Dear Diary... January 2023

Sunday 29th January – Sunday Roasts

It was a relatively quiet day yesterday as I had visited the cemetery to pay a visit – it would have been the birthday of one of my relations today and it was the respectful thing to do to head over, and have a few minutes to be able to reflect and pause. I think for me that it was a case of that as the years go by, the missing stays the same, and the heartbreak remains in there too. I did at least manage to head over to the nearby Costa coffee and have a coffee and bacon sandwich to reflect on the visit and that gave me the necessary space and time to clear the head, and then be able to have the rest of Saturday at least relaxed.

The Love In My Heart and I did also head over yesterday afternoon to see my Mum for a bit too – and took a lemon drizzle cake along to have with a coffee and a chatter. Mum seemed very happy to see us as well and it was good to see that things in the family were working out well – my youngest sister was looking forward to a break away with her son and husband soon and Mum was telling me about what the nice plans that they had. We also did note that things for my brother’s place were progressing well and that Mum would be heading up there next week to help out too.

Today was a nice chance to be out with some friends for Sunday lunch and to have a proper roast – not had one for a while to be fair and it’s always good to be out. We got ourselves showered and ready (with Brian the cat wanting his own little cat shower too) and it was then on to the tram to head to the city centre. We walked past the posh piano shop near Market Street and did note that someone had attempted to break in but didn’t get very far, before then going over to Fierce Beer and getting ourselves a drink. I did note that their Very Small Moose, the 0.5% stout that they do, was on tap, so had that and it was rather lovely.

Our friends met us in there and we had a drink and chat before then heading over to Smithfield Social next door, and were soon heading over to the table to have their rather good Sunday roast. The good thing is that the vegan roast, which one of our friends has, is just as wholesome and good as the meat variants, and also the chicken is half of a pretty decent sized chicken too, so lots of really nicely cooked meat to go with the roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and all the vegetables. I had that, The Love and one friend had the roast pork, and the other the trio of all three meats together, and the fifth of the five us the vegan roast. All was very nice indeed and definitely felt nicely full after all that.

It was then back to Fierce Beer and I did not that the Cranachan Killer raspberry ale was back on, so of course I was going to have that and enjoy it a lot (which I did) – and the Cerveza lager that they have also was very light and refreshing, which The Love had. One of our friends is also gluten free, and so it was good to see that the list of the beers on the wall showed which ones were gluten free and which were also vegan, so you could make an informed choice. In fact they did a 0.5% version of the Cerveza which they had, and it seemed to be just as nice as the full alcohol version. Needless to say also that the Very Small Moose beer later on was having to be had, purely because it tastes really nice too.

The time went by very quickly during the late afternoon and early evening and some quality tunes were being played in the background too, including Country House by Blur (make that one tune of the day) and it was a case of enjoying the relaxed vibe, with one person and their dog getting a lot of attention due to the dog being particularly relaxed and adorable. It was just nice to see friends before two of them head off on a long holiday for a few weeks, and it was also good that we were able to spend some quality time together too – that definitely made for a really nice time.

Friday 27th January – One Nil Against The Arsenal

It was a half day at work today and for me that meant I’d be able to head up to Manchester later to see the FA Cup fourth round game as Manchester City would take on Arsenal. It was a big game too as it was of course the two sides at the top of the Premier League table and would also potentially set down a marker for the league games to come as well. I did at least have the comfort of being able to road test quite a few things at work today in the office, so was able to crack on with that. It was interesting that when I did some road tests of some Windows 11 upgrades, the post-setup install complete to continue the upgrade task sequence didn’t take place, so need to work out why that is next week.

I managed to get plenty done today and then be able to leave on time to head off to Euston to get the train up to Manchester. It was reasonably busy in Euston and on the train as of course there would be Arsenal fans heading up omn the train too. The train was also in reverse formation so at least I didn’t have to walk down as far to the seat I had in Coach D, but the flip side – a longer walk later. I did have the iPod on so was able to relax with some tunes on the way up, and then head down to the tram stop to take the tram over to The Love In My Heart’s place all in good time. In fact The Love had been stuck in traffic on the way back home so had only just arrived back before me.

After having some very nice pizza for tea, it was off to meet my friend and it was time to see what Manchester City would do. It was a little bit on the cold side, but we had both wrapped up well and had the gloves and hat on too. It did seem busy around the ground too and it was a nice atmosphere ramping up inside the ground as closer to kick off there was a light show commencing on the pitch which included all the players’ numbers, names and an outline picture of the player itself too. That was all getting everyone hyped up ready for kick off, and I knew that it was going to be a tight game. Blue Moon played loudly over the speakers and it was all good to go.

You could tell why Arsenal were league leaders too – they were confidently putting strings of passes together and a shot early on was well saved by Ortega in the City goal. In fact Leandro Trossard was heading down the left hand side quite often and creating chances, whilst on the other side Bukayo Saka was attempting the same but Nathan Aké was being very good keeping the attacks at bay and then releasing Jack Grealish down the left. City’s best first half chance came when Kevin de Bruyne attempted to curl in a shot towards the goal but it was just wide. It was pretty much a case of whoever would score the first chance might prove to be the winning side.

The second half got underway and City soon brought on Julian Alvarez – things did improve a fair bit and it was the determination and more passion to get stuck in and win the ball really did show. In fact, Alvarez shot well and it rebounded off the post. Jack Grealish then picked up the ball and ran along the left side, and spotted Aké free in some space. And then a wonderful little finish from the Dutch defender, slotting the ball into the bottom corner, and the City fans went mental. 1-0. And that was a good time to score too. City did press forward some more as did Arsenal, and a massive cheer went up when they brought on former City defender Oleksandr Zinchenko, the reception from the City fans being warm and respectful – once a blue, always a blue and all that.

The game ended eventually after some close chances either end with Manchester City winning 1-0. It was a very good win for us overall and that definitely felt like it set a marker for later in the season too. With Joy Division’s iconic Love Will Tear Us Apart playing over the speakers (make that tune of the day) it certainly was a positive vibe and one that had the City fans singing City, tearing cockneys apart again in time with the words of the song as we left the ground. We’ll wait and see who City get in the fifth round but at least we are there – and can see the other games over the weekend knowing that our task has at least been done.

Thursday 26th January – Changes Afoot

One thing that did start the day off yesterday somewhat differently (and indeed has been giving me some food for thought since) was the fact that what I suspected might happen at my workplace is going to happen within the next year or so. This potentially means a lot could happen and that might be an interesting time ahead. Obviously there’s stuff I know which isn’t out there, so got to be a little careful with what I say, but effectively the part that has been made public in an announcement yesterday I can say, and that is that the business, subject to shareholder approval, will be split in two – with one part remaining in London as is, the other being company set up and with headquarters in the United States, but with staff still based worldwide also.

This came about primarily due to different parts of the company needing different specialisms. From that base level I can understand why such a move would be sought, and there were consultations that took part last year which also did really start to move. On the other hand though, if you work in a central division that effectively serves everyone (such as me in IT, but also Finance, HR, administration etc) that’s a little bit different – do you end up going towards the new company and still be in the UK somewhere, or stay put and potentially take the chances? Being a US based company as the split will be means that there’s also subject to US laws in terms of governance and also security compliance, plenty of other things.

I think for me it’ll be a transitional period for a good few months whilst the details are being planned, reshaped and ironed out. And of course, although one part of the business is going to be sold on (again that was announced publicly) regardless, that’ll be a net reduction in staff somewhere because of that bit, along the line. I’m just a little wary that putting all the eggs in one basket for each side of the business might be a calculated risk that we don’t want to go wrong ether, but this is where there’s been some sound judgement, so we shall see what happens there.

I guess for me that I will be keeping the options well and truly open, so if that means that I stay in the UK based bit and work with the people there, that’s fine – or if I move to the US-based bit but remain somewhere in London (obviously different offices) then that’s going to also be noteworthy too. Of course if the shareholders say no, then nothing would change either, well not immediately at any rate, so that’d be also a thing in that the outcome of that won’t be until later this year, hence the business as usual message for now, which to be fair makes perfect sense.

So it was on with a few things today including getting some reporting together on old machines that aren’t fully Windows 10 compatible (either no TPM or a lack of 8th Generation or above Intel processor) and had shared that with the relevant people. That way there can at least be an informed decision as to what to do with all of that and to be sure that if someone hasn’t had their machine replaced as yet, that they’re in line as part of a rolling replacement cycle. It makes sense too so that the information can be readied and available and so there’s hard evidence at present too, always useful that.

One thing today at least was that working from home has meant I can have some more relaxing music on in the background when not in meetings, so that does keep things going nicely and means that I can feel more relaxed also. As for one of the albums played today it was the recent Brian Eno one Foreverandevernomore (yes, all one word in the title) and there’s some really poignant pieces in that, not least Garden of Stars with the vocals sounding almost as if it was in a church somewhere – really haunting and tune of the day because of it.

Wednesday 25th January – Home of the Bargains

After a long day at work, it was time to head off towards Wimbledon Park to get my hair cut. The folks at the barbers that I go to are always a good bunch and I know I can get the hair cut there reliably, always looks neat and spot on, and get to have a good conversation about the football as well – which one of he regulars being an Arsenal fan is pretty happy about at the moment. We both thought that Friday’s FA Cup game either way could make a statement about where the clubs are, and it probably to be fair would mean more to us to win it instead of them as it would set, potentially a good marker.

Once that was done, I’d normally head over to Wimbledon on the tube or the 156 bus (followed by tram) but I was making a visit somewhere else. For us Northerners like me, we do like a good bargain and Home Bargains (some of you may also have Quality Save, but it’s the same) really does that in abundance – all sorts of household items, often good food and wine cheap, toys, stationery, you name it. There’s one not far from The Love In My Heart’s place and one near my Mum’s too, so definitely well worth a visit. I did note a few months ago that they were building one in Wimbledon, not far from Plough Lane (and potentially walkable to AFC Wimbledon’s ground too) so thought as I was close by, well worth a visit, right?

It was to the bottom of the road that the barbers are on, then a turn onto the main road, heading over the railway and all the trains at the depot there that South Western Railway have, and once at the bottom I could see Home Bargains on the left. I went in, and it was absolutely massive! It’s possibly the largest one I’ve ever been in – as not all of them are out of town ones in industrial parks, a lot are in town centres so smaller footprint, and all well laid out with plenty of room to move around and peruse at leisure, so that obviously was going to be a good thing for me anyway, so I could take my time and see what I needed to get.

I did have some things I did want, namely some new oven trays (as the old ones were looking a bit worn out) and managed to get three of those – they even had some Hairy Bikers branded ones too. I also wanted some bin liners for the kitchen bin, and The Love had got me some from there last time out which I took home. I got the same ones here – 20 nice and thick ones for a mere 99p. I also noted that they had the Fairy Dishwasher Cleaner tablets which I used to get from Savers near me (and Savers haven’t been getting stock now) and so they were the same price – so purchase made there also. I did also manage to get some of the Azera special Grindsmith coffee cheap and that was good – in fact the large tins of Azera were discounted so would inform The Love later.

Oh, and if you have pets, the pet range was excellent. Lots of stuff for dogs, but also plenty for your cat including some of those Sheba twin packs where the portions are the right size for most cats, but in salmon as well as tuna (will have to let Brian the cat try those sometime.) I did also note that the Catsan cat litter was £5.99 for 10 litres, way cheaper than the £9 plus charged by Asda, and even cheaper than the Felite stuff The Love is using from Asda at the moment, having switched from Catsan because of Asda’s price increase, so at last that should be sourcable if she goes there too.

I also noted a sizeable garden section and indeed a food section, not just the regular things you’d expect like cereals, coffee, tea, crisps and snacks but a considerable fridge and freezer section with all sorts in there – so you could even get some frozen food cheap if you lived nearby or came in the car and took it home. Needless to say, I did manage to get some non-frozen items too such as the flapjacks which are great value and also two of the Lucozade Alert drinks for a mere £1. Yes, one pound for two of them! Can’t complain about that really. I had to get a carrier bag and it was laden full of stuff I wanted and all for a very reasonable price. See, Home Bargains is ace, and if you’re anywhere around South London, get down there!

The 156 bus stop was virtually right outside, but then I realised that it’s an Abellio run bus service, and they were on strike today. Nooooo! So instead I walked down the road to Plough Lane, and got the 493 towards Tooting Broadway (so could then get the 264 home from there) – but the 493 decided to change driver near Wimbledon Stadium and then sit there for ages without one turning up. In the end I had to get the bus after that which came and then at Tooting endure a wait, in the rain, for the 264. Oh, the joys sometimes.

Still, I did manage to eventually get home and have a lovely chatter with The Love In My Heart, who was having The Cute Little One overnight and she was being suitably adorable wanting “pig” on (meaning the film Sing) as well as some Mr Tumble too. The Cute Little One actually has started to sing along to the theme to Something Special (performed by Justin Fletcher aka Mr Tumble) and that has to be tune of the day – it’s not to be underestimated how good this programme is as it promotes the use of Makaton sign language, diversity and inclusion in a brilliant way without being patronising one bit either. And folks, did you know that Justin is also the voice of Shaun The Sheep? Well you do now, amazing eh?

Sunday 22nd January – Hat Trick Haaland

It was a nice lie in for both The Love In My Heart and myself this morning as Brian the cat was able to rest and snuggle up to The Love, wanting tummy tickles and lots of attention at the same time (as you would expect of course) – and we then had some nice breakfast together. It was good to start the day off well as I would be off to the Etihad Stadium later to see Manchester City against Wolverhampton Wanderers, and hopefully a bit less incident packed after the fun and games on Thursday against Tottenham. I would be more than happy to settle for a 1-0 win to be perfectly honest.

It was nice to be able to get to the ground a little earlier with my friend, so that meant I could go and get us both a well earned cuppa and a catch up along the way. The teams came out to train and I did notice that several of them seemed hungrier today – can’t exactly work out why but you could sense it. With Arsenal due to play Manchester United later on, it was imperative that City won, and as kick off approached, the team selection made sense after the battling second half performance that we had. The teams came out and we were ready to hopefully see something good.

The first half was definitely one where City probed and pressed but without luck: but the through balls being played were good, and also it was good to see Rico Lewis being involved again and making some excellent runs and passed from the centre of defence – he really is becoming one to watch to be honest. I did wonder whether some missed chances might come to haunt us, and Jack Grealish did have a shot headed well off the line as well. But I figured that it might be a case of keeping going and making sure that we didn’t take the foot off the accelerator.

Sure enough as the first half came to a close, the ball came over from a corner and back to Riyad Mahrez. He laid the ball off to Kevin de Bruyne whose pinpoint cross we perfectly met from Erling Haaland and he finished off with his head to score the opener. 1-0 and all good, and better to come after the break which involved some Chinese dragon dancing – well it is Chinese Lunar New Year at the moment. So the ball went down the left and Ilkay Gundogan ran on to a pass but was cropped down in the box. Easiest penalty all day to give to be honest, and Haaland made no mistake whatsoever from the spot to score and it was 2-0.

Even better came later on as the Wolves keeper Jose Sa committed an even worse howler, passing the ball straight to Mahrez, and he didn’t take long to draw the keeper out, pass it to Haaland and he had the easiest finish for a hat trick inside fifteen minutes, either side of half time, and made it 3-0, which would be the final score. It ended up being a very easy win indeed and definitely for me just the thing we needed, with the fourth hat trick this season from Haaland (Alan Shearer once hit five in a single Premier League season which is the record to aim at) and superb work all round. As for tune of the day it simply has to be the excellent Digital by Joy Division, used later for a trailer on BBC One, and a classic early tune of theirs.

Saturday 21st January – Hip Hop Don’t Stop

It was nice yesterday to be working from home and also to concentrate on a few meetings: one of them was around 6.30pm last night, and that did involve some folks from our American offices. It was also nice last night just to be relaxed with The Love In My Heart, getting a takeaway delivered for tea and then settling in for some telly and keeping Brian the cat amused by bouncing the ball to where he was sat on the pouffle, and he was happily pawing it away without a care in the world. It certainly made a change not to be travelling on a train on a Friday at least.

After some breakfast this morning, it was time to head off over to see The Love’s sister, as it would be her birthday tomorrow. I’d not been to their place for some time and there had been some home improvements since then: it looked very nice indeed, and the pet dog Bailey was being all adorable, just wanting a fuss and a love and being sat on the sofa most of the time without a care in the world. It was also nice to have a coffee and a slice of cake and chat with some of The Love’s family, and be able to have a good catch up all round. I did note also that one of The Love’s nieces was heading off skiing tomorrow, so that may prove to be interesting to hear what happened when she got back!

The Love and I then headed off and towards the city centre, and decided to stop off at Seven Bro7ers Beerhouse in Ancoats for a well earned drink. I did have the rather nice chocolate honeycomb stout, and that was rather gorgeous. It was busy due to the fact that there were some boxing matches occurring in the AO Arena later, so anywhere not far from there was going to be pretty busy to be fair. It was nice to relax in there though and felt rather leisurely to enjoy the time together. We headed back and The Love headed to Asda to get some nice things for tea for tonight and tomorrow, and fussed over Brian the cat and gave him his tea too – that did make him happy.

We had a relaxing evening of some telly and first off was Celebrity Mastermind. Interestingly, Paralympic athletic legend Hannah Cockroft’s specialist subject was the Shopaholic novels from Sophie Kinsella and she did pretty well on that side. Ultimately it was a close contest between all four contestants, with only two points between them. We then did see Bridge of Lies, with the four celebrities on that being four women pop stars, including Kimberley from Pussycat Dolls and Claire from Steps. They did manage to build the prize fund up nicely and for the end game Kimberley got across with help from the team and won quite a bit of money for charity too.

We then turned over to BBC Two and there were the first two episodes of a new series which explored the history of hip hop music, which featured a number of contributors including Chuck D, Ice T, a number of graffiti artists, KRS-One, folks from Run DMC, Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel, and so on. I have to say that it was a real history lesson into the first years of how the music came to be, and the background of the way that the South Bronx part of New York was very deprived, almost as if there was some form of deliberate segregation to put the less well off there. What fascinated me was the way that there would be some music nights to get people together, and for the police, they knew where everyone was and so not, in their words, causing any trouble.

The second episode then basically delved into the early 1980s and how the additional pressures put on with the early Raegan years really didn’t help matters in terms of the local neighbourhoods, and this inspired Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five to write the superb The Message, a seven minute plus opus of what was going on in their part of the neighbourhood, and really sent a message out to the masses telling of the stress that social poverty puts people under. Still to this day a defining moment of not just hip hop but just 1980s music, so definitely for me is tune of the day - it is somewhat iconic. I think too it was good to see so many contemporaries note its importance in the history of its genre.

Thursday 19th January – Game Of Two Halves

It was a busy day in the office today, albeit a half day for me as I was heading up North later. I decided to make use of the morning to be able to road test a number of things and be ready for making some changes to the Windows 10 build fro next week. This included adding a couple of new versions of some of the core applications and making sure that these will be added as a planned change next week. It was quite nice to see some friendly faces close to where I was as well, which always does make the day a really good atmosphere to work in as well. I had a couple of good productive meetings too.

It was then off to Euston and managed to get there in good time prior to getting the 1353 departure up to Manchester Piccadilly. It was nice to be on a train in the afternoon and in fact to see the daylight out of the window too. It did seem much more Wintry outside though as the train headed North, with both Stoke on Trent and Macclesfield being particularly snowy still – the cold weather probably was still too cold temperature wise to melt anything away. Manchester did at least seem much less frosty and it was a very quick change over from the train to the tram and on to The Love In My Heart’s place, and was lovely to see her and Brian the cat.

After some tea, it was time to head off to the Etihad Stadium and to see Manchester City against Tottenham Hotspur – in a game that had been re-arranged from September, when all games were cancelled when Queen Elizabeth II had passed away. As both sides were not involved in an FA Cup replay it meant that the game could be played tonight – although not an ideal night for all, so the stadium wasn’t quite full. I did also note that it was very different in the build up to kick off with lots of lights and a laser show going on with the lighting to the stadium turned off and some rave anthems being played over the speakers as well. Would that give the impetus for a rave performance?

The first half was fairly even for the most part, although City weren’t creating that many chances, with Tottenham planning to hit City on the break when they could. All seemed like it was going towards half time at 0-0 but then three minutes or so of madness occurred. First of all, Ederson attempted to pass the ball to Rodri, but the Tottenham attack intercepted the ball, allowing for Dejan Kulusveski to steal in and bury the ball home for 1-0. And as City went forward, Tottenham hit on another counter and after some work down the right from Harry Kane, the shot was saved by Ederson and it was then punched out straight to Emerson Royale who headed home. 2-0 down at half time and certainly didn’t feel positive as I went to get a pie at the break.

I figured that City would need to score early in the second half, and the side looked a completely different beast from the first half. The ball came down the right hand side, and after an attempt to finish by Jack Grealish, the ball came out to Julian Alvarez who shot into the top corner to reduce the defecit to 2-1. That was good, and then a couple of minutes later the ball was chipped towards Riyad Mahrez from Rodri, and his header was met perfectly by Erling Haaland to break the goal drought of a mere three games that he had, and it was now 2-2. That was pretty good, and we now had the remainder of the game to get a winner and to at least get the three points if we good.

Rico Lewis managed to defend a Tottenham shot enough so it hit the crossbar, which could have been a very different outcome, and then as the ball came out to the right side, Mahrez gained the ball, ran down the right hand side and then slotted a low powerful shot inside the near post, which the keeper Hugo Lloris should really have saved. No complaints from me though as it meant that City were 3-2 up. It continued that way and City kept pressing. Right near the end the ball was cleared and after a defensive mix up, Mahrez was able to gain control of the ball and neatly dink it over Lloris for 4-2 right at the end, and three points gained when all may have seemed lost during the first half. The proverbial game of two halves it was, and I had Manchester City’s old song The Boys In Blue in my head so that has to be tune of the day – the Boys in Blue never give in after all!

Wednesday 18th January - Testing Testing One Two Three

It's been three days of solid working and indeed three days of some extensive testing along the way. I did note that something seemed to be amiss on the Monday when I couldn't view some email attachments from a web based email that has normally been working fine. At first I thought "oh, it'll just be me then" until I spoke to one of my trusted colleagues in another department who works on our finance systems. As it turns out he has the same hosting provider for email and was seeing exactly the same issue as me. Now, if I did an override on our antivirus product settings and turned off one of the web components, everything works - without any issues. So I've worked with our Cyber Security team to get an issue raised to see what happens.

Later this week I did see also that potentially this same component could be preventing some safe communication to one of our servers (which has a web based address) and having some of that connectivity rejected with an error 403 - a https failure. Now at first when I spotted this, I did see another solution some time ago, but the fact that this ties in with a similar failure on the web based email above, made me think more. In fact, turning off same component and running a test showed that sending some information to that system worked too. In this case though as we know it's an internal service, we can allow that in the settings centrally to propogate to everyone, so that may help - and it's something I can monitor.

That interestingly ties in with something that myself and some colleagues attended on the Monday too, which in effect is looking at a new(ish) product to see if that might be suitable for some of the work we wish to do. One of the pre-requisites we always have though is how effective that product will be in certain worldwide territories where we do business - Brazil being one, but the one we where we know it'll be less easy will be China, and so always have that at the forefront of our minds. And whilst I don't mind someone responding to a question with having to go back and get an answer, what I do object to is that assumption that we'd continue without that answer. It's not on and shows some naivety to be honest.

The main other focus at present has been road testing some bits for Windows 11, and making sure that we can actually support the languages we need to correctly. This is to some degree helped massively by some new features in Windows 11 22H2, where you can use a Powershell command to add a language and its complete pack into the operating system. In fact there was a useful script which utilised that and set some defaults, and that worked, but you still had to choose language after the task sequence completed. Then I hit a brainwave: if you can install, you can also uninstall, right? Of course. So the key is to add the new language first, get it all set, and then do an uninstall of the default English GB we have. I did that, and boom! It worked. Happy times.

In fact, following a request from one of our team in China where we've had some new offices and the staff are less bilingual than others, we were looking to do the same for Simplified Chinese (that's zh-cn in Windows speak) and was able to utilise the same scripting to get that to play ball, however this is where writing some error trapping in scripts helped - as I saw an error, and the error was that for the preferred UI language, it doesn't use zh-cn, but zh-Hans-cn (yeah, I know!) - so simply set a variable at the start of the script to set uilanguage="zh-Hans-cn" and then for the detection of the UI language, verify against that and it worked like a charm.

I did after work on Tuesday venture out for a couple of drinks with some colleagues and we did have a couple of people over from one of our new offices in Berlin, so it was good to chat with them about all sorts, including the rip off price of concert tickets and how one of them and his wife really wanted to see Rammstein (I get completely why!) and the fact that it wasn't cheap but you knew that you would get a good show. Unfortunately it seemed that a lot of gig ticket pricing is going the same way as over here, not good. We did have a giggle too about David Hasslehoff being massive over there and of course Looking For Freedom did come up with the fall of the Berlin wall and all that. As he said, it just needed KITT to turbo boost over the wall and it was all good!

Today I also did head out for a little bit of shopping as I was at home working today. It was mainly to get some Compeed foot plasters as for some reason my feet were in agony after Saturday, I suspect it was some excess rubbing close to the toe, so have at least got one on to remediate at present. I did also pick up something that I had ordered from Next clearance - I did order it over Christmas but there must have been some delays with some sale items and the like, hence the delay. Thankfully it was what I had ordered and all securely packaged, although these days you don't get a bag with the item inside now. It's probably to save on parcel waste to be honest.

So it has been a busy but somewhat productive three days, leaving the evenings when I do get home to chatter to The Love In My Heart and then also to be able to at least get my teeth into the US version of The Traitors, which was recorded at the same castle as the UK version and features some of the same mission challenges. However, the US ones stayed in the castle rather than head off to lodges like the UK folks, which did make me wonder if they were being filmed at the same time (less setup for the missions etc.) Alan Cumming is a good host, not as good as Claudia Winkleman obviously, but still good. Same theme tune for both though so that has to be tune of the day for me.

Sunday 15th January – Masters of the Snooker Universe

Even though the weather did look a tad better today, I thought it sensible to stay in, rest, relax and actually see some sport. I was gutted after the result of the Manchester derby yesterday with one of the most controversial offside decisions made in recent times, even with the advent of VAR (Very Abject Refereeing) and so some other sport, perhaps less controversial, might be the order of the day. There was at least the Masters Snooker final from Alexandra Palace on BBC2, hosted by the rather wonderful Hazel Irvine. Snooker fans love her professionalism and the fact that she just oozes class, and proved to be the case again later today.

There was also some football on too – the Women’s Super League game between Manchester United and Liverpool. Although I could potentially have gone over to Dagenham and Redbridge’s ground to see the Manchester City women away at West Ham, the lack of tube on the District Line due to engineering works meant it’d be a faff to get there, and with a Sunday 6.45pm kick off, hardly ideal, so staying in was the option. I flicked between the start of the Masters Snooker and watched the first three frames of that and then kept an eye on the football – and it was clear that United were not taking any prisoners either, ending up winning 6-0. Total demolition job with the likes of Ella Toone and Alessia Russo on top form.

It was back to the snooker and it certainly was an enthralling final. Mark Williams had played superbly to beat Ronnie O’Sullivan in the quarter final before whitewashing Jack Lisowski in the semis, whereas Judd Trump had a final frame decider to get past Barry Hawkins and then a seemingly easier win over Stuart Bingham, but much closer than the 6-1 scoreline would suggest. Both players were in excellent form in the final though, playing pure one visit and win the frame snooker, and any errors were punished massively, so it was no surprise whatsoever that it was a close thing and 5-3 to Judd Trump after the afternoon session was about right in my view.

I did have the Commodore 64 out later as well as the PC, primarily as I wanted to get creative and make some music. One of the pieces I had already started a sketch of, so wanted to work on that and get down the main melody of what I was doing. On the PC, I was using SIDFactory II in order to get a tune composed and designed for the SID sound chip in a machine I don’t have one in, so it was good to play with that and learn it – where thankfully as I have some knowledge of a particular music editor on the ’64, it meant that some of the commands translated well. Using the overlay image with the editor means I had easy access to the commands and that visually helped me a lot too.

Back to the snooker then and the evening session proved to be classy, with both players trading quality breaks and Mark Williams pulling it back to 6-6 at the mid-session interval. He went 7-6 ahead before a 58 minute frame with some superb safety play from Judd Trump meaning he had the upper hand and won that one to be 7-7. I did think that’d be a turning point and despite Mark Williams putting in a quality break in the next, Judd Trump won three on the bounce to end up winning 10-8 and a fairly late finish, but some superb snooker from both players Judd joked he had “done a Selby” and won when not winning well, but as it is in football, that’s a sign. Tune of the day is the former Shot of the Championship music, the theme from the TV series Skorpion – if we could have that back please, that’d be good.

Saturday 14th January – Game Hunting

Today was a day of bad weather, with wind and rain forecast to be pretty heavy in parts. As such, I thought it not worth risking taking a long walk out as the warnings were that it was going to be pretty bad. I did have an alternative plan for during the day though and that was to visit a number of shops that housed the older computer and console games, to see if there was anything worth buying for myself. I had managed to find a bit of a lull in the weather later in the morning, and so headed off to West Croydon station, with a view to get to Angel via Overground and tube (and thus being cheaper) – so it was Overground to Canada Water, Jubilee to London Bridge and Northern via Bank to Angel, and up the steepest escalator on the tube and out of there.

The first visit was N1 Games which was just off the main row of shops near where the market is held on the street in Angel. It was a good little place but was basically console only, so no computer games. The stock was well looked after though so definitely if you have Playstation 1 onwards, it’s well worth a good look at. I did decide to follow the Jubilee Greenway in reverse from here, heading down to the Regents Canal and follow the path to Coal Drops Yard and Granary Square, crossing over the bridge to Camley Street Wildlife Park just as the rain and wind hammered it down. A coffee from the café there and to sit under cover and dry whilst rain and wind howled around me seemed somewhat poetic, but there you go.

I made it to St Pancras International and was going to get the tube to Hammersmith – via Circle or Hammersmith and City Line. Unfortunately the entrance was shut to those lines so instead made my way to the Piccadilly Line and took that through central London instead. The preference was for the nicer air conditioned tube trains, hence the initial choice, but at least I had a diversion. Once at Hammersmith, I passed the little IKEA City store and made it to X Electrical, which in its many racks had plenty of vinyl singles and albums, all sorts of Super VHS and Laser Disc players (so if you want one, go there) as well as at the back some glass cupboards with older games including those for the ZX Spectrum. Nothing I wanted here, but a nice little selection, and the bloke who owns it was regularly selling his electrical wares whilst I was in there, which says to me it’s good a good reputation. Was sorely tempted by the Pioneer Laserdisc player!

From there I went into IKEA City to have a quick mooch around, and notably it was interesting that they had a small Swedish café with the meatballs etc, and also a small shop and little counter to get your 75p hot dogs and 60p ice cream. Why oh why then did IKEA insist on making this till in particular card only? It makes absolutely zero sense for such a small amount where you’d rather pay cash to enjoy a little snack and treat yourself. As it was, I headed to grab some lunch elsewhere, and then it was the bus for the afternoon as I was on my way to the final stop of the day – it was the 220 from Hammersmith via Putney to Wandsworth, and then from there the 270 to Tooting (the 44 was also an option) – and Hopper Fare on the buses kicked in.

Once at Tooting it was then on to Crazy Thumbs, a pretty good shop where I’ve bought some Commodore 64 games from before. They did have plenty of hardware too including an Amstrad CPC464, and tons of games for that system. There were also some Commodore 64 disks but they were pricey, including Nebulus for £200 (the single load tape version I got for around £8 proved to be great value in comparison for such a classic game.) I didn’t get anything in the end but it was tempting to get a few budget cassette titles if I didn’t have them already, and the Quattro Megastars compilation is the hardest to find in that series too. From there it was then on to the 264 bus home and to rest and relax a bit.

I did have a good online chat with a few friends and a few beers later on (thankfully I had some nice ones in the fridge so that definitely did help a little bit too) – and I did note the sad passing away of one of the members of Yellow Magic Orchestra, Yukihiro Takahashi. He had passed on the 11th but the news hadn’t been made public til today, and I dd feel quite sad about that. I did end up playing their second album Solid State Survivor later and most notably the classic Rydeen, which is tune of the day – as it was covered as the loading theme for Daley Thompson’s Decathlon on the trusty Commodore 64 and also used in the arcade game Super Locomotive. It’s still a tune I adore to this day and seemed the right tribute somehow.

Friday 13th January – Superstitious? Moi?

I was glad to be working from home today, and on a day that doesn’t always happen to be lucky for me – Friday 13th. I guess if you wanted to label me in some way, I’m probably a sufferer of paraskevidekatriaphobia, and no, I have not made that word up. It’s actually a word meaning the fear of Friday the 13th (for normal fear of 13, that’s triskaidekaphobia folks) – and normally I like to be sure that nothing particular could happen which may be unlucky, so staying at home and not necessarily taking too many risks for me is a sensible move to be on the safe side. I just don’t want anything bad to happen to me!

I did have the online food shopping delivered from Sainsburys, albeit with two very random substitutions that made no sense in terms of what they were compared to the originals, so handed those back to the delivery driver. As it was, the local store close to the flat had both items I did want, so when I headed out for lunch I nipped in and managed to get those at the same time – it made perfect sense to be able to do so. If a couple of wrong items counts as unlucky, then maybe I was thinking that might be my fill for the day, well I’d hope so anyway.

It was also announced that the FA Cup Fourth Round game between Manchester City and Arsenal would be on a Friday evening, 27th January, live on ITV1. Slow handclap there to both ITV and the FA for not considering that a lot of fans would be travelling up on the day and then having to face some rubbish trains on Saturday if staying over, or a long coach trip home. The hand was forced a bit as United were also at home so we couldn’t play the same day as them, but even so, just really annoying. I was luckily able to book a half day off work and then get the trains booked – and had only booked a very very cheap train Saturday so not lost out to be honest. Just annoying that due to telly I’ve had to use two half days in the next two weeks or so.

Anyway, one other bit of notable happenings today was that during lunch I also watched the first frame or two of the Masters snooker, with Judd Trump up against Barry Hawkins. The latter had thrashed Mark Allen 6-0 in the previous round and was on good form, and the first two frames were shared. The Hawk did look more settled and confident though and it was no surprise later on that he went on and took the lead at 5-4 – with an incredible fluke on one red in the 9th frame that bounced off the cushion, hit the blue and went in the middle pocket. That was surreal when I saw the highlights later on and thought to myself that maybe he should inherit Stuart Bingham’s nickname of Ballrun for this match. But Judd was not to be denied and definitely fought back well to win the match 6-5 – another final frame decider!

I did have a delivery earlier in the week too of another Codemasters computer game for the Commodore 64 – no less than Robin Hood Legend Quest, one of the final 8-bit release titles. It’s not the easiest to find and the price I paid was reasonable considering how much copies of this can go for (more so for the Amstrad CPC out of all three of the major 8-bit formats) and the good news was that the game loaded first go as well which always is a plus. Lots of platform action and keys and objects to find, and the useful skid along the ground when ducking to get through smaller gaps. There does seem to be a key you can’t get though and that potentially prevents you from collecting an object to complete the game, but will need to run through it and see for definite if it is the case. The title theme by Allister Brimble is pretty good, albeit short and sweet, and is tune of the day.

I must admit that I’m also looking forward to a quieter weekend. I will miss The Love In My Heart terribly of course (not to mention Brian the cat) but hopefully I may be able to take another of the London nature walks that were put up on TfL’s site recently, having done the ones for South London (Bermondsey to Brockley) and the central London one (Swiss Cottage to Kings Cross). The North London one from Burnt Oak to Wembley looks favourite I think, provided that the weather will hold and be nice at least. I’ll see what happens but it definitely for me has given me some more walking impetus. I do also at some point will look to do the Capital Ring but in reverse (starting at Woolwich Foot Tunnel and go anticlockwise!)

Thursday 12th January – Days In The Office

As I mentioned some time ago, I decided that for January 2023 onwards, I wouldn’t always post a daily diary entry. This was for a number of reasons, the main one being that instead of feeling the need to write something all the time, I could concentrate on actually writing something where I feel the need to instead. I did look back at the last few years or so and thought “well it was a good idea, but maybe now is the time to scale things back a bit” – and although I had at least done the first few days of this year with a full on entry, now was the time to make less posts, but also make them a bit longer, giving some context into things.

It’s mainly been work that has been taking up the time over the last few days, and have been in the office for all three. In a good way it does mean that I’ve been able to make the most of the faster network available but also be able to do some suitable build testing too, so that has been good – and also means that from a point of view of being able to be present and correct for any assistance needed from some of the other teams, so has worked out nicely. In fact, I had a good discussion today with our head of service team about a potential new printer going into a temporary site and what we could do to get it working pretty quickly as we needed.

I also have been working on getting all the right drivers sorted for machines that will be able to run Windows 11 successfully, ready for some further build testing. Interestingly, there’s a number of our older laptops which actually do pass the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) requirement but fall down on the lack of 8th Generation Intel processor, which is actually why my home PC isn’t eligible for Windows 11 either. There’s going to potentially be some further movement later down the line when Microsoft realise not everyone wants to move, or possibly extend the life of Windows 10 for home use beyond 2025 (as a lot of home PCs do not have TPM) but we shall see, I think.

I did get delayed slightly getting into the office one day primarily due to two temporary road works and traffic lights along the express bus route, which did mean that for one part of a road it took thirty five minutes instead of five minutes to get through, having a knock on effect on traffic encountered later. Thankfully it at least went away that evening and so getting back home was much less hassle, which has to be a positive. I also of course know that getting the bus to and from work may take a little more time, but it’s also cheaper (use of Hopper Fare both ways means it’s a mere £1.65 each way, whereas peak trains would at least be £5.70 if I walked to and from City Thameslink, so multiply that a few times and you can see the savings right there.)

The other thing that I’ve been investigating from a work point of view is why one particular build, used mainly in China where they have extra applications to install that are region specific, appears to fail at a particular point in time, and consistently. I checked the applications individually, all fine, and I checked the way that the order of installs was – they were also fine. I obtained some logs from one of the team over in China, and that helped a bit, and doing my own road test later gave me a good idea, which I implemented and tested today. And.. badabing! It worked. It turned out that the number of application installs were filling the CCM cache folder (in C:\windows\ccm) – by default this is 5GB, usually enough, but bear in mind that some of the apps can be 1GB each for their installs, and it didn’t take a genius to work out what to do. So I simply added SMSCACHESIZE=10240 (ie: 10GB) to the Configuration Manager client install properties, and that worked a treat. Might look at that across the board anyway as the next Office 365 install to add is pretty hefty.

Away from the office, and having lovely conversations with The Love In My Heart which have kept me going and happy too, I’ve been settling in for the evening for some snooker. It’s the Cazoo Masters at Alexandra Palace, and having been there in previous years to watch it (I didn’t get an early bird ticket for this year, so baulked at the prices) I can vouch for the atmosphere big time. The match of the tournament for me was today as Mark Williams came back from 3-0 down, potted a superb red in the fourth frame to keep him in it instead of being 4-0 down, and fought back to win 6-5 in a last frame decider. Epic stuff.

I also enjoyed tonight’s match too which was an interesting encounter between Jack Lisowski and Hossein Vafaei, the Iranian player who’s done so much for the game in the Middle East region. The first four frames were shared and Vafaei scored a 143 break too, meaning he and Mark Williams at present would share the high break prize – it’s worth noting there have only ever been three 147s at the Masters, none of which scored by players from the United Kingdom either (Kirk Stevens from Canada, Marco Fu from Hong Kong and Ding Junhui from China) so a 140 plus break has a very good chance of being the best one. It got more tense and nervous the later the match went on but Lisowski held his nerve well to get over the line and win 6-4, and will face Mark Williams in the semi final on Saturday – that’s going to be an excellent game too. As for tune of the day for today, well as Vafaei is known as the Prince of Persia, surely the theme from that game’s soundtrack (as composed by Francis Mechner) could be used, or a modern day orchestral version? Might be worth consideration.

Monday 9th January – Trains of Pain

It was a work from home day today and working from The Love In My Heart’s place, and it was of course nice to have Brian the cat for company as he was all snuggled up, either in the box or on the pouffle, so he was a very happy one. In fact when he was having some snacks for lunch he decided that it was the perfect time for a stretch and a scratch on the scratching board that he has – he uses it a lot and that’s a good thing that he’s got used to that instead of wrecking any of the furniture. Of course that did make me feel more relaxed too having the adorable cuteness to keep me company as well.

I spent some time today checking over one of the reports I used to get some data imported into the HR system, as there’s also the need to clean up said data as well from time to time. This is when some sensible filtering comes in to play and means I can get together a list of what needs to be amended and be able to sort those out as soon as possible. The good thing was that I had a master sheet to work from and to check over as well, so was able to make sure that in fact what I had there was correct at the point of some clean up and removal.

I also over lunch checked to re-arrange a train for next weekend. I originally had planned to come up next Friday night the 20th January, but as the Manchester City v Tottenham game had been re-arranged for Thursday 19th (it was the game postponed after Queen Elizabeth II had passed away) then it was sensible to take the afternoon off work and get it booked, then get the train Thursday afternoon and be up in Manchester for that, then work from home on the Friday at The Love’s place and stay the whole weekend. It made some sense to be honest and I know that this way I can get to see my beloved Manchester City some more as well as have some time off.

As much as it was okay being on the train and doing the connectivity for the wireless and then to VPN for connecting to work resources, the truth is that it wouldn’t be something I’d like to do all the time, primarily due to the wireless speed on the train not being the fastest, and as you’re travelling fast, the mobile connection can always drop too (see tunnels for example) so it’s usually easier not to be working and instead to relax a little instead when taking the train and waiting til you get to your destination in order to then be able to do what you need to do.

As it was, the train I was getting home tonight had been cancelled due to a lack of train crew (which proves that the Avanti Worst Coast new timetable cannot be fulfilled really) so will need to get the next one, meaning a later arrival home, and not a reserved seat either unless I head over and grab an unreserved one pretty pronto. With that in mind, The Clash’s Train In Vain is tune of the day as that’s what it certainly feels like these days instead of being a much better journey that it actually should really be. Hey ho.

Sunday 8th January – Chelsea Clobbered

It was nice to be able to have a relaxing lie in this morning, and once The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat were up, we ended up watching some of the house rebuilding programmes with George Clarke on More4, after I’d been also watching some classic Ninja Warrior on E4 Extra (and of course re-narrated by Jim North, because of who had done so before – the likes of Nagano on there as proper legends of the original Japanese series, one of only a very select few who had ever conquered stage four and completed the whole thing.)

I headed off later to meet my friend as we were going to see Manchester City v Chelsea at the Etihad. It had been a good hard fought win when the teams met at Stamford Bridge on the Thursday night, and I suspect both sides would have been making some changes as well. We did make a few, mainly resting the likes of Haaland, de Bruyne et al and instead giving the likes of Cole Palmer a start. It was still a strong side though with Julian Alvarez up front, Phil Foden down the middle with Bernardo Silva and Kyle Walker back at right back and captaining the side. I got a pie and a brew for us both and we settled in to see what would happen.

City did start off reasonably brightly and it was good to see that the attacks down both flanks looked pretty speedy, with the full backs overlapping well and giving the Chelsea defence some problems. In fact the runs from Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden were causing problems, and it was inevitable that both would be the target of tackles coming in from all angles. City pressed forward and earned a free kick close to the edge of the box. Mahrez took it, and absolutely curled a beauty into the top corner for the opening goal. It was a joy to see, and the City fans of course sang to Joy Division’s classic Love Will Tear Us Apart (make that tune of the day) the alternative words of City, tearing Cockneys apart, again…

And tear Chelsea apart City did twice before half time. A corner came over and Kai Havertz cleared it for Chelsea, only for the VAR to intervene and show that in fact he had punched it away from the head of Aymeric Laporte, and as it was a clear error by the referee, a penalty was given, and Julian Alvarez buried it for 2-0. However, the next goal involved a lot of passes, some superb cross field passes from both Rodri and Kyle Walker, and he overlapped Riyad Mahrez on the right to be available to feed in a delicious ball across the box to Phil Foden. The Stockport Iniesta tucked it away superbly and it was 3-0 before half time, and looking really straightforward for us too.

The second half was really City going down a gear as Chelsea made changes, and they couldn’t get going no matter what. What was more concerning for me was that their players didn’t seem that bothered to be honest with you, and that meant that it felt more like a training session than an FA Cup match. Mahrez went close with a curling shot, and Phil Foden was fouled in the box late on for a clear penalty, which Mahrez finished delightfully for a well earned 4-0 win. It was ridiculously easy and Alan Shearer on Match of the Day quite rightly chastised the Chelsea players and manager for their lack of effort.

Saturday 7th January – Out To Town

It was a nice relaxing morning for myself and The Love In My Heart as we had a very nice full breakfast with James Martin on in the background – he had Dan Walker on as a guest who was happy to get a banana sundae as the dessert later on, which really did set the scene well for the love of food that he had. He and James of course were both former contestants on Strictly Come Dancing, and so were able to swap memories of how they braved into the world of the sequins! It was quite an entertaining natter actually and certainly was a good way to start the day.

We did also have the very nice surprise of a visit from The Cute Little One and her parents – and she was being as adorable as ever. In fact she was more than happy to wander around The Love’s place with me, and go and locate Brian the cat, who had settled by the window and was looking outside in his do not disturb me or else mode. The Cute Little One said hello from a distance and later on when she was leaving said her goodbye to Brian which was nice, she used his name instead of going “cat cat” as she had done before, so that was nice.

I was keeping an eye on the FA Cup matches during the day and Gillingham v Leicester City was on in the background as The Cute Little One was showing The Love and I her new dollies and how much she wanted to play with them in her little baby chair (which she insisted on doing up and fastening them in as she does when she goes in her high chair) – and was adorable because of it. I know that she has a little happy giggle when she gets the odd tickle so it was good to see her happy smiling face being all beaming with joy. It really makes me feel happier seeing that.

The Love and I headed into the city centre later on the tram as The Love wanted to see what was in Oliver Bonas so she could use her gift card she got for Christmas. We did see some lovely things and there was a dress that The Love spotted, so she was able to try that on, and she looked lovely. That had been reduced to £32 in the sale so that was well sorted, and later on a top she saw in the shop was available online, so she used the remainder of the gift card to pretty much pay for that, so refreshed the wardrobe effectively for free.

After we had also paid a visit to Flying Tiger (as they now have one in the Arndale Centre, woohoo!) as well as Sostrene Greene on Cross Street, we headed to Beermoth first to have a drink, which was as always nice and chilled out, and always a relaxed vibe in there, and then it was to The Bank on Mosley Street for tea. There was a winter ale from Black Sheep called Fresh Start which I had, and we had a nice meal each. I had the steak and ale pie which was plentiful, and The Love had the chicken schnitzel, which was also very tasty. Perfect to fill us up and to head for the tram back to The Love’s place to be able to relax and watch some evening telly. Tune of the day is In The City by The Jam, as that was in my head as we headed out on the tram.

Friday 6th January – Emptiness

It was off to the office today and indeed up to Manchester later to see The Love In My Heart. Although of course it was a massively reduced timetable due to the train strikes, realistically if I didn’t go today it’d be Sunday lunch time which then makes the weekend not worth it for a number of reasons. I had already cleared it with management to head up to Euston at lunch time and then connect to our VPN when on the train wi-fi, meaning I could then work at least for the rest of the day. I should add though that I do support the workforce who are battling for better pay and conditions to their work, and will continue to do so despite any inconvenience.

So it was on the X68 early this morning and heading to the office, where a little Friday breakfast at Coco di Mama of their bacon baguette and coffee was on the cards. It’s always nice to give yourself a little pick me up and it was also good that the staff are always super lovely in the one near the office – a little kindness goes a long way and when I arrived, the staff told me that they had no sausages left, so that saved me time considering that before I ordered. Again, the little things, right?

The working morning and early afternoon was all good. In fact I spent some time on a call with one of my colleagues to determine an installation issue. So it appeared that the piece of software had installed via MECM but the detection method failed. I suspected this was either a corrupted MSI download for the Windows installer, but even removing and replacing that (clear the MECM client cache and a new one would have to download of course) didn’t work. In the end I did the install but in a repair mode with the options of VOMUS enabled (five different options in one there) and that did seem to play ball afterwards, thankfully.

I took the bus up to Euston and all seemed very quiet, and I’d planned it so that my lunch break was getting to Euston and having a meal deal from Sainsburys, then I’d be on the train for the rest of the day. That actually worked well and it meant that the 1437 (second last train of the day) from Euston had me on it, and it was amazingly quiet in the unreserved coach C. I had a full table for four all to myself (woo!) and it was the new refurbed Pendolino so the plug sockets are less in the way too. All appeared to be fine there at least.

The train did have to divert via Northampton due to some line issues but that wasn’t too bad and at least it did mean that I was able to relax a bit whilst working. Good job I took the meal deal onboard as there was obviously no shop onboard today, so made sense to have all I needed. I did think about what would happen in future with more strikes planned, and how viable a future trip like this is, but I was just relieved to get up North and Brian the cat greeted me with his “Hello Warren, you know it’s time for my tuna and Dreamies!” face as he always does.

We were discussing amongst our work team some classic late 80s and early 90s dance tunes, and I did throw in Cubik by 808 State as one (make that tune of the day.) This was primarily due to the fact that it was big in the indie clubs I used to go to at the time and also was from the same era as In Yer Face, which Manchester City use to introduce the matchday lineup. It also reminded me of occasional visits to the Hacienda too!

Thursday 5th January – Johnny, Johnny Stones

It was another work from home day for me today, primarily due to the train strikes and not being able necessarily to get back home (not getting in as such) – more so because today is when the drivers union ASLEF are on strike, so there’s no one to drive the trains on these days. In any case it made sense to work from home, get a few things done, and be ready for later to tune in to the Manchester City game at Chelsea. I potentially might have been able to get a ticket but part of the tube route I’d need to do would be closed (as the tracks are shared) so that scuppered things a bit there, unfortunately.

In any case it was good to be able to crack on with a few things during the day and carry out some further investigation into an issue which I spotted earlier this week. It looks like, from what I can see, is that there’s some communication issues between some of the UK locations and other parts of the world, and our network lead has suggested a couple of things to work around during the weekend, which may be of use. Until then I can’t test anything as such but good to know that my fact finding correlates with what they found too, so definitely for me a good thing in that great minds are thinking alike at least.

I also had a good little lunch time walk out, mainly to get some fresh air, but also to be able to get a few little bits I needed for next week. On the whole this worked well and it did mean that I then was able to attend a meeting during the afternoon with some refreshed thoughts and input. Unfortunately I can tell that there’ll be a sales pitch happening as a result of that, and as such I’ll need to bite the proverbial tongue when that happens (especially as said product, according to an expert on said matter, is not that good in reality.)

I did note that later on the City game would kick off at 8pm so had a good chatter with The Love In My Heart before then, and she was nice and content as Brian the cat had been giving out plenty of cuddles for her (aww, he is so adorable!) and it was a gentle start back to the year at work for her. Plus of course it’s always helpful when some people are really nice and give you a boost of confidence and appreciation, something in my view she doesn’t get enough of (not from me, incidentally, but work colleagues and management.) I’ve seen first hand how the work she does is of benefit to those she works with, so I can definitely vouch.

So on with the game then, and City quite frankly played bobbins in the first half and only some calm defending on a number of occasions from John Stones prevented City from going behind. We looked disjointed and all over the place, so no surprise that changes were made at half time, allowing Bernardo Silva to go down the right and give Marc Cucciarella at the same time. It did make me wonder though if taking Silva off for Riyad Mahrez (with Jack Grealish also coming on for Phil Foden) was the right decision.

However, that was soon shown to be right a few minutes later as a good City move through the middle was then fed to the left by Kevin de Bruyne. The ball went to Jack Grealish and he delivered a cross across the six yard box perfectly for Riyad Mahrez to finish for 1-0. The keeper Kepa should have done better for Chelsea, but I’ll take it. In fact, City held out well and some good defending kept the score as it was, and a vital three points for us. Always the case that if you grind out those 1-0s when not playing well, it’s a sign. And indeed, kudos to John Stones, superb today and deserving of his new chant, sung to the tune of Daddy Cool by Boney M (so make that tune of the day.)

Wednesday 4th January - Home and Hosed

I was glad to be working from home today to be honest, primary reason being the wind and rain that appeared to be around. I had heard a lot of it last night when I was heading to sleep, but even more so today with the wind howling through the window (I normally have it open to ventilate and let fresh air in) and so much so that closing the window later was actually for me at least a better option. I did have a few tasks to be getting on with today and so it was good to be able to have a coffee with some porridge for breakfast and concentrate on the tasks in hand.

First things first was to release the December Windows 10 updates out to the masses - as we tend not to push them out over Christmas due to low take up (and not many in) and so better to get everyone when they're back, and we know at least then it means that we'll get some good success early on, which already looks like it is the case from what I can see. It's also just down to the way the month fell for updates with the Patch Tuesday not being til 13th December, a bit earlier and they could have gone out before the festive period. It's also why you have good conversations with other teams and keep them in the loop.

I did head out at lunch time primarily over to Savers, as I needed some bits for the bathroom. Of course the good thng is that the prices are always decent, so managed to get some shower gel, shampoo (really needed that), a new bath sponge, some Domestos bleach for the toilet, and also as an extra for me, and primarily because of new shoes etc, was a can of the Odor Eaters spray to make sure that the feet stay nice and fresh inside the footwear - and with 33% extra in the can I got from there, that was an added plus of value so can't complain at all really.

I also did spend some time this afternoon working out a further plan of action to start further road testing Windows 11 a bit more, but to do that I'm going to need some hardware, and some space on the MECM distribution points for the driver packages too, which may take some time to sort. Realistically (and hoping this is the case) I'll only need the ones for supported models anyway, but that's still a fair few. I know the size roughly so it'll be a case of some careful liaison and work and to sort a few things out.

It was also good that at least I was able to put some music on mid afternoon and have that as a welcome accompaniment to getting on with work, so was able to listen to some of the new albums I got over Christmas including the excellent Mexrrissey album No Manchester, which I've been after for ages. Imagine some of your favourite Smiths and Morrissey tracks but done Mexican band style, and you're there. Estuvo Bien (Suedehead) is a great example of how good this can be and is tune of the day.

Tuesday 3rd January - Back To The Office

It was a case of avoiding the train strikes today and heading on the trusty X68 bus and off to the office for the first working day of the year for me. It was really quieter than I thought on the roads to be honest, and as such, I actually arrived at the stop near the office for 7.45am, so definitely had the time to head into Costa Coffee on the way in and do their breakfast deal, so a sausage bap with americano was mine to take into the office, and not surprisingly, I was the first one there.

It was good to settle in and to see if anything had happened in the festive period, thankfully not a lot, but I did see that there were some connectivity issues over in some of our Asia offices. After some conversations with other teams, it seemed that there appeared to be some syncing issues also that I may have uncovered, so good to know we were all on the same page and managing to work on getting that one resolved nicely. I must admit too that it was nice to see a few friendly faces who were all in the office today, definitely made that a much happier place to be.

I have to admit that for me at least it was also good that I was then able to crack on with getting a few tests done, and as staff were coming back in, inevitably some new passwords needed to be synced (thankfully easy when in the office of course) and a reminder of how things like the printers worked too. I did also see that it was a good proportion of machines that had upgraded to Windows 10 22H2 too, meaning we'd reached a nice compliance figure to start the year off with, and that has to be a positive I think.

It was a little bit wet and windy as I headed homewards and for the X68 bus home. I did leave a couple of minutes early and this proved worth it to get an earlier bus, speed through Brixton and soon arrive at West Norwood for a change to the 468 and to home. I did also note on the way home that one of the roads near me is shut for roadworks, which will affect some of the bus routes heading out from me, so will need to bear that in mind when I head to work later in the week.

Back at home it was lovely to chatter to The Love In My Heart, and she was all well, and told me that Brian the cat had snuggled up at night and wanted to sleep close to his Mummy. Awww. I can just imagine his happy purring knowing that she was there. I later on also had a good chat with a few friends online, and we discussed the likes of how certain television series in the 1980s had iconic theme tunes. I do agree, and one of them for me happened to be Stewart Copeland of the Police, who wrote The Equalizer Busy Equalizing for the TV series The Equalizer, with the iconic Edward Woodward, and tune of the day for definite.

Monday 2nd January - Breakfast In Style

It wasn't good to wake up this morning knowing I'd be heading off homeward and leaving behind The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat, although Brian of course will be happy that he gets to share the bed with just his Mummy now, meaning that he can have more snuggle space. I got myself up and showered, and ready to head to Manchester Piccadilly train station. The Love very kindly dropped me off, and it was not nice to have to say farewell, but I had to head back sometime for work reasons and it was better to do so and get things ready at home in good time.

I did however manage to be successful in the Seatfrog auction to upgrade to first class, so that was a bonus, meaning I'd again be getting a full cooked breakfast and a much comfier seat (even more so because it's the older Pendolino, not the refurbed ironing board seats, so winning) so it was nice to walk towards the end of the platform and board Coach K, the only first class one in use. When I went to the loo at the end of Coach J later, only one person had paid the £25 to upgrade to Standard Premium, showing what a waste of time this class of travel is and something Avanti need to reverse to be honest.

All was good, had the table for two together but all on my own (in fact only five people in the carriage, despite a number of reservations who failed to show) and the staff were lovely, so it meant I had coffee in a proper cup, orange juice and a proper cooked breakfast, complete with black pudding and some toast on the side too. That was very enjoyable and the scenery sped past as we'd left Piccadilly five minutes late, and had the iPod on playing some tunes including the lovely Please Don't by She Makes War (make that one tune of the day) and that was all good to see the morning sun rise up too.

At Euston it was a walk over to St Pancras and managed to get a slightly earlier train to East Croydon meaning I got home just after 12 noon, which wasn't too bad at all to be honest. I think for me that it gave me some time to get all the washing done (lots of clothes to wash) as well as be able to then prepare for work tomorrow and have some wind down time. In fact, it was good that I'd got all the presents in the case too so was able to get those out, and I'll have to have some time soon to watch some of the Blu-Ray discs that I got as well as the CDs to listen to.

In the meantime though, I do think that the Christmas period seems to have, for whatever reason, gone much quicker, I think that's primarily because pretty much every day I was up to something and seeing family and friends, and even yesterday a nice meal out with The Love was really nice and just good to enjoy together. Just hope now that I can arrange some further time to head back up over the next few months and have some more lovely times too, trains permitting of course.

Sunday 1st January – All Is Quiet On New Year’s Day

The Love In My Heart and I celebrated in the New Year with a glass of prosecco each and watched the light show and fireworks in central London, which always gets shown on BBC1. I did predict that the Lionesses would feature, and they did of course, along with nice tributes to Ukraine, Queen Elizabeth II and the new King Charles III. It was quite a long display too and the light show parts with the drones were really well done, makes me wonder how those are even achieved to be honest. It was good to enjoy that together and plenty of fireworks were being set off in Manchester as we could hear the displays.

We did tune in to the rest of the Jools Holland Hootenanny, and maybe next year The Love and I should see if we can get tickets for the filming (which we know is of course before Christmas) as it’s always a good music selection. We both did like the rather impressive Cat Burns, and her now two year old single Go, which got chart prominence in 2022, was delivered with gusto, especially the chorus. It was proper old school with The Real Thing, with some of The Love’s favourites including I Can’t Get By Without You and best of all You To Me Are Everything (which sums up how I feel about The Love) and so that has to be tune of the day.

The various guests did their thing well, and often with the full Jools Holland Orchestra, so for example Andy Fairweather Low was spot on and, as he had a hand in it originally, did a belting version of Amen Corner’s If Paradise Was Half As Nice, Roland Gift doing justice to Fine Young Cannibals’ Good Thing, and also as an added bonus the fab Louise Marshall (one of Jools’s singers for a very long time) doing the vocal duties on Afraid To Feel, which when released by LF System last summer, with the slowed up and sped up parts with her vocals on, got to number 1. It was one speed here, but her soulful vocal was of course superb.

We woke up on New Year’s Day itself having had a well earned lie in, and Brian the cat was being his usual self, wanting fussing, Dreamies and a change of litter in the litter tray so he could do his business. We did book a meal for later on to save the cooking and also as a nice way to start the year together too, and it was just nice to be able to not need to do so much (and it was spot on too which was good to enjoy later on). With the rain being so incessant, a walk was an option but we ruled it out to be on the safe side to be honest.

Later on it was time for the final of World’s Strongest Man, and as you would expect, it was a pretty intense final after five tough heats. I must admit that Channel 5 have always done good coverage, with James Richardson and Michelle Ackerley both being good, having Eddie Hall as the expert who’s been there and done it, and with Colin Bryce and Danny Wallace on commentary, it just works, it really does. For me it was welcome for the 2022 event that each of the heats had the same events in, so there was no advantage whichever one you took part in, and the final had a good cross section including the bus pull and the iconic atlas stones!