that their happy hour is quite long during the week (4-9pm) which means selected bottles of beer and glasses of house white wine for £2.50, a veritable bargain in London. Management had put a nice bar tab aside so we were able to use that, and they did have some Meantime ales on, so myself and a couple of colleagues went for the Cali Pale Ale, which was pretty decent to be honest.

It was nice to be out, share conversation and have a few drinks, and the place was packed out (prices have a lot to do with it I suspect) and so from there it was a case of being able to listen intently, because of the mass noise of conversation and decent tunes (such as Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out" so that's tune of the day for me) and it was all good. I didn't stay out too late though becuase I wanted to get things sorted at home for The Love In My Heart's visit tomorrow, but it was nice to be relax anyway.

I got home and was glued to the telly on the BBC Red Button as the final batch of last sixteen matches were taking place, and Ronnie O'Sulliivan as I came in was 4-2 down against Sunny Akani (probably easier to use that than Akani Songsermsawad as was previously known) - Ronnie battled back to 4-4, but then Sunny put together a brilliant 128 break to go 5-4 up, and had a chance in the next to knock the green in, and he tried to get the blue off the cushion but potted it. Gutted. Ronnie cleared for 5-5, and then it was tension in the final frame but Ronnie got over the line to win an absolute epic 6-5.

The post match interview with both players was brilliant, and to give Ronnie credit he really did big up how well Sunny played, with Sunny stating Ronnie was his idol and thanked him for the game. It was really nice to see and I certainly think that some of Ronnie's over-zealous fans should take note that you always respect the player in victory or defeat - if he can do that, and be very fair and complimentary, why can't everyone else? Going to be a cracking last few days of the championship now.

Wednesday 6th December - Testing Times

I've spent the last few weeks with a colleague of mine getting together the packages together for a task sequence which will, when run, add all the administrative tools that are needed in order to get a build sorted quicker for the second and third line teams. In theory this means that after our Windows 10 base build, we can put together all the needed stuff and have it all installed nicely, so less hassle all round. Individually, we know that the packages and applications do work, so it's just getting them all together the right way around.

I did note that there was an error with one of the batch files that installed KeePass and also copied a required configuration file to the machine, and when that was all sorted it meant that that installer did work, and indeed the majority of applications did work - one did need a restart and as such it meant that if left alone, the task sequence would carry on and keep installing, so that was all good. In fact later in the day I was able to show that the second line stuff did all work correctly, and install, and it was only some of the heavier third line stuff which was proving less effective.

In fact I narrowed it down to two which may need an additional restart putting in, and those were the SQL Server Management Studio, in itself not the nicest installer anyway, and MS DaRT, which does have some pre-requisites and also may in fact need the Windows 10 ADK installing first before anything else. I'll have to get some further tests done tomorrow but it was interesting to note that some of the pieces of software installed fine on their own, but there's most likely a certain order they could be needed in a task sequence, so some juggling round is inevitable.

I've been watching the UK Championship snooker on the telly of course this week, and there's been some excellent games. In fact the BBC Sport app on the telly has both tables available so I was able to see the Ryan Day v Li Hang game. It was a good move because on the second frame, Li was putting a very good break together and had got all the way to the fifteenth and final red with a possible maximum break on - and potted a very difficult red and tough black, but then rattled the yellow in the jaws. I did feel gutted actually as it's always nice for a player to get a maximum, and his first at that.

It was absorbing stuff and at the time of writing it's 4-4 and all to play for still, and I'll most likely stay up to watch the rest of that. I do though wish that the BBC would bring back the proper snooker theme, ie: "Drag Racer" by the Doug Wood Band, in its original form, not the horrible remix that they still seem to be playing these days. We as fans would like the proper one back and that's tune of the day for definite. Need to get playing it some more right now in fact...

Tuesday 5th December - I've Got Algot

After work it was off to the local IKEA, having had a couple of ideas as to what to do with the space at the bottom of the wardrobe. I did have a spring loaded rod that went across between the walls to hang my jeans etc on, but the springiness had gone and meant that the whole thing just fell, which wasn't good. Ideally I needed something that was free standing that would fit inside the space but also not have to be drilled onto the wall or anything like that, so I had a couple of potential free standing ideas and thought it best to go and have a mooch and see what was there.

I got to the home storage section and did see some potential different ideas - all the clothes rails were too wide so wouldn't fit in the space, and knew that the space I did have was 60cm x 50cm in terms of width and depth, and around 100cm high. I did spot a frame which looked good but had too many side bars for the drawers it used, but a more bare version of that might just do the job. And when I headed to the warehouse to check other products in the same range, I found something in that Algot range which might just be the thing.

So it was the frame with rod for £15, which measured 60cm x 41cm and 100cm high, so spot on for the specs I needed. Interestingly, I worked out I'd have to have it longways on with the rod facing back to front instead of across (as the rod is the 41cm part) - but nonetheless that should do the job. So, one purchase later, having checked the assembly instructions online to see how easy it might be to build, and that was me heading on the 455 bus back home from IKEA with item in tow.

I got home and the instructions were spot on, you fitted the four metal rods to the two rectangular with curved frame, and once all fitted, that felt very sturdy. You then screwed in the feet so as to give it some floor ground clearance a tad, and then put the brackets for the centre rod in place, which dropped into the recess and its place perfectly so wasn't going to go anywhere. After a bit of tweaking sideways on to get it past the sliding door and into the space, in terms of the width 60cm was absolutely spot on, and fits snugly against the skirting board, and the frame was nice and solid. I put some jeans on hangers on there, and it all worked, perfect. I just wonder why I didn't get that in the first place!

In the meantime, tune of the day is the rather epic twenty five minute soundtrack that accompanies the Commodore 64 version of the game Tetris, as composed by Wally Beben. It's not the arcade machine version, but instead a wonderfully atmospheric piece of progressive synth music with lots of sampled organ as the tune develops, with a simple build up of the main theme into those organs too. It's often overlooked how good it is, so let's redress that balance a bit...

Monday 4th December - Dust Settled

It was back to work after the weekend, and the good thing was that one deployment which I'd set to happen for over the weekend, ie: the deployment of a specialist piece of software where the back end was being upgraded, all appeared to work. I knew the target number of PCs and in fact I'd seen around 700 of those deploy successfully, and with zero errors as well. That pleased me immensely and it was good that I'd had some nice praise from a fair few people for getting to the bottom of all the issues at the back end of last week.

I also looked at a couple of reports in the old SCCM, primarily to see what we could do in terms of seeing what devices were still out there. The good thing was that there may be something that we would be able to possibly do to give them a nudge, so will be looking at that as a possible incentive / carrot / stick, whatever you want to call it, to get those things done. In a good way we can see that there's much less need for the old version too, so one good thing we'd be able to do eventually is turn off discovery, and indeed decommission the old system out. That would be useful.

On another positive note (there's a few today) what I had ordered at the back end of last week had arrived - a new Oyster card! You see, my original from 2006 Oyster card is first generation, and whilst I can use it to top up online and all that, if I wanted to use the app, I can't do so - as only second generation are allowed. However, TfL realised that it would be unfair to penalise those who had purchased Oyster originally and so have offered for you to get a replacement sent out for free - which you can then transfer the products too. Nifty, I know.

It's not all good news though as fares will be going up in 2018 - and by 3.4% as well. So my monthly Zone 1 to 5 travelcard will be heading up by around another £8 a month, so need to bear that in mind when revising my outgoings each month. I guess that some of that is because of the rail companies who are upping their fares a fair bit that also happen to use the London fare zones, but a bit poor really. So off peak from Euston to East Croydon (as The Love In My Heart would do) will be £4.90, up a little bit.

Still, it was also good to catch up with one of my friends and former colleagues tonight on the phone too - plenty to talk about but mainly on a personal level instead of work, always a better thing that. It's always good when you can spend some time nattering and when you realise that the time has just sped by without you even realising as well. With that in mind, tune of the day is the ace "All In A Heartbeat" by Swing Out Sister - pretty much sums up how time has gone by lately!

Sunday 3rd December - Do do dooooooo, Pablo Zabaleta

It was first of all, after some lovely breakfast, off out with The Love In My Heart as she needed to pick up a parcel from DPD Local for Christmas, but needed to know where to go when she would head there after work tomorrow to get it. As it turned out it was close to the M60 on Windmill Lane in Denton, a short cut way I've known for ages as my father used to do so all the time. We found the place so she knew where to go tomorrow, and noted that it wasn't too difficult to get to but might be bad in rush hour traffic.

Later on I headed over to my uncle's place, and had a coffee and a good natter with him, his wife, and son and girlfriend, who is lovely. They've got two kittens now called Colin and Bell (after the Man City legend of course) and that was nice to see them both being so cute and lovely, in fact Bell was running around a lot being quite active whereas Colin was more than happy to rest on the cat bed. In a way they reminded me of how Jô and Brian were when The Love first got those cats.

Later on it was off to my friend's place and had a good catch up and natter over coffee with him and his wife, and it was good to see how things were, before my friend and I were off to the Etihad Stadium for the next home game - and West Ham United at that. It did mean that Pablo Zabaleta would be back, and we were both sure he would get a hero's welcome, more so that West Ham had announced him captain and that was a good thing. Needless to say he got a great reception and to Black Lace's "Do The Conga" the City fans started the chant of "Do do doooooo, Pablo Zabaleta" - which he applauded. Nice one Zaba!

The game was tight and clearly Zaba had had words with the West Ham defence to stay organised and keep tight, and hit City on the break. They did exactly that just before half time and Ogbonna headed home from close range so that it was 1-0 to the Hammers, which obviously the fans that could make it up went mental at. Something wasn't right for City somehow and I had a feeling that there would be a change at the start of the second half.

And change it was too - with Danilo coming off for Gabriel Jesús, and Fabian Delph back at left back. It was much better and City pressed West Ham further back and further back, and Jesús' low cross was met by of all people Nicolas Otamendi who poked home the equaliser for 1-1. All well there, but West Ham kept going and it took a cross of genius from Kevin de Bruyne and a sublime finish from David Silva to take the lead with five minutes to go and win the game for us, but credit where it was due - West Ham gave us a hard game and were unlucky not to get a better result.

At the end, Zabaleta told their players to go to the fans, and he embraced lots of his former team mates. There were special hugs for the likes of Silva and Kompany particularly, and the City fans still sang his name and he applauded both sets of fans. See, legend. He is still the man even if he plays for another team, and bleeds blue blood. As I took the train home later in a nice warm carriage, I thought about all the times he fought for us and his love of Status Quo, so only fitting that "Whatever You Want" is tune of the day...

Saturday 2nd December - Touched By Your Presents, Dear

I had a busy day ahead of me, primarily as I'd brought some Christmas presents up with me and felt it best to drop a number of them off today and this weekend. Part of the reason for me doing so is that so when I do come up on the 22nd December for the Christmas period, I'll only have the large case to think about and nothing else either, as carrying lots of bags of stuff on top would just be a tad unwieldy. I did even think about possibly looking at some large packages being sent in the post (and I'll be sending a couple that way anyway...)

So it was off to see my auntie, and in fact because my sister was away for the weekend, I dropped off all theirs too and so was able to catch up a little with my auntie, all seemed well and we had a good natter over a coffee, and with some of my younger relations being there and showing me how good they were at writing, it was all nice all round. I did see Mum too and popped over for coffee, she was getting the dining room ready for Christmas having put the tree up yesterday which did look very nice and festive. Go Mum!

It was then back to The Love In My Heart's place, and her father was there - and The Love was writing out all the Christmas cards and envelopes to be sent off in the post to family and friends for her father. We did drop him off at his place later and I sorted out (again) all the TV and video connectivity due to some extra fiddling. I got it all sorted so that he had HDMI outs from the Sky box and DVD player to the telly, and SCART from the Sky box to video, and back through from video to telly, so he could watch and record video if he wanted to and that worked out nicely.

It was off then to Manchester Fort for myself and The Love, and I managed to get a present for one of my friends, which The Love will wrap up here and so save me carrying it back and forward. In fact The Love did well anyway getting herself a couple of presents in Marks and Spencer, and on top of that, also getting herself a nice Winter everyday jacket in New Look too - she looks lovely in it. I even ventured into B&M Bargains and got some Costa Tassimo Vanilla Latte pods cheap - get in!

Back at The Love's place later we settled in and watched the Strictly special of Pointless Celebrities and was quite surprised that how well most of them did - but the prize round was a nightmare and so no jackpot. We did see Strictly of course with its musicals themed week, and Mollie and AJ did "Hopelessly Devoted To You" as originally performed by Olivia Newton-John in Grease (make that tune of the day due to The Love adoring it to bits!) and all was well with the world there. I did think though that Davood and Nadiya might be in the dance off after doing Phantom of the Opera, and he did struggle with balance during the Argentine Tango. We shall see..

Oh, and I had to endure the first part of the final of X Factor. Meh. At least this year the contestants have been allowed to sing their own songs they've written, and that's given some credibility back. Right from early on though I thought Rak-Su would be there, and they did a duet with Naughty Boy and Wyclef Jean from the Fugees which worked, whilst Grace Davies went back to her audition song but with Paloma Faith. The Love wasn't so keen and neither was I after she ruined David Bowie's classic Life On Mars... see, only certain people can do Bowie justice.

Friday 1st December - Battle Won Twice Over

I decided this morning to come up with a different approach. Effectively, I'd add a pause in the task sequence so that I could see at that point what needed doing from a SCCM point of view and how to resolve it. In fact, this proved to be a good move. I could see the client had installed, but the components weren't always talking over with the PKI certificate. So, as a test, I then installed the KB4042949 patch for the client, and then resumed the task sequence. And... yes!

The applications then installed, and the task sequence went on to complete, so major breakthrough. From there it was a case of amending the Setup Windows and Configuration Manager step to include the path to the patch installation and then ensuring that all was well there. The good news was that once it was done, we were able to test that with our test task sequence and that worked, and then made that happen for live, set a number of laptops off and all were good to go.

I was mightily relieved but also pleased I'd found an answer, and when we do then promote the client to production that should mean we don't need to add the patch line in either anymore, but it's something I know how to put back so should be pretty good. Bit annoying though that you do actually have to add the new client patch in for new machines or else all will fail during the task sequence, nothing about that in the readme, and obviously, you test out the client deployment so as not to screw up machines in the first place. Ah well, onwards and upwards.

Well, at work it was, but at Euston it was carnage. Some overhead lines had come down just north of Wembley, and that meant a number of lines weren't able to run, and there were cancellations of trains all over the place. I was thankful that my 1820 train was running, but at the same time, knew we were in for delays so was able to at least get to my seat, and it was surprisingly empty, possibly because everyone had piled on the delayed 1740 to Manchester instead..

It was delayed going through all the way to Milton Keynes Central following a slow service, and then a case of attempting to play catch up towards Manchester, where The Love In My Heart was waiting for me (and I had advised her of late trains so she could set off later too) - and we headed back, snuggled up with Brian the cat, and we watched Gogglebox on Channel 4 Plus 1, with plenty of giggles along the way - just the thing we both needed after a long week in every sense of the word. In fact tune of the day is "Epic" by Faith No More, pretty much sums up the feeling I wanted after a long week...