Dear Diary... November 2019

Saturday 30th November - Christmas At Kew

It was good to be able to have a lie in this morning, and also nipped out to the Cancer Research shop in Purley. A few weeks ago whilst in Birmingham, The Love In My Heart got this lovely bauble with a cat on the front which looked like it was Brian the cat, being all cute in a Winter scarf in the snow. That shop was the nearest one to me and so this meant I was able to head over to there and they had one left, so got that and would be ready for later to put on the Christmas tree. also put the main body of the tree up during the morning too, so all the branches and parts and stand were all up, and would decorate the tree with The Love when she arrived later.

I headed off to East Croydon when The Love informed me she was leaving Victoria, and we soon were heading back to my place. She was really pleased I'd got the cat bauble, and after a coffee and a catch up, we set about getting the tree all decorated. The lights went on first, followed then by the baubles, the small ones I've got near the top with the large ones and hanging snowflakes near the bottom. I also had the cat bauble in pride of place so the face could see the television, and of course my little polar bear as ever sitting on top (I'm not religious so wanted to have something different on the top) and was all good.

We had tickets for Christmas At Kew later on (which has completely sold out for its entire run!) and so had some time spare and headed to Richmond first for the afternoon, via Clapham Junction and then getting the fast train from there, which took a mere 22 minutes total from leaving East Croydon, decent all round. It was nice to have a good mooch in the likes of Oliver Bonas, Anthropologie and so on, but what was really lovely was us heading into the Hummingbird Bakery there and having coffee and cake inside - the salted caramel cupcake I had was lovely, as was the cookies and cream one for The Love too. We also went in one of the pubs near the station and I had the St Austell Jolly Holly ale - rather lovely!

We had booked for food at Tap on the Line, which is right next to Kew Gardens station, so headed on the tube one stop to there, and were soon sat at the table and being able to look at all the pretty lit trees on the square, but also the platforms for the tube and Overground too. The food was lovely in there - The Love had the haddock and chips, and I had the game casserole with mash and vegetables, which was very hearty and spot on. I also had the sticky toffee pudding for dessert too which was gorgeous, a proper nice pudding all round and salted caramel ice cream too.

We then walked past the nice shops near the station at Kew, and walked towards the Victoria Gate and the entrance to Kew Gardens. Last time we went to Christmas at Kew, which was back in 2014, it was a different trail, and this year was a much longer trail in all (some 2.6km, one and a half miles plus) and also took in the views of the Temperate House, which was closed when we last went and being refurbished. It was nice to be able to enter and get past security a few minutes earlier than planned and without any queueing - we did 5pm last time and that was a lengthy queue outside!

It was enchanting stuff all round - we walked through many light tunnels including a selection of trees all coloured purple with its displays - and the front of the temperate house had a really nice light display being accompanied by the Alexandra Burke version of Hallelujah too. Not my musical taste but I could see why it was popular - and walking through another gorgeous tunnel of light before then turning right and arriving at the Pavilion. This had a nice shop and The Love did buy a couple of presents there, and we also had a nice mulled wine and sat outside and enjoyed that, which was lovely.

We then followed the path along towards the side view of the Termperate House, following some more lovely light displays and towards a fairground area with rides for children of all ages, and the gorgeous carousel, lots of food stalls too. There was also a Santa and actors performing as well which was nice to see, and we then followed the path towards the treetop walkway, and the lights there in a massive display hanging down were just lovely, lots of really good displays, and plenty to just be in awe at. Words were not enough and we both loved that, and accompanying Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy as we headed through light tunnels (make that tune of the day)

The other thing we loved were the vines, an art installation of metres of vines lit by LED lights and you went through the lights and you could touch and interact with them which was pretty good too, and a garden with lit mushrooms and flames which really did feel special and warm. We also saw a few arches with mistletoe encouraging couples to snuggle under and kiss, and more light displays too. Of course it was then over towards the Palm House for a finale and that was spectactular, the water shooting up and light shows shining on to that - and plenty of crowds here too.

We both agreed it was rather wonderful, and we actually left around 9pm so had spent two hours plus on the walk around and had a great time doing so. We headed back to Kew Gardens station and on the tube to Richmond, followed by the train to Clapham Junction and then East Croydon, and were back around 10.10pm. We then watched Strictly Come Dancing from earlier tonight, and there were three impressive couples all round which in my view deserved to be thorough, which The Love In My Heart agreed on. We would see what would happen tomorrow.

Friday 29th November - Safe and Sound

It had been a good day at work and had headed out to lunch with a few colleagues, and the news broke through of an incident at London Bridge. Of course it wasn't wise to be speculative of what was happening, and it was a case later of watching the news online whilst getting work done, and listening to any events as they were forthcoming at the same time. Some of the management were giving me the option to head home earlier if I needed to, as one of my train routes go via London Bridge, but I was going home via Victoria anyway, so that was the easier option.

It turned out as the afternoon went on that it did look like a terrorist attack, and some two and a half years since the same bridge had also been the scene of an attack, and it was when a friend and me were at Depeche Mode at the London Stadium too - and had to divert back home for obvious reasons. It was a case of keeping calm and allowing the police and other services to do their job and not speculate, so was good to just carry on as normal and later on take the tube to Victoria - admittedly, it was busier than normal, even for a Friday, but it was all good.

The train did seem emptier on the way back home - whether that was because some had already left earlier than planned to ensure they got home, or also as yesterday was also quiet, whether some US-based businesses had closed all their offices worldwide due to Thanksgiving happening as well. It definitely was an easier ride home, and I kept tuned in to the news and to see what was happening. It looked like members of the public were the ones to initially take on the person committing the crime, pin them down and give them a bit of a bashing before the police arrived, and with a vest that looked like a bomb vest, fake or not, no chances were being taken, and understandably so.

It does make me feel more vigilant generally and am glad I am in a flat that is pretty secure all round. The food delivery from Sainsburys arrived later and the driver had to buzz all the entry doors to be let in, and then of course at the front door too - but all was good, it arrived safe and sound just as I had got home earlier without any mishaps. I have to say that generally their online shopping works much better than Tesco does around here - the Tesco depot locally is not very well run whatsoever and have had to complain on a number of occasions, whereas Sainsburys are always spot on and cheaper in the delivery times I want too.

Later on I chilled out with some tunes on as I cleaned the flat and ironed everything I needed, all ready for when The Love In My Heart comes tomorrow. This included some classic old school 1990s dance tunes, including "E-Vapor-8" by Altern-8 (make that tune of the day) as well as some KMFDM as well, which certainly got me in a weekend sort of mood, and a distraction from events elsewhere, sort of what I needed. I also checked the christmas tree lights and they were working, so pretty pleased all round...

Thursday 28th November - Clean Up Time

It was a pretty productive day all round today. I'd spent a fair bit of time this week sorting out all the old driver packages and getting them removed, and also ensuring that the relevant drivers and folders were also removed too. It's a case of being careful and checking at each stage what is being removed and keeping things neat and tidy. The positive is also that it's going to effectively claim back a fair amount of space on the distribution points too, so an epic win there.

Once that was all sorted by the early afternoon, it was time for a well earned lunch so myself and a couple of colleagues headed out to Metro Express near the office - it does some good Moroccan dishes as well as some rather good sandwiches and paninis. I went for the chicken escalope foccacia, and the bread was lovely with some black olives embedded in, and the chicken was well cooked and plentiful, and just what was needed to claim back some energy for the remainder of the day. Will have to go there again at some point and treat myself for definite.

It was then a case of seeing what other packages were associated with Windows 7 based installers, and in some of those it was multiple different package installers, often not necessarily needed and causing bloat. However, I did a bit of Powershell scripting to output the package ID, name and source file location into an Excel CSV, and immediately spotted that a fair number of them didn't have the original source files whatsoever in that location - some down to bad housekeeping previous, others where when the data went to the DP the source was removed (also not good).

Naturally in the cases where I did want the source files back, content library explorer is your friend, as you can see the whole contents of each package, select the whole thing, do a copy and pick the folder locally to copy to. And it does get out all the files you want and into a folder, which you can then rename as needed and point the package to the location you want with all the files intact. Also very handy if for some reason you wanted to go back to a previously distributed version where you had changed the source files too, so really worth utilising in your everyday ConfigMgr library if you didn't already.

I headed home via the local Tesco and Savers to get some bits and bobs including sparkling water, dishwasher and washing machine tablets etc, and the good thing about Savers is that they show you the cost per item, so for the dishwasher tablets, the pack of 40 Fairy ones which were 20 plus 20 free worked out cheapest per tablet, and actually a different scent too (orange) which might mean a nice citrussy smell from the dishwasher, not necessarily a bad thing that. In the meantime tune of the day is "Get Clean" by Nitzer Ebb, a proper Industrial tune that pounds away and perfect to clean to as well!

Wednesday 27th November - Avanti!

Earlier tonight it was announced that the new name for the West Coast railway (ie: the bit that Virgin Trains are currently running until 7th December of this year) was to be Avanti West Coast. This effectively is a partnership between First Group (ugh) and Trenitalia, who run the main national railway in Italy and generally whenever I've travelled on them have been good, especially the fast high speed Frecciarossa service that The Love In My Heart and I did between Naples and Rome - on time, and with prosecco during the evening.

It had only been announced now, and with a week or so to go until they officially take over, there were all sorts of thoughts as to what could be happening. Indeed, the next round of this franchise isn't only for the current West Coast mainline, but also for the forthcoming High Speed 2 service linking Euston with the likes of Birmingham and eventually Manchester in the years to come, so a long term plan. Of course I had noted over the last few months that the Pendolino trains were gradually being de-branded to the point of plain, more than likely ready for a bedding in paint job on the frontages to be the new provider.

It does look like you'll still be able to earn Nectar points too the same as before (2 points for every £1 spent) and an email from Nectar themselves seems to confirm this. It'll be interesting to see if they have any opening offers as such to entice you in, and the other great unknown for the likes of me as a Manchester City fan and also Aston Villa fans is if the 20% advance fare discount for any bookings is going to be still available. It's definitely been a life saver for me in terms of being able to head up to Manchester most weekends and spend valuable time with The Love In My Heart, so we shall see what the state of play is there.

In case you wondered, the word "avanti" is Italian for forward, which makes sense in terms of the direction that the management want things to go. Not quite sure about the triangular logo which is going to be present on that at the moment, as it sort of symbolises London to Manchester via Stoke (the long side) or via Crewe (the two other sides) of that triangle. I think the time will tell how it will all work, and as I'm heading on First Class just before Christmas it'll be interesting to see how the offer compares - and indeed I've got a Friday nighter by the end of January too!

One other thing I've sorted tonight as well, with the valued assistance of The Love over email and phone, is got the calendar sorted for next year. For the last few years now we've done a cat calendar, and it's nice to have a different picture of Brian the cat each month. As The Love takes a lot of portrait ones on her phone, I've also gone two to a page in some months which worked well, and that meant it's all good, so "Cool For Cats" by Squeeze was played afterwards and is tune of the day.

Tuesday 26th November - Later Than Planned

I was sorting out more removal of old versions of packages, drivers etc from the distribution points, and particularly noted that one of them was taking its time. This was because of an old setting that had been retained on some of the old packages in that the content would be copied to a package share on the distribution points. Honestly, you shouldn't really do that where possible - it's much easier (and safer) to let the content download to the machine locally, then have the install, driver package etc run locally. Running things natively from the DP, not really recommended anymore - may have been back in SMS 2.0 or even SCCM 2007, but not now folks...

So it transpired that one of them was having to process the delete commands slower than usual because it was doing a delete command for every single file within the driver package, so for a package of say 25-30 drivers with a considerable number of files, and bearing in mind the remoteness of the location, you get the idea - not the quickest. In fact I stayed back a little bit just to check that things were working the right way round and knew that things were all good to go before I left, as is my need.

Surprisingly, it's amazing how much of a difference a half hour or so can make in terms of getting the tube and getting the train home too. The tube seemed much less busier and was able to get on the first one at Tottenham Court Road without any issues, and then the exchange at Embankment was painless, getting to Blackfriars fine, and didn't have to wait too long to get on the train home and get a seat. I must admit though that Thameslink really need to do something about the Sutton loop - all the trains are über-rammed and only 8 carriages (primarily due to the platform lengths at most of those stations) so a more frequent service somehow needs to be done if they can - or maybe have some peaks on the Sutton loop start/finish at Blackfriars and not go towards Luton.

I got home and it was a case of sorting out a fair few Christmas presents that I'd got on my lunch break and/or had delivered to me too. Admittedly for one reason or another I've got most of the presents sorted, but it was just good to blitz a load of them now and had the money to do so before pay day, so better to try and spread the financial cost (not least also because I'll be looking at potentially booking some Eurostar trains at some point) and that should help over the next few weeks or so.

In any case, I also tonight worked on getting some washing and cleaning sorted prior to this weekend, as The Love In My Heart is coming to see me. I blasted out some KMFDM during that phase to make the cleaning experience a bit less painful, and the opening track "K-M-F" is tune of the day as well, gets the mood going perfectly and shows what can be done when the mind is put to it. Now, where did I put the next bit of ironing to b done I wonder?

Monday 25th November - Presents of Paradise

A month till Christmas today - my that has gone quick! However, I did manage to make some inroads into the present buying a week or two ago, and do admittedly have most of the presents for The Love In My Heart ordered already, so to be honest I don't need that much now. It was a case of being able to work out what to get and where from, and with a number of retailers offering free delivery, it would be daft to turn that down to be honest. That done, I was able to put three separate orders in and items to be honest that I can't see being reduced for Black Friday. I'm holding off one till then just in case, but for some present cases you're not going to get a discount on gift cards are you?

I also started off the big clean up of content from the distribution points of old drivers and driver packages that weren't needed. Many of these had been created before I had started and you could tell they weren't tidy either, with an assumption that all the content would install direct from the distribution point, thus using the old package share option - which of course eats space on the distribution point too. The negative is also shown when you need to delete content - it takes an age because each file delete command has to be sent separately - and on slow to reach servers that can take a while.

In fact two particular servers were slower than the others that I had noted for content, and so were taking more time than the remainder to clear themselves out, and so meant that at the same time I needed to keep an eye on all the log files and the servers themselves to see the content being removed correctly. Ideally you make sure that's all done, and then and only then remove the package entirely. This is so that there's no interruption of the removal of content commands and a bit of a mess to clear up later.

I got home from work and a nice delivery arrived in the post - the new KMFDM album "Paradise" which I've been playing on repeat twice over already. And it's rather good to say the least. The album version of the title track has an extended lengthy bit of guitar and dub work that makes it sound even more epic, but there's plenty of good tracks throughout including the excellent "Oh My Goth" (make that one tune of the day) with Lucia Cifarelli belting out some superb vocal work for sure.

It was good also to be able to see that a number of orders I'd placed all were being despatched, so definitely well worth the effort to get things ordered. It definitely was a case of also seeing that by the weekend I should be in a good place present wise, and that means that I can relax pretty much over December and be able to take it easy and look forward to a well earned break over that time. I must admit that can't come soon enough now to be honest...

Sunday 24th November - But The Very Next Day, You Gave It Away

The Love In My Heart and I had a nice lie in, and Brian the cat was all being cuddly and cute as he lay at the end of the bed and did his usual sprawl out and look at Mummy with his "tickle me, please!" face which is all cute and hard to resist. I leave the tickles to The Love as he isn't quite used to me giving him them although he did let me pick him up for a cuddle last night, which is a plus. We had some nice breakfast together and a well earned coffee before getting ourselves ready to head out into the city centre.

We had decided that we were going to the cinema, as it'd be a nice way to spend the afternoon and go for some lunch afterwards. The Love and I wanted to see Le Mans '66 but with it being nearly three hours long, the time we'd get out of that meant no time for food before the train, so instead we went for Last Christmas, a romantic comedy that The Love fancied, and it did have the music of George Michael and Wham! in it too, so that might be quite a good idea anyway. I indulged and so went to Vue in the Printworks as the tickets are a mere fiver each, and used the quick pay till to avoid the queues to get tickets for Frozen 2.

We settled in to the seats, had no one in front of us and were nice and central to the screen. It was actually an okay film, not brilliant but certainly innocent enough to pass the time. The Love enjoyed it more than me, but there were some good acting performances, especially Emilia Clarke in the lead role and Michelle Yeoh as the Christmas shop owner, with a sharp wit and a sense of madness at the same time. I also really liked the locations used, notably parts of Brixton and St Mary's Church not far from Baker Street and Marylebone, which I've walked past before. Tune of the day is of course the Wham! classic "Last Christmas" which made an appearance of course, and The Love got the main plot line straight away about half way through!

It was all good though and The Love and I headed over to the Abel Heywood for a well earned Sunday Roast together. And it was very good. I had the rather nice stout on cask too which was rather lovely and deserved to be savoured somewhat. I had the roast turkey, The Love had the pork complete with nice crackling and was everything a roast should be - a proper meal, proper gravy and lots of really well cooked vegetables and lots of meat. It was nice just to chatter a lot too whilst having lunch and felt rather lovely all round.

We headed back to The Love's place later on and Brian the cat had some final cuddles before I headed off to get the tram back to Piccadilly station (we'd already got a day ticket anyway so didn't cost anymore and meant The Love could give Brian more cuddles and his tea) and arrived in good time for the 1830 Transport for Wales train to Crewe. That and the 1933 London Northwestern to Euston all ran fine with no issues, and showed that actually this was a potentially more viable option if I couldn't get a cheap ticket otherwise, which might soon happen once Virgin hand over.

Saturday 23rd November - Chelsea Conundrum

It was a nice morning with The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat - he was being all cute and playful and wanted me to roll this little ball around so he could chase after it and then save it all goalkeeper style, playing with the paw hitting the ball around the floor and me then rolling it all back to him. I think it certainly gave him some well earned exercise and he was all happy once we did that for a bit, so that was nice to see. I must admit that he is getting used to me at weekends now and as The Love mentioned, he doesn't run away when I arrive so that has to be a positive.

The Love's sister came over for a cuppa and a chat and was nice to see her, and we then settled in the for the early afternoon. Whilst The Love was sorting out some baking, making some rather lovely scones and having the clotted cream and jam to go with it (she is far too kind!) I also did some research on what potential Christmas presents I could get people too, so all good there. It was just nice also to see a twist on Escape to the Country in the Escape to the Town, with Steve from Countryfile hosting this week, doing a nice little tour of Harrogate and Knaresborough with the couple who were just in awe about how much further their money would take them!

I then headed over to the Etihad for tonight's 5.30pm kick off game with Manchester City versus Chelsea. I was nervous because of City's recent run but thankful that Ederson was back in net. I decided this time around to take advantage of the pie and pint offer, so that meant a pint of Amstel (okay, but nowhere near my favourite) and also a chicken balti pie for £6.50. All good, but maybe a hot drink and pint for say £5.00 might be a nice option to have in future as well, or even pie and a soft drink for say £5.50, give some options out?

Anyway, the first half got underway and Chelsea were heading down the right a lot of the time and exploiting the space left by Benjamin Mendy. It wasn't a surprise they went in front, but the ball from Kovacic over the centre found N'Golo Kante and he slotted it past Fernandinho and Ederson in the City goal for the opener. Thankfully City responded with a shot from Kevin de Bruyne hit and deflected in for 1-1, and that was how it stayed until Riyad Mahrez went on a run from the right hand side, cut inside and blasted it home for 2-1, and City held the lead until half time.

The second half was a case of end to end in the most part, although City were getting things relatively okay most of the time. Right near the end we all thought Raheem Sterling had scored, the referee had given it, only for VAR to interfere and deem it offside. What I didn't like was the Premier League account later saying the referee had given it offside originally, which was complete rubbish - he hadn't. The linesman had only raised the flag after the VAR check had been made, a shockingly bad decision made worse by attempting to cover the backside of the on-field decision.

Later on The Love In My Heart and I tucked into some lovely roast chicken with all the trimmings (thank you my love!) and we watched Strictly Come Dancing. I knew Kelvin and Oti were going to be good, but having meaning and playing a Northern Soul classic at the same time - a winner (as is the tune of course, "Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)" by Frank Wilson - and definitely tune of the day. It was also good to see Kerim and Amy nail their dance and we both thought those two were shoe ins for next week.

Friday 22nd November - Going Cheaper

It was a fairly relaxed day at work today but with plenty to do in terms of testing and planning for next week. Now we're pretty much in the closing stages of upgrading machines, we don't need a lot of the old driver packages and so on, so will be commencing starting that next week with a view to keeping things tidy and clean across systems but also being able to claim some space back, which I can then re-utilise for the Windows 10 1903 and 1909 driver packs, and new OS image etc. The plan purely is that I can then look at a suitable date for turnover of the new features.

I headed to Euston tonight but for a different train than normal - my view was that I was going to try out a potentially cheaper and open return route, so I can pick the trains I want. You have to dig a little to find it, but essentially London Northwestern and Transport for Wales do a return from Manchester to London for their trains only, and it's an off peak return too so you could in theory use it any time within the next month instead of say just a Sunday, and it's £45. That's around half the price of a walk on offpeak return with Virgin, and so works out a walk up fare too.

So having worked out times, London Northwestern's only restriction on peak is any train that arrives at or departs from London before 1000 on the Trent Valley route to Crewe. The 1746 out of Euston is therefore in these terms off peak, so managed to get on that and get a seat - and the train emptied nicely anyway when it got to the first stop of Milton Keynes Central. From there it was onwards via Nuneaton, Tamworth, Lichfield and Rugeley and on to Stafford and Crewe, and arrived bang on time at 2002 as well. All good so far, but..

I knew from checking that the trains from Crewe to Manchester were totally knackered because of a signalling issue near Goostrey, half way between Alderley Edge and Crewe. Therefore a diversion was in place, I'd go on the train to Warrington Bank Quay, and from there then change train again to one that went to Manchester, although it was going to Manchester Victoria so The Love In My Heart was informed and collected me from there - admittedly not much later than I was going to arrive, so that was a relief!

We headed back to her place and Brian the cat got lots of love and fussing from me before we settled in for the evening to see Gogglebox on Channel 4 +1. Intriguingly it didn't feature any of Strictly, but it did have part of I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, and notably a classic chick flick comedy The Love likes - Bridesmaids. And yes, they featured the now infamous food poisoning / throwing up all over the bridal shop bit! The film also has the Nouvelle Vague cover of the Violent Femmes' classic "Blister in the Sun" so make that one tune of the day whilst we're at it!

Thursday 21st November - Journeyman

It was a journey of sorts today as I spent some time sorting out an issue with one of the Outlook plugins for a member of staff - and realised that they actually had a different version of office, so had to tweak what I planned to install a little bit. The good news was that it did work well, and so meant that I was able to utilise that into a deployment type for future reference, so meaning we cover both bases nicely. It did also mean that I knew another user was now on the correct version of the plugin too, so added bonus there to proverbially at least kill two birds with one stone.

I dug out one of the test laptops today and started various tests with it to ensure it'd take Windows 10 1909 fine, and deliberately picked an older model that did have sufficient support. What I was able to see was that with a fresh build and with the newer driver pack uploaded, all seemed pretty well there and everything played ball nicely, which was good. I did a rebuild back to our current 1809 build, and once all the other updates were installed, then attempted the in-place 1909 upgrade. This failed with an error - but the code was enough for me to divulge into the log files, and find that the Intel Display Audio driver was out of date. So... update that first, then do it. And that did work.

I stayed behind in the office a bit with a coffee and a sandwich from Boots before then walking up to the King and Queen pub, where the bar was busy but thankfully the upstairs part for tonight's Totally Acoustic gig was not, which was good. I soon spotted Mark (MJ) Hibbett who was his usual cheery self, and lovely to see him as ever, and also Robin from the band Robberie, who were on later too. It was nice to see a good number of people and Mark's partner Charlotte also came along, so had a good natter to her about all sorts and how lovely Brian the cat is!

So with the official anthem of Totally Acoustic in the bag (remember folks: the "ooo!" bit is very important) it was MJ Hibbett to kick things off with a few songs, including the new one "Bad Back" as well as my current recent favourite "You're A Tory Now" which is to be he the the Validators' next single - a wise move I think. It definitely for me had that edge. It was then three songs with John Dredge (Mark being the "and the Plinths" bit on guitar) with well written material and sung with effortless grace and yet sounding mellow at the same time - definitely need to check more out. "Idiots Run The World" was particularly brilliant.

After a nice break, on came Robberie, and were totally brilliant. As Charlotte quite rightly said to me afterwards, their songs are full of joy but they're also happy when they sing them, which gives off all the right vibes. I couldn't agree more. They were ace, and played lots of stuff from their impressive debut album, giving outings to the likes of "The Broad and Narrow Way" as well as "In The Next Town (Same Old Radio)" with lovely vocals and acoustics, and a little xylopohone which just added the percussion ever so well too, and a real sense of happiness throughout.

A more reflective mood on the calming "This Dancefloor Needs Me" gave way to my particular favourite, "Journeyman" about the cult footballer playing for a multitude of clubs. It was nice to sing along to the opening (because it's ace!) and the chorus too, and for me, tune of the day for definite, still one of the best songs about footy ever. "Seven Hills" was also in the set about the wonderful city of Sheffield, which I love too as a Northerner, and lastly, the one which got us all singing along to the chorus, "More Fun Than Me" which was about online friends versus real friends. Joyous all round, and a fab end to a fab evening!

Wednesday 20th November - Reflective Mood

It was a good day all round at work today, despite the bad weather getting a little chilly in places. Further testing I did was all good on the Windows 10 1909 side, and also was able to assist a colleague who was a bit concerned about hosting a meeting in one of the meeting rooms with the audio options, but in fact it all went well because I went and spent time with the member of staff concerned beforehand and did some testing to ensure that we could tell where the feedback was - and that was a case of having the mic from a Mac laptop and the mic on the meeting room desk on at the same time. Turn that off, all good, and later on played some Stephen Mallinder with headphones on to relax with the job done, the excellent "Hollow" being tune of the day.

We had our team meeting this afternoon and it was a positive one with us all contributing. One of my colleagues came out with a great question to one of our senior managers that basically stated what we all felt - in that the way the company evolves with different products and acquisitions coming out, it's good for us all to know who does what so we can better appreciate what is happening. I think it shows a lot of good thinking outside the box and it also shows the calibre of the staff we have - a good bunch of people all round really.

I can certainly state that I've been the happiest in a work sense out of all the four jobs I've had since moving down South back in December 2015, which is almost four years now. I've learned a lot about how things work but I've also understood the workplace environments and the commute all told, but also to stand up for myself a fair bit more and not take anything that shouldn't be right. I had a great team when working in the first job, but their systems weren't what I expected, so moving elsewhere to a place with the right systems worked well.

I did have a very good spell at that place too, also taking on different challenges such as ServiceNow for example, which was a nice new thing to do, and it was only due to career progression, not anyone in any particular team, why I decided to move on. You always leave on a good footing if you can - and I wasn't to know that the next job, bar a few wonderful people (my line manager and test manager respectively) there was a really bad workplace culture which made me ultimately unhappy. It also shows that if moving for a career, it's not just about anything financial but also has to be the right atmosphere in work to get the best out of people.

The journey home from work took longer than planned with the tube platform rammed, and it was soon easy to work out why. Unfortunately the very packed platforms at Oxford Circus meant that someone had gone accidentally on to the tracks, and a train was coming. I wasn't sure if any fatality occurred as yet, but the station had been evacuated and closed off, so that meant everyone going to nearby stations of course, so meaning a much busier time of it. On newer sections of the Jubilee line, they have barriers all the way along with sliding doors that only open when the train is in the station, so you can't fall on to the platform at all. However, retrofitting that would be costly but may need to be done sooner instead of later.

Tuesday 19th November - Saving at Sainsburys

It was a pretty cold day all round so was glad to have some suitable knitwear on and the office was pretty cosy but the air conditioning set to a temperature which was not too cold but not too hot either, so that made for a productive day really. I was able to look at some Mac based deployments in Jamf Pro and they seemed to be going well, and that also meant I could do some further testing with some more Windows 10 1909 stuff. In fact I was able to look at seeing what would happen with older versions, and the reception was pretty mixed.

So, if you have a version that is pretty old, what happens is you cannot use the in-place option as a feature update that you can do to be deployed via SCCM (which definitely would be the preferred option). However, what I also noted was that you would effectively have to have the OS upgrade package set up, sent to a distribution point and have the upgrade task sequence run, so you can remove all the stuff that won't work with the new version either (for example you would want to remove out of date versions of Forcepoint) - so pretty neat.

All seems feasible and I always test on a virtual machine first before using an actual laptop - and there's a good reason for this. If it fails on the virtual machine which has mimimal drivers etc, then it won't work elsewhere either. Interestingly I'll also be digging out as much test kit as I can and possibly heading to other sites to see what they have and give it a thorough going over. It'll mean for go live that in theory it'll all work nicely all round and be pretty usable.

After work it was off to Sainsburys at Waddon Marsh, primarily so I could get some new socks (yes, occasionally I have to do clothes shopping, I know!) - and noted online they had seven decent pairs for £8. That Sainsburys has the TU Clothing bit, so got those first, and also a pack of two white t-shirts for layering with jumpers etc for the winter (much needed to be honest) - and then it was over to see what else I could get, and a case of always checking the prices before you buy anything.

I needed some Gilette Mach 3 blades, and noted various packs at different prices. So, it was either a case of 4 blades for £8.50, 8 blades for £15, or 13 for £17. No brainer, the latter purchsased as much cheaper per blade, and means I won't have to get them as often next time round. It also shows that you should always compare the cost per item to see what's worth it too - somtimes if a smaller item is on sale food wise, the cost per 100 grams can be less than the larger option. That used to happen a lot with The Love In My Heart and cat food too!

I also managed to get plenty of ironing and cleaning done later, so it was a case of kicking back and listening to some classic Weird Al Yankovic as I was ironing, including the ace Straight Outta Lynwood album. One of my favourites on there is "I'll Sue Ya" which pastiches the whole suing culture of America spot on and in the style of classic Rage Against The Machine, and so tune of the day definitely, even with the "uhhhhh" parts sounding a la Zach de la Rocha, and some great guitar playing. It also has the classic line "I sued Ben Affleck. Do I even need a reason?" - hehe.

Monday 18th November - Chorizo Corner

It was nice to be able to get up on time having had the best night's sleep in over a week. Granted I still wasn't 100% but the good news was that I felt more awake, and indeed having got myself some Covonia lozenges yesterday and having a couple on the way home, they definitely felt as if they were up to the task of soothing the chest and throat nicely, making me less susceptible to coughing during the day, which is a big plus. The train to work was really busy for some reason so was glad to be able to just get on and get to work on time too.

The day was all good - I had investigated why one site wasn't getting a deployment of some Mac software and checking the installation logs showed that in fact the distribution point concerned didn't have the content, and a redistribute of that and checking that the policy could be reinforced meant that I could get another 20-30 machines done pretty easily today, bringing the total to a good amount and also meaning that I could turn my attention on the ones left to do, as you do.

I also road tested the in-place upgrade method of upgrading Windows 10 from version 1809 to 1909 (I'll also be doing the same with 1709 to 1909 as well to definitely road test it). That worked nicely from an initial virtual machine, but ideally what I'd want to do is to test it out further with a couple of live laptops as well and see how they react when I deploy the upgrade to it via SCCM, as I did with my test. It was relatively painless and spotted what was needed, and upped the version accordingly, which bodes well for a future move. We shall see what happens.

It was time later when I got home to sort out one of my favourite things to cook - chorizo sausage pasta bake! It's relatively good to do, and I had the pasta sauce, pasta, cheese and the chorizo slices in, so set to work. Boil the pasta with some salt in the water, then layer it pasta, sauce, chorizo twice before adding the cheese on top, and in the oven for a good half hour or so. I make enough so I can have half tonight and put the dish in the fridge for tomorrow for the other half, so feeds me nicely for two nights' worth.

I also spent some time tonight listening to the classic PJ Harvey album "Uh Huh Her". To me, it's still under-rated, and has some really excellent tracks on there, from the bitching about the hairdresser in "Who The F***?" to the more more brooding and dark sounds of "Shame". But if there's one song which sums up a lot of how I felt back then, it's "The Desperate Kingdom of Love" and tune of the day. It's sung so gentle and frail and yet has so much depth at the same time, which shows truly brilliant songwriting.

Sunday 17th November - Sunday Shopping

It was nice to have a lie in this morning, especially as I'd woken up around 4am coughing and spluttering a lot, and actually bringing out some phlegm at the same time - in a way, good it was going, but also not that good that I still felt a bit rubbish. The Love In My Heart had also been up early with Brian the cat wanting cuddles and feeding, and a play out, so she had been up a little with him too, so was nice to be snuggled up and with Brian at the end of the bed all curled up and cute too. Awww.

We decided that with the weather being a bit icky and absolutely hammering it down, a walk was out of the question, and we had a nice breakfast together, and a bit more chill out time watching some telly, and to be honest, it was nice just not doing anything at all! I think sometimes when you've had a long day out as nice as it was, it's good just to take a step back and relax a little bit too, so that was our plan. We did however know that Brian was out of cat food, which will never do, so planned to head to get some later.

And so it was off to the Snipe Retail Park near Ashton-under-Lyne, as there's a large branch of Pets at Home. They do have Brian's favourite cat food, which is the tuna and prawn posh domed version of Sheba. It's normally not cheap, around 90p each, but at least they often have it in the local Asda for The Love. However, Pets at Home do 12 for 10 and it's 89p each, meaning £8.90 for 12 at around just over 74p each, which is decent. We also got him a couple of other little treats, because we can, and also popped into Home Bargains mainly to get some shampoo and shower gel for me but also to have a mooch.

Lunch was definitely on the cards and so we headed over to the Sheldon Arms, where the Sunday carvery was on and that was what we both went for. I also had the Manchester Stout as well which was lovely, and really went down nicely to go with the roast beef and all the trimmings we both had. It was just nice to feel relaxed and it was also good that we'd had a nice roast together too - very typical of the Sundays we tend to have anyway, but nice to have that, and then later on headed back to The Love's place where a game of Scrabble was on the cards and fussing over Brian the cat with his tea.

It felt sad that the time had gone so quickly and later it was back for me to Piccadilly Station and a hug and kiss for The Love as I set off: thankfully no train dramas and listened to The Sundays' ace single "Here's Where The Story Ends" (make that tune of the day) as the train sped back to Euston. I did have to divert to London Bridge on the tube as I knew about the engineering works from Victoria, but that was fine with plenty of trains back to East Croydon, which meant I got home on time and could watch the Formula 1 highlights from Brazil, which to be fair, was pretty exciting!

Saturday 16th November - Busy in Birmingham

Today it was off to Birmingham for myself and The Love In My Heart as we were heading off to the Frankfurt Christmas Market that they have in the city centre, but also to have a good mooch around all of the shops and a good day out at that. I'd booked the trains ages ago, so meant I got a discount and two together railcard kicked in for a bigger saving too, so around £8 each way for each of us. Knowing the Crosscountry trains get very busy, even more sense to arrive at Manchester Piccadilly on time, grab a coffee from Costa, and head to the platform to board the 0927 departure to Bournemouth via Birmingham.

I'm glad we did, and got our seats. The seat reservations weren't working but the train manager / guard was on it, and made an announcement in carriage that reservations would still be valid, and for those to take them. We were all good but there was one arrogant stuck up bloke who refused to move and was threatening to the train manager - who stood his ground and got it sorted. The bloke was getting off at Macclesfield anyway (more like kicked off because he also refused to show his ticket also) and so would have had British Transport Police waiting for him, rightly so and all. The train was choc full at Wolverhampton with shed loads heading to Birmingham for the day and indeed lots attempting to get on at New Street to go to the comic convention thing at the NEC!

We left the station and its wonderful new open plan concourse and headed along to New Street, and walked down towards the Bull Ring, with all of its stalls on the market looking very nice and festive indeed. We also then headed inside the Bull Ring itself, admiring the shops and also me making a present purchase in Debenhams at the same time, then following the lower floor and the walkway underneath the streets and towards Selfridges. What was nice was that they had a little area for children to do ballet dancing from some of the Birmingham Royal Ballet students, with the likes of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy playing (make that tune of the day, it felt festive and enchanting.)

We had a good mooch around all the Bull Ring shops, which led us nicely all the way around plenty of nice places, and headed back towards New Street where we'd spotted one of the many bratwurst stalls - we both had the red sausage and The Love had hers with onions, and they were pretty good all round actually. She did fancy a respite for a bit so I thought immediately of Tilt close by, which also meant that I got to play the classic Theatre of Magic pinball game and have a very nice plum saison ale at the same time - and The Love had a glass of wine and we both chilled out well in there.

We walked up New Street towards the Grand Central shopping centre and did a circuit in there, going in the likes of John Lewis, Joules and The Love's favourite shop Flying Tiger, before then walking along New Street, stopping at all the German Market stalls we could and spotted the chocolate strawberry place, before then going past the Museum of Birmingham and over the bridge over the old roundabout and to Centenary Square, where the big wheel and temporary ice rink was positioned. Next to the ice rink was a bar which was much less busy than the market square, and so mulled wine was ours, oh yes!

We then walked to the canal and along the Gas Street Basin to the Mailbox. We'd never been inside the BBC Birmingham bit there and always passed it but we went in, and it was decent. They had some of the costumes from Strictly Come Dancing, and also they had a thing to mimic the judges so the kids could score their parents for their dancing efforts, as well as lots of information about The Archers on the first floor. It was good, and nice to mooch there as well as the shops like, before then heading back towards the centre to look at getting something for tea.

With both our two favourite pubs choc full with no chance of a table, we headed to the restaurants at the far end of the Bull Ring and went into Browns Brasserie, which was the first time either of us had been in one. It won't be the last either - a nice glass of Camden Hells for us both, along with some nice food. I had the fish pie which had scallops, prawns and salmon in, and The Love had the fish and chips which looked fab too. It was all good and we then headed back to New Street and got a chocolate strawberry skewer - it was a fiver though, so not as cheap as we thought!

We did have time to escape the now mad rush of New Street and head back to Tilt for a drink (no pinball this time but the plum saison was still on for me!) and that was good, and we then headed to New Street to get the 1957 train back. It was behind another train to Wolverhampton and Stafford and so arrived in Manchester Piccadilly a little later - and because of a broken down train was forming the 2127 back out, so plenty wanting to get on! We did however only have 2 minutes to wait for a tram back to The Love's place so all good there, and we gave Brian plenty of food and cuddles and chilled out watching the earlier Strictly Come Dancing from Blackpool, a nice way to round off a rather lovely day, even with my horrid cold!

Friday 15th November - Coughing Up North

I must admit the cold has gone more to both a bunged up cold feeling and a cough at the same time - more on the chest now which isn't good. I wasn't surprised when my colleague moved desks to put me more in quarantine on my own to avoid the germs I had - I'd have probably done the same in the opposite scenario to be fair. It was a case of monitoring some of the deployments, especially on the Mac side, and see what issues would surface but also hopefully make sense to see how well the deployment works.

In fact, one particular site we have did report some issues with one piece of security software and another application. I do work well with our information security folks, and they had mentioned this, and so needed some evidence of when the software was deployed, which I was able to provide. Working from that we had a timeline of what may have happened and what we could do to potentially resolve the issue as well. Naturally it wasn't good to hear of issues anyway, but I think it was positive that we could see that we were working together to try and look at what happened, why, and how to move forward.

I also re-wrote a query I did a while ago for SCCM to retrieve some device information by its serial number (either in the system enclosure or BIOS via WMI). I wanted to add some more info so when the service teams use it, they can see at a glance what's being used where. I tweaked it nicely and one of the service team folks was really impressed actually, shows what can be done with a bit of co-operation but also a fair level of compromise and allowance too, thus reinforcing the one team ethic.

For once, and hallelujah at that,the train was not delayed tonight heading to Manchester - well not when it left anyway, no cancellations or delays there. However it did get delayed on to the approach into Crewe, and on top of that, then got stuck behind slow trains between Wilmslow and Stockport, so stood in the platform at Cheadle Hulme for a bit too. Not good. The Love In My Heart hadn't set off as yet thankfully and gave her the green light once I left Stockport, so she could come and collect me. Of course, it was lovely to see her.

And lovely to see Brian the cat, who was his usual happy contented self, and decided to sit on the single seater chair for when we arrived back, so he could just look all cute when we spotted him. Awww. We did see some of Children in Need and also settled in to watch Gogglebox on Channel 4 Plus 1, with of course the likes of Strictly Come Dancing featuring, notably perhaps Kelvin and Oti's dance to Deniece Williams' 80s classic "Let's Hear It For The Boy", which is tune of the day. We also saw a bit of Children in Need with Graham Norton letting kids operate the famous red chair with celebrities being dispatached from it, which was really good fun!

Thursday 14th November - Navigation To Seven

It was a different diversionary route I had to take homewards from work today as I was off to the great folks at James Barbers in Wimbledon Park to get the hair cut and all nice and sorted for the forthcoming weekend and next few weeks at least. Normally I've worked out from the office that the quickest route is normally Tottenham Court Road to Notting Hill Gate on the Central Line, then change there for the District Line all the way to Wimbledon Park that comes from Edgware Road - usually less busy too.

However, I could tell something wasn't quite right when I pulled into Notting Hill Gate - for some reason there were train based issues and so weren't running as normal. It sounded like they might run fine from High Street Kensington (they do have platforms 3 and 4 for turnbacks, especially those via Kensington Olympia) so I thought I could always go there and if not Earls Court, although that did mean navigating around the main road there during the rush hour - managed that and was soon on a number 28 bus heading to High Street Kensington station.

I did get to the platform there and it looked like some tube trains were running, the first was a circle line packed train, the second, some ten minutes after I got to the platform, was the District Line one I wanted. All was good albeit busy, although at Earls Court I could see the other District Line train from Victoria - and it was uber rammed, and ours raced ahead too, so definite win. I had been coughing quite a bit during the day so was good to at least get speeding ahead and maybe also some fresh air before I headed in to get the hair cut.

All was good at the hairdressers, the staff were great as ever and lots of football chat ensued, including debate on what would be the ideal defensive all time Premier League partnership. Obviously the classic Arsenal back four got a mention, and the likes of other defenders such as John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Vincent Kompany etc were mentioned too. I think for me back in the day the whole Arsenal back four let you know they were there, and as a unit were not to be messed with - and I think that's missing in a lot of modern day defensive partnerships across teams.

I did get back in time for the England v Montenegro game, and what a demolition job it was too. Harry Kane helped himself to a first half hat trick and England were cruising big time before half time, with five goals to the good, and eased off a lot during the second half - it did though still allow Tammy Abraham to score his first ever England goal and the seventh on the night for a cracking 7-0 win in England's 1000th international game. And with a bit of The Verve's classic "Bittersweet Symphony" too of course (make that one tune of the day).

Wednesday 13th November - Finding Out

It was a case of finding out a fair bit today, primarily as I was investigating something on the Mac side of things with one of my colleagues. For some reason one of the policies for software deployment wasn't kicking in for some reason, so felt it was a sensible idea to revisit that, give it a re-write and test it out on the test Mac I had to hand for this purpose. Admittedly, it was a good opportunity to review the situation and see what else we would be able to do to recitfy.

As it turned out, one of the main reasons for policy not playing ball was that the scope was only to those which had an existing previous version of the software, so anyone without that wouldn't have even got a policy in the first place to install. That said though even with an individual test machine added, it seemed that it'd only work if the user accepted the prompt to effectively perform an installation now rather than put any form of deferment on, which would never do. Instead I looked at what was on offer internally in Jamf Pro and the option to have a timed period before restart of say 3 hours made sense - especially as the user could restart as needed before that time.

I gave that a good going over with a revised policy targeted to the Mac I was using, and that appeared to work nicely. I was also able to uninstall, restart the machine and effectively flush out the policy log in order to make it do a re-run, and that worked too. I think for me that it was a good effort to be able to run through a scenario, test it out and then see how good that would look for deployment later this week and as a catch all to ensure that the machines that needed the software got it.

I must admit that the cold has been now bugging me somewhat, and I felt pretty bunged up all day even with taking some hot honey and lemon during the day to try and ward things off. Inevitably it'll get all chesty as my colds normally do, but at least if it does that I know it's on the second phase and gradually on way out of me. I won't be 100% this weekend for seeing The Love In My Heart, but would not miss seeing her or Brian the cat for the world, even if Brian is a very clingy cat where his Mummy is concerned.

I spent some time tonight seeing a couple of things online including one effective cross-London transport race, where you'd see if taking the High Speed line from St Pancras to Stratford would be quicker than tube or train, and by how much. One route not taken which I'd have considered would have been Hammersmith and City line to Mile End and change there for Stratford, as the platforms are next to each other. I might even have to clock that time myself to see if I'd have won. In the meantime tune of the day is the rather good "Train To Inverness" by Vonda Shepard, continuing the travel an train theme..

Tuesday 12th November - Streaming Nose

I don't know what was worse, the fact that I was bunged up with the cold all day or that when I did attempt to decongest somewhat that it was constantly streaming not just out of my nose but my left eye as well, most unattractive I know but there you go. I suspect that I'm now in the midsts of a head cold especially, and have managed to get plenty of options to decongest and generally try and get myself on the right track. It probably didn't help that the air conditioning was not behaving at work so felt rather over warm and that wasn't helpful.

I managed to get through the day and investigate an issue for one of my colleagues, where one printer policy appeared to be applying incorrectly to the odd Mac now and then. From what I could see, all the scope and restrictions in play were correct, as they should be, but I also wondered whether for some reason the network connectivity when offline or via DNS was randomly picking another site IP range instead of the one they should have, I'll need to do some more tests tomorrow but that seems the only explanation thus far into what's been going on really.

I also spent some time later today sorting out a few bits of data in order to check out the hardware inventories and ensure all was good, and also complete a test build for a forthcoming thing that's on, and so one of the colleagues in another office was testing that for us too. I think too with Windows 10 1909 on the horizon that's going to keep me busy as I get to sorting that out and making sure that we can build a new image with the OS on (that's a definite) but also be able to ensure that we can look at updating kit too - going to be a very busy few months ahead!

That said though I like being busy and I think when you are and when the day goes quickly, it's always a case of being able to give yourself that time to test thoroughly and then look at seeing how it would work in a real world scenario. One of our pieces of security software fell over when upgrading to 1903 previously, which meant we didn't go with it for a lot of reasons (and also because generally the xx09 releases get a longer period of Microsoft support in case you wondered) so it'll be good to see it all playing ball now.

I did have a lovely chat with The Love In My Heart earlier which cheered me up no end. I'd mentioned the Cat in a Flat website about cat sitting and we noted that there were some near her which was good to see - one of which had recently had a five star review. I think for me too it's a sign that there's money to be made but having that peace of mind for your pet if you're away is something a lot of people want - with good reason. Of course Brian the cat is a fussy so and so anyway, but the jingle from the Cat in a Flat website is tune of the day, it is all cutesy, just as Brian is!

Monday 11th November - Bunged Up

It was the onset of a cold that I had tried to ward off most of last weekend, but it seemed that everyone else in work appeared to have as well. I felt headachey and bunged up, even with some ibuprofen to help clear the headache I still wasn't 100%. However I knew I'd feel better in work because I could concentrate on the jobs in hand and at the same time be able to work with my colleagues on a number of things I'm working on, so made sense to make the effort to come in. I did of course have to take some tissues, and have some warm liquids and warm food to keep me going (and porridge for breakfast too.)

It was a good day all told really: I had a good productive morning sorting out some odd printing issue with a colleague from another site, and gave them some step by step guidance as to what to do to resolve it, which worked well (my old managed printer experience did me well). I was also able to look at some future deployments and how to get those planned, and work with one of our Mac admins and was able to see how the likes of some of the software are deployed and how we can improve that, so on the whole, positive.

Naturally also football conversation was about yesterday's game and how to be fair Manchester City were defeated by Liverpool. As a City fan I had no complaints - I knew it was going to be hard especially with no Ederson in net, and as I expected Claudio Bravo wasn't quite up to task. It was also really hard primarily because we knew that Liverpool would be eight points clear of Leicester City and Chelsea, and now nine clear of my team Man City too. Still though it showed that how much the game really was important, both sides going for it and ultimately, hard as it is to say it, the better side did win.

It was a busy train home but it also seemed that everyone was as bunged up as I was as well - with sneezing and coughing a plenty as the train left London Bridge and headed towards East Croydon. I was just glad to be able to get home out of the cold and into the nice warm cosy flat. The good news was that all the paperwork was sorted for another year in the flat (the fourth renewal in fact, so it'll be five years in here this time next year) and that meant also that due to the changes in deposits, that I was owed part of the deposit back, so good news all round really.

I spent some time also listening online to the new KMFDM album Paradise, with the album opener "K-M-F" tune of the day - it has some hip hop vibes in the verses with Sascha belting out the chorus and some rocking guitars throughout. It also samples some world leaders of the previous and current times complete with their propaganda, emphasising the kill part of K throughout. It sets the tone, sets the scene and shows just how brilliant and relevant the band still are.

Sunday 10th November - Rememberance

It's always a moving and thoughtful ceremony on Rememberance Sunday, as the Cenotaph in Westminster is centre stage for all of the services that take place there, complete with many politicans, overseas ambassadors and the like laying their wreaths in memoriam, and being able to take a moment and pause and reflect during the two minutes' silence at 11am. The Love In My Heart and I always make a point of reflecting and observing that silence - my grandfather was in World War II and was one of the lucky ones to come back unscathed, and those who have lost loved ones in wars since really get my empathy on a day like today.

It was perhaps more noticeable too that many of the veterans make a journey to the centre of London to be part of the march past, and that some of the stories were shared with the presenter Sophie Raworth doing an excellent job in speaking with many of them and allowing them their time and space to talk without being patronising (Fiona Bruce take note especially.) I must admit that it was also good to hear of the charity set up by one mother whose husband passed away, and what she needed to do for her children and that inspired her to found Scotty's Little Soldiers, and have a yellow and black scarf each as they marched past.

Later in the day we decided it'd be nice to head to Knutsford, and so The Love drove down Princess Parkway, on to the M56 and then followed the A556 and A5034 into Knutsford itself, parking at the favourite car park close to the centre (and free on a Sunday, which confused people who were attempting to use the ticket machine and wondering why it wasn't functional!). We decided to head round the corner to Laura Ashley, and in fact we got a present for Christmas each in there - The Love saw this lovely handbag, and so made sense to get it there and then as it was one she really liked.

That was all good, and we had a nice walk and mooch in some of the other shops - not all of them open on a Sunday, but the ones that did had people around them. In fact in Waterstones The Love saw some books that had been ordered for work, and she was able to look at them properly and see how much they'd saved but also how nice they were, so that was good to see. We later had lunch in The Angel pub, where the Sunday Roasts were not only lovely (chicken for The Love, gammon for me) but also in a really good offer of two for £15. Not complaining about that one bit!

The Love later drove back towards Manchester City centre and it was surprisingly quieter than we thought, especially as Man Utd were at home against Brighton and the game had finished - maybe people weren't driving to the ground as much these days? In any case I was soon back at Piccadilly to say a fond farewell and have a cuddle before boarding more cheap trains, the 1708 to Crewe, then the 1816 to Euston, with the likes of She Makes War's "Devastate Me" (make that one tune of the day) keeping me going before I got to Euston, and then the tube and train home to be back at a reasonable hour.

Saturday 9th November - Going Cheap

This morning saw me leaving a little earlier than I normally would on a Saturday morning, as I was heading to London Euston and onwards to a train to Manchester to see The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat. I had managed to get a cheaper way of doing the trains, which, when not in a rush, will help keep the costs down. I was able to therefore head onwards on two trains today: first of all the 0746 London Northwestern train to Stafford, and have a connection at Stafford for the 1004 Crosscountry train to Manchester Piccadilly.

I got to Euston all fine and went to the Costa Coffee between platforms 8 to 11 to get a coffee and bacon roll (no catering on London Northwestern). However, I got that and then the platform changed to platform 7, so had to head up the ramp and back along and down, but all good - and got myself a seat with a table so I could have my coffee and bacon roll, and then admire the scenery with the iPod on blasting out Slayer's classic "Angel of Death" (make that tune of the day) before heading off at Stafford, waiting in a nice cosy waiting room, and getting on the 1004 train which was packed!

I got to Manchester Piccadilly on time and The Love In My Heart was waiting for me at the station - all was well and Brian was being all cute and wanting a fuss and a love. He also appreciated my little present from Milan - some Catisfactions, which is the European name for Dreamies, so it seems. He happily munched some, and later on we headed to see The Love's father who was pleased to see us both as he was watching a DVD of some classic FA Cup finals of the past, especially the early years up to the late 1920s.

I headed off to the hospital to see a friend of mine in there, and once having had a good chat and catch up, it was then a walk along Oxford Road. I fancied a coffee and cake and reminded myself that Kro still had its offer on, and it did, so £3.95 for a nice coffee and a lemon drizzle cake, happy days all round. It was nice to sit upstairs and watch the world go by for a while, and then headed back along Oxford Road, past the Brewdog where the Blackwells bookshop used to be, and past my old haunts of the likes of Babylon before getting to the city centre to take the tram back to The Love's place.

I was able to chill out with The Love and watch Strictly Come Dancing, with a Chinese takeaway from our favourite place close by, which meant of course crispy shredded chilli beef in sweet and sour sauce, ooh yes. In fact Strictly was pretty good although we both agreed that AJ and Saffron's waltz was brilliant, and well deserving of the high scores it got. As for me, it was also noticeable that Kerim had an off night and was gutted for Amy more than himself, and that Mike Bushell was trying, but ultimately just not at the same level with everyone else.

Friday 8th November - Reviewing The Situation

I took a look at a few things at work today that didn't quite match up, and wanted to investigate further. The first thing I did was spot an email from a colleague with regards to machines where the user had left, and they were still the last logged on user that had been reported. I managed to get together a list and send that out to our service teams so they can investigate on that - and for me it definitely looks like that they were ones where we could do with knowing what was happening with the kit in question. It's one thing I've been hot on since day one.

I also caught up with the Microsoft Ignite announcements about the forthcoming changes to management, so it'll effectively mean that SCCM will no longer be a System Centre based product, and instead have the features of that and the features of Intune merged to become Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager (MECM) instead - most likely in the early part of 2020. The SCCM 1910 update will be the last one under that guise before the technical previews have MECM all over it and most likely will probably tie in nicely with a March 2020 release of most likely 2002.

This will in effect bring new challenges in that co-management will be a thing, there'll be a move away towards thinner provisioning in the longer term, along with more take up of the likes of autopilot and other styles of management, and indeed a move more towards being cloud based. That said though, I know that an Azure based cloud system is costly and it's something we need to consider anyway, especially as there'll effectively be free InTune licences based on the cost of the number of licences we currently have for SCCM, so definitely worthy of note methinks.

In any case I spent the afternoon working on producing a report for one of my colleagues detailing a lot of devices, their main primary user and using an Excel data pull from Active Directory, was also able to get the information needed to match the department, the section of the company, the employee ID information and so be able to get that all together nicely. It did take a bit of doing but did prove worth it because it meant that I could then use that as a data source and pull in what was needed to get the data consistent. Happy days - more so as I had some nice background music on whilst assembling the data including Morrissey's "First of the Gang To Die", so that's tune of the day.

I also watched tonight the FA Cup first round match with Dulwich Hamlet hosting Carlisle United. Dulwich gave it a good go but Carlisle were definitely up for the cup and they really showed some good play, and their third goal was an absolute screamer that no goalkeeper was going to stop to be honest. I liked the pretty good crowd getting behind the Dulwich folks though and a wet and windy night in South East London was a good advertisement for the football - definitely.

Thursday 7th November - Milan and Home

It was nice to have a refreshing and powerful shower in the hotel room this morning. I got changed and headed down to the breakfast room, which is in floor -1. The room was very nice and clean all round, and plenty of options to have in the buffet breakfast - bread you could slice yourself for toast, croissants and pastries, yoghurt, juice, all sorts. The staff were lovely and prepared whatever coffee you wanted, so had a pot of coffee and some milk and that definitely got me up and going, so all well there too. I then had a nice relaxing time in the room watching a bit of telly including BBC World News, and checked out around 10.45am, and paid the €5 room local tax at that time.

I took the metro line 1 again and the ticket was indeed still valid as it was not yet 24 hours, so went back to Cordusio, had a nice mooch around the buildings there, and took the number 19 old tram along towards the Palace of Justice, an impressively large building. I also had a good walk towards one of the squares which had the La Porta del Vino little building as well as the Monument of the Five Days of Milan as well. From there I took the number 9 tram towards the Porta Venezia, two large gatehouses that serve as the entrance to one of the large parks. It was however chucking it down, so spotted a café and had a capuccino and a little tiramisu to go with it. Well, why the hell not?

I decided that the traffic was too bad for the tram to be an option, so instead I hopped on the number 1 metro line from there towards Duomo, and changed for the number 3 metro line (the yellow one, and all the seats were yellow too!) which took me to Milano Centrale train station. When people have descibed this as a landmark all in its own right, they were not kidding. Gorgeous architecture inside on a grand scale, a proper sense of grandiose being there, and a really well organised level with the ticket machines and some shops below, with the upper level having the platforms.

I'd bought my ticket for the Malpensa Express trains, and whilst plenty dithered with their cases at the main platform rows, I noted that platforms 1 and 2, which were further along the walkway for platform 3, were the ones to get. I soon got to Platform 2 no problem and the train was there in the station, so got on, got a nice window seat, and was all ready to head back. The train does a loop around a viaduct to eventually get to Milan Garabaldi station and then from there follow the track to the North west and on to the line towards Bovista station and on to Saronno and Busto Arsizio on the way back to Malpensa. All was fine and arrived there on time.

I have to say though that Malpensa Terminal 2 isn't the nicest place - it's only used by Easyjet and no one else. The building seemed a bit tired, you got through security fine, and then it was through corridors of some shops and cafés by the gates, but not a lot there. Nothing there whatsoever (the one café was closed) airside of the passport control gates for gates E22 to E29, the effective non-Schengen area, so not too good. I did however ensure I was in the queue early and made sure I got my cabin bag in the lockers overhead (they impose a maximum of 70 cabin bags, so others are then place in the hold free of charge) and settled in to my seat.

The flight back was all good, and I had various tunes on the iPod to keep me going including the rather lovely Useless by Blancmange (make that tune of the day - it's infectiously good pop and way ahead of its time from their 2015 album Semi Detached) - and the flight was smooth, no hitches at all and once I saw the English channel I knew we wouldn't be that far off landing, and the plane landed and got into Gatwick around twenty minutes early - at the same far end gate I'd taken off from. Escalators and corridors followed to passport control, got through there fine, and then it was on to the exit, and to take the shuttle back to to the South Terminal.

I knew I needed to use my contactless card to be the same fare as Oyster on the way home due to the way Gatwick Airport along with GTR have the readers programmed. There's an assumption you'll be making your way to London, so the reader only allows Oyster cards with a minimum balance of the pay as you go fare to London Victoria - which at peak times is around £18. This is of course despite the fact if you live anywhere locally, especially say Redhill, Salfords etc, that it'd be a lot less (in fact even going to East Croydon is £5.40 peak) - so a bit daft really. Contactless card done, headed back to East Croydon and home. All good, and had a lovely chat with The Love In My Heart later too.

Wednesday 6th November - Mancunian In Milan

So today was an early rise, but for a good reason. I was attending the Atalanta v Manchester City Champions League game, which because of ground improvements, wasn't being held at Atalanta's ground, but instead at the San Siro in Milan, an iconic football stadium if ever there was one. Of course I wanted to go to this one, and when the tickets went on sale, I was able to get one, and snag myself a cheap flight via Easyjet from Gatwick to Milan, and through work a deal on a Best Western hotel (we have Tastecard Plus, which means Hotelogical discounts also) so all was good and set to go.

I headed to East Croydon to get the train to Gatwick - now if you touch in before 0630, it's still offpeak on Oyster, so it meant a £3.20 pay as you go fare which is pretty good. Paper ticket is always £5.40 no matter what time of the early morning, so obvious win there. I even got a coffee and bacon roll in Costa to have on the train to save the expense of breakfast at Gatwick instead. I'd never flown from there before, so once at the station it was a case of following the signs for the North Terminal, getting the little shuttle over there, and then all in good time to head through security (absolute breeze!) and then onwards to the large departure area.

Plenty of nice shops here, including Oliver Bonas, Harrods, and also even a Wetherspoons inside there which was rammed with people having breakfast in there - was glad that I had pre-empted that rush to be honest. I also headed up to Pret and got a bottle of sparkling water to have on the flight too - and that made sense. The gate was called pretty early, and with good reason - the gate used (106) is up a long corridor, big escalator to elevated walkway, to the end of that, and back down again to almost like a little island of gates way out. I got to the gate, did all the boarding stuff and was ready near the entrance after speedy boarders to ensure I got on early and made sure that the cabin bag was all good to go.

The flight was all good, and even though the leg room is maybe an issue for taller people, it was fine for me. I had the iPod on to chill out with tunes during the flight, and the flight actually landed at Milan Malpensa airport earlier than expected, which was a bonus. Once off the flight a bus took you literally 100 metres (we could have walked!) to a passport control entrance for non-Schengen entrants (that's us then) and once through there it was almost straight out of departures, and in pretty quick time. Some were queueing for transfer tickets for coaches or trains to Milan, oh no, not me.

I walked along the covered walkway to Malpensa Airport terminal 2 railway station, and used the ticket machine there to get a ticket for the Malpensa Express, which takes you to the centre of Milan for €13. Bear in mind that Malpensa airport is actually 30 miles or so away from the city, and you can see why it makes sense. I got the departure for Milan Cadorna (some go there, others go Milan Garabaldi and Milan Central) and that was pretty efficient, comfy seats, lots of luggage space, friendly staff including conductors, and despite a delay just north of Milan, all was well there, and arrived at Cadorna efficiently.

From there, it was on to the Metro line 1. Now, having checked beforehand, ATM (who operate Metro, trams and buses in Milan) offer a day ticket for €7 and like in Brussels, it's actually 24 hours from first use. This would work well as it'd mean transport to the station tomorrow sorted too, and once purchased, I went through to the platform and on a new metro train, which had curved red seats (the line is red on the map) and station announcements in both Italian and English, with which side the doors would open as well. Nice. I was soon at Turro station and a short walk from the Best Western hotel there. I checked in, all was well, and the single room was nice - powerful shower, all very clean, nice single bed, telly, safe, all you needed.

In fact I decided to freshen up and have a shower, but not before heading along the road to Carrefour, where I got a sandwich for lunch, a couple of cans of Peroni beer (one to have post-match) and also some toothpaste and a sponge. The hotel room did have some Fragonard shower gel and shampoo, so may as well use those up anyway, and once all freshened and changed, it was time to head to the centre of Milan, and have a good mooch around before having some tea and then onwards to the match at the San Siro itself.

I took the Metro line 1 back to Duomo, and there was the impressive square with the cathedral (the Duomo) - and a shed load of pigeons flying everywhere around that square - you had to duck when they swooped down. I noted the impressive Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, with its massive arch, but decided to explore that later. I also spotted the trams, some newer, but the older single car trams were just wonderful to see, reminded me of the 28 tram in Lisbon, and they had a charm all of their own. I simply had to ride one of those later on I think! I walked towards Cordusio and then along the Via Dante, with an on street exhibition of Italian railway photography too which was pretty good.

I was heading for the Castello Sforzesco, a huge castle with fortress, and for good reason. It was mightily impressive for its size, had a large fountain in front, massive courtyards and well preserved with its medieval feel too - so definitely worth a walk around all of the courtyards. I even attempted a large panorama with the camera on the phone which worked well in the most part - the size and scale was mightily impressive. I walked through the grounds and to the other side, which was the Sempione Park, and this had the little mermaid bridge half way along, which seemed iconic.

At the far end of the Sempione Park was an impressive arch - the Arco della Pace. In fact this arch reminded me of the Arcade du Cinquantenaire in Brussels, and the arch was apparently built at the request of Napoleon. It certainly had a similar chariot with horses feature on top too, and not quite a full triple (one large flanked by two smaller arches) it was pretty good. I crossed over from the arch and noted the tram stop, and saw the beautiful gorgeous single carriage number 1 tram. I had spotted it earlier by the Cairoli metro stop I passed, so it literally had to be done.

The tram did take a diversion due to some roadworks etc, but the tram was beautiful inside - all wooden fittings, lovely polished floor and seats, and the view out of the back with all of its windows was stunning. As the tram had stopped behind another one and lots got off, I got a shot of the back with no people (reminds me of the woman I met in the Palace in Naples, who exclaimed "No people!" - when taking a shot) and then it headed back on its diversion past the likes of Flying Tiger and the newly opened Uniqlo, and on to Cordusio, where I walked back to the square with the Duomo and explored the posh shops in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II along with looking up at the central domed roof. Wow, that was something special as the sun set.

It was time for food, and remembered a few restaurants with outside seating along the Via Dante. I went in one and two tables close to me both had Man City fans, so felt good about that. I noted that the food prices were fine, but the beer? Try €6 for a 200ml piccolo size, or €12 for 400ml. In fact some had gone full hell for leather and had a 2 litre massive glass for €35. The ham and mushroom pizza I had was much better value for its €15 and big and tasty, crisp too. I got chatting to one set of blokes about City in general and that was a good way to settle the nerves a bit.

I then decided to take the number 16 tram which terminated at the San Siro. It was night and the streets weren't all mega lit, so you couldn't necessarily see so much, but as I looked out of the window I could see the stadium in the distance, so all good there. The tram terminates outside the stadium, and I then followed the road past the M5 metro terminus station, and along to a road at the far end, where you walked along, past the car and coach park and then to a smaller car park which was a walkway towards Gate 10 for the City fans' entrance. Security and police were everywhere as well as one of the City liaison people whom I've seen on the coaches when going to Wembley. It was then towards the spiral ramp, and the fans had been warned it'd be a walk. They weren't wrong. 17 spirals round and a pretty long way up too - not for the faint of heart or for those who have a fear of heights either.

Even higher up was my seat - the top of the spiral ramp was the bottom part of the top tier where the City fans were, behind one goal, and the steep rake of stairs led you towards the block I was in, and it was a mighty impressive view of the ground from up there, but still pretty mental. The big circular columns at each corner also housed a little bar with coffee and hot food, and I did get a coffee for €1, so good there, but noted that on a normal match day proper red Peroni was the order of the day. Some of that now would have been nice, but this is UEFA and Champions League rules and all that.

The kick off time came and Manchester City were on the front foot straight away with early possession. A neat move involving Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Jesús kicked in before the ball went to Raheem Sterling and he coolly slotted it home for 1-0 with six minutes gone. I had seen a City goal at the San Siro. Massively happy about that, and the City fans were in good voice, also singing the song about former player Mario Balotelli (make that tune of the day) to show support for him and the horrid racist behaviour he had received recently. City pressed but couldn't get a second goal, and then VAR stepped in and became farcical as ever.

So, Raheem Sterling was fouled, the referee gave a penalty. Hurrah we thought. Except VAR then overturned it and said it was a free kick on the edge of the box. Sterling took the free kick, and it hit the wall. City players appealed for handball, it went to VAR, the ref to be fair ran to the screen, checked it, and instantly gave the penalty - one maybe we should have originally had. Up stepped Gabriel Jesús and he put it wide with a very poor penalty. It gave Atalanta the boost they needed, and early in the second half a good move by them resulted in a very good header home and the equaliser for 1-1.

Worse was to come. Claudio Bravo had come on in net for Ederson at half time, due to Ederson having a knock, but I feared he was going to make a mistake to cost us the game. That came with a few minutes left as he raced to intercept the Atalanta striker, who made a meal of the challenge and was brought down. In real time it felt like it should have been a red card, the ref gave it, but then went to VAR. The screen said Red Card check for around five minutes, and having watched it later the Atlanta striker made the most of any challenge - possibly even deliberately running into Bravo's feet. That said, you've got to be smarter as a keeper, and Bravo wasn't.

The confusion eventually meant we made a final change and Kyle Walker came on to become goalkeeper, with Riyad Mahrez being sacrificed. A free kick was taken, Walker saved at second attempt. In fact a couple of crosses from Atalanta he caught well, and made sure he wound down the clock a little too. City were professional and played out the game to a 1-1 draw, maybe not the result we wanted, but considering what happened, I'd have taken that to be honest. The City fans were kept in for over half an hour, and during that time the players came back out to warm up. The City fans spotted Walker, chanted "England's Number 1!" to him and he saw the fans and applauded. Well done that man.

Eventually, I was allowed to head out of the ground, so back down all those spirals, walking back to the other road, all the way around to the metro, avoided all the ticket queues, got down, and got on the first metro, then changed at Lotto for line 1, and just about made that one to head back to Turro and to the hotel. Considering the game started at 2100 local time, to get back and be settled in the hotel room watching the football highlights with a can of Peroni at around 0030 was pretty decent going. A long day but a good and memorable one for so many reasons.

Tuesday 5th November - Bonfire Bonanza

It was another well worth investigating issue at work today as one of the staff I've been working with over some issues with one piece of software mentioned to me that when some users have the software installed manually, it comes up with an error. The member of staff was pretty knowledgeable and reckoned it was down to a missing registry key at either user or system level, so it was narrowing down which was missing (if any) and how to rectify that situation.

In fact I was able to demonstrate that in some cases, when installing the software manually, instead of say letting SCCM do it as the SYSTEM user (which of course has full rights to write system keys) - it appeared that the required registry key required in system is missing. Of course I was able to also see that key populated correctly on a SCCM performed installation, and once again demonstate the power of using something like that to get things done properly.

I also in the afternoon turned the attention to upgrading existing installs. Any new install works out of the box fine, but if upgrading, and as mentioned by a colleague, you have to remove the old version first before installing the new one. It actually wasn't just that - normally there should also be a restart as well ideally - and the reason was pretty clear once I investigated - there's a process belonging to the piece of software that doesn't stop automatically if being uninstalled (I know, poor!) and so ideally what you'd want to do is ensure that is stopped.

A bit of script writing into a command line ensued, and so now it effectively stops the particular process if running, and then uninstalls any previous versions (I sourced the MSI product codes, by far the easiest way) and then installs the new one. As part of an additional compliance check I also now added not just the new MSI product code for detection but also to ensure that the registry key exists for the machine as mentioned earlier - as a belt and braces compliance job. Under further testing this works properly and so should be advertised in Software Centre, install performed, job done.

I headed home later and The Love In My Heart told me that Brian the cat wasn't scared of all the fireworks going off for the night that it is - however because a few of them are a distance away, he was just sat at the window noticing what was going on, ears pricked. There are times when you just love the cuteness of Brian, and this is one of them. And to be relaxed later, I played "Cool For Cats" by Squeeze, a classic of its day and still a pop moment of brilliance, so tune of the day there.

Monday 4th November - Magnetic Fields

I had an interesting dilemma at work that I spent some time this morning with one of the folks in our office in Bournemouth. He'd noticed that in the last few times he'd built certain laptops, when you got to the password screen it was a case of the screen flickering madly, and occasionally the power light going off as well. I was puzzled by this, especially that I had used the same kit and built the same way, and with no problems whatsoever either - and believe me I do test these things to death in order to be sure that things work.

I did a troubleshooting session, so first of all we removed the graphics driver, and then let it go back to the default Microsoft one - no joy, and so upgraded the same driver. That didn't work either. Because the screen was going off, and the power light with it, we thought that it was possibly power related, so upgrading the power management drivers also was going to be an interesting test. No. Still nothing. He did mention that it didn't happen every time but also mentioned that when pressing certain keys when entering the password it did seem more of an issue.

I was wondering if the lighting in the room he was in and the dynamic back lighting of the laptop was possibly causing some light adjustments, so we turned off the backlight and tried again. Still nothing, but he did mention that when he moved over the keyboard without pressing anything, he was still getting a flicker. This actually was very useful as I knew that the backlight was now out of the equation. So, was it something reacting to the person's hand or what they had on, I thought.

I checked and he had a bracelet on, and this carried a magnet. This was very useful indeed, as I thought "well hang on, what if there's something in the laptop that has a magnet in it too?" - and a quick check of the laptop in question showed that by the mouse pad there was a magnetic sensor, so if you close the lid of the laptop it'll detect the lid closed and then send it to sleep. So, if moving something magnetic over the keyboard, the lid sensor was assuming that the lid was closed hence power light going sleep - and when you move your hand to type, the flicking was due to rapidly attempting to wake up and sleep.

I further checked on the manufacturer's website and this did appear to the case with newer models - rather than have a latch to indicate the lid closed, it was a magnetic sensor, so having something magnetic in the bracelet made sense. He took it off and did a dozen reboots, logging in each time, and it all worked. Problem solved! So.. if you have a certain type of laptop, it's worth checking that. It reminded me of the old days of hi-fi when you had to make sure your front and centre speakers were magnetically shielded so as not to interefere with your old CRT television - true that. Needless to say that the iconic Magnetic Fields (part 4) by Jean-Michel Jarre is tune of the day...

Sunday 3rd November - Recycling and Revisiting

It was definitely a day to be out and about for myself and The Love In My Heart today. First port of call was some nice breakfast, a sausage muffin expertly crafted by The Love, and Brian the cat was having lots of attention and fussing as well, as he should do. I do think that he does have a real sense of awareness of where his Mummy is, and how much that he wants to be by her side - all the time. He even gets into the bathroom if she's washing her face in the sink, so loyal that he is!

The Love mentioned that she still had an old TV which used to be used as a monitor as well for an old PC that I'd built for her ages ago, and we located that along with a Freeview box too. I had a brainwave that in fact she could set that up in the bedroom and so watch telly in bed if she and Brian the cat fancied an early night. There was an aerial socket in the bedroom near where the cupboard was too, so once I'd got it all together and retuned the little Freeview box, all worked nicely and it meant that it was an option to watch telly there should she need to do so.

We headed off to see her father and all was well with the world there - he had wanted a new DVD player as the other one wasn't working anymore, so The Love had got one yesterday, and it was nice and straightforward to set up. Everything worked fine and it was good to see that the remote was relatively simple to operate and use as well. The other good thing was that it was relatively small in size so didn't take up too much room in the cabinet in the front room either - so definitely well worth it.

It was also to my Mum's as well as it was her birthday today. It was nice to see her, and one of her friends and husband was also round too, so good to chat to them at the same time. My brother also came over as well, so it was quite a busy front room overall especially as Mum was actually getting the stuff in to refloor the kitchen floor too - but nice to have some coffee and cake and chatter anyway and it was good that she'd had so many cards and presents all round.

Later it was over to the Ashlea for a late lunch for us both, and we noted that the Sunday roast was on, and the place was pretty busy but we got a table fine. I had the Sunday roast turkey, The Love had the gammon. Both were good although we both felt a little bit more meat would have been nice, but the vegetables were plentiful and a nice Yorkshire pudding too. I also had a voucher for a third off the food as well which made it less expensive but a nice way to have some food together and chill out.

We then later on went to see Brian the cat for a little while before I headed home, and he was being all cute and playful with the ball. I do miss him - lots actually, and I felt sad leaving later. The Love dropped me off at Piccadilly and I felt sad, but thankfully the train was on time, even getting into Euston early for once (woohoo) with the likes of Roy Harper's epic "Me And My Woman" keeping me going on the way down (make that one tune of the day) and I'd be homeward bound later, all set for bed.

Saturday 2nd November - Leaving It Late

It was nice to have a bit of a restful sleep, although Brian the cat had seen to it that The Love In My Heart got up earlier and so was sat at the front of the flat whilst Brian had a play on the outside decking, taking in the fresh air - and the fog too. It was a little misty first thing although this did clear somewhat before I got up, but was indicative of the fact that the weather was getting colder over time. Brian of course was wanting plenty of attention and loves this bouncy ball which he is happy to chase around and play football with it, showing off his rather good skills it has to be said.

We had a nice breakfast and I settled in for a while before I was heading over to the Etihad to watch the football, and she headed off to see her folks. It felt different today because I was in a different place than normal - the second tier of the Family Stand, and had got my seat right behind the goal in the centre of the goalmouth as I looked down. It was good to have a different view but I think on balance I prefer where I normally am. Anyway, the game was soon to kick off, I had my chicken balti pie, and so all was well with the world.

Well, it was, until Southampton scored. In fact, the issue here was that they were playing uber-defensive, and actually being pretty good at it too, and in one break had forced a mistake from Ederson which had been pounced on by James Ward-Prowse, and it was that way till half time, despite City throwing everything bar the kitchen sink at the Southampton defence. In fact, at half time it was changed with David Silva coming off for Gabriel Jesús - I found that puzzling and it was only later on, much later, that it was announced that Silva had picked up a knock before half time and couldn't continue, which made more sense.

City pressed and pressed, but often four of their defenders were around Sergio Agüero, so he was unable to do anything. Well, that was until the 70th minute, when the ball was played down the right, and Kyle Walker just about kept the ball in and crossed low and hard right to the six yard box where Agüero does what he does best and struck it low under the keeper's legs, and it was 1-1. The noise was raised to a crescendo as City pressed, knowing that Liverpool were still losing at Aston Villa and it was a case of taking advantage, hopefully. City went onwards, and the ball came in from the left from Angelino. The keeper missed it, and of all people, Kyle Walker struck home for what was to be the winner. Epic stuff.

As I got back to The Love's place, it turned out Liverpool had pulled off their own comeback to win 2-1, so it was all as you were before the start of play. Fair play and all that. The Love and I had some nice spaghetti bolognaise for tea later on before settling in to watch Strictly Come Dancing. I had to giggle as Chris Ramsey with Karen Hauer did street commercial to the old Ant and Dec (or PJ and Duncan as they were known back then) classic, "Let's Get Ready To Rhumble" - make that tune of the day. To be fair he did pretty well with it and looked decent, so fair dos to him. Definitely for me though the dance with Kerim and Amy was the best of the night - they utterly smashed it!

Friday 1st November - Train In Pain Again

Friday night is slowly becoming fright night for the trains at the moment. What's concerning for me is that with only a few weeks left for Virgin Trains to be carrying on the work of the current West Coast franchise until December 7th, that their customer service has also gone downhill. If you try some of the help and contact links on their web pages for example, it doesn't load (and still doesn't, despite me informing their web team of this weeks ago.) They moved to a ServiceNow instance for some of this, but forgot to sort out their web links. Anyway, I did fill out a form for Delay Repay earlier based on last Friday's shenanigans and having to go home and go the day after.

So, would tonight be any better? The answer to that is a little, but still awful. The overhead wiring had been damaged in the Kensal Green area and as that is not too far from Euston, it meant that certain lines were closed, causing London Northwestern to cancel a lot of their trains (although they also had staff shortages which did not help their cause one bit) and also certain trains on Virgin would be delayed, or at worst, cancelled. I checked in the morning and there were already cancellations during the day. Oh joy.

In fact I got a text later from Virgin to tell me that my 1857 train was cancelled - again! Second week on the trot. I asked their Twitter staff if I could board the 1840, and they replied positively. So it was again the walk up from work to Euston, and the station was that busy that the front entrances were gated off so you couldn't go in - and that led me to think that there were even more issues. Thankfully, not this time, and the station did re-open and so I could be ready to board the train - when it eventually did arrive.

Eventually I spotted that Platform 2 was the 1840 train - and so when I got there, there were a lot of people already on the train! I suspect they'd been waiting around near the platform and effectively got themselves on as soon as they could. I had no reservation valid now but did find a seat on Coach C which was at least some small mercy - and had a coffee too half way along to keep the spirits up. It was just nice to kick back with the iPod and some tunes, so the ace Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins album was keeping me nice and sane - especially "You Are What You Love", so that's tune of the day.

The Love In My Heart was waiting for me when I got to Piccadilly, hurrah for that, and we soon headed back to her place and snuggled up on the sofa with Brian the cat on the pouffle being all cute and lovely, and watched Gogglebox on Channel 4 Plus 1. Interestingly it was noticeable that they were seeing a few things we'd seen last week and so we were able to spot what moment they were going to go for it. It was entertaining as ever and I was just glad to be actually in Manchester albeit with a slight delay this time around!