Dear Diary... January 2024

Wednesday 31st January - Cold Conference

So today was the day of my employer's annual conference, the first time that we had all been together in person since January 2020, when it was a posh hotel close to the O2 (and also where the hotel imposed vegan food on everyone and wondered why they got negative feedback and had half of the delegates heading to the food courts inside the O2 instead.) So we weren't going back there again, but instead to Tobacco Dock in Wapping, where I had been before for a Mac based conference a few years ago. One thing I do remember from that day was it was absolutely freezing, even in the main rooms away from the corridors, and due to it being a semi open air space, I did make sure I had a warm coat on ready.

It was off to West Croydon and on the Overground to Wapping. I have to say that maybe it was down to the train strikes and Southern Fail being their usual bobbins selves the morning after, but it did seem a lot busier on the Overground. Getting on at West Croydon did at least get me a seat all the way there but by the time we got to Brockley, it was totally rammed. I arrived at Wapping, headed up the stairs out, and followed the road towards Tobacco Dock, where our entrance was at the northern end on Pennington Street. We weren't allowed in until 0815 and had the venue security barking at us to get in a queue on the other side of the road.

Eventually we were allowed in, and although we went to one room which seemed reasonably okay temperature wise as a reception, I wisely didn't put the coat in the cloakroom, a decision many others would regret later. At least some breakfast was on so had some bircher muesli and a coffee, and caught up with some of my colleagues over breakfast. We are able to then get ourselves some spaces near the back of the main hall, which as I predicted was a bit cold. In fact some of our colleagues next to me were straight off to the cloakrooms after the first session, can't say I blamed them either.

The morning was effectively plenty of information and breakdown of how things were progressing from the executives, with our chief people person and head of HR going through of how some of the changes would be positive for us. It all sounded good, and after a mid morning coffee it was back to the next batch of seminars, which sped through relatively quickly. Lunch seemed okay but what was supposed to be a hot lunch of the fish and mash was a little lukewarm. One of the team spotted that there was a McDonalds a few minutes down the road, so we headed for that one and that was much better..

The afternoon had a lot of us based in central teams paired off with one division as they had a novel idea - a Powerpoint slide free afternoon. That in fact did work pretty well and at least some of the content was engaging, especially if working for that side. We did kind of feel the unappreciated and forgotten side of the business though, but even so,out of 60+ teams in the end of the day quiz, we did get a respectable 20th place or so with us smashing some of to rounds on things we're not expert on, so has to be something I guess.

There was some evening food and drink some time after 6pm, and we were able to venture in with some nice piping hot Mac and cheese with mushrooms, that was lovely. It was full on loud music mode and one of the songs made me immediately think of Goldie Lookin Chain and their parody track Newport State of Mind (You're Not From Newport) which has to be tune of the day for me - certainly me smile going "You're not from Newport, I've bet you've never been there either, I bet you a fiver!" I did then head off home as I wanted to get back to watch Manchester City versus Burnley on the telly.

Sunday 28th January - Slow Down Sunday

It was a nice relaxing day today for both myself and The Love In My Heart. I woke up earlier and left her to have a longer sleep, with no purring distractions from Brian the cat that meant that she had more time to get some more rest. I decided to head up and watch Gladiators from last night and that did prove to be pretty good. It's good to see the old events back such as The Wall, although I can't be the only one thinking that The Gauntlet has been amended too much to make it too easy for the contenders overall, it needs to be tighter so that there's more of a one to one battle in each section as they run through.

In any case, the eliminator proved to be pretty close overall and I did notice this time around that even though some claimed to be good climbers, they struggled on the rope to get up - maybe being a bit too cocky and not giving the course enough respect? I have to say though, it's a genius move to have Guy Mowbray from Match of the Day on commentary - he really does get into it and that adds some proper authenticity to what's going on too. Now of course we just need Mark Clattenburg to get almost as angry as John Anderson (and believe me he's getting there) and we're good!

After a relaxing breakfast we settled in for a bit to play a little card game I have called Mind the Gap - and it's definitely one for the tube nerds out there. It's sort of snap but you have to match any of the tube lines on the previous card when you play yours, so for example if you have Pimlico (Victoria line only folks) you need any card that has the Victoria line that serves it, so for example Victoria. Of course if you play that card, national rail, District Line and Circle Line all come into play, giving other players more chances to play a card, so that and the special cards do involve some tactics.

The Love I have to say is very good at this game to say the least, and so was giving me a hammering with one game having three Bakerloo line only cards compared to me having none, so having to pick up a card as I cannot play them was really hurting. We had seven games in all and The Love won 4-3, and was very astute as to which ones to play. I did enjoy it all though and for me it was nice just to relax on early Sunday afternoon before heading off and onwards to Euston Square via Farringdon.

It was off to The Crown and Anchor for Sunday lunch, and happiness for me was that they had Titanic Plum Porter on cask! Well, of course I was going to have that one. The Love had her usual Camden Hells and we both ended up ordering fish and chips, as I had had a pie yesterday so didn't want another one, and The Love didn't want more chicken either. It was up to their usual wonderful standard and we were able to relax with a drink and chatter more, with some nice tunes on in the background too.

As it transpired, The Love's planned train was cancelled so we left a bit earlier so she could get the one before (allowed to do that which is something) and we warmly embraced before she headed off to get her train. I walked to St Pancras and got the train back to East Croydon, and relaxed during the evening with some more tunes including some old classic PJ Harvey (so Dress has to be tune of the day) and also catching up with some other telly that was on during the weekend - and seeing the remainder of the Newport v Manchester United FA Cup game. So close Newport, so close...

Saturday 27th January - Rock and Roll Stars

It was the start of a nice weekend today as The Love In My Heart was heading down to me - which is always a nice change when she visits me. She was on the 0815 train to Euston and that meant a nice early rise for me as well to sort the bedding out, and then set off to meet her at Euston. With the escalators there being out of action, it made more sense for us to then walk over to St Pancras and get the train to East Croydon, primarily to avoid the spiral stairs that we'd otherwise have to take - not ideal with a wheelie case. We soon were on our way back to mine.

It was a quick stop at mine to drop the case off and show her the birthday present that I got for The Cute Little One, which she really liked and would take back home with her tomorrow. We then headed off to East Croydon to get the train via London Bridge to Charing Cross, where we would head over to the Theodore Bullfrog pub for lunch. I was tempted by the sandwiches but they were only available during the week, so instead The Love went for the chicken schnitzel and I did the steak and ale pie - both of which were really lovely, and a nice relaxed atmosphere in there too.

We then headed across the road to the Proud Galleries, where the exhibition of photography by Jill Furmanovsky was on, called No Music No Life. It was an impressive set of photographs of so many musicians and bands and gigs, including an iconic picture of Oasis at Maine Road for one. There was also an interview with Jill and Noel Gallagher which really did give you an insight into some of the images (notably the Oasis US tour ones for example) which was also good. And plenty of quality tunes playing throughout too, which is always a good thing.

We both enjoyed that a lot: I liked some of the other photographs there including some of Bjork, Chrissie Hynde, an iconic one of Miles Davis and also some of Pink Floyd in their 1970s heyday including that of Roy Harper with the band at a mixing desk during the Wish You Were Here recordings, seminal stuff. That naturally made me think of Have a Cigar (which Roy sang on) so tune of the day there of course. We also noted the downstairs exhibits with other photographs too including some of Queen which were ace.

It was then on to the tube and on the district line from Embankment to East Putney and from there over to the rather nice Ghost Whale, which is a really nice beer shop and bar. They have some beers on tap for you to drink in two thirds, or to take away in cans or bottles, and for the beer in the fridges, you can either buy them to take out, or drink them in for an extra £1 instead, which actually is a pretty good thing all round. I had the Siren Fire and Stars porter which was lovely, and we got a seat by the window with good timing for when The Love's niece and her boyfriend came along too.

We had an enjoyable early evening chatting to each other and catching up, and it was really good to try some different beers too - The Love did have the Gipsy Hill's excellent Hunter helles, and we got the niece's boyfriend to try out the Baller pale ale (which was fab!) I also tried out two very different 0.5% stouts, both of which were really nice actually, one was by Siren with Mash Gang, a nitro stout called Call of the Void (and that was poured fast as instructed) and the other was Northern Monk's Bruce which was also great. We had a great time together and definitely I'll have to pop into the Brixton one at some point.

Friday 26th January - We Scored At Tottenham

I was working from home today and primarily getting to the bottom of an issue that seemed to surface after one of my colleagues deployed the new version of the VPN client to Macs. It transpired that in some cases the VPN service failed to run and wasn't present to be started which did seem odd. I did at first wonder if there was a common denominator, and sure enough, all three of these Macs were on the recently updated Sonoma 14.3 update. As it transpired, those on 14.2.1 would also see a similar sort of issue.

I did some investigative work and part of this is down to the way 14.2 upwards changed the way some services were allowed (thanks Apple yet again, not) and the vendor of the VPN client actually released a fix which would remediate the issue. As it transpired I was able to road test that and show it worked, getting one user up and running quickly. I discussed with a colleague and we'd be able to get that added on as a post installer script, primarily at the script itself detects the OS first and only applies if needed, so that has to be a bonus.

After a busy day overall and having the food shopping delivered, it was nice to relax during the evening, make myself some tea and then settle in for the live FA Cup fourth round game on ITV as Tottenham faced Manchester CIty at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. City's record at the new ground wasn't that good, five games played and lost, with no goals at all, which made me feel really unhappy about the draw knowing that previous form. I just wanted us to go there and at least put a performance on but I was semi-resigned to maybe not winning. Heck, even a goal would do!

I was almost celebrating five minutes in as Oscar Bobb hit the ball over then line after a save from a Phil Foden shot, but he was offside - only just. City had other chances during the first half with Foden also going close, and Tottenham attempting to hit City on the break and forcing a good save from Stefan Ortega during one of those attacks. 0-0 at half time and I was sort of wondering if this was following the same pattern as previous games there. And that definitely needed to change.

The second half saw more of the same with City attacking well but a possible counter was never far away, and Ortega pulled off another good save to keep it at 0-0. At the other end, Bernardo Silva's shot was easily saved and then as the ball was handed to Phil Foden, he found Kevin de Bruyne who shot just wide. No matter what we did, it didn't go in. And time was running out as City got a corner. The ball got in, Ruben Dias challenged Vicario and the Spurs keeper dropped the ball, and Nathan Aké was there to prod the ball home from close range. But would it stand?

And after a long check, yes it would! City had done it, not a pretty goal but did I care one bit? No. We had finally scored at Tottenham and also won there too, and that meant the fifth round for us. 1-0 to City was a good result and naturally I had Don't You Want Me by The Human League in my head (make that tune of the day) as the City fans sang "Nathan Aké baby, Nathan Aké woooooooah" in time to that. He had scored the winner in the fourth round against Arsenal last year and he was at it again, excellent stuff!

Monday 22nd January - After The Storm

Well, as it was another storm that had happened overnight, the sensible move to stay put at The Love In My Heart's place was even more of the right decision. I could hear the wind howling for a fair amount overnight, as could The Love, and Brian the cat was naturally not that happy to hear all that as his hearing is even more sensitive than ours. Cuddles from his Mummy were definitely needed, and we both got up at a reasonable time anyway as we were both heading to work, albeit for me anyway working from her place during the day.

As I knew there potentially may be more train cancellations during the evening I wanted to make sure I got home in one piece, so asked if I was able to work through part of lunch and finish at 5pm, which would allow me to get the 1755 train back to Euston. That was all sorted, and that did mean I was able to crack on with plenty of work and also mean that I knew I didn't have any stress per se. It was also good to note that thankfully no Internet outage was also on the cards so at least I could do what I needed to do work wise also.

Later on I headed over to Manchester Piccadilly and thankfully the 1755 was running, so was able to head into Sainsburys and get myself a Meal Deal before boarding, and that at least meant I had some food and drink on what would be around a three hour journey: there had already been planned engineering work for today which would mean it'd skirt around the outside of Birmingham before then joining up near the NEC and onwards via Coventry. That did mean it would at least need the iPod to play some quality tunes to keep me going.

And that very much was the case. I think for me it's really useful to have some nice background tunes on to help you speed on the journey when looking outside at the landscape passing by (and some albeit slowly it has to be said) so that was a positive of sorts. In fact I put on the whole of the Grand Couloir album Stamina on, and it still is very much the free form experimental album it is, maybe infused with some jazz along the way (cue "nice!" and "grrrrreat" from a certain Fast Show character) - especially with my favourite track from it, Yossarian Lives (which is tune of the day and a definite grower.)

I did then take the walk over to St Pancras, thankfully not with that much wind in the sails until I got close to the station itself when taking the walk along Dangoor Walk, and onwards to the train homeward. I did get home around 10pm which wasn't too bad considering, and thankfully safe and in one piece which was good. The weather was also scheduled to be windy tomorrow too, but at least being home or in the office wouldn't have been as bad as it was this weekend. You do start to wonder how much people need to start paying attention to climate change now as clearly a lot of this extreme weather is down to that.

Sunday 21st January – The Calm Before the Storm

The Love In My Heart and I were heading out later today to meet some friends for lunch. I had checked the trains in the morning and found that it was a case of that I could use my ticket for tomorrow instead of today and with Storm Isha on its way, it was effectively good to have that as backup. As the morning carried on, I could see more trains between Manchester and London cancelled, and before we were due to head out, I got an email from Avanti West Coast which stated that my 1851 train was cancelled.

In fact, the last train to be able to take was 1751 and I could imagine it being pretty rammed, so made sense not to take the case with me, and work from The Love’s place tomorrow then take the train home. We headed over to the tram stop to get the tram into Manchester City centre and then realised that there were engineering works on today, and this meant no trams, so either tram replacement bus (joy) or the bus. In fact the latter was the better option as there was a stop close by to where we were heading, so with the weather trying its best to rain, it was effectively good to be close.

We went into Seven Bro7ers Beerhouse for a pre-lunchtime drink and it was empty apart from us. This didn’t last long though as our friends arrived and with drinks we had catch up and conversation, and we were able to see how things went over the Christmas period for each of us. It was also nice that the gift that we had received from them over Christmas arrived in full – it was a nice afternoon tea at a castle and via Red Letter Days, where you get a nice red pack delivered. Ironically, it was delivered to our friends the day we were last out for lunch.

We headed over to Jane Eyre for their Sunday roast, which is very good normally. And this time round it was too. They had the First Chop local ale Jam, so had that whilst The Love had the pilsner. One of us is vegetarian so the nut roast satisfied their needs well, and The Love and I both went for the lamb shoulder, which was gorgeous and really nice – especially with the vegetables, roasties and a massive Yorkshire pudding. That went down well as did my sticky toffee oudding with some clotted cream, and that was a good way to end the meal and it was all good.

It was back to the Seven Bro7ers Beerhouse for the remainder of the afternoon and the four of us chatted with some good tunes in the background including the excellent Self Esteem by the Offspring (make that tune of the day) and also I was able to have their chocolate honeycomb stout on cask. It was definitely very nice and as all their own beers were 20% off for Sunday to Fridays in January, rounds weren’t that expensive either, definitely helpful. I did like the atmosphere and vibe and most of us were able to see others come in and get out of the wind and rain that was happening for most of the afternoon.

We said our goodbyes later and timed it well so that we were all not having to wait too long for buses – in fact The Love went to the Co-Op close by and got some supplies before we headed back on the bus home. The weather did feel more windy though as we headed over to The Love’s place, and Brian the cat was more than happy to get some fussing and attention (as he does!) so we were able to relax in front of the telly for most of the evening. I have to say that Brian was being super sensitive to the noise outside and clearly curing up next to his Mummy was a sensible move.

Saturday 20th January – Woodside

The Love In My Heart and I got up and we were able to potter around the flat for a while, have a light breakfast as were having lunch later, and then fuss over Brian the cat for a bit. He did want to head out and have a play on the paving outside and also then in the hallway, rolling himself against the mats outside the flats and being super adorable whilst doing it. I have to say that he really does love curling up to his Mummy and when I got up this morning he looked at me and refused to move, instead remaining curled up. He knows he is a pampered kitty!

With the weather hopefully not turning out too bad we headed off in The Love’s car and it was along through the city centre and then the East Lancashire Road (that’s the A580 for some of you) and past the turn off for the M61 motorway and onwards towards the west of Worsley and to the Woodside pub, where we had been before and quite liked. It was The Love’s sister’s birthday later this week and it was a good idea for us all to meet for lunch. This was a number of her family and also that meant The Cute Little One, so no doubt once she got over her shyness of having lots of people, she would be adorable as ever.

We got to our table and they brought over a high chair for The Cute Little One, so she was sat close to her parents and myself. Once she came round a bit, I showed her the picture I’d been sent of her and her friend in the snow, and she went “It’s me! And my friend.” So I had to ask, Frozen style, if she wanted to build a snowman, and the response was positive. She had a little magnetic board with shapes to play with whilst waiting and also had some snacks from her parents before having a nice kids’ meal to scoff (and she did!)

As for myself and The Love, we did have some lovely food all told. The Love went for the lamb skewers which had plenty of lamb and a side of some coleslaw with pomegranates and also some chips too which worked out well. I checked and as the staff told me it was a proper pie, it was an easy decision for me – the chicken and mushroom pie complete with some lovely mash, carrots, peas, green beans and some lovely gravy too. In fact I was deciding on whether to go for the mini dessert and drink combination which is always a good thing, but then we had word something was happening.

Sure enough, there was a birthday cake, and quite a nice sponge cake at that. In fact, it had been sourced from a vegan bakery and was completely vegan (as two of The Love’s family are, so made sense to cater for all) – but you really couldn’t tell. It was lovely and light and some strawberries on top (which of course The Cute Little One eyed up and was enjoying with permission, and loving life generally – she also saw a little baby and when The Love took her to the toilet, she went to say hello to the baby and be generally lovely. So all was good.

We headed back on the road back to The Love’s place but we did stop off at Cloudwater on the way back for a beer together, and going upstairs was a nice chilled out setting, albeit literally. Everyone did have their coats on including us and it did feel a little chilly there, whereas I know Track opposite does have heaters into the lights above and generally feels warmer overall. Still, it was nice to relax and indeed have some classic 80s tunes such as Lessons In Love by Level 42 playing as The Love drove along the East Lancashire Road earlier, so tune of the day for me there too.

Friday 19th January – Heading North

It was off to the office today and with some weather warnings set for over the weekend, especially Sunday, it made sense to get into the office and then head over to Euston to get to see The Love In My Heart’s place, especially as I could take the work laptop with me just in case anything happened on the Sunday. It was a nice quiet bus ride on the SL6 to the office, so that had to be a positive, and treated myself to the bacon baguette and coffee deal at Coco di Mama along the way – as that kept me nice and warm as the office warmed up during the morning.

My colleague (who will now transition to be my new manager due to some internal changes) was in too, so we were able to have a good one to one chatter over coffee and work out some sensible plans of action for the forthcoming year. He did tell me that he’d need something from my current manager anyway especially when it came to the year end review, so that was worthy of consideration. We did also work out a few things during the day too so it did feel pretty positive overall and that was a good thing. The day sped by and soon it was time to head onwards to Euston.

Once again I stopped off right by Euston and at the Captain Flinders pub. I actually ended up on the same high table with chair and so was able to get myself some food and drink to keep me going before the journey from Euston. I was pretty pleased and that did at least mean that I would be able to head onwards to the station feeling refreshed. In fact in Euston it was busy and so was able to use the London Platforms app to work out exactly which platform I needed to be at (and like last week, it was 1) and so board the train in a nice comfortable setting.

I had the iPod on playing some classic tunes and this including Journeyman by Robberie (make that tune of the day) as it really does describe someone playing for lots of lower league football teams and gaining cult status at the same time, which went down really well to be honest. I was pleased that it was a good journey all told apart from when it decided to go slow between Stoke on Trent and Stockport due to following a slower train which had been delayed. As a result I did get into Euston some ten minutes late, but not a total disaster, thankfully.

The Love In My Heart came to collect me and we headed back to her place, and we settled in to watch the next instalment of The Traitors. She hasn’t been as enamoured with me for this series (probably because I watched the first series so I can compare and contrast with that they do) but it did prove interesting what happened and indeed they may have made a mistake with something tonight which will come back to haunt them this week. We shall see, but it’s definitely kept me on the end of the sofa if not always The Love!

Sunday 14th January - Cuteness Abound

It was a relatively calm and quiet day for The Love In My Heart and myself, but with the added bonus of being out for most of the day and the weather was at least set dry for that. First off after breakfast though it was off to see some of her family and this meant that we could both spend time with The Cute Little One, which of course was a bonus for us both. In fact she was mega happy to see The Love and wanted her Nana to come and see all her new toys. She also showed off her new Scandi bed and we were both pleased to see Bea the doll all there with her - that was a rag doll we got in Alnwick and called it Bea because her outfit is yellow with bees on.

In fact, The Cute Little One was very happy, showing the angel wings as well and how she puts them on before running around and pretending to fly, which was adorable, and then showing the market stall with the pretend vegetables. Later on I showed her some pictures on the phone and some of them were Brian the cat (and she recognised him) and even thought one of the cat pictures from Battersea was also Brian (and admittedly they did look alike) - and overall it was just lovely to spend some time together and it went too quickly. The Love was mega happy as she was getting plenty of attention!

We headed off later to John Lewis in Cheadle to have a mooch round and also get some present ideas too. There were plenty in the sale and if you wanted to, you could have got wrapping paper at a cut price. In fact, I did see in the menswear section the shirt that I had ordered earlier in the week and it looked very nice, so was more than happy with my choice overall. We also noted some nice clothes for The Love but they were expensive, even at sale prices!

We then headed over to The Gateway in Didsbury for a late lunch together, and this made sense because it was easy to get a space and also a table too, so I had the fish and chips which was very nice, especially with some crispy batter. I did want this on the Friday but the place I went to didn't have it (boo) so wanted to make up for it by having it today instead. The Love had the boneless basket chicken with some rice which did look really nice and was also good that we spent time relaxed and together.

The Love dropped me off at the train station later in good time for the 1703 train to Birmingham from Manchester. The trains were on engineering works so I'd already booked a cheaper route to go on Crosscountry first and pick up Avanti at Birmingham. This did mean at New Street I could see the massive Ozzy the bull which is now sited there, and naturally that made think of Black Sabbath, so Paranoid is tune of the day for me. It even moved its head too which was impressive, and managed to get the 1919 train to Euston and get my seat, especially as the train was mega rammed!

Saturday 13th January - Gladiators, Ready!

The Love In My Heart and I had a relaxing morning with a lovely breakfast, with Brian the cat wanting to play out on the patio as well as in the hallway so he could roll around the doormat and have a good little play. He's always adorable like that and he played ball with me later, bouncing around the ball with his paw as I bounced it towards him. He does like the exercise and after he's done playing he always goes to his bowl of water and gets a drink. Always, without hestitation!

The Love's sister came over early afternoon and it was good to have a cuppa and a chat too, and they had been working out numbers for a relative's birthday next week so that effectively we have enough there. We also worked out what to get for a present for someone as well so that was a positive to take during the early afternoon, and the time sped by pretty nicely. I did also speak to my Mum too and had a sensible plan for her prior to something happening next month, so made some useful suggestions there.

Later on, The Love and I headed over to West Didsbury and to Belly Button Designs on Burton Road, which definitely was a good move to get some birthday cards, and that was a good thing. The shop always has some lovely gifts too and I was half tempted to get a really nice doll for The Cute Little One, but resisted because I know she has more than enough dolls and toys to be going on with at present. We then went into Wine and Wallop for a drink and it was very relaxed in there to say the least, and really nice just to chill together, and especially as they had some decent beer on.

We got back to The Love's place and settled in after feeding Brian the cat his tea (after all he is the most pampered cat so he has to have tea!) and The Love made us some lovely soup to start followed by some chicken in a nice sauce with potatoes and vegetables, which went down very well. And I was looking forward to seeing the return of Gladiators tonight, especially as I loved that during the 1990s and was always a Saturday night fixture. I hoped the return would be, and... they kept the iconic theme tune. YES! This immediately made me happy so tune of the day obviously.

And overall, I have to say, it was a good sensible reboot. Barney and Bradley Walsh as hosts made sense, and Guy Mowbray from Match of the Day on commentary meant it was being taken seriously, as it should be. Mark Clattenburg was the refree (no John Anderson but understandable) and the events themselves had some new ones, but with the likes of Duel, Gauntlet and Hang Tough all making welcome returns plus the eliminator course being pretty much the same apart from a couple of direction changes on the balance beam, and the Gladiators themselves being decent (already liking Dynamite and Fire) it all made for a good effort. More of that please.

Later on as well The Love and I watched Limitless Win, presented by Ant and Dec, and the question came up for one couple as to how many years it was since the Blur vs Oasis chart battle, won by Country House. Straight away I said to The Love it was 1995 and so 29 years (as they asked 2024 was how many years since..) and the husband of the couple knew it, and they locked it in. The correct answer meant they hit the £1 million mark, and a couple of questions later they sensibly walked away with that cash. I wish I'd have had that same question!!

Friday 12th January - Smooth Operation

It was back to the office for me today, primarily as it was a good opportunity to finish off the documentation I had started yesterday - as I had a live machine that I could utilise and take screen shots of as I go, and therefore have things accurate. I did want to send out some communications out today to a number of users to get things started, and so wanted to make sure that everything was right first. In fact, once the documentation was done, it was definitely a bonus to be able to thoroughly test everything, check it all over, and then get the first batch of communications out.

I wanted to hit certain deadlines and there are some things that are time sensitive at present, which is a balancing act when you've got the day to day things to take care of. I road tested a removal process for next week to remove a piece of software that a number of people won't need anymore, and that seemed to work flawlessly on both Windows and Mac - thankfully I can just use the MSI product code in a command line to get things removed accordingly which works, and there's a script for Mac which I know does work too - so all positive thus far.

I headed on the number 1 bus from work to Euston, but didn't go in the station. What I wanted to do is have some food first and there happens to be a new pub opened up close the station, called The Captain Flinders, and knew it was open this week. It was busy, but I got a seat and table and so managed to order myself a drink and some food to have for tea before boarding the train - so that did feel quite relaxing actually. I was just hoping for once that the train would be on time and running properly.

And, shock horror, it was! I was really surprised actually and maanged to board on time and as the train was in reverse formation, and a refurbed 11 car train, it was all the way down to Coach G and there was hardly anyone in there, so that did mean I was able to have a really nice table seat with wireless charger and chill out as I headed up to Manchester to see The Love In My Heart. This included the excellent Not Strong Enough by Boygenius, which is still for me one of my favourite songs of last year and definitely tune of the day - and it was nice to have that inspiration.

The Love In My Heart came to collect me from the station and we were soon back at her place, and as tonight's episode had already started, it was time to watch The Traitors on iPlayer, which was definitely good. I suspect that some of it was all geared up to the in plain sight murder plan for tonight, and that was surreal. I know Claudia Winkleman has been beautifully dark and that's added to the flavour of the game anyway, but as the twists and turns unfold it's moved nicely onwards. I still think that there may be a traitor who will win this time around, but we shall see.

Thursday 11th January - One Day, One Life

It was a work from home day for me today after spending three days on the bounce in the office. I must admit that for me it's been positive to chat with people and to get on with things well, and have a few deployments planned for next week already in terms of clean up with some work related activity. I also know that there's a big conference in the planning for the end of the month and that will definitely help plan out some of the future as well - on a positive note I think that's going to be useful in terms of how we will progress going forward, but don't want it to be a back slapping "oh haven't we all done so well?" sort of thing.

Anyway, it was good to be able to concentrate on writing an initial draft of some documentation for migration reasons in order to get some of the Macs moved across to a new JAMF instance as part of the ongoing project. I had of course documented most of it for a previous task, but realised that I needed new screen shots, which I will do from a Mac in the office tomorrow - however, what this did mean was that I was at least able to get all the text the right way round, and make sure any sections were amended or removed. Then, tomorrow, I can do the remainder and get that all sorted, so saved me some time later on hopefully.

I did have a walk out at lunch time primarily to make sure I had some things sorted in the cupboard such as some kitchen and bathroom wipes, the household stuff - as at least we have a Savers close by for all that. I also then treated myself and ordered something from the John Lewis sale and was able to use the Lifestyle gift card that one of The Love In My Heart's relations had very kindly got for me - and the cost of it plus postage was the exact same amount, so effectively completely free which was of course an epic win. It's a shame that the Waitrose near me had closed down or else collection would be a doddle.

I decided to head off to the cinema tonight to see the film One Life, based on the true story of Sir Nicholas Winton, who along with a team of people in both London and Prague managed to get the kindertransport scheme extended to the Czech Republic during 1939, and their actions saved a total of 669 children from concentration camps and most likely death. I had been fascinated by what an unsung hero he was after seeing That's Life back in the late 1980s when the story broke, and had read up on the story since and demonstrated not all heroes are loud, some get on with it unassumedly.

So it was to Vue near me as the price was £6.99 (could have done Odeon in Beckenham for £5 but would have had to take the tram there and back, negating the saving) and right up to the top and screen 4. Hardly anyone was in there, say around ten people, and my aisle seat had a view in the centre of the screen so was able to enjoy the film from there. After all the trailers, the film started, and there were some impressive performances to say the least, and the close on two hours for the film didn't feel like that at all, which is a sign it was good.

Sir Anthony Hopkins had been requested by some of the survivors (aka Winton's Children) to play the older Nicholas Winton, and he gave an unassuming, lovely role to it all. The younger Winton was played by Johnny Flynn and really played that well - determined and yet ambitious, and Helena Bonham-Carter played Winton's mother, who was taking no prisoners when attempting to get visas for clearance, and really did look the part too. I enjoyed it, and what was a lovely touch was when they recreated the That's Life moment, the people in the audience who stood up were all relatives of Winton's Children, something which was quite touching and Anthony Hopkins had mentioned it in an interview too. Tune of the day was the beautiful piano score by Volker Bertelmann which set the tone.

Tuesday 9th January - Back In The Groove

After being in the office yesterday and cracking on with a few things, it was good to be back in the office today and at the same desk as well, which meant that the setup was all working as I wanted it do, and was able to do a number of tests today to help things move forward. One of those happened to be a Mac migration where we're moving from an older JAMF instance to a new web-managed one, and thus be able to independently split as we needed. Most of the configuration was set right, but just had to do a couple of tweaks to make sure that we had the right info.

The proof of any theoretical pudding is in the eating, so thought it sensible to test all of this myself with my test Mac. The good news was that it all worked as I wanted it to, so unenrolled from the old instance, added it to the new easily enough, and then prompted me for the local user password so it knew it could then back up the FileVault encryption key to the new server. And sure enough, all of that worked flawlessly without issue, and I could see the new configuration profiles and policies all kicking in nicely. Always good when stuff works well isn't it?

The other thing I was keeping an eye on was deployment of the new MECM client, which I'd started to push yesterday. It was going pretty well and that also did mean that the CMG token would be renewed suitably too, so thus killing two birds with one stone. I've also noted when road testing the new client prior that it did seem pretty stable too as well as slightly change the Software Centre look and feel. Something which I'm actually going to have to do at some point anyway as potentially with some changes happening, so good to know that I can still remember how to do those things...

I must admit that it was good that the day went by quickly, almost too quickly to be honest, as it was soon late and time to head off homeward. I have to admit that the traffic wasn't as busy as it might have been, even with the tube strikes called off at the last minute. The bus sped its way homeward and I didn't arrive back home too late which was at least something. I settled in for the evening and made myself some tea before having a lovely chat with The Love In My Heart, and always lovely to hear from her and chat about her day and be able to also discuss some telly stuff too.

I've been keeping my eye on the Masters Snooker as well from Alexandra Palace, wishing I was there, especially after Ding Junhui's 147 maximum yesterday. However, two good matches today with Judd Trump coming back from 3-0 down to beat Kyren Wilson 6-5, and later on Neil Robertson battling against Barry Hawkins, but the Hawk proved to be too good and won 6-3 in the end in a relatively late finish. Tune of the day is of course the proper snooker theme aka Drag Racer by the Doug Wood Band, I really do wish that the BBC would reinstate this properly...

Sunday 7th January - Five And Five To One

It was nice to have a bit of a lie in this morning after I'd admittedly headed to bed a little earlier last night. I did feel very tired primarily due to being up at an early time to get up and out for the train (bearing in mind I needed to get to Euston from mine) but also I do worry that perhaps sometime it might be the odd drink or two that gives me a feeling of being less awake. I'm monitoring that to some degree as maybe I might need to slow down a bit with the age creeping in - granted I am not that old, but...

After a lovely breakfast thanks to The Love In My Heart, I got myself ready and changed and headed over to the Etihad Stadium for today's FA Cup game, with a 2pm kick off. I got over a little earlier primarily to make sure I could get in through the turnstiles and get to the second tier of the Family Stand, with the seat in row A at the front so at least I didn't have anyone in the way, which was a positive thing. I enjoyed the relative sunshine eve though it was still cold and the teams came out to a mighty roar, especially as the away team gets more tickets for FA Cup game and Huddersfield Town had brought a lot of fans with them - good for them.

City pressed onwards initially but to be fair, the first real chance fell to Huddersfield Town and they should maybe have done more with it. Phil Foden was being absolutely brilliant in the middle, commanding the play and getting others around him to perform as best they could. We had also given the likes of Rico Lewis and Oscar Bobb a start too, and they combined pretty well down the right, with Jack Grealish on the left side. A bad tackle meant Manuel Akanji went off injured, with Josko Gvardiol reverting to centre back and Mathias Nunes in midfield off the bench.

And, ironically, that change did see City playing better and it was only a matter of time before a goal went in. And after some work down the left side, it was left to Phil Foden who blasted it home from a relatively tight angle for the opener. This did help to open things up and after some good work down the right the ball came across, Nunes got his foot to the ball but with it going well wide, Julian Alvarez cleverly diverted the ball into the bottom corner with a slow rolled shot, and it was 2-0 to the Blues - and that's how it was at the half time interval. All good so far and with the crowd being scanned for lookalikes of City players with the backing of Herb Alpert's excellent Spanish Flea (make that tune of the day!) it was an entertaining break.

A massive cheer had already gone round seeing Kevin de Bruyne warm up. But when he and Jeremy Doku came on, both back from injury, the noise was mental and it really showed a warm welcome too. Naturally this may be the boost we need for the league too, so don't be surprised if City start turning it on considerably. The effect was soon apparent as a supposed cross from Oscar Bobb was deflected into his own net by one of the Huddersfield Town defenders for 3-0. A well worked corner also saw the ball laid to Phil Foden who drilled it home for 4-0, with the City fans singing "we want ten!" (in reference to the 10-1 win in 1987, a game I was at.)

City kept going and we got what we wanted later on as Kevin de Bruyne was coming in from the right hand side and then spotted Jeremy Doku free. He chipped the ball over and Doku finished superbly on the half volley for 5-0 and a well earned victory all round - and through to round four easily without needing a replay, which is exactly what I wanted. Indeed, seeing how many other Premier League sides didn't take the cup seriously and are all whining about replays, there's a simple answer: respect the competition, get the job done and dusted before you fall foul of another game.

Later on The Love and I headed out to The Gateway once the football traffic had died down, and had some nice food for tea - I went for the mixed grill to keep me going for later and she had the fish and chips which looked very nice too. I even had a little tiny dessert with a coffee with the premise that it would keep me going later. Unfortunately, Superfare gave me the very last train of the day (the 2055, arriving into Euston at 2342) which did mean a late night for me. On the flip side, we were able to have tea together and have a very nice time too, so definitely that was something.

The Love dropped me off at Piccadilly later and the incoming train was delayed, but managed to get on and a seat in Coach C so all good. In fact it left Piccadilly 15 minutes late and was around 25 minutes late into Milton Keynes Central, having had to go via Northampton from Rugby. However, I knew that the time could be partly made up due to the scheduling, and sure enough it arrived into Euston 7 minutes late. That did mean though I'd miss the 2352 train home from St Pancras and with the next one at 0024 and diverting the slow way from Blackfriars, I had made sure I got closer to the front of the train when getting off.

As a result, I just made the 68 bus from Euston and onwards past Elephant and Castle to Camberwell, where I changed there for the 468 bus home. Hopper fare had kicked in (nice) and it also meant that I was able to get off right near the flat later, and the bus did at least go quicker through the quieter roads, so it meant that after arriving at Euston at 11.50pm, I got off the bus just after 12.55am and so was home and in bed at 1am. As I said, it had been a long day but at least I was all good and spending time with The Love was worth it, as well as City doing the business!

Saturday 6th January - Superfare Saturday

It was a relatively good remainder of the week back at work and at least I was able to get back into the groove nicely with quite a few things planned out that I had worked on before Christmas all coming to fruition, so effectively pressing the Go button for the December Windows updates (not for Windows 11 though as it borked wireless connections for all sorts of corporate networks) and then monitoring those, as well as planning to deploy the new MECM client after a recent upgrade for next week, having road tested that and ensured it was all working, and plenty more besides.

I originally hadn't planned to head back to Manchester this weekend but seeing as I was able to get a ticket for the FA Cup game tomorrow against Huddersfield Town and with the Superfare being able to be purchased for £20 each way, it was doable. And as an added bonus I'd get to spend time with The Love In My Heart too, which is always lovely and means we get more time. So with that in mind, and with my ticket in hand for the 0853 train (with Superfare, you get notified of your train allocation the day before) I headed off from East Croydon to St Pancras and on to Euston.

Good job then I checked the train times as the 0853 had been cancelled due to lack of train crew. I was there early enough to be able to get the previous one, the 0833 (perfectly allowed) and so with a brekkie meal deal from Sainsburys in tow, it was on to Coach C and got my favourite seat C26 (as it's a window view and airline style - and it was a quiet train so had no one sat next to me the whole way - winning!) - and all was good as I had the iPod on for some tunes to belt out as well, and some nice enjoyable bits of rock including KMFDM's Kunst, so that has to be tune of the day for me.

I arrived into Manchester Piccadilly on time and managed to get down with the next tram 1 minute away, a double win there, and soon was making my way to The Love's place with Brian the cat spotting me from the front room window and having a little look of "oh you're here are you?" - but he soon warmed up nicely as I played ball with him for a bit and he was bouncing the ball with his paw atop his favourite position, giving himself and me some exercise. The Love was all good and it was lovely to see her of course and catch up, so definitely felt positive.

The Love's sister came over for a cuppa and a chat later on, and it was good to see her and be able to think of an idea where to go for the eldest sister's birthday - so we managed to get that sorted along with some present ideas. It was just all relaxing to be honest, and that continued later in the afternoon as The Love and I ventured into the city centre and went over to Seven Bro7ers Beerhouse. They had the chocolate honeycomb stout on as well as a nice guest ale from First Chop too, and we spent a fair bit of time in there chatting away as well as having a couple of drinks - a very leisurely way to spend the afternoon to be honest.

The evening too was relaxing and The Love made her legendary chicken casserole which is absolutely the stuff of legend - lots of chicken, mushrooms and carrots and potatoes in a really creamy sauce that just oozes warmth for the Winter. I really enjoyed that and we settled in to watch a bit of telly too - admittedly it was just nice to feel really chilled out to be honest, and I think that sometimes it's not about being out all the time, but being in and just being curled up together (although of course Brian the cat insists on sitting next to his Mummy where possible, because he can!)

Tuesday 2nd January - Forever Delayed

I said my farewells to The Love In My Heart this morning as she headed off to work on an early shift (not a nice way to start the New Year work wise for her!) and I spent a bit of time with Brian the cat, as he was snuggled up on the pouffle and being cute as ever. I had already packed my case last night and so it just meant I could get dressed, get the coat on and then head over to take the tram over to Manchester Piccadilly. The good news was though that I had a first class ticket for the way back (thanks Club Avanti!) so I could get there earlier and have a good sit down in the first class lounge.

It was nice and warm in the lounge, and it did mean that I was able to enjoy a nice coffee along with a muesli bar and watch BBC Breakfast for a bit on the telly before I then headed down to Platform 6 where my train had come in - albeit in reverse formation, so the first class parts were nearest the platform. It was on to Coach K for me and it looked like I was the only one with a reservation in there, so one of the lovely staff suggested I swap sides for my seat (K15 instead of K18) and then I could face forward - a very sensible suggestion to be honest and one I took up.

The staff were all great and soon I had coffee, orange juice, toast and a full cooked breakfast with bacon, mushrooms, fried egg, potato bites and sausage, and that went down very nicely indeed. All was well despite the bad weather outside as the train headed down South, albeit with a small delay around Stoke on Trent. Some other passengers got on first class too and there were two in my carriage, and quite a few in coach J. One had used the Seatfrog upgrade to made sense to do that and get their breakfast on board as well as a comfier journey.

As the train approached Harrow and Wealdstone, and bear in mind this isn't that far from London, the staff received information that there was a overhead line problem on the fast lines in and out of Euston, and so we'd have to switch to the slow line and then be in a queue of trains to arrive. As it turned out the train inched and crawled its way along towards Wembley, Queens Park and then Kilburn High Road before finally making an approach into Euston, arriving some forty minutes late. I only hope those on board realise there's a considerable Delay Repay to be claimed there.

I headed across to St Pancras and took the train home to East Croydon, and walked it from there with the wind and rain howling somewhat as I walked down from the station. I must admit it was nice to be home and to be able to rest and relax a little bit before going full tilt into work tomorrow, and at least going home today meant not doing so on New Year's Day, which isn't ideal. The Love did say to me one day she would like to spend New Year here, but didn't fancy heading to the fireworks in central London and having to just wait around for so long, and I do get that. In the meantime tune of the day is Getting Away With It by Electronic, due to its opening line - walking in the rain, just to get wet on purpose, and that's how the walk home felt!

Monday 1st January – The New Year Is Here

The New Year was welcomed in by myself and The Love In My Heart with a glass of prosecco and naturally after the fireworks it was back to the likes of Rick Astley from Camden Roundhouse. We already had a hint that he might play a certain song after midnight, and well of course that happened, so tune of the day it was – as it was a good version. He could have done “we’ve known each other.. since 1987 you bar stewards” as per the live version he did with Foo Fighters, but nonetheless I can imagine many New Year indoor parties being one to enjoy all that with.

We switched back to Jools Holland’s Hootenanny, and were treated to Joss Stone doing the likes of Super Duper Love (which was fab) and also new blues talent Muireann Bradley with her version of Candyman, that was pretty good and I’ll definitely have to hear more from her. There was also PP Arnold doing a version of Let’s Stay Together in tribute to her friend, the late great Tina Turner (part of me wanted PP Arnold to also do Evapor-8 by Altern-8 – as she sings on that – just because) and later on, The Mary Wallopers with Streams of Whiskey, which was very much in the style that the late Shane McGowan of the Pogues would have performed it, so kudos to them.

It was nice to wake up and feel surprisingly refreshed actually, more than I would have thought. I think because we had stayed up late, it was just nice to collapse into bed feeling genuinely tired, and slept as I hit the pillow. Brian the cat even had snuggled up to me on the sofa last night, so that was a positive – normally he saves that for his Mummy only so that has to be something. It was really good just to be able to take the time out to relax and get myself ready to face work on the third, with me taking tomorrow off and travelling home on the train (and thus avoiding travelling today which just works better all round.)

We went out for a walk later on and despite the wind it was good just to take in a circuit of the New Islington Marina and Ancoats, heading along and spotting the swans and ducks as well as narrow boats all moored up and definitely they were having their heating on, with the smell of the burning wood lingering across the marina as it needed to be. I have to say that it was quieter with no bars or places open, primarily as so many of them had either opened late New Years' Eve or not even opened at all, and so after a nice little walk it was back to The Love's place to relax for the remainder of the day.

Later on I watched the final of the 2023 World's Strongest Man on Channel 5, having avoided the results online for the remainder of last year since the event took place. I have to say that there were some excellent performances during the final, and some surprises along the way too. The six events were real tests overall and there were some errors which cost badly (such as one missing the turn during the shield carry) and some awful rainy conditions for the deadlift - glad they weren't there for the atlas stones at the end of the event! It was all as enjoyable as ever of course.