Dear Diary... April 2024

Sunday 28th April - Mancunian Marvels

After a very nice breakfast, coffee and orange juice at my friend's place after having had a good night's sleep, we all watched the football highlights from the English Football League which took up a fair amout of time, and we could then see the goals from yesterday - along with Match of the Day too. The time had gone too quickly and it was soon time to head off and back to Ulverston station in good time for me to get the 1111 train from there - however, I was not heading down to London just yet, as normally when I head up there for the weekend (and had a cracking time) I can do a pit stop down in Manchester for the afternoon.

Sure enough, the train was on time and nice to get a window seat as the gorgeous scenery heading over the viaducts between Ulverston and Cark and then between Grange-over-Sands and Arnside, meaning a lot quicker journey to Lancaster than via car anyway. I stayed on the train as it headed down to Preston and then via Chorley and Bolton towards Manchester Piccadilly, where The Love In My Heart arrived to collect me from the station and to spend the afternoon with - which of course is always a lovely thing to do, as you can well imagine to be honest.

We headed into Ancoats and a welcome stop at Seven Bro7ers Beerhouse followed, by some lunch over at The Counter House. It always looked busy when we've been past it, and so with The Love having booked it, it definitely felt rather nice inside with a good vibe all round and very nice staff too. The Love went for the Sunday Roast chicken, which was a half a chicken complete with massive roasties, a giant Yorkshire pudding, vegetables and gravy which was ace. I did the fish and chips and to be fair that was also really nice too with a well cooked loin of fish and some lovely chips.

It was just a nice way to enjoy the moment and we really did have a nice time there, and not too expensive either it has to be said, with the mains being around £18-20 and the drinks being £6 a pint which is reasonable (ish). They did at least have one of the local Shindigger ales on for me so that was good too. We then went back to The Love's place for a bit and ended up watching some of the World Snooker Championship and the repeat episode of Race Across the World from the other night, so that was good to be able to watch that together.

The day had gone by far too quickly and I did feel sad heading home later when The Love dropped me off at Manchester Piccadilly, where I'd take the 1855 train back to London. I had the headphones on and had some quality tunes to get me down there on time including the excellent I Used To Know Everything by Penfriend, which does remind me a little of the more mellow Nine Inch Nails tracks, so tune of the day there. All the trains tonight ran on time and was good to be back to see Manchester City's win at Nottingham Forest too, so winning!

Saturday 27th April - Lakes Weekender, Day Two

After a good night's sleep on the air bed, it was time to head up and with a coffee, some orange juice and some very nice sausage barms that my friend had made, which certainly got us all nicely filled up and ready to face the day. We did keep an eye on the football news before we set off, as well as watching some of the World Snooker Championship, where Judd Trump looked in decent form against Tom Ford and indeed would seal his passage through to the quarter finals, with some excellent safety shots too.

We headed off towards Walney Island, which is a small island just to the west of Barrow-in-Furness, and noticably towards the Irish Sea. In fact on a good clear day as today was you could see over the water to the Isle of Man as well, which we did spot. We did head into one pub and sat outside as it was dry, but the King Alfred's beer selection wasn't as good as it could have been, and despite the view overlooking the Piel Channel, it was time to move on, and a nice view of the seafront and the many wind turbines before having to go back on ourselves due to a road closure, taking Carr Lane to Biggar Village on the island.

The Queens Arms pub is part of that very small village, and I have to say it was really nice and olde worlde styled, and they had the Coniston Bluebird ale which was very good all told. In fact the owner was really friendly and spent some time chatting to us about all sorts, and working out which generation we actually were (Gen X, apparently) along the way. It felt like a proper pub and that for me definitely was a relaxing place to be - and it was later on off back to Ulverston via the coastal route, taking in Roosebeck and Bardsea along the way.

First stop in Ulverston itself was The Sun Inn, they did have some TV screens for the football but was showing the League Two game between Colchester United and Crewe Alexandra, which did have some interest due to the play off contentions of both Barrow and Doncaster Rovers. In fact Colchester scored which was useful, but the too loud dance music and the noisy atmosphere wasn't what we wanted, so instead headed up Soutergate and to the Old Friends, which was much nicer, you could sit outside, and they had the Sid's Ale, which was a magnificent dark mild. Winning.

I have to say that I've never seen my friend from Doncaster so tense after their keeper was sent off for handball outside the box at 2-0 up at Gillingham, then seeing the 2-0 lead evaporate to 2-2. With Crawley winning and Barrow drawing 1-1 with Mansfield, a goal either way may be crucial. As it turned out Doncaster held on for 2-2, they only needed a point to be certain of the playoffs, so they were there. Barrow couldn't get the extra goal they needed to win, and had they not conceded last minute against Bradford City midweek, they would have been there. So commiserations to one and congratulations to another.

We then headed back down towards the town centre and headed to The Mill, which did have a nice atmosphere in there as ever, and on top of that, Titanic Plum Pudding ale too. Marvellous. In fact we got a good space and had a sit down and natter so no point at all in moving for the time being, as there was the odd rain shower outside. What was nice though was that it had a relaxed vibe and we would have headed upstairs to the beer garden, but that was shut off for a birthday party - fair dos, a sensible place to pick and have a good time at to be honest.

Next stop after that was the Kings Head, which did have the Dizzy Blonde beer on and also had a very nice set of tunes playing including the likes of The Smiths, New Order and plenty of the 80s and 90s vibe as well which was all good (well for me anyway of course too). I must admit it was nice to hear the classic Bigmouth Strikes Again by The Smiths, so tune of the day for me there. We did then head over to Aroma for a nice well earned curry - I had the chicken korma with rice and naan bread, and it was spot on all round - and we all just enjoyed that massively to end a long and enjoyable day.

Friday 26th April - Lakes Weekender, Day One

It was nice to be off work but even nicer to be heading up to Ulverston to stay at my friend's place and also to see a couple of other friends for the weekend. It had been touch and go with the trains from Lancaster due to the fact that there had been a train derailment near Grange-over-Sands a few weeks ago, and there needed to be repairs to the track to be carried out and also to move the stricken carriages away. That all finished last Sunday and so the much needed Furness Line was reopened, and in good time for me later on to get the train up that very nice piece of railway.

First off though it was to London Euston via St Pancras on the Thameslink train from East Croydon and once across to Euston, I got some breakfast and was ready for the 0840 departure to Edinburgh via Birmingham. I craftily did a split ticket with the split at Coventry, and had the same seat also, and so that did mean that for a mwere £28.50 I'd get all the way to Lancaster, and then buy the ticket for the other leg on the day. It was nice to kick back and relax with the iPod on and to be able to see the scenery fly by as the train approached Birmingham, then up via Crewe and Warrington to Preston, arriving in Lancaster on time.

I had some time to kill before the 1319 train and my friend had messaged me to say to get off at Cark and Cartmel (the stop before Ulverston) and we'd have a drink there. I did go into the tap room at Lancaster station and had a drink as well as get some lunch before boarding the train out, and once towards Arnside it was along the coastline via Grange-over-Sands (and you could see the location of the derailment which the train slowed down for) and to my surprise, two of my friends me at Cark and Cartmel - unfortunately the pub they planned to go in was closed and so instead they drove me back to Ulverston, and was good to be nattering away in the car.

One of our friends was arriving later as their car was to be collected from repair on the way, so after a coffee and a good natter, we headed off to a couple of local pubs including the Stan Laurel Inn, always nice to get a table there and chill out. We got back in good time for our other friend arriving, and with all four of us present, we got a delivery from the good local takeaway - and did a good deal where you got two pizzas, two lots of chips and a bottle of drink, so did two of those deals so we all had a pizza and chips, and there were some nice beers that my friend had got in too.

It was a relaxing evening all told, and I had prepared a themed quiz all around the Commodore 64 and the sound chip of course. I even had a round where there would be themes from game shows and you had to work out if there was a computer game version of that show or not. One of our friends won with a good score and definitely played a blinder in some of the rounds. It all worked out well and they appreciated the effort I had put in to make it all a good load of fun. I will have to see at some point if I can replicate that for other friends of mine too in a similar vein!

We ended up for the rest of the evening watching some concert footage from a gig we had all been to back in 2015, which was the Back in Time Live at a church in Brighton. The venue did actually sound nice acoustically with the right sound mix, and after seeing Fastloaders with their set of tunes from The Last Ninja games covered really well, it was on with Press Play on Tape, whose headline set was cut short due to overrunning for time. That said, they do a twelve minute epic version of Rob Hubbard's Knucklebusters soundtrack (which in itself is close to seventeen minutes) and that for me no doubt is tune of the day all round.

Tuesday 23rd April - The Game Is Afoot

It was of course good to see that Manchester City had made it to the FA Cup final, and after the epic match on Sunday where Manchester United scraped past Coventry City on penalties after chucking away a 3-0 lead, it was perhaps inevitable that the final itself would be scheduled to be at its proper time of 3pm on the Saturday 25th May. For me, they all should be played at that time anyway, none of this 5.30pm rubbish, and makes for a better tradition. It's the first time that the same two sides have played in the final in consecutive seasons since 1885 when Blackburn beat Queens Park 2-0 - and yes, the FA Cup goes back that far.

Ironically until last year there had been no Manchester derby in the final either - the odd semi-final here and there including the important 2011 win where Yaya Toure scored the only goal (I was with my uncle for that one and that was a special day to say the least) and there had been two Merseyside derbies in the 1980s, Liverpool winning both of those against Everton. I guess it's a lot down to the draw of course but also both sides being ale to make it through their rounds. City have never won the FA Cup two seasons on the bounce, but have been in consecutive finals before, twice, both times losing the first and winning the second in 1933 / 1934, and then 1955 / 1956 respectively.

So all in all a sensible decision by the FA (for once) to make it 3pm, and handy for when The Love In My Heart next comes to mine as her train would arrive in central London too late for fans to make the kick off, so should be a lot quieter as a result. I'm not going to Wembley (no chance of getting a ticket truth be told) and so should be able to find a place (such as my sofa!) to cheer the lads on. However, on the flip side of that, I am heading off to Brighton and Hove Albion Thursday night for an away league game. Which leads me on to something totally brilliant that the club have in place.

For a Premier League match day, and to encourage fans to take greener modes of transport, they have a Free Travel Zone in place. This effectively means that your match day ticket is also your train ticket in that zone and is valid before and after the game for specific times, so for an evening kick off that's 4pm til midnight. It also means for me I'd only need to get a train ticket to Haywards Heath and then the rest is covered under that, saving some money too. I do plan to via Lewes and back to Falmer rather than go through the centre of Brighton, but both options are covered, as is also free bus travel in the surrounding area too. It's a cracking initative and something Manchester City should do rather than charge £6 for the match day buses.

I've also been keeping an eye on the World Snooker Championship after work today and saw an epic final frame from SI Jiahui to take out Mark Williams 10-9 in a Crucible classic. Tonight sees Robert Milkins conclude his match against Pang Junxu, and for me Robert has the best walk on music in snooker bar none, namely The Wurzels' classic I Am A Cider Drinker - and that has to be tune of the day - ooh arr! It's just of the era and I don't think people realise how big a band they were, and are still pulling in audiences today wherever they play - it's just a feel good setting isn't it?

Sunday 21st April – Hitting the Jackpot

It was nice having The Love In My Heart’s niece stay over with us last night, and we ended up all playing along to the 1% Club – she got an answer to a question that I didn’t get, and so felt rather pleased with herself, although I did get the 1% question at the end which was a difficult one unless you spotted the pattern. I think it would be much harder if you were there in the studio and all nerves, so definitely those that do well on the telly really must be good. Brian the cat this morning though was wanting all of his Mummy’s attention, knocking things over and then doing his tippy tappy on the face too – a proper diva!

We got ourselves up with a coffee and later a bacon sandwich and settled in to watch the London Marathon. The Love’s niece said how amazing it was that people could run in that time over that distance, and I have to agree – having done 10K road races myself, going so far to do a marathon is pretty epic to be fair. I did like the fact that there was focus on those raising money for charity as well as famous people who were doing the race too. Kudos too that they had the legend that is Jasmin Paris start the women’s race (and if you don’t know who she is, look her up and you will understand why the organisers had her.)

The race was pretty good all round but the men’s race saw two British men finishing third and fourth and this meant that with their times they had the qualification for the Olympic Games in Paris. I’d personally take them both based on that, notable as one did the second fastest time by a British athlete – only Mo Farah has run faster to put it into context – and beating a considerable number of African runners in the lead groups also, so that was all rather special too. It definitely felt a positive that so many people were out on the course cheering them all on, notably at the Cutty Sark and along the highway in Shadwell.

We later headed out to see The Cute Little One and her baby sister The Cute Tiny One, as the niece hadn’t seen her yet. It was all lovely too as some of the mum’s family was also there, who we all really get on with, so with a coffee and a chatter the time sped by nicely for us all. I have to say that having a play with The Cute Little One was fun as she has a little play ballpit and was happy to try and throw the balls to me to catch them – with happy giggles on her face. It’s moments like that which I really do appreciate and for me it was nice to see.

We left later on and thought about lunch, with the city centre having a parade on it might be difficult to get there, so we decided to head near the University Precinct and take a nice table at Brewdog Outpost. I did have the alcohol free Elvis Juice and The Love had the Lost Lager, with several great 90s tracks playing including Green Day’s superb Welcome to Paradise (so that has to be tune of the day there) – and we ordered food. The Love did their hoppy meal deal for the burger which meant a nice cheeseburger and fries for her, and I had the Jackpot burger which had chorizo, black pudding and blue cheese with a barbecue sauce, and in both cases the burgers were spot on.

We headed back to Manchester Piccadilly for me to get the trains home (I was doing the cheap options via Crewe so made sense to be able to be sure of seats and so on) – and kept one eye on the second FA Cup semi final between Manchester United and Coventry City. Fair play to Coventry City for not giving it up at 3-0 down and battling back to score three goals in the last 20 minutes including a very late penalty, and forcing extra time and penalties. Sadly it wasn’t enough for them to win it, as United did triumph in the shoot out, but nonetheless it was a case of showing what you could do and making the most of it.

Saturday 20th April – Shine Your Shoes and Head for the Crucible

It was up early for me this morning, leaving The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat to have a well earned lie in. I was off to Sheffield this morning for the first session of the World Snooker Championship. With all the talk of certain players wanting the tournament moved when the Crucible’s current contract expires in 2027, I’d just like to say that the fans don’t share that view. Yes, with the smaller capacity it can be hard to get tickets, but it is also somewhere every single snooker fan wants to go to and to make the most of the moments there when they can. Any other venue may not feel the same and for me it is part of the history of the game. I did have The Len Ganley Stance by Half Man Half Biscuit in my head so that is tune of the day for me.

I was on the 0813 train to Sheffield and it was also good that I had booked first class on Transpennine Express, which oddly was cheaper than standard class when I booked it (so why wouldn’t you?) It was a comfier seat on the way there and knew it’d be no catering til 0900, so had got myself some breakfast from Greggs before setting off. I was soon making the walk up the hill past the Cutting Edge sculpture and Sheffield Hallam University and on to Tudor Square, where there was already a queue of people for the entrance to the morning session. I decided for a quick coffee at Marmduke’s round the corner and that was nice, got me all ready for the time ahead.

After the security checks I was making my way up the stairs and to the purple door, where my match on Table Two was Zhang Anda against Jak Jones, with defending champion Luca Brecel on table one against David Gilbert. Rob Walker had already warmed the crowd up so once the superb Hazel Irvine had delivered her pieces to camera, Rob did the intro and at his request, the whole Crucible audience stood and applauded – I do think he loves the Crucible too and was definitely showing his support, saying how much he bloody loves it here. Good man – he knows the score.

The match I had was definitely more tactical, with one frame having a number of reds in one corner and a missed black over the corner pocket. It was some clever safety until Zhang Anda had decided enough was enough and got all the balls away and eventually won that frame. Due to that frame taking some forty minutes and another two close to thirty, the mid session interval was late and got myself a bottle of water to take in for the second part. I did think that they may get pulled off early though, and I was right, with the seventh frame being another forty minute battle and it being 5-2 to Jak Jones at the end of it, and with the time for starting a frame just gone, that was that.

The other table had finished all their nine frames well ahead of us, with Luca Brecel scoring two centuries in getting to a 6-3 lead over David Gilbert. It sounded good as you could hear the crowd cheering the big breaks and that was probably a much better match, but that is how it goes sometimes – you can’t always get the breaks and sometimes the tactical stuff is just as intriguing, as it proved to be for me at least when seeing that. I headed out and managed to find a pub for some lunch before heading back to Sheffield for the 1511 departure.

I got on the train and this time the first class offering included a coffee and some biscuits, so that was nice to be sat comfy as the train sped off back towards Manchester. When I got there, I walked out and up towards the tap rooms and met The Love In My Heart and her niece at Track, having got a seat and that meant a cask Sonoma ale was mine, oh yes. It was very nice, and we had a good natter there before heading back to The Love’s place, just in time for the FA Cup semi final between Manchester City and Chelsea, which I could have gone to had I not needed to book for the snooker almost a year in advance!

It wasn’t a great semi final it has to be said, but City did press well in the first half and had some chances, but nothing happening. In the second half Nicholas Jackson missed at least two golden chances for Chelsea and should have scored, and somehow we stayed in it. The game for us improved massively once Jeremy Doku came on and his runs down the left really did trouble the Chelsea defence. It was from the work of him and Kevin de Bruyne that the latter put a ball across the box, it was semi-cleared and Bernardo Silva finished well. I was so pleased for him after the Champions League penalty miss.

Sunday 14th April – Arrivals and Departures

We were up early today as we had a busy day ahead – first of all to see a new arrival, and then off to meet up with some friends for Sunday lunch and some drinks, so it was definitely one to be up early for and indeed for Brian the cat to want lots of fussing and attention at the same time, because he can – and of course he might just be after some tuna and Dreamies, as is his want. With him all happy and settled and having lots of fussing and cuddles from his Mummy, it was off out for the first time today and indeed to visit one of The Love In My Heart’s relations to spend some time with them and their now extended family.

It was so lovely to see The Cute Little One, but now she has a baby sister, so The Cute Littler One was born on the Thursday last week. And she is utterly adorable, with such a soft kind face and the way she looked up at her Nana (ie: The Love In My Heart) was just a gorgeous thing to see. I for one felt so proud for her that she was going to be the cool Nana again, and The Cute Little One did want some attention but was also super proud and happy to want to be helping out with any feeding or anything like that. No doubt there may be some fun and games over time, but it did feel nice to see everyone so happy.

We got back to The Love’s place and got ourselves changed and ready to head out later that day. We were meeting up with two of our good friends and as I didn’t have to head back on the train tonight, that did at least mean that we would be able to be case free – and no weekend case to trundle around on my part. We got the tram to the city centre and to Piccadilly Gardens, nipped into Betfred to collect a small winning bet for The Love (she had backed third place each way) and then onwards towards Fierce Beer for a pre-lunch drink.

Our friends had the same idea and soon joined us with everyone bar me having their Cerveza lager, and me having one of their session beers. They did have a lovely present for The Love – a Joules handbag that looked really nice, and was very kind of them to do so to be honest. We then realised it was time to head over for lunch so it was over to TNQ for the Sunday Roast that they do, and it’s always a nice atmosphere in there anyway which makes for some pleasant relaxing settings and plenty of chatter too.

In fact, we were able to enjoy the two courses that we had – I had the squid and whitebait to start with some squid ink mayonnaise, and that was lovely, and the roast beef I had was plentiful, with some nice thick gravy, roasties, parsnips, and other vegetables. The Love did the roast pork which looked very nice, and our two friends had the fish ad chips and one of the vegan options respectively. The time sped by in there and I even tried a new orange and cranberry sour beer from a brewery in Liverpool in a can, that was pretty nice all round.

We were going to head back to Fierce, but that was very busy indeed, so we instead went to Terrace for a few drinks, and even though we did sit up on the roof terrace first, it did get a bit cold later on so we went inside and found a nice booth to chatter and drink in instead. I had the Track Sonoma and also the Vocation Bread and Butter, both solid session ales that were just the thing for me and very nice indeed. In fact it was just nice to while away the time there and enjoy ourselves, so no complaints there at all. The day went by far too quick and before we knew it, it was almost 7pm and we headed homeward – not before hearing two excellent football results! Tune of the day in fact it based on that – Guess Who’s Been on Match of the Day by Frank Sidebottom.

Saturday 13th April – Five One to the Empty Seats

It was a relaxing morning for me as The Love In My Heart was off to meet her friend for the day in the centre of Manchester, and this meant that myself and Brian the cat could have some more sleep, but also to be honest lots of catching up telly as well if we wanted to. I was tempted of course to be able to watch endless episodes of the new Manchester City behind the scenes documentary on Netflix, but instead did have a mission of sorts today – and that was to head off to Betfred not far from The Love’s place to put a bet on for the Grand National later on. In essence, with all the changes, hopefully it would prove to be a safe and good race for all, but we shall see.

It was also nice to be able to reminisce with some of the old races that had happened before, and some of which had good memories for me either as a child seeing Red Rum smash the third time win in 1977 and the Aldaniti story in 1981, but then on to races where I had actually won such as Aurora’s Encore in 2013, where I took the price of 80/1 in the morning and that worked out to be a very sensible thing to do – and the double win of Tiger Roll in 2018 and 2019 that Ihad backed both times (and the only time I’d done back to back National wins too). I do miss the older commentators, especially John Hanmer for the BBC.

It was off then to the Etihad and with Manchester City hosting Luton Town first prior to the other teams at the top playing this weekend, it was vital for City to get the result in and put a little bit of pressure on. Arsenal seemed to have the hardest game against Aston Villa tomorrow, and Liverpool should win against Crystal Palace, or so you would think anyway. This time round I had a seat at the very top of the East Stand in Block 106, which meant with the rain today it was a good place to be, as completely sheltered from any of that during the game too.

If you had missed the start of the game, you would have also missed the opener. Erling Haaland was one on one with the Luton keeper and should have scored, but after a bit of a scramble, the ball fell to him to scissor kick it, right into the face of the defender Hashioaka and into the net – a definite own goal when you looked back at it later. We didn’t care though as it was 1-0 to City and that was a positive all round. The score stayed the same til half time and despite City having a number of chances, none were taken and it was proving to be a proper rearguard action from Luton, fair play for their commitment there.

It took til midway through the second half for that resistance to be finally broken with the short corner resulting in a pass from Julian Alvarez and a smart finish from, of all people, Mateo Kovacic. His only other goal for City was against Luton in the FA Cup, so there you go. 2-0 soon became 3-0 as Jeremy Doku’s mazy run on the left resulted in him being cropped down, and Erling Haaland slotted home the resulting penalty with ease. That was a relief more than anything and it did mean City could take off more players with Wednesday night’s game against Real Madrid in mind.

After some changes though, a sloppy mistake from Matheus Nunes resulted in Ross Barkley pulling one back for Luton. We just cannot keep a clean sheet at the moment and that might come back to haunt us if the title gets decided on goal difference and all that. City though were not in the mood for any of that and immediately hit back for a fourth goal with a mazy run from Doku, where the City dieheads and myself started singing “4-1 to the empty seats” as a dig at all those who leave the game early for whatever reason (or the football tourists with their half and half scarves). City scored in stoppage time though Josko Gvardiol and the chant was soon “5-1 to the empty seats” – which said it all I think. Tune of the day is the Manchester City 1972 squad’s The Boys In Blue, which played before the game and at the end – because the boys in blue never give in.

Friday 12th April – Mission Accomplished

It would be very easy to sometimes give up on something that you have tried to do during the week, and not had much success. And for a number of reasons today, everything just fell into place, with some perseverance and determination all round. I have a feeling that sometimes taking a step back and being able to just have a think works wonders, especially if the proverbial brick wall is being hit with the head. And that applied to both work and also to something that I was searching out for The Love In My Heart as well.

First off, the work scenario. It has been a difficult week with lots going on and so little time to get things done. I think this was primarily due to a few deadlines being pushed forward with a need to try and get a new deployment over the line. Earlier in the week I had discovered that there was a firewall rule that needed to be added for Windows to allow the main executable to operate, and had already set that in Group Policy. But with the new office’s networking meant that you may not have seen that policy, so did a remediation and baseline in MECM to check for the presence of policy, and if not, remediate by populating the same policy registry that the keys set.

Yes, it may be cheating (a little) but at least if something is only cloud connected, you’ve got that as a back end way. And in fact it’d be only what you would do with a certain configuration in Intune anyway, so it’s not as if it’s a massive wheel reinvention (well so you think). I did two tests today on virtual machines where I had made sure policy applied. I installed the application, did a full log on and boom – it worked – no firewall warning and so on. And because I had the common sense to pre-empt that beforehand, when we do deploy, we’re all good.

The other mission I’ve been on is to try and locate a dress at Oliver Bonas which The Love In My Heart has been after – she wanted to wait until it was on sale as the initial price wasn’t so cheap. It then of course went out of stock in her size immediately, and so I’d been heading around a few of the London branches including the one right near the office to see if they had it. No dice – even with the trip to Bromley last night on the new Superloop SL5 in order to be able to see if their branch had one (see below). So I had a plan to walk over to the Tottenham Court Road branch to see if they had it.

The staff in there were super lovely – they didn’t have the one I was after but were able to check any other central London stores to see if there were any locally. As it transpired the one at Waterloo Station had some in the right size, so headed on the tube to Waterloo, and went up to the upper floor. There it was – all sorted. The staff were again super lovely here and wrapped it all really nicely and bagged it – handy for the train journey later of course. It was just really good that when you go somewhere and you feel looked after, you’ll go back. It’s also why they’re doing so well and bucking the trend and opening more stores.

Later in the day I finalised a few things and then headed off to the pub close by to Euston for some tea before heading on the train to Manchester. I did decide to treat myself a little bit as way of celebration and did the Seatfrog upgrade to Standard Premium – paying a mere £18 for it instead of the £30 it normally is. Winning. It was nice to be able to give myself the occasional treat and for me at least it’s always a good thing that you can do that. As for tune of the day somehow it felt apt that after chatting online with a colleague about the 90s TV series This Life, that the theme tune came racing through the head. And the original jumpy cut cameras in there!

Thursday 11th April – Charm Offensive In Bromley

I had a second charm offensive to get done today in order to help one of the users in the US, who for some reason was struggling with a laptop that was pretty new (in fact the same model as the one I now use, which is rapid) and for some reason, being prevented from working as they would like. Naturally of course my manager had been looking at it but needed some technical insight from me – and as it turned out, there was nothing odd in terms of standard software that was installed. However, I had a Gene Hunt style hunch.

Always trust your hunches, he said, and of course the Gene Genie was right. I did query whether there were any extensions for Chrome that had been installed, as a task manager check showed Chrome was eating up the CPU and taking 100%, which was very odd. Anyway, it transpired that there were two non-standard extensions that had been added, both of which when checked in developer mode were doing all sorts of checking of windows and tabs. As soon as I disabled one, I could see a considerable reduction, and the second one disabled eventually was the key also. I strongly suggested removing them, citing bad reviews recently for both where users had been affected – and definitely by the website URLs for each, seemed a bit off.

The user did then mention that there were documents in Google that were all in tabs from mail – 18 of them. This did mean 18 Chrome tabs open at once – so did of course forewarn that having that number open isn’t ideal and maybe to review and see which ones were needed. The other recommendation would be to use bookmarks and just open as needed – less tabs, so winning on memory. Even so we could see that the user was happier all told so that was a good thing and I think it showed that it’s better to actually analyse and fix.

After work it was time to try out the new Superloop service, the SL5, and for a good reason, to head off to Bromley. There is something in Oliver Bonas I’m after for The Love In My Heart, and the starting point of said service isn’t that far from me, so off I headed. I glad I got on where I did as East Croydon station was very busy, and lots got on – assuming it’d be quicker. The diversion by the Chinese Garage (yes there is a thing!) meant a go slow for several minutes, but got there in time and headed off by the Glades shopping centre to have a mooch around. No dice in Oliver Bonas, but nonetheless it was good to try that bus out anyway.

I headed back home later (actually took the train to Victoria and back out from there to East Croydon as it was a few minutes quicker after I had missed an SL5 by a couple of minutes) and decided to have some relaxing time by playing some Natalie Merchant, namely her second album Ophelia. I love this album to this day, and the uplifting Life Is Sweet is a perfect example of just how good she is – with her lovely distinct voice just adding so much loveliness. However, the title track is also a thing of beauty and that alone is tune of the day for me – and something I’ll be revisiting again as I listen to that album more often in rotation.

Tuesday 9th April – One For Sorrow, Two For Joy

Many of you may remember the 1970s TV series Magpie (Jenny Hanley klaxon here) with the title theme being provided by no less than the Spencer Davis Group. It was a really clever thing to have someone good doing it and giving the show lots of kudos – the cooler kid sister of Blue Peter of course. The theme tune is tune of the day and somehow seemed apt as I was packing a box full of some DVDs which I was sending off to Music Magpie – my theory being that as I don’t watch the ones I was packing anymore, may as well get them sold for cash in a decent bulk, free up some shelf space and win all round.

So off I headed to the post office at lunchtime, with box in tow. It was really easy as they had sent me a QR code which you just got scanned at the post office, and the label got generated and printed as Royal Mail tracked 48. There was also the Evri option but yeah, Evri right? If that allowed a print label at an Inpost box (like what Vinted does) that may have worked due to the nearest one being very near indeed – and that’s an understatement. That also did remind me that it may be sensible to look at some more wardrobe clearout via Vinted at some point in time.

I spent time on a call with my manager and a member of staff who was mentioning that the hard disk space on her Mac was running out – and constantly. A breakdown of the System Data part of Mac showed something like 300GB used there, and getting that back I thought would be key. Seeing from JAMF what had been installed on that Mac, my beady eyes spotting some Adobe apps on there, and all memories of my times in Higher Education came flooding back in a good way – the cache was always key either not to use on the same disk or partition as system, but also to periodicially clean it to get things right.

So first things first, I got the user to do a get info on the Adobe cache folder. It’s over 300GB. So that was pretty much that. Now I just needed to work out which app was doing it, and so got the user to launch After Effects, and went to the cache settings. One clear of that and we saw the progress bar do its thing, and I was thinking this might be a considerable amount claimed. Try 297GB! So in fact it was clear that if the cache wasn’t clearing automatically when closed, that it’d be sensible housekeeping for the user to do it as a periodic thing when all work saved. Sure enough, it was much much happier once that had been done, so naturally that did work wonders, and it’s been good to analyse these a bit more and show the way now.

I did watch the Lionesses later as they faced the Republic of Ireland in the Euro 2025 qualifiers, and soon went 2-0 up through Lauren James and an Alex Greenwood penalty. We did have a second penalty and Alex hit the post with that, but in the end despite some late Irish pressure, it was an easy win. I did have another screen for the Manchester City away game at Real Madrid in the Champions League, and well what a game that was! It was end to end stuff with City taking the lead very early on through a Bernardo Silva free kick, only for Madrid to score two in two minutes to go 2-1 up. City weathered the pressure and two superb strikes from Phil Foden and then (of all people) Josko Gvardiol to put City 3-2 up before another cracking strike made it 3-3 in the end. All to play for at the Etihad next week!

Saturday 6th April - Birmingham Game Hunt

It was up early this morning and off over to East Croydon train station, as it was another day out for me - I was heading off to Birmingham to visit the Birmingham Gaming Market as well as be able to possibly take in another game shop or two whilst there, as well as some pinball at Tilt (hopefully). So I did see that there were some announcements about the trains being a little delayed due to the landslip at Burgess Hill, affecting anything on the Brighton mainline. Thankfully although one train was delayed, that did arrive in time for me to get it and to head up to London Victoria, followed by the tube up to London Euston.

All was well there and I was able to board the 0746 train, I would get this to Rugby and then swap for a stopper train via Coventry to Birmingham, all made possible by the London Northwestern deal which meant that the tickets were a mere £6 each way, can't argue with that for value for money that is for definite. The swapover at Rugby was easy as it was a change from platforms 2 to 1, and then was able to then get a seat on the train to Birmingham with some intermediate stops between Coventry and Birmingham International, arriving at New Street all on time and all good.

After a quick pit stop for a coffee, it was over to the bus stops by Moor Street station and to get the 17 bus out towards Sheldon, and this would take me through Small Heath and onward towards Hob Moor Road, but the bus had to divert due to a traffic incident, and then carried on its route without issues. I did note that we met the outer circle bus route close to Yew Tree, and then carried onwards. It did feel like right out in the suburbs and got off at The Radleys bus stop close to a roundabout where Entertainment World was placed.

And I have to say that place was very good indeed. There's literally boxes of stuff to go through all with 8-bit computer games all stacked neatly, and as well as the usual lot of Commodore 64, Spectrum and Amstrad games, the Commodore 16 and Plus/4 series as well as the Atari XL/XE models were also noticeable in supply. In fact I saw three different cassette label variants of Formula 1 Simulator for the C16, and even the Mastertronic Added Dimension (MAD) release of Five a Side Soccer, so all good there. In fact, the only reason I didn't buy anything was due to me already owning a number of games that they did have, but if I was building up a collection from scratch, this will be a definite port of call and will have to pop back periodically.

You actually don't realise how close you are to Birmingham Airport, only when checking the map later did I realise this. I headed back on the 17 bus and stopped off on the way back to grab some lunch (this is why I had an all day bus ticket, super easy then) and after that, it was back on the 17 through Small Heath, past Birmingham City's ground and onwards towards the Custard Factory, where I had been before. A sizeable queue was forming outside and these were all for the 1pm entry to the gaming market as I was, so had to wait for some time and was checking on the Manchester City football score at the same time whilst I was waiting - it was 1-1 when I went in.

I must admit that if you had one a Nintendo, Sony or Sega console and you wanted some hard to find games or imports from the US or Japan, this market was for you. If though you wanted some 1980s 8-bit computer games, less so. I did note Hidden Chest Gaming which I had visited the other week had a stall and a wide ranging selection (including a boxed Acorn Electron) and a couple of others had some racks of games, but it wasn't that good for fans of that era, me included. It was very busy though and plenty of games were being purchased, so definitely has its appeal somehow.

I decided to walk back along Digbeth and to the city centre, and once there it was over to the little hidden gem that is Tilt. In fact there wasn't that many people in there which was a surprise, but I went for a nice fruity pale that was a bakewell tart flavour overall (pretty nice too) and went to the 1990s selection of pinball tables on the first floor. There was no Theatre of Magic sadly, but there were some excellent machines: Medieval Madness, Indy 500, Creatre from the Black Logoon, all sorts. I did play the first two of those as well as then play Thunderball on the ground floor, which I got a replay on.

I also then because it was nice and cool in the basement had another drink, this time a porter from a brewery in Estonia, and played the likes of AC/DC, Metallica (got a replay score on that one too, and rocked it hard) and also The Simpsons Pinball Party. All the machines were spot on as ever and of course having the proper tracks for the band themes ones were excellent, so Battery by Metallica is tune of the day as certainly rocking to that helped my score along, I'm convinced of it really. All was really good in there and to be honest, I could have just spent the whole day there.

Anyway, it was soon time to head over to New Street and to get the 1636 train back to Rugby and change for the faster one to Euston. All was good and there was a slight delay at Rugby, but it did mean when I got to Euston I headed over pretty quickly and managed to get the train to East Croydon before I'd have to wait a half hour or so before the next one, so pleased to get that. All in all, and despite me not getting any games, it had been a good day, and helped too by Manchester City's 4-2 win at Crystal Palace making it a good day in the football!

Wednesday 3rd April - Birthday Bliss

It's The Love In My Heart's birthday today, so nice for us both to have the day off work and to spend some quality time together. In fact, it was nice to have a lie in, and for The Love to open her presents from family and friends. She really appreciated them all, and they ranged from bottles of wine to gift cards and also some chocolate too. One of the cards from one of her nieces had a really fab cat on, and that definitely met with approval. I had got her the Zara Red Temptation perfume and a gift card for Oliver Bonas, as I know she's after a couple of things in there and it does mean she can choose as she wishes to.

Brian the cat was having plenty of fussing and cuddles too, and he was purring contentedly as we got ourselves changed and ready to be out later today. We had booked lunch at one of our favourite places - The Midland at Marple Bridge, and we knew that was going to be really nice, as it usually is. After yesterday's really nice afternoon tea it made sense to be able to head out somewhere different, and with the rain potentially coming down hard today, it made sense to be somewhere in the dry and with parking close by too.

Once we arrived at The Midland, we were able to get a table by the window and overlook the River Goyt flowing down below. We had an offer on where if you got a course you got the second one free, and that would be useful - I was paying anyway of course but like The Love said, you may as well use the offers you can get! The Love had the chicken liver parfait with some nice bread, and I had the deep fried squid in a really nice sauce complete with a massive lemon slice to squeeze the juice over. All really nice.

The mains were also superb too it has to be said - The Love had the pork belly complete with potatoes done dauphinoise style but as a square, as well as crackling and vegetables. I had the steak and red wine pie complete with a proper pastry case all the way round, mash and vegetables, and both had some lovely gravy too. We also both did the mini dessert and coffee thing, which meant a little creme brulee for The Love and a lemon tart for me, and a coffee each which was a nice way to end the meal and have a really lovely time, with friendly staff and quality food all round.

We headed back to The Love's place later and had a relaxing rest of the afternoon and watching a couple of episodes of Drive to Survive. I think more so since we went to the Monaco Grand Prix together years ago, The Love has definitely got more into the F1 too, and she does like the behind the scenes stories, of which there were plenty this time around, including last year's return of Daniel Ricciardo and the subsquent hand injury at Zandvoort. As for tune of the day it simply has to be The Chain by Fleetwood Mac, the proper F1 theme and also from a band we both like, so why not?

I did leave a few minutes earlier than planned due to the trains being a little off due to the earlier signal failures between Milton Keynes Central and Watford Junction. I got to the station and all seemed a little bit more okay and indeed the advice to travel at a different time had worked well - others had left earlier and indeed the carriage I was in was nice and empty, with no one around me either. I got home in good time to see the final moments of Manchester City's win over Aston Villa and to watch Match of the Day later, so an excellent day all round really.

Tuesday 2nd April – Peckforton Perfection

The Love In My Heart and I were both off work today, and this meant that we could take up a little treat that some of our friends had purchased for us for Christmas – an afternoon tea for two at Peckforton Castle, which is a really nice venue and often used for weddings in Cheshire, in the heart of the county and not far from Bunbury and Nantwich. We knew the way there of course because it was the same way that we would take if we were going to Snugburys Ice Cream at Hurleston, so once we were all showered, changed and ready, with the weather getting nicer by the minute, it was time to head off.

We took the M56 out west and then the A49, passing Cheshire Polo Club, the Hollies Farm Shop and the turn off for Oulton Park racing circuit before carrying on past Tarporley and then right to carry on down the A49 (straight on becomes the A51 to Nantwich and of course Snugburys) – and after passing under a railway bridge, we spotted the right hand turn off for Peckforton and Beeston Castles, both turn offs from a country road. We soon passed through Beeston and onwards and spotted the narrow right hand entry into the castle grounds through the gate, and uphill along the road to the car park and the entrance for the castle itself. The castle is a hotel now with two restaurants and a premier wedding venue for the Cheshire set.

It all did look lovely once we walked through the drawbridge and into the main castle grounds, and soon found the 2010 Brasserie, which used to be the former castle scullery. The Love gave her name for the booking and the folks had redeemed the voucher we had already so we didn’t need to do anything at all, so were soon shown to a nice cosy area with a table for two. Soon enough we were served a nice big pot of very nice English Breakfast tea – no Yorkshire tea but all good. Others were having lunch or the afternoon tea and all looked good from what we could see.

Out came the afternoon tea, and we were able to share the towers of sandwiches and treats. The sandwiches included cheese and pickle, pork, tuna and so on which were all nice, and cut daintly. The middle section had a rich chcolate cake slice, some lemon sponge small slices and also two mini Bakewell style frangipane cakes. The top had some nice warm scones with jam and clotted cream, so obviously jam first as per tradition. All the while there were twee versions of well known songs including Dreams by Fleetwood Mac and a version of Friday I’m In Love by The Cure. That just made me yearn for the original which has to be tune of the day of course.

Once that was done, we did have a walk around the castle grounds, and did note that staying there was cheaper midweek, with deals on where you could get bed, breakfast and £30pp towards the evening meal in the restaurant, which was pretty good all round. I do think that it’d be somewhere nice to stay in future if we wanted to treat ourselves, so definitely noted that for reference. We also then headed back along the road and to the Hollies Farm Shop, and had a good mooch at all the plants for The Love’s patio garden as well as the delightful food section, and plenty of beers too. It really was good to see it much less busy than on a Sunday so that is definitely noteworthy.

We stopped off further on the way back and had a drink at the Riverside pub by Acton Bridge. We did get an indoor table with a view over to the River Weaver, so that was really nice. I think too it was good that we took the time out to relax and make the most of a lovely day together, and were able to just be on a go slow. Even the traffic back to The Love’s place didn’t bother us, we just took it nice and easy and that was the theme for the day, and Brian the cat later was more than happy to see his Mummy and have some cuddles before later we’d have some lasagne for tea to end a rather good day all round.

Monday 1st April – April Showers

It was a nice relaxing morning for The Love In My Heart, having a lie in with Brian the cat having woken her up earlier wanting some food and some Dreamies (as ever.) I left her to have a good sleep and had a catch up of some telly as well as being able to analyse yesterday’s football with the Match of the Day 2 show on iPlayer being a source of seeing what had happened. As ever, the usual rubbish pundits elsewhere were slagging off the likes of Erling Haaland, and not really giving the credit to Arsenal where due for some stout defending which did the job that Mikel Arteta, the Arsenal manager, had set them out to do.

We were going to head for a walk down the canal towards the city centre and be able to get some fresh air and exercise, but as we set off down the canal path, the rain started to come down heavily. We sheltered under a bridge for a while and decided the sensible move was to head over to the tram stop, get the tram towards New Islington, and walk from there, and if dry on the way back, we could walk back too. That made sense even more so when a double tram came in and the back tram was empty apart from the two of us! If only it was like that all the time.

We got off at New Islington and walked along the marina and then into Ancoats. We did mull over whether we wanted to stop for food as well, but The Love did mention she did have some food in for later, so instead it was into Seven Bro7ers Beerhouse and to have a nice relaxing pint together. In fact we got a spot overlooking the downstairs area and could see outside too and keep an eye on the rain, which by this time had become more incessant too, so definitely one to take note of for later. We did also decide that as it was the Happy Hour time later we’d stay for another.

That was a good move, as what this meant was that I was able to get the LOAH blood orange 0.5% IPA for a mere £3.50, and although The Love could have had the Seven Bro7ers Helles for £4, she went for the large glass of the house white wine for £5, and that is a good bargain too considering. It was good to be out and just nattering about all sorts, so made the day pass well together. It was later a walk back to New Islington and to get the tram back, and did manage to avoid the rain somewhat on the way back too, so that was really good.

Later on we settled in after tea and watched some more episode of Drive to Survive on Netflix. I have to say that the insights provided always give you a picture of the Formula 1 season, with Pierre Gasly and Esetban Ocon not really liking each other (understatement) and being team mates in Alpine, with the bad results ensuring the team prinicpal was fired. Notable was Gasly’s request to switch tyres to wets in Monaco being ignored, which in effect cost him a good place, and he was not happy (can’t say I blame him there) along with the way that the two would end up hitting each other. Mind you, Ocon does have history on that one, ask Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso. Tune of the day is the new F1 theme composed by Brian Tyler – he really has set the tone for this in the last few years and given it an identity.