Dear Diary... June 2020

Tuesday 30th June - Sorting And Shifting

I was checking a few things over during working from home today, and what pleased me immensely was that the number of Windows clients online through MECM is increasing nicely - primarily because I can see plenty more of them communicating via the Cloud Management Gateway. This is already proving to be useful as I can see that the machines are on, connected to the gateway and ready to receive any mandatory packages, applications and updates as needed. Even more so, this does mean that the use is being justified, and I can see updated machine numbers going up too.

It's good when you've spent so much time justifying your reasoning and in fact it is proving to be worthwhile, but not just that either, it also means that you are able to really get on with other parts of productivity and getting a lot of work sorted out. I for one definitely can see the benefits of that and I know that I need to feel justified in what I do, and also to prove that I know that the plans I have in place are not just for the benefit of me introducing new features, but worthwhile ones at that.

Today I helped out one of our senior members of staff, who I have to say was really nice and friendly also. It turned out that her Mac was doing all sorts of odd things with dark mode, and the service team had already checked most of the system preferences. However, I noted that there was a crescent moon shaped icon in the top right of the Chrome window, and checking this appeared to be an extension installed called Night Shift, ironically named the same as the Night Shift in one of the MacOS display preferences. Remove that, job done - and I'll be putting in a change to block that too.

It was also a day of sorting a few things out for the next holiday and the one after. Despite the fact I had requested the e-vouchers from Eurostar for the trip for myself and The Love In My Heart that didn't happen, I still didn't have an email, so had to email and ring to chase. Fingers crossed that can be sorted, but they claimed they'd sent an email - but no, nothing with that in (or I'd have seen it and archived the codes and also the email for good reason of course.) I have a feeling that somewhere along the line their email had a blip, so fingers crossed this can be sorted and that they can verify whatever voucher code was issued hasn't been used. Would of course have been better to refund us back to my card, but there you go.

I'd also booked a couple of places to eat for the forthcoming holiday as well - I suspected that due to reduced numbers and all that, it may be more difficult to be able to get a spot and we really wanted the last night to be close by to where we are staying, so managed to get that all done, and nice emails back to confirm too, so definitely winning on that count for sure. I for one am pleased that at least it'll look like we'll be able to do what we can - and to be honest, The Love deserves it much more than I do. In fact, tune of the day is going to be the ace Lola's Theme by Shapeshifters, as I think we'll need to be blasting that out soon!

Monday 29th June - Preparation

Today was all about preparation for a couple of planned changes which I'm going to do on Wednesday when I visit one of the offices. In fact, it's the official first day of opening one of the offices, but you have to reserve a space and on top of that, you'll be allocated a desk accordingly so that it keeps the space used to a minimum. It does all make sense to be honest but part of the reason I wanted to do some testing is down to the new Windows 10 Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK) which I'll be installing - it's normally a pre-requisite for future MECM updates anyway, so always good to get it done (and update the new boot images too).

I also decided that it would be sensible to look at packaging a few other things for the Windows build, having already put one of our pieces of main software to be added at that time - so it was onwards also with getting the latest enterprise version of Chrome downloaded and set up ready to go. In fact this worked pretty well all round so meant that I could get that and the other bit of software added to the build task sequence at the same time, and of course road test it whilst I was there too, so makes perfect sense to be able to do that as well. It's good when things work isn't it?

I also knew that there was a game tonight on Amazon Prime (Crystal Palace v Burnley) but I was a bit concerned about Brian the cat - he hadn't been 100 percent during the weekend and I was a bit worried. The Love In My Heart in our call later did tell me that he had at least started to eat a little bit, but was cautious in case he was being sick. I guess it's very easy for him to pick up something without realising when playing out, and he has his moments occasionally. He has been wanting lots of cuddles (even more than usual I should add) from his Mummy, so that's something.

I did watch the game later and it was a bit on the dull side, with admittedly Burnley being the better team. They looked like they would score first and did so through Ben Mee in the second half, the most unlikely of scorers, although the Palace keeper I would argue should really have done better with the shot though. It was the bright spark in an otherwise disappointing encounter, and had Gabby Logan presenting (and occasionally forgetting the distancing thing by accident) - I think Lee Dixon had to remind her once during the half time interval. At least it was easy to switch to commentary only and no artificial cloud noise.

I did also iron a shed load of t-shirts ready for the forthcoming holiday coming up - and it was good that so many of them were ready to rock and roll. I must admit I have reduced my band t-shirt footprint these days but I still do have some of the excellent recent Pop Will Eat Itself designs, so that's good. With that in mind, tune of the day is the excellent Ich Bin Ein Auslander, very relevant when it was released back in 1994, and scarily, even though it definitely shouldn't be, even more relevant now. Well worth checking out if you want a slice of something which was way ahead of its time even then.

Sunday 28th June - Hogging The Hogsmill

It was off for another walk today, and it was section eight of the London Loop walk for me to take on - with the weather being set fair and not too hot, so ideal conditions really. I knew also that setting off earlier in the day gave me more time to be relaxed and ready for Manchester City's game at Newcastle United later on, and that the buses should be less busy, so definitely a plus point. It was therefore off towards East Croydon station and to the bus stop for the X26 express bus, with the song "Hypnotic St-8" by Altern-8 in my head from listening to it this morning during breakfast (make that tune of the day)

Yes, that bus does go to Heathrow, but does handily have some express stops along the way which proved convenient for me today. In fact it was via Sutton to North Cheam, where I'd then change for the 293 bus to Ewell and Bourne Park, where the walk would start. It was nice to see that park again and it was soon following the path of the Hogsmill River until I got to a railway tunnel. I went under and they forewarn you on the other side as there's a pipe which only has 1.6m (5 feet 4 inches) of clearance, and you do have to duck under. From here, it was a nice stroll alongside open paths with the Hogsmill river to you left for some time.

In fact, this was the case until getting to one of the main roads, and then crossing over and back to the Hogsmill River again. You could see Surbiton Raceway on the left hand side through the trees which looked very good, and also some football pitches with proper goals, before then heading off the river. Now, this is where TfL really need to update the route map for this - the route by the river you can't do because of private development, so the alternative dotted route should not become the main route. I followed that around and ended up at St John The Baptist Church at Old Malden, a nice place too.

It was then back to the Hogsmill River and all around the nature trails at Malden Manor, and perhaps the loveliest thing I've seen in some time, the Malden Manor Community Mosaic. It spans the whole of the width of the bridge under the railway and has plenty of nature represented including owls and foxes, and is a real work of art. It's so beautiful and so glad to see it so well looked after too. There were also wooden sculptures of owls, snails and a beautiful squirrel as well which really added to the whole feel of that trail, all the way until you reach the A3, and need to use a subway to cross underneath.

Back by the Hogsmill River I went through the Elmbridge Meadows, and at the end of this nice nature park it was following the road along to Berrylands station, then the path by the water treatment works close to the river (the sewage works on the other side of the road means you have to diver off river) and Surbiton Cemetery. You eventually get to a main road and retrace the river, passing Kingston School of Art along the way, before then reaching a roundabout with metal versions of paper aeroplanes, and crossing over via the Register Office to the Clattern Bridge, the oldest bridge in Surrey too.

The final part was to follow the Hogsmill River where it meets the River Thames, and then following the riverside path with the quays and the moored boats to Kingston Bridge, the end of the section. Kingston itself was very busy with queues for shops, and I did find a Warrens Bakery close by to the train station (thinking Cornish pasties here!) but it was shut on a Sunday. Gutted. Still, I managed to get a sandwich from Tesco and had that for lunch before then getting the X26 bus back fro Kingston all the way to East Croydon, which at least was a direct and fast route back home, so that was good.

Saturday 27th June - Shopping Local

So it was a relaxing lie in of sorts this morning, and after changing the bedding and putting the other set in the wash, I needed to head to the local shops primarily to get some toiletries I needed for a forthcoming holiday - as it turns out the holiday for The Love In My Heart and I can go ahead, so am now massively looking forward to that and being able to have a week off work and just relax too. I guess as well for me that we both needed the break and it'll be more treasured really.

So it was into Savers first of all and got all I needed in there, a smaller sized shaving gel, toothpaste, deodorant and stuff like that. They didn't have any Mach3 blades though, but I needed to go into Boots anyway to get some after sun lotion, and got some in there and the blades as well so that worked out pretty nicely. I did venture into Flying Tiger and they unsurprisingly sold out of those little wooden boxes that were on offer at half price, would have been nice to get a couple more but there you go. I just managed to avoid the rain before I got back.

Later on after lunch and when the rain died down a bit, it was off to the local record shop as I'd not been in there for months - namely 101 Records. It was nice to browse and there was a bit of a sale on anyway, so good to have a general mooch. It's a proper record shop with everything nicely arranged and plenty of opportunities to buy lots of vinyl and CD at a reasonable price too. The shop was playing some classic stuff including the first English language version of Jackie (later covered by Marc Almond incidentally, and originally by the Belgian artist Jacques Brel) by Scott Walker - rather good too to be fair.

It was good to rummage as well and managed to pick up some nice bargains. First of all I managed to get two vinyl albums for £2 each - the classic Toyah album Anthem with the likes of I Want To Be Free and It's A Mystery on it, but the whole album is excellent to be honest, and also the first Howard Jones album Human's Lib, which includes What Is Love and New Song on there too, which is pretty ace. Both had the lyric inners as well which is always nice to have to be honest.

I also got three CD singles for £1 as well, and some 90s classics in there including Pretty Fly For A White Guy by Offspring, and the excellent 90s rave tune Hypnotic-8 by Altern 8. However, the best of the lot was the first ever release by Eastern Bloc Records, the label based at the iconic Manchester ecord shop, and the iconic Waterfall by Atlantic Ocean. Still a massive tune and played it now, definitely tune of the day for me and one that takes me back to the early 90s and indie nights that would also play this classic.

Friday 26th June - Office Space

So today I headed to the one office in central London that is planned to be open - and once there's a more fuller reopening in a week or two, it'll be a case of first come first served in terms of being able to get a space. To be fair, the information we've been sent on all the safety measures and how this will be implemented has been first rate. There was a sensible decision to actually get us working from home at least a week before the UK went into lock down and the priority has been keeping the staff as safe as possible. Whilst there have been some tricky times, we're coming out of the other side reasonably well.

I took the train to Victoria (and it was express too, so win!) and then on the bus to the office, of course having the mandatory face covering on. I got to the office and got in fine, and managed to locate a desk that I had been at a few weeks back, so definitely familiarity is a good thing. The nice thing was that I could road test all of the necessary things I wanted to for the Windows 10 build changes, so ran that through, tested the application that had been updated, and all was well, which was excellent.

I also went for a quick walk around Piccadilly Circus at lunch time, primarily to get some lunch, which I got, but also to see what the general feeling was in retail. Shops were open but they did not seem very busy at all, and it just felt rather odd to be honest. Still, I was able to at least walk in without being meithered, and the only queue was at the Whole Foods shop, where I got a nice cold drink at a good price and had my face covering on at the ready (they're asking you to wear one and will provide you one at the entrance if you need to) - it does make sense, but maybe do what The Ludoquist near me are doing - a discount if you're wearing your own face covering.

The day went well, had some productive meetings, and later on when I left the office I noted that the next bus to Victoria wasn't for some time, so I walked down Piccadilly, along to Green Park, and headed through Green Park past Buckingham Palace, and then down Buckingham Palace Road to Victoria station to get the train home. That worked out pretty well actually and meant that I was able to get some exercise in at the same time, and the shade of the trees in Green Park provided some welcome respite from the heat.

Thankfully later on it appeared to be cooling down and indeed the odd spot of rain as well (as it had rained overnight) which brought some fresher air along, and should mean, hopefully, a decent night's sleep to be honest. I normally sleep well whatever the heat but did struggle last night so will be good to at least take things relatively easy I think. In fact, I've put on some classic 80s songs from the Ministry of Sound: Electronic 80s compilations, and on the second of those, the first CD has the superb We Are Glass by Gary Numan (released in May 1980 folks) and that's got to be tune of the day for sure.

Thursday 25th June - Boiling Hot Handover

So it was a day where the weather was just intensely warm and for the most part, even being inside was pretty challenging. I did what I could to have the windows open early on in the day and to have some fresher air circulate around but that sort of went by around noon, and it was a case of that the intensity was just getting hotter and hotter. I have two inside temperature gauges which are primarily for the heating system, so it will only come on below a certain temperature. Both of those by around 4pm read 31 degrees centigrade. And that was just inside, never mind outside. I had braved walking to Iceland for some cold drinks and ice cream, but was glad to be back inside as the heat outside was stiflingly humid. Heat Wave, the classic 60s hit by Martha and the Vandellas simply has to be tune of the day for that reason.

That said though, I think I still managed a lot today. I've been monitoring a few things and also packaged up the new version of one of our pieces of communications software, and so that can be tested tomorrow in the Windows 10 build to ensure that all is well with that. In fact I also spotted a couple of odd errors for client deployment for MECM - when I investigated further this was stuck to some stuck BITS job. Normally, bitsadmin with the /reset /allusers switch fixes that, but it seems that the jobs were system level ones. So, set up a one off scheduled task to run that command as system - and problem solved. Nice!

There was more football tonight as first of all Burnley took on Watford on Pick, so was at least on free to air telly. I must admit it wasn't the best game ever, but Burnley looked the better side and in the second half had a deserved lead from Jay Rodriguez. They held on well for a solid 1-0 win and a good comeback after losing 5-0 to Manchester City on Monday. Watford huffed and puffed but nothing was happening for them unfortunately. In the meantime, I was all set for Manchester City's own game at Chelsea tonight, a match I already thought might be the one to crown Liverpool champions if we lose.

And those thoughts weren't going away any time soon when the ball was given away on the half way line after a mix up and Christian Pulisic ran forward and slotted the ball past Ederson for an easy goal really. The one thing I think we've lacked a lot this season is definite leadership - it makes a massive difference as I don't think that would have happened with Vincent Kompany as captain, and indeed look at the way Jordan Henderson really rallies Liverpool together and makes them fight for everything. I suspected that it might be the same to the end of the game, but only 1-0 down was still doable.

Indeed that belief came back when City got a free kick and Kevin de Bruyne scored a marvellous effort, and the equaliser was ours. I kept thinking "that was liquid football" a la Alan Partridge (with added opening swear word as per the original) as it went in. I couldn't help but think that Chelsea were going for it though, and after an excellent goal line clearance from Kyle Walker, eventually Tammy Abraham attempted to bundle the ball home, it didn't cross the line, but only because Fernandinho had handled the ball and was, rightly, sent off. In that moment, City handed Liverpool the league title as Willian stepped up and scored the penalty to make it 2-1 that meant jubilation on Anfield.

To be fair, and it would be remiss of me not to say this, Liverpool have deserved the league title this year. They have been the best team in the league by some margin, will most likely top our previous record of 100 points in a PL season, and they have an excellent blend of young, talented home grown players and experience which counts in games that they've needed it. There's an air too that Jürgen Klopp brings to the side, and it's not lost on me how much he genuinely cares about everything, which of course as a football fan you want as a manager. Well played them all, and in doing so James Milner joins an elite few players who have won the Premier League with two different clubs.

Wednesday 24th June - We Need A 12th Man Here

After a day at work in some pretty hot weather, it was nice to kick back and turn over to BBC Two, where it was the first half of Norwich v Everton, with the second half on BBC One, you know, because of the news and all that. It was good to see that common sense prevailed and Gary Lineker along with Dion Dublin and Tim Cahill were in the studios in Salford to avoid being at the ground itself. Jonathan Pearce was on commentary duty and one of the few people of course allowed inside the ground. It did feel surreal though again as the players came out with no fans present.

The first half though was perhaps one of the most dull halves of football I've had the misfortune to watch. It lacked everything, chances, tackles, a bit of passion. Of course the main thing is that the fans are missing which of course means no passionate crowds, especially at a ground like Carrow Road where the fans are close to the pitch, and that does detract. Don't like the artificial crowd noise one bit to be honest, so was good to see the option of watching without that instead. Maybe Norwich should have had Delia Smith come on at half time and put a TV message out to the fans to be the 12th man, as per her infamous rant several years back.

Whatever Carlo Ancelotti said to the Everton players at half time worked though: they were by far the better side in the second half and didn't take them long to score either - the corner came in, no one marked Michael Keane and he had a free header home, which was just too easy. Norwich huffed and puffed later but nothing was forthcoming and you have to question their manager Daniel Farke as to why he didn't start with the likes of Teemu Pukki, or maybe he's thinking that the FA Cup game this weekend is more important and he's accepted relegation already? Either way, didn't seem as if they were that bothered.

Later on it was time for the final of The Great British Sewing Bee. I must admit both The Love In My Heart and I had installed Clare as favourite of the three - she had been consistent throughout. She smashed the kilt challenge which to be fair looked rock hard as a pattern challenge (plenty of maths involved) and then for the transformation, Nicole was brilliant with her design - very Mediterranean belly dancer styled and with lots of sparkly bits all over. It worked well.

It was then the made to measure, and a dramatic red carpet dress they could try - and had their own models this time. Matt bought his boyfriend Greg (aka Miss Martini) and designed a flowing dress with striking leather top section - and certainly you could see that being worn by both men in drag and women wanting a statement outfit, really well done actually. Nicole went all orange with an interesting idea of the bottom half sewn loosely so it flowed, and her model friend looked lovely with it.

However, Clare went to her vintage roots and designed something with a single elegant flow and mainly in red, with some exquisite placement and fitted her friend wonderfully well. It just looked chic and elegant with her friend walking out with the theme to Cabaret playing (make that one tune of the day) and it was no surprise to myself or The Love when she was announced the winner. All three were good, but consistency throughout and a calmness under pressure was the way, and she really did grow with each episode too. Now, when are they going to bring back Claudia as the host?

Tuesday 23rd June - Upgrading The Heat

It was certainly a pretty warm day outside, and there's an advantage and disadvantage to working from home really. On the plus side, you do at least get to get up a little later as there's no commuting involved, you can have your own brew whenever, and you're also most of the time able to do other things such as set off some washing (and then you can dry/iron it in lunch or after work) and I guess to that we're able to at last feel safer in the current climate.

On the other hand though, when the day is very warm and there's no air conditioning that you get in an office, you really do miss that as it becomes rather annoying having all the flat windows open but have all the sun coming in later in the day. My windows face West, so tends to get the sun later in the day, and having the windows open during the morning in shade does help, but then later on it just becomes really hot. I suppose I could get a tower fan or something but not if there's warm air circulating around either. That said, I did at least get plenty of cool drinks with my food delivery the other day, which did make some sense.

I spent some time today as planned upgrading the latest MECM with a particular post-update patch, namely KB4567007. It should avoid some spikes in CPU and database activity when PXE booting (or a fail if PXE booting from a Hyper-V host) and on top of that, make sure that the SQL side isn't hammered. As it was a site server update only, there was no client or admin console to upgrade, and it all went pretty smoothly. I was pleased that it all worked and so allowed me to start looking at a few other things I needed to do as well.

I did have a very nice chicken korma for tea later, where I got the mushrooms and chicken and fried them in the wok, as well as then add the sauce too. It worked out well and did allow me to somewhat sweat some of the heat out a little bit. It did also mean that I could then make sure I used up all the fresh items before they expired, so no food waste (important to me never to waste food, there's enough of that as it is to be honest) and had a lovely chat with The Love In My Heart later - the parasol we ordered for holiday had arrived, and it looked very smart indeed. Must admit that now we know we can go on holiday, it's one thing we'll both be looking forward to in a lot of ways.

I was having a good online chat last night and the conversation got round to drinks and what sort of drinks you can get. Of course, there are only two brands of lemonade to consider, Schweppes and R White's. Everything else is just rubbish. The latter of course had the absolutely iconic secret lemonade drinker advert, complete with wife looking rather bemused as the drinker (played by Julian Chagrin) would get his nightly fix. The advert music itself was sung by Ross McManus (Elvis Costello's dad) and is a classic, definitely tune of the day in a massive way. I now need to get some!

Monday 22nd June - Stockport Iniesta

It was a good and positive day at work to be honest, and got together some of the client settings for the MECM client all sorted so that it would be able to then start talking with the Cloud Management Gateway server. It effectively means of course that the clients will have to get those new settings and in addition be running the current client version, but in effect this does also mean that the token based authentication can be put in place and indeed can be used. I gave it a good test over and I could already see that the clients were starting to talk to that and could be viewed as online and visible, so success!

Later on it was on with the telly and indeed after having a really nice king prawn makhani (cheers to Sainsburys for that) it was on to the Pick Channel on Freeview, where Sky Sports are showing a number of games free to air, which definitely is a positive thing. My beloved Manchester City were up against Burnley tonight, a game we normally win, but anything could happen after all the restarts in football and surprising results, so was taking nothing for granted though.

At kick off, the players took a knee for Black Lives Matter. Unfortunately, a plane was flying around the Etihad and was spotted by The Love In My Heart as the plane flew by her place on the way, and she could clearly see the banner on it, which wasn't complimentary at all. Needless to say, as I found out later, whoever pulled this stunt were clearly aiming their vitriol at Raheem Sterling. Totally not on, and the Burnley captain Ben Mee in his post match interview called it out properly and showed leadership and class there, good of him to do and sent out a much more positive message.

As for the game itself, it was a little slow to start. City got a corner, and a short pass to Bernardo Silva was followed by a pass to Phil Foden on the edge of the box, who rifled it home past Nick Pope in the Burnley goal. 1-0, and what a strike from the Stockport Iniesta! That was quality, and so was the diagonal pass from Fernandinho that found Riyad Mahrez on the right, who took on two defenders before slotting the ball into the bottom corner for 2-0. Happy days. Even more so as Sergio Aguero was fouled, and VAR took a stupidly long time to award a penalty. Sadly though Aguero had to go off and that injury looks bad, but Mahrez at least scored the penalty for 3-0.

It was enjoyable to watch the second half as City went into cruise control with the many banners of We're Not Really Here around the ground, echoing the classic City chant (make that tune of the day). Still time for more goals though as Phil Foden found Bernardo Silva on the right and a simple ball into the box found David Silva to smash home from close range for 4-0, before then a move involving David Silva and Gabriel Jesus threaded the ball to Phil Foden, and the Stockport Iniesta lashed home his second. 5-0, and a nice easy win to see us resume the league with two wins out of two and make Liverpool wait just that little bit longer to be confirmed champions.

Sunday 21st June - Flying Tiger Bargains

I decided today that I'd venture out to the shops, primarily as one of the video gaming shops was open and wanted to have a look at what they had in stock (and two of my friends were after some items too so wanted to keep an eye out for them) but also see generally how things were in terms of queues and so on. To be safe, I put my black and white stars face covering on as wanted to be sure I could effectively keep distanced but also if not, I could protect others from me if they needed reassurance. It just seems the sensible thing to do at the moment to be honest.

It was interesting as I walked down the main shopping street that the most sizeable queues were, starting with the largest, at Primark, which snaked down the street to a massive degree, followed by Footasylum and JD Sports. I can have some understanding with Primark as they don't have an online presence and have suffered because of that, but the others do operate online, so not quite sure why you'd want to go in and buy trainers, but there you go. Thankfully the video gaming shop was quiet, they had a counter you went to to get stuff and one way in and out. This did mean you couldn't see the items close up though, so maybe an online list would be sensible and you could then reserve online, followed by pay and collect in store.

I went into Flying Tiger, and they had mentioned on their website they had loads of items on offer at 50% off. And they weren't kidding. They did control access and keep the numbers down, but also I noted the aisles you walked around seemed a lot wider, which made more sense when looking at some of the items in there. I took several pictures for The Love In My Heart as she was interested, and it was good to be able to have a good look. So many things in truth that I could have bought, but I did get these small little plates around 8-9cm wide for The Love that had cats on and were 50p each.

I also got myself this rather nice little USB vacuum cleaner for computer keyboards so you can get all the dust out in between the keys, also 50p, and this nice little wooden storage box reduced to £2. For 8-bit computer gamers, these are actually pretty good - when I got home and tried it, you can stack in two rows of 13 games (so 26 in all) and they fit perfectly, so ideal to put on shelves etc. If they were a centimetre or two higher in height, they would be stackable, but definitely a really nice way to keep things tidy. And I of course put some of those Mastertronic C16 and Plus/4 games in there, in alphabetical order.

I also had had a delivery from Modern Bookbinders, they do a really nice Cordex A5 magazine binder which is the perfect size to store 13 A5 format magazines, and you effectively slide the magazine in so the cord is where the middle is. I had got three of them to store all thirty six issues (and a complete run) of the Freeze 64 fanzine, which for Commodore 64 users is well worth a read. It also means neat and tidy storage too so definitely well worth doing. In fact it made me want to play some of the games featured, so that was quite good to do as well. In the meantime, the excellent game theme from CJ's Elephant Antics from Ashley Hogg is tune of the day as it's a pretty ace tune even now.

Saturday 20th June - Two Stops And Then Home

It was a nice relaxed morning for me today, as I got out the hair clippers and in The Love In My Heart's bathroom gave the hair a good trim and cut so that I knew that it would be nice and short. It was sensible to do this before I went into the shower so if there were any remnants they would rinse out and be cleaned off. I must admit that I do miss my regular barber as they do a smart job, but at least I've managed to make the most of the resources I have for now and be able to give the hair a good trim and sort, and should now be right before holiday.

The Love and I fussed over Brian the cat before we headed out for the afternoon - a flying visit over to see how The Love's father was and if he needed anything (primarily due to shielding related reasons) - and indeed we put an order in for Wiltshire Farm Foods so he would have a delivery later in the week, and that was all good. We did note shops seemed to have queues now, especially the likes of Aldi and Lidl and any sports shops too, and we then headed to Didsbury village to get a few little bits and indeed see some nice shops.

I did head to the cemetery later and wanted to a pay a visit to those no longer with us - it was good for me to take some time out and indeed have a moment to myself. The Love very kindly waited in the car and allowed that time all alone, which was massively appreciated. We then headed back to The Love's place and much more fussing over Brian the cat was included and playing ball with him before it was time for me to set off to Manchester Piccadilly station and take the train back. It was good to at least maintain our social bubble but at the same time both our safety has been paramount.

At Piccadilly, there were checks for face coverings the moment you got in (I had mine on so all good) and it transpired by train wasn't running but I could get on the 1712 departure instead. It was nice and quiet on the way back and managed to get a really nice spot where I could look out of the window, all alone, and listen to some quality tunes on the way back (the brilliant No Lives Matter by Body Count is tune of the day) and a short walk over to St Pancras to get the train back to East Croydon - again everyone being good and face covered up, so that was definitely good to see.

I arrived home and once I'd poured myself a beer, I'd joined my three friends online for what's becoming a regular Saturday evening chat, talking about all things with classic computer gaming, the return of the football, and plenty more besides. It was just the tonic we all needed to be honest and it was pleasing to be able to have plenty of time to spend with them all until around 11.30pm and we called it a night. I think in the absence of us meeting up properly for some time then this is the perfect tonic and I'm pleased we've been able to sort something out as well, always good for the soul that.

Friday 19th June - Excelling At Lookups

It was a busy day today, and spent a fair amount of time today effectively bathed in spreadsheets. I needed to check some data consistency between systems to make sure that some of the information in the inventory system that we have is effectively the right data. I was able to pore over it and effectively do some lookups via VLOOKUP and then get the right values pulled in, to see what was present or missing. What I was able to see were a number of potential inconsistencies which meant I could investigate further. The good news was this was often a slightly different way of entering a name, for example.

I was also pulled in by my manager to try and get a change done fairly quickly with regards to an odd behaviour of a third party Chrome extension some users were using. It was making some of their meetings crash, and so it was going to be recommended that we remove the extension. The good news is this is where the extension install blacklist comes in, so you define the extension ID that you want to block, and it means you can't add it in future, and for existing installations this is also removed as well, so keeps things clean and tidy as well. It just needed a change raising and it was from there making it happen.

The other important issue around that was to ensure that where possible we had consistency as well between formats, so when you do Group Policy in Windows to achieve that, you set a configuration profile in JAMF Pro on the Mac side, with a preference plist file for Chrome where the blacklist is added accordingly. It works well and definitely means we're more about a good level of cross platform too. It was pleasing to get done and a good way to start the end of the week overall really. More of the same is always a good thing.

Later on of course there was more football to be had, and in a sensible move, Sky is using their Freeview channel Pick (Channel 11 for those that need to know the number) to show some of the games normally live on Sky Sports. Tonight's offering was Norwich City against Southampton, and a match the home side needed to win to help them fight relegation, but needed to start now. It did feel odd having the crowd noise effects playing in the background - on normal Sky Sports you can watch without that, massive difference - but still, like other grounds, they had hoardings where the seats were.

On a final note, the alert level for COVID-19 is down from four to three, which is at least some good news. You wouldn't think though that you'd want to relax everything so much so quickly though: in Asda, when I went during lunch, it was pretty busy and I was concerned about the distance rule, but there you go. It reminded me of the old Asda jingle (make that tune of the day) but without the backside slapping for obvious reasons. I was glad to find some nice beer for later though, so the weekend can at least start on a good note.

Thursday 18th June - Football Is Back

Okay, so I knew it wasn't going to be the same as actually being at the Etihad Stadium to see the game live, and yes, without a crowd it was going to feel quite a surreal thing. But nonetheless, the football is back, behind closed doors, social distancing in place, and with lots of precautions in place all round to ensure safety. For me, it shows that it can be done, and part of me would like to eventually return but I think with a lot of games being at least shown on free to air television (common sense really) then it just at least means some of us can get to see some sport on the telly. Last night's game was on Sky, so favours from The Love In My Heart's sister came in handy!

It was a pretty good game too if you were a Manchester City fan like me as we gave Arsenal a deserved 3-0 beating. The game was fairly even although Arsenal had to make changes for injuries including bringing on David Luiz. And my, did he have a nightmare game for them. He bumbled a ball straight into the path of Raheem Sterling, who caught it on the volley and smashed it home in first half stoppage time for 1-0, so that was good for City of course. The fun and games didn't end there though as he then decided to bring down Riyad Mahrez in the area, definite penalty and definite red card.

Kevin de Bruyne stepped up and scored the second, and later on as both sides made changes (more subs allowed too because of the current situation) then on came Sergio Aguero and Phil Foden, and the two combined, with Aguero's accurate shot brushing the post, but came back out with the Stockport Iniesta reacting first and it was a good finish to make it 3-0, and relatively easy all round. As you can only imagine, the AFTV channel was carnage with Arsenal fans not exactly being fans of David Luiz, let's just say that shall we? It was a good game for us though and means Liverpool can't win the league on Sunday.

The Love In My Heart did make a gorgeous spaghetti bolognaise for tea tonight, which was beautiful and had lots of mushrooms in as well as mince, sauce and spaghetti, and some posh garlic bread on the side. We even had a game of Scrabble later on with The Love pulling together some great moves including RITZ on double word score, and also making use of a few triple word scores too. My best move was making SQUID (and also SEXY) with the S as blank and the latter word being on double word score, so 40 points for me. Nicely done. In fact that set us up for some telly later on too.

The Love had been watching the series around the Merseyisde ambulance service, following drivers and the call centre on the valuable work that they do. Two of them were stationed at Aintree during Grand National weekend (should note this was filmed last year) and they had to pick up jockeys who were injured on the way - with the iconic Champions film theme in my head (make that tune of the day but also the sadness when the drivers tried to get to one house but couldn't recussitate the patient, which was really sad. The amount of pressure and the job that they do cannot be underestimated, and was good to see the team spirit they all have.

Wednesday 17th June - Alarming

Absolutely non stop for me today after all of the time I spent yesterday after work, spending time on setting up the Cloud Management Gateway for MECM, and indeed getting it all to be talking correctly with the setup in hand. The good thing is that I was able to road test a few things during the day as well as document all of the necessary setup - which is always important to get right and at least make readable for everyone else to pick up should it need to do so as well. I must admit it did feel positive seeing so much happening in the right way and get to be working in the right way too.

In addition, another positive that I had was that I had done a data pull from Active Directory and was able to effectively see that for our inventory system, some of the information we needed. Like a lot of places there's a pull from certain systems into another, and I remember at one place I worked at, myself and our SQL DBA traced it down to the initial source not working the right way, so had to request that the owner fixed it. Garbage in, garbage out, so to speak, so at least that was something to behold when we road tested it. Definitely notable how many out of sync errors I had spotted.

With that in mind, I also looked at another potential issue we had with one of our systems and was helping a colleague out resolve one. So, it turned out that the client for the inventory had installed but wasn't reporting back. It seemed that during the install something had prevented one of the launch daemons from working as it should, and a reinstall (so installed as root) ensured that they were launching right, and a manual scan for data and send did work after that. It did make me wonder if perhaps it was something odd elsewhere about that machine but all was good and all was playing ball.

And then around 5.15pm, the fire alarm sounded and it was very noisy - and at first because the alarm was being tested on a Wednesday, I thought it was a late test. But no, it was a proper alarm. I had to escape and remember to make sure Brian the cat was safe (he was) and then leave the building. The noise of the alarm was very loud and before I knew it, two fire engines had turned up on site, and were all good to go to put the fire out - whatever fire that might have been. As it transpired it appeared to be the bin chute that looked to be the root cause

Thankfully the alarm went off later, and all was safe to go back in, so Brian the cat had plenty of cuddles when he got back in, and even an extended playing ball session with him which he loved. And The Love In My Heart even popped into The Battered Cod and got some fish and chips for tea on the way home too, so winning all round today. Understandably it was another odd day of sorts and in lieu of the events of the early evening, Fire Brigade by The Move is tune of the day - and to be fair they arrived very quickly as well, it has to be said. So the system is working.

Tuesday 16th June - Marcus Rashford 1, Boris Johnson 0

So yesterday Marcus Rashford, the Manchester United and England striker, appeared on BBC Breakfast, being interviewed by the excellent Sally Nugent. Marcus had been through a tough beginning to his childhood and like many, his family had used free school meals to help out and keep him going. During the current COVID-19 situation he has also been supporting plenty of food aid charities and getting involved with them to help out and spread the message about how many families needed help, rallying round as much as he could to do so. I for one am appreciative highly of his efforts.

In the interview, he expressed dismay at the Government's decision not to continue the food voucher scheme to replace free school meals over the Summer holidays, so that parents weren't facing a shortfall and their children would struggle. He spoke eloquently and fairly, and was clearly passionate. He was asking MPs for support and my local Manchester MP did the business and backed him (very happy about that) - and indeed there were plenty who were in full support, even within the Conservatives, and momentum for a u-turn was mounting, with immeasurable public support. I was seeing this all as positive.

So today the pressure ramped up, with plenty of news columns giving the campaign space to be a voice for good. In fact one minister tweeted out a very unhelpful statement and was rightly chastised for being completely uncaring. None of that from the excellent Jayne McCubbin on BBC Breakfast, as ever always considerate and kind to those she interviews and lets them get across their side of the story. Needless to say, I had a feeling it was going to be a case of when and not if there would be a dramatic u-turn, and indeed, by 1pm, it had happened and Marcus had gained considerably not just a win, but fans from all across the UK at the same time.

What is appalling though is that the Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed to have no idea of the campaign going on until earlier today. Had he not seen BBC Breakfast or any news programme clearly supporting Marcus' cause? Had he not seen replies to him on social media where parents were effectively asking for this change to be made? Apparently not. It's a sad sign that there's so much out of touch here, and it shouldn't have taken such a campaign from Marcus Rashford to make the powers that be see sense (glad he did of course). So definitely, Marcus Rashford 1 Boris Johnson 0.

I must admit that it also pleased me that across the football community, everyone was behind him, Man City and Liverpool for example supporting rightly. In fact a certain person on social media was attempting to demerit Marcus, and the Man City twitter account responded in a positive way to back Marcus' cause, which showed as Mancunians we're a city united together on this. We know good when we see it, and it doesn't matter if you're Blue or Red, if you're doing a good thing for the city, everyone will back you to the hilt. As the late Anthony H Wilson would say, this is Manchester, we do things differently here.

Later on after some lovely burgers made by The Love In My Heart, we settled in to watch both of the final episodes of The Salisbury Poisonings, a drama based on the events two years ago. It was superb, and Anne-Marie Duff really should be up for a BAFTA as the director of public health who really had to battle all sorts to prove she was right (for example closing the police station) and with the final episode showing the eventual source of the initial spraying being found, it was good they went back to that and didn't forget the person who passed away either, well done all I say. Tune of the day is the theme to the series, a really stirring and emotional piece.

Monday 15th June - A Long Week Commences

Today did feel like the start of a long week, not least because the weather hasn't been too good as of late and it was rumoured to be thunder and lightning happening a plenty during the week too. I suppose after all the good weather (and we did get lucky yesterday to be fair, first time ever it's not rained in Chatsworth for us) then at some point it had to end. Ironically though it didn't come soon enough for all the Covidiots out there to think that being outside Primark at 6am waiting for it to be open was the thing to do on a Monday morning. Not exactly what you would call fun times.

In fact all of the major retail chains and indeed the major parks such as Cheshire Oaks for example all had queues. I just don't get this sense of desperation that just because a shop has reopened you need to go on the first day just because you've not been able to. Most of the good retailers have continued well online and to be honest, I'm not in any rush to visit any of them if I don't have to. It's enough with the queues in food stores anyway so why would anyone want to subject themselves to that sort of painful waiting around. Not me, better things to do to be perfectly honest. Thank heavens for 80s music to keep me going during work and Swing Out Sister's Breakout is tune of the day.

Such as today, so finally with the help of two people from our inventory software vendor had worked out the issue we'd had with a primary key violation. So it seems it's like this: when you set up a Software as a Service (SaaS) connector, normally you can have these running fine and they collate the data needed. However, it seemed that if you have two of them scheduled to run at the same time, this in effect causes an issue and thus the importing issue we had. So in essence, split them apart, let them run, and that appeared not to crash. I'm waiting til tomorrow to do some full runs and daily update jobs etc, but all is promising.

Needless to say that did also mean that from my own perspective, that's also flawed in the vendor's product and documentation in that it's not mentioned anywhere in the documentation (bad) and also the software allows you to set up the schedule with the same time (also bad). I think realistically you'd have some methods of checking in force for that if it causes a problem, so you could then at least warn the user it's a bad idea before committing. That said, I do think that realistically we need to see how the next few days goes with this - we're really facing some pressure now.

It was at least nice I did have Brian the cat for company and Brian was being all chilled out both hiding in the curtain and on the pouffle where he watches the world go by. He is so adorable like that, and after we had a lovely sausage casserole with The Love In My Heart's excellent cooking, we settled back after the soaps and went to watch the Channel 4 programme on Devon and Cornwall, with plenty of the Isles of Scilly featuring, and Inside Monaco, with the police force doing their work to uphold the law, which is pretty strict. I had to giggle at some who fell foul of it too, as they didn't realise the major difference between there and France.

Sunday 14th June - A Day Out In Derbyshire

It was an earlier wake up on Sunday than we'd normally been used to, but for a good reason. Chatsworth had announced that they were reopening their gardens to the public, and this meant we could head there for a day out and have a nice walk around, with possibly a diversion in Bakewell too should we need to. I had booked the tickets for the car parking and gardens, and the weather also looked good, so that was positive. We had a bacon sandwich for breakfast and just after 11am we set off and headed towards the A6 which we'd follow to Bakewell before off to Chatsworth.

Admittedly, we did know that there may be queues heading to Lyme Park along the way, but it looked like the National Trust had made it reservations only, so that was fine. We did have to divert just after Buxton due to roadworks on the A6 so followed the A515 and then another road back to the A6, and then it was down the hills towards Ashford in the Water before Bakewell, then out of Bakewell past Pilsley where the farm shop is and then on to Chatsworth. I had the booking confirmation ready and we parked up with no hassle before then seeing how it would all work.

The garden entrance was near the top, close to where the courtyard would normally be open, but wasn't. The staff were lovely and we had a chat to one who said it was great to be back, so they had real pride in what they did. A family ahead of us had clearly made an error: they had got a ticket for the parking only, and even then the Mum had left her phone behind, so when they did show it to the desk - it was wrong. We were all good and were soon heading around the gardens to the cascade with its beautiful water feature, and took advantage of the takeout stall nearby for a coffee each.

We then followed some of the one way paths around the rockery - they had signs made of fallen tree stumps which were clearly marked and easy to follow too. We also went towards the maze, and although the maze was closed, we did head on the arches over the gardens close by, before following a path to the small upper lake with the hare statue and the pink stiletto heel sculpture which was part of an art exhibition there years ago. It was then down to the ravine bridge and following the path down towards the long pond with the Emperor Fountain at the end. This was also as lovely as ever.

In fact we spent almost two hours walking around the gardens, and it was just lovely in the nice weather to see all of the plants and flowers out, but also the sensible attitude of everyone distancing correctly, and the sculptures are always a joy to look at. We also took advantage of one of the outside takeaway stalls and had a nice portion of chips to keep us going until tea later. All was very well and I have to say the staff at Chatsworth were brilliant all round - well done to them for such a positive experience in these difficult times. Epic win.

Even more of an epic win was later on when we headed into Bakewell. We did see a few shops open, mainly food takeout ones, and the Bakewell Pudding Shop close to the roundabout was open. I of course had to have a Bakewell Pudding to take out, and it was absolutely gorgeous (none of this Mr Kipling tart bobbins for me.) Even better though was that oneo of the local pubs was doing take out food but also take out beer too, called Pint To Go. I went for the Chatsworth Gold Ale, in what looked like a plastic milk pint bottle size, and fully sealed with a top to take off like you would do with milk, and The Love got a beer too. We had that sat by the river, but was nice to actually venture into the pub for the takeout. Winning.

It was just really nice to be sat by the river, in the sunshine, with ducks swimming in the river, and having a really nice pint of local ale. It all felt rather good actually. I must admit that also we had been fortunate with the weather - it was supposed to rain but we had none of that, and indeed just to have some sort of normal Sunday day out, minus the Sunday roast though, was really appreciated. It certainly made for a special moment today, and no doubt that because of the classic TV series Interceptor having an episode in Bakewell that also features Chatsworth, the theme tune to that classic series is tune of the day.

Saturday 13th June - My Name Is David Bowie

It was nice to have a relaxing lie in with The Love In My Heart this morning, although of course Brian the cat wasn't necessarily agreeing to that. In fact later on as I went to head to the cupboard to put my pyjamas away before heading for the shower, and having said hello to Brian, he decided to swipe his claws towards my leg, and got me good and proper. As I let go he then decided to hiss at me as well. Clearly of course he is still the boss of the place, and he wanted to just let me know, but was quite a swift pounce nonetheless!

Later on we went over to see The Love's father. He seemed relatively okay and was boosted by the fact that the horse racing was on ITV4 this afternoon so we turned that over and that meant he had something good to watch later on. We also were able to see how he was and The Love sorted his lunch out as well. Naturally of course distancing was in place, as it has to be, and we were also careful to make sure any surfaces for the kitchen were all clean so that it meant as safe a lunch as possible for The Love's father. Let's hope he wins some of the races today.

After that, it was a visit to see one of my good friends and his wife. As he had effectively been shielding for some time, but did have a garden, the plan was to knock on the front door and then stand behind the front gate so they could be a safe distance on the other side. We'd also all be outside which in theory should also be safer. It was so nice to see them to be honest and to catch up and have a good chat. They also had my birthday presents for me too which was very good of them - I had Knives Out and The Railway Children on Blu-Ray, F1 1992 on DVD and the Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott new albium too.

I think from my friend's point of view, he had been obeying all the guidance and was getting a bit frustrated having to be in all the time, but at least this way he had company and was still as safe as possible. In fact we chatted about the David Bowie programmes on BBC Two later, which we'd also be watching, and that definitely was good to mention as well. I think that on the whole it was well worthwhile, and if that's made us both happier, then that has to be a good thing. We then headed off back to The Love's place where of course Brian the cat was wanting his tea.

We stayed inside and Brian had a little play out later on, not even going too over the top when tabby cat went past him, and we were able to settle in and watch Celebrity Mastermind (where the 1980s number ones I smashed as well as Spencer Kelly had done) and then went over to Alan Carr doing Take Your Pick. It was quite entertaining especially contestants failing at the yes and no game at the start, and some rather odd booby prizes as well as something good to win. It was pretty good, and then it was over to BBC Two for the Bowie programmes.

I have to say we did watch the first two (the final one I've seen before anyway, but will rewatch at some point) and the first one, detailing all the struggles he had with various bands when first starting out, was a real case of showing determination and drive when others would give up, and the name change to David Bowie too (well timed because of another Davy Jones being in The Monkees) - and even then, despite numerous attempts at different ideas, nothing happened. Space Oddity got to number five though, still a classic and tune of the day because of it.

Friday 12th June - Deserted

It was a surreal sight as I headed into Central London this morning, primarily as I had the go ahead to do some work from one of the offices - as I needed a wired connection to allow PXE boot and also some network connectivity so I could test a Windows 10 build, but also use my MDT task sequence to create a new Windows 10 base WIM with all the updates up to June included. I had already made the necessary amendments to the task sequence anyway, so was a case of booting and running. Thankfully, all appeared well.

I definitely felt a bit odd though. It was nice to see the Facilities Manager, and she is always lovely to chat to, so good to be able to have a familiar face present as well. It was also good to see some of the measures already being taken - so the kitchen area had areas segregated off for tables and chairs to maintain the correct distancing rules, and desks were set so all chairs were always apart, and monitors being moved off the other desks so that you couldn't reposition quickly, which made sense. It will mean less in the office, but a necessary move.

I went out to the local Tesco Metro for some lunch, which was open, but it did feel very strange as I went around. Everywhere appeared ghostly with hardly anyone around, and those that were getting lunch were those working locally, but all remaining as safe as possible. In the afternoon I did manage plenty as well including updating a few spare machines, performing some uninstallation tests, and generally making the most of the time I had in the office. I did chat with a manager and there may be future opportunities for me to test there, which is good.

After work, it was onto the 14 bus to Russell Square and from there a short walk up to Euston. I was heading up to see The Love In My Heart (whom I had been staying with during the main lockdown) and the plan is that we would be our own social bubble as we both live alone, so perfectly acceptable now. And on top of that, it would mean company for Brian the cat too, so all good. It was a relatively painless journey: in fact I was the only person in the whole carriage on the train as well.

The Love came to collect me, and she was the only person in the pick up point whatsoever, so nice and straightforward for a change. We got back and Brian the cat was being all cute and lovely, and watched Celebrity Gogglebox first of all, with plenty of comments on various shows including Titan on Netflix with Dwayne Johnson. That actually looked pretty good and might have to investigate watching that myself - pretty much Gladiators but normal people against each other in a series of challenges.

It was then on with both episodes of Top of the Pops on BBC Four on iPlayer, which were both from 1989. It's always entertaining to watch them to see what songs I remember that were in the charts back then, and of course nostalgia for us both. I must admit though that I still do have a preference for the rather good Belinda Carlisle song Leave A Light On, so that for me is tune of the day no question. It's still one of my favourite songs of hers. Jive Bunny at number 1 though - make of that what you will.

Thursday 11th June - Final Frame

It was a busy day for me today, and I actually managed to get a few things moving on one front, as I was able to fully configure a connector correctly for Adobe Creative Cloud to the inventory software we use. Adobe thankfully have an API creator for that, and it also allows some nice bit of certificate handshaking at the same time, issuing you with the public and private key so you can use the appropriate parts in the right place, and set up the SaaS connector without issues. It appeared to be pretty flawless and so that was a bonus.

I also spent some time documenting the process as to how to add the custom fields into the user table of the front end of the inventory system and then how to bring in the extra data for that fields, based on some of the Active Directory information and suitable exports. Thankfully I had written some scripting to take part of that in Powershell which worked very well indeed, and then it was a case of bringing it all together and getting a document correctly created. It took up a fair bit of the day, but there you go.

I did have a delivery of retro sorts today, the Leaderboard Par 4 compilation on disk for the Commodore 64. Now, I did used to have that over 25 years ago, and remembered that if I connected a cassette deck and pressed play, I didn't need the little dongle you had to add to the cassette port, so I could keep it safe and therefore not lose it. The package arrived and it was without the dongle, but no worries: I did the same thing, connected the trusty C2N deck and boom! Sorted. Happy memories all round, and before playing the game, only right to play a bit of the proper golf theme, Chase Side Shoot Up by Brian Bennet, and definitely tune of the day.

I had a good play of Course B on Executive Edition first of all, and that worked out pretty well. In fact I was able to get level par after the first few holes and stayed that way throughout, and this was on the difficult professional level where wind comes into play and the putting is a bit harder to work out too, because the gauge guide disappears after the first bar. Still, pleased with that and then I took on course C, St Andrews, from World Class Leaderboard, and a pretty good version of the course too it has to be said, I did decently well on it. I guess too that having the course designer on disk as well was an added bonus!

So with that all good, I settled down too to watch the finale of the Championship League snooker, which has been keeping me occupied on ITV4 for the last two weeks. The best of four format allows for draws as well as 3-0 or 3-1 wins, and indeed in the final group today, two of the games were drawn 2-2. This meant a final match between Luca Brecel and Ben Woollaston where if Brecel won two frames, he'd get the point minimum he needed to win the tournament.

Epic stuff, and Ben Woollaston made a break of 141 in the second frame too, impressive. He also took the third, so effectively, into a deciding frame and the fourth and final one of the match and the tournament. It was definitely well worth staying up for, as the final frame proved to be a classic - Luca Brecel responded well with a quality break of his own and managed to score enough to win that frame, and thus the tournament. Commiserations to Ben, but well played both players.

Wednesday 10th June - Onwards and Upwards

It was another relatively postive day for me today as I had a number of meetings online to be able to go to, and I knew that it was a case of organising all the parts in between so I was ready to go. Most of them apart from one was in the afternoon, so I could effectively plan out the morning performing some essential maintenance, checking and getting the new Windows 10 updates grouped together ready for distribution and for early road testing early next week. In theory that's always good to get together, and I also placed the same updates ready for my planned work with MDT later this week to do the new base WIM too.

I also spent some time this morning listening to all three CDs of Ministry of Sound: Electronic 80s. I must admit on the whole all three compilations in the series are decent, although there are some tracks from 1979 that occasionally creep in that technically don't count, such as Gary Numan's Cars and also Sparks' excellent Beat The Clock too. That said, there's still plenty of quality including Temptation by Heaven 17 (and cue classic Plusnet advert, and tune of the day - cue the bloke going "Glenn! We talked about this!" as the band attempted to start said classic. Still a great ad that one.)

For me though, it's interesting to see when a sometimes more obscure track is picked from the archives and put on, maybe a band who aren't as well known now, so the likes of Fiction Factory with the excellent Feels Like Heaven, and Furniture with their smart Brilliant Mind, especially the chorus with Peter Hook-like guitar kicking in. There's also an excellent choice of the likes of Living on the Ceiling by Blancmange (with Neil Arthur's iconic lyric of "up the bloody tree") and early Go West with the catchy We Close Our Eyes too - so something for everyone there, definitely. Massive minus points for not having the full original 12" version of New Order's Blue Monday though!

In the afternoon the online meetings went pretty well on the whole, and it was good to get a plan of action formulated for a few things, so have a path ahead for the next week or so of work too - particularly handy as I'm going to be juggling a few tasks. Organisation is key. And on top of that, it looks like our request for users to connect their machines to the VPN is working - we can see increased numbers connecting and on top of that we've been able to see those machines getting any missing updates and software required, so a good win all round there methinks.

Later on it was on with The Great British Sewing Bee and with International Week as well. It was quite intriguing to see what would happen with the challenges - the first blouse type one was pretty hard, but Clare absolutely was the best one, and she also triumphed with the child's dress in the transformation challenge. The final flamenco dress proved to be difficult, but loved Nicole's use of colour and she deserved garment of the week for that, for definite. Bit gutted for Mark, but to be honest he was the worst of the five, leaving Matt to be the final bloke in the competition.

Tuesday 9th June - POD Positives

It was a pretty productive day all round today, mainly around monitoring some deployments and also checking few things over, but all appeared well. I had a good one to one meeting with my manager, and worked out a plan of action for a few things I'm working on as well as a review into the first six months of the year. It's been quite good to look at what was possible to be done and what we've actually done, and it's been a pretty good achievement all round to actually get plenty implemented with limited resources and indeed limited time. In a way, it might even change the dynamic of how some of us work, but there you go.

During the afternoon I was keeping an eye on the number of deployments of one of the pieces of software that we were after getting done, but also seeing how many of those would take up the new MECM client and be ready to have the next phase of an implementation plan readied. The good thing is that at least we've been able to see that they're online and receiving the new client accordingly. It's pretty good that I can see the improved stats of numbers of clients online too, so more positives to be taken.

In fact, I got another good piece of positive news later in the afternoon, and that really did make my day. I have to say I didn't expect that either, but was pleased with that outcome. I think it also shows that if you do work hard and show willing and determination to overcome problems and issues, then it's nice to see that the effort is both recognised and rewarded. I had a number of the staff teams drop me a message to say well done on what news I had received as well, so that pleased me immensely.

I had a nice delivery in the post too - two infact. One was a cheque from Avanti West Coast as they refunded me the difference on a train journey made ages ago where I'd paid for first class, but the train was declassified. I argued that because of that, I may as well have paid a standard class fare, and the difference was refunded. In fact my online banking allows me to pay in the cheque by scanning it in, so I didn't even have to venture out to the branch to do that (and that's also a good safe thing to do overall) - so definitely a positive.

The second was a little package which contained two more Mastertronic games for the Commodore 16 and Plus/4 - GWNN (Game with No Name) and The Return of Rockman. The former was going to be Challenger and be released early 1986, but then a space shuttle disaster happened, so the name was shelved, and so was the game for over a year until its eventual release and just called GWNN. It was quite a good little space shooter and got to level four, so pretty nice. The Return of Rockman is a slower Boulderdash type game and the sequel to the hard as nails Rockman - not bad, but suffers a bit from being a bit jerky.

After playing POD (Proof of Destruction) on the Plus/4 last night, I noted the plain grid and lack of background colour that the Commodore 64 version had really did help see the bullets better. I wondered if there was a way to remove that background colour bar, so loaded the game, and managed to work out pretty quickly where that was. So for those of you with Action Replay cartridges, POKE 8673,44 does the trick. If you've used a reset switch, you'll need to enter SYS26112 to restart the game. And if you want to go old school, switch on the '64, type this BASIC listing in and run it. If you're successful you can press play on tape, load the game and that coloured background is removed. Now back to play the game with the bassline, so it's tune of the day for me because it reminds me of how much I still love to play it:

3 POKE 157,128:SYS 512
10 DATA 032,044,247,056,169,016,141,062
11 DATA 003,169,017,141,064,003,032,108
12 DATA 245,169,032,141,068,017,169,057
13 DATA 141,069,017,169,002,141,070,017
14 DATA 162,255,189,193,016,157,193,002
15 DATA 202,208,247,162,033,189,159,016
16 DATA 157,159,002,202,208,247,076,120
17 DATA 003,072,169,044,141,225,033,104
18 DATA 044,013,220,096

Monday 8th June - Inside Monaco

I'd had a pretty good day at work so far with a number of meetings online, including one for all of our Technology department - and that was good to be able to get an idea as to what direction we would be heading towards in future, and definitely or me it'd be good to note how any phased returns into offices might be working out. Although there is so much you can do working from home, if you need to test with physical kit then you have to really do what you can to make the most of any opportunity when you have it to be able to make sure you can road test properly.

With that in mind, I had three packages in the post today, and plenty of retro gaming action to come. Two of them had a total of six games released by Mastertronic for the Commodore 16 and Plus/4 series, including two which I played a lot back in the day - namely POD (Proof of Destruction) and Mr. Puniverse. And yes, there's a tenuous Late Late Breakfast Show link although effectively it's a sequel to the platform game Big Mac (and only on this format too.) With a total of forty one Mastertronic and sub-label related releases, I now have thirty four of them and two are on order, so five left to source.

I also had another delivery which had one Commodore 64 game - and definitely a rarity of sorts here. It's Chiller by Mastertronic, but it happens to be the original release with the music which closely resembled Thriller (and hence it had to be removed from later releases) - for historical value alone it's tune of the day. There were also some bugs in this release which meant you couldn't collect all the crosses, but of course it was purely to have it for the banned music - and at a low price point too which is the most important thing.

After a nice chat with The Love In My Heart later on, it was over to BBC2 for the first of their series of Inside Monaco, showing some previously unseen sides of the principality and how it operates. Sensibly, there was an initial focus on the Grand Prix, and how that really does bring the crowds in (and indeed, a healthy number of million euros for the place too in taxes - around six percent of total income.) It was nice to see the likes of David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan wax lyrical about the F1 in general of course, and all the partying for the whole weekend with secrecy and privacy at its heart - yes it's a tax haven, but the laws here prevent paparazzi as well, it should be noted.

The other thing that interested me was an inside look at the Hotel de Paris - The Love and I had hospitality in the gardens there overlooking Massenet for the 2012 Monaco Grand Prix and that was lovely enough of course, but some of the rooms to stay in after its refurbishment - simply stunning. Not cheap of course (rack rate around €600 per night) but I did note you can get a three night deal with money off and have a room for around €1400 including breakfast for three nights. Still not cheap, but if you want a lap of luxury and a treat and all that. The Princess Grace suite looked just awesome but then again, try €30,000 per night minimum. It was uber posh of course but still...

I think for many of us the allure of the place is just being there and admiring the way it all hugs the rocks and coastline along with the Mediterranean more relaxed way of life. Most of us will stay in Nice or Menton and take the train over (no bad thing) and that means you don't have to stay there and pay the expense of course. But part of me would also like to experience that other side (I know The Love would, she loves all that glamour and mentioned how much Princess Charléne looks fashionable and classy) - so you never know, a small lottery win might just do it...

Sunday 7th June - Sixty Four

I had a really good online chat last night with three of my good friends, the ones who are all into the old games just as I am, and indeed, in absence of being able to meet up properly, this is the next best thing to do. It was way too quick though as the time sped through from 7pm to 11.30pm easily without any problem, and we chatted about all sorts, football especially and also some of the old games that we'd picked up along the way, and how I'm aiming for the complete run of Mastertronic games for the Commodore 16 and Plus/4 series too - seeing as the trusty Plus/4 has been played well as of late.

So today with the weather not looking so good, it was time to get out one of my Commodore 64s along with the 1541 disk drive, cassette deck and Black Cruiser joystick and to play some of the old games - the way that they were intended. In fact I went to some of the cassette games first and loaded up Grand Prix Simulator from Codemasters. I still remembered how to play it and managed to get to level seven before losing the race, which was a decent effort. The speech is a bit messy (Car! One! Position! One! etc) but it still was reasonably good for its time.

Action Biker from Mastertronic was next, and my, I actually still did pretty well in the game after all these years. The main part of the game is to collect all the objects that are parts for the bike, and improvements too such as a bigger fuel tank, a gearbox so you can do low and high gears, and so on. The key here is that only one part appears on the map at any one time, but always the same place so once you've played it a few times you'll know where to go. I did pretty well getting around thirteen parts in all, although later on they do get a tad tricky. And of course there's an early classic Rob Hubbard main theme that plays that really sets the tone well, even if it is a little twee.

After a few more tapes, it was on with the original disk games I have. I still have the disk version of Codemasters' first ever game, BMX Simulator, and it still loads without any issues. I'll have to go back and revisit this and see if I can do a listing POKE for it, pretty sure it would be good to do for old school sake. Nonetheless though, nice that it still works, and managed to get to the fifth track before not managing the time limit, so can't complain there. I also of course loaded Hudson Hawk on disk and even entered the listing I did to fix the title screen music bug. It's still quite a decent game, if a tad tough in some places but a good puzzler to work through.

Next on was Electronic Arts' classic, Skate or Die. The disk loaded and on came the iconic Rob Hubbard introductory music (make that tune of the day) - you want rock guitar and some ace keyboards along with a superlative theme? Got it in one, just still a classic. I played all five events and even still to this day managed to do the squeeze through the pipe on the left side as well as jumping into the house and out again on the downhill race, and as you do, ramped off the police car at the end of the downhill jam. By the way, for those of you wondering, there's an easy way to tell the difference between the PAL and NTSC release of the game - the NTSC version has flashing black and white bars on the intro screen, the PAL version does not. Consider also that the music routine was modified for each region so it plays at the same speed on both, with only the pitch difference between PAL and NTSC being present.

Later on I also fired up some development disks I had which had some of the old code, music and graphics for the Commodre 64 demonstration programs (aka "demos") - which I had coded and composed the music for. I must admit there's a certain type of pleasure to be able to play them on the correct system and blast out some sonics from the SID chip as well. I knew I was never going to make any money from any music work or anything like that, but the emphasis was on learning as I went along too, which was always a good thing.

Lastly, on went Emlyn Hughes International Soccer - a true classic football game of its time. Back in 1992-93 ish I modified all the pitch side graphics to be more relevant, so instead of having things like the Early Times, I had Man City's then sponsors Brother, JVC (who were Arsenal's sponsors) and even an ad for the old Clubcall numbers that were those 0898 ones back in the day. Still a great football game and with all the players' names modified to be Man City and Man Utd players back in the day, I played out the Manchester derby - and won 5-1. Nice scoreline that, as City fans will testify..

Saturday 6th June - Loop Before The Rain

This morning was all about timing - and especially as rain had been forecast for later in the day. I thought that doing another section of the London Loop would be a good idea to do, and in fact the next section to be done was around three and a half miles or so, so a decent length of walk without being too much. I also knew that realistically I'd be able to get there and back by bus instead of train, but it was a case of timing the bus journey there. The bus I needed to get has only one an hour going to the stop I wanted, as the other two services during the hour curtail earlier. So it was a bit of breakfast, a bit of research.

In fact I'd worked out I had time to watch the full re-run of the 1999 Australian Grand Prix, as put on the official Formula 1 channel. I noted of course just how many incidents there were during that race - the aborted starts with the Stewart cars almost catching fire, the unreliability of both McLaren cars when well ahead, the issues with Michael Schumacher's car, and indeed Eddie Irvine coming through all that to win, with Heinz-Harald Frentzen second in his first run for Jordan. And of course, the best ever F1 commentary combo of Martin Brundle and Murray Walker. Faaaaaantastic (etc). And the intro music used back then for F1, that bit of rock guitar was ace, so tune of the day for me.

I headed off in good time for the 166 bus to Banstead station, with face covering on (I'm pre-empting the mandatory requirements and have the covering good to go) and this took me through Coulsdon and then Chipstead Valley, up and down some hills on the roads before arriving in the pretty Banstead village itself, with some nice shops, and then off to the junction for the station. Once past there, it was through to the path that runs through the Banstead Downs Golf course to join the main loop path, and onwards along the third fairway and back out of the other side.

I have to say the houses on the other side were all incredibly posh - they had big gates and at least two cars in as well as being detached. A lot of the roads were private estate roads too which tells you all you need to know. It was a lot of road walking however and was a little dull until I followed the road downhill and to St Paul's Church in the east of Ewell, and then turned back uphill and left along a road, and under the railway to the very nicely named (for me at least) Warren Farm, which is a nature reserve and plenty of woodland maintained by the Woodland Trust. This was a much nicer space and I have to say made up for all the suburbia before that.

On the other side you crossed over a little bridge and into Nonsuch Park, which was frequented by Henry VIII a lot (in fact the palace he built here gave the park its name, none such a prettier place apparently) - and through the trees of The Avenue, following this for quite some time and then through some more pretty woodland. It was then downhill and crossing over the busy A24 Ewell bypass, and past Ewell Castle School with its castle-like turrets at the top, and then into the centre of Ewell and Bourne Hall Park, which had an impressive entrance arch and lovely lake alongside the Hogsmill River. That was pretty.

I headed back towards Morden on the 329 bus which was pretty good. At North Cheam I was glad that the A24 had two lanes because the first lane was all for a massive queue for a McDonalds drive thru! Yes, really. I have no words for that. As I neared Morden I went down Hillcross Avenue and I seem to remember someone who was in my Primary School moved to that road before secondary, so was intrigued to see what that was like - answer: pretty nice. Once at Morden I thought that I may have some time to kill before the 154 or 157 bus back to Croydon, and noted something...

So I went in, and for the first time in absolutely years (and I mean years) I went into Wimpy and got myself a nice bacon double cheeseburger and chips. I have to say, they were still as nice as I remember Wimpy being back in the day and it was a good piece of nostalgia to go and have it. There used to be one in Manchester Arndale which was decent back in the 1980s, which shows how long ago that was. It was very enjoyable it has to be said, and well worth it. It also filled the gap whilst waiting for the bus and so headed on the 157 and back home. It was a good walk, and I'm sorely tempted to do section eight between Ewell and Kingston whilst the weather is reasonably decent soon...

Friday 5th June - Eight Bits of Data

It was a busy day for me today as I was able to monitor some of the clients connecting to the company VPN and see if they needed either the MECM client updating, any Windows updates performing, any software installing, or a combination of all three in some cases. What was good to see was that in a number of these cases, it was mainly a maximum of two of those, but it did mean I wanted to be sure we could see an improvement in what was happening. So far, so good, I think.

As a sonic accompaniment to today's working from home, I decided to play some classic music from Commodore 64 games, where possible utilsing recordings from the actual SID sound chip for authenticity. In some cases, the music might have been brilliant but the games might have been rubbish, and sometimes a combination of both really does mean a special time when playing the old games too. I for one loved the lengthy soundtrack for the game Kentilla, by Rob Hubbard, even though it was originally meant to be sections that interacted with where you were in the adventure itself - and a real shame that it was never implemented to be perfectly honest.

There were plenty more to listen to during the day that typified the era - the glorious Adam Gilmore title theme to the under-rated game Draconus for one, with the latter part building pace and really giving the game some flow and atmosphere, and naturally the spooky opening with raindrops, thunder, church organs and screams that was Tim Follin's meisterwerk that is Ghouls 'n Ghosts too. Definitely for me that really added - and its predecessor Ghosts 'n Goblins with Mark Cooksey providing sonic duties, adding a bit of Klaus Wunderlich, and there's those drums which everyone at some point who knows it has tried to impersonate.

It was good to commemorate those musicians no longer with us, with opening scores from The Last Ninja (what a game that was) and the epic Trap from the late Ben Daglish, with the also sorely missed Richard Joseph and the superbly atmospheric score to the game Barbarian. The film tie in of Platoon was one of the most impressive film licences of its time, and the epic Jonathan Dunn score (notably the title tune) really did set the more sombre scene that the film itself represented. I loved that then, still love it now to be perfectly honest.

Of course I just had to play Rob Hubbard's Thalamusik (the loading theme for the game Sanxion) at full pelt - it's still a classic to this day and definitely tune of the day for me. It just has a really epic feel of Industrial type proportions and a middle section that divides the two powerful parts well. I can remember the synth version on the Zzap! 64 first ever cover tape, and that was special too. I could of course go on for ages about all of this, but needless to say without those pioneers, where would game music be today I wonder?

Thursday 4th June - Stirring Stuff

I must admit it was nice tonight to use the remainder of the diced chicken and the mushrooms that I had, and put that together with some noodles and some hoisin and garlic sauce to make a nice stir fry for tea tonight. I did have to nip out to the local Sainsburys as I was running out of coffee, and so a visit to there and to get some Azera cheap along with some other bits and bobs was helpful beforehand, and then I could settle in with the wok on and make myself something good.

In times like these, I have tried as much as possible to eat healthily. I know that being able to get some exercise is useful but it will not be as much as I've been able to get previously. With the weather potentially being a bit cooler and not as sticky, it may have been a good time to get some legs of the London Loop walk under the belt: but if you're being discouraged to use public transport to keep it operational for those that need it most, there's no easy way of getting to the start locations. I may though have a possible idea where I could get up early on Saturday and take in a stage that isn't far away and reachable by one bus from here, and so lessen the impact as much as I can. We shall see.

The other thing today was that the rain has finally come after two weeks of hot sunshine and it certainly has made the apartment feel a bit less stifling, with fresh air coming in. I have also been glad not to be commuting home in that rain either, it has to be said, and that at least when I do finish work I've been able to straight away relax at home. That's one advantage of working from home, but I do wish also that there's that cameraderie we have when in the office - it's hard to necessarily get that virtually really.

I did have a nice chat with The Love In My Heart tonight, who told me that one of the neighbours who has a child came to say hello to Brian the cat as he was playing out. The child was giving Brian a love and Brian didn't seem fazed or scared at all, or did his hissy face either. He can be a little tempremental and I'm starting to think he is protective of his Mummy when I am around, but he can be just so adorable. I can imagine him thinking "no threat here, and I'm getting cuddles. I like this" - and more so of course if there happens to be Dreamies or tuna cat food involved somewhere.

I did also tonight manage to check through some boxes of cables and stuff I have (primarily to see if I still have a 5-pin DIN to audio cable to potentially record some Commodore 64 music from the real thing) and I came across the old Cinergy T2 DVB-T Freeview tuner USB card. I managed to get some drivers for it and it does appear to work well on Windows 10, with some limitations, but it's a shame that you can't record anything in higher than MPEG-2 format, but I suppose it's not the HD version which may be why. Still though, might look into some other uses for this in the future, and blasting out "UK:USA" by Eskimos and Egypt at the same time (make that one tune of the day)

Wednesday 3rd June - Back To The 80s

It was a double dose of returning to the 1980s today after work - both for some retro computer gaming and indeed for 80s week on The Great British Sewing Bee. So it was definitely time for some killer tunes on that - and indeed I wanted to see what power dressing outfits would be created. I saw plenty on the television when I was a teenager at the time and the programmes were full of that over the top feel. It was an era that The Love In My Heart fully embraced too, and it's no surprise that some of our favourite music is from this time.

Anyway, it was out with the Commodore Plus/4 and indeed to test out some more Mastertronic arrivals in the post in order to be able to make sure all was well. Three more down and another thirteen to go to have a complete run of all their titles released for the Commodore 16 and Plus/4 line - including a fair few I didn't have first time round. First off was Master Chess, which of course is computer chess, and seems that the computer opponent is pretty tough - I escaped with a stalemate draw and considered myself pretty chuffed that I managed to do that.

Battle was next, with its impressive cover art, and it's very much a strategy game, sort of like Battleships but with extra features and with options of different depth charges affecting different ways of the battle. The instructions were very hard to read though and resorted to an online set in order to be able to get through things well. It did at least mean that I was able to effectively play and get a good game going. Final one up was the Ricochet re-release of Way of the Exploding Fist. It's a decent enough version, a nice backdrop with the main theme (a version of Dance of the Yao People) and indeed a pretty decent opponent. Okay, so not the C64 version, but it's a reasonably good attempt nonetheless.

Later it was Sewing Bee and 1980s week and The Love and I were happily having good memories of all the classic 80s tunes throughout, including the likes of A-ha, The Human League, Depeche Mode, ABC, New Order, shed loads, even that Rick Astley tune for a bit of Rickrolling thrown in. The three challenges were pretty good - make an 80s power jacket for a woman which had Clare really going to town on it and proclaiming "I own 51 per cent of the company!" in proper Joan Collins style for the time - hers and Matt's outfits were pretty spot on. Clare did excellent too in the transformation turning a hi-vis jacket into an 80s power dress with two round circles, Madonna style, to cover certain parts!

The final cocktail dress challenge of course had some classic The Human League on, namely Don't You Want Me (and make that tune of the day) - needless to say that meant lots of really massive bows and so on too. I liked Liz's dress with the big bow, but the Joan Collins-esque number from Nicole with the white and the blue just about edged it. Matt had a bit of a mare and could have gone home, and it was only because Therese was bottom on the first two chalenges that she went in the end. Still though, best soundtrack for any Sewing Bee episode for a very very long time!!

Tuesday 2nd June - Sorting It Out

Unbelievably, I managed last night to be able to book an online food delivery from Sainsburys, which was coming at 8am this morning. At around 7.55am the buzzer went and it was a very lovely friendly delivery driver who told me it had arrived. As we are not allowing deliveries past reception in the block currently, I headed down, and had carrier bags full of shopping, that in no way would I have been able to carry direct from the store had I gone there. In fact it was pretty nice because I was able to get enough food for the next two weeks or so, so will only need to go out for basics. Happy days all round it has to be said.

I spent most of the day working from home checking over a spreadsheet in Google Sheets which for some reason didn't want to sort correctly in the right date order, which was sort of annoying. It was only after a meeting with my manager where we were discussing assets and what we were going to do with checks in some cases where I worked out why. It was simply this: the locale in the spreadsheet properties was set to English (US) so was assuming, incorrectly, that all dates were the US.

Which of course isn't the case, because the dates coming in were English UK. So, I had to effectively reimport the data once I had changed the locale, and then it worked. However, when you filter some data you don't get a nice little summary telling you how many filtered rows that there in the status bar (which Excel has and is useful of course) but to find that out in Google Sheets you have to use the explore function and then ask a question to say "how many cells in column X have a date before Y". And.. you still have to input an English US date to actually get an answer out of it. Head desk moment right there.

Naturally as I find more of these quirks it's good to know for the people who will be using said applications to have a few gotchas here and there, and our American based users won't have those sort of issues, but it's nonetheless good to know anyway. I did therefore sort all the data I needed and started to look at a purge of sorts of systems which I believe haven't been online for some time and potentially may have already been replaced or written off - the idea being that we can concentrate on the systems that we actually have in place, which is of course the best priority.

In the evening I had a lovely chat with The Love In My Heart, had a nice chicken katsu curry with some of the ingredients having arrived today, and it was then on with the Commodore Plus/4 to play some classic old games - not least because my brother had kindly sent five of them along - including Treasure Island, handy as the other copy I have only loads one side, and four Mastertronic titles, three of which I had back in the day and the other was a game I'd never played before.

So it was on with Vegas Jackpot, and it was good to still be able to play that and remember the way to beat the gamble bits with timing of pressing F1. Fingers Malone was still pretty good albeit a tad difficult in part to be able to get all the keys and move down the lifts to be able to get the safe opened, but solid fun nonetheless. Spectipede was the original slow blue screen loader version, but it was all good there as well and did play well. Xadium was the surprise, and pretty difficult - you had to guide the ship through a number of gates and it was a pretty playable first level - the second was a maze which was hard, but didn't get to that (yet). Good fun though.

It was nice to kick back and play Treasure Island again - the theme tune of which is tune of the day - and definitely for me a classic of its genre. You had to make your way through the island maze getting cutlasses left when enemies threw them at you, and use them to stategically kill the enemies, and get treasures. Of course when you get the treasure, you need to then escape Long John Silver as well! I did get 81% which was my best score for ages, so definitely enjoyed playing that one again.

Monday 1st June - Hometime

So it was time to head home from The Love In My Heart's place after a nice long weekend together. We were both off work today so it meant I could head on the train at the best off-peak time and indeed The Love could have some quality time with Brian the cat as well later on. We got up and had some nice bacon on toast for breakfast, which was more than enough for us both to be honest, and once all sorted it was then a coffee and a bit of time to chill out together.

Brian didn't want to play out but we noted the little black and white cat had gone past, and then we saw her climb up a tree to chase a bird. She then appeared to be stuck and The Love coaxed her down and thankfully had grabbed her and held her, and she was more comfortable knowing The Love was holding her, because of the scent of a cat owner. I was glad she was safe but was still a little scared as I went to say hello, but still, one rescue done and well done to The Love for that.

After that it was time to head to Piccadilly and back to get the train home. I had the face covering on, and only two people in the carriage which became around five or six by the time we reached Stoke on Trent, but not too many. Of course now I'd be back home and pretty much staying at home for the next few weeks bar any food shopping trips of course, and had of course spent seven weeks at home with The Love when lockdown happened. As lockdown relaxes, it'll be interesting to see how people react - although the queues for IKEA were apparently mental anywhere, almost as mental as everyone hitting the beach over the weekend. Dear me..

Anyway, the train was all safe, and headed across to St Pancras to get the train homewards, and that was all fine. I nipped into Sainsburys for a few essentials and will probably head to Lidl later for some other bits and bobs, but all was good on that side. I also noted a couple of deliveries in the postbox too - a couple of games for the Commodore Plus/4 that I had ordered, namely Dingbat and Hektik, so two more added to the collection. The former game was the last Mastertronic C16 and Plus/4 release on its own (the C16 Compilation came later on, but was not an individual game) and a Shaun Southern coded game at that, so nice to have.

I also spent some time watching the first sport in ages too - the Championship League snooker on ITV4. It's being held at a venue where effectively the players and staff can all stay at the same venue as it has a hotel attached, so means that on entry you get tested and checked, and once safely passed the test you can compete, commentate etc. It's a real sign that they're taking the safety seriously and a first tentative step back. All we need now is the proper Drag Racer theme tune (seeing as the BBC won't use it, maybe ITV4 should be cheeky) which of course is tune of the day.