Dear Diary... July 2020

Friday 31st July - End of the Month

The month has gone pretty quickly to be honest - a holiday in Cornwall with The Love In My Heart, and the eventful journey back that we undertook as part of that, and also work has been productive and quick to be able to adjust to recent changes too, which has been good. In fact, I had a nice surprise in the post today - a package delivered from work which had a posh box in complete with posh notepad and pen, and that was part of the award that I had earned from the first quarter - I did not expect it but that was a pleasant surpise in the post to say the least.

I must admit though that the greatest worry was of course the weather - it was really hot today to say the least and it was around 35 degrees outside due to the small mini heat spike that the country had. It wasn't pleasant to be working from home in, but I guess I wasn't outside and that was at least something. It was interesting to say the least that everyone else was also suffering on the same premise, although I have to say that we were all able to get through the day reatively unscathed.

Unfortunately, the recent breaking of guidelines by so many did mean a negative thing for me too - I was watching the first day of the World Championship Snooker at the iconic Crucible Theatre in Sheffield and this was the first sporting event with small crowds allowed back in. It did at least feel like it had a nice atmosphere and all that. However, the press conference from the Government announced a suspension of those pilot events, and that meant that as of tomorrow that experiement is over. So anyone who was able to attend today clearly got very golden tickets to say the least.

I did enjoy that as well, especially in the evening, as Judd Trump had struggled a little initially but then found his game later on to be able to get over the line to beat Tom Ford 10-8. This was despite Tom breaking down when well on his way to a 147 in the opening frame (which would have been some story) and also he did make a 140 break later on too. It was also good to see Alan McManus, minus the tartan trews, back at the Crucible and then doing pretty well against Mark Williams, and also the likes of Ding Junhui back against a very determined Mark King. With the crowd there today, even if it was a reduced crowd, it did feel sort of normal.

So to have that taken away was a bit of a nightmare to be honest, and I have to say something that did irk me a little. Surely if the guidance was going to be made that actually no one was to be allowed in sporting venues and they knew that the infection rate was up, why not just do the press conference earlier in the week? Also, add to that players did withdraw so at least that it might have given those players reassurances too. It's a mess, and of the Government's total shambolic making - nothing more World Snooker Tour could have done to be fair. So it has to be the classic Drag Racer, the proper snooker theme, to be tune of the day.

Thursday 30th July - The Genius of Udo Gertz

I had a very enjoyable little walk out to the shops in my lunch break from work today, not least because I knew that one of the local gaming shops, Playnation Games, was fully back open after experimenting with a small opening beforehand. And I have to say, although not the same as before, it did feel nice to browse the racks and indeed the large sections of old school 80s 8-bit games. There were plenty for the Commodore 64 and Spectrum of course, but also some solid Commodore 16 and Plus/4 titles too.

In fact, I ended up buying four games on cassette, all of which I had never owned before on two formats. For the Commodore 64 there was the excellent Bombuzal from Imageworks for £2.99, and for 99p each the original single tape box release of Gremlin Graphics' Suicide Express (it has speech too, and boasts compatibility with the Currah Speech 64 cartridge if that was your thing) and the classic football management game Tracksuit Manager for 99p - which even had the original receipt from when the game was bought in a shop from Rotherham as well. Fascinating stuff.

But the Commodore 16 and Plus/4 selection was good - plenty of Mastertronic games I already had (Prospector Pete, POD, Spectipede, Master Chess and so on) but I noted an orange case, and it was Tom Thumb by Anirog, a bona fide classic for the system programmed by the legendary Udo Gertz. That game was mine, especially as it was 99p. Total bargain! Udo of course went on to do Winter Events and Summer Events, also both superlative games for the system which made you think "just how did he fit that into 16k?"

So the game loaded, first go, so that made me happy, and started playing. It all came flooding back to how I played it on a friend's machine back in the day - the jumping over the spikes, the heading over to collect keys and then open the doors to get further through the maze. Of course, like all good platformers, it's set to be fair, you can get past everything but you have to time it all right. One handy thing - if you don't want to hold down the fire button to run all the time, press SHIFT/LOCK and Tom will run. In fact you don't need to necessarily walk at all, but good to have the option. Also, the high jump (up and direction) and the low jump (down and direction) does mean that you have options to get over baddies when the ceiling is low.

And that music.. my it brings it all back, and definitely tune of the day - when you first start you hear it, and then periodically throughout the game as you adventure onwards. It really does make you feel like you achieve getting somewhere too. I must admit I then had a good time working out a suitable listing POKE cheat for infinite lives (you can't reset the game to do so by the way) and got that together nicely for future reference. All in all, an enjoyable throwback!

Wednesday 29th July - A Piece of Pi

Inspired by one fellow gamer, last night when I got back I spent some time digging out my original Raspberry Pi to see if I could make it a little fun project to play some old school games on it, and on a big screen at that. Granted, I've got my real Commodore 64, Commodore Plus/4 and Atari 2600 of course, but would be interested in seeing how it would all work when being able to run on a lower spec version of the Pi. For the record, mine is the Raspberry Pi 1 Model B, revision 1.2, so has 2 USB ports, HDMI and composite out, plus standard SD card slot as well.

I noted that the latest version of RetroPie had different image versions for the generation of Pi, so was able to get the first gen image for that, use Win32 Disk Imager to effectively create the whole image on the SD card, and all was well. It was then a case of adding the HDMI cable, using a decent USB power cable, and digging out my Logitech RumblePad USB for the game controller. Unfortunately, no USB keyboard at present (my PC one is cordless and the spare is PS/2) but could easily source a cheap one if needed for some of it, and wouldn't need that present necessarily in order to try out some of the games.

So once Retropie booted, I spotted the network address and was able to access that from the PC via SMB connectivity and so was able to transfer some games to it, which meant the next time the Pi booted, Retropie saw that there were games available and so was able to get that done. So today after work, after some testing last night, I spent some more time playing with it and seeing what could be done. And to be honest, I had to pretty much abandon it after a time due to everything being just too slow if you added any system game to it beyond a certain era.

First thing to sort was to turn off SDL2 graphics acceleration via OpenGL as the original Pi can't cut it, and went to a different mode, which appeared to be much better for older 8bits. Indeed, Impossible Mission, the Atari 7800 version, played flawlessly once I'd done that and was actually good fun to play. Ballblazer though was a total mess and completely unusable. Some of the 2600 titles appeared fine but again was hit and miss with certain titles too. And I tried Sonic the Hedgehog for the Megadrive. Totally too slow, and massively unplayable, everything was like swimming through treacle.

To be honest, I can understand it more if you say had a recent Pi 4 and wanted to undertake some classic gaming, but it has to be playable, and despite additional tweaks and reading on forums etc, it only appeared to be basic 8-bit titles that appeared to be reasonably good on the Pi 1. I'd certainly much rather stick to a real Commodore 64 with tapes and disks (or something like an SD2IEC if I needed uber-fast loading) or the classic cartridges of the Atari 2600 for that matter - with the knowledge I've got emulation on the PC as suitable backup if really needed.

Instead I decided on something else - to go with a small lightweight media centre type installation. I went for LibreElec, because it supports the likes of Kodi etc, and it should be perfect for something like the Pi to be an additional add-on for the smart TV applications I already have. It was based on the old OpenElec but became an independent fork of its own right a while back. This, once configured, behaved a lot better and seemed to be much more stable and was pretty good at playback with video sources too. Nice. And indeed I tried out some video from Dailymotion, Youtube and transferred to the SD card, all good, so make the Press Play on Tape live version of Knucklebusters tune of the day.

Tuesday 28th July - Back To (Sort Of) Normality

It was off into the office today as I was doing a series of application and deployment tests where I really needed the full network access but also access to to the infrastructure from a physical point of view, which you can't always really do working from home of course. It did feel a little busier on the train this morning heading to London Victoria, but managed to time it perfectly for the 38 bus to the office, so no complaints from me really. It was good to locate the assigned desk and was sat somewhere completely different this time around.

What was nice though were that most of the procurement team who were normally pre-pandemic based in the same building as me were in, and all three of them who are really lovely. That was a definite plus point and in fact, it was generally a really nice atmosphere in the office, and felt pretty productive because of it. I was able to get through a lot, work out some plans of action as well as get some documentation performed and an initial check on some work to be done tomorrow around data importing.

It was quite nice also that a few more shops were open so was able to go out with the face covering and get some nice lunch, but also a coffee mid afternoon (for safety related reasons, tea and coffee making facilities are not in the office at present) and that was pretty good to have. I must admit that the day went by quicker primarily because it just was more a productive atmosphere for me and didn't feel so alone during the day (as you often get when working from home) - I must admit too that at least when I was working from The Love In My Heart's place, Brian the cat was always up to something, even if just sleeping, so that was nice.

Later on the procurement team asked me and a couple of colleagues if we wanted to come along for a drink after work, and thought to myself "why not?" and so headed to a pub not far from the office. All the correct social distancing was in place, and people were encouraged to order via their app (which as being part of a pub chain, I had already downloaded anyway and so was able to use) so I did the first round - only fair really. Naturally though this did mean Central London prices (£6 for a pint!) so not cheap, but it was more about the atmosphere.

It was just a lovely evening chatting about all sorts, and it reminded me of a Friday early evening when we'd head to the pub after work, sometimes in my case on the way to Euston to head up to see The Love, and that did feel rather good to be perfectly honest. We all I think were able to take some enjoyment out of that, have a good catch up, and a decent pint or three of Camden Pale Ale as well. What wasn't there to like? It did feel a bit more normal and that for me was a big positive to take, and as I took the train home later (which was quieter too, so bonus) I thought of The Love and the song Lola's Theme by Shapeshifters came to mind, so definitely tune of the day for me.

Monday 27th July - We Won't Stop Loving You

It had been a fairly normal day at work, but unfortunately that all changed for me today around 5pm when I found out some incredibly sad news, and I knew that the source who had posted that news was genuine. One of the most lovely Mancunian singers, Denise Johnson, had passed away. Her versatile range and her spine tingling soulful voice had been the backing to many a Mancunian classic track over the years, and not just in Manchester either. Would Primal Scream's Screamadelica, and the likes of Don't Fight It, Feel It, been exactly the same without her? I think not.

In many ways, for me being a Mancunian music fan, it was her vocal work with A Certain Ratio, who she would often tour and sing with, which really added some substance to a fair chunk of the band's output, notably their 1990 remix album ACR:MCR, with the excellent Be What You Wanna Be showcasing her excellent vocals, and the 12" remix of Won't Stop Loving You (of course, originally called The Big E back in the day) with her wonderful soulful interlude on that remix adding something special to that track, definitely tune of the day for me it has to be said - and that association continued from there, 1997's Change The Station album for example being another case in point.

Johnny Marr and Bernard Sumner's supergroup Electronic also owed Denise a great debt: notably on the second album Raise The Pressure, but also for their second single Get The Message, where the powerful vocals on the final interlude really did give it some meaning perfectly. And even those bands not so high profile were the beneficiaries of Denise's vocals too - the vastly under-rated Eskimos and Egypt had Denise sing on both Grace and State of Surrender (both parts) from their Perfect Disease album being a case in point.

Denise was of course a Manchester City diehard fan, and would also work with other greats of the city such as Ian Brown, Johnny Marr with his band at the time The Healers, I Am Kloot, New Order (notably on Music Complete album) and so on. Her love of Manchester was perhaps demonstrated by the fact that she was due to have a solo album released later this year, teaming up with guitar player Thomas Twemlow to have acoustic and vocal versions of Mancunian classics, stripped back giving her vocal room to flow - shown by the released version of New Order's True Faith a couple of years back (which unlike the awful version in The Last Of Us 2 game advert, had actual proper feeling and love for the original.)

Words fail me - they really do. Those who know the Manchester music scene will know how hard this will hit everyone right now. Those who may not have known will over time know from those celebrating her life just how much her warmth and her voice meant so much to so many. It's perhaps a reminder to us all that life it always too short, and make sure you live it well but also be lovely to people at the same time. She was all this and more for those that knew her best. I feel incredibly sad and gutted. We won't stop loving you, Denise.

Sunday 26th July - Lazy Sunday

We'd had a relatively late night on both the Saturday and Sunday, and so it was nice to have a long lie in this morning. Even Brian the cat got the memo and he was quite happy snuggled up at the end of the bed next to his Mummy, all relaxed and chilled out. I must admit though that he was still the boss and I didn't want to fuss over him in case he was in protective mood! We did have some nice breakfast, and that got us both up and ended up watching some trashy episodes of Don't Tell The Bride for the sheer hell of it (and it was!)

The Love needed to get a few things sorted and so I offered to head to Asda for her, so I could put the face covering on and get the necessary shopping done. That was all fine and I was pretty pleased to see that the mask wearing compliance was very high indeed - good to see people were at least on message and heading out there the right way. With all what I needed to get, it was back out of there and back to The Love's place where Brian the cat had assumed his position on the pouffle, well of course.

We did have a game of Scrabble later and it was a pretty tough game with the way that the letters turned out - eight of the twelve letter Es came out pretty early and so it was going to be using a lot of alternate words without E in. That said, I did make FOX in the bottom corner (also making IF and GO) scoring me 47 points which was pretty good, and later on also managed QI and IT as well as UT in the bottom left corner for 41, so can't complain too much really.

The Love made some gorgeous fresh tagliatelle with meatballs in a nice sauce, and on Pick was the final league game of Manchester City's season, with them playing Norwich City. I thought they had scored early on but VAR ruled it out for offside, and not long after Manchester City opened the scoring. We'd end up winning 5-0 on what was David Silva's final league game for the club. It felt so sad when he went off that he couldn't get a standing ovation from the fans and no doubt we'll be giving him a testimonial game at some point when crowds are allowed.

It was sad to head back to Piccadilly to get the train home later, and because of engineering works, the train diverted from Stafford via the back of Wolverhampton and Bescot Stadium in Walsall before then joining the line at Stechford on to Coventry and then through to Rugby and Euston. I did have the iPod on and so was nice to listen to the excellent "You On My Mind" by Swing Out Sister (make that tune of the day) as it reminded me of the lovely time I had with The Love In My Heart today.

Saturday 25th July - Magnificent Midland

The Love In My Heart and I had a nice lie in, and Brian the cat was of course wanting lots of attention. He had a play out early in the day with Mummy watching on, and then later was on full on cat watch as the young tabby cat as well as the little black and white girl cat both went past during the morning. He was of course wondering what was happening. Later on one of the neighbours along with their dog Yoda came past, and Brian doesn't mind Yoda, he just sits there and looks outside, and Yoda just looks at Brian, sort of mutual respect really.

We headed out for a little while later to check on The Love's father to make sure he was okay, and it was good to see both of The Love's sisters too whilst we were there. We did of course want to check over a few things that were being cleared out and managed to locate a number of spare HDMI leads that were useful for The Love's sister, and in truth it was then a case of sorting out a lot of crap and deciding to get rid - I mean who needs old non-working SCART leads?

We later thought it would be good to head out for a mid afternoon drink as The Love had noted that Wine and Wallop was open, and indeed it was, woohoo! So we sat on the outside tables in the relatively nice weather, and I had this rather nice dark beer called Batfink, which of course reminded me of the classic animated TV series and its theme tune (make that one tune of the day) and it was all good to go with that, and felt rather European and alfresco being sat outside and chilled out.

Later on we got ourselves showered and ready to go out for a meal in the evening, and I have to say that The Love looked beautiful in her blue dress, really classy and lovely and it made me feel so proud to be with her tonight. We headed off to Marple, and so headed via Stockport, Offerton and then Rose Hill before down into Marple Bridge and to the Midland. The staff were lovely throughout and the woman who greeted us on arrival just let us know all the measures they'd been taking and indeed how they'd been prepared, which was reassuring and friendly, so felt a lot better for that. And we had a nice elevated position table too which was good.

We both had a gorgeous starter, I had mushrooms in a creamy sauce together all sat on a sourdough crumpet, which was ace, and The Love had the rather nice paté which looked ace. But the mains, wow, they were fab! I had the chicken, brie and bacon pie which was a proper pie, together with some mash, green beans and tenderstem broccoli, and was spot on. The Love had the chicken milanese which was also really good and had plenty of nice sauce and some chips too, but also smothered in cheese and also some proscuitto. Absolutely stunning. And a little dessert and coffee to finish too. It was lovely. And a nice way to head back out to having nice meals out when we're together in Manchester too.

Friday 24th July - It's Full On Mask Hysteria

It's on with the face coverings in shops and other places from today. I personally have no issues with wearing a face covering whatsoever and have been doing so for a long while when on trains and buses, and other forms of public transport. Indeed, some shops even gave you discount if you wore one when buying items to take away, which in my view back then was an excellent incentive. And one shop close to one of the offices I work at also have been making a face covering mandatory for weeks.

You'd think though that today was some form of drastic day and that everyone was panicking in the media though, judging by the sort of vox pop comments coming forth. I despair, I really do. For me, I know it's a simple thing: it's not going to protect me from everyone else, but it may help to protect someone from me, and if you both have one on, and you're socially distancing anyway, you're reducing the risk - not entirely, of course, but doing what you can in these times has to be the right thing to do, surely? This shouldn't be too hard.

In fact, whilst I was in the office today sorting out the new Windows 10 WIM to be added to the task sequence and testing that out (which passed with flying colours which is good) and needed a coffee, so nipped to Whole Foods Market next door. The security guard was happy I already had the face covering on, and got my nice coffee and was happy to give them some business. All the staff were setting the example by also wearing face coverings too (they have been for weeks too) and that definitely was positive for me.

Later on it was time to head towards Euston, and thought I'd see if The Crown and Anchor near to Euston was open to have a drink. No. Still shut. Denied. Anyway, got myself a meal deal from Sainsburys and soon enough I was on the train up to Manchester, and being relatively surprised that the train was a little busier than it had been, but all was good with the iPod playing some tunes and before I knew it, I was up to Manchester Piccadilly in no time at all, where The Love In My Heart kindly collected me - it was so nice to see her!

We got back and of course Brian the cat was wanting a fuss and a love (from his Mummy, not me!) and sat next to Mummy on the sofa to sort of say "it's my place Warren, don't forget it!" and after seeing the best bits of Celebrity Gogglebox we settled in to watch Top of the Pops: The Story of 1989 on BBC Four. Excellent narration from Mel Giedroyc again and interviews with those who were involved and big back then including Jason Donovan and Lisa Stansfield (make All Around The World tune of the day because it is an absolute tune!) and best of all perhaps, Shaun Ryder talking about the time Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses were on the show together, giving a bit of Madchester down to London!

Thursday 23rd July - Shine Your Shoes and Head To The Crucible

So today I learnt that there'd be tickets on sale for the World Snooker Championship at the hallowed ground of the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, which is of course the spiritual home of snooker. I used to go every year since around 2007 when I was full time in Manchester, and even in recent years managed to head up there and make an appearance. I didn't go last year primarily because of the fact all the near to front rows became premium and VIP pricing, ripping off the fans who stuck by the game and went all year round regardless.

Needless to say though, times have changed. The Crucible itself is having to look at staff redundancies, although the general public have responded in masses to donate and basically said "please don't" which is really nice of everyone to do. And the showpiece event normally ending in early May had to be put back because of the current situation. Barry Hearn though was determined to postpone it only once and after some excellent events at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes which showed that you could hold a tournament safely, that paved the way for the future.

Indeed, the revised event starting 31st July and finishing 16th August, and still with BBC and Eurosport on board, is effectively a test event on having crowds back. Every precaution is being taken, and although some players are concerned, the majority do want to see it as back to relatively normal as possible. The fans who originally had tickets were asked if they wanted to retain, and a lot of them did, but some had other plans in August, so that meant more tickets on sale, in selected bubbles of 1-4 people so as to effectively keep to the minimum 1 metre distancing guidelines.

I thought about it and thought "you never know, this could be my last chance to go, and if I become part of a crowd that helped sport get back to normal that might be good" so thought about it and waited patiently in the queue at 2pm for the website. Sure enough I could get on fine enough once at the front, and so decided to go not once, but twice, one on the Tuesday 4th August for the afternoon session (so I can get a later train out of St Pancras, therefore cheaper of course) and the other for the Saturday 8th August, and I'll be at The Love In My Heart's place so a relatively straightforward run over to Sheffield on the train from Manchester.

Needless to say, I have a feeling that it may not still be full to its lower capacity, but we do need to start somewhere and take some small steps back to normality. If this can be done safely and knowing snooker, all checks being in place, it will pave the way forward and you never know: what you want to watch live might be back sooner. So it's on with The Len Ganley Stance by Half Man Half Biscuit (tune of the day) and time to shine the shoes and head to the Crucible, and watch some classic matches hopefully unfolding. I'm relatively excited to be honest, still nervous yes, but excited too.

Wednesday 22nd July - Clean Up Time

I spent a fair bit of time today sorting out a few things around the flat during the lunch break from work, mainly keeping on top of ensuring all is tidy, putting some clothes in the wash and indeed both my face coverings so they're nice and clean for this weekend (and Friday when I'm heading to the office so will need to use public transport to get there, and onwards to see The Love In My Heart also) - in a way, getting a good quality washable one for around £4 each was a good move, I have two and can chop and change as needed, but ultimately at least I'll smell clean when wearing them too.

I also spent a fair chunk of time this afternoon looking at client machines which we think had been swapped out and the other piece of kit potentially written off, but not removed from systems. So as not to distort things, I came up with a plan to initially move the AD object to an OU not discovered by MECM, then remove the item from MECM, and if the device did happen to show up, it would come back in to MECM through a data discovery cycle client side anyway, but also we know only live clients more so are present.

In fact, I had previously created a spreadsheet where I'd imported information from our anti-virus server and other data sources, so could also cross check to see if machines had reported in elsewhere, and if not, assume that they were most definitely offline and not in use. With that done, the upshot is that we're pretty close to getting a more accurate figure of not just what is out there but also what we may need to see about replacing when the time comes, and use that in conjunction with our inventory service.

It was a worthwhile exercise though, and later on I was nice and relaxed as I fired up the Commodore Plus/4 and played some more games from the haul I had delivered earlier this week. I must admit it was good to re-acquiant myself with Fire Ant again, one of the best games from the 10-game in-pack bundle that I got with the Plus/4 originally, and still very decent too. And indeed to try out the colourful Bubble Trouble, good fun despite the very slow plain blue screen loader (no Novaload or any other turbo at all..)

I was also keeping an eye on the final games of the EFL Championship tonight, and total drama to decide who went up and who was in the play-offs. West Brom drew 2-2 with QPR, but because Brentford lost 2-1 at home to Barnsley and Fulham could only draw 1-1 at Wigan, the draw was enough for the Baggies to come back up. On top of that, Swansea City started the day five goals goal difference worse off than Nottingham Forest, but they won 4-1 at Reading with a goal in stoppage time (90+2 at the end) and with Forest losing 4-1 at home to Stoke City, that meant Swansea actually finished above them on goal difference. The goal at the time of 90+2 did have them level on goal difference but crucially four more goals scored for Swansea, then Stoke rubbed in the wound at the City Ground with a goal at the death. Absolute madness! (hence House of Fun by Madness is tune of the day)

Tuesday 21st July - Can We Play You Every Week?

It was good to be up early and heading off to one of the offices to work from there today. I wanted to do a fair bit of testing and actually being in the office to do so, including some Windows 10 build tests and also building a fresh Windows 10 1909 WIM image, so got the express train that's now running direct to Victoria, and on the bus towards work. I did stop at Costa and got a coffee (as there's no coffee making facilities in the office at present) and that worked out nicely to be able to start the day off well.

I had made the necessary build task sequence changes, PXE booted a test machine and let that run through the task sequence, and that all worked fine. In fact later on that morning one of my colleagues from another office had managed to build one all well, and so all was fine there. I did however note that creating the WIM in MDT had a minor problem, until I noted that there was an issue with the Windows 10 2004 ADK, which you could resolve with a knowledge base article and effectively patched MDT with a new DLL file. Did that, and all was proper in terms of creating the WIM.

I then tested out that WIM in a test build task sequence (as the WIM includes all the updates up to July) and all of that was fine too, so raised a change to take place later in the week to switch that all out. I was pleased immensely with this, and it really showed that due diligence is key in these situations. It was nice and air cooled in the office and did help me to concentrate and get on with a few other things too, so managed to be able to get through the day well.

I headed home later and it was on with Pick TV as it was the Manchester City game away at Watford. We needed to bounce back considering the poor FA Cup semifinal game against Arsenal on Saturday, and with Watford sacking Nigel Pearson (a bad move in my view) the incentive was there for City to be relentless. And relentless it was, with Raheem Sterling scoring a powerful drive in the first half after a good ball from Kyle Walker, and Sterling was fouled for a penalty. The Watford keeper Ben Foster saved it, Sterling followed up on the rebound and it was 2-0 to City at half time.

City could have been 3-0 up early in the second half, but a glorious through ball later to Sterling saw him attempt a hat-trick, Foster saved well but the ball went straight to the Stockport Iniesta Phil Foden, who made no mistake from close range for 3-0. And a free kick from Kevin de Bruyne found the head of Aymeric Laporte who buried it home for 4-0. In fact Gabriel Jesús was only just offside at the death and could have scored a fifth. What it does mean that Watford, Bournemouth and Aston Villa all have the same goal difference, so it could really go down to the wire. It was though 18-0 on aggregate the last three times we've played Watford (FA Cup final, both league games) so the old chant based on Bread of Heaven (make that tune of the day) with me singing "Can we play you every week?" seems seriously appropriate.

Monday 20th July - Another Not So Manic Monday

I must admit it does still feel odd not heading to the train station and taking the train to work on a Monday morning, to be honest. It was a case of getting myself up, getting myself showered and ready and having some breakfast, although I did have to nip out to Sainsburys first to get a few bits for during the week including some milk. I did note though that the microwave was struggling in parts to turn the turntable round, possibly a defective motor or another possible thing that might mean it's on its way out. I have had it for around fifteen years though, so if it does go, it has had a good innings.

It was then to work and to look at some final testing of applications I'm putting into the Windows 10 build task sequence tomorrow - always good to try them individually as well as in a build and make sure all is good, and it was. I've got the processes nicely streamlined now, and I have to say that it helps as I can make time to help out with some of our use cases at the moment which our colleagues on the project teams are working on - I've volunteered to make myself available for technical help and that's been useful for people too.

I also got some feedback from one of our software vendors after some extensive testing I'd done last week, and they were pretty grateful. Now it's just a case of them updating their beta version of one piece of the software to become live and incorporate the working changes I had tested. I think too it shows that sometimes it's a case of being able to rise above the first thought and actually get some benefit of collaboration but also being able to direct them into ways they can improve too, so some kudos points there for definite.

I did have a package arrive during the day which I would check out later, which was a bundle of twenty three games for the Commodore 16 and Plus/4 computers, which included a few rarities along the way, such as 3D Time Trek, Ghost Town (the inlay doesn't have the game title down the spine, which actually is easier to spot a genuine one) as well as the Alternative Software re-release of Saboteur by Durell. It did have a dedicated Plus/4 only version on Side B, which really does work well - the title music is the same as the Spectrum one and the graphics and map like the C64.

It also showed one little trick up its sleeve too - the reset button is disabled, try to press it - back to the title screen. Nice bit of coding that - and it made me wonder why more games on that system didn't do the same thing. I did also try out Leaper as well which had a really nice version of what was also the theme tune from The South Bank Show (make that tune of the day) as well as a loading screen at the same time - it certainly was slickly presented. I must admit it'd been good to play plenty of games I never had chance to back in the day as well.

Sunday 19th July - Looping Around London

Even though the weather looked like there may be some drizzle in the air, it seem to be cooler than yesterday which was the main thing - and that meant good weather for my planned walk. I was going to take on section 9 of the London Loop - from Kingston Bridge to Hatton Cross. It looked a good walk but also a long one at 8.5 miles which I reckoned would be around three hours or so at least, depending on what I saw on the way. So it was off to East Croydon station, but not before I noted that McDonalds was open for breakfast, so just had to get a sausage and egg McMuffin to have before the journey on the X26 bus to Kingston.

Once at Kingston, I walked through the town centre and over Kingston Bridge, making my way to the Church Grove Passage that led me into Bushy Park, the second largest Royal Park in London and indeed one which, like Richmond Park, had deer. And as I walked towards the Oval Plantation, they they all were, just relaxed and having a mid morning graze even with the light drizzle falling. They looked adorable and I was so pleased that they seemed so tame and relaxed and the long zoom lens on my camera came in very useful for this, so I could keep a nice safe distance away.

Once done, I walked to the Heron Pond, spotted a rather large and majestic heron there, before heading over to Chestnut Avenue and then following the paths to the woodlands, which were really nice, had Triss's Pond in there as well as an old little keeper's hut, and led you on to a long path to head towards the far end close to Hampton itself. It was a very nice park and the deer were lovely, but all the nature really did make me feel relaxed. And it had stopped the drizzle by this point, still a little cloudy, but dry and perfect walking weather now!

Once out of there, it got a bit boring as you skirted by Fulwell Golf Club with a diversion to Fulwell Park, then following some suburban back roads until you got to the River Crane and Crane Park (complete with very low height restricted bridge to duck under). The main surprise there was the Shot Tower, which was part of an old gunpowder mill and concealed amongst the trees in the park by the river. It wasn't open to climb to the top and admire the view, but I can imagine that being very nice actually.

It was out of Crane Park and following the road by Hounslow Cemetery before crossing over a railway and then left into Hounslow Heath. This was quite nice, although there were some waymarkers missing here which doesn't help you always get the right way (take note TfL!) but got back on track and zigzagged around the golf course before heading on the bridge back to the River Crane, where some of the paths were suspended on wood, a bit like the ones in Fletcher Moss in Manchester, and that led you onwards towards the back end of Feltham, where I spotted a Tesco Express close to the lights I crossed over at, so meal deal and lunch done, time to carry on!

It was following the River Crane some more into Donkey Wood, and then more suspended wooden paths, but my these were fun - they were very springy indeed and felt really weird as you walked over. It was then up onto a road and back over to the other side of the River Crane, following one final path which took you to the main A30 close to Heathrow. You then walked all the way down for around half a mile, seeing some lovely horses in a field too, a major nice surprise that, before the monstrosity of ugliness that is Hatton Cross tube and bus station. My, what an awful and depressing place this is, was quite relieved to leave there and get the X26 bus all the way back to be honest.

The sun had at least attempted to come out though on the way back, and you could see how nice the likes of Teddington looked in the warm weather - and the bus went by Bushy Park so you could see the Chestnut Avenue from the entrance all the way down to the Diana Fountain, and eventually got back home. I then put on some tunes and some of the vinyl I had yesterday, so Where In The World by Swing Out Sister is tune of the day - it's rather lovely anyway but would have been perfect background music for my walk!

Saturday 18th July - Record Shopping and Meeting Up With Friends

It was a day of two halves today, for definite, but all good too. The first half was going to involve some record shopping, something I quite like to do anyway, and now I know more shops are open, I'd want to go and check out some vinyl and CDs. I had two shops in mind to head to, the first of which I'd do first as it was some way away - Classical Bargain Records (which also includes Vinyl Destiny) is based close to New Eltham station, but found a way to get there with one change of bus (and Hopper fare would count too, so only £1.50 each way), so it was off on the 466 to Addington Village, followed by the 314 through Hayes and Bromley and onwards via Elmstead Woods towards New Eltham.

The shop itself was attempting distancing and also gave you some disposable gloves, so you could wear those whilst handling the vinyl and CDs, avoiding any cross-contaminants as much as you can. That was a good idea and I happily browsed the racks of all the 7 inch singles as well as the 12 inch and some CDs too. I did spent a fair bit of time in there and ended up with three 7 inch singles for 50p each (Love Is The Slug by Fuzzbox, Where In The World by Swing Out Sister and Temptation by Heaven 17 - cue Plusnet bloke going "Glenn! We talked about this!" etc.)

Not just that but I also got two cracking condition 12 inch singles for a mere £1 each too - and both of which had been on my wish list for some time. First off (and tune of the day as I played it later and it was immaculate) was the extended version of Blancmange's excellent Blind Vision, an absolute tune and I know one of The Love's friends loves that track too. The other one was the extended version of Shake the Disease by Depeche Mode, which also happens to be one of my favourite songs of theirs anyway, so double win on that front. And also in cracking nick. That's one major plus about this shop, the vinyl is looked after properly.

Flushed with success, it was back on the 314 to Addington Village and this time got the tram back to the centre of Croydon (because trams also count for hopper far as they have same fares as buses) so that worked well. In fact I could see Lloyd Park was busy but sensible and the café was open too, so nice to know that. I got back fine, went to 101 Records and they had more CDs out, notably singles too, so picked up three CD singles for a mere £1 - this time it was Sherriff Fatman by Carter USM (the Big Cat release too), The Life of Riley by Lightning Seeds and the classic that is Theme From S-Express by S-Express. That, my friends, is a tune.

Later on after I had spoken with The Love In My Heart and had had some tea, I settled in with some beer for the evening and also got myself online to speak with three of my friends. As of course due to the current situation, we can't meet up in person, having this option of being able to do so and chat online and see each other has been a really good thing - so glad I set up an appropriate means to do so, and it's worked wonders. And we had two special guests tonight as well, which was nice of them to join us too.

I have to admit it was fascinating to hear some of the stories from those guests and really did give you an insight into the software industry somewhat as well, and I can imagine the fun and games that were happening back then. It was also notable that one of them revealed he was a Liverpool fan as well which made one of my friends happy, and it was just a really nice and friendly atmosphere throughout, as it usually is. Before I knew it, it was almost a quarter past midnight and five hours had flown by without us even realising it, which says a lot about how much we enjoyed ourselves. More of the same I think!

Friday 17th July - At Last!

It looks like, after several different attempts, and various consultations with technical staff, that I might have a breakthrough, in a major way, with one of the pieces of software we're using for inventory, and the way that one of their connectors behaves with a third party external product via their Software as a Service (SaaS) connector. It's been a pretty long road, but earlier this week it was clear that a new version of their connector software, in beta, appeared to do a few things correctly, including a token refresh of the security token before exchanging any data.

What does this mean? Well, it means that rather than have the token have to still be valid for each session and having a poll of data before a session timeout, the token is refreshed so it's a fresh new token, it authenticates correctly and is therefore valid to pull data. As I had suggested, this testing was in a two part phase: the first part was to set the session timeout only back to its normal secure default, poll the data and see if it worked on a daily schedule. That did work. Then, set all the security settings of the third party product back to the original secure defaults (thus ensuring best practice) and see if the token refresh worked again. And, sure enough, it did!

This was a major plus point for me, and meant that later on we were able to bring that to the table for the end of day meeting, but also means that my hunch was in fact correct (and as the legendary Gene Hunt character would always say, trust your hunches!) - so felt positive really. Granted we do now have to wait for the beta we've been currently testing to actually be live before we implement it across the board for everything else, but our feedback should help with that (and notwithstanding, I kind of want some credit for this)

It was also good to have my official half year review today. The short of it: keep doing what I'm doing as everyone values your input. The long of it: I've achieved a number of goals, some of which changed due to the situation being as it is, and was able to adapt, deploy and get working possible solutions to difficult situations. I must admit I do feel pleased at this, primarily because I know it's been a pretty long haul over the last few months and for me being able to get some goals over the line has been pretty special.

I celebrated later in the evening with a blast on the Commodore 64 and the classic game that is Mayhem in Monsterland, even if the title music is a cover of the Tiny Toons television series theme tune (make that one tune of the day). Even now it's still a classic game and of course when it transforms from the sad to happy levels, the contrast is really marked and makes the gams immense fun. I have so many fond memories and am pleased to still to this day own the disk original.

Thursday 16th July - Haircut Hurrah

I must admit, even though I had purchased a nice Braun set in order to do some trimming of any stubble and hair, and even gave it a bit of a go myself in order to get the hair sorted, it was good to be finally later today to be going back to my usual barbers, James Barbers at Wimbledon Park. They had kept customers in the loop about any reopening plans and had their booking system open and working properly, and it was easy to get a booking sorted. It was also clear and honest pricing too, you knew what the costs are when you booked and that's always appreciated.

So after a good and pretty positive day at work, it was off on the tram from Croydon to Wimbledon, and one stop on the District Line, going away from the traffic, off to Wimbledon Park. I noted outside that there were tables and chairs to sit on and wait, and they recognised me and knew I had a 6.30pm appointment, so was all good. In fact I noted that they all had the full face visors on, were changing gowns after each cut and had them ready to be washed etc (using washable ones is better) and effectively had the whole place disinfected and had their COVID secure certification displayed up front.

To be honest, I expected nothing less. They've been careful all the way through and their gradual expansion to have a second branch in Tooting Market shows that they've done the right thing. As was the case tonight, as we had our usual football chatter, especially as Liverpool had succumbed to Arsenal and so couldn't get Manchester City's 100 points record anymore (which admittedly made me feel rather happy last night it has to be said) but I was also interested to know how things had been going for them since reopening. One thing they did say was that the appointment system has been working really well and it's meant they have more structure to their day and know that it'll be a gradual influx of customers too.

Around twenty minutes or so later, haircut was done - I normally go for 2 back and sides, 4 on top in terms of clipper grades, but went for 2 and 3 instead - my thought being that if any localised lockdowns happen in future, it will be shorter and have more time to grow before it becomes a messy. And with the weather being warmer, it kind of made more sense anyway to be shorter, so really pleased with how it turned out to be honest. Felt really chuffed as I headed back towards Wimbledon and onwards to home, stopping at Iceland on the way to grab a few essentials at the same time.

I had a relaxing evening, chatting to my Mum first about the holiday and sharing what a lovely time we both had there, and then with The Love In My Heart later on and noted how Brian the cat was now adopting his moment of sitting next to his Mummy on the sofa. Awww, he's so good. I also later on had a good listen to a bit of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, just to chill out really, and Into My Arms is just absolutely majestic, so tune of the day it most certainly is. And highly recommended comes the whole Boatman's Call album if you need to start somewhere too.

Wednesday 15th July - Back To The Office

It was the one day I'd decided this week to head to the office, primarily to do plenty of testing where I needed to be able to PXE boot and test some new additions into the Windows 10 build task sequence. I knew what I wanted to get packaged, and so would take that on later in the morning. I managed to get the train to Victoria and then the bus from there - and the train did seem busier than before, it has to be said. The added bonus was that the Costa near the office was open, so a take out coffee was mine, and with the reduction in VAT happening today, the £2.60 normal cost was £2.28 instead, correctly charged. If you need to know for yourself if the price boards haven't changed, divide the original cost by 1.2, then multiply by 1.05, and you'll get what you should be now charged.

The office was all fine and I got on with the first change of the day: disassociating the JAMF Pro plugin from MECM as it's now no longer needed - as we're using a different inventory system and this does mean that it'll also give us a more true return of machines that are present and correct in MECM as well. It was easy enough to stop the service, then uninstall the plugin, and remove any associated collections that are present along the way too. In fact, I could already see a more streamlined and accurate approach taking place too, so definitely a plus point.

The rest of the morning and early afternoon was spent downloading and packaging the new versions of Chrome, Firefox and Adobe Reader. The good thing was that of course Chrome has the enterprise MSI which works really well, and there's a good way of getting the Firefox MSI to detect the version installed correctly during a build task sequence if you know what to look for. Interestingly, for the new version of Adobe Reader, there was a new version of the Customization Wizard also available as well so made sure I updated my documentation at the same time (always sensible to do that!)

I headed on the bus then train home later on, and was able to watch the Manchester City v Bournemouth game from the Etihad Stadium. In truth, although there were two moments of brilliance involving the legend that is David Silva, a free kick for the opening goal and a lovely ball through to Gabriel Jesús for the second goal, the defending was pretty awful all game and better finishing from Bournemouth could have seen them level at half time and definitely more so at full time - and it did make you wonder why they weren't showing that level of battle as they had done against us tonight and Leicester City the other night.

I also did manage to check over a number of my old work disks from the Commodore 64 that I had transferred over using my working XUM1541 adapter. It was fascinating to find some of the old things I used to create, such as some little introductory screens with coloured bars and even music extracted from games in disks I used to send out. So were those times when I was learning more about coding than I ever realised to be honest (and still know some 6502 code now to be fair). So only fair that I mention one of the real life tunes I covered on the C64, no less than Pete Shelley's "You Can't Take That Away" (make that tune of the day) which is possibly one of the more obscure computer version covers out there..

Tuesday 14th July - Bastille Day

Today of course is Bastille Day, so a nod over to France as they have their national holiday and do whatever they can, safely, and at home, to celebrate that. It does also remind me of the fact that usually when this happens the Tour de France is also on, but of course, not this year. I am missing that actually and the nightly highlights on Channel 4 (and even watch some of the weekend stages too live.) Of course, this year would have been starting the race in Nice, a few years after an appalling attack on the city on this day. As someone who loves and adores that city, my thoughts are with those who live there tonight as they have a more sombre mood to remember those, but can see how much the city has bounced back since, not least with the new tram lines, new football stadium, and all sorts.

Work today was mainly about catching up and it was good to be able to spend some time with a couple of colleagues working out a plan of action in terms of one of the connector options for our inventory product. I have to say the good thing is that it's worked well in terms of building solid relationships across teams and getting to know people well (and to be fair, I'm quite shy normally so that has been good to overcome some part of that and work on it) - but also that we are on the same page and working well together to sort a good few things out. For me at least, it's definitely been a big positive.

Another positive today was that I was able to work out and plan a list of machines that needed to be looked at by the service teams, but with some instructions for remediation built into that. One motto I learned when I used to do customer service back in the early 1990s was that where possible, never state a problem without having an idea what a solution could be - the idea being that you turn a negative into a positive and that also comes across the right way to said audience. So, I would state that these Windows 10 machines aren't currently showing the correct registration, but here's some useful ways we can fix that (one of which is a nice Powershell script written by a colleague which we can run direct from the MECM console, nice.)

After having a lovely pasta bake for tea, I had a good chat with The Love In My Heart. Thankfully she was able to source someone to come out to the car and sort the clutch (the car having been returned safely over the weekend by the AA) - they took it on a truck similar to the AA one back to the garage, performed the replacement and gave it a good overhaul thrown in, and it came back early evening. The Love's relieved of course, and given it a quick drive round to check all is good, but I must admit that on Saturday it was pretty traumatic, more so for her, but we've managed to get it sorted and so onwards we go. Cars by Gary Numan seems appropriate to be tune of the day.

I had to head out to the local shop to get some kitchen foil (as I wrap the dish with the pasta bake in it to save it for tomorrow night's tea) and headed next door also to Ludoquist as they are back open in the evenings now - not for board game playing, but I wanted some take out beers. The original minimum purchase requirement has been dropped now, but still spent near enough that anyway on six quality beers including two from Tiny Rebel and the gorgeous Wally Winker's Death by Chocolate from the Westerham Brewery. The staff as ever were lovely and it's always nice to spend local when you can.

Monday 13th July - Catching Up

So it was back to work today and as is the current scenario, working from home. I am going in to the office one day this week, primarily as it was easier to be able to get a few things done and tested where I actually do need an internal Ethernet connection, and so had confirmation that I could do that (I had sent an email before I went on leave to the person organising the rotas and so got that sorted. I also had some time to read through the emails and where necessary, respond to them.

I also today spent some time sorting out a couple of issues with a couple of machines that seemed to have not been online for some time and came back on today - this meant they had some software not needed, most of which was automatically removed, and it had a fair few number of updates to catch up on as well. I was able to see that working well and the other positive, the numbers of clients now connected through the cloud management gateway, meaning we're now seeing over 800 plus machines at peak connected either via that or the VPN, which is pleasing.

I had a delivery in the post today which was something I'd been waiting for that I had ordered - and the chance to play a game on the Commodore Plus/4 I had never owned first time round, primarily due to its 1988 release date and that I had moved on to the Commodore 64 by then. The game is by the legendary Shaun Southern, called Arthur Noid, and you can pretty much guess by that title that it's a clone of the arcade game Arkanoid. Bear in mind that it didn't get a conversion to the C16 and Plus/4 series (not a bad thing as Imagine's conversions to that format were awful) so next best thing really.

I played it later on after work, and the title tune is quite good (so tune of the day) as it's more of a little funky number on the TED chip. The in game music though can be annoying, but a use of the Shift Lock key sorts that out, and you get sound effects only. The added bonus is that you do get to tell when you've picked items up and can use them, notably of course the expanded bat and most important of all, the laser fire, an absolutely essential weapon here. Earlier levels can be blasted to bits with this and really does get you further quicker.

I think as well for me it's nice to get to play a lot of the games I never had chance to which represented the later era of that machine. And for nostalgic purposes, I like to own the originals and play them, because I can. I did also note that I already did have another later Shaun Southern release, Dingbat, which is effectively a smaller version of Hummdinger released on the C64, but so many other games were exclusives on this format (Arthur Noid being one of them) or written first for the format (POD, Trailblazer) so well worth noting.

Sunday 12th July - And Home For Me

It was nice being snuggled up to The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat last night. I had stayed up a little to see Manchester City give Brighton a thrashing 5-0 with the highlights on Match of the Day, and it really showed how well we had played tonight. I have to say though it was rather comedic and bizarre for Raheem Sterling's third goal and it did look like an own goal from the Brighton defender, but I am sure plenty of Fantasy League players are happy that wasn't the case somehow! In fact, Brian was purring all appreciative of his Mummy this morning and was loving the strokes and cuddles he was getting.

It was then on to the breakfast for us both, and I got myself all changed and ready to head back homeward myself. It was nice that Brian wanted one last play of ball where I bounce the ball to the pouffle and he paws it away, and The Love dropped me off at Manchester Piccadilly station to get the train back to Euston. It was nice just having a hug and kiss and I'll miss her massively of course, but despite yesterday's elongated journey we had had a lovely time and it was just really good to have a good break and in one of our favourite parts of the world too.

The train to Euston was busier than it had been coming up, but I was pleased that everyone was wearing a face covering (as they should) and that it was nice and calm and quiet. Due to not many trains going from St Pancras (one an hour or so) I had to take the Victoria Line tube to Victoria, which I didn't really want to do. It was okay but it did feel some people weren't taking distancing seriously. Thankfully the staff at Victoria were having none of that and were putting people in their place, and it was soon a head across to the platform to East Croydon for me, and then home.

The journey back gave me some time to reflect whilst listening to some fairly relaxed tunes too (make Swing Out Sister's Something Every Day tune of the day for that reason) and think about just how much of a lovely time we'd had, but also how plenty of places were doing their utmost to not only be safe in their operation but also to ensure that they provided quality food and drink. Generally it was nice supporting smaller businesses such as the Boscastle Farm Shop and the independent Mill House Inn too, where the friendly service was still also present too, and that really did make us both feel welcome.

I think also too though it has made me think that in the long term there may be a shift towards more holidays at home instead of abroad, and generally the demand might surge for cottage holidays such as the one we had. We loved our little place and it really was rather nice just to kick back and relax in the evening, head up to the pub and see the sunsets, and enjoy a much slower pace of life (no mobile signal so no annoying calls left right and centre either) and also meant that we could just switch off too - just what we needed. I did check and the place we stayed at is fully booked until mid-November 2020, and that says a lot!

Saturday 11th July - Home Via Unusual Routes

The Love In My Heart and I went down to the sea this morning to have one final look. It was all so lovely, even with the tide in and the waves crashing against the rocks, and we both agreed that coming down into the bay and seeing the sea from the car was a highlight every day we were out and about and coming back to the cottage. It was also special as we'd shared a hug with the sun setting last night and will bring back some fond memories whenever we think of this part of Cornwall. If we only we knew what was going to happen next.

So, we set off in The Love's car, and we passed the Tintagel Brewery, and the car was okay but seemingly not 100% for some reason. We went along the B3314 through Slaughter Bridge and barely made it uphill (and it's not that steep). The Love smelt burning and so pulled over, and when she tried to get going again, the accelerator pedal had zero response. It looked like the clutch had gone as no gear she went into did anything. We did at least manage to push the car to a little lay-by, and that meant it was out of harms' way, but knowing she was stressed and worried, I did my best to remain calm, kind and supportive. Not much we could do.

Good job then that The Love has AA membership, so she called them up. They sent out a local mechanic who arrived around an hour later. He checked it over and immediately said that the clutch had gone, and he rang the AA back to say we needed a recovery truck. Now, because of the current situation, we wouldn't be able to ride back with the truck, so they had to arrange the truck to come for the car, and a taxi to take us to the nearest Enterprise Car Rental place where they'd sort a car for us to carry on our journey. Only snag - the rental place shut at 12 noon. The clock was ticking.

As it transpired, the recovery truck arrived before the taxi did, so we didn't have to think about having to wait to give the truck driver the keys. He was really nice and friendly to be fair, so got The Love's car loaded up, and as he was finishing, the taxi driver arrived just before 11am. He knew all the back ways to Bodmin (nearest Enterprise place) and so took us on some back lanes through the delightful Hellandbridge with its old and narrow bridge and got us to Bodmin (some 15 miles away) around 11.30am - absolute star man. In fact it sounded like he does a lot of pickups for people from Bodmin Parkway station to North Cornwall generally as he had an official GWR taxi operator sign on his dash.

The Love sorted out the paperwork with Enterprise, and thankfully all was good there - and we had a blue Vauxhall Crosslander X to get us home safely. Of course being a different car, The Love was having to get used to it, and we stopped not far away at Bodmin Asda to get some cold drinks and indeed so she could work out what was what. We had been told it was petrol, but at the petrol station I noted the inside cap cover said B7, which was diesel, and the panel indicated that. I checked the DVLA website for the registration plate - and yes, it's diesel (in fact the Crosslanders 1.5 litres and above are diesel, below 1.5 are unleaded) - so thankfully the right fuel went in at the pay and pump, and off we went.

The Love was still feeling a bit stressed but at least on the A30 being dual carriageway and quieter than normal, that helped gain confidence, and when we got to Exeter Services on the M5, we had a Cornish pasty and some coffee (and wedges too) which wasn't too dear. I think having something to eat helped us both get some energy and felt better, so off we set on the M5, which was relatively trouble free - and we stopped again at Frankley where we've been before for a much needed Costa Coffee and some doughnuts from Greggs, because we can. In fact that sugar rush was useful and we both were just happy to at least know we'd be on the final leg homeward now.

The Love did really well coping with the different car, and we headed up the M6 fine and no delays on roadworks, and via the A556/M56 to Manchester, and arrived back at her place at 7pm on the dot. We had left around 7.30am in The Love's car, but considering we'd left Bodmin Asda around 12.30pm after fuelling and getting drinks etc, and with two long breaks, that was still good for time anyway. I was so proud of The Love for getting through the day, dealing with all the calls etc and being sensible, she really is a heroine. All I could do was just to be supportive and nice and hoped that was enough.

Of course Brian the cat was more than happy to see his Mummy, and after I'd headed to Asda to get a few bits we needed, it was then off to the local Chinese to have a well earned takeout which we both enjoyed whilst watching The Voice Kids, playing ball with Brian and fussing him up. He even allowed me to feed him the salmo sticks he likes, so clearly was feeling the love and adoration, aww. We ended up watching the Live Aid documentary later and reminding ourselves of Queen's awesome set that day, so have to make Radio Ga-Ga tune of the day - the whole audience applauding that was something else to behold. It was a long day but we were safe, and that was the important thing.

Friday 10th July - Beaches and Sunsets

It was a much sunnier day today and so with that in mind, it was off to the beach for a final day of the sun and some warmth. Although we could have stayed at the beach close to the cottage, the tide times in and out still meant that only a small part of beach was available, so we decided to head over to Polzeath, as we had done on Tuesday. It was more difficult to get a parking space this time but we used the one up the hill which overlooked the South West Coast path and did have some dramatic views, so that actually worked out for the best to be honest as the view was special in the blue skies and sunshine too.

We headed down the hill and across to the beach, and found a lovely little spot to rest at. It definitely was really nice to be relaxed by the sea, and the wind was a little lighter than the other day too with the sun out. The Love In My Heart had her book with her to read, and I had my iPod so I was able to have some tunes on as well including the epic 12 inch mix of I Want You by Cabaret Voltaire, and this is tune of the day and definitely was good to chill out to. I had some more sun cream on too to prevent the legs from burning, and it was all good to be relaxed there also.

I headed over to one of the shops to get some lunch later on, and after that The Love was sunning herself and I ventured over to the Coronation Gardens by the beach to have a go of the crazy golf, which was pretty good - nine holes only, but some difficult ones at that and some of which reminded me of the Fun Fun Minigolf game on the Wii. It was good fun and I headed back to The Love later who was all looking rather tanned and resplendent it has to be said, so that was good to see for definite. We both won today for sure!

Later on we left the lovely surroundings of Polzeath and then headed along the coast to Port Isaac. The main car park is a fair distance away and you have to walk along the main road and then downhill to the village. It was interesting to see the little shops and the harbour, and of course the house which became famous for the setting for the TV series Doc Martin - needless to say that it was of course full of people discovering the TV locations. We did like it although we both couldn't see ourselves spending a whole week there - and we then headed back to the cottage.

After we had got showered and changed, we headed off to the Port William pub, not very far from the cottage at all. We had reserved a table inside for our tea, and the staff as ever were lovely and friendly too. We had a prime spot by the window too so could see the sun slowly setting over the sea too. We both had the cod and chips which were lovely, and I also had the sticky toffee pudding for dessert which was really gorgeous. Add to that some Mena Dhu stout and some Korev lager, and it was a lovely meal all round and was the perfect last meal of the holiday.

As we stood outside the Port William later on as the sun slowly set over the sky with some dramatic redness, it was a real sense of just how beautiful the sunset was and how much we've loved seeing that during the week in bright and sunny weather as well. It's been good to be somewhere different and it really has been a voyage of new discoveries and places we've never been before, so it was a wonderful week all round. It went by far too quickly of course but was good to enjoy such a well earned break at any rate, and The Love deserves so much for making it happen too.

Thursday 9th July - Padstow

With the weather set less fair for today, The Love In My Heart and I felt it was probably more sensible to head over to Padstow and have a good look around its narrow streets around the harbour, lots of little shops as well as see how the whole Padstein influence from Rick Stein is still prevalent in the town. To be fair, we also hadn't been for ages so thought it would be a worthwhile place to go. So after breakfast we headed out along to Camelford and then down the A39 past Wadebridge and up the A389 to Padstow itself. The main difficulty was actually getting a parking space, but we got one at the top of the hill.

As we walked down into the centre of Padstow, we did note just how many shops were now open and it did feel somewhat more normal than some other places we had been to this week. Of course what was noticeable to me was the Padstow Brewing Company having their own little bar now, and we walked around to where the Rick Stein Cafe and shop were. The Love had a good look around the shop and we did manage to get some nice items in there which was good, and we headed past lots of lovely little places including Joules and Seasalt too before we then headed towards the harbour, which with its boats moored due to low tide seemed somewhat idyllic.

We decided and it was on Mum's recommendation that we went for The Shipwrights Inn at the far end of the harbour. As was the normal currently, we had our details taken and had a table upstairs which overlooked the harbour. They had Trelawny ale on so that was me sorted, and The Love had a lovely cheese burger and I had the fish and chips which was spot on too - lovely white fish at that. It was good to relax and later we walked towards the beach, spotting the low tide and how the ferry to Rock had to take people over to the sand only before dropping then off, and that was surreal (especially as there's not much at Rock.)

After a walk to the far end of the town, we walked back and along the harbour front, passing by some lovely shops. Of course one of The Love's favourite places in St Ives, Whistlefish, also had a place here so that was The Love nicely sorted as she shopped. I noted next door the little Roskillys ice cream stand and so got myself my favourite orange and mascarpone flavour ice cream too - it was gorgeous to say the least and really lovely to have. We did go to a small craft fair in the Memorial Hall and I even got a print of a photograph taken at Trebarwith Strand which looked very dramatic too, and the person who sold them made them so nice to give to someone local.

We walked back towards the harbour and had a nice drink in the Old Custom House too which was good, before then passing some more lovely shops where The Love got some fudge, and headed up to the car park. We stopped off at Wadebridge on the way back at Tesco for fuel but also for a few bits, and chilled out back at the cottage later with some nice tea and a good beer as the sun set as it came out making for a beautiful view. Even though it was raining, it was still a beautiful day, so the Levellers song of the same title is tune of the day.

Wednesday 8th July - Bude and Coastal Paths

With the weather not looking so good for today, we decided that it wouldn't stop us, but we would instead head out somewhere else for a change. And as I'd fancied heading to Bude, that was where we would go. We did have a cunning plan on the way though which was to have the breakfast at the Boscastle Farm Shop on the way, and we utilised their takeaway menu and had a lovely breakfast bap each - bacon for The Love In My Heart and sausage for me, and a cappucino and latte to go with it. The staff were lovely and it was good to enjoy a nice hearty breakfast to set us both off for the day.

We then headed along the A39 to Bude, and parked up on The Crescent and headed via the Castle Arts Centre (sadly closed) and then went across the bridge and to the town centre. The little shops were lovely, and The Love did get a nice plant from one flower shop ready for use at home, and we noted plenty of surf shops but also plenty selling walking gear and outdoor wear too. We did follow the road up hill and then headed to the spoof landmark that is the Bude Tunnel - which in effect is just the arched covered walkway between Sainsburys and its car park at the back (in case you wondered what it actually was.)

We did follow the path down to Summerleaze Downs and could see the beach huts and beach there, and also saw the sea pool round the corner, with swimmers in there practising - considering it was misty and a bit murky, fair dos to them for going in. We did then walk back towards the town centre and I had to (on recommendation) get a pasty from Tasty Pasties. And it was gorgeous it has to be said, spot on steak and fillings with the pastry. We did go in some more nice little shops before heading back to the car and after getting a few essentials from Sainsburys after a well earned drink in the pub (where Glen Campbell's Wichita Lineman was playing as background music, so tune of the day), it was time to head off.

It was back along the coast road towards Widemouth Bay, and I have to say with the mist coming over the coastline was dramatic, but not quite the weather we'd both want really. It however was good to see the coastline here and then back via the A39 and Slaughter Bridge to the cottage. We did walk down to the beach at Trebarwith Strand and did see the faithful dog companions of the life guards walking around which was rather nice - very loyal and on lookout for anyone surfing in an area which might not have been as safe as may have been before. It was still a little misty but nice nonetheless.

I did then take a walk along the coastal path going west, climbing the very steep hill out of Trebarwith Strand, following the path up and then back down to the next valley before going back up again, ending up along the tops and to Treligga Cliffs, which were dramatic to say the least. In fact I got as far as a turn off for a beach, followed that down but then followed the sign the wrong way back out and headed towards Treligga and doubled back then to Trebarwith village and followed the narrow road downhill to the junction near The Mill House and to turn left for Trebarwith Strand and back to see The Love.

It was time for tea so we decided to have a fish and chip takeout tonight, and we knew that one of the places was open. We went over to Delabole and to Smugglers Fish and Chips, and got cod and chips twice. They were very nice indeed and just meant that it was a beautifully cooked cod all white and clean and some nice chips too. The Love and I kicked back later on and snuggled on the sofa watching some telly including Location Location Location, and at least we had made the most out of a day with less than brilliant weather - and we both wanted it to clear more for the rest of the holiday.

Tuesday 7th July - Beach and The Mill House

It was a decision as to which beach to head to today. Even though we do have a beach close to the cottage, it can be quite tidal and also not the largest beach ever, and when we looked after having a walk down this morning, the tide was in, so that didn't make things easy. Instead, we loaded up the picnic basket with all the things we needed for lunch, and then headed off via Delabole and down the B3314, turning off for the road to Polzeath, which we had passed through many years ago but never stopped off at. I did recall it having a massive beach though.

And as we arrived into Polzeath, we could see the large beach and it was nice, and the car park was close by too. We got a space and carried all our things over to one of the spots on the beach close to some cliffs, and the soft sand was nice too. We put up the parasol although the wind was a little bit windy in parts, and it had clouded over a little but when the sun came through it was lovely and definitely felt nice to be by the sea. The Love had her book and I had the iPod, so had on some nice tunes including La Ti Da by The Icicles (make it tune of the day so that made things lovely too.

What was also lovely was when I walked over to the sea, and the Atlantic Ocean waves were a little cool but quite nice, and I walked back via a coffee van and was tempted, but was good, and when I got back to The Love we noted two wild rabbits in the sand dunes eating some of the plants and having their lunch (as we had had our picnic earlier). That was a lovely thing and The Love got a really nice shot of the rabbit too, so that was good to be able to see some nature whilst being on the beach and definitely was well worth it. I can recommend the beach to anyone who fancies a bit of sun and sand.

We headed back to the cottage and later on got ourselves showered and ready, and headed up the road a mere half mile to The Mill House, hidden in a little valley just off the road to Treknow. They had a one way system to the restaurant, and we followed that in. The staff were lovely, and were really proud to be back open. They also had all the Tintagel Brewery ales on, so the Harbour Special was mine to be had. The starter of the squid rings for me and the ham hock terrine for The Love were also excellent too, and that set us up nicely for the main meal which we both were looking forward to.

And wow, what a main they both were. I had the braised beef and ale pie, and it was absolutely choc full of the beef, and in a proper nice pastry, with some good vegetables and a side portion of chips. The Love had gone for the special of lamb steak with some new potatoes and vegetables, and that was also delicious too. In fact, we stayed and had another drink after the main because it was all so lovely, and I have to say it's the best meal I've had all year, no question. All safety in place, and people in all loving the food, so comes very highly recommended from us both. A lovely way to spend an evening.

Monday 6th July - Arthurian Adventures

It was looking to be a sunnier day today than yesterday and indeed with the wind easing, it would prove to be a nice warm Cornish day. We had had a good lie in, and had some nice breakfast, and then was heading off a few miles down the coast to Tintagel. We had booked the tickets for the castle (because it was adavance bookings only) and the last time we went was several years ago, so would be good to go back during warmer weather. We managed to get a good parking spot and it was a mere three pounds for the whole day, so not too bad.

We walked through the village and noted that several shops were open, but not all as yet, and most of the pubs and eateries seemed to be operating, albeit with revised measures of course. We passed the old Post Office along the way before stopping off at a nice little cafe for some coffee, which was spot on. It was soon time to head down to Tintgel Castle so we started the walk down the hill, with the English Heritage staff checking if you had booked tickets before you headed downhill, which made perfect sense. All the staff we encountered were lovely too.

We followed the path up to the entrance, and it was pretty much a one way system around the castle, but you went over the dramatic suspension bridge first, with the arch having slates slotted in as you walked across and really did feel like you were suspended in mid-air as you walked over. And there were plenty of wonderful views as we headed around the island and around the castle's upper sections (the lower ones were closed for safety reasons) and followed the path to the modern King Arthur statue, and past the tunnel and the old chapel.

It definitely was good to have a good look around and the castle felt historic even with its ruins, and we then headed down the steps via the old way into the castle and on to a bridge over a gap, before heading down stairs to the beach itself with its soft sand and its cave which you could walk into, and that was rather spectacular too. We felt all good as we then headed across past the shop (which had a big queue) and up the hill back towards Tintgel village, where a proper Cornish pasty was for me and The Love got a ham baguette (she doesn't do pasties to be fair.)

After that we went to one of the local pubs for a well earned drink - they had the outside seating area open and when you went to the bar you had to do the register thing and it was all correctly distanced inside at the bar too. I had a Proper Job and The Love had the Offshore Pilsner, both were spot on and we really did enjoy a nice pint sat outside in the sun. And the sun was pretty intense too it has to be said, which was surprisingly good and we didn't expect it to be so good, so that's a bonus for definite. And the nice moments didn't end there either.

We headed off to the Boscastle Farm Shop a mile uphill from Boscastle down the road, and the shop was brilliant - lots of rather good farm produce and gifts too. We also did head to the café at the back of the farm shop, and the cream tea we had was wonderful. Proper massive scones, jam, clotted cream and a pot of tea - and with a gorgeous view of the sea, and that was stunning. We loved that just admiring the view with the cream tea felt special - well worth a visit if you get the chance to be honest. Tune of the day is Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves, certainly felt that sort of happy day today for sure.

Sunday 5th July - Cornish Bosses

It was nice to have a bit of a lie in and indeed thanks to The Love In My Heart have a really nice breakfast, before we decided on a little sort of plan for the day, in that we would head along the coast and over to Boscastle, to see around the harbour and the river that leads to it. You may remember from many years ago that there was a flood there which carried cars all the way down to the sea, which is a fair way. We thought it'd be nice to explore, and so headed off with the weather being a tad on the windy side to say the least.

We followed the road through Tintagel and then past Bosinney and down and up hills towards the descent into Boscastle. We did find the car park and got the parking sorted, and followed the road back to the riverside, and took one side of the path alongside the National Trust centre and a few shops before heading across the bridge over the river and along the riverbank towards the harbour. The tide was out so a few boats were all moored up and people were all sat having their lunches. Beyond the harbour was the sea, but you had to head up to the rocks and look over, and the view was very dramatic.

It was nice to head off back to a few of the nice little shops, which The Love approved of, and it was good to see that they were open and had good social distancing in place, and correctly sanitised too. It was the same in the Cobweb Inn and they had temperature checks for everyone going in. We did have lunch in there and the fish and chips was spot on, as was the Harbour Special ale that I also had. Everything was well done, staff were all in visors, and correct measures all in place including contact details being taken. It was the first pub lunch we'd had out in months and it felt special because of that.

We headed back towards Tintagel and stopped off at Bossinney, as I'd spotted a crazy golf course there earlier but it also looked like a nice walk down to the sea too. The car park was a mere pound so all good, and we did the crazy golf first. It was really good actually, nine well made holes and everything spot on. I even got a hole in one and the staff were great too, disinfecting all the golf clubs and balls so they were ready to play. It was just nice to do and The Love was very good as well, so that was a nice detour and another step of normality.

We then followed one of the paths down to Bossinney Cove, which was rather gorgeous. The cove had a little beach hidden away although the tide definitely was coming in, and really seemed idyllic too. We headed back to the coastal path and I took a look at one of the views from a bridge, then we followed the coast path and back along another path up the hill back to Bossinney. It was a nice place to find and we really did enjoy that a lot - even if was pretty windy on top of the hills and towards the sea. It was a very enjoyable day and made even more so later.

It was off to Tintagel Brewery and I managed to get a nice few bottles of beer from there - and as I'd had the Harbour Special ale earlier I knew they were all good. We then got a drink and sat outside in the brewery garden and all was well - we did have some wind and rain to contend with so had to go back inside but nonetheless, quality drink all round. It was good to enjoy that and we definitely felt like we'd packed a fair bit into the day too which was very nice. It was back to the place and we rested well and had a drink together - it was all a lovely day (make said tune by Bill Withers tune of the day.

Saturday 4th July - Cornwall Here We Come

It was an early start for myself and The Love In My Heart today as we were heading off to Cornwall for a well earned week off, and thankfully one that we could actually have under the current revision of the relaxation of lockdown. To be honest, The Love In My Heart deserves the break far more than I do, only because of the job that she does, but having booked our place at the back end of last year, way before anything started, we were just pleased and relieved in equal measures that we were able to go. Everything was packed and all good, and we were ready to go.

We set off for the M6, and once on to the M5 it was a stop at Frankley Services for some breakfast. Interestingly Greggs had a little mobile counter so sausage bap and coffee for me, and bacon bap with coffee for The Love. It was good to rest and we were soon on the road again, with the rain making plenty of appearance as we headed past Bristol and towards Exeter on the M5. We did hit some traffic close to the end of the M5 due to one lane of the exit sliproad to the A30 being shut, but that was behind us eventually and we were on our way. Apparently the roads were mental later so glad we left early.

It was then off along the A30 for a while until we reached Launceston, and we stopped at a Costa there for take out lunch with coffee. Everything was done right, one way system in and out, and proper distancing. It was so nice to have something there before we then headed off to Tesco in Launceston to get some supplies - this worked well, and we also got some more petrol for the car whilst it was cheap - it made plenty of sense to do so and meant we could just relax then during the week which is what we both wanted too. It was then off on the A395 towards Davidstow with Summer by The Icicles being a contrast to the rain (make that tune of the day as it's so lovely.)

Once we got to the end of that road, it was a series of A and B roads to head through to Slaughter Bridge (great title eh?) and on through Camelford Station junction and towards Trebarwith Strand where our little hideaway was. It was a narrow road down but we got to the place fine and could even see the sea too, which was rather fierce with the tide coming in. Nonetheless, we got the parking space sorted for The Love's car, took all the stuff in and unpacked, and it was a pleasant surprise all round. The apartment on the top floor of a little cottage wasn't massive, but was more than enough for us.

In fact, pretty much all we needed was there - oven, hob, dishwasher, washing machine, microwave, big telly with Freesat, broadband and wireless, and a nice bathroom and bedroom too. It was as described and we were really pleased - as was The Love when she discovered that the bed was really comfy, so that would be good for some sleep. We had a quick walk out and to the Port William pub which overlooks the little coves, and this meant we could have a drink, in a pub. And they were all proper distanced, all rules being followed properly (so contact tracing details taken etc) and lovely staff.

Having a pint of Trelawny felt extra special to be honest, and we both looked out of the window at the sea lashing the rocks and was quite pretty, even if windy. Later on I'd walk up part of the coast path for even more dramatic views (and they were) and we had some posh tea later thanks to Tesco and chilled out, admiring the view of the sea from our bedroom window, and it was just a lovely start all round. Even better, it really did feel like a little hideaway for us and to get away from it all - no phone signal either which shows you how remote it is. And it just felt nice to be cuddled up on the sofa.

Friday 3rd July - Final Flourish

It was the last half day at work today before heading off for a well earned break away from work, and I managed to get plenty done in that time. I documented the process of adding some of the connectors for our inventory software as well as the gotchas to watch out for, and also managed to do some final checks for testing to make sure all was well there, sent all the stats off to the people that needed all the stats required, and indeed managed to also be pretty productive considering I had around four hours' worth of time in work.

One final thing I did was sort out an odd issue where a users' machine could not connect to the VPN, and having checked Device Manager, I had worked out why. The person assisting had removed and reinstalled the client software, but the driver appeared to be disabled, most likely if a restart didn't occur between the two due to the Kernel level driver which loaded. Ran Device Manager as an admin after checking that the service was correctly configured for the Kernel, did a re-enable, and all of a sudden connectivity worked as described. Nice, I know.

I also had a package arrive today, which was my little XUM1541 box (aka Zoom Floppy) which means I can hook up my Commodore 1541 disk drive (and disks) to the PC via USB. The driver installation itself was all good and I followed the OpenCBM instructions, all good there. It was then onwards with the software installation and using CBMXfer to to the job. Once configured, all hooked up and the drive read fine. In fact I was able to to transfer a few disks over and be able to see old content on the PC that I'd had on my Commodore 64 for years (and of course could still access.)

One thing I did see was that in the days when I contributed to magazines, I used to send all my listing POKE cheats on disk to avoid errors and to make sure they properly arrived soundly. I used to write a little introductory screen in machine code along with some extracted music from a game as a little extra, which was pretty nice, and good that I found two of them too along the way. I guess it was a time when I was really taking the initiative to learn more programming so definitely was good for me to do that no question.

With everywhere nice and tidied up in the flat, it was good to relax for a while and think that I'll soon be having a week off work, which will be good. I've been non-stop apart from the odd day off for birthdays, as has The Love In My Heart, and she more then me deserves a well earned break too. So I'm sure it'll all be lovely and the two of us will be able to make the most of our time. Tune of the day happens to be the ace "Social Vertigo" by 3 Daft Monkeys, which is a tune I still love bounding around to and reminds me of happy times when you could go to gigs. If only..

Thursday 2nd July - Playing Like Champions

So tonight was the first meeting in the Premier League between the former champions (that's us, Manchester City) and the newly crowned champions, Liverpool. After we had lost to Chelsea last Thursday it meant that mathematically, Liverpool were champions, and I have to say, deservedly so. They had been superb all season and in their demolition of Crystal Palace last week they really showed just why - with attack to be feared and defence with a mix of youth and experience that works really so well.

I was not surprised therefore that to be fair to us, we gave them a guard of honour before the game to respect their achievements. It did still of course feel weird with no fans in the stadium but that's how it goes at the moment, and better to be safe than sorry - but you can imagine how much I would have liked to have been there as some special guest of the club or something as an uber-prize to watch the game. So, what would happen, would they still have a hangover or could we be able to raise the game?

The truth is, after the first fifteen minutes, a bit of both. Liverpool had hit the post with Mo Salah and looked solid going forward but our attack certainly was eyeing their defence for any errors. And indeed as Raheem Sterling tussled with Joe Gomez, Sterling was pulled down and the referee pointed to the spot. Up stepped Kevin de Bruyne to score and make it 1-0 and that alone was pretty good. What I didn't expect was a lovely move involving Gabriel Jesús, Phil Foden and then a ball from the Stockport Iniesta to Sterling, who turned the defence inside out with the first touch and slotted it in at the near post. 2-0. Now...

I was in dream land by half time though. A gorgeous flowing move involving Foden again saw him play a one two with de Bruyne that left Andy Robertson nowehere, and Foden's fourth league goal in four games saw him score well past Allison, right on half time. It was 3-0. Liverpool don't get beaten like that these days. In fact the last time they were heavily beaten was 5-0 to us in September 2017, when Sadio Mané was sent off early for them (which also shows how good they have been since). Could we possibly inflict such a defeat?

The game did peter off a bit second half as subs came on and changes made, but with added Riyad Mahrez, City wanted more, and after a shot from Sterling cannoned off the Liverpool defence and wide, the move with Mahrez and de Bruyne meant that Sterling's shot appeared to be just going wide, but instead was directed into his own net by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. 4-0 City, and could have been 5-0 right at the end had VAR not ruled out Mahrez's finish for a handball by Foden in the build up. It was just one of those great nights that City had and I know Liverpool maybe weren't at their best, but would I take a 4-0 win over them? Any day of the week. Tune of the day is the classic Boys In Blue Man City anthem from 1972, where they sang that "the boys in blue never give in." And we won't. We'll be back to push Liverpool for the league next season. Marker laid.

Wednesday 1st July - The Return of the Office

After a couple of pre-official visits to the office in terms of being able to orientate and sort a few things out that needed a physical network connection to the internal network, it was the first official day that one of our offices in central London was open. However, there was strict guidance to follow in that you had to book a space before you came, and indeed that you were also responsible for the upkeep of the space allocated ensuring it was clean and tidy throughout, and to follow all the signage and Health and Safety guidance of the staff where requested. All sensible really, and thought out.

So once I arrived, I noted the one way directional signage with floor markers and handy reminders to keep two metres apart. The desks were all labelled with ticks where you could sit (and indeed only these desks had monitors on etc) and any of the kitchen facilities such as the coffee machine were also out of action, so pretty handy that Pret a Manger was open close by for takeouts until 2.30pm. In effect, it was all done properly and I must admit not only did I feel very safe and secure today, but also it was nice to see some of my colleagues and chat to them (and because of the layout and allocations, not having to be too far apart either which was good)

In fact this gave me plenty of renewed confidence, and today saw me upgrading the Windows 10 Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK) for short on the MECM server. Normally it's a pre-requisite for future upgrades that you do so, and it does handily mean that once you've uninstalled the old version, installed the new one and performed a scheduled reboot of the server, you can then redistribute the boot images (used for PXE boot etc) with the new version of Windows PE from the ADK. Note though: you must install the extra Windows PE add-ons for the ADK after the main ADK install - so many people forget to do this!

With that done and the boot images updated (as well as the new versions of two pieces of software in the Windows 10 build) there was handily a laptop that needed a rebuild, so I effectively sorted that one out and gave it a good sort out. It worked perfectly as did all of the components, so felt pretty pleased all round that everything worked correctly and as designed, so that was excellent. I also then very kindly was passed on the reception laptop so I could upgrade the version of Windows 10 on that (it had 1709 on, so out of date) and got that sorted. I did feel very productive actually.

And that's the thing - I perform better when in an office I think. There's much more I can do, and I'm not limited by anything - and in addition it means that I can respond quicker and monitor more effectively. Working flexibly from home is also good of course and it has at least allowed me to keep on working and so on, but I think it proved also today that the friendliness and cameraderie of colleagues really helps. I like interacting with real people - it just felt so much better to be honest. And isn't that what it should be about?

I headed home later on and had the theme tune from the 1980s popular TV series Super Gran on - sung by no less than Billy Connolly (so make that tune of the day) - primarily because I can remember it being good fun, which the computer game version definitely was not. If you've ever had the misfortune to play that, you have my entire sympathy. But the telly series, just entertainment, and so many big names guest starring in it too. It had more bottle than United Dairies getting all of those in let me tell you.