Dear Diary... August 2023

Monday 28th August – Crazy In Bents

The Love in My Heart and I had a well-earned lie in, and it was nice to be able to get up and potter around the flat a bit at the start of the Bank Holiday Monday. In fact, Brian the cat had woken up during the night with a bit of sick, so The Love wanted some more sleep time to compensate, which was fine, whilst I got up and got the case sorted for later, including watching the likes of Escape to the Country (which shows there was sod all on telly anyway.) The Love got up, fussed over Brian, and then we were able to have some breakfast – a nice bacon toasted sandwich which did the job wonderfully well.

Once up and sorted, and showered, we thought it would be nice to head out to Bents Garden Centre, as The Love wanted some inspirations for her Autumn displays for work, and there was the option provided that the weather was dry to play some crazy golf too – they do have a full 18-hole course there with a mixture of dinosaur and pirate themes amongst the holes. So, it was not too long before we headed along the A580 East Lancashire Road and turned off just before Leigh Sports Village and headed on the A574 to Bents. The Love knows it is easier to park at the back right hand side and so it proved, it was a doddle to get a space!

As we had checked at the desk for the crazy golf and could not get on till 2.35pm (they had booked it for us which was good) we had a good look around the whole store first, with the displays certainly giving The Love some ideas. In fact, we both noted the tall Mr and Mrs Fox soft toy standing statues which were cute and one for the children – I am sure The Cute Little One would find it adorable for example, and we did spot this rather nice wreath display complete with all the right colours for the Autumn season. The Love liked them and when she saw that the price was a mere £19.99, she of course had to get one of those and purchased it straight off. I can appreciate why – and noted the many local beers in the food hall, even seeing that all the gluten free ones were together so those with specific requirements could go straight there. Simple idea – but I bet for those that need that, easy peasy to find!

It was then back over to the hut at the start of the crazy golf and we did the 18-hole course. There were two groups just ahead of us and the front one was taking a little time, but gradually as they got better, that did mean everything sped up nicely. The Love went first and got a hole in one – on the first hole! Nicely done. In fact, I did not get one during the whole game – I did get plenty of 2s along the way but not a single hole in one, and The Love pulled off some excellent shots, especially on the 11th Pirate Ship hole where she hit the ball into the centre hole on top and almost landed a hole in one below – just came off the lip in fact!

It was all very enjoyable indeed and the course did play fairly, there are some difficult holes where you need to use the banking to get around corners, but does at least mean you can pull off some audacious shots if you need to. We did note ahead of us that the grandfather (it was grandparents and grandchild) had done a hole in one on the 8th too, so proof that other holes were also doable too. In the end I took 45 shots for the 18 holes, and The Love took 54, which did include that hole in one. Well worth the £7.50 admission, but if your little ones do not like the roar of a dinosaur and are scared, it may not be ideal for them.

After that we headed back down the A580 and stopped off at The Woodside pub for lunch. The staff did tell us that they were not taking any inside table bookings due to being short staffed but if we wanted to sit outside and do order at table, they would be all good and bring food and drink to us, so we got a nice outside table. The Love had the lamb kofta skewer with a nice coleslaw and some side salad and chips, which looked good, and I did have the steak and mushroom pie, which was a proper pie (yaay) and with a gorgeous mash, carrots, green beans, and gravy. It was delicious, and we both enjoyed a drink together as we relaxed before the rain started to come down, just as we were finishing the drink!

The Love then headed over to Manchester Piccadilly station where we did note some muddy boots just left outside in the station car park, and that was most probably a remnant from the weekend’s Manchester Pride festival celebrations. In fact, I decided to do the Seatfrog upgrade on the 1735 train tonight because I knew it was a 3 hour 10 minute journey but also because it would be rammed being a 9 car train. I was proved right with it being standing room only in some parts, and instead I was able to enjoy coffee, biscuits and even a charcuterie board along with a free can of the Peroni Capri that was being given away at the station. It was much more civilised and even though it was not that cheap an upgrade at £38, I thought it less hassle, and I was due some delay repay from Friday’s train trip anyway, so made some sense to invest that back into a comfier long journey and make a lovely end to the weekend too. Tune of the day in fact is the excellent Mad Train by André Brasseur, which sums up the journey how it would have been had I not thought about upgrading!

Sunday 27th August – One Hundred Up

It was good to have had a good sleep, and The Love In My Heart and The Cute Little One had both slept well, with The Cute Little One being all snuggled in her cot, and Brian the cat also snuggled up next to The Love. We got up and The Love needed to change The Cute Little One’s nappy, which was all good, then we headed up to have some breakfast together. Needless to say, that if there is an offer of Coco Pops as well as some toast, The Cute Little One was going to take that one up and enjoy her little self, which she did, and sat at the table with no bib (“I’m not a baby anymore Nana!” she said) and didn’t spill any of it either.

Of course it did mean that she would be entertained and so watched the whole of Frozen from start to finish, which I had never seen before but knew that she had watched a few times. Admittedly, I can see the resemblance to The Snow Queen in there, but can also appreciate just why so many girls and women love it so much too – it’s really empowering and so good to see strong female characters in animated films (see also Brave, the Pixar one.) The Cute Little One loves singing along to Let It Go by Idina Menzel, so must be tune of the day just for that and seeing her face so absolutely enchanted by it all.

Once The Cute Little One had been picked up later by her parents and headed off home, all happy and full of hugs (and she was) we had the afternoon already planned. My auntie had invited us around for a family get together, and with a good reason. My Grandad would have been 100 last Thursday had he still been around, and as that also coincided with the opening of Maine Road, Manchester City’s former ground, and him being a diehard blue inspiring many of us in the family, then it was definitely well worth celebrating his life and influence to so many of us. It was nice to be one of the first invited, and it would be hopefully good to see some of the younger ones with their parents too.

After a stop off in Asda to get some drinks to bring with us (as we had asked if anything was needed) we headed to my auntie’s place. It was nice to see plenty of people in the family there including both my brothers, the younger one having his two children with him who were both being adorable, two of my nephews with their children, all of whom were absolutely adorable and nice, and plenty of the family too. What’s always nice is that they always make The Love feel really welcomed, and quite a few friendly hugs ensued, which was lovely. In fact, we poured ourselves a drink and as the back garden had some gazebos out, it meant that even if it rained, we’d be dry, and chatted for ages.

It was good to see a barbecue was on and manned by one of the nephews, who was doing a cracking job being able to sort out all the burgers and pork anyone could wish for, along with a nice sandwich selection including prawn (that was me sorted then) and lots of nibbles including sausage rolls. It was just good to chatter to everyone and had a really nice chat with my auntie about Devon, as she had gone there for a honeymoon with her husband a few years back, and had visited a few places we did, so was good to see how we did (they took the Land Rover back up the hill but we walked it!) and also now they had sold their campervan because of their son (my nephew) having a caravan in Cornwall that they could go there and make the most of it.

After sandwiches there were scones too so of course had to have one, and as per Cornish tradition, jam first, which we all approved of, of course. It was just nice to be able to enjoy that and have a drink and chill out, and the atmosphere was lovely. We did end up having a picture taken with all of us in it as a memento, and had a little speech to commemorate as well as having some cake, which was rather nice. The time did speed by much quicker than we thought and it was around 6pm when we left, and had a nice chat with people before we did. It was a really good time and I was pleased that it was just a pleasant day without no arguments and the right way to remember my Grandad in a positive way.

Saturday 26th August – There Is Such A Thing As A Gruffalo!

It was going to be a nice day today as The Love In My Heart and I were going to have The Cute Little One stay with us overnight, so was going to be a really nice time. In fact, last night we had booked something for later today, only to realise that as Manchester United were playing at home, that might affect what we had planned. It was good to be up reasonably early anyway and keep an eye on the next decathlon events at the World Athletics Championship. I did note that the hurdles really did separate those with technique and those who didn’t, and then the discus later had some athletes gaining ground with some very good 50 metre plus throws in that event.

Later on The Cute Little One’s parents arrived to drop her off, and she was happy to see The Love especially, and we chatted for a while with The Love’s sister as well which was nice, especially as she had stayed in London and had a few good days with her friends, so was telling us about that – especially as her daughter and The Love’s niece had allowed her to stay there and so cut down on the hotel costs etc massively, giving them more time to spend the time they wanted enjoying themselves. Can’t argue with that for a positive experience, and that did mean making the most of the final day with some extra nice things to do.

We left around 1.45pm and knowing that Manchester United were at home and we were going to The Lowry, we ended up heading down Chapel Street, turning left onto Albion Way, and once we had crossed the Regent Road roundabout, were able to turn right and into the road to the Lowry. What was the Outlet Mall (now Quayside) was a bit of a car park queue to get into, but we took the way to the elevated levels and Level 4 was empty in the end (which was good) and so that did mean we weren’t that far from the level 3 entrance to the shopping centre, and soon made our way there, to the markets and then onwards to The Lowry.

We had booked tickets (they were free, but due to demand you had to book) for the exhibition which featured Julia Donaldson and Axel Schaeffer’s work from the likes of The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom, Tabby McTat, Zog, and many others. It was great to see all the artworks that were displayed on the walls of the gallery, really bringing the stories to life, and all the nice spaces with books and cushions to sit on, encouraging the reading of stories to the little ones, which plenty of parents were doing. There were also some interactive exhibits too where you could reveal something hidden away to do, such as roar like a lion, squeak like a mouse, but also in addition things to turn, push, pull and even screens showing clips from the animated versions of some of the stories.

It was very enjoyable and certainly for children a bit older than The Cute Little One, they would get plenty out of it in terms of seeing some of the original artwork, some of the original writing and a bit of history around the stories as well, which was well worth it all. The timed slots are primarily to ensure that the numbers are sensibly controlled and you don’t have loads trying to all read the same books, so made perfect sense for me to be able to do so. Once we had been in the café too, we did note that there was a mouse from The Gruffalo in the foyer, which The Cute Little One loved to bits, and a large statue of the Gruffalo outside too, which was impressive, and had plenty of children having their picture taken. It was fab, and runs til end of December, so well worth booking in advance.

After that we had planned to leave The Lowry to make sure we got out before the final whistle sounded at Old Trafford, and would have been a lot easier had some people decided not to be total nonces and park their cars at the actual car park barrier before realising they needed to validate and pay for their car park ticket. D’oh! Needless to say, of course that slowed things but there were two lanes to get out so once the second lane was available, we headed into that and straight out, because we actually know how to use a car park and ticket machines. You could see some cross faces from some who were in the other lane queue, and let’s just say they were not very happy at all!

It was good to head over to The Sheldon Arms near Ashton for some tea, and we got a nice booth table so that The Cute Little One could sit up and enjoy her meal. The Love and I had a carvery where we both had the turkey and the gammon which was lovely, and The Cute Little one had the fish chips and beans, and scoffed most of that before then getting her ice cream (pink one! She said, which was of course strawberry) and enjoyed that thoroughly. It was a nice afternoon all told and good to relax together, and tune of the day is the excellent theme from The Gruffalo animated version, which really does set the tone well – we need to get it now for The Cute Little One!

Friday 25th August – You’re Having A Giraffe!

With an early finish from work today due to the fact we do so on certain Fridays in the Summer (which I hope will continue once the changes are complete) it was a perfect opportunity to be able to look at a new public art exhibition on display near me in Croydon – and as part of the town being the 2023 London Borough of Culture. It was Croydon Stands Tall, where in association with Wild In Art (who did the Morph’s Adventure recently that I completed in one day) were placing 30 large sized giraffe sculptures around the centre of Croydon, from the South End to north of West Croydon station. I had snagged the trail map from East Croydon station the other day so thought it was sensible to do the trail – and in order!

For me, that proved easier I could walk down from the flat and straight to the South End, where the first one was there outside the Tree House pub, and looking resplendent. It was back along to the High Street and to Leon House for the next one before heading up towards the Croydon Flyover and to Park Lane for the police station, followed by a walk across to Fairfield Halls for number 4. Across the road to Queen’s Gardens for the next one and down to Ludoquist for the sixth, and then to the Clocktower Café and library for the next one. In fact, after getting another on High Street by the old Grants complex and outside Crisis on Surrey Street by the market (money raised was going to them) it was then a fairly long walk to the Croydon Minster to be able to get the tenth one.

A nice straight line followed taking in Church Street and George Street in turn, with the next four being outside shops along those streets, and around the back of Croydon College and the new Ten Degrees apartment complex for the sixteenth one. Outside One Croydon close to the bus stops by East Croydon station was the sunflower one which I sent to The Cute Little One’s Mum (because she loves sunflowers) and at the side of Boxpark, the Crystal Palace themed one, as after all, the club isn’t that far from the centre of Croydon and so made plenty of sense to be able to do that anyway.

Ruskin Square saw me capture the next one and got to the walkway towards the rear entrance of East Croydon station where two children were climbing on the statue, despite clear instructions not to. I could see a parent with their children wanting to be able to take a picture too so I located the children’s parents (around 100 yards away!) and told them that effectively they were damaging a piece of public art, and thankfully they moved away. The other parents of the children waiting were happy, and their child said thank you to me for getting the others moved on so they could carry on their trail and doing the right thing in getting their selfie with the giraffe and ticking the box off on their app.

It was then on to the next one by a roundabout before seeing another by the Leonardo Hotel, walking past the headquarters of Superdrug where a suitably pink coloured giraffe was located, and passing the Bedford Tavern on the way to the next one which was by Lunar House on Wellesley Road. It was then a walk past West Croydon station and on to the 26th one in all, which was near a community centre before seeing the two on the North End (one by HSBC and the other outside Pandora) before finishing it off with a giraffe in the Whitgift Centre by Superdry, and in Centrale close to the Crystal Palace shop and Sports Direct. All thirty large ones – all got, and it took me around 2 hours 10 minutes in all, even with the extended pause at East Croydon station, so 2-3 hours for families and parents seems doable.

I was able to get the pictures sorted and uploaded to Flickr later for everyone to see, and so they could get an idea of how enjoyable the trail was to do – and I can highly recommend it if you want to do less walking than say the Morph one still on at the moment. It was a good little trail to do and will look at popping inside places to get the little ones which are inside – one of which is in the front window of Ludoquist for example, so all good there. As I headed out and up to Euston later to get the train to Manchester, I was relaxed with the iPod on and listening to some new music, especially the new Metallica album 72 Seasons, and from that Shadows Follow is tune of the day.

Sunday 20th August - Lionesses Roar Short

It was good to be up at a reasonable time today and with a bacon sandwich and coffee via The Love In My Heart, I was settling in for the Women's World Cup final - England versus Spain. Of course, England had beaten Australia in the semi finals whilst Spain had overcome Sweden in a tough encounter, and indeed the Spanish had also knocked out the Netherlands earlier on too. I knew this wasn't going to be an easy game whatsoever and I would be happy with any win if England were to do it. I also thought as well that it'd be key to see what we do tactically and how we would respond.

I decided to watch it on BBC One, primarily because the presenters and pundits were at least out there in Australia for the semi finals and final, unlike ITV who were in the studio and then went over occasionally to the likes of Jill Scott and Ian Wright who were at the stadium. I do think it had a better flow with some of the coverage really raising some important issues that needed to be, such as the lack of buying the goalkeeper kits, which isn't really helping to inspire the next generation who want to be the next Mary Earps, Mackenzie Arnold or Zećira Mušović is it?

Anyway, the game kicked off and it certainly started off promising enough. Both sides had chances and it was a nice lay off to Lauren Hemp for the Manchester City player to rattle the bar with a curling shot - just a bit lower would have been nice. Spain did come into the game more and did over-run the England midfield somewhat, with the Barcelona team mates having done their homework on how to starve Keira Walsh of the ball, which was key. It wasn't a surprise that after Lucy Bronze had given away possession (and then given up chasing back) a move down the left resulted in Olga Carmona puting it into the bottom corner. I did feel sorry for Alessia Russo who at least tried to track back albeit in vain.

Half time came and England manager Sarina Wiegman did the changes, with Lauren James and Chloe Kelly coming on for Alessia Russo and Rachel Daly. It did seem to improve things and England did push on a little, but Spain always looked the better side and were in control. The best England had was a snap shot from Lauren James which forced a good save, and at the other end Spain got a penalty after a harsh but correct handball decision given against Keira Walsh.

I did though hope that Mary Earps would save the penalty and keep England in the game - and she did! It was a super stop and definitely gave some increased momentum to the Lionesses as they searched for an equaliser. Search they did, but at the end with even Earps up for the final corner, the delivery wasn't good enough and straight to Cata Coll in the Spain goal - only playing her fourth game but looking prety impressive. And that was it - Spain had won, and on the balance of play, I have to say deservedly so. I did feel gutted that so many of the Lionesses had worked so hard but didn't get their reward, and they may see this as an opportunity missed.

Later in the afternoon The Love and I headed out for lunch, and it was looking wet and windy where we were, but then when we got to the pub we'd planned to go to, the weather had turned nice and so it was a no brainer to sit outside with a cold drink and to have a lovely lunch together - I had the fish and chips and The Love had the boneless chicken basket, and it was just nice to be out. I headed on the train later which was packed and had no aircon (oh joy) but did at least have some good music to keep me going, including (and perhaps apt), So Close by The Darling Buds, so tune of the day that one is for me.

Saturday 19th August - Let The Games Begin

It was going to be a nice busy day out for me today as The Love In My Heart was spending the day meeting her friend and having a well deserved catch up along with lunch, and as I was in Manchester, it made sense for me to check out some old school games and indeed be able to try out the Bee Cycle Hire, and see how those bikes are in comparison to say the Santander ones in London for example. I also knew I needed to be back in time for tonight's game as Manchester City hosted Newcastle United with an 8pm kick off, which is a real mickey take for the away fans especially, no thanks to the folks at TNT Sports for that.

I headed first of all on the tram and to Ashton-under-Lyne to pay a visit to Rewind Collectables and Games. They've now got all the 8-bit games sorted in alphabetical order and by format on the shelves, with the Amstrad at the top followed by Atari, Commodore and Spectrum. That was easy to see what they had and if I didn't own a few titles that they had, I'd have made some purchases. I did note they had a nice boxed set of Atari paddles though which work well on the VCS/2600 as well as the Commodore 64, so useful to know if I needed to get another set in future.

It was back on the tram to Manchester city centre, and as I knew that it would be open, I headed over to the newly expanded NQ64, which has moved next door on Tib Street in the Northern Quarter. There's now a ground floor bar and then stairs down to where the games are, and definitely much more spread out and with aircon being rather nice. It was 15 tokens for £8, which has gone up a little, and alas, the jump button wasn't working on Track and Field (sort of essential for the likes of long jump and javelin especially) and the joystick on Tetris went down instead of left far too many times for my liking. Everything else I tried was fine though, so Bubble Bobble, Puzzle Bobble, Donkey Kong and so on were good.

Once I got back to Piccadilly Gardens, it was time to get on my bike, and initially a short close to one mile ride up to All Saints where MMU is and to get some lunch at Babylon, one of my old haunts. This meant I could try out the Beryl app (the Manchester Bee Cycle Hire uses that) and as I'd got 100 minutes' use for £5, that way I avoided the £1 docking fee on pay as you go. I entered the code, the bike unlocked, and off I went, down Portland Street and Princess Street, via Charles Street and up Oxford Road, docking the bike close to the Eighth Day. It worked fine and charged me the 8 minutes it took me to do that distance, all good.

After a well earned lunch at Babylon it was a much longer bike ride on the bike this time around. I knew that the old Fallowfield Loop Line (now a cycle path, was a railway line) was in the boundary, so my plan was carried out - cycling along Oxford Road, continuing into Wilmslow Road (with dedicated cycle lanes on each side of the road all the way into Fallowfield and beyond too, it must be noted) and then from there crossing at Fallowfield Sainsbury's, down Sherwood Street and to join the old loop line at the bottom, heading under Princess Road, Alexandra Road South and Withington Road before passing the tram stop at St Werburgh's Road and on to Chorlton - 4.8 miles in just over 30 minutes, and well worth a good pedal!

After a stop in Chorlton for a drink it was then time to head on the tram back to Manchester city centre (method in my madness for going to Chorlton) and then after getting off at Exchange Square, it was off to the Printworks to try the Treetop Adventure Golf. I ended up doing the second course, which was the Ancient Explorer one. Nice set of the 18 holes, some sensible obstacles to get past if you can, and also opportunities to hit the ball into holes or traps and end up close to the hole. I did get 13 2s (a few of which were very close to the hole!), 4 3s and ended up on the 18th hole getting a hole in one, so a score of 39 overall is pretty decent I have to say!

I headed back to The Love In My Heart's place, and she arrived later after being out with her friend, and had had a lovely time. It was nice to see her before heading off to the Etihad Stadium to see Manchester City. It did feel a tad odd without my friend being there, but that's something I need to get used to now. I did have a seat in block 242 by the corner flag, and it was pretty good to be front row to see the action unfold. Before the game three City legends in Tommy Booth, Mike Summerbee and Joe Corrigan came out with the three trophies won last season: Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League, so was really good to see that along with all the fireworks going off.

As for the game itself, it was pretty tight overall with no quarter asked or given from either side. City did play well but Newcastle held their own, and it took a nice bit of skill down the right to find Phil Foden, who squared it to Julian Alvarez to smash home a shot into the top corner for 1-0. Erling Haaland had some chances but two of them went just wide (one in each half) and Newcastle did make some changes before one of their players was potentially sent off. City did contain pretty well and despite the odd Newcastle chance certainly earned their 1-0 final result well. It was good for me to be able to see all that and indeed blast out Supra's version of Blue Moon (hence tune of the day) before kick off too.

Wedneday 16th August - Waltzing Past The Matildas

I was working from home today and doing some further testing into the migration phase of what we were looking at for the future, but also being able to look at some Mac packaging using the Mac here - so was able to determine what the command line was doing for a couple of package installs that needed some extra configuration and scripting afterwards, so that was at least something to at least go by. I was also compiling some reporting and that along with writing some documentation were tasks I could do with the telly on in the background to see both screens.

Because, of course, it is England against Australia in Sydney in the Women's World Cup semi-final. It would be akin to someone playing England at Wembley in terms of having the masses of home support. Australia have excelled themselves as hosts and for them to get to the semis is a major achievement, especially when their talisman Sam Kerr hasn't been able to play most of the time. Of course, I had Manchester City interest in that side with Alanna Kennedy sadly ruled out, but Mary Fowler up front (and of course Hayley Raso with her trademark hair ribbons used to play for us before signing for Real Madrid.)

The game kicked off and it was an open game with chances at both ends. It was also notable that both sides wanted to play properly too - no rolling over after a challenge, straight back up and on with it, and using the skill on offer to weave their ways forwards and create chances. In fact England had had a couple of good chances but then the opening goal came, and the ball fell to Ella Toone just inside the 18 yard box, and she smashed it into the top corner giving their keeper Mackenzie Arnold no chance (and she is a very good keeper may I say, so that said how good it was!)

Half time, 1-0 up, I'd have taken that. I knew it would be a challenge still though and during the second half Australia pressed for the equaliser, with determination and passion from the forward line. Sam Kerr got the ball on the half way line, ran towards the England defence, and unleashed a shot into the top corner and over Mary Earps, and a superb finish. Some of the defenders could have got a bit tighter to be honest, but you have to applaud an excellent finish and give credit where due. The Matildas and their fans were buoyant and it was going to be a real test for England now.

And wow, did they respond or what? First of all, a ball gets looped forward from Millie Bright and Lauren Hemp chases after it to hound the Australian defence. They fail to get hold of it and Lauren gets in between, slotting it into the bottom corner. 10 out of 10 for not giving it up, and 11 out of 10 for the finish. Absolute class, and I noted later after the game she had ran to former Manchester City and England team mate Jill Scott (in the crowd for ITV) to get a massive hug. Because Jill knows more than anyone what that sort of goal means. 2-1 to England, and in the driving seat.

Australia came out press for an equaliser, but instead it was a surging run forward from Lauren Hemp from the half way line, and she disguised a lovely pass into the right side for Alessia Russo perfectly. Almost a carbon copy of her goal against Colombia followed as Russo shot across Mackenzie Arnold into the bottom corner, Robyn Cowen commentating for BBC went "Russsooooooooooooo!" a la Agüerooooooo, and you could hear Rachel Brown-Finnis going mental on co-commentary. A joy to see, and 3-1 to England, which they saw out well to be in the final. So well done, and a show of real quality too, waltzing past the Matildas (had to get that in there didn't I?). Tune of the day simply has to be The Winner Takes It All by Abba, had it in the head after the win!

Sunday 13th August - Crazy Sunday

After the constant raining during the morning, I had got myself up to watch the repeat of last night's Match of the Day, as I had been a little too tired to watch til the end to see what they made of Manchester City - as we'd been the Friday night game, we were on last and so that meant waiting. At least this morning I could have a cup of coffee and rest and watch it, with Brian the cat deciding to come in and have a mooch around before realising that in fact the snuggly bed with his Mummy was where he wanted to be (as it his wont of course.)

As the weather cleared slightly, The Love In My Heart and I decided that we would head out for the afternoon but do an indoor activity instead, and so we ended up going through the centre of Manchester and heading off to the Trafford Centre for some indoor crazy golf. We both hadn't been to said centre for ages, and we did note that the middle car park around the back of the Orient had a temporary fun fair on, meaning parking there was fenced off. We eventually did get a space close to the John Lewis collection point and entrance there, which wasn't too bad, it took time to get in though.

Once at the centre Orient complex we went up to the second floor and to Paradise Island Adventure Golf. There were two courses which were £10 each or both for £15, and if we had more time the two would have been a good shout to be fair. We did the first course which was on the left, and it seemed reasonably good - the carpet was well maintained for the holes, the obstacles were mainly rocks to putt around, with the occasional hole or groove to put a ball into to drop through a pipe, and some families taking way too long to play.

I have to say though one father with his two sons let us go on ahead of them but due to slowness in front they were behind us on every hole. I'm sure they were watching us to see how they could do, and The Love and I both got a hole in one on the fourth hole (and I got another one later on). The two sons seemed to enjoy themselves and I have to say were really well behaved: their father giving them encouragement but assertively telling them to calm down a little as needed - and The Love was very impressed. We interacted when they did well and they were buzzing if we said well done if they got a hole in one - so all good.

After all that warmth inside, it was good to get some fresh air in as we headed back towards central Manchester, and The Love came up with the idea to head to Ra!n Bar for Sunday lunch. We'd not been in there for too long and used to be one of our favourite places, so having checked that they do do a Sunday roast, we headed there and managed to park up close by at a meter, not cheap mind. The roasts we both had were excellent, I had the beef and The Love had the pork, plenty of veg, roasties, mash, gravy and a Yorkshire pudding as well as the meat, and thoroughly delicious. Excellent tunes too including the massively under-rated Pulp song Babies, so tune of the day right there.

Friday 11th August - Funeral Friday

It was a very sad day for me today, as it was the funeral of my good friend Chris, whom I've been friends with for twenty eight years (over half my life) and someone I've spent many happy times with. I'll probably write something a bit more retrospective once I've got this day done with, but suffice to say that it's not a day that I've been looking forward to. It always feels like some sort of finality when being laid to rest does happen, and with the date being a period of time after his passing, it feels like the time has somewhat dragged on a bit. I was just thankful that I had The Love In My Heart with me for support and love.

We got ourselves showered and ready, and I had my black suit at the ready complete with white shirt. Normally, I would wear a black tie too, but there was a request to wear a blue and white striped tie, supplied by the family, in the colours of Manchester City. In addition, The Love had got a little City pin badge which she was able to put through the lapel button hole and therefore look classy but know it was there. The Love herself had got a plain black dress from Oliver Bonas and had matched that with some tights and boots, and looked suitably correct for what was the day to come.

We headed off and on the way collected my Mum, who was also coming and had been invited to pay her respects too. Mum had a two piece black outfit on and again looked correct and respectful. We made it to Manchester Crematoruim relatively early, but wanted to be there for when the funeral car arrived, as I was one of the pall bearers to carry the coffin in to the old chapel for the service. There wasn't that many people there initially and gradually more came, and the car arrived.

The family had asked me to be at the front with one of the relations to carry the coffin, which wasn't light, but between the four of us we managed to get it there and on to the plinth, as the David Bowie classic Life on Mars was being played (tune of the day as that's one which resonated with me and Chris many a time for various reasons) and the service started, with one of the funeral directors reading out what had been written, with an injection of humour and sometimes asking me for confirmation that certain things did happen that we would have done together.

We were all invited to place some flowers on the coffin before the curtains were shut, and as the final part of th service concluded, Blue Moon by Supra (the version on a Manchester City match day) was played, which certainly at least felt right for a City fan at least. It did have a tinge of sadness knowing the next time I go to the Etihad and hear it that I'll hear it alone, but it summed up the feeling of being ready for a big game and all the encouragement of the crowd.

Later on we headed off to a pub where some food had been provided and there were some nice drinks at the bar to have. My friend's wife said that there was a picture of him at Wembley which had been framed and it was most likely one of the FA Cup semi finals or finals we had been to together, and wanted me to have it as a memento which was rather lovely. It was just good to be able to chat to a few people and at least have some nice memories to think of too, as hard as that can be in times like this. We made our way homeward later dropping my Mum off, and once we got changed we felt like we'd done our part today.

Manchester City were away at Burnley tonight and in honour of my friend, I was able to watch it and think of us watching on telly cheering City on. As it turned out it didn't take Erling Haaland long to be able to score, three minutes on the clock and he buried one. And scored a rather good second as well. City ended up winning 3-0 with Rodri having a relatively simple tap in during the second half after a goalmouth scramble. That at least was something to bring to an end a difficult day but one I knew that I had to do for the right reasons.

Sunday 6th August - Swedish Sunday Roast

It was nice to have a reasonable lie in this morning, especially after having been woken up at around 4am by what was going on outside - it seemed some were coming out of clubs after a late night and just wanted to be as loud as possible, as well as try to get into a car where the driver didn't want them to get in. Weird. Anyway, got myself back to sleep and as I knew that The Love In My Heart would like to have more rest, I got up and made myself a coffee and caught up with the morning telly as well as the football overnight, as Netherlands bear South Africa 2-0 in the Women's World Cup.

Later on I made The Love and I some breakfast, with sausages, bacon, scrambled egg, mushrooms and some nice sourdough toast - the loaf I got from Sainsburys was definitely different and very nice too, have to get that one again sometime. Whilst The Love got herself showered, I ended up watching the Women's World Cup game between Sweden and USA. The Americans dominated but could not score, and later on as The Love and I watched, it was clear that the drama was going to continue into extra time and with no one scoring, then penalties too.

The penalties were their own drama story - the USA had chances to win it before sudden death, but Megan Rapinoe and Sophie Smith both missed, and then the USA's goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher took one and showed them how it was done by blasting it home. In the end, it boiled down to one final effort from Lina Hurtig, whose shot was almost saved by Naeher, but it spun back and looked to be over the line before Naeher looked to claw it out. An agonising wait was there for VAR and goal line tech to check, but sure enough the effort had just crossed the line, the USA were out. Wow. Drama!

Later on The Love and I headed to East Croydon and after seeing a train on Platform 1 arrive absolutely rammed coming from Littlehampton via Hove (most likely due to Brighton Pride home returners) we just headed over to Platform 4 and got the next train which had come from East Grinstead, and so much nicer and quieter. We got to Victoria no problem and then on the tube to Warren Street, where we would walk across to the Crown and Anchor for some well earned Sunday lunch together, and some nice drinks too.

In fact it was a good relaxed vibe in there overall with some really relaxing tunes and some good food all round. The Love had the Sunday roast beef, and the beef was stunningly nice and really did taste melt in the mouth gorgeous, and the fish and chips I had was delicious too - nice white fish and lots of crispy batter too. I did later have the Five Points Railway Porter, which was really nice as a dark beer, took the time to savour it and enjoy it hugely. The sun was out so we sat outside later and enjoyed the chatter together before I headed over to Euston with The Love and made sure she got on her train to Manchester okay, and it felt really sad saying goodbye to be honest.

I got home later and had set the Freeview recorder box to record the FA Community Shield between Manchester City and Arsenal. City did take the lead through an excellent Cole Palmer curling shot, but deep into stoppage time, a Leandro Trossard shot deflected off Manuel Akanji and skidded past Ortega in the City goal, forcing a penalty shoot out which Arsenal went on to win comfortably. Not the ideal start to be honest, but I know that the season isn't won in August so we shall see. In the meantime tune of the day is from the new PJ Harvey album I Inside The Old Year Dying, and the track is A Child's Question, August (well it is August too!) and really is her back at her scintillating best.

Saturday 5th August - Raining Drinks In Putney

It was a day of rain, rain and some more rain today. The Love In My Heart was coming down to see me for the weekend and due to the bad weather and a broken down train at Milton Keynes, that did mean that the train coming in was switched around with a different one, and so did mean that in theory her train should have run on time. But it didn't, primarily because they needed to find a train manager to run the train. I was getting the flat all sorted and had a shower to get myself ready for later whilst keeping an eye on the Women's World Cup, with Japan looking very impressive indeed.

Due to Southern Fail not running that many trains today (and none to Brighton because of fears of overcrowing at the end of the Pride day) it meant a limited run of those trains - thankfully The Love did make it to Victoria in time to get one which would get her to East Croydon pretty sharpish, so headed over there once she let me know she was at Victoria to meet her. I had missed her last weekend and so it was nice to see her, and in a nice new little denim jacket she had got herself from Joules - which looked really good especially as it matched the jeans. Proper fashionista style.

We headed back to my place so she could drop off her overnight bag and get changed, and we would head back out and towards East Croydon station, stopping off at a pub along the way for some well earned lunch - I had the really nice smothered chicken and The Love also had a boneless basket of chicken, which did the job nicely. We made it back to East Croydon despite the incessant rain (her having a brolly was much needed) and we then took the train from there via Clapham Junction to Putney, and off to the Spotted Horse pub not far from the station.

The Love's two nieces and one of their boyfriends came along to meet us there (sensibly I had booked a table due to the fact that Fulham were playing a pre-season game earlier in the day) and it was nice to have a large table and to able to catch up and chatter. I did note that there was a nice session ale from Sambrook's and so gave that a go, called Sidekick, was very nice indeed. We caught up well and it was just really nice to see everyone and have plenty of conversation (and beer of course) flowing. It kept on absolutely hammering it down outside so was glad to be inside and at least making the most of the time.

In fact time sped on way too quickly and before we knew it, the time had sped on to almost 8pm where we said our fond farewells. I knew Southern were stopping trains around 9pm and in fact when we got to Clapham Junction I could see it was busy on the station, and had to stand up on the East Grinstead train all the way to East Croydon on the way home, which wasn't exactly ideal really. However, we arrived back at mine where I got some chicken kievs on the go for tea with some vegetables and chips, and all was reasonably well with the world - and the rain did come down yet again later so good to be back in the dry. Tune of the day in the meantime is from the new Skindred album Smile which arrived today: Set Fazers, which is immensely catchy!

Thursday 3rd August - Deutschland Defeated

I must admit it was interesting to see what was happening in the Women's World Cup today, as it was the last round of group matches in Group H. Germany faced South Korea and Colombia against Morocco. Morocco had to beat Germany's result to have any chance of qualifying, and Colombia knew that realistically not losing by a massive scoreline would be enough for them because of the way superior goal difference over Morocco. The one thing that this tournament has proven so far, with the last group games being played at the same time to ensure fairness, that with Brazil out and the thickness of the post keeping the USA just about in, anything could and would happen today.

I had worked on some testing and some theories around the way that potentially we could look at a domain parting and then joining a fresh Azure domain, and actually it looked doable. More to the point enrolment into Azure AD (soon to be Entra - why Microsoft, why?) and into Intune on test - all good. I was also able to show that the app detection rules worked fine here just as they do in ConfigMgr, so definitely for me a way to be able to get things going the right way. I do think though that there'll be some who will be surprised as to just how much work goes into application packaging - have fun with that.

I had the headphones on and the commentary for the Germany v South Korea game in my ears as I worked, as I was manipulating some data that I wanted to get into a usable report and knew that would take some time. Did I expect South Korea to score so early? No, but they did? Did I think that Alexandra Popp would score again for Germany? Yes, and she did, the equaliser just before half time in fact. What Germany were perhaps not banking on was Morocco to take the lead against Colombia right on half time. As it stood, Colombia top, Morocco second, Germany out. It couldn't possibly happen could it?

As the second half wore on it was clear that both Morocco and Colombia were happy with their lot, both teams still going for it but in the knowledge that both teams were through as it stood. One German goal would knock Morocco out and send them top of the group, but they just didn't appear to have a Plan B against a solid South Korea defence. In fact, on the break the opposite almost happened with a close chance or two, if taken, really would have set the cat amongst the proverbial pigeons, such are the fine margins you experience at the top levels of the game.

There were nine minutes of stoppage time for Germany to score a winner, extended by another five minutes due to an injury at the start of all that. In the meantime Morocco had clung on for a 1-0 win and although that was fine for Colombia (as their goal difference was still better and they were through regardless) it was an agonising wait for the Moroccan women as they waited for the final whistle to sound elsewhere. Sound it did, and the celebrations from their team were just emotional - they had battled back from a heavy defeat against Germany and with two wins back to back, done the unthinkable, qualified and knocked Germany out. Emotional, and well done to them! Tune of the day in the meantime is I'm Goin' Down by Bruce Springsteen for that reason.

Tuesday 1st August - Hit For Six

I was working from home today as I had plenty of application packaging to sort out and update, and it also meant I could have peace and quiet with no disturbances so I could concentrate on what I needed to do. I also knew that the England women's team would be up against China from 12 noon, so I'd have the first half on in the background then take my lunch break at 1pm and watch the second half whilst having lunch, that was the plan of action at the very least. It did also mean I could have a nice fresh coffee during the morning as I worked on some more Intune type app packaging.

Now for those not familiar, this is slightly different. You still have your installer and all the relevant files you need in a folder, but you use the Content Prep tool to create the Intune package file - set the source folder, the name of the install executable (if there's an MSI, use that), the destination folder and if you want to specify a catalogue folder or not. Once done, it sets off creating a compressed encrypted file (but make sure you keep your original source files safe of course) and then with that you can create the package you need. In essence it works well and it's much simpler when a MSI is involved as the source within the package file as all the info you need is gleaned from the MSI. Nice.

It was then time for the England game and China had proved to be worthy opposition, beating Haiti 1-0 with ten women and also narrowly losing out 1-0 to a late Denmark goal. England had won both games 1-0 so far, but more goals would be handy. And I didn't have to wait long before a knock down from Lauren James was met by Alessia Russo, who slotted home into the bottom corner for 1-0. After four minutes. Nice. Very nice. England carried on and looked solid and relentless, and I figured it would only be a matter of time before we scored again, and sure enough, after good work from Millie Bright, she found Lauren James, who fed Lauren Hemp - and her first touch was spot on to take it past the defenders and shot low and hard into the corner. 2-0. Get in.

Better was to come before half time too as England pressed forward and a well worked free kick from Alex Greenwood was fed to Lauren James, and she curled home an absolute beauty into the bottom corner, giving the keeper no chance for 3-0. In fact it looked like she had scored a second with an even better curling shot into the top corner before VAR stepped in and disallowed it as Lucy Bronze had come back from an offside position and then was involved with the play - had she left the ball alone, the goal probably would have stood, but there you go, can't have everything.

England made some changes primarily to ensure those on a yellow card didn't get another one to miss out on the next game, and a few minutes in a corner from China came in and hit the arm of Lucy Bronze. To be fair, ITV pundit and Chelsea Women's manager Emma Hayes got it spot on and called a pen straight away (she is superb) and after some more VAR, China were awarded a penalty and it was slotted down the middle for 3-1, with Bronze also being booked, which did seem harsh - she was attempting to get her arm away but didn't quite happen for her with the decision.

England thankfully were taking no prisoners and it wasn't long before a cross from Jess Carter found the impressive Lauren James, and volleyed home superbly for 4-1. The game was pretty much done and changes were made to again ensure anyone on a yellow stayed that way. Chloe Kelly, who had scored the Euro 2022 winner, came on, and soon raced ahead of the China keeper following a through ball to have a simple tap in for 5-1, nice for her that and well deserved. Another cross came in and leading WSL goalscorer from last season Rachel Daly smashed it in on the volley for 6-1. I thought VAR was going to intervene but it showed she was just onside, phew.

A great performance from the Lionesses, and Denmark's 2-0 win over Haiti ensured they also qualified. England now play Nigeria on Monday, and that'll be a tougher test than today for sure, but well done England - it was a great performance, liquid football in fact, and showed what they can do when the right formation is found against a team and exposes their weaknesses. More of the same would be nice, but if we won 1-0 for the rest of the tournament and won it, I would not care one bit to be honest. As for tune of the day it has to be the excellent Do It Again by BENEE featuring Mallrat, which is the official song for the Women's World Cup - quite catchy too!