Dear Diary...

This is my diary. How things are. Or something. Please note that the diary is archived month by month, so feel free to click the links for the archives (which now will go back five years maximum):

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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.