Dear Diary... January 2019

Thursday 31st January - I Have The BIOS Power

One of the things I've been assigned into checking over at work at the moment is a straightforward way that we can ensure that only certain devices are bootable - and that you can't for example boot from a USB stick or indeed for that matter any other portable device that you plug in. Ideally, it'd be only a case of the hard drive by default and the LAN if you select to PXE boot and wanted to do a rebuild. Of course there may be some other lockdowns lurking also, but the first thing was to check what settings were consistent across machines.

One good thing for Lenovo machines is that a significant number of settings in their BIOS settings were the same throughout, meaning that if you were scripting some settings using their defined WMI classes, you would then be able to have them set the same way. There's also a very useful command indeed which dumps out all of the settings, which means you can then utilise them in order to set the settings and do a final save of those afterwards.

With that all armed, it was then a case of me going through two particular settings, one for the setting of the boot order (ie: HDD0 then PCILAN) and the other which would lock the boot order in place, so you couldn't change the order itself. With those settings discovered, I attempted to set some scripting manually and that appeared to work nicely, the settings were saved, and all good to go. Sure enough, I then restarted the machine, I had a notification that the settings were applied correctly, and badabing - it had the order I wanted.

My next phase was then to put those additional commands in a Powershell script that I already had running which set some other settings for consistency, and thus far this appeared to work rather nicely. I set off a complete build task sequence with the settings reset to their defaults before booting, and it all worked. Very well too, and I have to say that pleased me immensely. I'd also know that we'd be able to push some settings out to existing machines to match as well, which is nice.

Later on at home I watched the latest episode of Hunted (theme tune of which deserves to be tune of the day) - and definitely the bloke who served in the Royal Navy was doing his best to wind up the Hunters by setting a staged rendezvous on a beach in Devon, but they didn't turn up as they had worked out his friend was helping, so it'll be good to see next week what happens there. No one was caught this time around but some close shaves nonetheless...

Wednesday 30th January - You Got Love Technique

Today marks a mere thirty years since New Order's seminal Technique album was released (that's back in 1989 folks). It really did for me show that the band were still going on their own path and also embracing the culture around them - with a more dance music feel to some of the tracks whilst balancing their nice guitar based stuff that the albums always seemed to have. Naturally the lead off single Fine Time had shown that they were embracing such influences such as acid house and managing to make a stonking tune at the same time too - well worth snagging the 12" single of that if only for the inspired bit of Peter Saville artwork along the way.

I proudly own the Factory Records original CD release of this album (FACD275 for the train spotters out there) and straight from the word go, it's a no messing no filler forty minutes of sheer genius. Nine tracks, all of them appearing to fit very well. You have of course the second single Round and Round, which really does set the tone well for the upbeat and more content feel of the album as a whole - and even the guitar inspired tracks such as Love Less have a really nice melody and just fit alongside also.

I have two particular tracks that I love on this album: Run, which would become the single Run 2, is still one of New Order's finest pieces, and they of course had to pay royalties to John Denver due to some similarities musically to Leaving On A Jet Plane (which Factory reluctantly settled out of court) - which always makes me smile when I listen to it. I think too there's a real sense of an upbeat feeling and some cracking lyrics in the verse especially that makes it work.

But tune of the day and perhaps one of the finest tracks ever by said band is Vanishing Point, which has a killer bass line and a subtle use of electronics throughout, and the bass guitar of Hooky cuts in at just the right moment along with some perfect synth leads during the introduction part, the intermission and lead. "My life ain't no holiday" sings Barney, and he's not wrong. In fact, some of you will remember that the instrumental version of the tune was a massive title theme for the TV series Making Out at the time, which was hugely popular (it was an essential watch for me for definite, that's for sure.)

So all in all, still stands up very well as an album and proves just how in the right mood New Order could get when they put their minds to it and didn't argue amongst themselves. It would as it turned out be their final album for Factory before the label went bump and New Order signed to London Records for their 1993 follow up Republic (cue Regret video with David Hasselhoff and all) but as it turned out, a good way to go - rather it have been a really good album and all.

Tuesday 29th January - Beaten by Barcodes

I had had a busy day at work so it was good to head off homewards, have some tea and then get myself ready to watch the Manchester City away game at Newcastle United tonight. It was another tough game potentially, and knowing that a win would at least ensure that City would go a point behind Liverpool in the league meant that it was important to keep up all the flow of the last month - where City had scored thirty goals in all competitions and had won their league games including a vital win against Liverpool.

I had managed to at least locate a live stream in time for kick off - and was pretty glad I did to be honest. With the first attack of the match, City went forward and the ball was put into the box, David Silva met it, headed bravely in front of the keeper and back into the six yard box and Sergio Agüero did the business to score the opener and 1-0 to City. What I didn't realise at the time was that was as good as it was going to get for the evening. City pressed on but couldn't score a second.

Then a slightly controversial moment. The referee had given City a free kick but he claimed he wasn't ready, despite Kevin de Bruyne's quick thinking and a through ball to Agüero to score. The referee instead booked de Bruyne and it almost seemed from that point that the momentum stopped. It wasn't good. In fact we looked decidedly not ourselves going towards half time and I thought straight away that taking a 1-0 win would probably be a good thing.

I wish. Newcastle equalised in the second half when a ball was hit forward, and confusion between the defenders meant that Solomon Rondon had the easiest header possible and scored with it for 1-1. City still looked to go forward but weren't really penetrating enough, and faffing around in our own box, especially not recommended since we almost gave away a cheap goal against Burnley on Saturday, meant that Fernandinho committed a foul and it was a deserved penalty to Newcastle.

Despite the wait for the injury to Ederson, I had a feeling Matt Ritchie would score the penalty - and he did, and that was 2-1. City huffed and puffed but didn't seem to be able to unlock a resolute Newcastle defence at all, and so it was a defeat for the Blues, and the first time in the league we had lost to Newcastle for a very long time. Not what we wanted really, and tune of the day has to be "Disappointed" by Morrissey, sums up a lot of feeling for the game tonight. It just didn't happen for us, and it to be honest couldn't have happened at a worst time either.

Monday 28th January - Chop It All

It was a case of head down and getting on with plenty today - not least as I wanted to finalise the revised Windows Image (WIM) complete with Office 64-bit for those that may need it. I knew what updates I needed to snag and so it was a case of being able to get all of these downloaded, matching what updates I had got for the 32-bit release, and then from there working on a way to ensure that I could set off the WIM creation, get the image all sorted out, and then get that into SCCM ready for distribution as a new release and all sorted nicely.

It does take longer, primarily because of the fact that the Office installer is the MSI version - as Microsoft provide a comprehensive list of which updates you need to include in the updates folder on top of your main installer with all the customisations. That works nicely for checking purposes, although I can see why places use the click to run version more often - you can easily package that installer quicker and know which version you have with all the updates included overall. It also does mean that you have in essence, less layering on to do, but it is horses for courses.

I decided that I was going to get my hair cut later in the day after work, so it was off to Edgware Road tube station and from there on the District Line and towards Wimbledon Park and James the Barbers, where I must admit it felt rather nice to have the clippers do their thing and see all the thick mess of hair come off - and then some. It did seem like it was about time to be honest, and I know for me that keeping this all neat and tidy will just make things seem that bit smarter too, so happy days all round.

I headed homewards later and popped into one of the local off licences that has a really nice line in lots of different ales in there. I had noted that they had stocked up on all sorts and for me it was well worth noting what they had for when my friends stay in a few weeks time as well. I then got myself back in good time for the FA Cup fifth round draw, with Manchester City present in it and it would be interesting to see how that went, especially with two Arsenal legends Ian Wright and Alex Scott doing the draw.

And - well, Chelsea v Man U! That worked out as one to avoid for City of course, and we had been drawn the ball before which meant an away trip to either Newport County or Middlesbrough. Neither of them would be easy as there's potential for a shock result, and that gives Newport a huge incentive at home for the replay against Middlesbrough - their chairman was more than happy seeing that draw. With that in mind, the magic of the cup is all alive and well, and "A Kind of Magic" by Queen is tune of the day for that reason...

Sunday 27th January - Sunday Shopping

It was nice to have a long lie in this morning, admittedly. I think for me the important thing was that I was able to have a good rest, and The Love had been up with Brian the cat letting him play out and have some Dreamies, but she was soon back being all snuggly, with Brian taking his customary position on the edge of the bed and all being rather nice and comfortable all round. He just loves to sprawl out and to be all relaxed, and a look of "tickle me Mummy" on his face too. He is just so adorable.

We had some breakfast later on and got ourselves all changed and ready, and decided as the weather wasn't the best that a walk in the countryside might not be ideal, so instead went for a trip into the city centre on the tram. The tram was fairly busy but we got a seat, and they were on a different route to Bury today due to engineering works, so that meant we could get off at Market Street and take a stroll down there for a change and have a mooch around too.

The first stop was Zara, as The Love had a gift card for there from our friends for Christmas and so wanted to treat herself. We did look at the sale items and some things caught her eye, but I also spotted these nice leather ankle boots, which were also reduced in the sale from £80 to £29.99, and more than that, the pair I picked up were in her shoe size. She tried them on and they were a little bit awkward to get on at first, but once on they fit nicely and felt comfortable and classy. She put the remainder to herself but she was more than happy to do so - absolute bargain all round really!

That went well, and we even picked up a nice item in Oliver Bonas later on as well as had a good mooch around some other shops. In fact we spotted a nice new place in the Arndale (as also the new branch of Gap which had moved from its former home of St Ann's Square - which to be honest it was best staying at - the Arndale branch already had leaking air conditioning and plaster falling in.) So the new place in the Arndale was a Japanese inspired shop called Kenji - and that was pretty fab all round.

Imagine if you like a shop that was a cross between the excellent Flying Tiger, IKEA and had all cutesy stuff that is part of Japanese culture, and you're pretty much there. The Love couldn't resist getting a little cat pen where the tail was also the bit you pressed to retract the pen nib. Cute. In fact I could have gone back in there and bought lots of little bits, but I decided against it for the time being. We did later on also have some well earned late lunch in The Bank too, I had the pie which was spot on and really full of meat, and the classic Nicholsons Pale Ale to boot. Well, why not?

We headed back to The Love's place and relaxed for a bit before it was time to head off to Manchester Piccadilly for the 2021 train back to Euston. The nice thing was that it was quiet and so I put on the headphones and some music on, namely some KMFDM, so "Krank" is tune of the day as thet kept me going as the train sped through the dark. In fact I got to Euston 15 minutes early (the train is due in at 2256 but that allowed for a slow run in from Milton Keynes and this wasn't) which meant I got home a fair bit earlier and literally headed off to bed to face another week at work.

Saturday 26th January - Burnley Burnt

It was an early start for me this morning, leaving my place before 0700 and heading off to East Croydon to get the train to Victoria, then the tube to Euston, and was going to get a coffee from Pret at Euston before heading on the 0820 train to Manchester. Nope. That, Caffé Nero and another place was shut down as part of the HS2 works around Euston, so it was a case of just getting myself a bottle of water and then heading on the train. The water did allow me to take a cold and flu tablet - still bunged up - and then have a relatively relaxed journey on the way into Manchester - a few minutes delayed, mind you.

The Love In My Heart came to collect me and all was well with her, and indeed with Brian the cat, who even let me stroke him and give him a bit of a love - I had missed him a lot actually. We had a relaxed rest of the morning with a bacon sandwich and some coffee, and also took the time out to nip into Asda and get a few bits along the way. The good news was that she had gone to pick up her father later so got to spend a bit of time with him as well before heading off to the football - he seemed in fine spirits.

I met up with my friend and it was off to the Etihad to see Manchester City against Burnley in the fourth round of the FA Cup. There had already been a game on with Derby County winning at Accrington, and a lot of games being Saturday 3pm kick offs for a change, including ours. City were up for this with a strong side, and former keeper Joe Hart only being named on the bench - very much down the pecking order these days even there. City were looking for an early goal and wanted to do well, so a strong side and with the rain pouring down massively, it was a case of earning the money today folks.

City pressed well and half way through the first half, a ball down the left found Gabriel Jesús who turned two defenders inside and out before drilling a low shot past Nick Pope for the opening goal. Try as City might, and with the lousy weather, we couldn't go beyond a single goal and 1-0 at half time seemed pretty tight. It was even more so later as Vydra missed a golden opportunity for Burnley after a dreadful touch from Nicolas Otamendi, being caught in possession. Had that goal gone in, might have been a different kettle of fish.

As it was though City went down the other end and some good work from Kevin de Bruyne found Bernardo Silva and his low shot cannoned off Pope and in for 2-0. A few minutes later and the ball was worked to the right to find de Bruyne and he rifled it home low and hard with the keeper having no chance for 3-0. City's response was to rest Fernandinho and bring David Silva on, and then later on bring on Sergio Agüero and Phil Foden too - showing that little bit of ruthlessness as well as squad rotation. Before de Bruyne came off for Foden, he had put a low cross in and was only helped in by Long in the Burnley defence.

The same Burnley defender then saw it fit to haul back David Silva in the penalty area for no reason at all, and with Jesús subbed, it was Agüero to score the penalty and make it 5-0 for City, and the 30th goal in this month for the Blues too. Awesome stuff. We had the likes of Supra's version of Blue Moon belting out (make that tune of the day) and all was well. Some shocks later though: Millwall beat Everton 3-2 and AFC Wimbledon beat West Ham 4-2, major shock that one!

Friday 25th January - Decisions, Decisions

Plenty of decisions and thought processes to be made during today, but sensibly for me some plans of action as well to take things forward over the next month so. The good thing is that I know that some of the larger obstacles have now been overcome and all is good on that side, and that it's a case of concentrating on some testing and ensuring that where possible we're all singing from the same hymn sheet. Thus far, it definitely seems that despite some testing, one of the apps has to be installed post-build.

And having tried that out, in effect it's an installation that works once a user has logged in. The install works, you then exit at leisure and once restarted everything plays ball with said app, and does what it says on the tin. It is of course an optional one to have and for a certain type of laptop, but it does mean with it enabled that there's more which can be done if you have it, so all good. I got a colleague to road test the whole process and for them that worked pretty nicely, so all good.

My other decision was whether or not to watch the FA Cup game later tonight on Match of the Day on BBC1 as it was Arsenal v Manchester United, but I guessed that actually it'd be good to see who would go through and as I wasn't heading on a train up North, decision made. Actually it was definitely a game where Arsenal looked okay going forward but their defence was not so good - and in fact two breaks within short succession of each other both resulted in United goals - the second goal from Lingard had some shocking defending from Arsenal - Alan Hansen would have had a field day let me tell you.

Arsenal did come back into it a bit and got a goal back before half time, but their defence still looked fragile and so it proved in the second half. Paul Pogba was allowed to go almost the whole half of the pitch unchallenged before putting in a low shot which Petr Cech could only parry straight into the hands of Anthony Martial who finished the job off and it was 3-1 to United. On the whole it was a relatively easy win for them and shows how much Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has made the difference for United since he took over from Jose Moaninho.

I did attempt to head off to sleep later on because I was on an earlier train to Manchester tomorrow to see Manchester City in the FA Cup fourth round and that definitely was one I was looking forward to. I couldn't rest my eyes so I decided to listen to some music and perhaps fittingly, "Isomnia" by Faithless was the tune of the day. I can't. Get. No. Sleep. Still a massive tune that one and to be fair it's one which stands the test of time remarkably well too.

Thursday 24th January - I Rule!

If I say so myself, that is. So I decided to look at some of the scripting involved in one of the Word templates that seems to be a master that other templates use, and has various modules and procedures that act as a dependency accordingly for others as well. It was particularly interesting because I had already ascertained that in fact the main issue was around code and how some of that code was based on what operating system it detected, and then set some variables for the user profile accordingly. So naturally when I checked that I could see older OSes including the main current Windows 7 out there, but (and large but) no Windows 10.

Then as I examined the code further I realised that actually, there was no need necessarily for all the if then statements in two sections of that code. Effectively it said if the OS was say an older version of Windows, it would use the old C:\Documents and Settings\<UserID> path for the profile folder. However of course later on and in Windows 7 that had changed to C:\Users\<UserID>. So, if I took out the if statements for the older OS and the newer OS, and just set those fields as statements accordingly because they would be the similar path, the variables set in those statements get populated, and therefore none of the "System.PrivateProfile" error messages.

So I spotted two main places where this code was, I edited that out and then re-saved the template, of course keeping a copy safe for important reasons. I then went into two templates where it called a form and refused to work previously with that error, and - badabing! The first one worked, I could enter what I needed, and all was good, and I was then able to enter the second one accordingly in the same way, and that also worked spot on without any issues either. I sent it over to my colleague who is pretty good on her Office and Word stuff so she could give it the once over, and came back to me this afternoon with a happy smile confirming that all was good.

Even though VBA and editing code like that is definitely not my thing - at all - remembering my old programming skills from both Commodore BASIC and indeed some 6502 machine code certainly helped tweak the old brain cells, and with no disruption, managed to just concentrate on getting the job done, and done well. I think that's the main thing for me, if I am able to crack on, I get results and often that's really needed. I think one of my colleagues said that I never give up and keep going to find an answer, and that is a part of me that I know is something positive (but also can be too over-determined too, very fine line.)

I can't complete today though without a mention that twenty five years ago today, one of my favourite albums of all time, Kristin Hersh's sublime "Hips and Makers" was released. I remember buying it from good old Power Cuts in Manchester at the time on CD, and it was that or a 10,000 Maniacs album - think it was the MTV Unplugged release (I should add I do like Natalie Merchant as well, so I did get said album a few weeks later anyway) - but wanted to hear her on her own after years of some excellent work with Throwing Muses. Tanya Donnelly had already had the first Belly album out some time before too, so I was hoping Kristin could do herself justice.

And how. It's an emotional tour de force. Yes, you have Michael Stipe from REM on Your Ghost, but the remainder of the album is purely intense and yet sparse at the same time, often with either strings or piano as well as some luscious acoustic guitar that sets the sandscape wonderfully well. You can tell that the emotions are laid raw, especially on "Close Your Eyes" where the acoustics sound angry and frenetic until half way through with the pause of Kristin singing "Stop! You ruined all my memories" and then falling back to a slow acoustic lull and the underlying line of "I can't breathe" throughout. Amazingly beautiful and tune of the day for that reason.

Suffice to say if you don't already own this album and you may have picked up Kristin's recent album Possible Dust Clouds last year, you need to go back and source yourself this absolute gem - I've linked to the 4AD store as that was her UK label for that, and they're fab whenever I've ordered from them before. It's still one of those albums I go to when I feel the need to have a really quiet relaxed listen, and it's for me one of the real musical highlights. Ever. That and the absolutely majestically angry "Your Dirty Answer" from the Sunny Border Blue album - oh yes.

Wednesday 23rd January - From Warm To Freezing

There's definitely two extremes in the day for me at the moment. At home, the flat is nice and just the right side of warm without being too hot and stuffy, and certainly makes me feel nice and cosy when I get home and realise that it's not cold at all. When I get up in the morning, it's nice and warm too, so definitely a positive. The train seems to be doing its best Toasted by Thameslink impersonation at the moment with the temperature cranked up a little bit too much, so you feel a bit urgh when you get off. And the walk from the station to home, and the tube station to work - not ideal either. A tad cold actually.

Today I spent a fair amount of time working out some sensible plans of action for the next few days and I had already commenced snagging all the Office 2016 updates ready to go for the next Windows Image (WIM) creation for Windows 10. In fact there's a good series of pages where you can cross check what you should have in terms of updates so that they will install when Office installs, meaning that when you create the image, all appears there and all appears well. Nice, I know, but good to at least have that check to be able to do first.

I'll set off with that tomorrow once I've added the monthly cumulatives in, and should all be good to go from there too. In the meantime though I also investigated something - in that one piece of software that should be present when Windows 10 is built with the task sequence doesn't appear to be there. I could see that it was definitely present and indeed definitely deployed and the status shows correct, but I have a feeling just why that didn't work so will reconvene tomorrow and check that out.

The cold has definitely got me down a bit and it's a case of concentrating on other things so as not to think about it too much, so tonight was a chance for me to relax with a coffee and watch the Manchester City game at Burton Albion in the Carabao Cup semi final second leg. City had of course won 9-0 at home at the Etihad and so this game was a chance to play some more youngsters as well as first teamers needing some game time such as Kevin de Bruyne, Sergio Agüero, Riyad Mahrez, Danilo and so on. Fair play to Burton, they did have a go despite being 9-0 down on aggregate.

City did score midway through the first half when Mahrez found Agüero and the business was done, but I suspect that actually it was a case of he should have done that earlier with a similar chance. The City fans were singing their newish empty seats song to the theme of Rotterdam by The Beautiful South (make that one tune of the day) and it's a case of being self-defacing taking the mickey out of themselves at how other clubs are obsessed by the number of empty seats we may have during a game. Other clubs have the same issue, so there is I think a smidge of jealousy..

Tuesday 22nd January - Coughing and Spluttering

It definitely didn't feel so good when I woke up this morning, and I had attempted to dose myself up where possible in order to avoid a cough and a cold coming on. I did at least manage to cough up some phlegm (so attractive, I know) before heading off to work, and that was good to get out of the system, but I did feel like some form of badness was settling on the chest. However, that's not enough to keep me away and I soldiered on regardless, as there's plenty to be getting on with to say the least, and that is a massive understatement.

One thing I'd been spending some time on is the fact that some of the custom Word templates, which appear to be full of macros and VBA, don't appear to like to play ball on Windows 10, despite seemingly working on Windows 7 with the same version of Office. I ended up having to obtain the protected template password, thanks to my colleague, and delving deeper. A lot deeper. And it does appear like there's some statements set depending on which OS is in use. So, if it's say Windows 7, it sets some variables, but nothing for Win10. Hmm. I suspect there's probably a lot of code digging that may need to be done similarly, but it's a starting point at least for me to move with.

The underlying sense I seem to get though is that despite my best efforts, the cough is doing its utmost to settle in the chest. I did pick up some bronchial balsam that I normally get from the local pound shop on the way home, which does help, and I'm sure I've still got some Olbas oil somewhere so that'll be going on a pillow too. At least I've not got any snow as is attempting to fall in Manchester at the moment, there is the odd little bit of sleet outside but nothing too drastic either.

I think too that it does give me a sense of perspective that living in a warmer healthier place that my flat is has made me less prone to illness generally. In the last three years I've only really had the odd cough or cold and not much else than that - I think that's because of the stable environment - and less germs and damp around the place obviously. Maybe in hindsight I could have moved house before I even went to London and sold my old place for what I could get, but hindsight, as they say, is a wonderful thing. I will of course miss my old house because of the happy memories I had with friends, family and The Love In My Heart, but that was then, this is now.

I also noted a bit of snooker history being made today - which could have happened on Saturday when Ding Junhui was rather unlucky in the Masters. So today in Group 5 of the Championship League, Dave Gilbert in his match against Stephen Maguire made the 147th maximum 147 break in the history of snooker. It may have been in a lower event and having it at the Masters would have been good, but still, history made. Maybe it'd be nice to either have the 150th 147 at the Crucible, or potentially, Ronnie O'Sullivan getting his 1,000th century there? Both could be doable I guess, and with the great snooker theme of Drag Racer playing - make that one tune of the day.

Monday 21st January - How Does It Feel?

So all the hype everywhere in the news is all about so called "Blue Monday" and how it's a day somehow where people feel most down about going to work. I don't buy that hype. None whatsoever. For me, if you do have mental health issues with say your workplace, it's more than likely that they've been festering for some time and not just a one-off moment on one day either, and it's a case of that there's not enough employers who actually take those issues seriously and offer support, guidance and advice to assist.

For many of us, January is always a longer than anticipated slog generally, primarily because in a number of cases you've been paid early before Christmas, but that often means a six to seven week delay before you then get paid again. When you add the potential that you may be out more over the festive period and there's all sorts of bills to pay off, it's natural that everyone wants their January pay to come round. I used to like the fact at one place I used to work that you got paid on the 15th of the month, and that at least split every month equally - much better. In fact, that'd be nice right now.

I did have a good chat with The Love In My Heart later and we were both content to be in the warm too - it was freezing outside it has to be said and I do have the start of mainly a cough coming on, which I've been trying to ward off where possible, especially before the weekend and the football. I actually made sure also I got BBC North West on iPlayer as I wanted to watch the Inside Out special tribute to the late Dianne Oxberry, showing her final report on the police horses of Merseyside with the family's approval. It was clear she loved horses and it was a fitting report to do for her.

Of course with all the talk of so called Blue Monday, it was of course time to belt out, in contrast, a proper tune that the New Order classic is of the same name - and of course tune of the day. At the time, being released on 12" single only in an expensive die-cut sleeve was a risk - but the quality of the tune, the structure and flow set it above all else at the time. Naturally Factory Records didn't cost it properly and actually lost money on each pressing, but one million sales later and everywhere playing it, it became a de facto standard for dance music of the time. The electronics, the killer bassline, and the almost droned vocals from Barney, and all worked seamlessly.

Interestingly too, I also noted that the Robinsons Brewery based in Stockport have a new seasonal ale out in February and March of the name Brew Monday - with a clear nod to the Peter Saville artwork for the Blue Monday '88 single cover. In fact with JW Lees also having One Day Like This in a nod to Elbow, and other seasonal ales with nods to New Order, Buzzcocks and Oasis, it's clear that regional pride and influence is certainly a selling point these days. Of course back in the day Robinsons actually had the Build A Rocket Boys ale brewed in conjunction with Elbow themselves.

Sunday 20th January - Commencing The London Loop

So with the Jubilee Greenway completed yesterday, I decided that another walk today was in order, and useful to keep myself fit and to explore more parts of even further out suburbia. I had checked the TfL website and had found that the London Loop was just that - twenty four mammoth stages totalling around 150 miles or so which effectively skirts round the major outer borders - some of which are even beyond Zone 6 in London fare terms. I did note that a couple of the stages weren't that far from me and reachable, including one from Coulsdon South to Banstead Downs, four and a half miles worth.

I had my breakfast and then headed off to the bus stop and to wait for the 405 bus to Redhill, which would take me through Purley and Coulsdon before dropping me off to Coulsdon South station. A nice information board there detailed the section I was about to walk, and once I headed through some streets in Coulsdon, I headed over the Tattenham Corner branch line and on to Woodmansterne Road, where the direction arrows for turned right also had a notable sign for the "Avenue Verte" - cycle route 20 which was from London to Paris. Wonder if anyone has done the whole of this route?

Once climbing up the hill, I crossed the border into the London Borough of Sutton and to The Mount, with a large tree and some shops plus a closed down pub, before following a bridleway off the end of Grove Lane, and this kept going for around a mile, heading towards Carshalton Road. A divert left took me through the Carshalton Road Pastures, with its chalk based grassland being reliably solid to walk on. It was then a walk up the road and to divert over five styles in all, heading eventually through the middle of the lush pastures of Mayfield Lavender Farm before then off to Oaks Park.

Oaks Park has a good information board (and a café which was tempting to stop at) - and the board explains how Lord Derby and Lord Bunbury decided the name of a famous horse race by the toss of a coin. So we could have the Epsom Bunbury today if it went the other way of course! It was then following the path to the left of the park and eventually down a road to the long bridleway that is Freedown Lane. This rose gradually past fields and skirted the outer walls of HMP High Down prison, which looked imposing as a backdop.

Crossing the road at the end of Freedown Lane, it was on to Banstead Common and a walk downhill, over the Epsom Downs branch line and then left towards Banstead Downs Golf Club, having to walk over the 7th fairway on the way to the very busy A217 road - golfers have to cross this twice during a round! It was then crossing the 13th fairway and to an inauspicious sign which marked the end of the section. I followed the loop link path which took me to the road and ultimately to Banstead train station (nowhere near the centre of Banstead incidentally!) and I timed it so well that the train arrived in two minutes!

I took the train back towards West Croydon and had enough pay as you go balance on the Oyster card (as Banstead is Zone 6, so would need to pay that part of the journey) - and once back, I headed home and saw the remainder of the Huddersfield Town v Manchester City match, with City winning 3-0 and two quick goals back to back from Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sané doing the business, so back to four points it is. Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather excellent "Murder My Heart" by KMFDM, which I listened to on the iPod as I headed back on the train.

Saturday 19th January - Jubilee Greenway - Tick!

One of the things I've done on weekends when The Love In My Heart and I have been apart, for example if we've needed to do our own thing or if the trains have been too expensive, is to take a number of walks and get fit whenever I can. I completed all fifteen sections of the Capital Ring walk some time ago, have done a number of parts of the Green Chain walk, and having done the first seven sections (plus the branched section ten) of the Jubilee Greenway walk, it would be good today to get it complete, with sections eight and nine totalling just under five miles in all.

I had some breakfast and then headed to East Croydon station to take the fast train off to London Bridge, where I would be taking the walkway along to the other side and to Tooley Street. From there I followed the road around and cut past the Ivy restaurant to Tower Bridge, where section eight starts. It's effectively a walk along the River Thames all the way along the South Bank and Bankside, taking in the likes of HMS Belfast and the Hays Galleria on the way to London Bridge with its experience and the Dungeons.

Once past there, it was nice to see Southwark Cathedral resplendent in the Winter dry and cloudy weather, with The Shard lurking in the background. It was then along Cink Street past the site of the former Cink Prison and under the railway arches towards the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and then the London Millennium Bridge (aka the Wobbly Bridge due to its original wobbles when it first opened.) It was past the Tate Modern and on to Blackfriars station and heading under there, and past the Oxo building with its little shops such as Suck which still has the cat scratching cardboard in the shape of a laptop - I'm sure Brian the cat would love that!

It was onwards then past the former ITV South Bank studios and to the National Theatre with its fitting brutalism, especially when you then go to the Southbank Centre which is a real sense of concrete on the outside, followed then by the Golden Jubilee Bridges which span the Hungerford Bridge either side which carries the railway to Charing Cross. I passed the London Eye, closed for maintenance, and noted the masses heading to the Sea Life Aquarium inside County Hall before then reaching Westminster Bridge, which marks the end of section eight.

So on to section nine, and literally doing the Lambeth Walk along the Thames, heading past Lambeth Palace and on to Lambeth Bridge, crossing there and heading back towards the Houses of Parliament and past the College Green where the TV studios are all set up to be outside Parliament during the week. Plenty of people around there and on the approach to Westminster Abbey of course, and I veered off there and towards St James' Park, which included a view of Horse Guards Parade and the little alpine type cottage that overlooks the lake in the park itself.

It was a final walk along the Mall and towards Buckingham Palace, and of course plenty of people were there and outside waiting to see if they could catch a glimpse of anyone. I was able to touch the marker which sets the start and finish of the Greenway, and my job was done - all ten sections completed. Tick! It was nice to chalk another one off and I'll most likely do another walk tomorrow as well as it's definitely helping me keep fit and keep active too. In the meantime tune of the day is the rather good "Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina and the Waves, just purely for its happier feeling.

Friday 18th January - Resolute

A lot of people who know me also know that I am very determined to succeed at whatever I do, no matter what that takes or what obstacles stand in the way. I know sometimes that I have to take a pause from something that is a bit on the frustrating side and then revisit it a little later just to recharge the batteries and also give myself some new fresh impetus (and in fact, that's something worth noting - always best to be able to do that youself too.) And so I decided last night to have a good think about one potential issue we've been having in Windows 10 which would have been nice to resolve - that of Miracast.

Granted, not everything uses Miracast these days and indeed, the likes of Chromecast has almost become a newer de facto standard for say Android. However, we have some Surface Hub screens, and you would expect them to work. You try a connection, it sees that the PC is attempting to connect, and then just times out. I did read a while ago in Microsoft's own article that if you're using Windows Firewall, then the rule normally is set to enabled by default for WUDFHost.exe to be able to communicate correctly. If you're not using Windows Firewall, either with another software product or hardware, then you'd need to set that same exception.

So it got me thinking: what if the firewall product we use does actually block it, or inversely, is it not in an allow list to be allowed to run as a trusted application? So, armed with a laptop in hand that I know had Miracast capable drivers in Windows 10, I went to one of the rooms with the Surface Hub. As an admin user, I was able to access the Sophos Firewall console locally, so tried a connection initially. Not happening. I checked the firewall logs, and sure enough, WUDFHost.exe was being blocked en masse for the inbound traffic when making a connection attempt. So the two way handshake failed entirely - outbound worked, but no acknowledgement inbound.

Next move then: go to the Sophos Firewall settings and add in the said executable as a trusted to run application. I set that, and then tried connectivity. And, it worked. First go. No issues or anything. I showed my manager too, and demonstrated what I had found, and he was pleased. I don't give up easily, me. What it did prove was that it wasn't our Windows 10 build image or task sequence but the existing Sophos Firewall infrastructure that had caused said blockage, and so after having a chat with one of the Information Security people, we'll get a change in early next week, and all good.

Feeling rather flush, I headed homewards later on and it was nice to relax in front of the telly with the Dafabet Masters coverage on, with Neil Robertson up against Barry Hawkins in the semi final. I have to say that the crowd weren't so good, calling out far too often when a player was playing a shot. Personally if I was Jan Verhaas I'd have been kicking a few of them out. Robertson really did pull it out of the fire from 2-0 down and won five on the bounce either side of the interval before a well earned 6-3 win to take him to the semi final against Judd Trump tomorrow night. Ace stuff. The proper snooker theme (not the remixed thing the BBC play) - ie Drag Racer by The Doug Wood Band is tune of the day.

Thursday 17th January - Dot Com Dilemmas

So last night I made my usual online food order, and so this time around I chose Tesco, primarily due to offers being on but also due to the fact that I was able to get a four hour slot tonight and be all good for having it before the weekend (it's always more on a Friday night). As such I knew that any time between 7 and 11pm as that four hour slot would work, and normally you'd get contacted during the day to specify which one of those four hours you'll get allocated. Normally that's tended to work fine and it also means you get less delivery costs as well, so obviously epic win there.

I'd been sorting plenty of things out at work and getting some Group Policy settings on the go as well when I had a text from Tesco - all good, delivery between 7 and 8pm. Sorted. I managed also today to implement a couple of nice policy tweaks so that File Explorer opens to This PC instead of Quick Access (so well worth it for a number of reasons) and also that there's a couple of ActiveX filtering exceptions to add in order to make some of the sites which need it to work (we set filtering on by default so that the dodgier untrusted sites can't run anything naughty in IE11.)

I got home and all appeared fine at home, washing was done, and all tidied ready to go. I waited for the Tesco delivery. It didn't arrive. I had spoken to The Love In My Heart and had a good chatter about all sorts before then realising it was 8.15pm and still not a delivery, so I rang Tesco. It turned out when I spoke to them that their dot com warehouse which is where my local deliveries come from had issues - the van with a number of deliveries on including mine had had a GPS failure so they couldn't send it out. However, that warehouse hadn't contacted the customer service line and informed them - they had to ring the local warehouse and find out.

Unfortunately to say, this isn't the first problem that I've had with that warehouse either - it's based not far from the centre of Croydon, and seems to be the hub for the online deliveries locally, rather than say use the Thornton Heath or Purley stores to base their deliveries from (much easier if you ask me, my local deliveries in Manchester came from the Burnage store back in the day.) Before now I've had drivers not turn up and had to have reschedules, or drivers moan when they get to mine at 10.30pm wanting to finish off if they've ran later than scheduled. But also it's symptomatic of bad management and bad communication and whoever the manager is of that, please, sort it out, you're letting the side down. Badly.

My delivery did arrive just before 9pm (as mine was second on the van thankfully) and the driver was very nice, but didn't want to keep him for long as I knew he had loads to do. As it turned out the sat nav had sent him to the pub not far from me on the other side of the road (and just before a bridge) so a quick bit of friendly direction - all sorted. In fact I did have a couple of replacements but in those cases it was more expensive items for the same price due to price promise - not a bad thing really. And of course that meant I could watch the second episode of Hunted - cue ace theme tune and tune of the day. Two down, maybe four at the start of next week..

Wednesday 16th January - Wi-Fi At Forty

First of all, a big happy birthday to the elder of my two sisters, who has reached the age of forty today. She's the middle of the five of us children (I am the eldest therefore had to be the one to set the example) and I'm pretty sure that her son and daughter will be making the most of the day for her, with lots of happy moments. It doesn't feel that long ago (okay, it was 2012, where did the time go!) since I turned that age myself. I do know though that it doesn't really change anything, you're as old as you feel and all that. I hope she has a grand day all round and know that she'll have a fab time with family and friends.

So my day today, back in work, was rather a long one, but with a good reason. I had for some time been investigating an issue with the wireless network and the SSID network name that we use for the wireless pretty much everywhere in every single site, and noted a number of issues, more so with Windows 10 devices, where roaming wasn't behaving as it should, and often users would have to select the network and reconnect if they had connected to another access point (all the access points carry that network name). Essentially, roaming should work, but doesn't, and so decided to take a very different approach in all this - I asked our external network team for a side by side config of the wireless access points and indeed the SSID configuration and took it from there.

What I was able to determine was that the way that the network name configuration was set, it didn't allow for some of the newer and improved features of Windows 10 wireless networking, especially the Fast Roaming settings. This is pretty much down to having a good enough wireless driver of course (the laptops in the main use Intel AC8265 type wireless controllers) but also having the access point infrastructure and settings is vital - such as the likes of the Fast Transition, which Microsoft have helpfully documented here - well worth a read if that's your thing.

So I finally was able to make headway into this just before Christmas, and I had the networking folks set the same updated settings on a test network SSID. I roamed around parts of the building, and the roaming and reconnecting worked correctly and as designed - it was a breakthrough moment. It was then a case of arranging a suitable time for me to be able for them to enable the settings on the main corporate Wifi SSID, and I would be able to test them one evening to make sure all was going to work. Tonight happened to be that evening, which I volunteered to do in order to show that I cared enough to make it work.

I started on the first floor of the building and walked around all of it, stopping off at desks and unlocking the two test laptops, then seeing that in almost all cases they had already reconnected to wireless. All good. In fact I mixed it up and then went to the third, followed by back down to the second before then up to the fourth and lastly the sixth where I'm based. All was good, connections were rock solid and the correct two events in the event log for the wireless adapter, being 7021 for the telemetry discovery and 7003 for roam complete showing. Not once did I see the dreaded EAPOL error that I would have previously got. Did I treat it as a success? Absolutely, 100%.

It did mean that I instead headed homewards via one of the pubs close to work and having my tea there, which worked well in the end as I could call The Love In My Heart as well and have a good catch up before my tea came - and indeed I even had a pint of Ghost Ship to go with it, which I must admit tasted rather ace. It was a quieter journey home because of the time too, so the tube to Oxford Circus and then to Victoria was fine, and the train was mega empty too, so all good. I felt like humming Kraftwerk's ace Trans Europa Express (to give it its original German title and tune of the day) and all was good.

Tuesday 15th January - My 1st Concert Was..

I said my farewells to The Love In My Heart this morning as she headed off for work, and spent the morning sorting a few things out and making sure the case was all packed and good to go for the train journey home later. I also was able to fuss over Brian the cat a little bit, and give him some Dreamies and even a tummy tickle as he was all cute lying down on the bed. Awww. He is so cute and adorable when he just looks at you with his "tickle me please" face. He didn't even have a cross face at me for a change which was really nice to see.

I took the tram (first time ever with the new zonal fares, so the £2.80 paid this time around) and it was shortly into Manchester Piccadilly station in good time to get the 1115 departure for London Euston. I did note on social media that a lot of people were commenting about what their first concert was that they had been to, so I thought about mine, remembered what it was and posted it. I got an immediate follow from the band concerned, whom I've seen various gigs of theirs in the years. So here goes.

It's October 1990, and I'm finally at the age where I can actually go to a gig venue and be allowed entry - as a number of venues back then were strictly for over 18s only due to the alcohol licensing at the time. The venue was actually the closest one to home at the time - literally under half a mile's walk from my Mum's and therefore I could leave with around ten minutes to the doors and still be one of the first in. It was Manchester International 1, formerly Genevieve's if anyone remembers that from back in the day. I had wanted to go to a gig ever since I really got into music in a big way, and it turned out that this was the first of two gigs that month which I would go to as well.

It all felt black and dark inside and the bar was pretty busy, but at the time I didn't drink so it was a Coke for me if memory serves me well. It was clear that the venue wasn't necessarily going to be full, but it would be a good tunout nonetheless. And first up were the support band The Caretaker Race, who a few months back had released their album Hangover Square. It was the first time I'd heard of the band, and was immediately impressed with not just the front man Andy Strickland but as the band as a whole - they knew how to play, their songs were good, and Two Steel Rings was most likely my favourite - which would get released as a CD single later on. In fact a few weeks later I purchased the CD album in Vinyl Exchange.

In later years I would try and get some of their back catalogue singles, scouring record shops to hear more - and it was good to finally get the 12" singles of Anywhere But Home (ace song that), Man Overboard and I Wish I'd Said That. The Somewhere On Sea 12" was the hardest to get at the time, but get it I did, so great to hear the tracks on there also. I think it was a shame that they only had one proper album release, as it was pretty clear that they had talent, but it's one of those long lost indie gems everyone does need to hear. Order the CD album of Hangover Square here via Discogs - I promise you, you're in for a treat.

So that was then up to The Darling Buds to be the main act, and it was a rather good set all round. The band had just released their second album Crawdaddy, and I had been getting their CD singles from good old Compact in Manchester as they came out (but I also got the 7" box set of the Tiny Machine single due to the rather lovely picture of Andrea Lewis in there) so was looking forward to it. And the band didn't disappoint one bit. Naturally they played a fair chunk of the new album and opened if I remember with It Makes No Difference, which set the tone really well. My favourite track of that album, So Close, was delivered majestically and so is tune of the day for obvious reasons - it was pretty epic for an indie band to have a five minute plus song at that time, especially compared to their first album Pop Said which were all short sharp numbers.

Of course for all of the diehard fans, there was a fair amount of that too - the likes of You've Got To Choose, Burst, Hit The Ground and so on, which when I saw the band many years later in Hebden Bridge Trades Club after they had reformed was rather nice to see. Back to 1990, and Fall from the Crawdaddy album was another crowd pleaser, and still pretty good now. But perhaps best of all, the band showed that they were a proper band - rocking guitars and bass, good rhythm on the drums and Andrea's lush voice really pinning it all wonderfully well. I look back with fond memories of how gigs used to be - and also not, because of the fact that smoking was a big issue and your clothes would smell horribly of that smoke once you left the venue. Still, a great gig for my first one, and do get hold of the Crawdaddy album if you can - it's well worth it.

Monday 14th January – Taming The Wolves

I had booked a couple of extra days off work this week, primarily that I wanted to double check that Mum was all okay following her eye op and to be here if needed. As it turned out when I saw her yesterday she was in fine fettle and all was good, so that was a bit of a relief all round. In a good way this also meant that I was able to head off to the Manchester City v Wolverhampton Wanderers game at the Etihad tonight, which I would have otherwise missed due to being in work. I guess it’s always a nightmare due to the game being on telly, but it’s how it is. I’d personally love all games to go back to 3pm on Saturday with just one live game at 5.30pm to make it a bit fairer for the fans.

Anyhow, rant over. The Love In My Heart had arrived home from work and commenced to make us both a very lovely lasagne for tea, which went down rather nicely – really meaty and spot on. That would also keep me warm for the evening ahead. Even though it wasn’t as cold as it may have been for previous games, it was still warm weather clothes on. In fact I left a little bit earlier this evening – and for a good reason. I was meeting up with City broadcasting legend Ian Cheeseman to help my good friend be part of a piece to camera for his vlog and for the City web site.

I had a good chat with Ian first and that was good to explain my background as a fan but also as a friend and the fact we’ve spent lots of time watching the Blues together (and been friends for almost 24 years, which is a long time). My friend arrived, and we were all good to go and headed up to the stadium. It did feel a little different having someone walk with us and with a cameraphone filming bits, but it was easier just to ignore that and to be us as we headed along Joe Mercer Way to the stadium. It was definitely a sense of “must win” in the air again as we needed to close the gap on Liverpool back to four points.

Once in the ground, brew consumed as per usual, we had a good natter about how David Wagner had left Huddersfield and who would replace him – and indeed if Huddersfield would get a replacement in before they play us on Sunday. The kick off time was fast approaching and for us it was a chance to get ourselves pumped up for this one, not least as Fatboy Slim’s Right Here Right Now blasted over the tannoy – make that tune of the day. The teams came out and we were all good to go for another potential three points. I knew it wouldn’t be easy because Wolves are a decent side and play good stuff.

It didn’t take us long to get the first goal either as a superb ball from Aymeric Laporte down the left found Leroy Sané and his cross was perfect for Gabriel Jesús to score the opener. A few minutes later Willy Boly was correctly sent off for a reckless challenge on Bernardo Silva, and that changed the course of the game. Some Wolves fans started singing 1-0 to the referee, but when they see the replays and the fact that their manager Nuno Santo even said it was a definite red, that might change the minds a bit. Raheem Sterling was fouled in the area, and the ref pointed to the spot. Jesús finished it for 2-0, and chants of 2-0 to the referee were being predictably sung by the Wolves fans.

The second half was more City in cruise control, David Silva made way for Kevin de Bruyne and following a short corner (which usually never works at all and I was complaining about that) he shot and the ball cannoned off Conor Coady the Wolves defender and in – and I think Bernardo Silva would have got to that if Coady hadn’t. 3-0 then and all in all a good night’s work for the Blues. We did a final piece to camera for Ian about the game and the final whistle, and the resulting piece he did looks really good – it’s on the City website. All in all, a good day and an excellent win.

Sunday 13th January – Windy Knutsford

It was a nice relaxing morning with myself and The Love In My Heart, with Brian the cat wanting to have a good play out but not to keen to put the harness on, As a result he had the odd growl at Mummy. He soon relented though when he realised he wasn’t going to be playing out! We had some nice breakfast together and got ourselves ready to head out, with American Ninja Warrior on the telly – the all stars special where they go for individual obstacle records such as the 19ft warped wall, and longest distance between two shelves on one of the grabs (15ft, wowzers) – pretty mental.

We decided it’d be nice to head off to Knutsford for the afternoon and have a nice little mooch around some of the little shops but also to have a nice walk too. We headed along the M56 and then the new A556 road before coming off at Bucklow Hill and following the A50 to Knutsford itself, parking in the car park The Love usually does park in as it’s free on a Sunday. I don’t know if everyone realises it’s free as there’s lots of spaces spare and people park on the street as they want to go to Tatton Park and avoid the parking charges in there.

Anyway, as we were about to leave the car the wind and rain got up a bit and was pretty squally, so we waited for that shower to die down a bit and left, but was still windy. We went into Laura Ashley and their sale, and some of their things were a tad on the twee side. The Love and I did spot the door stops (we got the duck one last year which is still in use) and the rabbit one did look lovely also – if you need one, they’re really good and well worth it. We also then walked down to the Bath Store shop too – lots of lovely bath stuff in there and good to be out of the wind and rain also.

It was nice to just walk along the two main streets and have a good look in plenty of the shops and in fact The Love managed to get a birthday card and a birthday present for upcoming birthdays which was good, and it was definitely a feeling of being in a more village-like feel despite it being a town centre. We also then decided it’d be nice to have a drink and noted the Knutsford branch of Wine and Wallop (the other one in West Didsbury being one of our favourite haunts) and so went in there. The atmosphere was very chilled out indeed and it was nice to relax with a drink and a chatter in there as well, so we’ll definitely have to go there again at some point methinks.

The weather was still a bit icky so we headed back along the M56, with The Love having the Take That Odyssey CD on and loving it (make Back For Good tune of the day as she loves that one) and we stopped off at my Mum’s for a coffee and a chat and to drop off my sister’s birthday card and present for later in the week. It was good to catch up and Mum seemed in fine fettle – she had had an eye operation earlier in the week but appeared to be all good, so that was a relief all round. I know that in the long term that’ll help her out so I’m pleased for her hugely. Before we knew it, time had flown by and we were heading back to The Love’s place for tea.

We had tea together and Brian the cat was being fussy over his food – unfortunately we weren’t able to get the tuna and prawn Sheba he likes, so had to get another tuna and prawn cat food. He did eat it but you could tell he was being fussy. Later on we settled in for the evening and watched the first of the new series of Call The Midwife later on. It’s still a really good series and sticks to what it does best, heartwarming and real life stories based around the East End of London, together with some quality acting from the likes of Jenny Agutter, Helen George and Linda Bassett to name but a few.

Saturday 12th January – Up And Out

It was nice to be able to get on a train up to Manchester this morning, and actually see the morning sunrise from the window of the train as the journey commenced from Euston. It does mean that I have to get up to a similar time as when I go to work, and then take the train and tube from East Croydon to Euston. This did mean I got in around 0745 so plenty of time to grab some orange juice and croissants for the journey up and to board the 0820 departure, and feel all relaxed as I got on.

I headed up with the iPod on and listening to the likes of Juanita Stein and She Makes War, with the Direction of Travel album getting a full play as I was breezing past the countryside – make the rather lovely “Please Don’t” tune of the day as well. I know too that it’s always nice to know that The Love In My Heart will be at the other end waiting for me, and she was indeed there at Piccadilly. It was soon back at her place and with Brian the cat being all cute and lovely, and wanting a fuss and a love, it felt good.

Later on we were heading off to a pub not far from Mills Hill station to have a bit of lunch with The Love’s father and some of her family as it is her father’s birthday on Monday. It was nice to see The Love’s sisters and some of the nephews and nieces, and as the pub was a JW Lees pub, this meant I got to try out the One Day Like This ale that was the new guest ale (you can guess the inspiration for the title!) – and that was good. I did have the steak pie, as I knew this was a proper pie, and with proper gravy. Rather nice all round actually.

We did go back to her father’s place later as The Love and one of her sisters had got him a Dolce Gusto coffee machine for his birthday – and some pods too. It meant I could go and set it all up, test it was working and make a few coffees for us, which was fine. The model concerned has to be manually stopped when you have enough liquid in, rather than later models or a Tassimo where that happens for you, but was also really simple to use and so before we knew it, lattes and cappuccinos were ours.

Later on we headed back to The Love’s place, ensured Brian the cat had his tea, and then we had a few crisps and dips ourselves as we watched evening telly and had a game of Scrabble as well, nice and chilled out. The Love did watch The Voice later with a good selection of people – and one from Manchester who thought he might go through, but had no chair turns. We did have an earlyish night as I’d got up early for the train and The Love fancied a nice long sleep for a Sunday morning, but didn’t mind that as it just meant Brian the cat decided to snuggle with his Mummy. Awww.

Friday 11th January - Memories of Dianne

As I was heading off to work this morning, I had a text from The Love In My Heart, stating that she didn't know if it was true but had heard that Dianne Oxberry had died. I quickly headed to check BBC News online, and unbelievably, the sad news was very true. I felt a lump in the throat and did feel rather sad on the train journey into work, and a sadness which hasn't really escaped me all day, despite my best efforts to get a shed load of work done during that time. I dreaded to think how those close to her, especially BBC North West Tonight, were feeling to be honest.

Plenty of tributes were being paid on Twitter as I headed to work,and lots more during the day. BBC North West did a clip of some great moments of her time on the show, mainly presenting the weather but also doing the likes of Tatton Flower Show, the Inside Out North West edition, and presenting on radio for BBC Manchester, BBC Merseyside and BBC Lancashire over time (as well as Radio 1 back in the day as well it should be said.) One clip of Peter Kay interrupting the weather broadcast and then declaring her as "a ray of sunshine" was just lovely, and showed how much affection those of us in the North West especially had.

I too remember that she joined in the second series of the Saturday morning show the 8.15 from Manchester with the Inspiral Carpets' reworked version of Find Out Why (tune of the day obviously) and that used to have plenty of alternative bands on (Blur, Pop Will Eat Itself, James etc), and Dianne presented there along with Ross King and Charlotte Hindle. By the way, there is still an 8.15 train from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston, even now, as there was back then. She fitted in spot on, and years later after more radio, the role we all loved her for, doing the weather on North West Tonight.

As my iPlayer on my telly is still set to BBC North West (deliberately I might add) this meant I could watch tonight's North West Tonight - and that was heartbreaking. I think anyone watching would have wanted to give Annabel Tiffin a huge hug afterwards, and understandably she got upset. Her and Roger Johnson led tributes and that included the likes of Gordon Burns, many of the main NWT team including Dave Guest, and even Eno Eroutor had removed her colourful outfits, chatting about her and Dianne's gossips together and discussions on shoes and such like too. I think it was nice to devote a whole show pretty much to her, and indeed to actually not have a weather forecast at all - very honourable to do.

There's so many witty moments I can remember, all with lots of warmth and humour, but The Love reminded me that she had met Dianne many years ago at a staff awards do, and by all accounts Dianne was lovely and chatted with lots of people, and was just herself - and that was one of the reasons why so many of us in the North West took her to our hearts and adored what she did. All the love goes to her husband and children as well as her friends on North West tonight, we're missing a legend on the telly already. A lot.

Thursday 10th January - Bittadrizzle

I had to smile this morning as the BBC London weather presenter Elizabeth Rizzini was doing her weather forecast, with the backdrop saying "presenter name" instead of her own name. However, her tweet later also had the nice key word of "bittadrizzle" which a lot of people caught on to. Definitely for me later in the day it definitely did feel a tad on the drizzly side with the rain coming down (cue Peter Kay "fine rain" type of sketch) and that certainly put some gloom on the day, but it was fun of Elizabeth nonetheless.

The day today went by in a total almost blur, primarily as I was spending a fair bit of time getting to the bottom of some issues with some of the web based applications that are used for various functions. A number of those tend to rely solely on Internet Explorer (I know!) and that's not always the best thing, but it's a case of investigating those and making sure that they will work happily in Windows 10 going forward, and spent some time this morning working with one of the staff who knew their way around and was able to demonstrate accordingly.

In fact, what it boiled down to were two factors in the end: a need to effectively ensure that the site in question wasn't subject to ActiveX filtering (and to be added as an exception) and then also that the site was allowed to run a certain control - which actually was one particular control which the vendor admitted needed certain settings in Internet Explorer in order to work. Did all that - and played ball as intended, so I can raise a change for early next week to get all that sorted. Nice when things work.

Later on when I got home I watched Hunted - the first of the new series and definitely one that had drama from the start. The ten fugitives were all dropped off in the centre of Liverpool and they were all attempting to make their escape from the centre. Notably one of them, Loren, decided to wear the brightest top possible, making her easy to recognise for the helicopter team above - and used a cash machine straight away, which was on a bit of paper found in her house as part of her plan. Errr... oops.

And two of them tried to be clever by sending out a decoy close to Sandhills station, but of course.. the Hunters were on the case and recognised it wasn't them. In fact they panicked and used a burner phone to call their friend to get them picked up, but of course that friend's phone was being monitored. Oops - call and location from cell tower captured right there. I do think the Royal Marine bloke might either be very tough to find or get too cocky and then get caught - in past series it's been the unassuming ones such as Nick in Series 2 and Alex and Bob Ayling in series 3. The theme tune is tune of the day - still awesome...

Wednesday 9th January - We Want Ten!

After a long day at work it was lovely to get home and to have some tea (a gorgeously nice chicken and mushroom stir fry) and then manage to get hold of a live stream for tonight's game between Manchester City and Burton Albion in the Carabao Cup semi final first leg. City of course had hammered Rotherham United 7-0 in the FA Cup last weekend, which was a joy to watch, and to get to the semi final of this competition, Burton had beaten Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest, Middlesbrough and Burnley along the way to get there, all teams in divisions above the one that they play in.

As a result City weren't taking any chances and played a very strong side with the likes of Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva, Leroy Sané, Gabriel Jesús, Ilkay Gundogan, Nicolas Otamendi and so on, so definitely a more than good enough starting line up. For many it was a case of being able hopefully to play well enough in the first leg to put the tie to bed reasonably, and see what would happen. Burton would have had more fans there but a lot of them were stranded on the M6 after the motorway was closed due to a lorry load of illegal immigrants being located and the driver criminally charged with people traficking offences.

So City kicked off and the motive was pretty clear early on: put the tie to bed as soon as possible and make sure that there was no injuries. In the first few minutes City pressed onwards, and sure enough a cross from David Silva found de Bruyne, and headed in well for 1-0. Better was to come later on, when Sané ran down the right hand side, and put a shot in on goal which was headed in after the keeper saved by Gabriel Jesús for 2-0. All was good so far, and more to come.

And that more was two before half time. A nice through ball found Sané in acres of space who slotted to Jesús to put the ball in off the post for 3-0, and a few minutes later Oleksandr Zinchenko put in a cross, which instead looped over the Burton goalie for 4-0. He didn't really mean it, but still celebrated as it if was a basketball three pointer shot. And so pretty much then the tie was over in all but name, but it would be a case of during the second half how many more potentially we could score.

The answer to that was - a lot more. City were rampant and were not showing any mercy either. Not long gone early in the second half and Jesús had his hat trick, heading home from a cross, so that was 5-0. Jesús almost scored a sixth not long after but the keeper had saved his shot, but Phil Foden who had come off the bench scored from the rebound instead. Excellent stuff. Three minutes after that and it was 7-0, this time a low cross from the left from Sané and Jesús flicked it in. It was his fourth of the night, the fifth in the competition and became the leading scorer because of it.

That wasn't enough though - and more was yet to come! The ball was played in from the left and Kyle Walker, of all people, slotted it nicely home and enjoyed that one for 8-0. Later on Riyad Mahrez squirmed a ball home past the Burton keeper for 9-0 and the City fans were chanting "We want ten! We want ten!" - which we almost got but for an excellent save denying Zinchenko's header. It was impressive stuff all round and a demolition job, and well played City, with Supra's ace version of Blue Moon (make that tune of the day) blasting out over the tannoy. Well played indeed!

Tuesday 8th January - Please Plan Ahead

Normally the dulcet tones of Geoff Marshall are heard during his informative Youtube videos, or indeed with his partner Vicki Pipe when they do videos about trains, and of course the classic All The Stations project (the theme tune of which is tune of the day) which happened during 2017, which was awesome. Just recently he became the voice on Thameslink trains with the "please plan ahead for the Brighton Main Line improvement project" announcement, which I'll often hear on said trains as I travel across London, either to or from work or sometimes when on a leisurely journey North or South of where I am.

So for months it's been a case of that - but now with extra added emphasis on the fact that there's no trains between Three Bridges and Brighton, and also Three Bridges and Lewes, during the February half term nine days (two weekends and a working week) so that part of that improvement can take place. Effectively at this time it's so that the tunnels that carry the trains can be maintained, have no leaks or any other faults which can delay trains - with the theory being that a concentrated period can mean sustained improvements in the long term, which we all want.

Inevitably of course I heard the announcement tonight on the way home from work on the delayed (and rather packed) train home, and you could hear people unhappy about the closure. Whilst I accept that it's going to be a painful experience for a lot of people over that period, and that from Brighton via Littlehampton and Horsham is going to take a lot longer, and for those in Eastbourne it'll be off to Hastings and then up that line to London instead, it's difficult to put in a concentrated period of time to do the necessary repairs without having to either shut for more weekends and upset more people.

It may also be that the attitude of some of the train companies involved who aren't giving passengers any compensation for the extended closure isn't helping matters. Granted, it's Network Rail doing the work (first major maintenance in 35 years on this line by the way, to put it into perspective of what years of underinvestment means now) but ultimately it would be useful if there was some form of compensatory package for those having to book a week off work as leave, seek working at home arrangements or such like. It does also show that the fact that a line closure can cause so much pain is a signal of a bit of over-reliance on one working line instead of two - imagine if some of the other lines and routes hadn't been closed and could have been used as alternate routes instead?

I've seen the effects when the line is closed at weekends - a fair number of trains from East Croydon are quieter in both directions, especially those terminating at Three Bridges only, and it also proves that when the line is operational just how many people do use it. It's often out of necessity due to the fact that a lot of people have to work in London but commute from further afield to be able to afford somewhere nicer to live - and why so many end up house sharing in the capital.

Monday 7th January - The Magic of the Cup

After I'd been to the Etihad yesterday, The Love In My Heart and I had had some tea (some rather nice pasta bolognaise with a lovely sauce full of flavour) I did see some of the Newport County versus Leicester City game. To be fair to Newport, they conceded an equaliser late on but still had the drive and passion to go forward, get a penalty with Marc Albrighton's handball (what was he thinking?) and then Newport scored cool as you like at the death to get a well deserved 2-1 win.

That wasn't the only shock result either, with Barnet getting an excellent 1-0 win away at Sheffield United, and perhaps the performance of the round, Oldham Athletic coming back from a goal down (and saving a penalty with the scores level) to win 2-1 at Fulham, an excellent result. It proved that for Man City to take things properly seriously was the right thing to do, and those that didn't value the tournament would do so at their absolute peril - the next shock result was always around the corner.

So tonight after work and having some tea it was settling in for the evening game between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Liverpool at Molineux. Liverpool's side didn't look that good and in fact were resting key players, not sure if that was a good move, especially as Wolves at their place are a hard side to beat. That was proven more so a few minutes in when Dejan Lovren had to go off injured and that meant that a young defender had to take his place - for a debut and not even 17. I did wonder if Wolves could take advantage and a goal from Jimenez before half time meant 1-0 to Wolves.

As the tannoy belted out the Jeff Beck classic "Hi Ho Silver Lining" before the second half (make that tune of the day) Liverpool woke up and Devock Origi blasted home a shot for the equaliser, only for Wolves to get back up the other end of the pitch and score a well taken goal from Ruben Neves for 2-1. Liverpool inevitably had to bring on the big guns so on came the likes of Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah, and that definitely added some spice to the game later. Wolves though looked determined and that was good to see - with a superb fingertip save from John Ruddy from a Xherdan Shaqiri free kick.

Wolves did their best to keep it at 2-1 and win they did - mega pleased for them even if it does mean I can't make the league game next Monday night. Still, the draw came afterwards and Burnley at home has to be a pretty decent draw all round - especially considering the other all Premier League draws - Crystal Palace v Tottenham will be a cracker, but even more so and potential tie of the round is Arsenal v Man U. That is going to be tasty!!

Sunday 6th January - Seventh Heaven

It was off to the Etihad Stadium with my friend this afternoon to see Manchester City play Rotherham United in the FA Cup third round. For me, it's good that City take the trophy seriously and play a strong side - you after all should want to win every game and keep the momentum going, especially after Thursday night. Understandably some of the players who ran their socks off including Bernardo Silva and Fernandinho were rested, but not bd when you can still play Kevin de Bruyne as captain, have Raheem Sterling and Ilkay Gundogan run the midfield with the likes of Kyle Walker and Nicolas Otamendi in defence with John Stones.

It was also good that Rotherham had brought a fair number of fans with them and they made a good number of the 52,000 or so fans at the game. City had kept the costs relatively low including some kids' prices being £1, so a good and cheap way to get people into the footy. The City Square setup had lots of stuff to do, and my friend and I had our pre-match cuppa and worked out the side and formation - and what the score might be. He went for 3-0, I went for 5-0, and it'd be a case of how we'd play and what they'd be able to do, considering their position on the Championship.

Right from the go City went for it, including a header from Gabriel Jesús that hit the bar, and a number of other chances in the first ten minutes. We could have had at least three before de Bruyne found Raheem Sterling and he slotted home coolly for 1-0. It went a bit quiet for the rest of the half as Rotherham huffed and puffed and tried before we broke them down again - a superb through ball finding Phil Foden, and although the ball came off his knee and in, they all count and 2-0. That became 3-0 at half time as a Kyle Walker cross was turned into their own goal from one of the Rotherham defenders.

More of the same in the second half too - a great piece of work by Raheem Sterling down the left meant a simple tap in for Jesús for 4-0. Sterling went off for Sané but that didn't seem to change things too much, with the German making an instant impact and looking like he wanted to get on the scoresheet. What did happen was that Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez had a neat 1-2 before Mahrez slotted the ball home neatly for the fifth goal - and from a Gundogan corner Otamendi headed in for 6-0. Could we match the 7-0 win from Tottenham from the other night I wondered?

The answer was an emphatic yes as Leroy Sané cut inside from the left hand side and rifled a shot home with a deflection for 7-0 to City. Rotherham kept going and almost got a consolation but the referee didn't add any time on at all and blew the final whistle dead on time. It was City's best win in the FA Cup since a 7-0 third round replay win at Reading in 1968, the equal best result of the round and Rotherham's heaviest ever FA Cup loss, so a few records broken along the way. Tune of the day was something I listened to on the way home on the train later, the excellent "Get Back To The City" by Juanita Stein, which just sounded rather lovely...

Saturday 5th January - Parental

The Love In My Heart (and Brian the cat of course) had a bit of a lie in and indeed Brian was more than happy to snuggle up to Mummy after I had got up, so he went back to sleep for a bit and was being all lovely as ever. In fact as The Love had a bit more sleep I put on Youtube on the Blu-Ray player and watched some classic World's Strongest Man - the 1998 event with one of The Love's favourites, Magnus Samuelsson, winning in a proper attritional contest!

Once we'd had breakfast we headed off first of all to see The Love's father. He wanted a hand with taking all the decorations, lights and the Christmas tree down (The Love did hers yesterday with Brian as "helper") and The Love and her sister sorted that out, with myself helping to re-arrange the furniture and put things in place as her father wanted, so was good to catch up and make sure all was good. There was also the horse racing on so The Love's father was keeping an eye on events at Sandown and Wincanton on ITV4.

From there it was off to my Mum's to see her, and over a coffee and some carrot cake we caught up too. She was thankfully on the mend after being poorly over Christmas, and it was nice to see that she was more herself after all that. I think too that it meant with her being better she was looking forward to the year ahead including an adventure in Cornwall as well, and we also checked out how she was managing with her little Google Home thing - and surprisingly using it a fair bit too which was good to see.

We headed to The Elizabethan later on for a drink, and what was noticeable was that it was busy but the good ale was on (the Plum Pudding had run out though) and it was a nice relaxed vibe in there before we headed back to The Love's place, where Brian the cat was after his tea and wanted lots of fuss and attention as he usually does. It was good to be able to get him all sorted and then have some tea ourselves - some nice beef in chianti with some potatoes and vegetables, all lovely.

We did see The Voice later on and it was a couple of surprises in there - the son of Lonnie Donegan came on and did an audition, and did well. Later on it was Sir Tom Jones singing one of Lonnie's songs along with the son, which was a rather good thing to see. It was also the turn of Jennifer Hudson to do the same with one of the women who got through, and she and the contestant also belted out "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" in an epic duet - make that tune of the day as it's one which really does showcase if you can really belt out a tune or not..

Friday 4th January - Back Up North

No stopping me with this whole travelling lark I know, but I had managed to get myself some decent cheap train tickets for heading back up to Manchester for the weekend, so at least I had something to aim for at the end of a long(ish) day at work. I managed to get my head down and work on what potentially may have been some issues to do with some of the templates in Word - and certainly in some cases it appeared to be down to some of the rights of the files where they are located not quite being right for some reason. I managed to look at getting that part sorted only to see that one of them was cross referencing other parts of its code and didn't appear to be so good either. Need to spend some more time on this next week to determine the root cause.

I did though have another nice little walk out at lunch, this time heading past the headquarters of the EFL and then down to Manchester Square and around that, so was good to get some fresh air even if it was rather on the cold side (understatement!) - I think that the temperature certainly dropped today which wasn't so good if you were planning to be out for too long. I did also make sure I got some money out for over the weekend and the train tickets sorted for later so I wouldn't have to be faffing at Euston in a queue, not a good thing to be perfectly honest either.

It was then off to Marylebone Road and on the 205 bus direct to Euston, getting there in good time and being ready to board the 1800 train to Manchester, a little bit earlier than usual. The Love In My Heart had suggested that we do Chinese for tea, and that sounded good to me. I had all of my new albums on the iPod and so was listening to some Juanita Stein on the way up - the opener to the album "All The Way" sounding rather gorgeous as the train sped towards Stoke on Trent and onwards - so tune of the day that was for me.

The Love was waiting at Piccadilly and we headed off to the local Chinese, which was open (yaay) and so it was the rather nice crispy shredded chilli beef in sweet and sour sauce for me, and chicken and mushrooms for The Love, complete with fried rice. It was good to chill out once we got back to have food, with Brian the cat being particularly cute and wanting Mummy's attention all the time (as you do) and good to kick back as well with some telly and a catch up chatter.

Later on we were to watch some classic Top of the Pops with The Story of 1987 - with the likes of Kim Appleby from Mel and Kim giving the real reason what their album title FLM actually stood for, and also Curiousity Killed The Cat being interviwed with Ben being particularly ace. It was an intriguing insight with also Belinda Carlisle, Carol Decker and many more chatting about the era, and also some cracking tunes - I'm pretty sure there'll be some interesting charts in the next TOTP shows ahead on BBC Four, and a heavy dose of Stock Aitken Waterman (and a certain Rick Astley classic...)

Thursday 3rd January - Back To Work

It felt rather odd having to get up early today, but get up early I must as it was back to work day. I did manage to get up on time and had also got some granola for breakfast yesterday, with the plan being I'm going to have that or cereal in the morning and skip the work one (primarily because a lot of bread and fat is involved in a bacon and egg barm and I want to try and be good.) It did mean also that I could get a later train into work too so there's some benefits to that also, and it was still a little bit quieter due to some parents being off with their children as you could imagine.

It was a morning spent catching up on emails and on top of that being able to see where we were and what had happened over the festive period. In a good way what it meant was that I was able to spot any issues raised and start to look at them and at the same time gradually work my way back in to full on mode. As it turned out I was doing some testing with an application later in the day and that meant that I had to check back to see if there was a clear silent install instruction from the vendor, as it wasn't obvious what may work and indeed what would need to be done.

I did decide also to take a nice walk around Marylebone High Street at lunch, primarily so that I'd get some fresh air and also be able to just have a bit of a break during the day. For me it was important to recharge the batteries over Christmas with a view that we would need to be able to ensure that I could keep myself at optimum by ensuring that I take the rests as needed. For me at least I know that I need to try and be able to not get too bogged down with things and to crack on where possible, but also that sometimes you do need that full break.

Later on at home and after a good chat with The Love In My Heart, it was on with the streaming and found one carrying the Manchester City v Liverpool game at the Etihad. Of course I would have liked to have gone, but Sky putting the game on a Thursday night ruled it out. My friend would be there and enjoying it all though, and it was a very tense game throughout. For me the key turning point was when John Stones managed to clear a ball off the line with replays showing that he had around 1cm of line to play with. That of course was shown on the screens so no one could complain to the referee about the no goal call.

The crowd were well up for it with Supra's ace version of Blue Moon blasting out over the tannoy (make that one tune of the day) and City took the lead through a powerful close range shot from Sergio Agüero which no one would have stopped. Liverpool did come back of course and equalise through a rather good move finished off by Roberto Firmino. City though were not done and Raheem Sterling found Leroy Sané who finished superbly off both posts to score the winner. Granted, we're still four points behind in the title race - but we're still well in with a shout and with seventeen games left, all to play for. Blue moon, you saw me standing alone...

Wednesday 2nd January - Back Home

It felt rather sad this morning to be getting up, and having a cuddle from The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat for the last time before this weekend, and a week and a half of being together was coming to an end. I did feel very sad actually, I think because I know that I've had the chance to relax a lot and recharge the batteries, but also to know that it is back to work tomorrow, which is not so good. However, I do know I've been lucky enough to have a good time with friends, family and most of all the woman I love to bits, and continue to do so. The pain was of course a little bit eased by the fact I'd managed to bag a cheap first class advance ticket for the journey to Euston.

I said my farewells to The Love at Piccadilly and gave her a hug and a kiss, and she really has been so lovely over this period despite her having to go to work herself between Christmas and New Year. She is having a couple of days off herself which is nice, and I know she and Brian will be having some quality time (and he will no doubt be playing out, sleeping and wanting more Dreamies!) It did give me time to have a coffee and relax in the First Class lounge before then heading on for the 1035 departure for London Euston, on a day when train fares had gone up (and my Oyster Zone 1-5 travelcard up this month as a result.)

Whilst I know I was lucky to get a cheap advance ticket for today as a leisurely travel time, I know many others are paying through the nose for their commute, especially if you live in Redhill where fares are humped stupidly and needed to be sorted - and surprise surprise, despite promises, they weren't. It's all too simple for Failing Grayling to blame staff who are getting a wage rise, but shouldn't they get one for having to be the front line of dealing with disasters such as the May 2018 timetable debacle and for having to be the ones to explain the customers the shortcomings as engineered by Grayling and the DfT along with certain rail companies such as Northern? We need change, and it needs to be passenger focussed instead of profit focussed, it's that simple.

I did have a nice little brunch on my journey, a cheese and mushroom toastie with some coffee, orange juice and biscuits, all very nice, and a comfy seat too I should add. If I turned up on the day to do this journey to London though, how would be paying £155 for an offpeak single or £242 for an anytime ticket. Ouch. Compare that to £36 for my advance single (and with 20% discount I should add) which goes to show for example how much the system doesn't work as well as it should, especially compared to other European countries - Naples to Rome last summer on the ace Frecciarossa proves how far behind we actually are - and pay more for the privelege!

Anyway, got myself to Euston, did the Victoria line tube and activated the Oyster travelcard, and then onwards from a very quiet lunchtime at Victoria to East Croydon and onwards to home, where it was nice to see all was nice and clean as I had left it (made sense!) so I took the tree down, put all the decorations and lights away, and all seemed all set for the next few days at work (at least I washed and ironed my work stuff before I left, sensible move that) - and kicked back with some Queen - so "Stone Cold Crazy" is tune of the day.

Tuesday 1st January – New Year Walk

So with the fireworks all having done their bit with London, and a notable nod to having “London Is Open” in many European languages (a point spotted by both The Love In My Heart and I) it was good to see the likes of both Madness at Westminster Central Hall and Jools Holland’s Hootenanny as well. Of course Jools was as ace as ever, and as Marc Almond had toured with Jools and had an album out, a result from that was Marc singing his Soft Cell version of the classic Tainted Love, and naturally belting it out brilliantly – something both The Love and I enjoyed hugely, so tune of the day.

We also got to see the likes of The Record Company, Michael Bublé (and he fitted in well with the orchestra, The Love approved) and also of course the traditional Enjoy Yourself ending with everyone singing along. We’ve been to see Jools in concert so we know how this all works well, and a good way to close the early morning and to head off to bed with Brian the cat being all lovely and wanting a fuss and a cuddle. It was a good way to end the old year and start anew, and of course it’ll mean that we will need to see Jools again when he tours.

After having a nice breakfast earlier, it was nice to head out for the afternoon and take a nice walk. The Love thought that Lyme Park would be good and that we could head up to The Cage as well, so it was a case of heading off and the A6 seemed relatively quiet – that was until we got past High Lane and on towards the park itself, with a queue of traffic to get into the park and indeed a queue when in following the road down to the cattle grid, over the railway bridge and to the kiosk for paying for the parking (or showing your card if you’re National Trust members as we are) so all good there.

Once parked up we followed the new pedestrian paved walk towards the house entrance, seeing the Christmas tree and the two model deer outside the house which looked good. We then followed the path from there towards The Cage, and admired the kites flying in the sky and the view from The Cage looked really good with the city of Manchester in the distance and the skyline beyond. We then walked back down a different way, a path often walked by horses by the look of it with hooves clearly in the ground.

It was very busy all told and families were out too, and so after a good walk for a while we headed off and towards the new A555 airport bypass, turning off to go to The Fiveways in Hazel Grove for a late lunch – and a carvery at that. The gammon was particularly lovely and so were all the vegetables, and a good way to have a little meal out together at the start of the year too. I have to admit that it was good to be nice and cosy and comfortable, and it made the pain of heading back home tomorrow a little less hassle…