Dear Diary... January 2016

Sunday 31st January - Sunday With Gusto

It was a leisurely wake up this morning and even the two cats Jô and Brian were very relaxed and seemed to want to go to sleep themselves. In fact as I caught up with last night's Ninja Warrior UK on ITV Player, seeing the semi finalists take on the two stages of the course and seeing only the best do it, with many coming a cropper on the spider jump section, Brian the cat was just happily snuggled on the little semi circular seat, and that was him happy and sleeping for ages.

We got ourselves showered, changed and ready and I packed the case as well, as although I was meeting up with my friend and her partner in the city centre, The Love In My Heart was going to drive and park up in Castlefield and walk from there, the premise being that it would be less expensive to park a little further out, and also with the weather being rainy and pretty horrid, walking across for the tram wasn't exactly filling The Love with excitement (and in truth, can't say I blame her either.)

We headed into the city and managed to get a spot on Castle Street in Castlefield. And as it turned out as it was in city centre parking zone three, the city council had made the spaces free on a Sunday from 12 noon onwards, so that's what I call a result really. We headed back to Deansgate and walked along past the Great Northern and then along to Gusto, and arrived - and my friend and her partner had arrived before us and were at the table. It was lovely to see them.

The next two hours were full of lovely food, drink and plenty of catch up and chatter. It was the first time we'd met my friend's partner, and I took to him straight away - a proper no nonsense Northerner like me who worked hard for a living and really enjoyed the life he had made for himself. In many ways I could see a lot of him that really meant he was a good match for my friend too - and that really did mean a lot also. It was good to be able to spend lots of time not talking about work (that was good!) and also just generally see how we've all been, so all lovely.

The food was spot on as ever in Gusto too - The Love enjoyed her bruschetta and spaghetti bolognaise, and I had the calamari to start which was fab, as was the salmon and dill rigatoni for main. In fact the tiramisu for dessert was also fab. Being a member of the dining club there meant a massive 50% off the food portion of the bill, so the total bill for three courses and drinks was a mere £65 for the four of us. No complaints there and everyone enjoyed the food too, so that was all good (empty plates and all that)

It was sad to say goodbye but I'm pleased that she's happy with someone and that's made me feel good too, and The Love In My Heart and I headed to Dukes 92 for a final drink together. Although the place is being done up, so they've put up a large tipi tent in what would normally be the outdoor seating area. It was cosy actually and quite a good way to shelter out of the rain, even if there was a horrible jazz version of Oasis' classic "Wonderwall" playing in the background (I'm not even an Oasis fan but the original is a bit of a classic, so tune of the day it needs to be to redress the balance a bit!)

The Love battled through the traffic and dropped me off at the station, and I headed on the 1735 train back to Euston. It took longer than planned due to a landslip at Leighton Buzzard, which meant that it had to go slow on one of the slower lines and so ended up twenty minutes delayed into Euston. Thankfully after a cross-central London tube to Victoria, I got the 2035 train to East Croydon and was home by around 9.10pm. It was a lovely weekend and all, but I do miss The Love In My Heart lots already..

Saturday 30th January - Clearout and Cup Win

It was nice to have a lie in of sorts this morning, and even had a nice snuggle up from Jô the cat as well as he came to the bed wanting to curl up. Awww. He had woken The Love In My Heart up though as he wanted his treats and food earlier on, but that's almost default behaviour now. We got ourselves up and ready, and were heading to the house later that day - as my brother had mentioned the old Manchester City seat I had bought when Maine Road's assets were sold off, and he wanted it from me (as I wasn't going to realistically use it) - and I knew it was in the brick shed part at the back.

So once up and sorted, we headed off to the house. I did feel odd with the whole of the downstairs being empty of all furniture, but The Love had of course got used to it when checking the place over for me. We went to the back and located the City seat, and a bit dusty it was too. We also disassembled the table in the back yard as my brother wanted that as well, and with that all sorted we then headed off to my Mum's, and located a storage space in her garden shed for it (to add to the volume of stuff my brother already has) and took it from there.

We did have a good chat with Mum anyway, and so that was nice to catch up over a coffee. It turns out that the former playing fields for the University of Manchester, opposite my old primary school, was in itself being turned into a secondary school, and two houses at the end of the cul-de-sac opposite had been compulsory purchased in order to make an entrance driveway. No doubt it'll mean that road will be busy with traffic etc, so it'll be intriguing to keep my eyes on. I can remember when the University cricket team played there and we used to go along and watch for free - happy memories.

We then were going to do the M&S Dine in for Two thing, but we couldn't find anywhere for The Love to park her car in Didsbury, and in Handforth Dean, some of the stuff had sold out which we may have wanted. We decided to abandon that and instead get some nice food from the Asda near her, which meant she could stock up on other stuff at the same time, which was good. The weather was getting a little icky by this time so we were glad to be all warm back at hers, and I had been listening to the City game on the radio, and Final Score told me of the third and fourth goals going in. 4-0 away at Aston Villa, an excellent result, especially with the Kelechi Iheanacho hat trick.

We settled in for a chilled out evening (as we were out tomorrow) which meant lots of snuggles and love to the two cats and plenty of telly together, including the Getaway Car, which we have both found strangely compelling actually. I think more so because of the fact that we've been enjoying the couples really find it tests their relationship as well as their driving / co-driving skills, notably the general knowledge bits. We did also see The Voice too, and I can't believe the bloke from Liberty X as was turned up and gave a decent performance and all that - seems that it's an outlet for former pop stars or whatever to have a second chance!

We did though thoroughly enjoy some of the Jonathan Ross show too, as Johnny Vegas was pretty hilarious on it, especially when he was talking about some of the moments he'd encountered over the years. Naturally a lot of people know him from the adverts with Monkey, but I remember seeing him live and he was really funny actually. Notably as well it looked like Craig David was making a comeback, where's the Bo Selecta puppet when you need him? Can I get a rewind? Make "Proper Crimbo" tune of the day for that reason actually, just to reminisce the whole mickeytake. Come on, Kes!

Friday 29th January - Sister's Fish and Chips

It was nice to have a half day at work, primarily as I was heading up to Manchester a little earlier than normal today. It of course was going to be lovely to see The Love In My Heart as well after a week and a half of being apart (and I miss her loads) but at the same time it was also going to be nice to see some of the family as my sister turns thirty next week, and she and her boyfriend are heading off to New York on Sunday, and so thought it was a good idea to be able to have a meal out tonight and spend some quality time with everyone.

It meant I could get the 68 bus from work to Euston, and this meant that I could be at Euston in good time for the 2pm train back. In fact I now can work out which platform the train is scheduled to depart from and so be ready on the right side of the departure hall ready to head to the train. It was platform 3 and I'd predicted that, so put ticket in barrier, get to coach C, put luggage on, relax for the journey. Admittedly too it was nice to be able to take the train journey to Manchester in daylight and be able to see the countryside pass by my window seat (another good thing now with Virgin Trains - you can pick your seat too - hurrah!)

The Love In My Heart was waiting for me as I'd arrived at Piccadilly which was really lovely of her, and hugs had to be done before she headed back to her place and naturally the two cats Jô and Brian were inquisitive as ever, and asking The Love for yet more Dreamies (as is their wont of course). I unpacked the stuff I'd brought with me and then had a nice shower, which really set me up nicely to change. The Love looked gorgeous in her top as well, and we both were all good to go in good time.

The traffic wasn't even that busy surprisingly for a Friday night, and so we headed off to a pub in Didsbury and as it turned out, my uncle was there at the same time as us with relations in tow, and so we all came in and spotted the table where Mum was already there with my brother and his girlfriend. As it turned out, the space we would have had was still being used by a funeral but they didn't want to move them on, so were going to give us 20% off the food. No complaints really, especially as real ale was on the cards as well as fish and chips as well which looked gorgeous.

And so they were - in fact it was very popular as The Love, myself, Mum and my brother had it! It was also good to see lots of the family and catch up, and they were all pretty happy to see me. I'd managed to get some US dollars for my sister for her birthday (she wanted it for spending money whilst over there, makes sense) and she was pleased with that - and not everyone had done the same, got her English money instead (which means she'll have to faff around changing it at the airport for an extortionate rate.) I even had the sticky toffee pudding for dessert which was rather brilliant.

The Love and I headed back to hers later on and we caught up on First Dates from last night - I had watched parts of it whilst packing but it was good to see it again in any case. The woman from Liverpool who used her hands to eat the meat she had cracked us both up - you could see the bloke think "get me out of her quickly!" as well. It's always interesting to see how the dates pan out and as the theme tune is a tad on the catchy side for some reason, that's tune of the day for me.

Thursday 28th January - Problem Solving

One of the things I must admit I do like about the new job is that there's a fair degree of problem solving to be done, and on top of that it means you have to also think on your feet as well. I suspect that there's going to be a lot more of that happening in the next year or so, but that for me is a good thing as it'll allow me to get my proverbial teeth under the table and get cracking, which is what I love to do. I also know that there's a real sense of proving myself all over again due to the fact it's a new challenge and so you can only attempt (and sometimes succeed!) to take that head on.

So today I was looking at Mudbox 2016 and seeing if there was anything I could do to try and redirect some of the temporary files and folders it creates away from the user's My Documents area. Like many places, that folder is often redirected to the user's network drive (normally H for home, easier to remember and all that) and Mudbox seems to want to store everything on there. On your home PC of course, not a problem as it'll often be that My Documents is in your user account on the hard disk.

Anyway, turns out that Mudbox has some environment variables that you can set per user, and there's three of them which do a good job of redirecting the temporary storage to somewhere else within the user account that isn't redirected, or you could even specify another drive for example on the local machine should you wish to do so. I found the same for Maya the other day and it does allow for some flexibility in delivery, so there is a positive in all this I'd hope. We shall see how it pans out I think.

It was also good to see that train wise I got home pretty much quickly today. I had got to Balham fine but just a little too late for the 1627 to Caterham, so headed back up to Clapham Junction from there and then on the fast train to East Croydon, so actually got there around 1650. Actually that's not too bad really, I was back in the flat for around 5pm, and to find out that one other problem had been solved - the evaluation of the council tax bands for the whole new build block. As it turns out I am in Band C.

I did think about whether it'd be worth me looking at the evaluation agency stats and challenging them but using Martin Lewis' guide, it turns out almost all the properties close by which are of similar size (1 bedroom flats) are all in Band C, so I'd fail straight away at the neighbours check in step 1. Although the second valuation type check did suggest there may be an outside chance of Band B, but I may not chance it. The two bedroom flats appear to be Band D (including the flat next to mine!) and the three bedroom ones are in Band E.

However it does mean that with the 25% discount I get for being on my own, it does mean that it works out around £83 per month in all, which is a little less than what I had budgeted for in my spreadsheet, so that is at least reasonable. I'm also working on other ways to be able to make the money stretch a bit further, but one thing I wouldn't consider is to use the bus only - it really would take too long to go to and from work, and although yes I'd potentially save a bit, there's the extra time I'll lose as a consequence.

In the meantime I watched Top of the Pops from 1981 and it was good to see the video to Ultravox's classic "Vienna" (make that tune of the day) although the middle section was again butchered by the cutting down, bit of a shame. And yes the opening bit with the cobbles is actually filmed in Covent Garden, years before it became all cool and trendy to hang out at. Still a classic, and even more so having seen it acoustic a few times with him really doing the business.

Wednesday 27th January - Partying Like It's 1994

After yesterday's listening to some of the albums I enjoyed back in 1994, I did some more of the same tonight. In fact when I look back it was a pretty cracking year and a lot of the music that I enjoyed back then I still do now. In fact I could easily list ten albums which I've loved and adored since then (two of which incidentally are in my top ten albums of all time so there you go) but it's a case of blasting them out and getting the place having the sounds of rock and indie all good with a coffee to chill out to. In a way, I've found that quite useful to do and to keep the mind occupied during some evenings without The Love In My Heart.

Mind you, I did also have one eye on the Manchester City v Everton League Cup semi final second leg as well. City were 2-1 down from the first leg and a Ross Barkley goal put Everton 3-1 up on aggregate, only then for Fernandinho to score quickly afterwards. Then in the second half on came Kevin de Bruyne and the game changed - he converted a cross from Raheem Sterling that admittedly was out of play (bad call from the linesman it has to be said) and then put a cross over delightfully for Sergio Agüero to head home and score what proved to be the winner.

With all the inflatable bananas in the crowd it did feel like going back to the 1990s there as well due to the many of them being shown by the supporters. It was though a good atmosphere although by all accounts many of Everton's hooligans decided to rear their ugly heads around the ground - not good really. For me football's about enjoying the game and no matter who you support, having a bit of respect for one another. I've usually had good banter with many opposition fans and for me they're the true fans - those who respect similar but are there for the same reasons as you, you know?

Back to more music after the final whistle and I finished off with another classic album from 1994 - Pop Will Eat Itself's "Dos Dedos Mis Amigos" (or "Two Fingers, My Friends" if you wanted the English title - although that did become the remix album title a year later) - and the sheer power and anger felt throughout the whole of it really comes through. Not least on the opener "Ich Bin Ein Auslander" which is not just epic but full of power, passion and a real feeling of the time too - and tune of the day without question. Now if only Clint Mansell would play it when he plays solo in March that would be pretty good methinks.

I've also worked out a possible strategy in terms of getting some more trains booked over the next few weeks - I've pretty much got February and March already sorted, so am looking to get April's done whilst they are still cheap. For me and The Love In My Heart it's about working out a good compromise plan and then seeing what lovely weekends we can have together, and we are going to have a good few, especially when the weather gets nicer. What I may even look at doing is maybe even having the occasional Monday off together and making a weekend a bit longer, see how that works..

Tuesday 26th January - Diversions

It's at times like today that having diversion routes to and from work are good. I had got the train towards London Victoria and got off at Clapham Junction, then headed on a train back to Balham and Northern Line to work. This is usually a good way around if for some reason the 0658 I get towards Blackfriars is for some reason delayed or cancelled or if for some reason I miss it. I could at a pinch get the 0723 from East Croydon to Elephant and Castle but if that runs late there's a chance I'd be late for work (and it's also busier too) so no chances realistically are taken to be honest.

I did feel productive today though as I was investigating into why we had reports of Maya 2016 crashing. I'd used this before in my previous job of course and had no effects. Naturally I'd checked if the service pack was released (which it was) and added to the software (which it also was) and from there it then meant what we had was the same as out there. Then I read up on the way that Autodesk allow you to set various environment variables including MAYA_APP_DIR, which is where the user's folder is. Normally that's the user's My Documents, but in most places that gets redirected to their H:\ home drive area if not specified.

So I tried it, and set a user variable for that folder to go the user's desktop and a folder called Maya, and ran it. The folder and preferences etc was created, so all the large project files etc were all stored locally. That seemed fine and during testing that worked also. I'm awaiting feedback but it's a diversion of sorts away from the main user area, and with the usual caveats that it produces of course. I think too that sort of problem solving is what I am good at, and good to get something easily implemented.

The way home was also a similar route too - my usual way of Elephant and Castle into Blackfriars and back out to East Croydon was no good, and even the route to Mitcham Junction wasn't on - there were cancellations all over due to issues between Herne Hill and Tulse Hill (which is the way the trains go either way) and so instead it was back to the Northern Line, on to Balham and then the Caterham train which stops at East Croydon along the way. Result all round I think, especially as the wind and rain was attempting to get up somewhat.

I did spend some time tonight listening to several albums from 1994 but then one from 1992 as well: Rage Against The Machine's debut album at that. We'd been discussing it at work and so I decided to blast it out in full - and that worked out especially good. Not least as the album has some classic moments (in fact to be truthful there's not one bad track on there) and naturally "Killing In The Name" had to be blasted out and so that is tune of the day.

Monday 25th January - Getting There

I'm getting there with a fair few things at the moment, actually. In fact this morning I sent off a couple of parcels to people who had won items I was selling on eBay, and so two Rosina Wachtmeister mugs and one Rosina Wachtmeister picture in frame had been well packaged overnight and taken to the local convenience store that also acts as my Hermes courier drop off point - really handy as it opens 6am so I can pop in there and do the drop offs before heading off to work as well, so a definite plus for me.

And indeed some progress made today with a few things at work too - first of all a department induction which by all accounts should possibly have been done earlier, but it was good to actually meet some people who had only started the same day, and get to know that the administration lady, apart from being Australian (I recognise the accent) also is a keen photographer herself, so shared interests and all that. In fact that was a nice exercise in getting to know as well, so many birds killed with one stone.

I did have to hang back a bit for that, and it turned out that there were a few things up with trains, so I ended up taking an alternative route (I've got several up the sleeve in case of travel disruption) so it was from Elephant and Castle to Mitcham Junction and from there to get the tram to Reeves Corner, and walk down Church Street in the centre of Croydon from there. Actually today that wasn't a bad idea as it meant I was able to walk to the Argos along there and collect something I'd ordered with the eBay balance - a large 60 x 80cm picture frame in black.

The purpose of this was revealed when I got back home of course - I'd already got some of the Command large picture hanging strips at the ready, and the plan was to mount and frame the David Bowie Is poster I got from the V&A when I went to see the exhibition. I had planned to put it in the front room of the house when I bought it, but never managed to get a frame. Now I did, and had a place to house it, and once up I stood back and admired the work. Granted I could have sold the poster on eBay, but.. it's a reminder of spending some lovely time with The Love In My Heart, and a fitting tribute to the man himself really, and also fits in nicely with my art house feel.

So much so that it was a case of playing some Bowie later on and really thinking back to my father owning all the orange label RCA releases at the time, including the likes of Aladdin Sane. Actually I'm going to choose a track from that album as tune of the day as it's still a great and under-rated Bowie album, not least with the likes of the excellent "Drive In Saturday" which really did have its own groove and style. Even more so when Morrissey decided to cover it when on tour, so a really nice surprise for my friend and I when we saw Moz live a few years back.

Sunday 24th January - Winning

Winning was the order of the day, not least when I had checked my lottery ticket and found that for the first time in ages I had got three numbers and so had won £25. In fact I didn't do it online, I had actually purchased a ticket in a shop yesterday on the way out, so maybe I should do that more in future in case it works out better. The Love In My Heart had won a fair few times with two numbers and so having a free go next time round, and so with a rollover looming again and looming large, it might be a good way forward really - we shall see.

I did venture out later in the day to cash the ticket in but I used that to put towards a present for my sister for her birthday next week, and that made sense rather than just necessarily have to spend more than I need. I also for good measure headed to the train station and collected my travel tickets for the next couple of weeks when I venture up to Manchester, which works out pretty well, not least because it saves me queuing at Euston for a logn time. I can therefore just get on a train and get going.

I did watch the skiing earlier, the men's slalom from Kitzbüel at that, and it looked pretty tough, with lots of skiers crashing out or straddling a gate. The British skier Dave Ryding was doing okay in the first run and had qualified for the second one, and was going well till crashing out. Mind you, he wasn't the only one and plenty of skiers didn't make it, which made the winning run by Henrik Kristoffersen even more remarkable - he had a shedload of time to make up and indeed had made it too!

I also spent some time later on sorting out some more eBay stuff, and it looks like two other items I put on the other night had sold too, so that was good news, and to the same buyer as it happened. I also had a good sort out and managed to test a couple of items I was selling (some old computer games) to make sure that they did work. Admittedly one of the best things I did was to get a special cable which connects the audio and video output from a Commodore 64 to a SCART socket, meaning I can connect it up to my telly with no hassle and no need to tune analogue either, neat stuff it has to be said.

I am missing The Love In My Heart an awful lot, more so when she was sorting out the coffee table I'd sold on eBay to be collected from hers, and that was good, but we had a chat and I just felt it would have been nice to give her a cuddle really. I know this is for the best for me in terms of move, career etc, but the missing of The Love is one thing that I knew was going to be difficult. The next two weekends we are spending together though so I am sure we'll be enjoying those as much as we can.

In the meantime I went back old school with the Indie Top 20 Volume 8 compilation CD earlier, with the songs from early 1990. Back then these compilations were the indie equivalent of Now.. and with some cracking tunes. We're talking in the first ten tracks alone the likes of Inspiral Carpets, James, A Guy Caled Gerald ("Hot Lemonade" as a title is of course dodgy, as it means something else..!!), The KLF, The Shamen and Depeche Mode. Yep, quality. In fact make "Personal Jesus" from that compilation tune of the day- it's still one of my favourite DM tracks.

Saturday 23rd January - Walking In The Parks

So after sorting out cleaning, washing and ironing and generally getting the flat all tidy and nice, I was able (because I had ventured out to Purley Tesco Extra and done a shed load of food shopping last night) to relax a bit with some toast and coffee before getting changed and ready to head out later. The camera was in tow of course as I thought that might be good for some pictures too, and I had decided to join section 6 of the Capital Ring Walk as part of the Walk London weekend that was going on. I had thought about which one to do but this seemed interesting and allowed me to explore at the same time.

I took the tram from Church Street all the way to Wimbledon, and then remembered to do the additional touch in for the tube (it's a strange anomaly because of the way you arrive from the tram into the station itself) and then simply one stop on the District Line to Wimbledon Park. I exited the tube station and it turned out there were quite a few people there, so much so that some of us had to cross the other side of the road from the tube station as well. The guide told us later that so many had turned up that the first group of 50 or so left at around 12.45pm and we'd leave around 1.15pm, and there were around 60 of us in all. Pretty good stuff actually.

So we headed off towards Wimbledon Park first of all and after a quick walk through part of the park the guide gave us an introduction, some route history and also where we'd be going too. So from there it was along Wimbledon Park's lake, with the All England Lawn Tennis Club (the proper Wimbledon!) being visible from across there, before then heading around the athletics track and on to the roads, following a route which skirted around some suburban streets and up a hill before arriving at one of the entrances to Wimbledon Common (no Wombles mind you)

We walked across the Common and the old windmill had a very nice café so grabbed a quick lunch and a soft drink to take with me, and I noted that the windmill is under repair for its sails, but hopefully back to full power soon. It was then a muddy walk down the paths of the Common at the far end, approaching the Mere and then diverting around, following the path towards the A3 which lies directly opposite the Robin Hood Gate entrance to Richmond Park, which is apparently the largest of all the Royal Parks.

And so it seemed too, as we headed along and up the hill by the woods, descending slightly and passing the Pen Ponds before heading uphill and seeing one of the oldest oak trees in the park, with the deer in the long distance, then heading across skirting an edge of a forest, crossing the road and following a high path towards Henry's Mound, where the view over to the likes of Ham House and indeed Windsor Castle was rather good, and the telescope there allows a clear Eastbound view all the way to St Paul's Cathedral. And the view is protected too, so no tall buildings can be built on that line, all ten miles or so of it.

It was then a long way downhill and exiting Richmond Park before then crossing the Petersham Meadows and arriving alongside the river bank of the Thames all the way under Richmond Bridge and in the centre. We'd arrived there around 4.45pm so with a stop at Wimbledon Common that took around three and a half hours, without a stop (and indeed plenty of time spent at Henry's Mound) no doubt I might have walked it quicker, but it was a nice leisurely amble or so.

I then headed to Richmond station and took the tube one stop to Kew Gardens and there was a table at the Tap on the Line pub with my name on, and I had a pint of the Oliver's Island ale there, and sat by the station watching the people and trains go by. The vibe was very chilled out indeed and I definitely need to come back here with The Love In My Heart at some point and have some food, that is for sure. I then headed back to Richmond and took a different route home.

I'd say different because of the fact that the train lines weren't operating between Richmond and Clapham Junction, or else I'd have taken that train and then the train to East Croydon. What I did instead was take the 493 bus outside Richmond station through the centre of Richmond (which was manic busy) and then through Sheen, Roehampton and Putney Heath before descending to Southfields, past the Wimbledon tennis again and then to the station, and I hopped on to the tram there back homewards.

It had been a really nice walk and I think for me it showed that I should do more of this sort of thing more often, it definitely felt a good place to be able to go and see a bit more. I might even try some of the other walks on my own and maybe take on some of them that are a little less muddy, but in essence I get the idea, and maybe try and do them one at a time and take on the whole of the capital ring by doing each part - some start not that far from me so there is a possibility. Tune of the day in the meantime is the great "You Do Something To Me" by Paul Weller - I had to listen to the original after someone had covered (more like ruined!) it on The Voice earlier..

Friday 22nd January - Forward in Reverse

I managed to get a fair few things sorted today, and the main one I'd managed to sort out was Rhino Reverse, a plug in which did some specialist rendering for Rhinoceros v5. It transpired that the vendor of the software insisted on having certain network IP address ranges to validate and run the product, and so once I'd obtained those from networks, I was then able to supply that to the member of staff, and asked him to liaise with the vendor to see if we needed an updated activation code.

We got the new code, and so ran an install on one of the PCs where the member of staff was based, and then ran it and added the code in. That all worked perfectly fine, and it writes a value in the registry which is all encrypted in Chinese style characters, not easy therefore to do by hand! I extracted the registry values and for the installer I ensured that the registry key was then merged after the main installation had taken place. I tried this on one PC where I knew that activation had failed previously, had done all the uninstall, did the new install, the registry key merged, and voila! It all activated without you having to do a single thing. Rock and proverbially roll so to speak. In fact the member of staff was pretty pleased and the email I received later was also very nice, which I have to say did make my day.

I've still been full of a bit of a cold though but it's gradually attempting to escape from me. What I'll probably do tomorrow is part of the Capital Ring Walk, as there's series of organised walks along those routes as part of a plan to get people out in the fresh air and walking a lot more. I also realistically know it's a good lengthy route to do, and that there'll be some hills etc. It should help to keep me fit (bonus) and also mean that I'll have some quality time at the weekend. Granted I know I'd rather be seeing The Love In My Heart (and I do miss her loads!) but this will also give me some ideas for the future too for things for us to do when she is here...

I also took another different way home tonight in order to try and make things a bit different - I got the train from Elephant and Castle to Tulse Hill, then the train to Birkbeck, and followed by the tram to George Street in central Croydon, which was less of a walk to go homewards too. Actually, it wasn't that bad all told really, the second train and the tram were fairly empty and an oasis of calm. It also meant less to walk when I got off the tram and so I got home at a pretty decent time to be fair. Might be worth further investigation!

I also watched the latest instalment of Great British Railway Journeys as Michael Portillo headed along to the South West, heading along to the likes of Bridgewater and Taunton, both of which looked really nice places to visit. In fact for me I've passed a lot of those stations on the way to Cornwall from Manchester before, and so for me it's notable to see that even when going from London to Cornwall in future I may be doing the same sort of station visit along the way. Tune of the day is the theme tune from said show.

Thursday 21st January - Welcoming

It was a different day at work today as I was off to the Welcome Event that my new employers have every few months to welcome in all the new people on board and generally make them all feel part of the place. It was in a different building not too far from Vauxhall station, so I had worked out my route. Also not needing to be there till 9am meant I could have a little bit more time in bed, although to be honest I was glad that I left when I did as the train to Clapham Junction was busy enough, but attempting to get on one from there to Vauxhall was just mental to say the least!

I soon arrived at the venue and was the first one there - luckily the organisers were already in situ and they said hello, issued me with a name badge with a coloured dot (apparently for an exercise in the afternoon) and soon enough tea, coffee and orange juice came out with some croissants also, so that was really nice. It was good to chat to a few different people as they came in and that settled the nerves a bit too. I'll freely admit I am really nervous meeting new people and so it was good to do that before we started.

We had an introductory chat from one of the senior members of staff who was really clear and concise in her explanations, and also demonstrated a real passion for the place she worked for too, which was good. The video that she played at the end explained a few things in terms of the innovative things that are happening too, so felt good. We then had what were called "world café" sessions where you got to find out about several things including the possibility of doing short courses for free, the digital innovations taking place and indeed also being able to havde a grasp of what else is out there.

We also had a student come along who is now doing a couple of part time temporary jobs where I work now, and she was explaining her student journey and how she felt it was an experience for her to go through, with different things taking place and events in the life which helped shape her. What was nice was that the organisers also said to her to stay for lunch and chat with a few of us too - and the lunch was spot on by the way: lamb koftas, some tagine and either cous cous, potatoes or both, and it felt very nice and filling all the same.

In the afternoon we had a Human Resources and an academic person talk through the long term strategy and how that is part of what everyone does, but then decided to do an arty exercise with paper, pens, sellotape, pritt stick etc to see if you could come up with something resmebling one of the four key aims. The team I was with went for the new inspiring environments and effectively built a whole campus out of paper, which actually looked the part when it was done, so felt pretty pleased about that really.

It was a bit mad heading home later as the signalling had failed south of Purley, so some trains were cancelled but I managed to get on one fine from Clapham Junction in the end. Ironically, the train from Vauxhall was nice and quiet and I got a seat fine, and on top of that it stopped at the other end of Clapham Junction so took a leisurely walk across the bridge to the platform I needed to get on to go homewards. It was a good day really and it was good also to see new people too.

Later on in the evening I decided to a bit retro and see the Top of the Pops 1981 from tonight's BBC Four. There were some good songs on it, not least the rather under-rated Twilight Café from Susan Fassbender, which was fab, but also "Vienna" by Ultravox, which still is brilliant, so make that one tune of the day. A shame that the programme edited the middle string coda down a bit, but it's still one of the classic 1980s songs of all time. I've also seen Midge Ure do the song acoustic, which in itself is a rather good thing all round!

Wednesday 20th January - Sorting Out Sniffles

I've been bunged up and sniffly all day (highly attractive I am sure you will agree!) - and cracking on with a fair few bits of testing as well as helping out with some other things too. One of my colleagues had created a useful diagram on how a proposed system was going to work, and it was good to chat to him and ask him some questions to not only get things clear in my head but also to get a better appreciation of the systems in place and so kill two birds with one stone.

I headed out at lunch time and had located where the nearest post office was, so I sent all the paperwork I needed via recorded delivery to the solicitors, and the staff in there were really nice overall. It just meant a nice little walk that wasn't too far and also meant I was able to get some fresh air which was appreciated to be honest. I think for me too that it was a case of being able to get the proverbial ball rolling too - which I can't really complain about either.

I also took a detour via the nearest little Tesco on the way home and as well as topping up on paracetemol and some other things for the cold, I also noted a couple of potential bargains for food, so I in fact snapped them up and so will be having something nice for tea, complete with some vegetables as well to hopefully be a bit healthier overall and see if that will also help to defeat the nasty little bugs a bit. One good thing is that I can control the heating nicely in the flat, and I have to say it is not cold at all, which is a big positive.

I also rang eON and sorted out the energy with them - the landlord had installed smart meters on a communal energy scheme hence the need to call them up. To be fair they were all good and I was able at least to get that moving (although to be fair I had called before Christmas so something must have gone awol somewhere) - but they also explained why I couldn't have a little smart meter monitor thingy in the house, it was because the meter cupboards with the meters in are just too far away. Gutted really as the one for the heating and hot water works really well actually.

In any case I feel like I've very much got there with the house stuff. The place looks tidy and nice, The Love In My Heart adores it a lot, and for me it was just worth being able to have a place where I would feel happy, comfortable and settled in and without issues. It's definitely something I have taken on board and there is a certain something about really making the break and starting anew in a way (although thankfully some constants like the love from The Love In My Heart are very much in presence!) so there you are. In fact I worked out that the time we spent together this weekend is actually more time than we'd spend if she came over for tea Tuesday and Thursday and then stayed over Saturday night and spent part of Sunday, so the time is more concentrated together, but just more of it...

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather good "What's The Point?" by We've Got A Fuzzbox and We're Going To Use It (or Fuzzbox if you want to use the short name) - and back in the late 1980s it was a mighty catchy little pop song, and even when the remix of it finally arrived on CD on the back of one of the CD singles from 1989's Big Bang album, it was still old school cool. Now I have the CD of the "Bostin' Steve Austin" album I can blast it out, so yaay and all that sort of thing.

Tuesday 19th January - Bunged Up Testing

I spent a fair bit of time today doing some testing, and actually think I've got somewhere with quite a bit of that testing as well, which is rather good really. I also think too that being able to show the test results and how that's progressed is a positive, not least because I was then able to demonstrate how I could remotely shut down (and then power on, even more impressive!) a PC using Intel AMT technology that was pre-configured. It may not necessarily be all it can do, but it's a start to show that the configuration and the way you can talk to the clients actually works really well on the whole.

I also had a phone call from the BT engineer who had managed to visit the communal ground floor block where the phone lines come into the flats. As he and I suspected, someone had been in the day before and essentially been pulling cables out and disconnected other people, me included, hence the fact that no line was present. I had spoken to the concierge and informed him that the engineer had permission to enter, and I knew he had been in as he'd powered on the router and tested that was showing the blue broadband light like it should too, so all good and positive when I got home.

Admittedly though the cold I've now got really does seem to be taking its toll. I did get some paracetemol on the way home and will be taking those as a matter of course to see if that will help me in any way shift the really bad stuff, but it just feels all in the head at the moment. From my point of view, the stuffiness of the warm office isn't helping either - I've wrapped up warm to brave the cold outside (and even for London it is rather cold this week!) but at the same time I do think that it's a massive temperature contrast which isn't helping. My colleague did tell me it was two extremes of heat: none or full blast!

We also had a fire drill go off when I was on the way back from Tesco with lunch and so we headed to one of the cafés in the nearby shopping centre, and had a warming coffee in there once I'd had the lunch as well. It was good to be able to chat away with a fair few of the different teams and that's helping me settle a lot too. I suppose for me that the biggest obstacles were getting to know everyone and seeing how they are, but on the positive side there's some good vibes I think. In fact I made a literal joke but made them all giggle so definitely a positive too. Tune of the day in fact is the excellent "Why Does It Always Rain On Me?" by Travis, just seemed right as the cold came in..

I arrived home and there was a shed load of forms to fill in relating to the house - all the solicitors' forms came in two envelopes, so I spent time filling all of that in which took some time to do but was worth it in the end. I think too that it'll at least get things moving and the fact I've got all of that done first is going to be useful - I just need to post it all tomorrow and make sure that's received without issues (so recorded delivery at minimum I suspect) and take it from there. But all is at least getting there.

Monday 18th January - Faulty Monday

I arrived home from work and noticed that the broadband router was effectively flashing orange and not connecting to the Internet whatsoever which wasn't good. I double checked the line connection and restarted the router just in case, but still nothing. It was only when I tried to make a phone call that I soon realised what had happened - there was a line fault, and I wasn't getting a dial tone whatsoever from the phone either. I had to use the mobile phone to report that to BT and fingers crossed it will be sorted in the next few days. Mind you, I can't check the progress online at home of course.

It's been a mixed day anyway today, and the faulty theme started early on as the trains were delayed coming into East Croydon due to a signal failure further down the line. However, that meant a knock on effect so fifteen minutes delay into there equated into twenty five minutes delay into Blackfriars, so headed across the platforms rather quickly to get the train to Elephant and Castle, and arrived in work around a minute behind what I'd normally be scheduled to start at. Naturally I stayed back a bit later on and made the time up, only seemed right to me.

Talking of faults again though I had spotted an issue with software installation I was planning, and so did some work in the background to get things working correctly. As it was and rather oddly, even though the installer for T-Splines for Rhino from Autodesk had a MSI within its installer, when you ran the setup.exe and went through the network setup, it then allowed you to see in the temp folder a MSI and a MST transform with all the information you'd put in. I took those out and then added a couple of missing properties from the MSI that someone in the Autodesk forums had spotted and badabing, that worked. Hurrah for that really.

I think too that I'm still getting used to a lot of different processes and procedures and understanding how all the infrastructure works, and for me that's a good thing but also a bad thing. I do have a thirst for knowledge and want to really be able to hit the ground running and at the same time not feel stupid if I have to ask a number of questions along the way as well. I did have to ask about how the encryption was handled and the way it is done is different, but no bad thing to have an understanding of that and seeing what would work well.

In the meantime I spent some time doing some ironing and washing tonight, and tune of the day is from the British Steel album by Judas Priest, which I had on in the background whilst doing some of that. In fact it isn't the classic single "Breaking The Law" but in stead the fourth track on the album "Grinder" which really does sound gritty and aggressive at the same time. In fact it showed just how iconic the album was back then and in many ways still is.

Sunday 17th January - Sunday Lunch and Sunday Snooker

I got up and let The Love In My Heart have some time to rest and relax (not having the cats to wake her up is a really nice feeling apparently!) - and soon enough I made us some croissants and coffee for breakfast before sorting out all the stuff we needed to, and The Love had her weekend case packed and ready. I did wish she wasn't leaving on the 2.17pm train back and maybe leaving later in the day, but I suppose that she had to think about sorting work stuff and the cats out too. I was just so pleased she likes the flat and sees why I moved into it, and the fact that she felt happy in it too was all I needed to know.

We left a little earlier as we were going to have one final little treat together - Sunday lunch at one of our favourite pubs! We took the train from East Croydon and tube from Victoria, with The Love noting which way that you went in case she was doing the journey and meeting me in Croydon, and then from Euston the short walk was taken to the Crown and Anchor. It wasn't that full really, and that meant we could get a nice table and one of the Sunday papers, and chill out with a drink and order the food.

I'm pleased to report that the meal was up to the pub's usual standards, with some gorgeous pork for me and half a Shropshire roast chicken for The Love, complete with Yorkshire pudding and all the necessary trimmings as well. I must admit it did feel good to be able to share that moment and chill out with some nice tunes as well at the same time, including the original "A Message To You" as well (make that tune of the day) and so the Sunday lunch time felt that much more relaxing.

As The Love was heading back in first class as well (she was able to get the same deal on the trains) I gave her a massive hug and said goodbye at the first class lounge entrance, and later on she mentioned that the celebrity chef Simon Rimmer was in there as well so she got to see a famous face! The journey back for her was relatively calm although a bit on the slow side, and for me I headed to Notting Hill Gate on the bus and had a mooch around the Music and Video Exchange before getting the tube and train back to East Croydon.

I must admit I did feel sad as I arrived back home without The Love with me, but in one way I also noted the little chalk heart in the kitchen area show me when she was next coming down, and with some kisses. Awww. I was going to watch the afternoon snooker but Ronnie O'Sullivan had effectively taken a 7-1 lead over Barry Hawkins so effectively game over, and thus it proved when I tuned in to the evening session and the final three frames needed were gained relatively quickly.

I did therefore wait for BBC iPlayer to have a drama I'd be looking forward to and at around 9pm, there it was - The Rack Pack. It was a really good drama with focus on the likes of Steve Davis and Alex Higgins. It was well acted throughout with Liam Treadaway excellent as Higgins, and Kevin Bishop as Barry Hearn also spot on too - really got the look and feel of him. I think too that the woman who played Alex's wife Lynn really did have that feisty but yet loving edge, and overall good fun.

In fact lots of true events were really well replicated here - the epic break in the 1982 semi final as Alex Higgins compiled it over Jimmy White, the incident when Alex stayed in the Crucible Theatre after being knocked out and refused to leave, even the Matchroom Mob doing the Snooker Loopy song with Chas and Dave! It was thoroughly enjoyable as a snooker fan, but those who like drama would also have enjoyed it. Bit disappointing that with the early snooker finish it wasn't shown on proper BBC2 so more people would have enjoyed it mind you..

Saturday 16th January - Chilling In Croydon

I don't just mean chill out either, but the fact it was rather cold outside. I must admit I'm feeling the benefit of having some nice heating in the flat, and certainly The Love In My Heart approved massively, especially as well as the fact that the duvet was soft and cosy as well, so all good there. I think too that it was nice to get up and make her some breakfast in bed and just give it a bit more of a special feeling of her being here with me, some nice sausages on toast and a coffee to go with that.

We headed up and ready later on and decided to head to the shops in the centre of Croydon - The Love had a gift card for House of Fraser and thought it would be good to make use of it and treat herself. We did have a walk around both shopping centres: The Whitgift and Centrale, and also along some of the streets including the fruit and vegetable stalls on Surrey Street Market too. Inside House of Fraser we had a mooch at plenty of the stuff including Biba, and in the end she saw a few things in both Oasis and Warehouse within, but plumped for a really lovely pink top in Oasis which had a really nice decorated neck also in pink, and she looked gorgeous in it when she tried it on back at mine later on.

We also ventured around some more of the shops and admittedly I was tempted by a few things but decided to resist for the time being. We did however go in Debenhams for a mooch around and also then for some lunch in Costa Coffee in there, with us both having a toasted sandwich and me a nice Americano to boot. Gorgeous and really nice, and just the thing. We took a relaxing walk back to the flat and spent some time there in the afternoon seeing if we could rearrange a couple of things. One plan I had to place the dining table elsewhere didn't really work as intended and so I think I'll keep it as is and either look at having a PC desk elsewhere or maybe even go for a laptop instead of a PC, we shall see.

We got ourselves showered and ready for later, and I had my new Fred Perry blue with coloured buttons shirt on, which I looked the part in. The Love decided to put her new top on with her nice trousers and we both were ready to have a relaxing evening. We walked down the High Street and to the South End where all the nice restaurants were, and we'd booked a table at the Tree House. For me, it was especially good to be able to have a walk down and show her around, and we'd got a nice table in there too - very rustic and and a charming appearance to boot.

The food was spot on too - both The Love and I were massively pleased overall. The starter I had were two large risotto balls filled with porcini and mozzarella, and a nice plum sauce. The Love had the deep fried brie, and that with the vegetables and the sauce on the side was lovely. I went for one of the specials - the chicken pie, but didn't check if it was a proper pie, and it wasn't. What was in the dish though was lovely, full of chicken and mushrooms in a thick sauce, and the mash with it was also very good, as was the pastry lid, all good. If it was a proper pastry all the way round pie it would have been right up there! The Love did have the rather nice Malaysian spiced pork belly and that was also really good too.

We had had a lovely meal and was reasonably priced, even with the mandatory 12.5% service charge thrown in - something I'll need to keep an eye for in other places I decide to eat out at to get an idea of the costs etc. We did as well walk back down and into one of the pubs along the route, and I had the Wimbledon Brewery "Common" pale ale, which was lovely, and The Love and I had plenty more chatter along the way. It was a really nice thing to do, and we walked back to the flat and spent some time relaxing in front of the telly with the likes of the new series of The Getaway Car with Dermot O'Leary. It was unintentionally funny but I wasn't sure The Love was hugely keen on it as much as me.

We then snuggled up some more and I saw some Match of the Day (make the theme tune tune of the day) and I saw Manchester City cruise eventually to a 4-0 win over Crystal Palace. I do think when Sergio Agüero is back on form we're a different team and his two goals were well taken, and so unselfish of him to actually square it for David Silva at the end when he possibly could have scored himself. I guess that as well that goal difference may yet decide the title so every single goal does count hugely. We'd had a lovely day together and snuggled up in bed with us feeling all happy. A big awww all round I think.

Friday 15th January - At Home With The Cats

Another productive sort of day for me as I was getting down to an issue with a particular software installer where I thought that the install was broken, and a conversation on one web forum proved to me that I was right and that in some strange way it was not me doing anything wrong. I do feel pleased about that and that at least meant I was able to crack on with stuff and be able to at least then see about implementing a couple of planned changes, and one of which got the approval too, so all good.

I did have my first probation review meeting today, and in a good way it was less than I thought it would be. For me at least it's been a month of getting used to a lot of things and I think on the whole I'm hopefully progressing okay and with no issues, and it seems that way from what was said. I know though that this is only the start and I need to really crack on with plenty, but there's lots of positives to be taken from that and I am going to focus on those and not think about what as yet could be changed or improved in terms of processes and indeed the technical side of things - get the feet well under the table before attempting to rock it so to speak.

I do think though that it's shown that maybe taking the big jump I have done isn't as scary as I thought it might be, and another piece of good news arrived today in the form of all the particulars of the house sale. So all good there as well - it's moving pretty quickly and just in case the buyers do pull out, the estate agents have some more viewings lined up and ready and that might yet spur some more interest from people as well, so I think in the way waiting till the New Year was perhaps a wise move.

I had a nice arrival in the post when I got home too, in the form of the cat calendar I'd ordered from Vistaprint and I also ordered a mouse mat as well which has both of Jô and Brian on, The Love In My Heart's two cats. That felt pretty good actually and did mean that I've got them to look at all the time when on the PC or in the kitchen with the calendar there. I'm hoping that once I've got plenty more stuff up and running here that I might even get a picture of them framed and up which will be a nice reminder of Manchester especially.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the excellent "Where Are We Now" by David Bowie, a song I've been playing and listening to a lot this week and it's certainly made more sense for me in terms of where I am and what I am doing now especially. I think too that it's been good to be able to relax and chill out in the evenings and I've got The Love In My Heart due later, and with First Dates on Channel 4 at 10pm, it's a guaranteed watch for us both I think (not least because of Fred Sierix being ace, but also the rather lovely waitress Cici I admit!)

It was also good later on to head to Euston and meet The Love, who had come down on the train this evening (and in first class too for £30, woo!) In fact that journey also meant a hot meal on board and some wine, so that relaxed her nicely. She looked gorgeous as ever and we made our way to Victoria on the tube and then East Croydon on the train, and walked back to my place. She was very pleased with it all and could tell that I'd done a fair bit to keep it very tidy and minimal where possible and also make it cosy which is good.

We did snuggle up and watch First Dates and I opened the bottle of prosecco as well, and we shared that when watching it. Admittedly it was surprising that the two pug owners didn't hit it off, but there's more to love than owning the same sort of dog. Mind you, we quite liked the lovely lady who was in a wheelchair, she was massively funny and beautiful, and the bloke who dated her saw the person and seemed quite smitten too, which was really a good thing to see. They even went to her favourite pastime of bingo as a second date according to the end of the show!

Thursday 14th January - All Systems Go

Another good day of sorts for me today as I spent time being able to sort out a few issues, and one of which I think I've got to the bottom of. It was a strange issue where some new PCs coming in all seemed to show up and then vanish again in terms of inventory and status. A bit of research and testing by one of the colleagues showed that in fact it looked like a number of them had the same Windows SID (Security IDentifuer) and also the machine GUID (normally a 32 character unique ID) so I suspect it was thinking it was the very same piece of kit overall.

I think for me as well that it was good to head out to the work canteen on the first floor now it had reopened and see what that was like, and a few colleagues came along as well for lunch. In fact I had the chicken katsu curry which was pretty spot on, sort of like what I used to adore at Wagamama but not with a less thick sauce, but still tasty enough. I blame one of my Mac colleagues for having Kiss' "Love Gun" on the go with a certain part of the song and drums being in most of our heads for most of the day, so tune of the day that simply has to be because of that.

It was good too that my route home proves pretty good, and normally I'm able to get a seat on both parts of the journey: first off Elephant and Castle to Balham, then from there on the train to East Croydon. Granted it is a local stopping train but usually by Streatham Common it's pretty empty and does allow for some chilled out time on the way homewards. I also was expecting a few things tonight, not least of all a delivery from Tesco. I'd never had the online delivery since I moved, and as I had some Clubcard vouchers to use to get some money off I thought I'd give it a go. Actually, that was a good move as several of the items I wanted were bottles and so would have been heavy if I wanted to carry them.

Thankfully the delivery driver knew the area and came armed with a trolley and with all the items loaded up nicely, and so all was good there as I packed it all away neatly. I think I won't necessarily need to do it every time, usually only when The Love In My Heart is coming to stay like she is this weekend. It was good though to not have to faff around getting the shopping myself, and because one item wasn't in the total was around £30 in all, and all good there. I think too that it just made it all a little bit easier to be able to relax a bit.

And relax I did, watching the Blu-Ray that my friend had got me for Christmas - School of Rock, no less. It's a really classic film with Jack Black in it, and for me it's great to see the youngsters rocking out, who were actually picked more for their musical ability to make sure that they could perform. Naturally it's great to see so many rock songs used, but the theme "School of Rock" itself is pretty brilliant, especially the line of today's assignment being "kick some ass!" and the crowd getting behind them for the encore. If you don't have this film as yet you really need to look into getting it yourself - although the Blu-Ray is admittedly only on US import for some bizarre reason..

Wednesday 13th January - Progress

So another day in the office, and one that felt reasonably productive as I was taking part in some testing and project work to see if I could manipulate a Windows PC and manage it with some IntelAMT type management. Actually, the workstation I did use appeared to be a fairly decent and recent model, and so had a good version of the Intel Management Engine. With that installed (and it even installed version 11 no problem) I was then able to use a utility to be able to provision the AMT stuff and be able to see that in the management console. As to what can be done with it as yet, that's for more experimenting throughout.

I also spent some time this afternoon investigating an issue into the fact that for some reason some new workstations weren't showing up correctly. I suspected a few things and we had a chat as a team as to what could possibly be an issue. It was good to put some things forward and to be involved and I think with each day that passes and the more that I am able to do, the better I'll become at getting used to different systems and different ways of working that appear to exist on the whole. It's a definitely challenging environment but in a way I must admit I do prefer that.

I had just about managed to get the train from Elephant and Castle to Blackfriars and then had to walk very fast between platforms four and one to make the train to East Croydon, but it was good to get across without issues there. It's always good to get a good journey home and on reasonable time, and I think too that for me it's notable that despite the further distance I have to travel, the commute on some days can even be quicker than the two and a half miles I had to travel on the bus between work and my house in Manchester.

And it looks potentially as if I may have a purchase on the house as well. I had as you will know put the house up for sale just before the end of the year, and after one viewing yesterday an offer has gone in which is very acceptable, and so I've agreed to accept it. I'll see how that all pans out over the next few days but it's a positive that hopefully I can get that all moving and sell the house - it's one less worry than and also means that I won't be tempted to head back, as much as I did love the place.

And being home in good time means Great British Railway Journeys (make the theme tune tune of the day) and that for me is a very enjoyable watch - Michael Portillo is as great as ever. I must admit Littlehampton does look nice and I might have to spend some time to visit there once the weather gets a little nicer, and indeed a fair amount of the South Coast towns and villages similarly appear to be so. I must admit though when he hits Cornwall on Friday I'll be looking forward to seeing that massively.

Tuesday 12th January - Solving and Selling

It was good to get to the bottom of a potential issue today where for some reason in Zenworks 11, attempting to publish a Windows bundle from out of sandbox mode seemed to fail rather spectacularly. However, it was a case of knowing what had happened and suggesting a resolution which could be the easiest and most simple fix to implement - and so that it turned out to be too. I must admit I was pleased that my common sense approach there had won the day, always a good thing personally.

It was also good to note later in the day that I'd managed to get to the bottom of installing the 3D Print button extra plugin for Rhinoceros v5, and there was a way that you could also do it for all users too. Granted it did involve a little bit of clever registry setting and also placing the files in a certain place, but it worked flawlessly, and that made the end of the day seem that much sweeter as I was able to feel like I'd achieved a fair bit during the day, and that's a good thing.

I had re-advertised some of the items that hadn't sold on eBay tonight as well. I thought it was a good idea as people might be being paid this week if they are paid middle of the month, so it definitely then means that a bargain could be found for some people. I've also sold my old hard sided suitcase that I really don't need anymore, so that's another piece of clutter soon to be gone, as well as then sorting out a few other things. Generally it's good to feel organised and have things in places as well, just makes more sense to me.

I did watch a documentary on BBC Four later on which was about the railways and their evolution of British Rail particularly in the 1960s and 1970s, from the complete redevelopment of Euston into a more modern streamlined station (the old one looked pretty horrid to be honest) to the rebranding and iconic signage of the stations and trains, with the InterCity service at the time being key - and the HST 125s being the stuff of legend and being popular as soon as they went into service. In fact try going to Cornwall from London and most likely you'll be on one of them, still working as good as ever.

Tune of the day in the meantime is another David Bowie classic, following on from remembering many of his great songs over the last couple of days or so. For me there's a definite feeling that his recent output was just as good as the old stuff, notably the excellent "Where Are We Now?" which really does feel retrospective, wistful but with a degree of being massively uplifted with a huge amount of hope and ambition at the end as the last lyrics build powerfully. Superb stuff really.

Monday 11th January - Shellshocked

Only one thing to start with today - the unfortunate death of musical icon, actor, innovator and all round legend David Bowie. I had just headed on the train from East Croydon towards work when I received a text from The Love In My Heart - not an uncommon occurrence as she often wishes me well for the day. However, she mentioned that David Bowie had passed away and it was all over the news (unsurprisingly) - and as details came in, it was quite a still and silent train carriage as people gradually found out the news on their way into work.

I had a chat with my colleague as he came in and he went "No way, you're joking" only to find out it was true. We had a chat in the office before we cracked on with plenty of work to do and it seemed that a sense of not believing it had hit everyone before it became fact. One of my colleagues lives in Brixton so no doubt that he will be seeing the many people paying tribute close to the tube station at one of the venues that as part of Bowie, and indeed being born in Brixton before moving to Beckenham, one of their own too.

It was hard to concentrate but concentrate I must, and got on with a fair few things today, although it has to be said that due to some work going on over the weekend, there were some issues which prevented me from doing everything I wanted to do. On the plus side though it did mean that we were all in the same boat so in some way that is less frustrating. I think I'm getting used to the different environment but do have a probation meeting later this week, so will be good to see how the powers that be think that I am managing. Everyone in terms of staff have been lovely though.

I headed home and the newer route home I've found seems to get me back quicker than the in/out route previously, so it's Northern Line to Balham and change for the train there to East Croydon. Actually it means that despite the train part stopping at a few more stops, because of the way the timetables work it gets there quicker, and I was back home by 5pm. Not too bad really. It then gave me time to head to the Post Office to post a large parcel which was one of my pictures I had sold on eBay.

Naturally tune of the day is going to be David Bowie, and the only difficult decision really was to think of one which really I adored a lot. I think for me it has to be "The Jean Genie" not least because it was the inspiration for a certain character on the classic BBC drama series (both named after Bowie songs) Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes. It just has a great groove and for me really resembled the glam rock 70s era Bowie at the height of his androgynous powers. I could have picked a high number of songs though such is his superb repertoire over the years.

Sunday 10th January – Walking and Emotional

So it was nice to snuggle up next to The Love In My Heart and have the two cats Jô and Brian also suitably snuggled at the end of the bed. It was Sunday already – the weekend was going too quickly really. Still I was treated to a very nice breakfast from The Love with bacon, eggs and toast. And some orange juice and yoghurt too. Spot on really. It was good to potter about a bit and then think about what to do later in the day.

We decided as it was dry to take a walk around Fletcher Moss Gardens, and that was quite eventful. The rain from last night had meant it was a bit patchy underfoot on the less tarmaced paths, and parts of the path along by the avenue of trees were bad, but as we walked along another of the paths by the gardens, that was pretty submerged in water. It did allow us to clean the footwear though as we walked along so all good there.

Later on it was a nice mooch around John Lewis in Cheadle, getting some ideas for the flat and also having a look in the sales. I must admit The Love was tempted to get some baubles for next Christmas and all that, but even so they were still pricey. Add to that all the Valentine’s Day stuff was out too with lots of sweets with hearts on at massively inflated prices. I was sorely tempted to order one of the desks though and have it delivered, that’s for sure!

We headed back to Piccadilly Station in good time for my 1737 departure and shared a massive hug. The weekend was lovely but it had gone too quickly and I know that it’ll feel like ages till I see her again, even though it will be Friday and we will be at my new place and all that? The train also had a diversion via Wilmslow and Crewe to Stoke-on-Trent due to engineering work, so it was nice to chill out in first class even though I had to go to the shop for my complimentary stuff.

Tune of the day is a straightforward one really – “Disco Inferno” which is the walk on music for the snooker player Shaun Murphy. He was coming out to defend his Masters title, albeit it didn’t last very long as he lost to Mark Allen. He also conceded a frame Dechawat Poomjaeng style after missing a red three times on the trot that was visible and playable – he tried to do a uber nick for a safety but instead it was frame over. Oops indeed.

Saturday 9th January – Empty Spaces

After breakfast I checked a potential delivery that should have arrived for The Love In My Heart – it was a calendar featuring her two cats Jô and Brian in various cute poses. It had been sent by Vistaprint and when checking the tracking, Parcelforce had apparently attempted a December 23rd delivery. Really? In that case why didn’t The Love get a card through the door? Anyway we tracked it was still at the local post office and sure enough, it was. Hurrah. The Love was very pleased.

She dropped me off close to the house so I could get some padded envelopes from the nearest pound shop and then head to the house. I packed up the video tapes I had sold on eBay and sent them off to the Post Office for delivery, then after that I headed to the house. Later on a white van arrived and the sofas were collected, and they were very pleased with them. All good there and another item gone. Indeed I spent some time sorting out and doing some cleaning of the house and getting some bits ready to take to the tip as The Love was doing the same.

The Love came for me later on and we headed to the tip and we got rid of what we needed to and then it was back to hers via Asda. I could keep an eye on the football with Man City winning 3-0 at Norwich City in the FA Cup, then I had had a notification as to another collection later that day. The Love and I then headed back to the house, and took The Love’s little vacuum cleaner with her and we tidied a bit too. In fact the rug in the front room was going to The Love as she could use it for work, and rolled that up neatly. We then had the visitor coming to collect the 95 back issues of Retro Gamer magazine I had sold, and once all tidied and cleaned later we were back at The Love’s place where the lasagne was cooking nicely.

In fact the lasagne was ace and we had that whilst watching the Celebrity FA Cup version of Pointless. Then it was The Voice with The Love all happy it was back on. Amazingly one of the auditionees was Bernie Clifton who sang reasonably well. Ricky Wilson did have to attempt to explain to who he was though which was funny. Tune of the day though was a really darkened gothic piano led version of Abba’s “Lay All Your Love On Me” sung by a lass from Nelson.

Later on we saw the lottery draw with Noel Edmonds pressing the button for the largest Lotto jackpot (later on we found out two tickets had won £33m each – nice!) and eventually on came Match of the Day so I could see the three Man City goals, not least the superb opener from Sergio Agüero. Why the BBC put us on after Man U’s dire game against Sheffield United is anyone’s guess to be perfectly honest? Still though we played well so I cannot complain really.

Friday 8th January – Sentimental Journey

It was a nice day at work all round and got plenty done and planned ahead somewhat for the next piece of work ahead as well. It was also good that we decided to head out for lunch and to the Rockingham Arms, where the fish Friday deal was on. That was gorgeous and we were all going to have the sticky toffee pudding for dessert, except there was none left. I had the pancakes instead but was gutted that the one three of us had looked forward to so much was unavailable. Ah well, maybe next time.

I took the train home via Balham and then got a shed load of stuff ironed, got the case ready and it was off to East Croydon station, getting the train to Victoria and then the tube to Euston. I had arrived in plenty of time too so the First Class Lounge was all mine to enjoy (I had booked the special offer first class seats for £30 for this train) and all was good there as I could chill out and relax before heading to Platform 15 for the 2000 departure to Manchester Piccadilly.

It was a nice and sentimental journey as I sometimes did this train back from a day out in London with The Love In My Heart when we’d both go to Manchester homeward together. None of that now. However I was looked after really well in First Class with nice sandwich, coffee and later on some Redwillow Wreckless Ale that did the job massively. I was pretty pleased all round as it meant I was nice and chilled out on the way up and also meant that I felt special. I think for me that being with The Love is always special but more so when we’re going to have weekends away visiting each other.

The train pulled in and I headed to the pick up point where The Love arrived. It was so nice to give her a massive cuddle and we shortly headed back to her place, where the two cats Jô and Brian were all snuggled up and relaxed too. We had a coffee and catch up chat and it was just nice to be back with her and all cuddled. The little things do mean a lot and I know that it’s the start of a new era in our relationship, one that we are prepared for. Tune of the day infact is the excellent “Sentimental Journey” simply because it felt like that tonight.

Thursday 7th January – Totally Acoustic Thursday

After work it was nice not to necessarily go home straight away but instead to head towards Central London and for tonight’s first Totally Acoustic gig of the year, with MJ Hibbett hosting and playing as ever. I had worked out a route from work and so after staying behind a bit to work on some application packaging, I realised that there was a Wetherspoons pub close to work. This for me made sense because the beer and the food would be cheaper, plus it was also a bit nippy and so a quick walk there was good. In fact it wasn’t full at all so a nice seat by the window and a chicken tikka massala plus a pint was mine. Ooh yes.

From close to work it was then a ride on the 453 bus which went via Westminster Bridge, past Horse Guards Parade to Trafalgar Square, then on to Regent Street before arriving in Portland Place. I knew from here the King and Queen pub wasn’t far away plus there was Tottenham Court Road close by. In fact I walked to there and saw this nice new posh Costa coffee place called Costa Fresco, more fresh food and the same lovely coffee. It was very relaxed so it would have been rude of me not to have a latte really. So I did!

It was back to the King and Queen and I spotted Steve Hewitt outside so I had a chat to him about the move, Exeter City’s chances in the FA Cup etc before heading in and getting a pint of Brakspear Double Drop. I went upstairs and Mark (MJ) was there and all good so customary rock hugs ensued before having a chatter with him, his lovely girlfriend Charlotte and her accountant friend who was also lovely too. All was set fair and after the customary singalong of the Totally Acoustic anthem, it was down to Mark to kick things off. His second song “In The North Stand” about going to football resonated with me a lot so that is tune of the day for me there.

The ever funny and fab Jenny Lockyer was on next and her irreverent sense of humour really got us all in a good mood. I loved the song where she parodied a famous Blur song and instead called it “Mouselife” about being a family of mice who lived in a house and then moved on to the countryside. That was good and so was one of her opening songs where she talked about some of her pets and what had happened to them, but stopped when the third verse started about her sister. It had us in laughter and was a nice start to the evening.

After a short break on came Matt Tiller. He had some short songs, some protest songs and some more dark songs. He sang one about his personal space (or lack of!) and that was good. So was the song about saving bees but instead letting the wasps get a full attack. It did seem maybe a little shouty on occasion reminding me of seeing Oh Standfast at the Edinburgh Festival last year. It was good though and more chatter ensued during the interval with the time going quickly. Aren’t good gigs ace?

Finally on came The Indelicates and they were ace. Despite the small space they had their lovely trio: the keyboard player and singer, violinist who was cool and the bloke on vocals and guitar. They explained the journey in their songs including one about the cult leader David Koresh, and a really gorgeous haunting melody to their song “Class” which even appears in a lyric book that they had. It was a good show all round and I’d have to see them again for definite.

After post gig goodbyes it was the plan to avoid Zone 1 in action, so from the gig, the 88 bus took me to Vauxhall, I hopped on a train to Clapham Junction and then a fast train to East Croydon, then took the walk from there home. Considering I boarded the bus at 10.09 I had got home just after 11pm so that didn’t work out too badly really. And with Zone 1 skilfully avoided (Vauxhall is Zone 1/2 border station you see) no extra travel costs to pay out. Isn’t it great when everything just works?

Wednesday 6th January - For Sale

So then, another moment at work where I realised "ah, so that's what you do!" I had worked out part of the reason why the silent Penguin installation failed. When you graphically select the workgroup node, the serial number pre-populates to PE20-0000-0000-0000-0000-0000. However if left at its default of standalone, it just says PE20- with no remaining part of the serial. I therefore had a look at the MSI installer in more detail in Orca, and worked out that the value LICENSE_PRODUCTKEY property is controlled by that radio button.

So.. what if you populate that property with what it's expected and then do the silent install? Answer: it works! Penguin creates a file called penguin.key in its installation folder (same as if you did the install manually) and then when you run Rhino and call a Penguin render, it all works and is serialised correctly from the licence server. Happy bunny indeed, and a really good one to spot so I'm pleased at times like this that documentation is the absolute key here.

I also spent some time this afternoon with some of the other plugins, but also worked with a colleague to resolve a potential installation issue with a piece of software and found that the majority of the PCs in question not only had the software on but also the correct version as well, so was pretty pleased to be working together and resolving things - as this is often where my strengths lie and I do get some form of satisfaction out of it in a strange and yet wonderful way.

I headed home later via Balham and that worked out fine, but also had some surprises. First off, I sold one of my Rosina Wachtmeister pictures on eBay and the purchaser had asked if I was willing to post it - and worked out the costs, and put them in. They paid the same day. Happy bunny. I've now got it all packaged ready to post for when they would like it posting and that's another thing sold now so all good there. In fact there's been a few bids on some of the other items too so the sales on that side of things are going well.

But also now my house in Manchester is for sale, and viewable online for prospective purchasers. In fact the estate agent rang me earlier today and told me that she had arranged four viewings for today, and this was even before the property had gone online. I suspect having the board up so early is helping and I can imagine that the New Year is time when people start to look to move. I've got lots of positives for the place I used to live in, and hope it does sell. Granted it won't allow me to buy anywhere down here, but it does mean I have money to put away for when I may be looking at buying in the future, so all good there.

In the meantime tune of the day is the excellent "Perform This Way" parody by Weird Al Yankovic from his "Alpocalyse" album that my friend got me for Christmas. It's up there with his usual high standard of alternative versions of hit singles, with completely different words but keeping the main theme intact. In fact several artists have said that they felt that they've made it once Weird Al does a version of their song, so there you have it really.

Tuesday 5th January - Eureka Moment

I did have a couple of Eureka type moments when sorting out the network installs for the network licenced versions of Rhino and Flamingo today. It turns out that Rhino itself has the two other MSI installers for the Help Media and Language Pack, all good there. However, if the files are there from a previous install (and they were in this case despite me rolling back the virtual machine) then they don't install and carry on as they're already there. In some ways that was a good bit of testing to find that out, but just was a little frustrating to a degree till I sorted that side of it out.

There's another moment I'm going to have tomorrow to do with Penguin I think too. Install it graphically, and tell it that it is a workgroup node, all is well and talks successfully to the licence server. However, if you try the silent installation it just fails and doesn't seem to want to know. I have a feeling I know what is causing this and will be trying some things out tomorrow in order to be able to get it all sorted out. It's been good too that I do feel a bit more productive.

In fact part of that productivity was acting on a advisory for updating Adobe Flash Player, and to be fair the colleagues had worked out a really good way of doing it, so I adopted that and then ensured that the correct versions were there and good to go and after testing it was ready to get deployed. Naturally I made sure that I changed all the versioning in the Windows bundle, and one of my Mac specialist colleagues was doing the same on Mac too so it was a good case of working together for a common goal. I kind of like that a lot and hope that I can see that there's a good ethic on the go.

I got home later on via a different way - the Northern Line to Balham first and then the train from there to West Croydon (that and East Croydon are a similar distance apart). That did work reasonably well and I was surprised how busy as a station Balham actually is - granted it's a good and easy interchange to the tube which helps, but a fair number of trains to other destinations also stop there as well. This also of course avoids going into the likes of London Bridge and Zone 1, so my Zones 2-5 travelcard is working out well (and cheaper of course!)

I did have a package arrive when I got home too and that was something I'd ordered for myself - an oak CD shelving unit that claims to house 760 CDs across ten shelves. Actually it was a little more than that, but the unit wasn't too bad to put together (it used to be sold via Argos till they stopped, but the original supplier still had shedloads so I got it from them direct.) The middle shelf is also fixed for stability and it does look classy once all up and now full of CDs too, which means I have no boxes in the front room and kitchen area anymore. And hurrah to that really.

Tune of the day is from one of the new CDs I got at Christmas, which I've now been able to play and also file in alphabetical order in my collection (I am terrible for that I admit.) It's one of the tracks from the excellent "Ten Love Songs" album by Susanne Sundfør, named "Fade Away". It has some beautiful electronics which serve as a backing for a catchy infectious tune and for me the best track of the album - certainly very sing along-able too as well, which is what great songs should all be about aren't they?

Monday 4th January - Back To It

So back to work today and freshly all focussed for the tasks ahead too. I even tried a different train this morning - the 0723 from East Croydon to Elephant and Castle direct - so no faffing around changing trains. It was a little delayed due to over-running signalling work, but made up the time and I made it in time for my start at work too. I might not do this every day but it does at least give me some possible potential for a later start in the day occasionally should I wish to do so and want to finish a bit later, as long as it fits in with the work core hours of course.

I did have a good chat to everyone back from their own breaks and it was good to see everyone doing their best to be cheerful despite it being the first day back and indeed despite it also being a case of that a few things were AWOL for some reason - one of the data centres had had a wobbly and so time was spent getting that all sorted out before then being able to carry on as normal, and on the whole that did go reasonably well, with me working out a plan of action, agreeing a DNS alias change for one of the licence servers, and generally being able to get on with some tasks in hand.

I did head homewards on time and managed to arrive back home to the flat at just after 5pm, a bit of a result really all round. I realised that tonight was the final night of eBay's 1p final value fee offer and realised that a fair few DVDs in my collection are either ones I don't watch anymore, or ones which I have on Blu-Ray and so don't therefore need the DVD anymore. So it was a case of concentrating on them and getting them up on eBay as soon as possible, which had worked out pretty well on the whole it has to be said.

I think for me too it's another case of being ruthless and only keeping what I actually need. What I did realise at the time of the move is that I often am prone to not throwing things away or getting rid of stuff and keeping them too long - not necessarily untidily or hoarding too much, but it is a habit I do need to get out of really. I think too that for me it's a case of prioritising what I can make some money from, and then being able to do what I can to sell it off and that's a few other things gone then.

And joyousness - Great British Railway Journeys is back on the telly (make the theme tune tune of the day). Carlisle looked a lot sunnier as Michael Portillo headed around that, and with the likes of the Carr's biscuit factory and a trip down the line to Penrith, it was very much amongst Northern territory and for me glad to see he's managed to focus a fair bit on Cumbria this time (next time is Windermere to Carnfoth I think) as I think it's a beautiful part of the country.

Sunday 3rd January - Bargains and Bidding

I had a look at what stuff I had left to sort in my new place, and realised there were more things which realistically I could put on eBay and sell. I had been boosted by the fact that the fridge freezer was being picked up later (and The Love In My Heart had arranged to be there for collection, so all was good there) and that it looked like a few other items of mine were going to sell. Also, eBay were doing a promotion where the listing fees were free but also the final value fee was 1p, thus potentially saving quite a bit there as well, so all good.

I realised that not all of the pictures I'd brought were going to be up: a fair few of them are and do look good around the place, giving it a little bit of my own identity, but I also knew that I had no room for a number of them anymore, so they went up, along with one of my Guitar Hero guitars for the Wii (one for Rock Band, one for Guitar Hero should be all anyone needs really) and on top of that, a chunk of old Commodore 64 games that I'd had a sort out in the old place and brought back with me to sell off. They might not get lots, but at least if I do sell them that's one less thing to worry about carrying around too.

I suppose it's a case of being ruthless and just getting rid of stuff that I realistically don't need anymore, and utilising the space I've got to its best potential. I've already got a number of good ideas in the head, but despite the pouring rain I did need to head into the centre of Croydon to get a few bits sorted, such as shampoo for the hair, shaving gel, little things really. I did however go to Sports Direct and locate a smart pair of Levis 514 straight leg jeans, in my size, in dark blue, for a mere £18! Happy bunny at that and it simply had to be done really.

I also picked up the remaining bits from a combination of Sainsburys, Pound World and a picture hook from Clas Ohlson that was the 3M Command type, so my iconic Audrey Hepburn canvas is now up (hurrah.) I did also venture into IKEA as well and got their FIXA toolkit, it's really handy for stuff generally as it means that you have the hammer, screwdrivers with bits and also the spanners necessary to put most things together as required, and it also fits neatly out of the way and into most spaces - no complaints from me really to be honest. Always good to have that sorted, especially as I might be looking into a CD storage unit to compliment the two I've purchased recently and get a high number of CDs into that without issues.

I also spent some time this afternoon watching the BDO World Darts Championship from the Lakeside at Frimley Green. I don't have Sky so am unable to see all the PDC action (but I know there was a nine darter in the semis yesterday - mental.) It's notable how much the nerves of playing at the Lakeside get to some players and indeed as a defending champion it's sometimes difficult to get through the first round, as Scott Mitchell noted today - but took it 3-2 in the end. I must admit if the rumours are true that the BBC are pulling out of coverage, it could possibly be a big body blow for the BDO as a whole though - not sure that BT Sport's viewing figures are any good..

It was nice to put on some of the CDs that I got for Christmas as well, so tune of the day is from one of them - the excellent "Love Is The Slug" from the 2CD reissue of We've Got A Fuzzbox and We're Gonna Use It's debut album "Bostin' Steve Austin". It's one of those songs that I grew up with having owned the vinyl for some time, but unless you paid a fair chunk and had the CD imported from the USA, you couldn't get a UK CD release - till it was reissued a couple of years back, with sleeve notes from Tina from the band too. I must admit whilst most of the blokes fancied Vix (Vickie as she was then) I did have a soft spot for Tina also...


Saturday 2nd January - Down Back Home

I did feel a massive tinge of sadness this morning as I was going to be heading home back to Croydon after a lovely Christmas and New Year with The Love In My Heart. I think too that for me it's been a definitive time in which I've managed to get several things sorted out including putting a shed load of stuff on eBay, putting the house in Manchester up for sale but also seeing family and friends too, and had one last stroke and fuss of the two cats Jô and Brian before The Love got us all ready and with case, bag of presents and camera in tow, it was off to Piccadilly Station.

The Love and I had a massive hug before I left - I really did feel rather sad actually. The good thing is though I am back in Manchester next Friday evening for the weekend, and this is twofold: it'll be good to see The Love, but I also timed a fair number of eBay auctions so that they'd end on the Friday evening and so if anyone was going to pick anything up they'd be able to on the Saturday or possibly the Sunday, which I thought was a sensible move to do overall really. It does mean too that I've got a week or so for items to sell and hopefully be able to do so without delay. We shall see.

So into the first class lounge first off to have a drink and a sit down, all very nice, before heading on the 1055 departure back to London Euston. It was relaxed, had a coffee, had a snack box with cheese and crackers in it, and generally was good to wind down nicely on the journey and be able to watch the world go by. I must admit the booking the tickets for £30 first class was a smart move, especially with the amount of luggage I had but also the quieter carriages and general niceness of Virgin Trains generally helped out loads.

At Euston I picked up the train tickets for next weekend (saves me a job next Friday and also the queues too) and also topped up both the pay as you go balance on Oyster as well as a Zone 2-5 travelcard for the month. I've worked out that most of my work journeys are actually Zone 5 to Zone 2 (Elephant and Castle is a border station on both zones 1 and 2) and as such I don't really need Zone 1 that often if I need to. Here's the other thing: if you do make a journey that includes Zone 1, the Oyster card is smart enough to realise you only need to pay the Zone 1 difference, so if I was taking the train from East Croydon to Euston it'd know, which is pretty smart really. As the Zone 1 single is £2.30, then £10 is enough to include at least four Zone 1s, plus if I was to take the bus straight from work to Euston, buses don't fall into zones and so I can use buses in Central London anyway. The upshot is this: a Zones 2-5 travelcard for the month is £123.70 per month, Zones 1-5 is £212, so you do the maths!

I headed on the 68 bus then the 468 bus back to Croydon (travelcard worked straight off, ace) and although normally I'd do tube to Victoria and train to East Croydon, the stairs coming out of Victoria with a heavy case are a pain, plus also the bus drops me off nearer the flat than coming off at East Croydon station, so in a way that was sensible. I got back in good time to put a shed load of washing on and unpack the case, and also then head out to Iceland to do some bits of food shopping and to get some milk (I did fancy a coffee so only fair really.)

In the meantime, tune of the day is the excellent "Please Help The Cause Against Loneliness" by Sandie Shaw from her excellent "Hello Angel" album. It's a really good album that my friend got me the re-release of recently, which has extra tracks and singles which weren't on CD originally. In fact I do have two Rough Trade singles of Sandie plus the album on Rough Trade too, so quite difficult to get hold of now. That's one I'm mighty proud to own actually, I remember reading her autobiography and it went into the making of the album at some length, too.

Friday 1st January – New Year Walk

The Love In My Heart and I saw the remainder of the fireworks from London, including in one part a nice snippet and a bit of Apollo 440's “Stop The Rock” which was a welcome and unexpected surprise, and we then turned back for the remainder of Jools Holland's Hootenanny. Some really nice things happened: a duet with Paul Weller and Tom Jones, and also James Bay as well, plus some more than welcome contributions from the likes of KT Tunstall. Perhaps what was lovely was that everyone and the orchestra got together at the end for “Enjoy Yourself” in loving tribute to Rico Rodriguez, and even at this early hour it is tune of the day.

After a good night's sleep The Love In My Heart and I got up and had some breakfast before thinking it'd be nice to go for a walk to see in the New Year with a bit of an outside trek. In fact we had thought about where to go and decided on Dunham Massey, primarily as the paths would be nice to walk along and indeed that the deer may be out as well. So once we'd all got ready The Love headed towards the city centre, down Princess Road and the M56 and before long (after waiting to park up) we were set fair in Dunham Massey.

We walked along one of the back paths at first which takes you along the bottom of the park and towards the water mill, and then joined one of the main paths along which takes you towards the deer sanctuary. And in fact hidden away amongst some of the trees and woodland were indeed some adult deer, and in a far corner where plenty of deer were grazing, lots of smaller baby deer with no antlers growing from them as yet. In fact it was nice to see so many people about but as equally enchanted by the deer as well.

In fact our walk took us along past the Island Pool and deer to the far gate where the scout camp is now located, and then along the path close to the new trees and the outer wall before joining the main drive and walking back towards the house, and around a mile and a half at least in all. It was a little frosty and cold but yet clear and fresh air, and that was rather nice all round. The Love does feel the cold in her hands so we thought a nice warm pub and a drink would get us warmed up nicely.

And so it proved – a quick trip over to the Axe and Cleaver in Dunham village, and we got a table and I had the Mobberley Brewery Solstice ale, which was gorgeously ruby red and lovely. We had a nice chat and I'd warmed her up nicely, and even spotted a former colleague who worked in another department with his new baby, and had a chat with him for a bit too which was a welcome surprise. In fact the atmosphere generally was very chilled out in there and I know that being in nice pubs in the countryside is one thing that The Love and I enjoy, and something I'll miss about our quality time together especially during the Summer evenings.

We headed back to The Love's place and it was a nice chilled out afternoon for us both, well what was left of it, as we caught up with Gogglebox 2015, the best of the year, and we had a giggle at that, and The Love made a gorgeous roast chicken meal which really did taste gorgeous and set us off wonderfully well for the new year. I know when I go back home tomorrow I will miss her massively, but the being together over the festive period has been rather special and something I am going to treasure hugely, she's been so lovely to me.