Dear Diary... November 2016

Wednesday 30th November - Solutions

So today proved to be a rather good day. I got to the bottom of the Chrome issue. In fact, there's two things you need to do. First of all, you have to stipulate what tabs to open and which web pages when the browser first runs if you don't want the Google welcome page with a video to say "ooh look, change your default browser to us!" - so naturally I set this to be one tab with the company Intranet page, which is their default. Then, by examining the preferences file that Chrome dumps in the local AppData part of the profile, and reading through that, came this preference: "should_reset_check_default_browser": false - and this pretty much does what it says. It won't reset the check for the default browser, so won't appear.

All good when that worked, and indeed later on I also did some tweaking to the install of Adobe Reader DC via the Customization Wizard so that all the annoying Adobe Reader update services and the scheduled tasks do not install. This is actually a lot trickier than Adobe would have you believe though: instead of just having a simple tick box to say disable all updates, it turns out that even with that on, Adobe want you to have it all automatic updating, even if you specified that in the wizard. Rather naughty, actually.

A bit of digging later, and it transpires that there's two particular properties in the Direct Editor part that you can set. It's obscure, but it does work, and does not install either the Windows service for automatic updates, or the scheduled tasks to attempt to do the same, and so leaves the machine nice and clean, allowing for updates to be pushed out when you want to, and when it's been thoroughly tested. And that to be honest is a much better approach as it means then you have control when you want to.

So, the first setting is to go to the InstallExecuteSequence table in the Direct Editor. There should be a record with the name AddTask.BDCA7721_F290_4124_BBED_7A15FE7694EB - and set this condition to NEVER, so it never installs. That'll take care of the Scheduled Task part. Then go to the Feature table, and go to the ARM feature - set this to a level higher than 100 (I set this to 999 just to be on the safe side). And then, once all saved out and your install called, it'll not add the task or service. Win, but really if you choose to disable product updates via the Wizard, you shouldn't have to use such brute force tactics either.

I've also been keeping an eye on the UK Snooker Championship at the Barbican in York this week. I've actually been there myself to see the snooker, and as it's now down to two tables it's a much better setting to go and watch - this happens till Saturday when it's one table for both the semis and final, and so in a way matches the latter stages of being at the Crucible in Sheffield. I just wish they'd bring back the proper snooker theme, ie: Drag Racer by the Doug Wood Band (make that tune of the day) and all would be well with the world...

Tuesday 29th November - Diversions

I spent some time today packaging up new versions of the standard applications we use across the whole desktop estate at work. One priority was the new version of Microsoft Power BI (they tend to release a new version each month). When they do, it's notable that the Windows Installer MSI product code is different every time, so in terms of distributing it as an application in SCCM 2012, it's fairly easy to have the detection rule for the MSI product code only, as it's unique to each release. It's also a good idea to set some supersedence in there if you need it too.

Anyway, as it also turned out, the recent versions have one thing that you do need to place in your MSI installation command line, as if you don't, the software doesn't install silently - you need to ensure that the ACCEPT_EULA=1 switch is there. Not doing so will mean that calling the MSI silently won't work - it just stays there. You can also add the INSTALLDESKTOPSHORTCUT=0 paramater if you don't want the desktop shortcut and want to keep it clean, as most of us do.

I then spent some time with the new version of Google Chrome, the enterprise version, with a view to packaging that. All good in terms of getting silent installs of the MSI done, the additional Google Update services removed after the fact and so on. However, despite there being a master_preferences file which gives all the preferences such as not showing any screens to force the default browser, it seems that on first launch it'll ask the user "do you want to make Chrome your default browser?" which is not what we want, especially as (as in most corporate companies) Internet Explorer tends to be the default, for a good reason - some third party web-based software is still badly designed and generally only works in IE. Meh, I know.

However, it looks like after first run you don't get a reminder, and of course by that point the user preferences have been populated in their Local AppData folder. To re-simulate a first run test, removing the Google folder from there will be as if you logged on the first time and launched Chrome, and with plenty of hot desking going on (plus of course the Local AppData wouldn't be part of the roaming profile anyway) it'd be good to be sure it works. I have a theory on this which if successful I'll reveal tomorrow.

I also had to take a different way home due to more bobbins trains, so it was the 55 bus to Oxford Circus, followed by a slow way in to the tube station to get to Victoria, and then a train to East Croydon from there. Thankfully as it turned out I was able to get a seat fairly easily as I'd worked out the platform to get on, and had walked down far enough to be sure that I'd be one of the first ones in. It's a fine art really, and sort of got that trained eye now.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather good "Ich Bin Ein Auslander" by Pop Will Eat Itself. As their former lead front man and film composer Clint Mansell mentioned tonight, it shoudn't still be relevant, but if anything it's more relevant than ever, with its cautious words over the rise of the right, the way that ethnic cleansing was happening and that the freedom of expression is no use for racism whatsoever. A classic then and still one now.

Monday 28th November - Freezing Farringdon

Going back to work after a few lovely days off is always a bit of a bind. Not because I don't enjoy the job I do, far from it. However it was the colder weather that certainly was one to take note of. I was at least covering the late shift this week so it meant a 10am start and leaving the flat for work around 8.30am to get the 0854 train to Farringdon. Except this morning, it was heavily delayed beyond belief, as were a fair number of trains as well. So much so that I got one to Victoria that had been delayed, then took the District Line tube to Blackfriars and then on the train to Farringdon. It did at least mean I arrived on time, although exiting Farringdon showed how cold it was.

In fact it was even colder after the day at work too with the temperature supposedly dropping to minus figures overnight. It's at times like this (and it was notable how cold it was when I went out to get some lunch as well) just how nice it is to have a flat that is usually quite warm and of course has central heating to keep it all nice and cosy too. As The Love In My Heart correctly said, the old house, although it had gas fires, didn't have central heating, and it was relying on electric heaters or electric radiators to keep the chill off, and not exactly ideal. Being somewhere well insulated is a massive difference to be honest.

I also noted today that overall in the two days I was off, the initial Windows 10 rollout was going reasonably well. There had been some issues with regards to older pieces of hardware that were being reimaged, but on the whole this was down to the fact that some of that hardware was not so good, and didn't particularly like to take the new version of Windows so well. We did expect this to a degree so it's good to have some contingency in there. I've also been tasked with checking a few things over in terms of applications, so it's been good that a lot of the reporting I managed to do proved very useful indeed.

I also spent some time tonight watching Only Connect, and yet again one team came back from six points down with the Missing Vowels being blitzed massively, especially the fact that they got all four butterfly clues spot on without any problems whatsoever. They had given themselves their own mountain to climb by fluffing the connecting wall though, not spotting at least three of the groups that I had done. Maybe I need to think about forming a team to go on there - if that means meeting Victoria Coren Mitchell into the bargain, that might not be a bad thing either.

Tune of the day in the meantime is perhaps an apt title considering the slighly more wintry chill that's around at the moment - the excellent "Numb" by Portishead. Still one of those massively under-rated 1990s classic songs that I adored at the time and still do now. In fact, let's be blunt about this: if you don't own a copy of their debut album "Dummy" then you need to go and order it, sort of now, and then listen to the wonderfully haunting vocals throughout, especially here.

Sunday 27th November - Showdown Sunday

We both had a long lie in today, and had rested ourselves nicely from being out and about for most of the weekend. Both of us were still buzzing from the show last night too, and once I woke up I made us both some coffee followed by a nice bacon toastie, using up the remainder of the nice thick unsmoked rashers I got. In fact we thought it'd be good to stay in, watch the F1, head out for Sunday lunch and then head off to Euston so that The Love In My Heart could get her train back up North.

And so on with the F1, and the title decider, live on Channel 4, with the full team on the go. The Love remarked that Susie Wolff always looks classy and stylish and that Steve Jones actually is doing a decent job as host - and I have to agree. Having David Coulthard and Mark Webber though works really well, as it showed on the grid walk as they were able to get people to talk to them, and even managed to earlier get Roger Federer in to talk to the team on his first visit.

The race itself was tense, primarily due to strategy calls from Red Bull allowing Max Verstappen to one stop and be in with a shout, and then Lewis Hamilton deliberately pacing himself a little slower than usual allowing the likes of Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo and later on Sebastian Vettel to close up to Nico Rosberg with the possibility of Nico being passed. The team gave various orders to Lewis which he ignored (debatable on whether he should have listened) but in the end, it was a case of Lewis winning, Nico second, and that second place was enough for him to win the World Championship by five points.

In fact it was also two bits of history created: in 1962 Graham Hill won his first F1 title, and 34 years later in 1996 Damon Hill won in Japan and won his title. Fast forward to 1982 and Keke Rosberg got fifth at Caesars Palace to win his world title, and in 2016 now Nico has won. So not only was it the second father and son to both win a world title, but both of them were thirty four years apart and twenty years from each other in terms of distance. So does that mean Michael Schumacher's son will win the world title in 2036 (Michael won the world title in 2002, albeit not his first, but you get the idea)?

Later on we headed via Victoria to Warren Street and off to the Crown and Anchor for Sunday lunch, where as per usual, the staff were wonderful, the ale on good form and the food lovely. The Love had the Sunday roast chicken and I had the fish and chips, both of which were lovely too. In fact they even had the Thornbridge Brewery's festive ale, the Wild Holly, which was gorgeous. It was then off to Euston and a sad farewell to The Love as she headed home, but we both agreed we'd had a lovely weekend together. With that in mind tune of the day is the ace "Enjoy Yourself" originally by Prince Buster but made enjoyable even more by the Jools Holland Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, as that's what we did!

Saturday 26th November - Rhythm and Blues in the Royal Albert Hall

The Love In My Heart and I had a hearty full breakfast this morning, which went down a treat all round, and we thought it'd be a good idea to have a walk around Borough Market and peruse the stalls there. So it was off on the train from East Croydon to London Bridge, and then the short walk down hill from there and to the market itself. I have to say that the market was busy and it was a case of shuffling past at various pinch points. We did spot lots of nice food all round though, so it was temptation central if we didn't already have breakfast beforehand.

We did spot lots of fresh food sellers too in terms of fruit, vegetables and bakeries, and so you could very easily get all nice stuff for the evening if you wanted to, and that looked good. In fact The Love decided to get us both a nice cake from one stall - a gorgeous tarte au citron for me and a giant macaron for her, which we'd have later at mine with a coffee. I have to say that the tarte I had was gorgeous and very lemony indeed, which was just the thing to keep us going.

We also followed the path alongside the River Thames, passing via the Golden Hinde, the Globe Theatre and by the Tate Modern, where some Christmas Market stalls were on. The Love even had a Mulled Pimm's as well which apparently was rather lovely, and just the thing to warm you up on a slightly chilly day. We headed back to Blackfriars and took the train from there to East Croydon, one of the nice new trains at that too so The Love was pretty pleased with how they now looked, although she did remark the current diversionary route is pretty slow in parts (the same route I go to work, so I had to agree too!)

Later on we had had the cakes at mine with a coffee, and got ourselves changed and ready to head out for the evening, as we were seeing Jools Holland's Rhythm and Blues Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall no less. Before that though we'd booked a table for some tea, and so headed off via Victoria to Kensington High Street and to the Ivy Kensington Brasserie. Not the cheapest place to eat by any means, but I thought it'd be nice to treat The Love to a really nice meal together, and a good way to dine before the show.

And so it proved: the Curious Pale Ale was lovely, and The Love said her wine was rather nice too. I had the mushrooms on toast to start with a lovely melty sauce and plenty of mushrooms, and The Love's chicken liver parfait was plentiful, and the waiter even gave The Love an extra little ciabatta to have more of the parfait on too. She had the chicken milanese complete with a side order of the thick cut chips for the main, and with the egg on top it looked stunning - as was my shepherd's pie, served in a deep plate with chunks of lamb and beef, topped with a cheese and mash that was melt in the mouth.

But.. the dessert. Oh my. I want to go back there and just have the dessert with a coffee, that's how lovely it was. It was the blackberry sundae, and all I can say is, if you ever go there, save room for it. It was vanilla ice cream, fresh blackberries, a blackberry mouse, little mini meringues, complete with large shortbread biscuit and a topping of roast hazelnuts. The dish was deep and the ice cream and meringue complete with the mousse just gorgeous, in fact it was all stunning. I was go glad I saved some room for this, let me tell you, it was luscious!

We then walked over to the Royal Albert Hall, and found our entrance, and headed up the stairs to the Rausing Circle, stopping off at one of the bars for a drink and heading to our seats. We had a good view of the stage and indeed could see down at the stalls and the crowds, and it was pretty full all round. I freely admit to having a glance around and just admiring the stunning architecture of the building, and do wish that I could see more gigs in here over time.

So on first was Jack Lukeman, and he had just him and his guitar, but was pretty good. He played his new single "King of Soho" (which he asked everyone to sing the "So-ho!" part) and the B-side, which I actually enjoyed more, "Sky News Blues" which was a thinly disguised attack on how every single hour it appears to be a news overload thanks to a certain channel. Best of all though was an acapella soulful version of the classic "Ol' Man River" which had the audience fall silent and really was massively enjoyable, so well done too.

Then on came Jools Holland's Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, and the two hour set that followed went by very quickly indeed. It was nice to see that Beth Rowley wasn't also one of the singers along with the lovely Louise Marshall, but she got to be lead singer on a couple of songs too, which The Love and I really appreciated - although it'd have been nice to have the band play one of Beth's songs of course. Later on also we got a nice mix of boogie woogie and some more soulful numbers, with members of the orchestra having their own solo parts as well, a good way to introduce them all too.

Later on Pauline and Arthur from The Selecter came on, and they did four songs with the orchestra, and they were very on ska form throughout, so we got "Train to Skaville" which was an excellent rendition, and a fast paced "Too Much Pressure" also, but of course for me the highlight was a brilliant version of "On My Radio" (tune of the day without a doubt) which had the majority of the stalls dancing ska stylee to it. It was rather brilliant and one of those moments at gigs you can't help but love massively.

And of course no Jools Holland band performance is complete without Ruby Turner, who came on and belted out some soulful numbers with her usual massive powerful voice and with gusto in bucketloads. Everyone came back on for the encore of "Enjoy Yourself" which was as usual wonderfully celebratory, adnd before we knew it, it was back on the 52 bus to Victoria and train to East Croydon and home, and we'd both had a wonderful evening. Now we just need to see Beth Rowley solo again....

Friday 25th November - Black Friday

So it was that supposed mental shopping day that was Black Friday, and as fate would have it, The Love In My Heart and I were heading off to Westfield Stratford during the day to blitz some Christmas shopping. However, I'd already made my mind up that I was only going to get the Christmas presents that I had planned to get, and not to deviate at all from that which meant that if any items happened to be cheaper because a deal happened to be on, so be it, but not tempting myself into anything I don't need. After all, if I can get the same item I actually am after for less, all good.

So it was a walk to West Croydon station and then off to Canada Water on the Overground, changing there for the Jubilee Line to Stratford, where a walk underneath the railway lines later led us to Westfield. In fact we took the centre floor by floor, starting from the bottom and working upwards. It was busier because of the day it was, and indeed one queue in Primark was particularly long, but the strategy of me going in the queue and then The Love perusing meant we could save some time - and it did. In fact I needed something from there and The Love got herself some boots at the same time, so that plan ended up being well executed!

We did spend a chunk of time in all the shops, but the good news was for me that two of the items I was going to get for people had been reduced by 40%, so a few quid saved there which was good. The Love also picked up some nice items in one shop for one of her relatives, and again with money off. We'd have bought them anyway as presents regardless, so that was another good saving. And after some shopping therapy, we then headed off to the rather nice pub close to the entrance to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for a drink, and took the time to chill out there.

We still had the afternoon free, so we decided to head on the DLR via Canary Wharf and over to Cutty Sark, and to Greenwich Market. We also had lunch there at the Clock Gate pub first off, and the fish and chips were massively appreciated by us both I think. It was then around the market, and it was amazingly so much quieter on a weekday afternoon - you could go round without any interruptions or seeing how busy it was, and the nice little shops such as Oliver Bonas and Joy were much less busy too.

In fact we could have easily stayed there longer, but thought that we would end up having more coffee and more beer or wine, so we headed back on the DLR to Shadwell, changing there for the Overground back to West Croydon. This of course meant we were on and with a seat on the train before the masses piled on at Canada Water, and most of them emptied by the time we got to Forest Hill. When we got back to West Croydon, a walk down the North End and into another shop there gained another couple of presents, again at discount, so very happy all round with the day's purchases it has to be said.

Later on I sorted out another two presents that I'd ordered online, and then we settled in for the evening, with The Love watching the soaps for a bit and me getting on the tea - a rather nice pork belly with rosemary roasted potatoes and mixed vegetables, which went down very well indeed. Later on we snuggled up and watched Gogglebox (make Kodaline's "Perfect World" the theme tune tune of the day) and we had a good laugh at the week's events as reported by them. We both thought that it was amusing when Izzi did her trick with the Malteser, and noticeable too that the Moffatts weren't on again due to Scarlett being on an ITV show hosted by Ant and Dec (you know the one) - and so with plenty of shopping all done, the weekend was from this point on going to be more relaxing.

Thursday 24th November - Lighting Up Liberty's

It was nice to be off today and to spend time getting the flat all sorted and even neater and tidier than usual as The Love In My Heart was coming down for a long weekend. Both she and I had reserved some time off and we both thought it'd be a good idea to get quite a bit of the Christmas shopping done, as well as spend some quality time together too. It was especially nice as it meant we'd have a longer weekend and be able to take things at a slower pace too.

I did head out to Ikea in the morning though, and I wanted to get a couple of things I'd been eyeing up online, and needed to get a present whilst I was in there, so it was a short tram ride to Ampere Way and into there. Of course as a Family Card holder, I could get a breakfast for £1.99 and a free coffee, so did that and had a nice cooked breakfast before the store opened. I knew what I needed, and both of which were actually in the bathroom section: a toilet roll holder where you could stack the toilet rolls to be neater and tidier, and a couple of little baskets to put on top of the drawers in the bedroom so I could neatly put deodorant etc inside, and as both of these items totalled less than a tenner, it made good sense to do so.

My Tesco food delivery came as well later, and so was able to sort all that out and put it away, and then later on I headed off to East Croydon station to meet with The Love In My Heart and wheel her case back to mine. We had thought about heading back into central London later and to do a bit of shopping, and so I'd got a nice posh pizza to cook for us to have before we headed out, which made good sense. It also meant we could then head out and walk off the food, and take our time along Oxford Street and Regent Street.

It was back on the train to Victoria and join the masses on the Victoria Line, getting off at Oxford Circus. We headed first towards Liberty's, as The Love fancied a good look around there. The store did feel very Christmassy with plenty of decorations, which we noticed on closer inspection were by Gisela Graham (who is this woman whose products seem to profilerate gift shops everywhere I wonder?) and lots of gorgeous homeware items which were all laid out really nicely.

We also spotted just opposite that ITV were having their own gala at the Palladium Theatre nearby, and the red carpet was out in full force. This actually stopped us from being able to head directly to Liberty's earlier, and so instead we walked towards Carnaby Street, having a good mooch there, before then heading out to Regent Street and walking back up towards Oxford Street. In fact The Love and I went in House of Fraser, where The Love picked up a couple of presents at 20% off, so she was pleased, and then we headed off towards Bond Street to do more shopping.

In fact we headed off around the back of St Christopher's Place and to a nice pub on Wigmore Street, where they had Tribute ale on cask, so that was good, and we had a drink in there to relax, before heading on the tube back to Victoria and getting the train back to East Croydon and home, where we saw The Apprentice episode with their experience parties and how one team were collapsing under not having a clear structure in place, and how their project manager ended up shouting in a rage, which meant (pretty obviously) he was off. Tune of the day in the meantime is "Your Dirty Answer" by Kristin Hersh, which I had on play quite a bit during the morning as was sorting out the flat, reminiscing about the lovely gig last night.

Wednesday 23rd November - Driving Circles Around Bethnal Green

I was heading out straight from work tonight, and so didn't mind staying behind a bit to tie up a few loose ends and make sure that all was good to go for the reamainder of the week, especially as I'm now off till Monday. I had set aside some time to assist with our second line team sorting out some software installations, as well as then being on hand should anyone need me for queries. In fact I assisted one user with their online course query, and got a lovely email from them later stating how helpful and friendly I was, which really did make my day to be honest.

So tonight it was off to see Kristin Hersh at St John's Church in Bethnal Green, which faces the tube station. As I had done some research I knew there was a nice pub in Stepney Green, which was a straight tube ride from work, and then I could get the bus from there to Bethnal Green. And so it was on the Hammersmith and City line Eastbound from work, and getting off at Stepney Green, and didn't take me long to find the pub. Even better - I got a nice seat. Better than that - a decent food deal on, so buttermilk chicken burger with chips and a pint - all good there.

It was good to kick back and relax a little and also chat to The Love In My Heart as well, and be all ready to go for the gig later. I must admit I'll be so pleased to see her tomorrow. It was just nice to hear her voice as I was waiting for my food to be cooked, and I could have the very nice dark IPA that I'd got - which went down rather lovely all round. It was also notable perhaps that even on a midweek night the pub was reasonably busy, just goes to show that a nice building and decent prices attracts customers all the time, not just at weekends.

Once all done there, it was a shortish hop on the 309 bus and off to Bethnal Green, which I recognised from my visit to the V&A Museum of Childhood a few months back. The church itself stood on the corner, and once inside and had the hand stamped, it was a nice little space and quite intimate. The bar consisted of bottles of lager, ale, plastic glasses of wine and cans of soft drink, all at very very reasonable prices to help raise money for the church itself, which was nice to see. I managed to get a seat in one of the pews and so was waiting with a sense of excitment for Kristin Hersh to come on.

And my, Kristin Hersh was rather lovely tonight, it has to be said. It was a mixed set, but mainly promoting the book and CD release of "Wyatt At The Coyote Palace" which came out recently. She mentioned that the new record is now the one that everyone will hate (primarily as it'll take some time to get to know) and that the old new record (the book and CD of "Crooked") will be less so. Her dry wit and readings came across really well, and gave some back story to some of the songs.

If someone had said to me before that three of my favourite Kristin songs would be played tonight, I'd have taken those. So to have "Your Dirty Answer" sounding sharp and with her voice rasping with anger at the appropriate moments was a really good thing. And half way through having a gorgeous version of her first solo single "Your Ghost" was also rather lovely. However, from the Crooked album comes one of my other favourites, and just as emotional with acoustic guitar as it is with piano on the album, and so "Flooding" was just a moment where if I'd been alone, I'd have probably wept with emotion, but kept it all in check - tune of the day it is without question.

Other lovely highlights for me was the Crooked opener "Mississippi Kite" which still had that edge with an acoustic guitar, and "Poor Wayfaring Stranger" sounding just as dark and Country feeling as it did on the In Shock single B-side, and the traditional lullaby "Cuckoo" as well. Oh, and a slide guitar gorgeousness of "Sno Cat" too complete with corresponding story of someone driving a snowmobile in their garden and throwing all sorts of caution to the wind.

The only down side was that two blokes sat not that far from me decided it'd be a good idea to constantly talk throughout the gig, even with Kristin performing. I personally would have loved to see them ejected from the venue: it's an acoustic gig, people want to listen to her, not their incessant chatter. It's my number one pet hate at gigs and it annoys me more as everyone else was respecting the artist properly and giving the songs and music due attention. Whoever you were, I hope you are proud of yourselves for bring complete idiots.

It all went by far too quickly, with an encore also featuring a gorgeous version of the old Thowing Muses classic "You Cage" and earlier having "City of the Dead" as well, and before I knew it, it was on the tube from Bethnal Green to London Bridge with a change of lines at Bank, and then a wait for the next train to East Croydon from there, which took some time with the reduced service and Southern strikes. It was a tired but happy me who arrived home full of joy of seeing one of my most admired and adored female musicians out there.

Tuesday 22nd November - Wrapping It All Up

I spent a fair amount of time when I got home tonight wrapping up some Christmas presents that I'd already managed to get for some of the family and friends. In fact I had managed to note that a couple of deliveries arrived yesterday, and so as I'd already got all the necessary wrapping paper and gift tags etc, it was a fairly easy job to be able to set aside some time whilst listening to the rather excellent new Metallica album and get cracking on with that.

In fact it wasn't just that I needed to sort out - but a shed load of ironing as well. It's good to keep on top of that as then it means all my clothes are neat and tidy, saving lots of time for later this week when The Love In My Heart is coming over for a few days. I can't wait for that of course, but the more I do now to be ready, the less I have to do when she is here, and that's a good thing. In fact I also wanted to wind down a little in preparation, so once all the domestic stuff was done it was on with the Tassimo and a vanilla capuccino at that, and on with the telly.

It was the final episode of Ordinary Lies tonight, and the second series in its own way has been as good as the first. This time the episode focussed on the manager Jenna (played by Angela Griffin) who has been informed her half sister has been released from prison. She's also had another failure at pregnancy via IVF, and based on her disappointment, wants to go out, get drunk, and have a good time, and from there her next few days are mainly focussed on here.

I have to say Angela Griffin was superb tonight, she really was. She went through the gamut of emotions, from hard faced to emotional, and from soft and caring to blunt and to the point. I think too that being in a nightclub and having Faithless' classic "Isomnia" playing (make that tune of the day) meant that she could also show she had some moves too, and that looked pretty cool. It was nice to see at the end that there was a sort of good way to end the series, but I won't spoil it for you in case you've not watched it yet.

I think with series like this it's good to wrap up and actually make sense of a lot of the storylines together, and because of the fact that each series has been in a different setting, it's meant that it's kept the plot lines and ideas sensible throughout. For me what made this series work was the basing in Cardiff, and the fact that there were plenty of Welsh actors as well to give it that sense of more realism - similarly with the Northern car showroom from series one and having the likes of Max Beesley and Jason Manford being in that.

Monday 21st November - Haircut One Hundred

So it was back to work and a pretty productive day all round. I spent some time sorting out what software had been used over the last 90 days on the next batch of desktops that were being reimaged and replaced next week, and actually we found that in essence not that much in addition had been used. Like I said with the team lead during the day, it means that we're going to at least start with a nice cleaner slate when going to Windows 10 overall, so felt positive about that.

In fact I even had the time this afternoon to package two applications and that was pretty easy really - Microsoft Expression Design and Expression Web, which as well as being free appeared to be quite nifty design tools. Amazingly both of them worked fine on Windows 10 with no issues, and packaging a silent install was a breeze (a simple -q switch was all that it needed incidentally). What this means of course is that we can easily get them out as we need to, and it's not too difficult to get those done either, so a definite plus point also.

I headed on the tube to Edgware Road and then on to Wimbledon Park on the District Line after work as I knew my hair needed cutting, and the lovely staff at James Barbers did the busines again. It was good to talk some football with the staff and be able to exit there all nice and groomed, and you certainly do feel like you're being well looked after. I can highly recommend them if you need somewhere good to have your hair done in South London.

I headed back to Wimbledon and had a mooch around the Centre Court Shopping Centre, and noticed the nice Oliver Bonas store had moved to even nicer premises than before - it clearly was rather good all round, and in fact it was also a nicer shop location, with lots of lovely stuff inside. It was half tempting to spend lots of money in there but was good, and ended up avoiding the rain and taking the tram back to Croydon and home, and the ticket I'd bought for the Masters snooker in January had finally arrived. Hurrah!

Tune of the day in the meantime is the excellent "War Ensemble" by Slayer, which I rocked out to on Guitar Hero Metallica earlier and then played loud later on. It's the superb opener from their "Seasons in the Abyss" album and shows the band at their finest - spot on powerful drums, riffs central and Tom Araya absolutely nailing the anger felt in the lyrics as well, and the middle slower section really chugs along wonderfully well. Perhaps one of my favourite Slayer tracks too.

Sunday 20th November - TNQ and Southern Fail

After a nice breakfast of a bacon bagel, I fussed over the two cats whilst The Love In My Heart was getting herself showered and ready. I hit the shower myself later and had one of my nice shirts ready to put on along with my nice jeans too, as we were meeting two friends for Sunday lunch at TNQ, which is in the Northern Quarter of Manchester close to where Sweet Mandarin is. And in fact it'd be a nice way to end the weekend before I headed back down to Croydon.

The Love and I took the tram and from Piccadilly Gardens we cut through parts of the Northern Quarter, passing Vinyl Exchange and heading along Thomas Street before then walking up High Street to TNQ. We were there early so we waited a little for the table, and then took a nice spot by the window awaiting our friends to arrive. It was a nice atmosphere all round and the nice porter ale that was in bottles was a good choice by me - definitely having that again at some point.

The menu was pretty good all round - two courses for £13.95, three for £16.95, and overall a good selection. I had the eggs benedict to start which was rather gorgeous, the poached egg was spot on as was the crispy bacon too. The Love and friends all had the roast beef, which did look good, but I fancied the fish and chips, and that was pretty good too - the tartare sauce was gorgeous. And I even had the sticky toffee pudding for dessert (well, it'd be wrong not to really) and that was rather special.

Afterwards we headed along to 53 Thomas Street, which is owned by the Marble Brewery, and that meant I could have the dark ale that is the chocolate marble, rather gorgeous all round that is. I have to admit that it's quite rustic with the wood and metal, but the real ale casks are upstairs, so when I ordered my ale, the staff had to head upstairs. You'd think that they'd have a cask downstairs, right? Apparently not, but there you go. Still, nice beer and company all round, all good.

We said our goodbyes later and The Love and I walked back to Piccadilly station in time for me to get the 1735 train back to Euston. I must admit that I did feel very sad because the weekend had gone too quickly and we'd had a lovely time, and that I had to face the crapness of Southern Fail once I got to London Bridge, and so it proved - with the trains being cancelled or delays, it took me much longer than planned to get to East Croydon and then home. I blasted the first two discs of the new Metallica album and so the opener "Hardwired" is tune of the day - just the sort of thing to take the anger out when it comes to travelling on such a rubbish railway company. I'm seriously considering if I have grounds for legal action over their appalling service, by the way...

Saturday 19th November - Glad All Over

It was nice to potter around a little and have a well earned lie in with The Love In My Heart, and we had some nice breakfast before working out what we were going to do. I wanted to drop a birthday present off for my brother in law, and also wanted to see my brother who is back from Japan for a few weeks, and she wanted to see her father, so we agreed to meet at my Mum's later and then head off to sort out a PC problem for one of her work colleagues who wanted to get the remote access working properly.

I headed into the city centre first of all and had a quick walk through Market Street and on to Fopp, where I thought that it would be a good move to pick up the new Metallica album - and the three CD limited edition version at that - the album's across two CDs, with the bonus and live tracks on the third disc, which even has an Iron Maiden cover version on there. I'll give that a blast once I get home I reckon, but so good to have a mooch around there and be tempted by lots of other music too it has to be said.

I took the bus to my sister's, but no one was in, so I walked from there to Mum's, and let her know I'd dropped off the brother in law's present there so they could pick it up from there whenever they were ready. I did have a good chat with my brother, and he seems to be house hunting with his wife in Japan now, and more out of town, where the prices seemed to be considerably cheaper (understatement) - in fact the two places he looked at were really nice, and I can see the two of them being happy.

It was good that when The Love came over we had a good natter also, and he mentioned Mum being all embarassing when picking him up from Manchester Airport (as parents do!) and the fact that she's already fussing over him left right and centre. It felt really nice to catch up though and we'd already had a chat on Skype too, so definitely a plus all round. The weather hadn't as yet rained so we headed off towards her work colleague's place in Denton, where I managed to get the remote access working in around five minutes, and we had a coffee and chat with her work colleague and husband, who seemed really nice people actually.

So it was then off back towards home via Aldi, where I picked up some decent real ale at a good price, including the Wychwood "Bah Humbug" beer (it's that time again soon) and then it was a nice way to relax seeing Andy Murray win his epic semi final in the tennis against Milos Raonic before then after Pointless and having some gorgeous lamb off the bone with potatoes and vegetables, snuggling in for Strictly Come Dancing. I was gutted when Daisy Lowe went out, but there's the lovely Louise Redknapp to cheer on. I do think though Ore Oduba and Danny Mac are really excelling themselves, the latter getting the first 40 of the series with Oti Mabuse.

Of course with it being in Blackpool, all was good there, and even Ed Balls gave his dance a good go, which surprised many, but I think people relate that actually he is improving each week and thoroughly enjoying himself. The shocking thing is he could even win, which would show that the viewers' vote really does mean a lot more than the judging. Still, for the fact that the music and dance went so well, tune of the day is the excellent "Mickey" by Toni Basil, which Claudia Fragapane had tons of fun with!

And Manchester City won 2-1 at Crystal Palace too, with Yaya Touré scoring both on his comeback and looking the part, so the City fans of course were taking the Dave Clark Five classic (often sung by Palace fans with its original lyrics) with the "Cos we've got Guardiola, yes we've got Guardiola" etc part instead. Naturally being second only on goal difference at the end of the day meant we were still in there with a decent shout, so all good going into the Champions League game midweek.

Friday 18th November - First Class Fare

I had to stay behind a little later than planned at work, primarily as we found an issue during imaging and building the latest batch of Windows 10 machines. It transpired that we only have a number of licences available for our anti-virus product, and we looked like we'd reached the upper limit of that, so although the installations did take place, it ended up being that the activation failed because it wasn't allowed to activate. I managed to find some duplicate PC named entries and so was able to free up a few licences, and think we've got a good plan going forward.

I was thankful that my train was at 1820 from Euston, so still had plenty of time to head from Farringdon to Euston Square on the tube and using the new found way of exiting via the lifts out of there (Westbound only though, but that's fine for me) it then was a short walk over to Euston. As I had a first class ticket for a change for tonight, it meant I could have a nice mooch in the first class lounge, with free wi-fi, and some nice complimentary drinks and a little cake as well. Well why not?

In fact it was nice to overlook the main concourse and see how absolutely busy it was with people waiting to board the trains, and it was a breeze to head down in the lift and then board the train - and in fact it was really quiet, with not many people in first class. That did mean that I was able to have some rather nice Lancashire hotpot for the hot food option, followed later on by a lovely sticky toffee pudding (like, yaay!) with some beer in between. Unfortunately there was no cans of ale on like they normally have, so I had to resort to a Beck's, but still, can't argue.

It was absolutely hammering it down when I arrived in Manchester, and The Love In My Heart had parked around the corner from the station to avoid the mad queues of traffic. I met up and we headed back to hers, and she was glad to see me, and I was just as glad to see her and indeed the two cats Jô and Brian. Within minutes Jô had developed his jealousy and miaowed at me, whilst Brian let me stroke and give him a good fuss all round. We snuggled up and watched Gogglebox together, noting that in fact the Moffatts weren't on, primarily due to Scarlett being in some ITV reality show at the moment..

It was nice to kick back and relax, and The Love and I was pleased to be with each other after a fair time apart. I think too that when you've got the time together it just goes by so quickly, and as the chorus of Ultravox's "Passing Strangers" (tune of the day) states, "Time goes by too soon" and it does. Before I knew it, the two of us and the cats were all snuggly, with Brian picking his nice little cushion he sits on one of the cabinets close to the bed, and Jô curling up next to The Love (he's very very loyal to her to say the least!) - and it was nice to be all cosy I have to admit.

Thursday 17th November - Poor in Poole

I had to have a big smile on my face watching The Apprentice on BBC1 tonight. Not only was it a task at a boat show, but said show was on the waterfont and harbour in Poole, where I myself was a few months ago with my cousin and her family as they live not far away in Bournemouth. I must admit that when the weather does get inclement by the water, it can be a pretty hairy experience, and as we saw from tonight, the elements really did conspire to be able to make sales difficult.

That said though, the embarrassing failure of one team on their task was plain for all to see - they didn't choose the right items to sell at the low end, whereas the others worked out that bright and colourful items would do the job and be good accessories, and crucially managed to get the better boards and be able to negotiate a nice price for them. Although the losing team also got the prize jetskis, it somehow didn't transpire into any sales - however the two handling those sales did at least get the more knowledgable dealer of the jetskis to provide info about possible business extended warranties and I think that alone might have saved them both from the chop due to the honesty.

But it was a car crash of comparison. The winning team, led by Frances (who finally got to win a task) sold around £2.5k of the low end stuff, and two boats, so around £40k in total. Compare that against £180 or so from the other team led by Karthik. I do think though if Frances was on the losing team this time round, the remainder would have rounded on the loose cannon that is Sofian and had him out of there. That said, the other loose cannon Karthik just couldn't keep his mouth shut in the boardroom and Lord Sugar had had enough, and didn't even allow him to decide which two to bring back into the boardroom - so out he went.

It ended up being a double firing and as Samuel had in this task and in a previous task disobeyed the team leader in terms of pricing and doing his own thing, his card was marked and off he went. In fact I'd have liked it to be a triple of even quadruple firing as I suspect that Elana and Dillon are probably on their very final chance. And in truth no one really has impressed me that much, but I suspect that as well as being a team player, having Frances show what she can do might just be a turning point for her - I hope so actually, she seems likeable enough.

I must confess though seeing it absolutely wee it down was very much a case of raining on the parade and all that, and of course it's noticeable that the bad weather didn't help - didn't stop the other team though. Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather good "That Sinking Feeling" by Skunk Anansie - certainly felt like it for the losing team concerned tonight. Or indeed the total meltdown suffered by Thameslink tonight, another rubbish evening for Govia Thameslink Failway customers..

Wednesday 16th November - Shopping Diversions

I arrived at Farringdon station after a day at work and noticed that my 1629 train to Three Bridges (which stops at East Croydon) was delayed by a fair bit, but as it turned out the 1623 to Sutton was about to come in. This meant I could get that to Mitcham Junction and hop on to a tram to Croydon and homeward. In fact I also realised that not far from Waddon Marsh tram stop was a branch of Toys R Us, which I needed to nip into to get a Christmas present for one of my smaller relations too, so hopefully I could turn the negative into a postive and all that.

It had started to rain when the train reached Herne Hill and changing at Mitcham Junction meant everyone huddled by the shelter till the tram came. Thankfully the rain had ceased by Waddon Marsh, so also took the time to nip into the Sainsburys there and be able to get a couple of cards and also some Sellotape too, as I was running out of the stuff to wrap presents with, as you do. It was then a case of crossing over the road and walking along Purley Way and turning off for Toys R Us, where it was one quick search for what my sister had recommended I get, and I found it, and paid for it - job done.

In fact it was another present all sorted, and I feel like I'm pretty much in the swing of it all now for the shopping and all that. I have actually ordered all the presents for The Love In My Heart (good to get those done) and two of my friends will already know one present each as I bought it when they were in London last week. In addition, I've managed to get ideas for plenty of others and so be able to get a chunk of it sorted before all the festivities begin.

In truth though I'm also thinking about getting things up to Manchester in good time too, so as I'm up this weekend and indeed up then early in December, my plan is to get a fair amount up then and this means that less to have to carry up closer to Christmas. In fact as The Love is coming down twice in the next few weeks, I can also hand some to her to head back with too, so should be able to at least avoid one large carry. And I'm also of course heading up on the train on the 23rd December, so will at least have some time Christmas Eve to do a few things too.

Back to the present time though, I must admit I am missing The Love a lot. I think when we have a weekend when not together, even though I may be doing other things (such as nice weekend with friends last weekend) it does make me feel that I want to be close to her and give her a hug. Thankfully it'll be a nice relaxed weekend together, so will be most pleased to see her and the two cats Jô and Brian (whom admittedly I do miss, even though Jô probably won't agree with that sentiment!) - so with that in mind, tune of the day is The Cure's classic "The Love Cats" - because it's ace.

Tuesday 15th November - Discoveries

So, another day of discovery, and one that I managed to get quite a few things resolved on pretty nicely too. I was investigating a possibility of ensuring that one of the add-ins we get with Excel 2016, as we get a Pro Plus subscription for Office, is enabled by default. At first we thought it might be one department but my manager was more than happy for us to enable it for all, and so there's a very handy Group Policy setting where you as the administrator can control the add-ins. So once I manually enabled it, it sets a registry entry, and the registry key is the full COM add-in name, so use the GPO setting to enable, select the add-in name, and the value 1 (always operational) and away you go. Simple.

It's good when things do work and actually I spent a fair bit of time also checking out an odd printer issue - where it was asking for UAC prompts and elevation for the network printer installation. Turned out that a Windows update causes it if the driver isn't a correctly digitally signed driver package (and a shed load of Canon ones aren't, as well as Konica Minolta) and so will then need to be, or there is a way you can force it to be a "packaged" version too. It came about because of a Microsoft patch to eliminate a vulnerability, but therefore made it more difficult for people to add network printers. Nice.

Still, I think it's going well enough, and whilst I was at work The Love In My Heart was having a well earned day off, and Brian the cat decided to head outside even though it was raining. She did mention though that Jô the cat has become a tad more soft and wants to just sit on her knee at every opportunity. No doubt of course he will feel a bit out of sorts when I am up for the weekend and I'll probably get his little meow of disapproval, but it's nice though to see the closeness that the cats have with their owner.

I also headed home a different way tonight as I wanted to venture into a few shops around Liverpool Street station for some Christmas present ideas, and there were some nice shops around the station and heading towards Fenchurch Street, and close to Monument, a large House of Fraser store too, so worth noting if The Love and I head to the markets at Borough when she is next down here, we can head across London Bridge and peruse some shops too. In fact I headed across and to the station, and using my nouse I avoided boarding the 1659 to Littlehampton as it was way too busy and instead was one of the first on the 1708 to Uckfield, and got myself a seat to East Croydon no problem. It's all about the timing...

It is noticeable though that the dark nights are drawing in much quicker and as a result that also means that it is a case of seeing most of the daylight in the office, which isn't always the nicest thing ever - and more so when you're on the lower ground floor and so not necessarily seeing full windows open. Still, it is nice to wander out at lunchtime and take a breather - and it's often useful to do that anyway. With that in mind, Matt Gray's "The Basement" theme from Last Ninja 2 Reformation gets my vote for tune of the day - and really powerful version of his original game theme and just the thing to keep you going on the train too.

Monday 14th November - Catching Breath

The only thing after three days off is the fact that there's a fair amount of catching up to do following week when back at work, and with our Windows 10 rollout imminent, I was checking to see if anything had happened that I needed to take note of. So, it transpired that on one vLAN PXE wasn't playing ball 100% and so a plan going forward has been put in, so that at least means we can crack on with a fair few things. It also was notable that a plan had been put together for the initial stages of the rollout, and so I had a good read of that and provided suitable feedback accordingly.

One thing I had to get to the bottom of today was the fact that our test SCCM server on our test network had seemingly run out of disk space on one of the volumes, meaning that there were errors. On closer inspection, I worked out why and put a plan in place to resolve the issues, and that worked pretty well overall. I think the main thing was that not to distribute the content to the distribution point on a daily basis (which means the content library can have multiple version instances) and that gained a fair amount of disk space back when that was cleaned up nicely.

It was good also that I'd ordered a present last night from a certain retail outlet, and I had got a notification that said item was available to be collected in store. I was able to do that on the way home, and it proved to be a nice and easy transaction - showed the staff the text and my payment card, and off they went, and had the order out to me quickly too. Isn't it great when things work - and indeed I'd taken advantage of a special offer at said store for 20% off, so a veritable bargain thrown in as well (plus of course the usual Top Cashback had to be done) - what do you mean, you're not using it? Sign up now and get cracking!

Anyway, it was also good to be able to peruse the pictures I'd taken over the weekend too - and the one of the Word building came out really nice when treated in black and white, so that was uploaded. I think it's good to be able to explore different places and see what they have to offer, and for me being able to see some regeneration happening has to be a positive all round. I've seen it myself in Croydon with the opening of the Boxpark, where lots of food outlets make for a decent vibe all round, and well populated by everyone especially when leaving the train station next door.

In the meantime tune of the day is some classic Cabaret Voltaire, namely the 12" version of their song "I Want You". I have always liked that track and even more so when it was actually covered by the Commodore 64 musician Rob Hubbard as part of the soundtrack for the game "I, Ball" (the opening three minutes also features CV's "Whip Blow" too) and that for me made me wonder if either Rob or the game's programmers actually knew the true meaning about what "I Want You" is about....

Sunday 13th November - Home and Hosed

So it was up, get myself ready and also then join my friends for some well earned breakfast, with a sausage barm being scoffed. It's always nice to wind down on the Sunday morning and be able to have some mindless telly in the background and be able to just relax a little bit. I had also checked and the Metro line to Sunderland wasn't operational in part due to the some overhead line damage, so whilst I'd have happily got the bus via the centre of South Shields to Sunderland, my friend very kindly arranged to drop me off, which was really good of him actually.

We all said our goodbyes mid morning and as per usual the weekend had gone by far too quickly. Naturally of course we'll have to get together again soon and there may be a possibility of a couple of locations that we may be able to visit - one of which might even be heading back to Manchester and crashing in a hotel somewhere relatively cheap, which means lots of nice beer and stuff! Options anyway, and one I'll have to explore further to see what happens.

I soon was on the 1212 departure from Sunderland to London Kings Cross, and I'd taken advantage of a Grand Central offer which was 25% off First Class advance fares, so it only worked out £3 more expensive than standard class. It was well worth it too - nice comfortable leather seats, table service with tea, coffee, orange juice, water and snacks throughout, and lovely staff all the way as well. And added kudos as they served the coffee in proper mugs, something which even Virgin Trains don't actually do at weekends (take note!)

The train was delayed due to a track fault, and there was a diversion via Hertford, but the staff kept us informed all the way and that was appreciated. In fact the couple sat opposite me were heading to London for a few days and I mentioned about possible Delay Repay - which they hadn't heard of. So I gave them all the info for future reference, which they appreciated. It does amaze me still how many people aren't aware of it or what you can claim back. In fact the train was 26 minutes late, so no claim needed (and in fact Grand Central's policy is only paying out after 60 minutes, which is pretty poor, in fact the only thing which lets them down...)

I then headed to St Pancras and I got the 1640 train back to East Croydon - and good job too, as the departure afterwards had been cancelled - yet again Govia Thameslink Railway failing with Thameslink as they do with Southern (Fail) - you'd think people might for example actually need to get to Gatwick Airport in good time, don't you? Anyway, I was soon at East Croydon and heading home and having listened to some top tunes along the way including "Trans Europe Express" by Kraftwerk (make that tune of the day) it was good to kick back, get all the washing done, and then avoid the news and sport at all costs before the F1 highlights on Channel 4.

In fact it was chucking it down all race in Brazil - and aquaplaning off meant a number of safety cars with some not too nice crashes. Surprisingly Jenson Button made the wrong tyre call and he ended up last, and wasn't able to use his smooth driving style right. Someone who did though after catching a slide before hitting the barriers was Max Verstappen, and at the final restart he battled his way through opponents and ended up third on the podium behind Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.

I must admit I was pleased Lewis won - it takes the championship to the final race in Abu Dhabi. Granted, Rosberg is 12 points ahead, so ideally Hamilton has to win and Rosberg has to finish fourth or lower for the title to be decided in the Briton's favour. Unfortunately that does mean Rosberg can simply finish second or third and win the title, which might be the better option - his father Keke had to finish sixth in the 1982 Las Vegas Grand Prix to win the title, and he drove a measured drive, not taking any risks, to finish fifth and do the job. The same may well happen..

Saturday 12th November - South Shields Weekender, Day Two

I must admit, I slept pretty well on the sofa bed. It works out very nicely when folded out into a nice size bed to sleep on, and it's pretty comfortable too. I do like the fact also that it's dead easy to put up and put back into a sofa, so once up, showered and changed, it was a case of setting it back and then heading downstairs for some coffee, and later on a well earned breakfast. Our friend pulled out the stops with black pudding, bacon and sausages and some barmcakes, and that went down well to make our own sausage and bacon barms for a proper full brekkie.

We saw a bit of telly and some Sky Sports News for a bit and further chatter ensued, with us leaving just before noon. We headed off to Simonside Metro station and took the Metro into South Shields, and from there headed along past the new Word building which houses the national library for the written word, and looks iconic with its cylindrical shape, and then towards the river front, where we'd visit two really nice pubs, with a pint in each - first off The Steamboat with all its maritime heritage, plenty of ship's wheels and so on and a jukebox that we hammered and played lots of class tunes.

It was then the Alum Ale House, situated right next to the South Shields ferry terminal and having not only a great selection of beer but also plenty of 1980s music playing in the background too, including Soft Cell's classic Tainted Love (so tune of the day as I love that one) and the sun was even attempting to make an appearance. On the way we'd also seen one of the many Great North Snowdogs (similar to the Cow Parade and the Gromit Unleashed trail a few years back) and the Pawdington one (get it?) was very popular with families all round.

We then headed to the Shields Ferry and made it perfect timing for the 2.45pm departure. Our all day Metro ticket covered us for that, so it was a short journey across and towards North Shields, with the ferry not going straight across but in a diagonal route across the River Tyne, with the coast of the North Sea not so far away. It was then a good walk along the main seafront road and onwards to a gorgeous pub, possibly my favourite of the day, The Low Lights Tavern. It's been here since the 1650s and it concentrates on what it does best, lovely cask ale, and pies and fish and chips if you feel the need. In fact the atmosphere was great and it felt rather homely, and the ale I had was also absolutely spot on, well looked after. In truth I could have spent longer there!

We then went by to a local takeaway round the corner, the Waterfront, for some well earned chips - I was tempted to have fish but was still reasonably full from the breakfast, so the chips were spot on. We avoided the seagulls as we headed along the sea wall and then headed up a steep path and towards Tynemouth village, which I have to say is rather lovely. We went to the Cumberland Arms first, and it was good to get a table near the back and keep one eye on the final scores - Doncaster won so my friend was pretty pleased with that, especially an away victory.

We then walked along the main street in Tynemouth and I could very easily see why it was popular - lots of nice pubs, restaurants and bars, and a space in the middle of the road that could easily house a market during the day should it need to. In fact it reminded me of some villages that have the same sort of layout, and I dread to think how popular (and expensive) the house prices are around there. It was then to the Turks Head where the Black Sheep Best I had was on good form, and we had the Austria v Republic of Ireland game on and saw the winning goal, as well as also the pub having a stuffed dog in there, which apparently is the stuff of local legend!

So with that in mind we walked back through the centre of Tynemouth and onwards to the Metro station, timing it in the nick of time to head on the Metro towards the centre of Newcastle and Monument station, from which we then walked downhill and towards the quayside. First stop half way down was Bacchus, which was rather nice all round and understandably packed with people. My friend said it'd not be too cheap, but admittedly the beer was nice, and we did get a spot where we were able to at least hear ourselves talk a fair bit too - nice vibe in there and some lovely people too.

It was then right down the hill to the bottom and to the Crown Posada pub - one place we really do like in the centre of Newcastle. It is very narrow, but they have a cracking ale selection, and a turntable which the staff play records on - and that sounds rather nice all round. In fact we had the first side of Fleetwod Mac's "Rumours" album on and so I wasn't complaining - nice background music as we all chatted about music, retro games, old game music and all sorts.

In fact when we went over to the Bridge Tavern opposite we headed outside on the ground floor and it was fairly quiet, so we indulged ourselves in a game of "Name That SID Tune" where I'd do acapella versions of famous Commodore 64 game themes, and to be fair, my friends nailed almost all of them spot on, apart from Creatures 2, which being a later game release might not have been played by everyone. That was good fun, and not that cold outside due to the little heaters as well. And before we knew it, we headed in a taxi and back to my friend's place where pizza was ordered and we scoffed that before having one final retro blast before sleep. All in all, a cracking day.

Friday 11th November - South Shields Weekender, Day One

So it was a rather early rise for me this morning after a good night's sleep, as I was off earlier than even normal for work in order to be sure to get the 0802 departure from London Kings Cross to Sunderland with Grand Central Rail. The advance ticket was a mere £16, less than half price of Virgin Trains' fare from Kings Cross to Newcastle, so that of course meant a good bargain all round. In fact I was glad I ended up getting the 0639 departure from East Croydon to London St Pancras, as the two other trains behind that were cancelled and so that might have put me in a tight spot. I got to St Pancras around 0720 and walked across to Kings Cross in good time.

The train journey up was comfortable enough, it was a refurbished HST train with a surprisingly large amount of leg room, comfy seats and a table, and I had got croissants and coffee in the station so all good there. In fact it was non-stop to York, and then after Northallerton curving off towards Eaglescliffe. It was around that time it was 11am and for Armistice Day, the proper two minute silence, and everyone observed it on the carriage, including the German family sat opposite me, but yet some idiot scroat decided to talk at the other end, she was soon thankfully stared at with death stares to shut up. It's important we stop and think and remember those who gave their lives for us I feel.

It was then via Hartlepool and along the coast with a view of the North Sea all the way towards Sunderland, and the train arrived on time. I had some spare time before I could head on the Metro to my friend's place, so headed into one of the shopping centres, and found a very nice independent café upstairs in Waterstones, which had gorgeous coffee and a lovely slice of lemon bakewell cake. Gorgeous it was, and really did help to spend the time nicely and seem all chilled out - just the thing.

It was back to the train station and Sunderland station is unique in that both train and Metro services operate from the same platforms. I was soon on the Metro Northbound past the Stadium of Light and onwards to Brockley Whins, which isn't that far from my friend's place, and we arranged for him to come and pick us up, and we were back at his with coffee and chatter for a good portion of the afternoon, which was good. Our other friends (one from Doncaster and one from Ulverston) arrived during the afternoon, and so the four of us were back together again for another rather cracking weekender all round.

It wasn't long before the gorgeous selection of beers had to be perused, and a massive selection (kudos all round for that) - in fact I had the Mary Jane ale from the Ilkley Brewery which I've had before, and it's gorgeous. Just the thing to go down with a rather spot on chicken curry that my friend had made the four of us, complete with all the rice and poppadoms you'd ever need. It was just the thing for the cold evening and we all liked it last time when he did it, so made sense to have it again and enjoy more chatter. He also has a piano and so after tea played the iconic theme from the Commodore 64 game Ghosts and Goblins - rather ace it was too, and so tune of the day simply has to be that.

Later on the England v Scotland game was on the telly, so a good chance to wind down and watch the footy. Naturally of course we were all hoping England would play better, and although Scotland went for it in attack, the difference purely was the finishing. For once England were clinical in front of goal, and a cross from the right was bullet headed in by Daniel Sturridge for the opening goal, and a cracking finish. In the second half a Danny Rose cross was superbly headed in by Adam Lallana for the second, and from a Wayne Rooney corner Gary Cahill rose and headed home for 3-0. In fact Raheem Sterling missed a simple chance in front of goal to make it 4-0 and by the end of the game England were toying with Scotland, and that was actually surprising. I do feel though that if Scotland had taken their chances it'd have been a far more interesting game - and they weren't as bad as their media made out...

After that we headed to one of the rooms upstairs where the projector is set up with the PC and indeed a sofa and all that, so we blasted out some classic old school retro game themes as well as being able to spot those game themes which were cover versions of original songs and compare and contrast them - we also played darts (admittedly I am awful at it!) but that was good fun too, and then it was further chatter and more retro gaming themes and a look at some old school stuff online, including some of the recent Commodore 64 demos from the X2016 party that happened recently. Before we knew it, it was 2am and so headed off to sleep with a day out planned for tomorrow.

Thursday 10th November - Wembley Arch In My Shadows

I had a day off work today, primarily as I thought it a bit pointless having yesterday off with my friend and then having Friday off to head up to South Shields to see friends for the weekend, so thought to make the best use of the time I had today and take on another leg of the Capital Ring walk, this time Section 10 from South Kenton to Hendon Park. I had the guide downloaded as a PDF to the phone, and once I got myself up and ready it was a case of heading to East Croydon station, changing at Clapham Junction and Willesden Junction along the way before arriving at South Kenton with the iconic Windermere pub to the right.

I'd walk past that pub (too early in the morning for a pint mind you!) and then head through to Preston Park, only a small park but nice, before heading through some side streets past Preston Park station, going up and down hills and finally coming off a path between two houses to enter Fryent Country Park, hugging by the side of the tube line at first before clambering up the hill and through a forest of trees, eventually arriving at the top of Barn Hill, with a pond, an old trig point (which they used to use to map places) and a view of the Wembley Arch and stadium in the not too far off distance.

It was then down a pretty steep hill and path through more trees and following the path through the forest at the bottom before arriving at the car park and road that splits Fryent Country Park in two, and then going across some more fields and heading upwards and to the top of Gotfords Hill. The local children call it Teletubby Hill because of its dome shaped top that's similar to that in the Teletubbies. It was nice to see local people walking their dogs and getting some good exercise, and I'd soon be heading back downhill and towards the road.

In fact all the local roads had permit zones marked on them as their close(ish) proximity to Wembley Stadium (and another view of the arch I had from the top of Gotfords Hill) meant that local residents needed to be able to park properly. It was a zig zag of streets and eventually I ended up at one of the roads near Kingsbury, past the St Andrews Church that was moved here from near Oxford Circus in the early 20th century (that must have took some doing) before curving left and heading to the Welsh Harp Open Space.

The open space is actually across the boundary of two councils, Brent and Barnet, and in fact you can tell the boundary line as the path goes from tarmac to hard compact ground without any warning. There were some lovely views over the Brent Reservoir though with the ducks and swans swimming without a care in the world, and even the narrow bridge that intersects the reservoir (which pedestrians have to press a button to cross so no traffic does at the same time) gives a lovely view of the apartments overlooking the waterside.

From then it was almost all urban and a bit of a disappointment, arriving at West Hendon, on a road uphill and over the M1, then keeping going along the same road near the back of Brent Cross shopping centre, and underneath the A41 Hendon Way before then arriving over the Northern Line tube bridge to Hendon Park itself. The park looked nice and as I walked back to Hendon Central I noticed the café and the Oriental Gardens which all looked good too, before then heading back on the Nothern Line, changing at Euston for the Victoria Line and then on the train back to East Croydon.

I had a good listen today to the Lazarus cast soundtrack recording, following the fact that I had seen it yesterday, and what was clear even more so is how much of a good singing voice Michael C. Hall has. He really has the lilt and tone that makes you think of any good singer (David Bowie especially, obviously) and when he did perform "Where Are We Now?" it was simply spellbinding. I do feel sad when I hear that song as I've got emotional connections to it for a whole range of reasons, and he does Bowie justice the way he sings it, so tune of the day it is.

Wednesday 9th November - We Can Be Heroes, Just For One Day

I would have headed to Kings Cross earlier this morning to meet my friend and his wife, only due to the train issues with overhead lines from St Pancras meant that trains from East Croydon were going as far as City Thameslink and terminating there - also meaning no trains to Farringdon. Good job really I am off work for the rest of this week then, and that saves me hassle. Instead I got off at Blackfriars which meant I could take the 45 bus from there via Holborn Circus and Grays Inn Road and end up at the hotel, and met up accordingly.

My friend's wife wasn't heading out with us this morning, as her knee was playing up and so was going to rest up in the morning and have a well earned cuppa in Costa Coffee and then relax back at the hotel whilst we were heading out. I had mentioned to my friend that we were able to head to Brixton and see the David Bowie mural there close to the station, which had become something of a shrine after he died in January. And I'd worked out the lifts in Kings Cross the night before on my way back to Victoria, so also a good test to see how the access works too.

So, got down the first lift, then through the ticket barriers (my friend's contactless card worked fine) and then down two more lifts to the platform, and with the raised section and the designated bay, we managed to get the space fine - good job it's out of peak hours really. We stayed on all the way to Brixton and from the platforms there another lift up to the ticket hall, through the exit barrier and up another lift to street level. Actually, it worked tons better than I thought and it was good to be able to get that done.

Naturally across the road was the Bowie mural, so we stopped there, admired the mural and I got a picture of my friend there with it, so that was good. A woman was waiting for us and then asked me to take her picture by it, so that worked fine too. In fact it was amazing how well behaved fans were with it - the moons and the Bowie face had no writing on, with all the black marker tributes elsewhere as directed. It showed though just how much people admire it as part of the local landscape now.

We headed back down the lifts to the tube and this time got off at Green Park and after heading out in the lifts, it was off down past the Ritz Hotel and then left up Old Bond Street to New Bond Street and Sotheby's, where the Bowie / Collector exhibition was on prior to the auction of his owned art taking place later in the week. Naturally of course some items were more desirable, such as the co-operative art between Bowie and Damien Hurst, based on the single Hallo Spaceboy. Guide price of around £600k plus though before you get any ideas about buying it, like..

It was quite nice to mooch around there, but I also had one final little surprise too. We walked down Conduit Street to Regent Street and then veered off right and onto Heddon Street, and of course the place where the album cover of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was photographed. There's a plaque there so naturally needed to do a picture of my friend with said plaque as well as the plaque itself, which worked out pretty well. I think he was well pleased with that, and to celebrate we headed off to Leicester Square and had a well earned cuppa (and a raspberry almond slice for me too) in the Costa there.

It was then back on the bus, although the 91 from Trafalgar Square wasn't turning up - when I looked across the road I could see traffic the other way down to one lane causing tailbacks, so got the 13 to Aldwych and then the 59 from there back to Kings Cross, and met his wife close to Kings Cross station. We went for lunch in the station itself and had a sit down with a coffee and a sandwich, so that was good to be able to have something prior to going into the Kings Cross theatre, which was round the corner. The staff were all lovely and guided us in to the venue via the access ramp, and then through.

At first my friend was gutted as the seats were supposed to be in Row A, but we were in M. However the row before was much lower down, and in Row A you'd have been too close to the stage to see everything properly, so in fact being a little further back probably worked out. We all spotted Michael C. Hall (normally the role of Dexter) in the middle of the stage, all lying down and prepped for the start of the Lazarus musical, and my friend had bought the t-shirt, programme and the sheet music book before we went in.

And what did I think? Well, I enjoyed it, but then again I don't mind plays in the style of arthouse cinema. However, I can also see that it would divide the critics due to its different nature, and how the story is blended together with Bowie songs. Michael C. Hall is excellent as the main character, and Amy Lennox as Elly is superb, notably with the way she wistfully is in flirtatious mode and her excellent singing voice, and Sophia Caruso as the muse is brilliant too. In fact, the performance version of "Heroes" here by Hall and Caruso is superb, so that's tune of the day. It'll certainly be one that is a like or loathe it musical in equal measure, and well worth a look and making your own mind up if you get the chance.

Afterwards I walked back through Kings Cross and said my goodbyes to my friend and his wife, before I then took the tube (at rush hour too!) to London Bridge and then got the 1744 train to East Croydon. Naturally I'd heard about the tram crash during the day and was very saddened to hear that seven people had died. I've also been on the bend where the crash happened on the way to and from Beckenham Junction, and it's definitely a sharp bend to go slow on, so if it is true that the driver was asleep and went too fast, that's not very nice to hear. My thoughts are with the families of those injured or who had died today.

Tuesday 8th November - Heading to Harrods

After work I headed not home, but on the 63 bus close to my workplace in Farringdon and headed in the direction of Kings Cross to meet my friend and his wife who had come down to the capital for a couple of days. He's been looking forward to the trip for quite some time as tomorrow we'll be off to see the David Bowie musical Lazarus at the Kings Cross Theatre, and I've got some related ideas to do during tomorrow morning before we see the afternoon matinee.

My friend is also a wheelchair user and has been for some time, so what I also needed to factor in was the accessibility to transport and how to get around, so that they'd make the most of the time down here. I of course was forever grateful to the information Transport for London provide, as it's accurate and really does help you plan things through. With that in mind, and with something that his wife wanted to do during the evening tonight, I had worked out a good plan, and so headed to the hotel they were staying at and met up.

All was good with them both, and the journey down on Virgin Trains had all been good and got to the hotel without any issues too. His wife had always wanted to go to Harrods as she'd never been, and I didn't mind venturing in there either as I'd not been for ages. And so once all ready we headed back towards Kings Cross Station and got the number 10 bus from there - it was virtually empty as it was the first stop, meaning the ramp was all lowered fine and we got on with no issue. As the route wends its way to Oxford Street and down there, it meant that they could see the Christmas lights all lit up with the big displays outside Marks and Spencer, Selfridges, House of Fraser and so on.

We got to the stop close to Harrods and got off, and then went across the road and into the store. Naturally they were amazed by the Egyptian Room, the food hall with all sorts of foodie places and the chocolate and coffee section, plus the escalators all of the same Egyptian theme. We did find the lifts and so were able to head to the third floor later on and peruse the technology and also the toy section to get some present ideas, before then going down to the second floor and of course all the Harrods branded stuff in the shop.

As it turned out, this proved to be a smart move. Both of them had spotted something they liked and I thought "sensible idea - I'll suggest to get them that for Christmas" which they were both more than happy with. In addition, my friend bought his wife a nice little shopping bag with a Westie dog and Harrods logo on the side, and he got some biscuits in a tin plus also a little mini safe as well, which looked pretty cool. We admired the massive Christmas teddy bear (massive was an understatement) and also all the specialist golf stuff, the various mugs all branded, and how many posh people were in there, especially on the ground floor with the bags and the jewellery.

It was also noticeable too just how much they were able to stop and admire the setting and appreciate the feeling of luxury. My friend suggested going to their sales at the end of December but his wife and I mentioned it would be rammed and a mad rush all over, not necessarily the sort of thing to be involved in. And believe me, I've seen how mad it gets. It was also admirable though that so much of the stock on sale really did exude that feeling of being in a nice place - my friend said that in his view it makes Debenhams look like Poundland in comparison.

Later on we got the number 10 bus back to Kings Cross and were going to go into the Lucas Arms for tea. However they stopped serving food just before 9pm, and it was around 8.45pm. So once we'd dropped the bags off back at the hotel, we ventured back into Kings Cross and to the Italian restaurant Casa Mamma, which we'd spotted earlier and liked the look of. And it wasn't disappointing either. I had the tagliatelle carbonara, and lots of ham, cream and indeed a really nice pasta. My friend had the margherita pizza, all cooked spot on, and his wife had the lasagne which was a proper Italian lasagne, so plenty of meat and bechamel cheese. That went down rather well actually.

It was getting a little late by this time so I said my goodbyes to them at Kings Cross and then got the tube from there to Victoria, followed by the train to East Croydon, which appeared to be a little delayed on leaving the station. It had been a good day all round and I was thinking of the song "Shopping" by the Pet Shop Boys as we walked around Harrods, so that's tune of the day. Naturally tomorrow there's going to be plenty of David Bowie featured, I suspect!

Monday 7th November - The Trouble With Trains (and Southern Fail)

Tonight on BBC1 was a Panorama investigation "The Trouble With Trains" about the way that the trains in this country just don't work as well as they should. As someone who travels on trains a lot, for both commuting and for leisure, there's definitely two sides to the coin and of course it's noticeable that a lot of flak came the way of Southern Railways, and rightfully so in my view. In fact I don't think that the programme went far enough into the way that they really do run things in cahoots with the Government and how badly run it actually is.

However, it was noticeable that a section of John Ware's investigation mentioned one commuter who complained about his penalty fare, and found out that the supposedly independent company who run the penalty fares advisory board is in fact part of the whole Govia company, who just so happen to run Southern, that the commuter was served the penalty fare on. Hmmm.. funny that. And ironically after the Department of Transport staff tried to ridicule said passenger, he in fact took them on - and pretty much won, which of course gives hope to the Association of British Commuters' current attempts with the judicial review.

It also did mention the appallingly bad Pacer trains that those up North still suffer. I was on one recently between Manchester Piccadilly and Marple, and it was every bit as rubbish as I'd expect it to be. Ironically down South the trains are a lot better condition, just not enough of them at the right time and with bullying management, but still gets more than the North. Arriva Northern have admitted to me that they can't replace Pacers until 2020, which means three more years of hell for some commuters. I really do feel their pain to be quite honest.

I did also turn over to ITV4 and the Champion of Champions snooker at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry. The good news is that at least ITV4 have Clive Everton on commentary, and he is usually brilliant, and add Stephen Hendry into the mix and you have it right there, something the BBC doesn't get. Granted of course that Jill Douglas is decent but not in the standards of Hazel Irvine, but Alan McManus and Neal Foulds are also both very good pundits too. There's a lot to be said about how they cover the game and do breaks in between frames, a sensible move.

Ronnie O'Sullivan was taking no prisoners though and although it was close for the first five frames, he then went into another gear and in the final frame took a total clearance of over a century to beat Martin Gould 6-2. And with the tournament all set for the rest of the week, that might be me glued to parts of the telly during the week as well. Shame in fact I couldn't go to Coventry for some of that actually, but just too expensive to get there in time for the afternoon session. Still, all good, and tune of the day is the theme tune that ITV4 use for their snooker coverage, okay it's not Drag Racer, but whenever it's on I know the snooker is on...

Sunday 6th November - Christmas Fair and Dockyards

It was a relatively early rise today as The Love In My Heart and I fussed over the two cats Jô and Brian for a bit, and we had breakfast together too. It was off to the Christmas Fair organised by the hospice close to The Love's sister which her family all supports, and it's usually a good way to spend time - all in a lovely park and complete with real reindeer, donkeys and a real sense of Christmas with the market stalls, mulled wine and lots of Christmas cards and gifts on sale.

The Love and I met her sister at the park and we were soon heading around the stalls with plenty of gifts too, and that was nice to see. In fact the local hospice have a rather nice new Christmas gift, especially with children in mind - it's a double CD of stories narrated by well known local celebrities, so for example Steve Pemberton from Benidorm has read one (he's supported the hospice often by raising money on celebrity TV game shows) and there's also contributions from the likes of Ted Robbins, Jane Horrocks, Dave Spikey and Julie Hesmondhalgh (who used to be Hayley from Coronation Street) so that's quite a nice thing all round.

We were going to go in the Café Ambio in the park and have a coffee there but it was very busy (primarily as it was a tad windy) so instead we went old school and headed over to the other side of the M61 and to Botany Bay! I hadn't been in there for years actually and so we headed around, and noticed the Christmas shop on top with lots of stuff for the tree, and all sorts of decorations, but I have to say, it did feel overpriced somewhat. The third and second floors were mainly furniture and decor for home, and some of it tacky, and I did notice some of the more vintage / antique stuff had been moved to another place called Bygone Times. Maybe that's where the old vinyl stalls I spent time in used to go...

Later on we headed off homewards and as we had some time on our hands, I thought it'd be good to head to the Lowry Outlet Mall and think of some gift ideas for Christmas, the idea also being that we could head over to the Dockyard pub in Media City for Sunday lunch too. In fact that proved to be a good plan, but more on that shortly. So we headed to the Mall first, and the car park was understandably busy as a matinee performance was on at The Lowry that afternoon. We got a space on Level 5 and made our way down and through the shopping centre.

We did notice a few things - the car park prices have changed and you no longer get free parking if you make a purchase in the Outlet Mall itself - the only free parking is for four hours if you go to the cinema, and that's it. Thankfully though we worked out that two hours max would be £2, so we had a good look in the shops first and realised that actually a lot has changed - Marks and Spencer has moved to a much smaller space, leaving the big space empty - and they have a furniture clearance place opposite, which did have some nice furniture it has to be said.

We then walked over to Media City and to the Dockyard pub, and got ourselves a seat. We did spot an actress from Coronation Street in there having a drink with her partner, but we played it cool and left them to it of course - only right they get some quality time. The Sunday Roast deal was on, where you get a soup starter followed by the roast itself for a mere tenner each. The soup was pumpkin and sweet potato, and really lovely and wholesome it was too. The Love had the lamb, me the beef, and both were gorgeous, with a decent sized Yorkshire pudding, all sorts of vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, green beans and kale, and a rather lovely gravy too. Happy bunnies.

It was back at The Love's for a bit and then saying a fond farewell to the cats before The Love dropped me off at the station. I did feel sad going back down South and home because we'd had such a nice weekend, but at the same time I know I had to do it. The train was busy but nice and quiet, and I had the iPod on playing the likes of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, so the rather excellent track from the Skeleton Tree album "I Need You" - totally full of emotion is tune of the day.

Saturday 5th November - Drawn Again

So it was an early start and me heading off on the train from East Croydon to London Victoria on the first part of my journey up to Manchester to see The Love In My Heart. Of course as the trains were on strike today I left a little bit earlier, and so managed to head on the 0738 train, which was surprisingly empty. I got to Victoria and headed across on the tube to Euston without issues, so that was good, and had enough time to even head to Costa and try out the gingerbread latte and feel a little bit more festive. As you do.

The 0900 departure to Manchester Piccadilly was busy ish, but not too bad, and The Love came to meet me from the train station at 1107 when it arrived on time. When we got back to hers, I helped her set up two tablets that her work had purchased and wanted to use, and in the absence of any mobile device policy (which to be brutally honest all companies should have) I set up parental controls, made as many PINs and passwords to protect the device as possible, and also ensured we downloaded some appropriate content apps, such as CBeebies Story Time, that sort of thing.

The Love's sister arrived shortly after and we headed off to Levenshulme Market, where she managed to pick up a couple of nice little presents for people, and it was good to mooch around and have a look at all the stalls. As it was a little cold, we thought a trip over to The Buttery next to the sorting office on Albert Road was a good idea, and the coffee and cake in there went down very nicely - notably the orange and almond cake that I had. It was also very popular too with visitors and it was soon full, so we did well to get there when we did.

I headed off to my friend's place whilst The Love and her sister headed back to hers, and as I walked up the roads of where I know well, I spotted a for sale sign on my old house front. Hmm.. I thought the new buyers were going to do it up and rent it out, not do a Homes Under The Hammer job. I looked online later and I have to say that whilst I can see they've done some replastering where needed, not that much has changed. They've taken out the fireplaces and put in electric radiators (in fact electric radiators in every room, thus avoiding putting central heating in) and to be honest, the price being asked is too much as well.

Anyway, got to my friend's place and we were soon off to the Etihad to see Manchester City take on Middlesbrough, and it was a frustrating game. We did everything but score in the first half, until the 43rd minute when Kevin de Bruyne put in a really good cross and Sergio Agüero gobbled it up and smashed it home for 1-0 at half time. That was all good, but at the same time Middlesbrough were happy to sit back, and in the second half hit City on the break a fair bit. In fact it was one of those breaks which almost led to a goal, and at the start of stoppage time there was a header bulleted past Claudio Bravo and so 1-1 it finished. Rather frustrating and I did hear a few boos at the end.

The worrying thing is that the home form could cost us come the end of the season. The last two times we won the title (2012 and 2014) our home records were excellent, and that proved a foundation to win from. In 2012, we won eighteen and drew one of the nineteen games, so 55 points from 57. In 2014, we won seventeen, drew one and lost one of the nineteen games, so 52 points from 57. This was our third 1-1 draw at home on the bounce, so that means out of the six home games played thus far, we've won three and drawn three, so 12 points from 18. Not that good.

Later on The Love and I got changed and headed over to my Mum's and we took ourselves out for her birthday which was last Thursday. We went to The Cheshire Line in Cheadle, and that was rather nice actually. The Love and I had the starter, she had the breaded mushrooms and I had the garlic mushrooms in a cream sauce, both lovely. Mum and The Love had the special of the Somerset Pork - pork steaks in a cider and mustard sauce with potatoes and vegetables, which looked really good. I had the steak and Guinness pie, but was gutted as it wasn't a proper pie - it was a dish with lid. That'll teach me to ask beforehand next time!

It was nice enough though and Mum really enjoyed herself, and we spent some time back at hers all relaxed and chilled out, and we had a chat with my brother and his girlfriend too. Tune of the day in the meantime has to be something Mum likes, and as we were mentioning classic films, she mentioned the old classic Somewhere In Time. So, the classical piece " Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini" plays throughout and rather inspiring too, so a great one to enjoy at length too.

Friday 4th November - Solutions

I must admit by the end of the working day I was pretty pleased with myself, as I had managed to get to the bottom of an issue that had surfaced after the power down of all the servers and systems last weekend. When our SCCM 2007 server (which also houses WSUS and the older MDT server as well) came back up, it transpired that for some reason there was a chkdsk that had run on the hard disk, and as a result had damaged all the Crypto RSA Machine Keys in the relevant folder, meaning that IIS Admin didn't start.

All the advice I read online effectively was to be able to restore the files from backup and then all would be well, and if that wasn't available to remove and re-add the IIS 6 Metabase Compatibility Role, but to do that, WSUS has to go. I chatted with our Server Team colleagues, and we had a full backup from a couple of weeks ago and so the plan was to do a bare metal restore to a virtual machine, then snag the files that we needed. My colleague showed me a screenshot of the files and there was the vital one with C2319.. that is the main IIS one.

So, it was then a case of being able to copy the files back over to the server, and once that was done and IIS Admin was started, it started without any issue, and all the other services fired into life wonderfully well. In fact I could see from the SCCM distribution point share that content was getting there, and distmgr.log backed that up too, so all happy there. In addition I'd also had to re-upload two driver packages to the SCCM 2012 server, as it transpired that some of the content was missing due to a clash with an existing driver where the source was missing.

On a roll then really and so it was good to get a regularish train home and avoid most of the strike action on Southern Railway that had been happening today. As it turns out more dates have been announced close to either side of Christmas, which to be honest, may not be the best move for the RMT Union to do. After Southern's disastrous PR campaign to try and turn the passengers against the union which backfired, the last thing that the union need to do is to give the passengers armanent to loathe them in equal measures too, and I do think this might be the case.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the original Matt Gray soundtrack from Last Ninja 2, namely the in game theme from The Street level, the second in the game. Don't get me wrong, I am really enjoying the remake music and it really does give it some depth, but the original somehow has that real gritty element that the game has being set in New York and all that. I have had the album transferred to the iPod ready for the journey up to Manchester tomorrow...

Thursday 3rd November - The Office

So, another day of discovery and getting stuff done at work, and it was good to be able to get plenty of testing done. In fact I managed to get on top of sorting out an issue with the Windows 7 task sequences being deployed - it was a case of changing the installation order of some of the software, so that one particular piece of software didn't install itself right before the anti-virus software. On most laptops this appeared to be fine, but two models also have this HP Shock Sensor driver, so if that's running, the previous software install completes and then the anti-virus one attempts to install, there's a clash somewhere and stops it dead. Rather annoying, but good I've got a workaround, and indeed one of our second line colleagues tested this and found it to work fine too. Hurrah!

I also did some further investigation into a rather odd PXE related issue to do with SCCM 2012. So, if you're on a different vLAN from the SCCM server, the IP helpers are all correct and present on the routers, so you get the necessary PXE response, the machine boots up, away you go. By changing the log level to a more advanced one, SMSPXE.log even shows you the potential responses and ports it talks to (ports 67, 68, 69 and lastly 4011 for TFTP - all good.) However, if on the same vLAN, you'd expect that to work even better, right? But no. In fact no response is offered so something somewhere is amiss with the way DHCP operates there, it's with the network folks for investigation.

I must admit that it's also been good to get my train booked to go back up to Manchester for over the Christmas period. I needed to check with a colleague if I needed to cover the late shift as they may have booked some time off - and sure enough it was in the calendar. So when booking the train tonight I made sure I had enough time to head across and get the train, so the 1840 from Euston to Manchester Piccadilly on Friday 23rd December will have me on it. In fact as I get the 20% off and all that, I thought "you know what? why not?" and treated myself to first class as well, so it means as the departure is before 1900, I get food and drink too, so that's tea also sorted. The Love In My Heart and I will have a rather lovely time I suspect...

I spent some time as well listening to more of the Matt Gray Last Ninja 2 remakes album as part of the Reformation thing. I must admit that there's a real sense of the production being rather well done, and sounds really clean when it needs to be. Mind you, there's a nice smattering of some of the original Commodore 64 SID bassline when needed, just to give it that little bit more analogue sounding depth. All good there. And while there's obvious Bomb the Bass nods in it, "The Office Loading Theme" is tune of the day - that driving bass just draws you in nicely.

I also had to ring back Tesco tonight as they hadn't refunded my account following the error that they had made with not delivering the grocery shopping last weekend. Thankfully the woman on the customer services number was really good (unlike those in the local Croydon warehouse where the food comes from) and not only rang the local warehouse to ensure a manager called me back tomorrow but also sanctioned the refund, based on the original guide price (so more than I got debited too) and was really apologetic in a nice way. I think because I was polite and professional on the phone she took me more seriously, and agreed with all my points. So if the local warehouse doesn't ring me tomorrow, there'll be a nice email going to BBC Watchdog, mark my words...

Wednesday 2nd November - Reformation

Well, it's been two years exactly to the day since the well known Commodore 64 musician Matt Gray, who amongst other things composed the soundtracks for the likes of games such as Hunters Moon, Quedex, Tusker, Bangkok Knights (the loading theme), Dominator, and most famously of all, Last Ninja 2 - announced his planned Kickstarter campaign Reformation to go back and do all his old classics in a modern way, and re-do them the way that he would have liked to have had them done. Naturally as a fan of that sort of game music I had naturally backed it to the hilt.

It's been a fair while coming of course, and the sheer amount of money raised meant that an album of all the game themes from Last Ninja 2 was always going to be a popular and so it was rather pleasing to have an email in the inbox informing me that the downloads were available, and so that was going to be well worth snagging once I got home from work. And thankfully I managed to yet again avoid more Southern Railway chaos, this time a train hitting a pheasant near Purley and another train breaking down close to East Croydon. I feel for people who have to travel much further than me.

So, once I'd had some food, spoken to The Love In My Heart and then downloaded the FLAC files (high quality only for me folks) with the MP3s also ready to go on the iPod for the next train journey, all set to go. Admittedly though I had to go for the Sewers Main Theme first, primarily because it was my favourite track from the game (and favourite level) and because I even used to be able to play part of the main hookline of the second part of the original on a keyboard I used to have as a teenager, such was my love of it. And it's all there, and a rather epic ten minute version at that too, so tune of the day an easy decision.

One minor note though - in the original game, the in game theme for the Mansion was also used for the Final Battle level too, with only the loading themes being different. So in effect track thirteen should be the final battle loading theme, and track twelve being the Mansion and Final Battle main (ingame) theme. But that's me being a diehard and spotting this though - the tracks themselves are pretty spot on. Interestingly said Mansion / Final Battle Main Theme is actually in a different key than the original, which when it gets to the little pastiche from the original Last Ninja Wilderness in-game theme is quite intriguing.

And the Tangerine Dream influence in some of the tracks (for example parts of Midnight in Tula from the Office Main Theme and Alchemy of the Heart from the Mansion / Final Battle Main Theme) is present too, and in a good way, which really shows care and consideration to include those influences even with the remake - would have been very easy to leave them out. And overall it's even more driven than the original too - plenty of powerful drums underpinning left right and centre, really giving lots of space for everything else, so production values all pretty high here.

So definitely one I'm going to give some further listening to and a companion to playing the original game and listening to the original soundtrack also, which for me is still one of my favourite game soundtracks ever to be honest - it captured the feel of the sequel spot on, and I had happy memories buying the game (complete with ninja mask and shuriken) on the first day of release and pretty much playing it non-stop in the evenings for the next few weeks or so, it was that sort of moment.

Tuesday 1st November - Puzzling

Well, the planned change I was going to make as an emergency change had to be pulled, and with good reason. The server I needed to backup didn't complete the backup correctly, and also for some reason the folder I really wanted to be sure was included in the backup wasn't functioning the way that it wanted to either, and didn't show in the backup results. It is a concern because obviously that there's not going to be an easy way to carry out the needed change without having to possibly do some other work too - and it's not that easy having to get IIS back up the way you want it to.. joy.

Still, the good thing is that in a way that I've also been able to work out some other puzzles, such as how for example when you boot off a USB stick to a certain laptop, and despite the fact that you have clearly partitioned the disk in the way that you would expect it to be, that it just simply flat refuses to be able to copy the Windows WIM to the machine, claiming that the disk itself is inaccessible. Say what? In fact, if you set it to legacy BIOS mode it does it for Win 7, and if you set the BIOS to UEFI, it then complains that the disk needs to be GPT partitioned, so either way, it's a bit of a faff. I think we've got some ideas though.

Also I got a look in this morning at the new service desk system we'll be using in a couple of weeks time. It looks massively better than the current one we're using, and in addition should also allow us to be able to be able to differentiate between incidents, problems, change requests and the likes. I've thought of a few things that there could be improvements on, but nonetheless it's pretty promising and certainly for me should allow us to work smarter, not harder.

I headed home on the train, and it was busy, but I feel sorry for anyone attempting to head to Brighton tonight. There's a rail that's been damaged at Wivelsfield, and so a fair few trains are terminating at Three Bridges, with diversions possible via Horsham or via Hastings, either of which may just take some time. Nonetheless though the haste of opening the line after the repair and then finding another damaged rail afterwards shows that really there needs to be some answers, such as why the train in the first place caused a fire on the rail underneath. Either way, something has to be done..

So, Manchester City on against Barcelona shortly in the Champions League. I must admit I have some trepidation as I am slightly worried about the fact that last time out we got panned 4-0 at their place. The only bonus is that Claudio Bravo is suspended tonight, and thankfully also Sergio Agüero is also starting, and with him scoring two on Saturday that has to be a considerable bonus I reckon. For me at least it's going to be tense, and therefore "Blue Moon" by Supra is tune of the day as I can sing that out loud here and cheer them all on!