Dear Diary... February 2019

Thursday 28th February - Final Day Flourish

Today was the last day in my current job, and there was a hint of sadness as there's a considerable number of colleagues whom I've really enjoyed working with and they are all very good people indeed. I think too that for me at least it's been a real whirlwind time of being able to resolve a number of problems, and move things forward. Today was no exception either as my colleague and I worked out that one of the templates was using another template and macro as references, and it was referencing the old version in an old folder. We fixed that and it was all sorted, so that was a positive to take forward.

One of my colleagues very kindly took me out for lunch later on as well. It was nice to escape away from the office and have a good chat. That colleague in quesrtion works well with me because of the amount of trust and respect we've built over time, and get on really well. It was therefore good to head out and do lunch at an Italian restaurant on Paddington Street, and that was really nice - the salmon penne I had was lovely. It was good just to chatter about all sorts and feel like it was a nice way to send off too.

I wasn't expecting any sort of presentation later in the day, primarily because I'd not been there that long in terms of how long I've spent in other jobs, but there was one, with plenty of signatures on the leaving card and indeed some gifts too - an Amazon gift card (some new CDs I'm after so that'll do nicely) and some nice different craft beers from Marks and Spencer as well - the likes of Cornish Saison, Salted Caramel Porter, all sorts, and hugely appreciated - especially with the weekend coming up too.

It was good to go through some final things with my manager, and it was a case of getting things done and ensuring that all was good to go, before handing the work laptop and pass back, and saying my goodbyes to everyone, and hugs for some people too. It did feel quite a little sad moment actually, but onwards is the way to go and I know that the experience gained here is going to put me in good stead for the future as well, which is looking pretty bright as well.

It was then off home and to drop everything off and then have a relaxed evening, mainly sorting out things for the forthcoming weekend and also to be able to wait in for the Tesco delivery, which arrived at 10.45pm (although it was going to be between 10 and 11). The driver did the usual following the sat nav rubbish and ended up on the other side of the road from me and didn't realise that the tower block in front is actually the address I'm in. Still got that sorted, and kicked back tonight with some rather good music from Dream Theater - including the epic 24 minute Octavarium which is tune of the day - and suited my mood.

Wednesday 27th February - Barley Mow and Barely Winning

It was a productive day at work today, sorting out plenty of documentation and having a very good compliment paid by our head of Information Security. A while ago, we had a security assessment on our Windows 10 build with the idea that we could lock down various features to ensure there's a more secure environment. Some of those improvements had already been made, but the report was informative too in that it pointed where we needed to go. With that in mind, I'd documented as I went what we were able to implement, including what changes we made.

The good thing was that I sensibly structured it into information and research, what the recommendation was going forward, and what the status was. In most cases the number of changes had been covered for what we needed, so for example ensuring macros in Office only run from trusted locations which are set in policy, and that the number of cached logins are reduced, as well as implementing other lockdowns. It was worth doing and worth doing well, and the good thing is that we had the go ahead and that the recommendations were sensible - the fact I'd tested them to ensure they didn't break users' ability to work was key, but also with reasons why of course.

After work today a few of my team colleagues headed out with me to The Barley Mow pub, not that far from work and they also had a good selection of real ales as well - at least six or seven on cask so definitely that's one which is good to note in future. My selection of choice was from the Whitstable Brewery, normally a solid choice, and a nice dark red coloured ale called Try Time!, obviously themed for the Six Nations Rugby as you can imagine. It was good, and a few of us had a good natter over a few drinks about all sorts, so was really good to do, and thank you to those that came out.

I headed on the bus and then the train back homewards, and I knew that tonight's game between Manchester City and West Ham would be one we needed to win - and after a tiring Carabao Cup final going all the way to penalties of course. The good thing was I managed to locate a stream for the game and so was able to see what was going on. City did of course struggle a bit partially with tiredness but they kept going, and in the second half Bernardo Silva was fouled in the box - and got us a penalty which Sergio Agüero scored with aplomb in the bottom corner, thankfully. 1-0 to the Blues, and that was how it stayed.

On the flip side, Liverpool beat Watford 5-0 and that meant that they were still top by a point, and had made up 4 goals goal difference. All of a sudden that 6-0 thumping of Chelsea and going for the kill has meant we're still 6 goals better off, and if the title race did finish level, we'd win on goal difference. Both sides know this so the next few games are going to be interesting, especially as Chelsea beat Tottenham and effectively reduced the title back down to a two horse race at the moment. Tune of the day is the excellent "5000 Miles" by She Makes War, as I blasted out the Direction of Travel album tonight after the game too.

Tuesday 26th February - Anarchy On The Sewing Bee

It was quite entertaining tonight watching The Great British Sewing Bee on BBC2, as it was back to the 1970s for the contestants, even having to use old machines too in some cases, which was intriguing. After The Love In My Heart and I had located the location where they film it, seeing all the interior and exterior shots of the place and the contestants makes me want to head there over the Summer or Autumn and see if I can spot who may be there. The Love and I of course still enjoy this - although I should add that I do miss Claudia Winkleman. A heck of a lot.

So it was onwards with the flares challenge first and that really did mean that some of them couldn't finish in time, or were attempting too hard to get the flared effect, with Deep Purple's excellent Black Night being the backdrop for a lot of the displays on show. It was of course tricky, but the next challenge was right up my street - take some tartan, zips, safety pins, chains etc and make a punk outfit, and with the excellent Boredom by Buzzcocks playing in the background (make that tune of the day) - and a really nice touch to pay tribute to Pete Shelley as well.

In fact throughout as the sewers were doing their thing, with Leah channelling her inner Debbie Harry and Riccardo doing his most to be creative (and succeeding too, his transformation was ace), the likes of X-Ray Spex's "Bondage! Up Yours" and at the end of the challenge, Sham 69's "Hurry Up Harry" with the immortal chorus line of We're going down the pub, of course. Add to that another Buzzcocks classic, the one that Fine Young Cannibals butchered (you know the one of course), and even more in the final challenge with some Fleetwood Mac classics from Rumours too.

As for that final challenge, it was an intriguing maxi dress one. Mercedes got her dress spot on, and I loved Leah's flowy dress too (might be a bit revealing because of the thinness of the material, but her model looked good with it on). Nice use of Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights as some of the more seventiers throwback dresses came on the catwalk from the models also, which went down well with me as a Kate fan. Even earlier when Patrick and Esme were attempting to do a bit of punk pogo made me smile a lot actually - there's a lot to be said about Sewing Bee that is good.

In the end Ben left, and he only did so because Alexei managed to pull off his maxi dress at the very last minute and made something pretty good all round. It was though of course good to relate to where it was filmed, and how I wouldn't have minded a croissant and brekkie down at Pique-Nique, which is in Tanner Street Park if you want to go and locate it yourself at any time. It was all good fun and definitely one that showed that as much as the presenter has changed, the format thankfully still works and Joe isn't as annoying as he could have been (Claudia would have been nice though....)

Monday 25th February - Documentation Day

I decided to do as much as I can in terms of documentation today, primarily as I wanted to make sure that I was able to get things in place for the team I work with. One such document I wanted to note was the current Group Policies applying for Windows 10 for both computer and user based policies, and what they do in order to ensure that anyone could pick that up and follow a suitable change process accordingly. I had been very good in ensuring that any changes were basically raised in ServiceNow so we had a record of them of course, but good to actually see them all noted.

In the end, the common sense approach I've taken appears to work very well, for example there's one for MBAM for the computer side only, a computer and user one for OneDrive suitably labelled, and also one for Office, that sort of thing. This way it's generally easier to locate the policy you want, check the settings over, and then know which one to adjust. For me it's also then easier to disseminate that information and to document it all neatly and tidily for the team too.

And with very good reason: I'm leaving my current job this Thursday, and start a new job next Monday. It was a tough decision to make, but it's definitely feeling the right thing to do. I must admit that I've found the last few months both mentally draining but also a real sense of not feeling as happy as I should do in my job, and I think that's primarily to the way that things have shaped out. I'd have loved to have done much more on the SCCM admin side and thankfully I know I've got their house much more in order now: all the distribution points are much tidier with green ticks showing all good, the update to 1802 went well with no issues a while back, and lots of positive things I've been able to bring in.

Ultimately though I'm going back to more of that in the new position, and also taking a more active role in the likes of Group Policy also (so always good practice to document as you go anyway, makes life much more easier when you can do so) and ensuring that things work really well for the end user. I think too the collaboative environment I'll be in is much more me: certainly the one thing about my previous job was that there was plenty of that with rather lovely people too, and want to get back to that really.

I know too from experience from myself and The Love In My Heart that if you're not happy in what you do, you don't feel it as much. I know it's been nice to hear in the last few weeks just how much that people have said that they're going to miss my thorough approach and input, but that should also serve as an example to how the mode of thinking should be: check everything, check again and then make sure you've covered all avenues to make sure that you're ready too. I pride myself on my work and wanting to be sure that it's done to the highest standards, and that's because I set that myself. It's only the right thing to do. I'm listening to New Order's excellent "True Faith" at the moment (make that tune of the day) and for me it reminds me of being able to have a real sense of belonging when I listen to music I like.

Sunday 24th February - Cup Winners, Just!

It was nice to have a relaxing lie in, watch some telly and then make some breakfast for The Love In My Heart and myself. It was just good to be snuggled up and indeed no Brian the cat to wake us up (as much as we both love Brian of course). It was also nice to be able to have a really nice morning of chilled out quiet, and that carried on into the early afternoon as we watched some telly and the Last 32 of the Snooker Shoot Out, including Jimmy White getting beaten quite easily in the end too.

Later on it was off on the train from East Croydon to Victoria, and noticed the new one way system in place for the tube station. The escalators are being refurbished and this will take till mid 2020 so now it's a case of using the new down escalator route to go via the corridors and to the other escalator down to the platforms (or sneak round to the lifts if you're clever!) and then get the tube. Certainly it'll stop the usual clogging at one end of the platform, but interesting to see how that works at peak time really.

It was then to the Crown and Anchor, as is our customary want, for Sunday lunch. I had the rather nice steak and Cheddar cheese pie, which went down spectacularly well, with The Love having the fish and chips. I also had a voucher where I could get a free craft beer pint when I ordered food, so had the Satzuma ale from Thornbridge as part of that - went down nicely really. In fact it was that nice outside that we sat outside and had another drink together, woo, get us!

I said my goodbyes to The Love In My Heart and headed homewards, stopping off at Boxpark next to East Croydon station to watch the Carabao Cup final between Manchester City and Chelsea. It was lively in there as ever and it was a tough game to watch - primarily because both sides cancelled each other out and that the longer it went on being 0-0, the more I feared Chelsea would get a goal. It didn't happen, and then at the end of extra time, some unbelievable drama with the Chelsea keeper Kepa.

He had gone down twice with cramp and so the Chelsea manager wanted him off (understandably) and to swap him with Willy Caballero, who had performed heroics for us in 2016 when we won the cup on penalties against Liverpool, so even if it was a tactical swap it would have made sense to me. But Kepa defied his manager and stayed on, which was a pee take really. I wouldn't want that sort of player anywhere near my club to be perfectly honest. The psychological advantage went City's way and we won the penalties, with Ederson saving from Jorginho and seeing David Luiz hit the post, with Raheem Sterling scoring the winning penalty - karma for the all the racist abuse some Chelsea fans gave him back in December. Blue Moon was being played loud at home later - definitely tune of the day.

Saturday 23rd February - Searching For The Sewing Bee

I had had a pretty relaxed morning overall - first of all some breakfast, followed by a coffee, and then writing this months' poems as well. I know, a bit late on delivery this month, but there are times when you do need to have a clear head and be able to finish off that proverbial writer's block. In essence too it was pretty good that I was able to at least get some thoughts written down whilst simultaneously washing the bedding, having changed that this morning in preparation for The Love In My Heart staying over tonight. In fact that was arranged pretty late-ish, because although the League Cup final is tomorrow, I'd normally go with my friend and so for logistical reasons (ie: heading to Manchester, going down and back with him) I'd have needed the Monday off - which I couldn't get due to workload pressures.

Anyway, all the morning sped by and although The Love's train was delayed it wasn't too bad and she was soon at East Croydon and we met and embraced. We headed back to mine and it was nice to chill out for a little bit before thinking of a plan for the afternoon. We decided to see what train would come first an then decide what to do from there - with two plans in action. Plan A was chosen as the train was going to Farringdon, so we went to there and went into The Castle (an old haunt from my previous job!) and had the lunch in there - similar menu to The Crown and Anchor, so all good there. I had the chicken and leek pie, which was gorgeous.

From there we walked past Smithfield Market and then down to Barbican station, walked across to the upper level to walk across and towards the Barbican itself, past all the Brutalist designed estate. In fact the Barbican had an event for free with Sky Arts - lots of different exhibits all with a British theme, including a recreation of a lost property office, some poetry performances which were decent but made me think that I could actually do that too, some photography exhibits and all sorts going on. It was very busy really and that was good to see people out and about - most likely as both Time Out and Londonist both mentioned it.

We then walked through the bridges to the other side of the Barbican estate, saw the prices for some of the flats in one estate agents (not cheap I should add) and then headed to Moorgate and on to the Northern Line down to London Bridge. We exited the tube station and followed the way out of the train station side, walking under the railway arches and towards Bermondsey, to have a good mooch around the likes of Maltby Street Market and also have a good little explore. We passed the Fashion and Textiles Museum and we'll have to effectively go back in there and have a look at an exhibition there, I reckon.

We turned left into Tanner Street and walked through the park and to Pique-Nique, a French eaterie in the park that is used in The Great British Sewing Bee for the Sunday post-final challenge food and drinks. We then walked along Tanner Street towards Maltby Street and spotted a building with brick arches and blue painted square windows, and we recognised it straight away - as it's where the Sewing Bee is filmed! In fact the top balcony which goes onto a roof garden is all tarted up when the series is on, but we could tell that the empty upper shell is made for the telly. Nice.

It was nice in Maltby Street Market too with bustling food and drink stalls, and we headed to the end where Hiver Beers was, along with All Good Beer. I had a pint of Marble in there and The Love had this nice pilsner too which went down well. In fact it was half tempting to head to the Bermondsey Beer Mile but am going to save that for next weekend potentially. We then headed back to London Bridge and the train homewards, where we had some nice chicken for tea, and settled in to watch telly as well. Tune of the day is the excellent "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes, which was being used a fair bit during the Snooker Shoot Out.

Friday 22nd February - Bargain Beer

I followed up testing the WIM creation last night by deploying my test task sequence with the new WIM included - and removed any line to add back the Hello Resources that I'd put in, the idea being is that if it's in there, it'll work properly. I did a complete run with a device, it worked correctly, and badabing! I could do a Get-WindowsCapability -online and see that indeed all the resources were there, and I was able to enrol the infared camera for face recognition and make it all work correctly, which was pretty ace. The only thing of course is that because it's a corporate environment, you still have to press Ctrl-Alt-Delete to get to the unlock screen, and the fingerprint works from there, but for the camera you have to click the little Hello button and watch it scan.

Still, felt rather pleased I'd got that working, released a change to get the new build in play and it all seems good. More so because of the fact that I know I want to make sure all is as well as it could be for the team going forward, and documenting the steps as I went along was of course the way forward too - means that there's always a point of reference to go back to if there's any issues really. And that's particularly important for me to know that I've made sure of documentation and set an example - something the change manager mentioned to me that my changes are the way everyone should be doing them!

Later on I headed off to Marks and Spencer not far from me, as last week when I stayed at The Love In My Heart's place, she had got me some really nice Greenwich Spiced Winter ale that was on offer for a mere £1.40 for a bottle. I was hoping for some bargains and did spot on the shelves that some of the beer was reduced to a mere 40p for a 330ml craft can. Unfortunately the shelves were empty so felt a tad disappointed. However, I did walk around and spotted a fridge which appeared to have bottles and cans - this was going to prove interesting, so I took a look.

And.. there they were! They had this nice Grapefruit IPA which was brewed by the Adnams brewery, and looked pretty good - and the sell by date was the end of April - more than enough time to drink it. Interestingly, it stated it was 40p a can - and in their four for three offer for beers. Was that a misprint or real? I added four to my basket and noted that also had a nice Hogs Back five hopped lager too, which was £1 a can or four for the price of three also. I did the same there. I got to the till, and yes, they were indeed those prices. Awesomeness.

I tried one of the Grapefruit IPA later on and it was pretty gorgeous all round actually - it tasted nice but not overly sweet, and definitely more than worth it. I might head to the Marks and Spencer food at Wimbledon at some point and check out what they have - but definitely rather fab. As for tune of the day that has to be something one of my colleagues was deciding to hum earlier in the day - the ace "Where's Me Jumper?" by Sultans of Ping FC - proper old school indie classic that.

Thursday 21st February - Hello, Hello

I spent some time today getting the final parts of the configuration for Windows Hello For Business all sorted, which was good to get to the bottom of. So, when I had tried to enrol the fingerprint with a laptop, that worked seamlessly across all three models and indeed that meant that I was able to test that out. One of the models has a smaller swipe fingerprint reader but that worked pretty well to be honest, and was good to be able to get that one taken care of. However, with the newer model, despite it supporting the infrared camera required, when I tried to set the camera up, it failed.

I delved a bit deeper and had found the answer late yesterday - in effect, there's three capabilities Windows needs which are the Hello.Face.Resources (they're laballed A, B and C for reference). Now, if like many of us who create system images, there's normally a good bit of scripting you use when creating the WIM to ensure that all the extraneous Windows apps and features not needed are removed - usually this article and script for example (Windows 10 1803 in this case) does the job nicely.

What I did note though is that the script seems to remove the three Hello resources: fine if you're not planning to use it, but not fine if you are. I noted that there was a little bit of Powershell we could invoke to add those back in for existing builds, which worked, but what about when creating the WIM for a new image? Well, that was thankfully potentially easy. There's a line in the script that effectively is your whitelist for what's called "Features on Demand" and this whitelist partially looks like this:

Now, what if you were to add the Hello.Face.Resources to that whitelist? Well, as the whitelist is wildcarded (so all features with that name remain) effectively all you do there is to add |Hello as part of that, so part the line above would appear like this:
And with the rest then showing the same as before. In theory this would work as the resources would be kept and not have to be added back into the SCCM task sequence later (although I could also run the Powershell command in the task sequence too which does work, thought it best to go clean initially.)

In fact that was well timed, as I was reconstructing the Windows 10 WIM image today anyway, and so made sure that script was amended accordingly before then commencing a task sequence to create a fresh WIM. In fact I got the Office 32-bit one done, and then later set off the Office 64-bit one. The theory is that if this works, we'll also have the February Windows 10 and Office 2016 updates baked in too, so one less thing to worry about to say the least. Good when that happens I think - and therefore tune of the day is "Hello Goodbye" by The Beatles, as it seemed to be in my head with all this configuration going on.

Wednesday 20th February - In-Sané In Gelsenkirchen

It was the first leg of the last 16 Champions League game between Schalke 04 and Manchester City tonight, and it was going to be, as it always is when travelling to a German team, not that easy a game. On paper and based on their league form it may have looked a little easier than some of the other ties, but that's in effect why you win the group - to get yourself the away leg first as group winners and then get back home to settle things in the second leg. Hopes were optimistic after a good win away at Newport County in the FA Cup over the weekend and to get a win here would be good.

The game started well enough and City looked to be on top, and as Aymeric Laporte won a header in a challenge and the ball went forward, Schalke thought there was a foul - nothing given. The goalkeeper attempted a pass to his defender, it was intercepted by David Silva, and the ball went square to Sergio Agüero. You know what happens there. Yes, 1-0 to City. A good start and all looked to be going rather well. That is until the farce that was VAR kicked in to play later..

The ball was hit into the penalty area from Schalke. Nicolas Otamendi had attempted to get his hand out of the way of the ball as it was struck at pace - and the ball hit the back of that arm. The referee hadn't given it, but referred it to VAR anyway. He had no screen working so had to rely on the officials elsewhere, which took an absolute age to decide it, and everyone standing around what was going on. It transpired that the screens were all down in the ground, and the rules are technically if that happens, the ref's decision was final - and he hadn't given it. The penalty was given and so 1-1 it was with a well taken penalty. They scored another penalty (legitimate this time as there was a push in the area) and this was scored again right on half time and do 2-1 to Schalke. Not what was planned either.

City though always fight til the end (it's what we do) and I must admit though as Nicolas Otamendi saw red for a second yellow card challenge (the first card being given for his handball) and City shuffled by bringing on Vincent Kompany for David Silva, it was going to take some magic to turn it around really. A gamble then as Agüero was swapped for Leroy Sané, meaning that effectively Raheem Sterling was going to be up front. City got a free kick with five minutes to go. Up stepped the former Schalke player - and could Leroy score against his former club? Hell yeah! A superlative free kick right into the top corner and 2-2. Huge moment and massively pleasing to see how much he enjoyed that.

To be honest at 2-1 I had tweeted that I'd have taken a 2-2 draw any day of the week and so that was all good. What I didn't expect was that Ederson would hit a 70 yard ball forward towards Raheem Sterling, and that Sterling would lose the Schalke defender and be one on one with the keeper. He couldn't, could he? He bloody well could! It was 3-2 to City and I was going mental, the City fans in the stadium were also going mental too. We're Man City, we fight til the end, and to come back from 2-1 down with 10 men showed immense character from the lads tonight. Hugely proud and blasted out a bit of Supra's classic version of "Blue Moon" (make that tune of the day) to celebrate. Take it, take it, take it!

Tuesday 19th February - Coining It In

After work and after having a mass session of ironing (two loads full, one that had dried overnight and one that had come out of the wash and needed to iron whilst damp) I had decided to look at cashing in all the loose change that I've accumulated over time. I've ended up storing all the spare 1p, 2p and 5p coins in a jar and transferred that to a plastic container, ready for using at the local Coinstar machine to see how much I had. The amount of coins did feel rather heavy so it was probably a good idea to get it all sorted to be honest.

So it was off on the bus to Purley and to the large Tesco there, which I checked does have a Coinstar machine. Annoyingly it's positioned at the back of the tills, not near the customer services area. In fact you can only use the machine between 0900 and 2200 during the week as the voucher that you get from the machine can only be cashed in same day at the desk. I got to the machine, started its run, and gradually emptied the coins down the chute. It was amazing actually how many 1p coins I had, the totaliser came up with almost 400 of them as part of a total of just under £7. I was pretty pleased though to have got that sorted.

This also meant that I was able to then head off around Tesco and get some bits of shopping I needed - including the Persil colour washing tablets that I was after and they were on offer, along with some Tassimo pods and some water. All sorted and that meant that it was a good amount of money off with the fact I'd cashed in the voucher from the Coinstar machine. I was soon heading back homewards on the 60 bus and that sped back through to near the flat and a short walk homewards, in good time for..

The Great British Sewing Bee! It was back on last Tuesday, and although I do have my reservations about Joe Lycett (primarily because it's not Claudia Winkleman I admit, but Joe is a little bit too OTT at times) thankfully Patrick and Esme are still good as judges, and the challenges and format hasn't changed either, so not much messing on that side. It was children's week, so plenty of reinvention required for an imaginary character outfit for the second round, and then a made to measure for a child to dance in, which had all sorts including a rather nice black and white contrasting Swan Lake or Black Swan type outfit.

It was tough to call but that outfit deservedly won Leah garment of the week, and Sheila was the one to leave - her bright outfit inspired by hip hop looked good, but the slightly odd jacket with one part stitched and another not just didn't work. It was still good to see it being filmed around Bermondsey and seemingly using the Pique Nique place for coffee (need to check this out although it looks like it normally serves posh food) - and the ace theme tune is tune of the day but still needs to have that "cha cha CHA!" ending. You'll know what I mean when you hear it..

Monday 18th February - Chelski's Crying

It was a busy day at work, primarily because I was playing catch up, but also because I was spending plenty of time being able to road test several things including some planned changes which I had made to ensure stability of things going forward. One thing I had tested out and also wanted to make sure all was good that the power policy was to be set to Balanced, and any existing power policies that were customised had been removed. Luckily I'd been sensible enough to include them as a special GUID which made them easier to remove later on (there was planning involved.)

One other good thing was that after I'd got to the bottom of the lack of notifications issue in Outlook and I had road tested it, I deployed the policy change today and was delighted to see that staff were seing their email notifications and were able to have those customised as they were needed to be done. I think getting to the bottom of that pleased a lot of people so was a positive change all round, as was the next one I did in order to ensure that the likes of software based deployment was working spot on for a couple of pieces of software too.

One thing that does seem to be taking time and over-running are the sheer number of meetings that we are still having - another two today. I do understand the need but in both mine and my manager's cases it's often the case that it detracts from the actual doing of things rather than talk about them: more so that it's often things which are documented and covered already. I suppose in one way there's a need to be sure (I get that) and better to be safe than sorry. It's just that I know I've got lots of other things I want to get sorted.

I headed home on the train later and managed to avoid most of the rain and then settle in to watch the FA Cup game on BBC One between Chelsea and Manchester United. Considering the latter's good form as of late and the way Chelsea have been falling apart defensively, I thought that it would be well worth seeing what would happen with one eye on not drawing either of them in the sixth round. United had the better of the chances going forward and it was no surprise when Ander Herrera scored the opener, then Paul Pogba a second before half time. Too easy for them really.

And as the draw was made from Stamford Bridge, the first tie out was Swansea City at home to.. Manchester City. So another long trip to South Wales awaits and indeed another away tie too, and that'll be a tricky one I think. Manchester United have got Wolves away so a tricky task for them too considering how well Wolves are playing also. It did mean that of course that both teams could meet in a semi final or even the final, and the way they're playing, might happen. In the meantime, tune of the day is the excellent "Get The Balance Right" by Depeche Mode, something Chelsea aren't doing with their formations at the moment..


Sunday 17th February - Lazy(ish) Sunday

It was nice to have a restful sleep and for The Love In My Heart to have a well earned lie in. Of course it was interesting that as soon as I got up and was making myself a coffee, Brian the cat realised where his Mummy was and of course decided straight away that he was to get into his usual position at the end of the bed and snuggle up ready there next to Mummy. It was quite lovely all round as I could see how they both normally are when I don't stay over, and Brian was purring in approval, even more than he was when he had some raw chicken later for his tea!

After breakfast and getting ready, we were going to head off for a walk but as we left, the rain started to come down quite a bit and so instead a diversion was on order - and this time to my Mum's place. In fact my youngest sister was there so was good to chat to her and then my brother and girlfriend came over too, so was in the end quite a busy front room as we all had a chatter and a coffee together. The time went by too quick and the weather had dried up a tad too, but it was mid afternoon so The Love and I felt that lunch was well in order and so headed off.

And head off to The Elizabethan for a welcome change, as we'd not been there for a bit. We noted how empty the car park was - and with good reason. It's pay to park, and unlike the old days when you'd at least get your parking fee back when you ordered a drink or some food, you don't anymore, so of course that just encourages people to park elsewhere, whenever they can. We did find a space elsewhere and then went inside, and had a nice window seat. The Love had the Sunday roast gammon, and I had the steak and ale pie which was as lovely as it usually is.

We then headed back to The Love's place where Brian the cat was getting lots of love and attention, and we settled in to watch an episode of CSI, followed then by a bit of news and also just a bit more telly before having some hugs and cuddles before we were to head off to Manchester Piccadilly station. I said my farewell to Brian as I wouldn't see him for some time, and I did feel sad actually. We then went to the station and I really did feel rather sad, and had plenty to carry - some Black Sheep ales, my camera and my case, which also had some items from IKEA in there too.

The train sped towards Euston and on time and I had the iPod on and listened to the likes of Slayer, KMFDM, Paul Weller and also New Order, including the ace "Thieves Like Us" (make that tune of the day) and that was really nice as the likes of Macclesfield and Stoke on Trent sped past as I headed down. I got the tube and then the train later and arrived home just in time for the final frame of the Welsh Open snooker, seeing Neil Robertson clinch the final frame against Stuart Bingham to win 9-7. A good end to a rather chilled out day and a nice way to complete the weekend.

Saturday 16th February – Cheese, Gromit, Cheese!

It was a very nice sleep for myself and The Love In My Heart in a really nice comfortable bed, and we got ourselves up and showered and all ready. The weather looked dry outside as we saw from the bedroom window, and it was time to head down for breakfast. The full Yorkshire breakfast was of course really nice – bacon, sausage, fried bread, hash brown, egg and mushrooms with black pudding. The Love also had a tomato and beans and as we usually do, she gave me the black pudding so I had double. It was really nice all round and together with some nice coffee, toast and some granola for me, started the day off well.

We both did feel gutted to be checking out of The White Bear but we had had another enjoyable stay there and one day when we want to uber treat ourselves, we will have to look at the penthouse and see how that is (although it is a mere £200 per night, so definitely needs to be a very special treat and the lottery win) but it’s always nice to have a little break away, and today The Love and I were heading off around the Yorkshire Dales before heading home later on. She had suggested Hawes, where she had been before, and knowing the association with Wensleydale cheese, I thought why not?

We left The White Bear and headed off along the A6108 and past some lovely little villages and then a rather spectacular castle turret like bridge over the River Ure before then taking the road to divert around Leyburn, and then off to the A684, following that for a considerable distance up and down hills and admiring the views before then arriving in Hawes. We spotted the Yorkshire Dales Countryside Museum had a big car park, and it was £4.50 for the day so we decided that parking there was sensible, as we could then head around the town centre and back there later.

We walked along the cobbled streets, past all the little shops, the church which was on top of a hill and the main square with three pubs very close together too. We walked to the far end of the town and turned left for the Wensleydale Creamery. We had a good mooch around the shop including the cheese shop section, where you could sanitise the hands and then try out some of the samples later on. The one with stem ginger was stunningly nice, but an acquired taste, I think, and of course the classic flavour with cranberries went down lovely too. We did buy some of that and also spotted some lovely gifts in the shop too.

We later on had a coffee in the Herriot café and I also had the cheese scone with Wensleydale cheese. And yes, it was gorgeous. I was the case of thinking of Wallace and Gromit (the theme tune is tune of the day) as I then had the scone which was spot on. It was also nice that the café had art all around, and that really did add to the relaxed feel as we had a nice look out of the window and towards the hills beyond. It was good to head back to the Dales Countryside Museum and see the train on the platform to the station (which the local heritage railway line will want to extend back to one day) before we then set off, having had a really nice time.

It was then following the route back I’d researched the other day, so on the B6255 towards Ribblehead (and yes we did see the viaduct) then following the B6479 from there to Settle, following the Settle to Carlisle railway along the way, and then on the A59 and A682 towards Nelson, joining the M65 then the A56 towards Ramsbottom, and on the M66 and M60 towards The Love In My Heart’s place. It took some time but it was actually shorter time than when we set off for Masham, so that was pretty good, and it was nice of course to see the historic viaduct along the way.

Later on I headed off to my friend’s place and the two of us saw the Newport County v Manchester City FA Cup game on BT Sport. The first half was a case of cancelling each side out and Ederson put together a superb save to deny a close range Newport header. Leroy Sané’s shot hit the Newport keeper in the face before bouncing in for the opener, and some excellent work from Phil Foden resulted in a shot that the keeper should have saved for 2-0, but we were happy with that. Padraig Amond scored again for Newport after a defensive mix up only for Foden to go up the pitch and score another excellent goal, a run and finish deserving of any top player. Riyad Mahrez got a fourth in stoppage time and it was a well earned victory for City and on to the sixth round.

Friday 15th February – Off To The White Bear

A long while ago The Love In My Heart and I had decided that a nice little break away at The White Bear in Masham was all good, and that was going to be nice. We didn’t want to coincide with Valentine’s Day and go the day before, so with us both having time off work, we were able to go today instead. One of our friends had got us tickets for the Black Sheep Brewery Tour too, which meant that we could do that for free and enjoy some quality beers later on, always appreciated that I think.

We fussed over Brian the cat this morning, ensuring he got plenty of food supplies and treats all sorted and a clean bowl of water, and knew that he would feel all sad when The Love left especially, so lots of fuss and love was in order for definite. We set off around 11am and made sure that the car was filled with petrol before then heading off towards the M62, and from there all the way past Leeds to the M1, and up the M1 until it became the A1(M) and passing through the junctions for York and Wetherby. There’s one sign which tells you for Masham come off at junction 50, and when you do, you then follow the main road alongside and pass the Heck sausage factory before turning off for Masham itself.

Once we arrived, we knew we couldn’t check in till 2pm so we parked up in the main market square and went over to The Kings Head for a spot of lunch – I had the sausage and mash which was lovely, and The Love had the rarebit toastie, which looked pretty good all round actually. It was good to have a little mooch around the shops too and she even picked up the Masham Gin for one of our friends later on before then heading to The White Bear and checking in. Our room was the Aysgarth room which we’d stayed in before – nice little dressing room and walk in wardrobe, uber posh bathroom and a massive comfy bed with all the facilities that you could ever need.

It was nice to get ourselves all sorted and then we took the relatively short walk around to The Black Sheep Brewery. We’d arrived early so had a little mooch around the shop before the 3.30pm tour. There were only four of us, two couples, so was good that the tour guide spent a bit more time explaining the history of Black Sheep and the Theakston family, along with then a walk around to see all the making processes, and the historic Yorkshire squares for fermenting the beer too, which are occasionally still in use, along the with little five barrel brew casks for their limited runs. All very nice and indeed all very special too.

We stopped off back at the bar as we had tokens for a pint or three thirds. I got The Love the 54 Degrees North lager, which she quite liked. I did the Baa Baa, the Ram Tackle and also one of the five barrel runs which was a very limited raspberry and white chocolate milkshake IPA. It tasted lovely actually, something you may not have expected, but we both agreed that to be honest it would be something which you wouldn’t necessarily be having plenty of pints of either, as it may have got a bit sickly later on too.

We went back to the hotel room and had a relaxing time with a bit of telly and indeed some showering and bathing too (The Love took advantage of the bath and indulged!) and then it was off back to The White Bear later for an evening meal together. The Love looked stunning in her pale green dress, it was a beautiful fit and she looked that way too. I was dressed nicely too but couldn’t compete really, I’ll be honest. The meal we had was very lovely all round and with some nice background music playing too – just wanted some Swing Out Sister to complete the mood (Twilight World is therefore tune of the day). The Love had the pork belly with dauphinoise and lots of veg, and I had the haddock and chips which was also stunningly nice too. It was a lovely end to a rather lovely day all round.

Thursday 14th February – Happy Together

It was a relatively later rise for me today, as I didn’t need to be awake at a early hour. I was off work today and tomorrow and was to be heading on the 1040 departure from London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly to spend some quality time with The Love In My Heart. Of course it just so happened to be Valentine’s Day as well, but to be honest when you love each other all the time and not just on this one day, we definitely don’t overdo this sort of thing – we get each other a nice card, and for us it’s more about being happy and being together too.

In fact, Virgin Trains were going in full overdrive for the romantic side. At Euston there were staff going round wanting people to appear in their frame and have a picture for the day for their social media feeds. In fact on the train coming up to Manchester they were also giving away heart shaped shortbread biscuits to every passenger too, which was interesting. And the journey was nice and relaxed, with the countryside speeding by and Paul Weller’s “Gravity” being tune of the day as I sped along. Even a slight delay when approaching Stafford and then Crewe didn’t dampen the enthusiasm either, so that was good indeed. At Piccadilly, free hugs were being given as well as heart shaped chocolates and Love Hearts, so I picked up a couple of the chocolates.

I met The Love and she was all happy and content to be off work too. We were going to head to Pets at Home to get some cat food for Brian the cat as she hasn’t been able to get Tuna and Prawn Sheba, and that was Brian’s favourite. Also as she had a gift card from IKEA to use in exchange for the Christmas tree she got for work, we decided to head there, get some work items from there and use the card. I also was able to get some spare single duvet covers ready for when my friends come over in a couple of weeks time, and got that sorted as well as having lunch in The Sheldon Arms which was very relaxed.

It was off then to Pets at Home and we managed to get the Sheba cat food, which of course pleased Brian a heck of a lot, and he purred very contentedly indeed when he saw what he was having for food later on – it is his favourite and he is a bit of a fussy eater, so good to please him really. We snuggled up and watched a bit of telly later on including the 100K Drop and despairing at some of the contestants, who were unbelievably thick – something even The Love was thinking out loud “What are you doing?” – and so that was interesting to see before we then looked at having some food later.

The Love had got the Dine In For Two deal at Marks and Spencer earlier in the week and had even treated me to some Greenwich Winter Spiced Ale from there too, so we had the croquille St Jacques for starters, followed by some lovely chicken with cheese and green beans, dauphiniose potatoes and some mixed vegetables. We had some nice macarons later with a coffee and with the prosecco we also had, it was a good way to just stay in, chill out and relax together and just be ourselves, with Brian wanting lots of fuss and attention at the same time – because he can. The Love also got me a lovely card too which was appreciated – not too over the top but said what it needed to say in a classier way. Awww.

Wednesday 13th February - Setting Up

So it was a day of two halves for me at work today: the first half of the day was taken up by our fortnightly team meeting, and lots of us thrashed out some ideas as to what we would be able to do and how we'd be able do it, and also get some movement going forward on how things will look in Windows 10 as well. The good news is that we've pretty much been able to iron out a lot of things, and today I rolled out a way to fix the fact that Sharepoint users who also have Office 64-bit cannot see Datasheet view properly.

You see, in Office 32-bit, there's an add-in for Internet Explorer called Microsoft Office List, which effectively allows the list of files on a SharePoint site to switch between views, and it's part of the Microsoft Access Database Engine to do so. Unfortunately, even though the same components are in Office 64-bit, it doesn't install the add-in, because it's deemed to be 32-bit only. And you can't get away with installing Access Database Engine 2016 separately if you have Office 2016 64-bit installed, as the installer prevents you from doing so.

So, the clever and easier workaround is to effectively use the 2010 version of the Access Database Engine, extract the MSI install from the downloaded executable, and then deploy that as you would do normally via SCCM. This then gives you a working add-in which then allows the view for those users on SharePoint sites accordingly, and all works as you would expect it to out of the box. Nifty all round of course, and means that we can also ensure that gets included for those users who need it when they want Office 64-bit as well. I win!

And I also win at something else too - effectively the way that I managed to fix a nice Outlook related issue. This Microsoft article is a bit of an essential read, but it's this: if you don't have the correct Outlook shortcut in the root of the Start Menu / Programs folder, or if you use Group Policy to disable the common programs folder, then you're not going to get any new email notifications in the bottom right. The Office install was customised to not have any shortcuts (and they were then recreated later) but what I did was to take a working Outlook 2016 shortcut from both bitnesses of Office installs (as they're different) and use a policy preference to copy the file over, depending on bitness. And yes, it works!

I spent some time tonight sorting out for the weekend away with The Love In My Heart (a much needed break for the two of us) and also then worked on getting a few things sorted here, including making sure I had everything ready and good to go - including changing the bedding, putting that in the wash, cleaning, and on top of that listening to some cracking music too - including Paul Weller's True Meanings album. The track "Gravity" is short and sweet, and shows some beautiful acoustics too, so that's tune of the day for me.

Tuesday 12th February - Ale And Bees

So it was noted that when I decided later in the day to head to the large Tesco in Purley that the real ale bottle selection was a tad on the underwhelming side, the only positive being I was able to get some of the rather ace Big Drop Stout that's a mere 0.5% and rather tasty as well (see more on that in my low alcohol beer reviews) - and even some Old Speckled Hen in the same low alcohol variety. I think it's perhaps more now that people want to have that choice, and preferably 0% at all if they have to be the designated driver but still fancy a drop of the beer on occasion.

I headed off to Morrisons as I remembered that they have a store at Fiveways Corner, not far from Waddon station and within easy reach from me on one bus route too. In fact that was well worth it, because their selection was pretty good, and they even had the 0% St Peter's Without Gold to try too. I did however pick up the likes of the fab Cranbourne Poacher, St Peter's Plum Porter (absolutely stunning that) as well as some classics and as they were four for £6, not that expensive either. It'd be rude for me not to get some eh?

Tonight was also the first of the new series (at long long last) of The Great British Sewing Bee, a long favourite of The Love In My Heart especially, and I didn't mind it too either as it was one of those programmes where you admire people making stuff and thinking "that's pretty good for a mere four hours!" Admittedly there was also the Claudia factor for me in that in previous series it was the absolutely lovely Claudia Winkleman who hosted and was just the right side of comic and yet comforting to all of the contestants. I still think the theme should have that "cha cha cha!" bit at the end though, obviously the BBC didn't get that memo.. still tune of the day mind you.

So no Claudia this series (boo!) but instead Joe Lycett. I don't mind him as a comedian, but I did feel like he was a bit too over the top for something like Sewing Bee. They can leave all the slight campness to Patrick Grant to be honest (whom The Love adores, so she was more than happy to see him back) and it was almost as if Joe was trying too hard to make an impression on the show, and make it about him. It's not really, it's the contestants and what their makes were like in what they called Cotton week, and still in the same warehouse type building close to Maltby Street Market in Bermondsey too.

So the star maker was Judith with a rather contrasting but good jumpsuit, but at the other end there were unfinished items a plenty or ones which didn't work, and despite pushing the boat out for his design, Tom was the first to leave the sewing room. Brave but possibly a little too ambitious first week when you want to just be sure you focus on the quality, getting the later attention to detail in a bit. I have to say too that Esme looked more like the Edna character from The Incredibles too - fabulous, darling!

Monday 11th February - Taking It To The Maxx

After work it was off on the train and then the tram to Waddon Marsh tram stop, and to the local TK Maxx there. I had ordered a new jacket online and I had had an email to let me know it was ready for collection. I had actually seen it online and liked it, and The Love In My Heart gave it her approval too. The thing was when I looked initially it was £32 but then was reduced to £26. And as I had a £20 gift card, may as well use that and put the rest to in cash and all that. It worked well ordering it, and I collected it earlier. And, I like it! Nice contrast between the medium grey and the red colour of the zip, plus an inside pocket too. It also feels warm too.

I also later was going to check the online banking and all that but the little device I used for that failed to come on - maybe the battery had gone on it. A call to my bank later and that was all sorted and a replacement was being sent in the post to me. I did have to go through a considerable number of questions on the phone to get through (as you would expect) for security reasons, and no way would anyone be able to know all of them either, so that was pretty good all round really. Always good when these things work.

Anyway, I had a good listen to the Sporting Themes vinyl album I picked up in Manchester on Saturday. It plays really well and has been looked after superbly - and shows in the fact that the music played well on my system too. I'll plan to do a full review of it soon as it's such a contrast from this crapola CD - for a start, this LP has the proper themes - no rubbish. Which is good. And it has Brian Bennett's "Chase Side Shoot Up", you know, the proper golf theme, one which no less than Alan Hansen says is "phenomenal". And who I am to argue with him? Tune of the day all day long that.

I had a good chatter with The Love In My Heart, and noted from her chat that Brian the cat had decided to get up on the sofa. He only seems to do that when I'm not around, maybe he gets jealous and stays on the pouffle. Although when The Love set up his toy mice in a line, Brian's response was to have his cross ears out for the picture that The Love sent me. He can be a right moody so and so to be perfectly honest, so shows that it's not just me that he gets a bit icky with!

I also looked at sorting out a few trains too and so have The Love's trains all sorted for some visits to me at the end of March and the end of April too. It is nice when she comes to see me as that's less travelling for me and means she and I can have a good time here. Of course because that means she has to get someone to check in on Brian the cat, we tend to keep it to once a month to be pretty fair all round, but it shows that we're both committed to making all the things work for us long term.

Sunday 10th February - The Joy Of Six

It was a nice relaxing morning with The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat having well earned sleep and snuggle time on the bed (although Brian tends to purr loudly when he wants his Mummy to give him a tummy tickle, and he is adorably cute whilst doing so) and we also had some nice breakfast too to set us up for the day. It was going to be relatively chilled to be honest with me off to the football later and The Love planning something nice for tea (she always makes nice things, really appreciated from me let me tell you) and that was going to be something to look forward to later.

The World Grand Prix final snooker was on ITV4, so whilst The Love had a shower and got herself ready, with Brian sat patiently in the bathroom waiting for Mummy, I saw the opening four frames between Judd Trump and Ali Carter. They were both shared 2-2 and Ali did two good comebacks to win his frames, including a pretty audacious double on the green to do a clearance which included a free ball opener to snatch the frame away. It was going to be close I think and it showed just how competitive it all was at the top too.

It was off to the Etihad later to meet my friend and it was a big game for us as it was Chelsea at home - the second London club to be faced in a week or so. After us giving Arsenal a 3-1 beating I was more concerned about Chelsea, not least because we had lost to them at their place and they were still competing for a top four position themselves. My friend and I were going to be happy with 1-0 to be perfectly honest, although I suspect that with Liverpool winning yesterday, we needed a win to stay on track to put the title race to the wire.

What none of us expected was what actually happened. City surged forward early on and after some good work down the right, a cross came in from Bernardo Silva which was partly cut out and then Raheem Sterling hammered home for 1-0, inside four minutes. A few minutes later Bernardo set up Sergio Agüero who inexplicably missed when it was easier to score. However, what happened then was absolutely awesome. Oleksandr Zinchenko gained the ball back on the left, passed it to Agüero who shot a thunderbolt into the top corner from twenty five yards out, an absolute peach of a goal to say the least. Awesome it was.

City weren't done there either. Ross Barkley attempted a defensive header which only found Agüero, and, well, you know what will happen next there. And after some good work down the left, with Agüero's attempt at a shot blocked the ball came to Ilkay Gundogan who blasted it home low and hard. Twenty four minutes gone and City were 4-0 up. My friend asked me if it was a dream. No, it wasn't. It was City at their unstoppable ruthless best and it was mightily impressive to say the least.

City carried on in the second half although they didn't need to go full pelt really. Raheem Sterling was fouled in the box and Sergio Agüero scored from the spot, his second hat trick in a week and with that goal, plenty of records set or equalled. So the goal before meant he was City's all time league top scorer, and extended that to 160 league goals. He also equalled Alan Shearer for the most Premier League hat tricks (11, although Agüero has also done them for only one club too) and if that wasn't enough, he also joined Mo Salah as top scorer with 17 Premier League goals this season too.

And to finish the job off, David Silva came off the bench and fed Zinchenko down the left. His pass found Raheem Sterling who slotted home for 6-0. This was Chelsea's biggest ever Premier League defeat and their heaviest league defeat since losing 7-0 to Nottingham Forest in 1991, that's how impressive it was (and bear in mind Chelsea then were nowhere near as decent as they were now). The City tannoy played Madness' "One Step Beyond" at the end (make that tune of the day) with the City fans dancing, and it was absolutely joyous all round. My friend and I were just amazed and happy really!

Saturday 9th February – In Search Of Vinyl

The Love In My Heart was up reasonably early as she had arranged to spend the Saturday with one of her friends, and I was going to get up to doing some browsing for vinyl and CDs around the city whilst she was doing that. I always appreciate you have to have quality time with friends, and I know too she was looking forward to today. She got herself ready, looked lovely in her jeans and blue jumper, and Brian the cat was all fed and purring contently, and after she left, he had a nice sit down and genuinely felt relaxed but wasn’t going to let me give him a cuddle easily. I left him to it and got myself ready.

I was thinking about the all day bus ticket but didn’t have my Stagecoach smart card, but then realised that actually all I needed to go was Zones 1 and 2 on the Metrolink tram, so now with the new zoned fares, a day travelcard for that is £3.40, only 20p dearer than a return would have been prior to the zonal changes. That of course meant I could go to Chorlton (and even Salford Quays too) and effectively pay the one cost, and change plans en route. Now if only the trains could be convinced to join the zonal fares and that would represent real change for Manchester, and in my view, about time too.

It was first on the tram to St Peter’s Square before then off on the tram to Chorlton. I did note that Central Library had a photography exhibition on which I might visit later, a fact confirmed by The Love In My Heart as she and her friend went around it and her text said to me “you would love it” so mental note made to go there later. I got off at Chorlton tram stop and headed to Kingbee Records, and had a good mooch in there. In fact, it was tempting to get several 12” singles although the prices were fair (and therefore not cheap) and it was pretty busy overall in there. I still like the fact that it’s all neatly laid out, items are easy to find, and interestingly, a large rack of cassettes – I suspected the format is making a comeback, but didn’t realise just how much (by the way I still have a top notch Marantz double tape deck!)

It was then a nice walk along Wilbraham Road and then down the roads to Chorlton Green, past the Horse and Jockey pub and then along Beech Road. I did feel sad that the former record shop and café On The Corner wasn’t there anymore, but was nice to have a mooch around some of the shops with their nice gifts and items, definitely of the “little shops” that The Love admires so much. In fact I was half tempted to have a coffee in a number of places to be honest but decided that I would get one later, and walked back to Barlow Moor Road and via some charity shops and more vinyl browsing back to the tram stop to get off at St Peter’s Square this time.

I went into Central Library and up to the first floor to see the photography exhibition. And it was very good indeed, I have to say. Plenty of iconic images of Manchester bands, solo artists and venues from the 1970s onwards including outside shots of queues for the Electric Circus venue in Collyhurst, Anthony H Wilson outside The Factory in Hulme, and the likes of Buzzcocks, Joy Division, The Fall, The Stone Roses, James, Happy Mondays, New Order, Inspiral Carpets et al all being represented well. The costs to get some of the iconic signed reprints though were eyewatering – up to £2000 in some cases. Wowzers. I did also like the fact that they had a number of photos of new Manchester acts as a final display, showing the lasting legacy. Thoroughly well worth a visit but you only have till 22nd February to do so.

I went then to the Virgin Money lounge to relax with a coffee and the telly had on the Man U v Fulham game, which was being won at a canter. For Chinese New Year there were also some painting classes taking place too in a certain style, which was good to see. I had a coffee and relaxed, before then heading off to Fopp on Brown Street. Which was closed. I had a suspicion that it may have been a store to close as part of the HMV buy out and restructure from a Canadian firm, but I didn’t think it was going to be that quick. I was gutted, used to love that place especially when they did coffee for £1 and you could chill out downstairs after browsing and buying your music with some books to read too. It got people in and got them buying too.

I then went along the Northern Quarter and to some classic record shop haunts including the likes of Vinyl Revival and Vinyl Exchange, which had numerous nice rarirties on display. I had been chatting to my brother earlier about Black Sabbath original releases, so seeing the first two there for £80 and only in VG condition proved what I’d said to him about spiral Vertigo label being expensive to track down these days. Lastly I went into Afflecks Palace and to the third floor and to Vinyl Resting Place, and that was a proper shop. The Smiths was playing in the background, and had a very good mooch in there too. I ended up buying some vinyl too – on the BBC Records label, the album Sporting Themes, which has many original sports themes of the time. Crucially this includes Brian Bennett’s awesome “Chase Side Shoot Up”, ie the proper golf theme and tune of the day which is missing from the otherwise brilliant CD compilation The Great Sporting Experience. It also includes the BBC World Cup themes from 1974 and 1978, and the other omission from the CD, A Musical Joke, arranged from Mozart by Waldo de los Rios – the proper showjumping theme! Well happy with that.

Later on I met up with The Love and her friend and went first to 57 Thomas Street for a drink, where there was no Marble lager on but they did do IPA in a can which was decent enough (I had the Marble Bitter anyway). After that we headed across to the Abel Heywood and they had a really nice dark ale on so that was me sorted, and Birra Moretti for The Love and friend. It was nice to see her friend and have a good natter (we have lots of musical stuff in common) and it was a good way to spend some quality time. We all said goodbyes later at the tram stop and The Love and I headed home and fussed over Brian the cat for the rest of the evening whilst watching telly, especially a fascinating documentary on BBC about David Bowie’s early years – well worth a watch on iPlayer if you get chance.

Friday 8th February – The Exceptions To The Rule

I was assisting a number of staff with some installation issues today, mainly around a new release of one of the pieces of software where we found that during testing some things didn’t work as they should – most likely when there were extra add-ons installed that didn’t like interaction with the main piece of software. However, as I was road testing a number of installations, I also wanted to make sure that those installations were still allowed with AppLocker and the relevant restrictions enabled.

And it was a good job that I did. Normally you allow all files in the Windows folder, and add exceptions for those that you don’t want to be allowed (the likes of regedit, command prompt, Windows Reset etc.) I had disallowed Powershell as well and also had disallowed wscript too so that vbs scripts may not be allowed to run either. I then attempted to perform a couple of App-V related installations in App-V 5.1 which I knew should work. They failed. Miserably. So I took a look at AppEnforce.log – and sure enough the enforcement was attempting to launch Powershell, as the user, to run the commandlet to register the application and publish it. The error code came back to Group Policy restrictions which meant what was set in AppLocker had caused it. So I went back to policy, removed the exception, re-ran the App-V install. It worked.

In fact I also noted that there were a couple of application installers that could run in the user’s context, as a user, and was using some VBS code to do its work. Of course that too was blocked for the same reason until I changed the exceptions to remove wscript from the list. What this did prove however was that the policy was in fact working (because it had blocked the application in the first place) and that we had a justifiable reason currently for not including it in the exceptions list. Others can stay there and it does mean that when I complete documentation on this, we know it’s been properly tested and covered accordingly.

After work I decided to go and have something for tea before the train to Manchester later on. I thought about it and actually realised that heading out of central London enough would be sensible to get a cheaper meal, so went on the Bakerloo line from work to Elephant and Castle, and back to one of my former haunts The Rockingham Arms. They in fact did pizzas with a drink for a very reasonable price so it was a ham and mushroom pizza plus a pint of Brewdog Punk IPA, job very much done. In fact it showed me how much the place hasn’t changed in general – the shopping centre is still there and still ageing.

Later on it was on the 68 bus to Euston (I know this well from my time of working near Elephant) and in good time for the 2040 departure to Manchester Piccadilly. It was a relatively quiet journey apart from the fact the toilet in the coach I was in didn’t work and people were pressing the door button not seeing it was lit red and therefore out of order. I did however kick back with some music and listened in the main to the excellent Juanita Stein album, which I got a few weeks back. The opening track from that “All The Way” is simply majestic and shows a real sense of emotion too – so definitely tune of the day for me. It was nice to get back into Manchester relatively on time and before long I was snuggled up with The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat ready for sleep.

Thursday 7th February - XChange of Venue

It was off to a nice acoustic night and to a different venue in the centre of Croydon too - this time the Urban XChange Bar, which is on the ground floor as part of the Lansdowne Hotel complex, opposite the Jurys Inn and not that far from East Croydon station if you're taking the bridge to nowhere either. I had managed to get home from work in good time, have something to eat for tea and then head out for the relatively short walk through the town centre and then past the Travelodge and on the way to the venue.

In fact it seemed quite chilled out - some nice multicoloured decor on the walls, and the bar seemed to have keg type beer only but they did have some craft ale as part of that, and I plumped for the Over Easy ale, from Craft Academy. It was a good session type ale that was slightly hoppy but actually went down pretty nicely - granted though it is supported by Greene King, whose IPA is absolutely horrid. Seriously. If that's the only thing ever on offer on cask in a pub, it's time to leave and find another one. The staff seemed lovely and the bar also did a thing with some pizzas as well which all looked nice as they were served too. It'd be my 107th different gig venue overall too.

First up then was Dave Sears, minus the Folk Thing, but still being pretty wistful and playing some nice folk numbers very much in the style of Bert Jansch (no bad thing). He really did play some really nice songs overall, and the crowd were respectfully silent, which surprised even him which was good. I think too that for me it'd have been nice to know what some of the songs were called, but nonetheless I enjoyed the songs he did play and that set the evening up very nicely indeed.

It was then Matt Tiller next, whom I've seen before at one of the Totally Acoustic nights. His witty songs were really funny and he got someone from the audience to help him out with the English language parts to the song he sings in French, Henri Le Chauffeur De Camion Amoureux and that was pretty funny. He also went through the very funny Personal Space, and even a song about Donald Trump, how he had him in the boot of his car and held him hostage in his cellar. Yes, seriously. And a twenty second song called This Song Proves That Homophobia Is Wrong in the middle of the set too. And The Plymouth Hotel, a song about a hotel that his parents used to run when he was younger. Rather lovely all round.

Finally, it was a storming set from MJ Hibbett, and he was on proper good form tonight. Mixing a good mix of the old and the new, it was nice to hear the likes of Mental Judo for the first time in a fair while, and the new song he wrote a few days ago, You're a Tory Now, which sums up what happened to some friends you knew when younger Ace, and tune of the day for that reason. Naturally I still adore In The North Stand so was great to hear that one being played as well as My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once, and Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid (the crowd even joined in with the "Hey there emo boy, give us all a smile" lyric, good to see.)

The set ended with the rather majestic It Only Works Because You're Here, which still is one of my all time favourite songs of his, simply because it just works well and is perhaps the song about love in the IT community too. The time went too quickly and before we knew it, it was time to say our farewells with Mark heading back over the bridge to nowhere to East Croydon and me back homewards. Hurrah for inexpensive gigs in nice venues with good music all round!


Wednesday 6th February - Substance Over Style

Last night I spent a bit of time listening to the classic Substance 1987 compilation by New Order, especially as there's so many great tracks from the Mancunian legends on there. However, I must admit I've always had a bit of a love hate relationship with that album. Not because of the tracks, because they're great, but of Factory Records' attempts over the various formats to attempt to derail the trainspotters and collectors (and some of the fans) by not exactly doing things by the book.

Ideally, you'd have liked it to have been all of the band's singles to date (and almost all of them on 12" only to be fair) but because of things like editing and also having some reworked versions, you didn't get the originals in their entirety. So, for example, both Temptation and Confusion were replaced with a 1987 remixed version, and the likes of The Perfect Kiss, Shellshock and Subculture on CD1 as well as Hurt on CD2 were edited a fair bit - in the case of Subculture around three minutes chopped off in total including the third verse. And to make matters worse, because of limitations, several of the B-sides that were on the double cassette version were missing from the CD too, so no Dubvulture, Shellcock, True Dub etc.

One final thing too: both single A-sides, Procession and Murder, were both bunged onto the second CD and in the wrong chronological order too. And not forgetting, in line with the Everything's Gone Green single that Cries and Whispers is mislabelled Mesh on the CD - and the real Mesh is missing from the CD also - most likely due to time constraints of the CD. The more I thought about it, the more I'd love to see a proper issue done with the original tracks and unedited all the way through.

I worked out that it would be a 3CD set in all, but you'd have all the original versions, including version 1 of Ceremony (not the later re-record once Gillian joined), Procession being track 2, Murder coming after Thieves Like Us, and finally on CD the full 12" version of Shellshock. In fact, that'd be the last on disc 1, with the remaining singles being the start of CD2, then the B-sides, unedited and in order too. In fact, all the way up to Kiss of Death before CD3 begins, with plenty of the cassette extras added, ending with the epic True Dub as the tape would have done. There was also space left to add both the 1987 versions of Temptation and Confusion, the film version of Shellshock and the ace Shep Pettibone 12" remix of True Faith (on the 12" remix single or the CD-Video single, which I'm lucky enough to own - I'm going to make that mix tune of the day)

But yeah, it needs doing really. A timely issue it would be too and definitely one which would be able to demonstrate just how good the band were and having all the original unedited singles in one place would be massively appreciated. Part of the reason I got the Retro box set on CD was because it finally had the original 12" versions of Temptation and Confusion on CD at long last (and by the way, I do have the vinyl of those singles too.) And to make me even happier tonight, City won 2-0 at Everton and went back top of the league too. Get in.

Tuesday 5th February - Scooby Doo Ending

Another busy day, but I did head out at lunch time and managed to have a nice walk down some of the shopping streets close to work. I just fancied a walk outside in the fresh air and didn't want to be inside really. I've come to the conclusion that it's always good to get some fresh air and be away from the office and take full advantage of your lunch time, especially if you've got somewhere you can go that sells food reasonably cheaply or for that matter you can get some shopping done if you need to. I must admit that it's nice to do that.

In fact before that we'd had a productive meeting in terms of resolving some issues and managing the expectations of those issues. We headed up in the lift back to the floor we're based on, and I mentioned about the quote from Scooby Doo of "We would have got away with it had you not been for you meddling kids" which had them both smiling, and one of them giving a little rendition of the proper Scooby Doo theme (make that tune of the day). I then of course made the statement that Scooby Doo was completely ruined when Scrappy Doo came into play, which they both agreed. Both said people have gone up pretty hugely in my estimation!

Later on I sorted out some tickets for Mum for her holiday - she's off to Cornwall in June and wanted to take in a show at the Minack Theatre in Porthcurno. The Summer season tickets went on sale yesterday and after speaking to her friend she decided that she wanted to go to see a show there during her break. In fact, the prices weren't too bad and it does mean that she'll be able to enjoy a show. I went with The Love In My Heart years ago and we saw A Midsummer Night's Dream there, which was ace.

And.. if you happen to be down there in May, get ready for next week, as there's shows in May with the ace Seth Lakeman on his own acoustic, and then a Levellers acoustic show for two nights. I know that'll be pretty good all round actually, and knowing how both can really get a crowd going even with acoustic sets, it's nice that they play such venues. In fact one of Seth's previous gigs here had a DVD release which I have, and it seemed a very special atmosphere. So if you live down those parts, do go.

I noted also tonight that Newport County had beaten Middlesbrough 2-0 in their FA Cup replay, which means that the game is on BT Sport against Manchester City in the 5th round a week on Saturday. It does seem like the muddy pitch might be a leveller, but if you can play football you should be able to play on any surface. There's also no replays either this time, straight into extra time and penalties, so I'd rather see the job done within 90 minutes either way to be fair. It's going to be interesting to say the least...

Monday 4th February - Lock and Load

So today I spent some time documenting on how I'd be implementing AppLocker, with a view of using the security model of least privelege so in effect those who aren't administrators cannot run certain applications, but those who are would be allowed to do so. It was one of the recommendations that we implement some form of lockdown to the local machine following a review, and in essence as we've got all the necessary structure in place for AppLocker, it made sense to go with that way.

There is of course one key thing needed to be sure of for Windows 10 (and it's easily missed unless you edit the policy on a Windows 10 machine by the way) is that the policy needs to be sure that any default Microsoft metro style applications (the .appx and bundle ones) are allowed to be run by all users. Not allowing those, especially the Shell Experience Host, means that you will get things such as Start Menu breakage, which is not really what you want. So I documented that with a suitable note, and to ensure those are allowed accordingly. Preferably as we've added a custom .appx app for the pen settings for one device, I made sure I ran the checks on that laptop in question so it can be included - easy enough I guess.

It was then working backwards in the case of priveleges, so one of the default rules is that you allow executables in the Windows folder and subfolders so that the operating system can run all it needs to. However for example you may want to add exceptions so that for example standard users cannot run Powershell at all. Effectively the exceptions are what you want to disable, and use the standard rule for users (as there's an inbuilt rule for Admins to run all).

Also, because you can use digital signatures, in effect if you detect the 32-bit version of Windows Powershell but use the digital signature, any executable matching the same signature is also blocked, which means (you guessed it) the 64 bit version of Powershell is also blocked as well. Add the same for Powershell ISE and in effect the user cannot run the app, and even from a command prompt this doesn't run - you get a "This has been blocked by policy" setting. Nice, I know.

Tonight I was sorting out a few things in the flat but also keeping an eye on tonight's game at West Ham as they played Liverpool. They deservedly manged to get a 1-1 draw, which means that the gap is now three points with the same number of games, and with a better goal difference for City. So if Manchester City can beat Everton on Wednesday night, we'd go top, admittedly having played a game more, but as the Liverpool game in hand happens to be at Old Trafford, that could prove to be interesting. So West Ham's classic anthem "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" is tune of the day. Cheers lads!

Sunday 3rd February - Goals in Sergio's Arsenal

It was nice for myself and The Love In My Heart to have a lie in. I admit that the travelling on Friday had caught up a bit and did feel pretty tired Saturday night, and although Brian the cat had insisted on his play out time in the cold weather, it was nice to be all snuggly and warm together. Brian even came up to the pillow and decided to rest next to his Mummy, as is his want of course. It was just good to be able to take things relatively calm and relaxed and get up when we felt like it, albeit late morning for croissants and coffee.

Later on it was off to the Etihad Stadium with my friend to see Manchester City take on Arsenal. After the midweek loss at Newcastle, we needed to win to get back on track really, and anything less wasn't on. The weather was a bit icky and was chucking it down, and we got inside as soon as we could and had our pre-match cuppa and chat. It was good therefore to be ready for the game ahead and we both hoped City would win - I was cautious and went for 2-1, my friend went for 4-1. But to be honest, I'd have taken a 1-0 win and been happy with that really.

The game kicked off and I didn't expect an early goal, but that's what we got. The ball was attempted to be cleared by Alex Iwobi of Arsenal but he ran into Aymeric Laporte who dispossessed him, and then put in a gorgeous cross for Sergio Agüero to score the opener - after a mere 46 seconds! Maybe too early like last time, but no complaints from me especially in Fantasy League terms at least. He was looking lively and as were City, and had a goal disallowed for offside a few minutes later.

Arsenal didn't take it lying down though and forced a corner around ten minutes in. The corner was headed on and there was Laurent Koscielny, completely unmarked, to head home from close range for 1-1. City looked okay going forward but Arsenal were keen to go on the break a bit too. The next goal I felt was going to be crucial and thankfully it was City that scored it, a neat move down the left resulted in a delicate chip from Ilkay Gundogan, which was met on the volley by Raheem Sterling who laid at across beautifully to Agüero to score from close range, two minutes before half time. 2-1, all good at the half and with The Chemical Brothers' ace Hey Girl Hey Boy blasting out too (make that tune of the day)

City pressed on in the second half and Arsenal ran out of ideas, they looked leggy and poor after the interval. City didn't have to come out of second gear really and it was a nice cross from the left by Sterling that was met by Agüero sliding in. The ball bounded off his hip but may have also brushed the arm on the way in as it just about crossed the line - the referee's watch vibrated and it was 3-1 to City. And that was how it stayed too. Granted it was a good result and it'll all depend on what Liverpool do tomorrow night, but at least we've done our bit, gone back to second and put the pressure on.

It was good to head back to The Love's place for tea later, some lovely roast chicken with all the veggies and that was lovely to have, some good gravy too. Unknown to me she had also baked the lightest and rather gorgeous Victoria sponge so I had that for afters which went down lovely before she dropped me off at Manchester Piccadilly station to get the 2021 train back to Euston, which unsurprisingly was full of Arsenal fans all rather sad at the day's result.

Saturday 2nd February - Cold on Platform 5

It was a nice relaxing morning chatting and catching up with The Love In My Heart, and we both had a lot to chatter about as we had obviously not done so on the Friday evening due to delayed trains. We also had some nice breakfast and Brian the cat had had his play out, albeit in rather cold and chilly weather. The Winter sunshine was coming, but that was deceptive - it did melt the ice from the tops of the cars and windscreens, but still wasn't ideal either. Thankfully all seemed good later on and The Love and I headed out for the afternoon and early evening.

First port of call was her father's place, and to catch up with him. We had a brew and a chat and he was quite pleased with how the Tottenham v Newcastle game was going - he had a bet on that not only would Tottenham win 1-0 but Son Heung-Min would score the only goal too. That was pretty much how it turned out and it did mean that they would leapfrog Manchester City into second place in the table, with Newcastle doing all they can to try and get a draw at least but not managing an answer. They did play well and proved that their win against City the other night was no fluke result.

It was then off to Mum's, partly to drop off my sister's birthday present with Mum (as it was my sister's birthday today but she had gone away for the weekend) but also to have a catch up and chat. I did tell Mum about the bus changes and how the 168 had been withdrawn but morphed into the 150, but now running from Hyde to Belle Vue, then following the old 168 route to Chorlton before being extended to the Trafford Centre. Not sure how this would work but it would mean for Mum she could see her friend in Denton with only one bus to take, and the other way round. It was nice to chatter and it was then for us off out too.

We decided that we were going to have a late afternoon lunch / early tea, and so decided to head to P5 (formerly Platform 5) in Cheadle Hulme. The bar area was reasonably busy because of the rugby, but the eating area was quiet. We noted that by the rear windows was pretty cold all round but we found a space nearer the bar that had a table with a warm radiator, which The Love of course approved of. We had a nice meal in there - I had the chicken with peppercorn and stilton sauce with mushrooms, and some nice vegetables, and The Love had the pork belly with some colcannon mash and peas, and thick gravy. All was good, and even had the Chorlton Pale Ale to go with that too. Win.

We stopped by Asda later on the way home to get some food shopping, and after that it was then a case of heading home and feeding Brian the cat his tea (which of course he loved, especially as we'd got his favourite tuna and prawn Sheba) and we settled in for the evening mainly in front of the telly, watching the likes of The Voice as well. Interestingly for me at least one of the final singers was a woman called Moya, who had been offered a contract and album before but was then ditched, and lost her confidence to perform - but the way she sang showed why she was signed in the first place to be honest. It is though a sad state of the record industry that so much pressure is put on an artist that they feel so depressed due to the experience. Tune of the day in the meantime is "Shine" by Take That, which blasted out from The Love's car as we headed out earlier - and she loves it, and reminds me of those Morrisons adverts...

Friday 1st February - Delayed Arrival

After a busy day at work it was good to be able to head off homewards, have something to eat for tea, and then get all my weekend stuff together and all ready to come up on the train to Manchester Piccadilly to see The Love In My Heart. I must admit that I've been used to Friday evenings and it's often nice if I can get an earlier evening train. However, because Virgin Trains relaxed the off peak restrictions for Fridays, the downside of that has been that advance tickets have become more expensively priced (something they forgot to tell you) so realistically only trains from 2040 onwards remain reasonably cheap.

I did manage to head off back on the train and tube to Euston Square, which meant I could nip into the Crown and Anchor for a well earned drink before the train. They had a number of guest ales on including the rather excellent Sloe Storm from Adnams Brewery, which as the name suggested had a hint and a trace of the sloe berry in there, as well as being rather ruby red and a nice dark colour as a result. A real Winter warmer and perfect considering the rather cold weather ahead.

I left on time to head to Euston, but to be honest had I known the delays to be faced I would have definitely stayed in the pub instead. I did a bit of checking online when I saw all the departure boards all have "Delayed" all across them and it showed that there was a trespasser on the track near Cheddington, which is a station in between Milton Keynes and Tring. As such getting trains in to Euston was proving difficult so couldn't get any out either as a result.

I was debating whether they might actually cancel the trains and then I'd go home and come back tomorrow instead, but trains were coming in albeit slowly, and so the 2040 departure did arrive into Euston, and once I'd boarded (and saw all the people who clearly do not do trains regularly find all sorts of basic issues such as locating their seat) it was time to kick back with the headphones on and listen to the likes of She Makes War, with the excellent "Undone" being tune of the day as I would set off, albeit 31 minutes late and already therefore qualifying for Delay Repay.

And fair play to the Virgin Trains train manager - he mentioned it as the train approached each stop, reminding customers to put their claim in if they didn't do so already. Of course booking through them means automatic delay repay, so much easier for me to be honest. The train kept to its 30 minutes or so delay, and as a result I arrived in Piccadilly just before 11.20pm, so off on the tram to The Love In My Heart's place, and pretty much straight to bed, where Brian the cat came to say hello and let me give him a love before being all snuggled up with his Mummy. Aww. He is so lovely.