Dear Diary... March 2020

Tuesday 31st March - The Stranger

Another day of working at home, and another day where I actually managed to get quite a bit done, despite the obvious restrictions at the moment. In fact I had decided that I was able to do a little bit of further deployment testing with regards to one of the agents we're looking at for Information Security. The good news is that the command line that facilitates a silent installation does work, and that in fact the uninstall worked as long as we're able to give it a little delay after the command line. Once that was done it was all good.

I did have to venture out for a walk to the local Asda during lunch, where to be fair, everyone was queuing two metres apart and in store were correctly distancing. No one was necessarily following the signgage for the aisles though apart from me, which did kind of get me a little bit. The priority was to get some cat food and treats for Brian the cat, and I have to admit that the queue went quickly and was able to get him Dreamies, tuna and prawn Sheba, and his Asda Tiger salmon stick treats, as well as a couple of bits for here too.

I had a visit from The Love In My Heart's sister as well, and she needed to put some washing in there as her washer was a bit worse for wear at the moment. She was heading off to Asda shopping anyway so it was easy enough to drop that off on the way, get the food shopping sorted and then come back later. Distancing observed and Brian the cat ran and hid whilst he was able to and then came back out once all was settled down again. He does love quiet and routine and I've noticed this a lot more since working from home with Brian it has to be said.

Later on The Love arrived home from work and had a package for me - it was something I had ordered at the moment and did admittedly contain something indirectly for The Love, and so definitely for me was pretty good that at least mail deliveries are working. We had a really nice ham mushroom and mascaropne pizza for tea, and settled in for the evening and decided that it would be sensible to watch the remainder of The Stranger series on Netflix, as The Love had got into that and wanted to see the rest out at some point - well why not now, we thought.

It was good to see the final three episodes of the series with her - admittedly we had seen some clips on Gogglebox which is always the danger of having something like that on the telly beforehand. The title music to the series, Monster by the band Walking On Cars, is particularly ace, so definitely for me tune of the day and added to the suspense. The end was dramatic but not in the way you'd expect, but kudos to Siobhan Finneran for being particularly brilliant throughout as the final epsiode sped through the likes of Ancoats in Manchester along the way.

Monday 30th March - Cat Watch

It was the start of another week at working from home, and another week at The Love In My Heart's place. It was of course different this week as The Love was heading off to work not much later than when I was due to start the day's work. It's actually working out okay really in that because one of us is in their workplace and the other being at home, it at least means we're not under each other's feet during the day. And of course Brian the cat gets some company during the day as well which he may or may not like, but normally he's content to stay snuggled on the bed.

Well, of course, that is until another cat shows up. As it turned out during the middle of the morning I saw something walk past the path close to The Love's place, and I then headed off to the loo. As it turned out I had spotted what it was from the bedroom window - and thankfully Brian had walked the other way. It was the tabby cat that passes by on his little walking rounds, and of course had Brian seen that, a different matter entirely to be honest - would have been a staring competition from the window for definite.

Later on in the evening when The Love had returned from work, we were having our tea and then out of the corner of the eye we noticed something dark moving in the car park, and sure enough was hiding near one of the cars. In the meantime Brian had decided to do his fast trot which means one thing, and one thing only - he had spotted tabby cat and wanted to give it a stare. Tabby had walked off further down the path but nonetheless Brian was on it and staring out of the window, the heart beating fast and wanting to give it a bit of a hiss.

I had had a pretty productive day though, road testing one of the deployments of a piece of security software. The install switches were very Unix or Python like, with double dashes for those parameters. That said though, it did at least mean that the likes of the mode unattended and other such items were the same on the Mac as they were on Windows. The only thing that I had been able to do was to discover that although the uninstall command had worked correctly as intended, the command returned back to the command line before completion, meaning a slight pause was needed.

It was nice to enjoy some more of the gorgeous pavlova that The Love In My Heart had made last night, and we'd had for dessert. The meringue was gorgeous, as was the raspberries and whipped cream too. I am always convinced that The Love should be on Bake Off, but there you go. The theme tune of said show, as it's feel good television, is tune of the day - even if now it's not the same now it is on Channel 4. It was nice to have that with a coffee after tea and chill out together, definitely a nice thing to do.

Sunday 29th March - Sunday Contrast

It was a case of having a good lie in as much as possible this morning with The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat effectively having his bed space back - once I got up and had a coffee Brian was snuggled up on the left side of the bed and had his belly out wanting for his Mummy to give him a tummy tickle. The tickle really did make him purr contently and I think he was able to effectively look at his Mummy and have a big contented smile on his cat face. He is so adorable and cute when he does that it has to be said.

We knew that it was a case of not doing that much today, so instead The Love was able to be creative and get baking - and had all the ingredients for a large meringue and effectively to do a pavlova. Her little Google Home device is quite handy for recipes as it has the instructions and you can have them read aloud, but also pick a nice recipe which suits too. It definitely was a nice smell coming from the oven whilst this was baking and I am sure this will be rather lovely for dessert during the week and potentially tonight too.

I also decided that it would be a good idea to re-watch a couple of the Manchester City documentaries around the 2012 Premier League win, with that goal from Sergio Aguero of course. The one on the fans was good as they had tracked down some of the fans from the television coverage at the time and had asked them on their views of how the day went, but also the feelings that they had gone through during that time. Naturally it was a range of mixed emotions and that definitely seemed like it was a rollercoaster ride similar to what I had gone through watching that one.

There was also the one with the players which also I had watched back in 2017 and had proved fascinating then and definitely does do so now. I have to say that it was good that so many of the now former players were taking part, the likes of Mario Balotelli, Nigel de Jong, Edin Dzeko, Gareth Barry and even the former manager Roberto Mancini. It's also clear to see still how much cameraderie and friendship that Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott had then and still have now, but also how much the players knew it was such a special moment not just for them but for the fans too.

I think that we know it's going to be a potentially longer haul in the next few weeks and where possible, we've been doing what we can to support each other during this difficult time. It was fascinating earlier to watch Top of the Pops from June 1989 and of course have the excellent Pink Sunshine by Fuzzbox (definitely for me tune of the day as it has a real Summery feel and something warm inside). It also had plenty of decent tunes but also some absolute howlers in there, Sinitta being one, so a contrast of the times. It was time to get funky, as DMob would have said.

Saturday 28th March - Jawboned

It was a fairly reasonable lie in today after a long week, or so it had seemed to us both for different reasons. I had opted to stay indoors with only one potential trip out to a local shop later, thus combining walking and the essentials shopping trip, and that meant more time playing ball and fussing over Brian the cat. He did have a visitor yesterday in Tabby cat, but he didn't seem to show up today so Brian was more than happy snuggling around the curtain as ever, which made him feel content and happy in the meantime. That was nice to see.

The Love In My Heart was heading out to see her father to check up on him and make sure he was okay, but in the interests of safety first, social distancing was observed and that also meant me not going either to make sure that any contact was minimal. Apparently he did ask where I was, but considering that there was no errands to do such as putting a bet on, because there is no horse racing on even in Ireland. That of course meant a shutdown for those shops anyway, even before the lock down they had closed. I think having no sport to watch necessarily may not be a good thing.

Also, The Love was going to head to the local supermarket on the way back and effectively get some supplies that were needed, but once she had noted the considerable queue, it was potentially a case of going later for some bits there. In the meantime I'd already suggested heading to a local shop for some bits, which did work well. I got all the essentials that were effectively we were after, with a view that if the queue died down at the supermarket later The Love could do a larger shop and that was how it worked out - she did get pretty much all that was needed, and the distancing policy is in place and working at the moment.

We had decided to have a relaxing evening in front of the telly but also to put a film on as well which we had wanted to watch for some time - not realising it was going to be on late evening the next day on BBC Two. Still, we did have a rather nice ham gratin with some peas for tea, and that proved to be rather tasty - especially as the gratin had plenty of rather nice potatoes in, more than we thought. There was also a sticky toffee pudding for dessert, so that was me definitely sorted out. Happy bunny at least.

After we had seen Pointless Celebrities it was on with the Blu-Ray of the film Jawbone, which I had got The Love on Blu-Ray in HMV some time ago. It was a gritty drama based around a boxer attempting to get some redemption after falling on difficult times, including his mother passing away and the flat she had and he had lived in being compulsory purchased and repossessed, and how he found a way to get a fight and start the road back to redemption. Johnny Harris was excellent in the lead role as well as Ian McShane and Ray Winstone, and with a Paul Weller soundtrack too. The main title theme playing at the end, the excellent The Ballad of Jimmy McCabe, is tune of the day.

Friday 27th March - Fish Friday

It was the final day of the week and I was undertaking some testing this morning. In effect, there are newer options in MECM to deal with software updates, in that you still have to talk to the management point for the update information (so that in effect you are able to determine which updates to issue) but then you can effectively not have a deployment package on the distribution points with the updates, and instead tell it to go to Microsoft Updates for the content only. In theory, it should work, albeit of course if you had a cloud management gateway or a management point in the DMZ, that'd also help.

I knew there was an optional update issued which I could deploy to my own machine as a test, so created the update group but deliberately did not generate any deployment package, but instead kept it away from any DPs and instructed it just to use Microsoft Updates for the content. And once I was able to restart the machine and see the update available, the log files then demonstrated that it was downloading the content from Microsoft Updates, with a suitable URL, and this at least was working correctly and as intended, so that of course was pretty pleasing overall. Happy bunny. And some Depeche Mode on Absolute 80s too, so Just Can't Get Enough is definitely tune of the day - still a classic.

In the afternoon we also had a conversation with regards to one piece of software we may be looking at deploying again to machines, but we really needed to be careful with it due to the fact that it had caused some issues beforehand. I think too that the different approach that we will be taking this time may help, along with other improvements along the way that we can look at. Deployment itself won't be an issue necessarily, it's more the usability so we need to be careful about that. We shall see how it works and then take it from there, but at least it will mean we have a careful control level.

I had been waiting in all day from a delivery from DHL with some lovely beers from the Gipsy Hill Brewery, and sure enough a driver arrived just after 6pm with my delivery - so lots of lovely beer to have there. The Love In My Heart had headed to a local fish and chip takeaway on the way home, and I headed over to the Asda to get a few bits for the weekend (thankfully quieter and socially distancing too) and that was relatively all sorted. I arrived back just after The Love, and I have to say that the fish and chips were very nice indeed - cooked fresh too, so definitely well worth it. Kudos goes to The Battered Cod in Fallowfield for keeping us all fed.

It was enjoyable to have a proper chippy tea too, and after that we had a fairly relaxed evening together (and no trains for me tonight for a change which was a plus) and The Love and I settled in to watch part of the train journey thing with Tony Robinson where he headed to Marseille which looked lovely, and then over to Barcelona too. We also saw Gogglebox and I was pleased that they had The Nest on, as that was a brilliant drama from last weekend. They also had Saturday Night Takeaway with the Goggleboxers attempting to dance to Olly Murs' "Dance With Me Tonight" too. Quite hilarious, but not my tune, but did at least make people smile.

Thursday 26th March - Appreciation

It was a pretty emotional evening tonight, as many of you will have experienced. It was a co-ordinated moment at 8pm tonight where everyone was going to head out of their front doors, on to their balcolines, and applaud the superlative work that the NHS are doing right now at the moment, putting themselves on the front line and on the line for us all to try and care for those that need it, and battle through this uncertain period. I know that they're always appreciated by me of course, but it's good to see that others were able to do the same.

I was suspecting that there may be a few people in The Love In My Heart's block that may be heading out on to their balconies or opening their juliette doors, but what we did experience when we headed out on to the decking of The Love's place at 8pm was something else. The applause was loud and proud, plenty of cheering everywhere and a real sign of togetherness. It did feel quite emotional and it showed that we were all behind them. Various landmarks around the country were lit blue as well which was a really good thing too. We were all really humbled.

I know a couple of work colleagues who have partners who work in the NHS, as does The Love In My Heart too, and of course every day at the moment she is doing her job and working I am immensely proud of her and what she is doing. I feel like a house husband at the moment even though I am working from home, but I know she is the one that is making more of a difference than me at the moment, and that really does feel like the value of her job is underestimated by some (not by me I should add!) - so hopefully on the other side of this, there'll be a greater pressure on any Government to actually invest properly in the NHS. It is brilliant, the staff are amazing, and we should all treasure that.

It did feel a little tiring tonight too, I know The Love is working longer hours at the moment and she is heading off to sleep earlier so she can get a decent night's sleep before work. I had watched some telly tonight, including the final episode of The Station - Trouble on the Tracks on ITV. It focussed a lot on Birmingham New Street around the times of the strikes on West Midlands Railway and London Northwestern Railway, and how people were not able to get home easily because, clearly, they had decided to travel anyway, and then realised that no rail replacement buses were on.

A bit of a contrast compared of course to the more serene Great British Railway Journeys with Michael Portillo tonight of course as he headed from Somerset and down towards Devon, which was nice to see. There was even some heritage rail at Bishops Lydyeard, and tomorrow will probably be Cornwall, so well going to see that. The theme tune is tune of the day as it's so homely and is something to distract from the recent and uncertain times, and I think we do all need a distraction at the moment.

Wednesday 25th March - Isolation Day Three

So today it was a case of working out what was going on with one of the deployments across JAMF Pro on the Mac side of things - mainly one of our inventory clients. I soon had some of it worked out too, as it was down to the fact that some of the content hadn't replicated successfully to the cloud distribution point as it should have done. I reckon what was happening was that for some reason the content got to the main DPs, and the replicate didn't do as intended. So I was able to instead tick the relevant boxes to enable the content to go, and one of my Mac colleagues did the rest.

In a good way, I also had to sort out an issue that one of the staff in one of our USA offices had. They had got some new laptops but for some reason, one was a slightly different version of the same model, so needed to be able to not just PXE boot, but when the network drivers attempted to load so the task sequence engine could run, it failed. I suspected it was most likely down to the Intel I219-V series, as there always seems to be versions in numbers with brackets for those iterations. So I set to work and located one version that had all the way up to version 15.

This in effect was a no brainer as well, so once that was done it was a case of updating the boot image with the new driver and sending that to the distribution points. Once done I got the colleague to boot, and it was all working successfully without any issues either, so definitely a big plus on the whole too, so that made my day that I could turn things around pretty quickly even from here to be honest. Of course it helped I could remote on to one of the servers and let that download the content instead of me doing it from the broadband here - definitely helped.

The Love In My Heart's little sound system does have a CD player and also a DAB radio - it was a Sony one I got her ages ago and perfect for her pad. I of course played the Swing Out Sister album It's Better To Travel first of all, and that naturally includes the brilliant Breakout, so all good there. I then put on Absolute 80s radio and that was fab, lots of great tunes me and The Love would enjoy, including Howard Jones' classic What Is Love, so that is tune of the day and well enjoyed that.

I also decided later, as I had all the ingredients, to cook for The Love and I tonight, and had all he ingredients for a chorizo sausage pasta bake, so set to work to get that all done which was good. The Love enjoyed it and it did mean that we were able to have a lovely meal together and have me cook it for a change. She's working a lot longer hours than me and anything I can do to help her out I know is welcomed whilst I am here, so that's been a positive. In a way, it indirectly might also be an acid test if we could actually live togegther in future.

Tuesday 24th March - And The Next Day

It definitely was a day of two halves today, and I was managing pretty well to get on with most of the work that I needed to do today. I did have a phone call from The Love In My Heart, as she had needed some advice as to something she needed to get done, and wanted a second opinion before doing so. It has been good that we've been able to support each other which definitely is making a difference at the moment to the mental health from my side for definite. I also have had the company of Brian the cat, which has been a massive boost.

I was also able to diagnose a couple of things for work with regards to how some plans for future if we're having to be extended along our current networking and VPN at the moment. It does at least work and work well for what we need, but also at the same time there's obviously been a spike in takeup since, so we've been keeping an eye on that, and the lights are still on and it's running well thus far. I know we are doing what we can, and we came up with some ideas in a meeting too. I think on the whole it felt positive and that has to be good.

It has been nice during the lunch break too that Brian the cat has been sat in the front room being all cute and lovely and wanting me to play ball with him - rolling the ball up to the box and then he catches it with his paw or fends it off well. It's definitely putting a smile on my face and for me that is a big boost for the day as much as possible. And with the day done, it was off to get some shopping.. so it was off to get the exercise and to the local Asda to see if I could get the necessary provisions.

It definitely was a case of getting what I could in the one chance I could go out today - so essentials for shopping, and also a little bit of exercise in the walk over too. It proved to be worthwhile as I managed to get all the bits I needed including some bleach, and also a few little bits such as jam for the scones that The Love In My Heart made the other day too (having already got the Rodda's clotted cream in!) so that was all good and The Love was pleased I'd saved her a trip also.

In the evening it was more about attempting to chill out and watch what we could on telly together and try to not focus too much on the news. That way we can concentrate on keeping each other happy and motivated, but also of course be all snuggly too with Brian. One thing we did enjoy tonight was Escape to the Chateau on Channel 4, and that was always fascinating to see Dick and Angela Strawbridge to help others set up their dreams too. Gabrielle's old 90s tune Dreams is therefore tune of the day.

Monday 23rd March - Lockdown

So, as expected, it was lock down announced tonight, and to be perfectly honest, not before time. It was clear that what was just guidance on social distancing wasn't working: from those heading all off to Snowdonia and the Scottish Highlands to those who headed to the seaside resorts in their droves and were then mingling with each other, and those going to parks in London doing pretty much the same. In my view, far too many idiots and not enough attention being paid. I sincerely hope that people now listen and realise just what the situation is.

All this after what had been a pretty successful work from home day, as much as possible. For me at least it was able to be getting on with a few bits of testing, as much as I could do, and test out the security software where possible that we were evaluating. Unfortunately this did mean that with the limited resources that we have, only a basic level of testing was available that I could do, but nonetheless pointed out that there was a case that the uninstall command returned back to the command line before it actually had completed the task, so had to put a timeout task in to be sure.

It of course also has meant that where possible we've been keeping in touch with daily phone conferences as much as we can, twice a day, and making sure we keep in touch as much as possible to get things done. I think for me that the important thing is that we're all at least talking to each other and being able to get on with as much as we can. It is frustrating as I do need physical equipment and do need to be connected to the live network as well, but there is only so much you can do under the circumstances as well.

I did at least have the attentions of Brian the cat for most of the day - he was sleeping for the most part, either on the side of the bed where I am normally asleep, or in his little blue play tent in the shade in the bedroom, or even in the box that he loves in the living room all curled up and cosy. He even responded to me feeding him his tea around 5pm and enjoyed his Encore tuna that he's been eating as of late. It's been good too to do some basic chores for The Love In My Heart and help her out in any way I can whilst she is in work.

I've been trying where possible to escape the monotony of all the news and all the bad news at that, but at the same time listening to some music as well has been a recommended way of winding down nicely as much as I can. The Love has a decent enough CD collection and so it was on with some Swing Out Sister, namely the excellent Twilight World single (make that one tune of the day) and that certainly gave me a little boost during the day as well, so that was good. Lockdown though might mean more music is needed.

Sunday 22nd March - Lazy Sunday (Unintentionally)

So it was a case of waking up and relaxing at home this morning, with Brian the cat being pretty insistent on wanting to play out first thing in the morning, and then wanting to play ball later on - especially as he was in his box and just wanted myself or The Love In My Heart to be able to roll the ball to the box and let him paw it away. He was able to do so and it was quite cute watching him do that which was definitely a positive thing really - anything that is cute and cheery at this present time definitely has to be welcomed.

We only headed out in the early afternoon and even then it was a quick drive out and some social distancing. We were effectively dropping off a few supplies (at a safe distance of course) for one of The Love's relatives, and once we did that The Love took a drive through Manchester City centre on the way back to her place. It was effectively empty and it did look like a ghost town, with hardly any shops open and the only places around were food shops - with people doing a careful shop where needed to be sure that they were only getting what they needed.

I did venture solo into the local Asda later to primarily get a few bits, and mainly only those I actually needed, such as some lunches for work I could put in the microwave whilst working at home (and therefore not having to venture outside during the week) as well as some water, razor blades and a few other items. Because of the restrictions in place, Asda appeared to be getting a bit better - fresh fruit and vegetables were around, and the only thing missing still were loo rolls and pasta - everything else seemed relatively okay considering. Crap lager had been pilfered a bit, but decent ale seemed okay for now.

It was good also that The Love and I were both being sensible and being inside, and Brian wanted lots of fussing and attention. Of course when he does decide to hide in his little tent he was rather cute all round, although his other trick is to wait for Mummy to sit down and have some food, then want to go out and have a little miaow at the door. It's typical of Brian of course but it's just his sort of way that he wants attention, bless him. Then when we did let him out, he did for so around a minute before staying in again!

We settled in during the evening and after the press conference with the Prime Minister's daily statement, and noted that Celebrity Mastermind on. The Love was pretty pleased because the author Louise Pentland was on (she has read two of her books and liked them both) and also Alistair Appleton from Escape to the Country as well. Louise's specialist subject was Harry Potter which of course was pretty good, but she did fluff it up a bit with the general knowledge. In the meantime the classic theme tune to that series is definitely tune of the day for me.

Saturday 21st March - Inside Out

It was admittedly nice to be waking up with The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat this morning. It was a case of being able to have company around me and for the case of mental health, it made more sense to be together but to also be in isolation as much as possible. In my view, that makes more sense so we can look after each other and be able to give each other the support we need. I must admit that it is a strange time to be in of course, but having that support and not feeling as lonely is definitely a positive

We did have to venture out at lunch time but to see The Love's father. Admittedly, we were social distancing apart as much as we could in the house of course, but was able to at least keep him company for a while. There was one horse racing meeting going on in Ireland (they're behind closed doors) and as such he wanted me to put a bet on. However, all the bookmakers were closed of course and so instead I managed to set up an online account for myself, and did it on his behalf. He did have one small win later but I think at least having something to watch was worthwhile.

After that we had to adjust, because, normally, a Saturday afternoon would be going down the pub. Of course, that isn't happening and understandably so, so it was a case of heading back home and staying in for the remainder of the day. We spent some time watching some classic old school telly including two back to back episodes of Top of the Pops from 1989 on BBC Four via iPlayer. That did at least help out and was able to have something to watch for us both in the meantime.

Through those two programmes, what it meant was the likes of Stock Aitken and Waterman inspired tat, including the likes of Donna Summer and worst of all, Stefan Dennis (who played Paul Robinson off of Neighbours.) Possibly the worst single of the 1980s to be honest, but on the positive side, it did mean the likes of some excellent singles by the likes of Deacon Blue (make the excellent Fergus Sings The Blues tune of the day and also Neneh Cherry with Manchild, and even also Shakin' Stevens!

We also during the evening had a game or two of Scrabble, where The Love was very impressive indeed - especially after I had played an opening move of CHASING (blank used as A) which got me 82 points in all, she responded later with QUINCE (double letter on Q and double word for 54) - which was pretty ace. At least we have the likes of that and other options to tide us over - do kind of wish I'd been able to bring up the Wii too, but needs must at the moment and priority was the main of getting me and some essential clothes up there for now.

Friday 20th March - Dystopian Trains

It was the final day of the working week, and to be honest, it's been a positive week despite all what has been going on. I think as well what boosted us all was a project update from the project manager on the project we've been working on, and the big boss of our workplace personally emailed to say what a good job had been done under the circumstances. That was a positive boost all round and certainly made us all feel a lot better. It's a times like this that little boosts mean a heck of a lot.

I spent a fair bit of time today on a call with one of the software companies that we deal with, and were working out a way to be able to sort out a long standing issue with the way that some of the models of computers were populating the database. It turned out that the table with the scheduled tasks should have had a null value rather than 1 to pass a parameter. We ran the daily update job manually, all good, and then will see how it pans out later when the actual scheduled job runs. If we've got that sorted, winning.

So after a bit of a team bonding session and a little party game over a web conference at 3pm, which worked well to keep people's spirits up, I had agreed I could finish early to head to Manchester on the train to see The Love In My Heart. Most likely I'll probably work from home there for a bit and that means I can still self-isolate but keep her and Brian the cat company, and help motivate each other - we need that support right now. Needless to say, that it felt surreal heading on the train out of East Croydon...

I took the train to St Pancras, which was pretty empty so was able to distance no problem, then took a walk via some of the back streets from there towards Euston - handy to know that route to distance. After getting a meal deal for the train it was on to the 1746 train to Stafford, changing there for a train to Manchester (I had booked these months ago and worked out a cheaper way of doing so). In fact the London to Stafford train was cheaper in first class, so had booked that. The compartment was empty and I had it all to myself.

However, all trains between Milton Keynes and Rugby were being diverted due to some track issues so meant a route via Northampton. Every other train was going that way though so were stuck outside Northampton for ages, and I knew I was going to miss my connecting train. However, I knew you could rebook without an admin fee, so used the free wi-fi and managed to book for the 2028 train on CrossCountry, and as I had arrived at 2015, this made perfect sense to be able to do so. Needless to say, that train was also very empty.

It did feel rather dysytopian to say the least, but I was just glad to arrive safe in Manchester and have The Love In My Heart come to meet me and have a hug. We headed back to her place and had a relaxed evening in with Brian the cat, watching Googlebox (make the Kodaline theme tune of that tune of the day and then The Last Leg, where Lorraine Kelly was brilliant and told it like it was to those being idiots and hoarding food. She doesn't take crap (note the infamous exchange with Jennifer Arcuri) so appreciated her honesty. Good on her!

Thursday 19th March - Shop Local

Another day at home, and blasting out the Repentless album from Slayer definitely helped the motivation, so much so that "You Against You" is tune of the day for definite - a sign of just how brutal that album is but also a way of demonstrating the brilliance of the band all round really. It kept me going as I was carrying out some investigation into an issue we've got with one of the web based add-ins at the moment, so we shall see how that turns out.

I also had to get a new driver package sorted in pretty quick time. One of our service desk managers had permission specially to enter one of the buildings today as they had 15 laptops arriving for some of the folks at one of our sites in Reading, and as such needed to be sure that they were able to be built. Due to shortages of other laptops, they had to get some Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extremes in, and they were one we needed a driver package sorting. I was soon on the case with that, downloading them, getting package created and distributed, and adding to build task sequence, and all worked. First go. Was pretty pleased!

It was also a case of being able to have a nice delivery or two today, although only one did arrive, and that was the Gipsy Hill Brewery 12 pack of beer I ordered. Very nice too may I say, as I've had a fair few of them before including the Baller and the Bandit, but nice to see them so well packed in a nice box and definitely one I'm going to enjoy some of before the week is out - because I can and also because of the fact it's attempting to shop local and support the smaller businesses.

Another example of that was later - I headed out because I needed a few small bits of shopping (five or six items to be exact) because the Co-op food delivery had been cancelled due to the demand and not having enough stock, which is understandable (and they were dead nice on the phone too, it's a difficult situation and there's no point being angry at their workers - not their fault) and so I remembered that the local shops are normally good for these times because the lemmings normally follow the herd and go to Tesco, Sainsburys and so on.

And lo and behold: got all I needed from the local shop. So I needed some washing up liquid (got one bottle of Fairy) as well as some bleach for the toilet (one bottle of Domestos) as well as some vinegar and also some noodles, some nice Chinese ones with a massala type sauce sachet. I made those later and it was pretty easy really, and this meant that I could use up the chicken and mushrooms and make a nice little meal for myself. This is when you appreciate the little shops most - and The Love In My Heart found one too with all she needed in stock. Sensibly said shop was limiting loo roll buying to one pack ensuring enough to go round - exactly the right thing to do in these times. And my local one wasn't allowing buying tissues or kitchen roll unless you spent at least a certain amount on other items.

It all makes perfect sense, and for me at least I've just been getting normal shopping every single day and making the most of what I've got in, and utilising that as much as I can do. It makes a lot of sense to be honest and for me it is a case of if we all just shopped normally, stocks would be fine and everyone could get what they needed and not need to stockpile and be panic buying. Look at Switzerland, they're in lockdown and no panic buying there, same as Italy which has been in further lockdown. Unfortunately there's too much of a "me me me" culture with a lot of people and it really angers me a lot.

Wednesday 18th March - Another Day In Paradise

The only real advantage I guess to working from home at the moment is that I can get up later in the day (always a good thing I guess) but at the same time of course there's also the fact that you do need to be able to be changed and ready and have some breakfast before you commence. I think us having a morning and evening meeting as a team is really helping us keep the spirits up and for me at least it's made me feel a little less along (but oh for a cuddle from The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat at the moment!)

So last night I was able to speak with TfL to see what could be done about half a months' worth of travelcard which I'm not going to be able to use because of the work from home situation. To be fair, they were absolutely lovely and explained everything: in that you basically had to cancel the whole card, and then any unused balance on the pay as you go plus any of the travelcard not used from the cancellation date would be refunded on a pro-rata basis to the bank account. That made sense, and to be honest, the fact they waived the £5 admin fee as well is appreciated. Then when things change and I then need to use the Oyster again, I get a new one, associate to account and off you go (£5 deposit of course but you can claim that back after a year.)

I've also been doing my bit to support local businesses where possible. One thing I did decide to do was to get a box of 12 beers from the great people at the Gipsy Hill Brewing Company. They were waiving the delivery charge to ease the pain, and have had a number of orders since they announced that. I went for their classic box of 12, which is 2 each of all their core ones (including the likes of Hepcat, Baller, and the fab gluten free Bandit too). For £25 that's not bad, and means I'll be able to at least relax in the evening with a beer when I feel like it which has to be a definite plus I reckon.

I also decided to raid the music archives later and play some albums with some feel good songs on to try and keep the spirits up - including the vastly under-rated "Let Me Introduce My Friends" from I'm From Barcelona. The feeling of joy is perhaps most shown by the singalong "We're From Barcelona" and really does put a smile on the face (and tune of the day) but also "Treehouse" with its simple bulding up of the chorus and verse as it goes along too. And if that wasn't enough, "This Boy" the style of which pre-dates the likes of Metronomy at their peak by some time. Needless to say, essential.

I also played the Being Frank soundtrack with classic tracks from Chris Sievey and The Freshies all the way through the Frank Sidebottom era too. There's the briliant "No Money" with describes how in this industry you don't make any money really, and the beeped version of "I'm In Love With The Girl on the Manchester Virgin Megastore Checkout Desk" with Virgin being bleeped out due to them attempting to sue The Freshies, and invoking a title change later on. Just ace, and well worth getting - and then watch the film as well if you get the chance to do so.

Tuesday 17th March - Isolation

It was a second day the working week, and effectively the first one working from home for a period of around four weeks or so. As such, we are now having two meetings, one at the start and end of the day to account for time zones etc where we can get together and see where we are. It actually proved useful too, and I also had my one to one meeting remotely as well as me organising a meeting where we looked at asset management and what we could do in terms of where we are and where we want to go, so that definitely felt pretty positive on the whole.

During the afternoon, in times when I knew I had no meetings on and didn't need to use the headset or microphone, it was time to play some vinyl. I must admit having a good turntable and sound system really helps here, and it was on first of all with the Deep Purple Singles As and Bs compilation on Harvest, which was a nice singles set spanning 1968 to 1971 in the main, so included the likes of Hush on side 1, but also the utterly brilliant Black Night on Side 2 (and therefore tune of the day) - it's definitely still a cracker that is.

It was then on later with Steve Winwood's Talking Back To The Night album which includes the single Valerie as the first track, way before it was butchered and sampled into that dance track Call On Me (I can vividly remember my Dad and I seeing the video to that thinking "what the hell have they done to that Steve Winwood classic?" - most likely with some swear words thrown in) - and overall it's a solid release. Of course people will remember the later album Back in the High Life for the likes of Higher Love off it, but still shows here how good and songwriter and musician he is.

It was what I could do during the day that was a little limited in parts - for example if I wanted to test sorting out a new build for machines, I can't do that physically but I've worked on other plans I can do, and there's still a planned rollout of some software which we can at least do remotely and there's ways that we can get some of that connectivity up and running to be able to do that, so it's a case of finding solutions and not problems where we can. The other important thing is that we're all in the same boat, so it's a case of accepting it and getting on with it too.

I spent some of the evening having a lovely chat with The Love In My Heart. I do miss her a lot to be perfectly honest, and she sent me a nice picture of Brian the cat on the chair all being cute and looking like he was saying hello to me via the phone camera. Awww, he's such a cutie even if he did try to scratch me the other day! I guess as well for us both that we're doing what we can to keep going and our phone call is a good way of supporting each other as much as we can. We've got this!

Monday 16th March - Working Homeward Bound

So, I got in to the office this morning, and well on time, but it did seem very quiet. Then I saw the email sent yesterday from work, most likely when I was on the train heading off homewards, which basically said that although the offices would be open, really it was going to be an enforced work from home for the next four weeks based on current assessment of what was going on. I thankfully wasn't the only one who had ventured in, we had some staff in the same boat - some left at lunch but I felt it sensible to crack on with what I was going to do today especially as I would be on site with better connectivity to get things done.

Actually I was glad I did as I was helping troubleshoot a weird issue we had with an Outlook web based add-in. For some users, it was not setting the corresponding dial in number correctly and resorting to a US based number even if the locale, language and time zone were all correctly set to the UK. I suspect somewhere that there may be some oddness around a profile setting or even a policy setting that might be not enforcing a time zone setting correctly. It also only seemed to be the Outlook client itself - and some versions. Upgrading one to a later version worked, but not for others, so maybe even some settings by the user too.

In any case, I was also able to do some final testing on our Windows 10 build revision (including all the updates up to March for one) before then getting our task sequence amended. Not of course that anyone can build any machines anyway: that needs a physical presence to do that and test it, and be on site - after all you can't really PXE boot via a VPN connection because that all happens pre-boot, so not exactly going to work. I'll need to raise that tomorrow and see how the land lies there just in case there may be a need for me to go in - even if it's once a week I could tie that in with a run up to Manchester.

Which leads me nicely on to the Prime Minister's daily speech. So effectively: work from home if you can (so our work place pre-empted that), avoid all contact where you can, and if you have symptoms, isolate for 14 days and don't even go out to get food. Oh, and even if you are well, we advise not to go down the pub. The key thing there is that phrasing is somewhat deliberate - so the pubs can remain open, but not forced to close, so of course anyone in hospitality such as restaurants can't claim on insurance. That's a real kick in the teeth for those that rely on not just the job put the punters coming in to their establishments too.

The Love In My Heart and I were having a chat tonight and we were both concerned that say if any further travel restrictions hit more, such as only absolutely necessary travel, that we may end up being apart for a length of time longer than planned. We of course want to still spend our lovely time together that we have, and so will keep an eye on developments, but one idea I did have was to pack a bigger case and spend longer there, working from home from her place and having Brian the cat as my helper. We shall see, but it's definitely worth consideration. In the meantime tune of the day is the Carly Paradis composed theme tune from Line of Duty, which she played on piano tonight in Union Chapel. If you were there to see that, then that would have been ace!

Sunday 15th March - Quayside Quandry

The Love In My Heart and I had a nice long lie in, and unashamedly so. The Love had been woken in the night by the purr and miaow of Brian the cat, who of course wanted either food or fussing. Even as we had our lie in he insisted on snuggling on the end of the bed and wanting some attention - he can be so needy sometimes. Brian of course does tend to sleep on the pillow I normally sleep on, so me being there probably doesn't help his routine somewhat. I do still adore him to bits though and plenty of playing ball with him was happening during the morning.

We decided to have a little walk around Salford Quays and also head to the Lowry Outlet Mall to have a mooch around the shops. It did seem fairly quiet, even the car park was quieter than normal. We did however manage to get some books for The Love's workplace in The Works - they do a really good deal on some books and it meant it'd be cheaper than elsewhere for the same good quality of book too - so definitely a plus. When it's 3 for £5 or 10 for £10, it's an easy decision to make and I think it was nice that I could help her choose some of the books too.

We did also head over and walk past the Coronation Street new set before then passing the likes of the large models of both Pudsey Bear and Upsy Daisy before having a quick walk into Booths as The Love fancied a bottle of wine for later - she also got some bananas for work too. It was very civilised, and sensible restrictions on hand wash and loo roll meant that there was enough to go round - if you needed any. We didn't, but was pleased to see a common sense approach in all the current madness taking place at the moment.

It was then to The Dockyard pub for some well earned late lunch and early tea. The beer on was on top form, especially the co-op one between Burton Road Brewing and another one, that was an apricot based amber ale. Rather gorgeous that it has to be said. I went for the haddock and chips, which was plentiful and very nice, and The Love went for the Sunday roast lamb which was also very good too. It was so chilled in there we did have another drink, and The Smiths' classic "Bigmouth Strikes Again" (ironic, eh, Morrissey?) was playing, so definitely tune of the day for me that one.

After a nice game of Scrabble later at The Love's place it was off to Piccadilly and on to the 1935 train to Euston. I got a seat in Coach C, had no one sat next to me all the way to Euston, and I had the iPod on to keep me company all the way down. In fact, I was also able to get the tube to Victoria relatively easily, and the train back to East Croydon was also very quiet. It did seem somewhat eerie to be honest but I was just doing what I normally do after seeing The Love over the weekend. We did have a good one and I do miss her a lot when we're not together.

Saturday 14th March - Parental Visits

After a nice morning basically fussing over Brian the cat, having some lovely breakfast and pottering around watching James Martin on Saturday morning, it was time to head out for the afternoon and see both our parents - and to be fair, whilst we still could, given the current situation as it develops. The Love In My Heart and I first of all headed over to see her father, who of course wanted to have his bets checked and some put on. As it turned out he had won on the Cheltenham Gold Cup yesterday and that was enough to cover today's bets and then some, so not too bad at all really.

I did venture into B&M Bargains near her father's place whilst out there, and sensibly not only had they stocked up on toilet roll, but had them on a pallet near the security guards on the front and were restricting it to one four pack per customer, and to be fair a pack of 4 Andrex for £2 is pretty good value anyway. The right way to do it methinks, and to be fair, I don't think people in there were going mental either, which was good to see. I did pick up a good bargain of a four pack of Goose Midway IPA cans for £3 though, so well worth the visit just for that to be perfectly honest.

It was then on to my Mum's afterwards, and she had my brothers looking at some overgrown ivy in the back garden. Both brothers expressed to me some concern that the weight of that plus the branches would end up taking part of the brick wall down that divides hers and next doors, and they hadn't been able to convince Mum, so I know how to press the buttons and she soon realised they were both right. We got that sorted out in good time and had a good chatter to both of them, and all seemed well eventually.

It was then on to the Elizabethan pub, where the conversation was all good and they had the rather nice Big Bad Wolf ale still on, so an easy win for me. Because of the build up to St Patrick's Day, they had some Irish type specials on, so The Love went for the Irish Stew, which to be fair was rather fullsome and nice, and I went for the steak pie, as I do. All was really nice and we nipped into the local Co-Op up the road later for some crisps and dips to have later when watching telly.

Back at The Love's place for the evening, we settled in and noted not much on, so we decided instead to watch the final episodes of Formula 1 Drive to Survive on Netflix instead. This proved to be a good move all round so we could see what was going on in the background at the end of the season, which was good, and also saw a lot of what was happening in that mad race in Brazil - glad they got a lot of coverage of that to be honest. And still means that I do miss Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" (obviously tune of the day) even more, especially as there is no F1 for the forseeable...

Friday 13th March - Unlucky All Round

So it was another day, and another set of decisions made in terms of the current situation. So, working from home was to be more encouraged (I get that) and also of course that where possible you'd be able to be sensible about what you can do. There were certainly less of us in the office today, but at least for those of us in it did mean that we were able to get on with quite a bit, and do whatever I could to process some checks and make sure we were in a good position to at least be ready for some future developments, depending on course on any future announcements.

Naturally after the announcement that there were some Premier League players and managers with symptoms of the coronavirus, it was a no-brainer that the Premier League and the EFL were going to suspend their competitions. Notably some managers expressed utter dismay at the Prime Minister's lack of leadership to stop large gatherings (something Scotland were already planning to do and time will prove if they were right) and that they were more concerned about the safety of players, quite right, but also of the fans who would come and turn up - and who knows what people might have?

In the end, the right decision, but definitely shouldn't have been up to those alone to decide, but sensible. I was still on to head up to Manchester tonight, and after work it was off on the walk towards Euston. I decided to go a different way, walking around the buildings of the University of London and then via Tavistock Square and then along the street towards Euston. It was good to be different and I waited patiently for the 1840 train, as my 1857 had been cancelled due to the fact it needed repairs.

The train did feel a little quieter, but in the unreserved carriage I was in (no reserved seat due to cancellcation, remember) was quite busy, but being sat on my own was quite nice. I was listening to some tunes on the iPod including the excellent "And Peace" final album from She Makes War, with various different and definitive versions of songs from her main four studio albums. To this day I still adore "Delete" and the version here is superb, so definitely tune of the day for me there.

It was so lovely to see The Love In My Heart, and I had missed her a lot. Brian the cat was being his playful self and had already played ball a bit, but allowed me to stroke him and give him the odd cuddle as he lay there contented whilst The Love and I watched Gogglebox on Channel 4 +1 and then onwards to The Last Leg, which was hilarious as ever, especially the at home Olympics with the various different events that they were doing, made us both laugh after what proved to be a tough week.

Thursday 12th March - Postponement

So, unsurprisingly, more sporting events are falling off the schedule due to the current situation around Coronavirus. A case in point was Manchester City's game with Real Madrid next week - the Spanish side have a basketball team that share the same ground and facilities, and one of those is down with the virus, so all the footballers are self-isolating as a precautionary measurer, meaning that it would be a case of not playing the game on safety grounds. And with the news the City defender Benjamin Mendy is having to isolate because a family member is down with the virus too, and there's worrying times ahead.

I think in general it's not necessarily a case of going over the top with the cancellations and following safe and sensible advice, but at the same time because currrently it's a great unknown which isn't necessarily curable but can be ridden over if your body is well enough, there's a plenty of precautions in place at the moment. Unfortunately it does also mean that there's a fair few things up in the air at the moment possibly. I'm doing what I can to carry on as normal as much as possible but obviously be smart and be safe.

I headed into one of the local newsagents on the way home, and noticably all the toilet roll is on a very high shelf so you can't reach it by default - he has to get it for you. I genuinely was down to one roll, but decided that one four pack was enough to last me a month or so, so didn't need lots. We had a chat about people panic buying and he said that was why he moved all the stock - and how one person was after six packs. I'm thinking to myself - why would anyone need 24 loo rolls if they're a normal functioning person? I can understand a bit more if say full of diarrhoea or IBS, but for everyone else.

I did have a nice relaxing sit down on the new sofa tonight watching the likes of Hunted on Channel 4, which was definitely interesting. The hunters finally got hold of one of the fugitives near Knutsford after a chase through houses and fields, and it was noticeable that it was a multi-person effort to get that. I think too that it shows just how much CCTV can prove an undoing, such as one near the caravan lock up hidden site that the couple from Wigan were staying at - no wonder they decided it'd be best to move sooner rather than later.

I also spent some time listening to some classic vinyl including the Traffic album John Barleycorn Must Die again. I have the original first release pink "i" Island label version with its slightly hessian sleeve, and it still plays pretty well. I think too for me that it's one of those albums where you can play it all without any filler, but side one in particular is as good as any on any record - it's true. The middle track "Freedom Rider" really does have a good groove in amongst its slightly darker feel, so that's tune of the day for me, no question.

Wednesday 11th March - Sofa, So Good

It was a case of me working from home today - and for a very good reason. My new sofa was arriving! A few months back I had a chat with The Love In My Heart and we thought that actually me getting a new sofa would be a good idea - I've lived in my apartment for four years now, and the small sofa and chair that came with part of the furniture was getting a bit old and tired. I had checked with the landlord and they had responded with the fact that I could get that put into storage (so they could replace it back when I left, makes sense) and that means all would be well and good.

The concierge had got in touch with me yesterday and he would arrange with me this morning a time to get the old stuff moved - and to be fair he is brilliant, so managed to get that sorted. I discovered then where the storage place was - within the building, in a secured area, and completely dry inside, so all good. We got all of that moved and safely stowed in good time which meant I was then able to sort out the floor, give it also a good clean over with the floor wipes as well, making it all lovely for when the new one arrived.

Just after lunch I'd had a phone call from the delivery folks at DFS, and they were running a bit early and would I be able to accept the delivery early. But of course, and soon enough,the van arrived and the two blokes were all good. One of them did an initial reccy of where they were going, brought everything up in a big box, and then assembled the sides and the legs on (made sense these weren't on initially to save height and meaning it came in a smaller package) and soon enough, all was good. I'd ordered the Eaziglide things to add to the bottom of the legs, meaning no floor damage and easier to move as needed, and that was good - and they took away all the packaging too. Winning.

I had a good sit down after I'd finished my working at home stint, and I have to say the experience was rather lovely. It felt very comfortable indeed and I can imagine The Love In My Heart sat here with me all snuggly (not to mention Brian the cat, he'd love it!) and definitely felt comfortable. I think too as it's relatively straightforward to turn it into a temporary bed, it means that I can have people over to stay and not have to necessarily sort out an air bed - so double win. Mainly of course I wanted the sofa to be comfy, and it definitely is, so winning there.

I spent the evening watching some telly and also sorting out a shed load of ironing, but also listening to some music as well. I decided to blast out some Rolling Stones as I'd got the two LP compilation the other week from Sifters, and it proved to be a good idea all round. Side four of the 2-LP is just classic after classic, starting with Jumpin' Jack Flash but also including the vastly under-rated Gimme Shelter (make that one tune of the day) and also having the likes of Honky Tonk Woman, Sympathy for the Devil (the full six minutes too) and Brown Sugar as well. Thirty tracks across four sides, and can't argue with that really.

Tuesday 10th March - Panic On The Streets Of Croydon

I wonder to myself.. as The Smiths song might have gone if Morrissey decided to walk down the North End in central Croydon and go past the shops (needless to say said song is tune of the day). However, the panic buying that seems to have engulfed the country in the last few days over the coronavirus outbreak definitely has hit plenty of places. Last week I headed into Savers and got one bottle of handwash for the bathroom (which I normally have) and didn't feel like being selfish and clearing the shelves. Not that I had to, really, plenty of others were doing just that over the weekend it seemed. That and toilet roll are scarce right now.

On the way home from work, I didn't actually need anything but wondered just what level of stupidity and panic people are going to, more so when you consider that the flu bug, which comes around each year, causes much more deaths and yet all the standard advice around that (wash your hands properly, catch it, bin it, kill it etc) seemed to have falled on deaf ears. So into Poundland and zero toilet roll and zero hand wash, yet plenty of soap - and the enzymes in soap actually are much better in some cases of killing off bacterial infections. Granted it's old school, but still.

On to Savers next door and they had signage outside saying they were out of hand sanitizers, and indeed they were, but soap was available and no toilet roll either. Iceland was a similar story and their store was also rationing the likes of paracetemol and other painkillers to a sensible maximum which did make perfect sense (in fact ibuprofen appeared to be scarce the other week when I had a cold, and managed to get a pack in the Co-Op by Piccadilly station cheaply). Sainsburys Local too was also the same in terms of toilet roll. Honestly, it's absolute madness and there are some people who are clearly being just idiots.

The Love In My Heart did tell me that the large Asda near hers is a similar story of wanton carnage and clearout, and yet, it made us both wonder: did people actually exercise hand hygeine properly before all of this, or are they all in fear of having to self-isolate and not even venture out of the house whatsoever? It did make me think too that perhaps the common sense approach is not to be selfish and to actually think how much things would last anyway - as I live on my own and wash regularly, a good bottle of handwash can last me three months or so without a problem, so not really a big issue on that one.

Still though, it also shows just how worried people are too and with people now dying here in the UK, at some point the number of cases will peak but I suspect as the weather gets warmer, that might also kill things off well too. I think the main thing is to be clean, be careful and be respectful, but until it's said otherwise it should be business as usual and to exercise good old common sense - so if you are feeling particularly bad, don't go to the doctor's and risk infecting anyone else at the same time. Not difficult really...

Monday 9th March - Race Across The Americas

So last night I spent an enjoyable hour or so watching the first of the new series of Race Across The World. I really liked the last one, as did The Love In My Heart, and we were both rooting for Darron and Alex, although in the end Tony and Elaine won and showed the others how it was done in terms of managing to get across quickly and cheaply to Singapore. I wondered how it would shape up with five pairs starting off initially, and what looked like a longer series of nine episodes instead of six that the first series had.

So in effect, it's more Race Across The Americas, as the five pairs start in Mexico City and have to get to the most southerly city in the world, which is Ushuaia in Argentina. From what I could see this involved getting to various check points across central and South America beforehand, so lots to work out, but also places to avoid along the way and plan the route - so for example part of northern Guatemala was involved in some form of civil war and so that was a no-go area, so you headed to the south of that country or you headed via Belize and then a ferry across and avoided the bit you didn't need.

Certainly getting out of Mexico City itself proved to be quite challenging, but blowing a decent percentage of the budget on a taxi fare wasn't exactly going to be the answer. The mother and son couple from Manchester had it reasonably worked out, and sensibly asked the locals later on for a good and practical route which meant that they got across Guatemala and into Copan Ruinas in Honduras much quicker than anyone, and located the hotel on the outskirts, and just before a tropical storm hit leaving two of the couples having to wait it out in a hostel!

It definitely focussed more on the dynamic of the pairs taking part, but also how the landscape and the journey changed en route for many of them, with one pair not realisng they'd have to get a ticket in advance for the boat across from Belize and having to wait an extra day - a real killer of time if ever there was one. Also, there does appear to be plenty of different route options and work options too to top up the money required to get to the end, so there is at least that to consider. I liked that from the first series, meaning you had to be sensible and not just try and mega rush through with expensive options, but have more of an adventure, so all good.

As for today, it was a busy day all told at work, mainly because I was ensuring that the Windows OS version upgrades went out and it would effectively be mandatory because they are in scope to do so. On the whole it's going pretty well, and does at least mean that for a fair number of users, they're moving over to be up to date nicely but also meaning next time around it should be a much less painful cycle - at least that is the theory anyway. I think too that all the testing I did worked wonders and shows that there's much more openness about what we do. And with that tune of the day is the excellent "Albert Went Out To See Rock Bands" by Gavin Osborn, which I had in my head on the way home as the evening set in..

Sunday 8th March - Year 3

I had a good lie in and it was nice just to have a longer sleep, I admit. The weather was set to be okay for the morning but then chucking it down in the afternoon, so decided that I'd head out but go somewhere that I'd be inside, so if it did rain, I wouldn't be too bad. I also thought that I wanted to go and see some art exhibitions anyway, particularly the Year 3 one by the photographer Steve McQueen, and so it would be nice to go inside the Tate Britain near Millbank anyway at the same time.

I headed on the train to Clapham Junction and changed there for the train to Vauxhall, crossing over the bus station and then Vauxhall Bridge to Millbank, and walked past the large Henry Moore sculpture, and then on to the front entrance of Tate Britain. It is an impressive building from the outside, and from the inside even more so - it really looks gorgeous with its entrance dome and the light coming in, with wide corridors and plenty of spaces to be able to show off artwork.

The main hall in front had the Steve McQueen Year 3 exhibition, over 3,000 pictures of Year 3 classes in primary schools in London and the surrounding boroughs. Sensibly and for child protection reasons, none of the pictures tell you what school it is, it's just the children and their teacher and any teaching assistants. It certainly looked imposing seeing all the pictures in columns of 12 from floor to ceiling and showing off the varied schools in terms of their numbers of children and staff, but also a real sense of pride being able to take part. In fact other exhibits around the Tate are for children who visit, asking them what inspired the artist etc, which ties in with them seeing the Year 3 thing - more so if one of the schools involved pays a visit too.

The other positive I took note of (and more so due to International Women's Day) was the numbers of women teachers who were present in the pictures, inspiring children to learn, develop and grow and give them a good education and start in life. I definitely think that was a big positive, as well as the care and heart shown all round - a number of schools were fully inclusive and had some children in wheelchairs in the picture, showing them all to be equal in terms of appearing in the picture. That for me definitely was also a plus.

I also had a good look around the modern art exhibitions from the 1930s onwards and the Henry Moore hall, showing plenty from the legendary sculptor. Some of the 1930s art also included sculptures from the renowned Barbara Hepworth as well, definitely good to see. It definitely was a case of enjoying all of that art, and I could hear the rain hammering the gallery ceiling, so was good to head into the shop and have a good look round there. This included a nice section which had the likes of Miffy there (Miffy the artist books, and a lovely crafted Miffy in three different outfits too) so all was good.

I headed back to Pimlico and then on to Victoria, and stopped off at Wandsworth Common on the way back to have a well earned drink in the Belleville Brewery tap room. It was much quieter and it meant I could have their wicked good ale for a mere £3 and relax with it, and that was definitely enjoyable before heading back home to relax for the evening - definitely need to be watching Race Across The World later on, that's for sure. It looks like a different route than last time which is a shame as I quite liked the UK to Singapore epic journey!

Naturally also, I've been inspired by many women in my lifetime (The Love In My Heart being one of them) and it's been a case of listening to many inspiring women in music: Kristin Hersh, Skin from Skunk Anansie, PJ Harvey, She Makes War, and many more besides. In fact I decided to blast out the first PJ Harvey album Dry because it's still a classic, and from that the single "Dress" is tune of the day - I proudly own the 12" single of this which is still just wonderful.

Saturday 7th March - Mud, Sweat and Beer

It was a free weekend for me this weekend as I wasn't heading up to Manchester, but had an idea what I wanted to do with some of the time. I really wanted to get the next section of the London Loop walk done, and it was section 4 - one of the longest stages as well, some ten miles between West Wickham Common and Hamsey Green. As it turned out I could get the bus to the start and from the end of each stage as well, so that definitely was a good thing. It was a case of having some porridge for breakfast, changing the bedding etc and then getting ready with my walking boots on to head out.

After a nice bus journey on the 119 bus it was then time to head off for Coney Hall, and soon I saw the stone to commemorate the Meridian Line as well as a nice church and a field full of some lovely horses too. That set the tone that the scenery was lovely, but the moment I started to walk uphill into the first of many pieces of woodland, through Spring Park and into Threehalfpenny Wood, the tone was set for the walk - plenty of climbing, lots of woodland and also lots of muddy paths. Plenty of people with dogs were around walking too and were all really friendly, which was lovely.

After a walk into Shirley Heath it was then back into another wood, Kennel Wood, following the path by some houses and then onto one of the roads in Shirley, following this for around a mile or so before turning off for some woodland, then going along a road and crossing Upper Shirley Road with the Shirley Windmill visible in the distance (I've been there, it's ace). It was then through more woodland and then climbing up Addington Hills, and the view from the top viewing point was pretty excellent - you could see The Shard from here even on a not so clear day, and it was well worth the climb up, followed by a walk along towards Coombe Lane and the tram stop.

Another highlight of the walk for me was following the paths along and down towards Heathfield House, which looked idyllic with a view over fields and a pond with ducks in. It was back out of there and following the paths down through Bramley Bank, crossing then to Littleheath Woods. In fact you carry on following the same path as the Vanguard Way, around some houses and then down into Selsdon Woods, and following the Addington Border path (again very muddy!) and then at the bottom turning right, spotting the Forestdale bus terminus for the 353 bus along the way.

It was then walking along the path with Selsdon Woods one one side and Puplet Wood on the other, and this was relatively level until you came out onto a main road, close to Farleigh Golf Club which looked posh. It was then following along towards a footpath that skirted around a farm, and that was incredibly muddy, so much so that the front top of one of the boots had mud on the outside (which said a lot). It was a long way down but then a long way back up more muddy paths, and then on to Kingswood Lane at the very top and over the stile - you pass by an equestrian centre and eventually get to Hamsey Green too with its pond.

I did feel a little tired and muddy but it was a good walk well worth doing and soon was heading on the 403 bus back to Croydon. I decided to put all my clothes in the wash because I had been sweating a lot with all the walking up and down hill, but it was worth it, and got changed into something nice so I could then head off to West Croydon station and take the train to Gipsy Hill. Fanny the station cat was in her little cat hut and having a well earned snooze but she looked adorable as ever, and it was down the hill and following the signs for the Gipsy Hill brewery and tap room.

It was a really nice place (albeit card only,boo!) and they had 20 different beers on tap, so not just their own either which was good to see, and prices ranged from around £5 upwards for a pint, depending in some cases on strength and so on. It was also busy because of the rugby but outside was quieter and it wasn't that cold, so I had the Baller ale at first and noticed the rather nice burger stand outside too, and once I'd had that I noted inside they had cans for sale, but not just their own, others too, and saw this interesting blackcurrant and apricot pale ale from Skyline, and it was a mere £2 whether you drank in or took it away, and had that. It was surprisingly good actually it has to be said!

It was then back on the train later to West Croydon and timed it right for the train and then headed into the Sainsburys near me, as I noted they had one or two beers reduced. I got the last three of the Brewdog Dead Pony Club, a good session IPA and steady, for a mere £1 too which was good too. It was then watching the final of The Greatest Dancer (something I'd have watched with The Love anyway) and Michael and Jowita (with Oti Mabuse) blitzed the Sweet classic Ballroom Blitz (make that tune of the day) with a superb routine. I was so glad that they won!

Friday 6th March - Thank God I've Gone To Iceland

It was a busy day in the office today primarily because I wanted to get a bit of prepatory work done for next week, but also because I was helping troubleshoot an issue that we've had getting one of our connectors to work with the Snow inventory system. After a second check and test today I suspect this is down to the way that the generated URI appears not to want to play ball at all times and times out after a time period, so definitely something we need to look at on the Monday to see what can be done to resolve it.

I also spent some time checking over the machines which are below the supported version of WIndows 10 and compared the user name against what their record showed in Active Directory, to see if the users were disabled and that may indicate leavers where we need to make sure we get the kit back - and I've passed that information on to the service team. It's definitely for me notable that it's always hard to try and see that things are returned but considering the cost of a device, it's definitely well worth doing so.

In any case, I do think that you've always got to sort out things and be the one to have to make sure that some form of management of devices is done in those situations, so definitely for me is important. I think as well that to be honest that when there are other issues going on they can be put to the back burner, but I have to say that when you see what is happening with say the share price of the place you work at, you want to be sure that everything is completely and fully accountable of course.

After I headed home I picked up some carrier bags and headed off to the local Iceland, as I wanted to get a bit of freezer shopping and make sure that I was able to stock up for this weekend and beyond, especially as I wasn't going up to Manchester this weekend (and I will miss The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat dearly of course.) It was nice just to walk round the corner to Iceland and locate some good bargains, including their nice stonebaked pizzas (especially the barbecue meat feast one) being three for £4, which is very nice, and lots of other good discounts along the way.

I did spend a grand total of £19 and had two large carrier bags for life completely full, which definitely for me was impressive stuff, and not a prawn ring in sight. I think too that it's sensible where you're able to stock up and spend less, and reminded me of the classic Bennet single "Mum's Gone To Iceland" (make that one tune of the day) where it's all about the commercialism peddling what you can't afford, with the band proclaiming "Thank god my Mum has gone to Iceland" which is a play on words of their old advert. It's still a song I love now around twenty five years after it came out.

Thursday 5th March - Documenting Dilemmas

This morning I put through a planned change which was to modify Group Policy in Windows and a set of managed preferences implemented in JAMF Pro for Macs, where effectively we blocked more Google Chrome extensions and added them to the blacklist accordingly. It worked well but it was a good opportunity to document the settings that were set for Mac in the plist file and how to parse it as well as get it in the right format to be able to use too. And of course it would serve as a handy reference document.

So, with a view of testing some of the new things we're bringing in, I decided to document it a different way using a different application, and noting what worked well and what didn't work compared to Microsoft Word, and the way that there may be either workarounds or slightly different methods of working. It was pretty obvious to me over time that for some of the advanced features, that Word generally is the answer and that you're able to get things consistently right over time.

What did surprise me was that in the other application I was using how many of the features seemed either somewhat crippled or an afterthought put in. So for me and others who use the headers to be suitable chapter sections, ie: 1. for Heading 1 and then 1.1, 1.2 etc for Heading 2, that's relatively good to go in Word and you can tailor the styles to be set that way, and save them out as part of a style to apply or in your document template. Not the same elsewhere, you could get the font and paragraph settings saved, but the numbering insisted on being tabbed across and not allowing you to necessarily set that - a quite annoying limitation actually.

In the end I worked around it by not using the inbuilt bullets and numbering but instead doing that by hand with a tab across to the title, although because I was still using Heading 1, Heading 2 etc, at least all the other formatting did what I wanted it to. I've reported the findings back on that along with other observations I've spotted as there were some useful findings too - and always good to be constructive where possible instead, which works a treat admittedly.

What didn't help was the fact that the trains home were all not very good, and I thought I might have to walk further in the rain and redirect the journey, but eventually the trains got moving again and admittedly it was standing room only all the way home, which is pretty bad really. I stopped off at the local Savers on the way back and got myself some cough medicine and some other bits, and battled through the rain home, to relax in front of the telly with some Hunted later on (make the theme tune of that one tune of the day.)

Wednesday 4th March - Anniversary Sheffield Wednesday

It was one year ago today that I started my current job, and it's really flown by in that time to be honest. It's been pretty positive on the whole and it's been to more of an inclusive friendlier culture of work, where there's a sense of working much more as a team and being able to be suitably rewarded for what you do. I must admit that for me at least it's been a refreshing change, particularly when I see what's been happening at my last workplace on the whole. It's now a case of progressing onwards from there, but on the whole positive.

I also made a couple of good inroads today into sorting out more machines to be upgraded from an unsupported Windows 10 the current version. A number of users had invoked the upgrade task sequence, and noticably one or two had seen it fail because of the fact that they didn't have enough disk space - and hence I'd actually put a note on screen to say make sure you have space free before continuing. In some cases they'd done what they could to free that up, restarted it all, and it worked flawlessly for them - so definitely a positive step in the right direction.

It'll also be noticeable I think when it comes down to migrating those with a supported version to a new one to be able to see what the take up is automatically, but also how many machines are actually online in the first place to be able to do so. For me at least it'll be good to see what happens but also so we know that there's a sensible plan of action going forward to push everyone on to something supported all round. That formed part of my plans for the weekly report that I've got to do and sort out, so definitely a plus.

Later on once I got home it was on with BBC1 and to Match of the Day, with Manchester City away at Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup fifth round. It wasn't admittedly the best game ever, primarily because the home side were camped in their own half and City doing all they could to break them down. It was goalless at half time and just after the start of the second half, the ball was played through to Sergio Agüero who hit the ball low and hard, it spun off the goalkeeper's arms and in to the net eventually, so 1-0 to City.

And that's how it stayed throughout the rest of the game, and the draw was made afterwards - Newcastle United away. That will also mean for definite our league game against them will be postponed as it's the weekend of the FA Cup semi final and of course either of us will definitely be through now due to that draw. Also our game at Chelsea on 22nd March is off for the same reason due to the 6th round, so the fixtures will pile up somewhat. It was nice tonight to hear some chants for the likes of Yaya Touré, Edin Džeko et al as well as the current side, and they were in good voice in a sparsely covered ground elsewhere. Tune of the day is the old City classic "The Boys In Blue", as like the song says, they never give in, and didn't tonight either.

Thursday 3rd March - Court In Training

It was a different day for me today as not only was I heading off on some training stroke seminar thing to do with one of the systems we're adopting and moving to, but also being able to get some questions answered along the way. As it transpired the only room that we were able to book was in one of our buildings that I had never been in before - and that was a nice new experience. It's actually close to the Savoy Theatre and the hotel, so was a different route to work today.

What I could have done without was the trains being a bit poor, but my bus knowledge came in handy. I stayed on the train to City Thameslink, got out at the St Paul's side and literally jumped straight on the number 11 to Fulham Broadway which stops right outside the Savoy Theatre, meaning I got there on time. In addition to all that, it also meant that I was able to sort out entrance to the building via the reception staff, and get up to the fourth floor where some of our staff was based, and we had their large meeting room all day.

Overall, things went well. It was a little bit show and tell in terms of how some of the options would work and what you could do from a web based administration side. We are of course using an identity provider already and so it was a case of being able to parse that correctly for login, which appeared to work fine. I also had to be set up with a test account because I didn't have one, but made sure I went through some initial setup and tests which appeared to be fine.

One concern I do have is that the external company helping us out with this appear to be less concerned about data privacy and protection than I would like, and did challenge the person on that. I think for me it's because I actually care about my own data, and especially with recent changes to where some data potentially is being stored, that there's potentially a clash with someone who works for a small company where they can afford to be more laissez-faire about things. Interesting times ahead, but the day did go pretty well.

In fact it was good that three of us from our team plus one of our Service Team colleagues who's joined us for the next part of the major project all had a drink down the road at the Coal Hole, a decent Nicholsons pub which of course means decent beer for me. It was sort of an early anniversary of work drink if you like, but good nonetheless, especially with some decent tunes in the background, and more so later when I got the train home from Charing Cross - so tune of the day is the rather good "Don't Rain On My Parade" from the Funny Girl musical, which The Love In My Heart and I saw at the Savoy Theatre.

Monday 2nd March - Drive To Survive

It was good to be back in the swing of things in terms of going to work today and I think it was a positive that overall I had been able to show quite a few good ideas moving forward. I also noted a few differences in how settings were being managed for Chrome in both MacOS and Windows and wanted some form of uniformity, so dropped a note to our infromation security folks as well so they could cast their eyes over and offer any suggestions as to what should happen.

One of that team had a chat with me later and told me (in ear shot of management which was nice!) that he appreciated the open dialogue that we now have and things work much better because of it. I think too that because I've got an eye for this sort of thing an want to be sure that we're doing the right thing generally, it's a positive so I'm taking that today - and indeed overall a good positive to have I think. I also worked on a couple of extra applications that we could distribute accordingly and that appeared to work well so have informed one of our folks in Baltimore about it.

It will be different tomorrow as I'm off to one of our buildings that I haven't been to before, so definitely going to be a new experience. It does mean I'd be quite close to Covent Garden though so that might be a good temptation for lunch if it isn't provided already! I think too that as we're approaching the next stages of a project going on, I'll have some more involvement anyway and tomorrow is a lot about finding out how we're going to do some of the day to day administration, so will be good to keep an eye on all that and learn something new - after all you do never stop learning!

It was good to get home and later on Netflix I watched the first few episodes of the new series of Formula 1: Drive to Survive, filmed during last season. It was particularly interesting to go behind the scenes of course, especially at Haas, where their boss Guenther Striner, wasn't particularly inspiring and seemed to want to swear and rant a lot about the car being not very good - and a forthcoming legal wrangle with their title sponsor Rich Energy - which did make you wonder if the boss of said company was all that he claimed to be about their drink and what it could do for you (and avoiding being sued by Red Bull at the same time..)

It was also fascinating as one episode focussed on the contrasts of moving teams with Daniel Ricciardo going to Renault, effectively replacing Carlos Sainz Jr, who went to McLaren and managed to start off his season with back to back points finishes in Azerbaijan and Spain. In fact, as the season progressed, Sainz was consistent throughout and McLaren's faith in him was repaid massively and finished 6th in the drivers championship, the highlight being a 3rd place podium finish in Brazil (McLaren's first since Australia 2014 nonetheless!) - but I still do miss the classic Fleetwood Mac track The Chain (make that tune of the day) for the F1..

Sunday 1st March - Close To The (Alderley) Edge

The Love In My Heart and myself got ourselves up with Brian the cat wanting lots of fussing and attention, as he is of course prone to do. I must admit he is all cute when he wants to be of course but also quite likes all the playing ball he gets, especially from me. He had decided to hide in his blue tent with a paw each side of the two entrances to it, and then as I would bounce the ball he would use either paw to swipe along and hit it away. Granted it was clever, but he knew what he was doing!

We decided in the afternoon to take a walk and part of me thought that Hare Hill, just the other side of Alderley Edge, might be quite nice, so we took the way down Kingsway and were soon on the A34 Wilmslow bypass which was busy, before then heading through Alderley Edge village and turning left to head up the hill and towards Alderley Edge itself. Normally at the National Trust car park, you can't always get a space, but a film crew was around doing some period drama (we think) so part of the car park had been closed off, but when we got there The Love spotted a space and was on it (good on her!) - and if you're a National Trust member, parking is free, which is what we did.

We followed the path that would effectively be one of the Wizard's walks with blue signs, this would take you along one of the main paths that doubled as an access road and gradually uphill towards woodland before then following to the left and going uphill, towards the Edge itself and the Hearth of Albion view point with its rocky outlook. The views were lovely and it showed the countryside below wonderfully, and we followed the walk though some woodland and to another observation point, then the path went back downhill and to the car park, doing my favourite as The Love calls it, "a loop!"

We noted The Wizard Tearoom and stopped in there for a cake and coffee. It was actually really nice and we got a cosy seat inside with the log burner on, and the raspberry and white chocolate cake we both had was gorgeous, as was the latte and capuccino we had too. I can imagine this being very busy in the Summer with walkers but a lot of cyclists were also around today having a well earned brew and some lunch after heading up the hills to get to here - a nice reward after a good ride methinks. We both really enjoyed it and although the pub next door is closed, the tea room was doing pretty well it has to be said!

After that we headed to John Lewis in Cheadle for a good look around and then it was off to the Parrs Wood pub close to East Didsbury for some well earned Sunday lunch. I have to say that the Sunday Roasts were very nice in here, plenty of vegetables and a good portion of meat and some paprika spiced roasties that were totally spot on - and extra gravy too. The Love and I both enjoyed that a lot and all the pictures up on the wall too, especially those with local bands on, so made me think of Sifters down the road and Oasis' Shakermaker, so make that one tune of the day.

Later on back at The Love's place we fussed over Brian the cat for a bit before having the telly on, and relaxing to some chilled out vibes as well. I didn't want to go home really and gave The Love a few hugs with Brian almost wanting some too, before I headed back to Manchester Piccadilly for the train homewards. Thankfully no incidents and delays and arrived at Euston on time, and was back home in good time to hit the pillow and head for a well earned sleep. A busy week ahead methinks!