Dear Diary... July 2022

Sunday 31st July - Football Comes Home

I had an early start this morning as I wanted to check out a car boot sale at Hayes Farm, just the other side of Hayes on the way to Bromley from Croydon. The good news was that I could get the 119 bus straight there so no having to faff around too much, and of course it meant that with the weather being good it would be popular. I wasn't expecting so many people to be getting on at East Croydon station with a wheelie shopper trolley ready to cart their wares that they'd buy around: so many of them had one, and I could tell they were all going to the same place and proved to be so as I alighted from the bus.

I walked through the car park to the large field where the sale was, and it was pretty large: all sorts of stuff for sale, and plenty of proper bona fide car booters rather than traders treating it as a Sunday market for themselves, although there were a few there. I was on the hunt mainly for old games and that did prove to be a disappointment as nothing was there, but if I did want some CDs and DVDs I could have snagged plenty, and indeed some were carting back trolleys full of clothes, shoes and all sorts. In a positive way, recycling is still happening and indeed many are using this to keep the costs of living down too.

Once back, I had a relaxed morning and early afternoon watching the Commonwealth Games (mainly the para triathlon) and then the second race of the weekend of the Formula E from London's ExCeL. After getting pole again, Jake Dennis lost out in an epic race to Lucas di Grassi, but it was quality stuff, with some choices over attack mode (and indeed, 3 lots of 4 minutes as opposed to 2 lots of 6 yesterday) and also some excellent bumper to bumper racing really did show off the formula at its best. And next year it'll be the deciding two rounds too which will be interesting.

The main event though, undoubtedly, was the Women's Euro 2022 final with England against Germany - the two best sides in the tournament by some way. English hopes were raised too before kick off as Germany's best player Alexandra Popp, joint top scorer on 6 goals, had to pull out through injury. I felt really sorry for her because she's been so good and she missed the last two Euros with injury too, such a shame, and you want to have the best players on show for a final too. I knew though concentration would be key and both sides would be going for it.

The game kicked off and it was a decidedly tense affair with no quarter asked or given, and some tasty tackles going in from both sides, especially the powerhouse that is Lena Oberdorf in midfield, who would be the best young player of the tournament (and rightly so) - and as a result Georgia Stanway was booked, and it could have been more booked on each side as there were some meaty challenges coming in. I did feel a goal would calm things down a bit but it was definitely a case of some chances being had - Ellen White shot over and also had a header straight at the German keeper Merle Frohms.

The second half got underway and after a while England manger Sarina Wiegman took off Ellen White and Fran Kirby, replacing them with Alessia Russo and Ella Toone. A few minutes later a gorgeous through ball from Keira Walsh found Ella Toone, who ran on and chipped the ball beautifully over Frohms for 1-0 to England. The crowd went mad as did I, but I did have the feeling that we needed a second goal to kill the game off. England pressed on but Germany looked more dangerous, and it wasn't a surprise to me that after some play down the right hand side Lina Magull would score the equaliser with ten minutes left.

England regrouped at the end of the game and as the game went to extra time, both sides knew one goal may be enough to win the whole thing. It was cagey in the first half of extra time but every time Chloe Kelly won a corner, she'd beckon the England fans to make some more noise and get behind them. And it got louder. The second half of extra time saw England win a corner. Lauren Hemp took it, and Lucy Bronze got her head to it, and the ball headed towards goal. Chloe Kelly turned and shot, Frohms saved, but Kelly stretched out for the rebound and toe poked it in.

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! I don't care how they go in, but Chloe Kelly had done it. Her celebration was so Brandi Chastain (look her up and you'll see what I mean) and that was epic. Everyone inside Wembley was going mental. England managed the remainder of the game well, keeping ball, frustrating the Germans, and time ticked on. And it was all over. England had won. Three Lions (got to be tune of the day) blasted out of the speakers at Wembley, proclaiming that "football's coming home" and it was. It really was. I'm so proud not just of this team, but those who came before them and kept pushing the boundaries and showing that actually, women can play football. And then some!

Saturday 30th July - Formula E - Fantastic

I had got a ticket for the first of the two Formula E races at London's ExCeL this weekend, and based on the track that they used last year (sadly without spectators) it is unique in that it goes inside and outside the exhibition complex, and of course that does mean a very different circuit and utilising the access ramps in and out of the centre and so on. I had got a seat in Grandstand 6 overlooking the turn 16 hairpin and where the cars go on the outside to launch the attack mode too, so hoped I'd be able to see some action there and that the day would be good.

As some train services were on strike today (including London Overground, or else the route would have been simpler) it was a case of heading up to London Bridge on the train, then going across the Jubilee Line to Canning Town, then not doing what everyone else does and goes to Platform 3, but instead go to 1, and the first DLR to Prince Regent was there instead. Much easier, and much quieter, and got to the east entrance of ExCeL easily. In fact as I headed over the footbridge I could see and hear the cars underneath at the start of their free practice session. Nice.

I got scanned in and had the bags checked and so on, and then made my way over the footbridge and to Grandstand 6, where my seat was in line with the hairpin and was a good view. Granted, you did have the fencing but to the left beyond the corner was a gap in the fencing where they'd put the cars out the way, and so where I was sat I could aim the camera for there with the long zoom. Nice! In fact, the practice session showed a lot of promise where drivers were testing the best line for the hairpin, running through the activation zone as a test to make sure they nailed the speed right, and there was a big screen opposite where I was sat so everyone could keep their eyes on the action.

Sensibly, rather than everyone pile into ExCeL itself, there were also food and drink places outside close to Grandstand 7 and this meant a good variety of things to get. I did get a sausage and egg barm for breakfast, and that was absolutely gorgeous, properly freshly made and with a tasty brioche toasted bun too, it was all nice (granted it wasn't cheap, but it was gorgeous!). After a coffee, it was back to the seat and to watch qualifying, which although does take a bit longer than F1 qualifying, is in my view a lot more exciting - and I can explain why as I watched it.

So, the 22 cars go in two groups of 11 with a 12 minute session for each group. They have to set a lap in the first six minutes as well, and then see if that can be improved. From that, the top four in each group enter a knockout stage, so top of Group A plays fourth in Group B, second plays third etc. In this, each driver has an out lap and then one lap to get a time, and the quickest qualifies. It certainly puts the pressure on and in the end it was Jake Dennis in the Avalanche Andretti against championship leader Stoffel Vandoorne in the Mercedes EQ. Much to the delight of the home crowd, Jake Dennis was superb and easily won the final. Nicely done!

As it was around 12 noon and with the race at 3pm, time for people to get lunch and also to explore, so I went back inside the main ExCeL corridor and followed it down to the Allianz E-Village, where if you wanted the cheapest option you could pay £15 and be here, with race on big screens and lots of activities, which included a simulator with the track to drive on, electric go-karting, lots of creative and play things for children which also taught them about sustainability at the same time (nicely done) as well as food and drink stalls. ExCeL is also carbon neutral, so there's a huge emphasis on this with recyclables, beer sold in cups that you pay £2 for and get back when you return them, and water refill stations regularly so you don't need a plastic bottle every time.

I did head into one of the two Costa Coffee branches there and had a nice toastie and a coffee for a lighter lunch to keep me going, and was good to sit down and relax and take in all the atmosphere. I could see the track on the south halls too but lots of security on the grandstand entrances to prevent non-ticket holders, and I did spot the pit lane complexes too. It must have taken some time to build but certainly looked the part, and later headed back to the stalls by Grandstand 7 for a beer (unfortunately Heineken only due to sponsorship etc) and in fact when you return the cup, you can also let them keep the £2 deposit as a donation towards environmental causes too, which I ended up doing.

Once all sorted it was back to the grandstand (which was a lot busier now) and after Dev Griffin, the host, was making a total idiot of himself in the paddock (shame we didn't have the proper Formula E feed with Nicki Shields and Dario Franchitti, would have been tons better) - and once the grid was cleared and the hype built up by the DJ Jak Jones, we were good to go green. The race started and carnage at the first couple of turns meant Sam Bird was out already (gutted) and massive cheers in the stands where I was as Jake Dennis maintained his lead and held off Stoffel Vandoorne for the first few laps.

In fact, Jake Dennis controlled the race from the front superbly, with him and Vandoorne taking their attack mode activations at the same time, thus negating any advantage potentially gained. Behind that, some epic racing was taking place, as team mates in DS TCheetah Jean Éric Vergne and Antonio Felix da Costa were clashing with each other twice into the turn 16 hairpin which made for some exciting watching. Also, Nick Cassidy in the Envision was on a charge, and he got up to fourth place with some sensible overtakes and going for it.

The end of the race proved to be a titanic scrap with Nick Cassidy catching Nyck de Vries in the Mercedes EQ. Lap after lap at turn 16 it was close racing, but there was also an aggressive block at turn one which was mental. In the end, Jake Dennis won well (and loved the crowd applause at the end!) and Stoffel Vandoorne was second. Nyck de Vries made the podium, and even took the place there, but as I got home I found out later he had been given a penalty for blocking, and Nick Cassidy instead was third, which to be fair was deserved: the blocking was out of order!

It had been a really good day and I had the Formula E theme in my head (make that tune of the day) as I headed for Royal Albert DLR via the exit, and of course being on the DLR first meant I got a seat and avoided the carnage at Custom House (no purple trains there due to engineering works) - and went via Tower Gateway, then Tower Hill to Blackfriars and then the train home. That worked out well and I could sort out the pictures which I've now put up on Flickr - feel free to have a mooch!

Friday 29th July - Triathlon Time

After I had been out last night to meet some work colleagues for a few drinks at a place in Farringdon, which was very near my old place of work and indeed a place I'd been in after work when I worked round there, it was nice to have got back home in good time for the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and see the likes of Tony Iommi rocking out, Lenny Henry doing his comedic thing and Duran Duran headlining with some quality tunes (so make Planet Earth tune of the day) and that set things off nicely. As much as I'd have liked to go, the cost of staying in Birmingham prevented me (tickets are still available incidentally)

Anyway, as I was working away this morning, I knew that the triathlon event was on, and this is normally a good chance for the home nations (remember folks they complete separately in the Commonwealth Games) to get some medals. The course around Sutton Park in Sutton Coldfield was well designed too - the run for example wasn't flat and had some hills involved, as did part of the bike section, so that at least meant some tactics could be employed.

In fact in the men's event that sort of happened as three of them got away slightly on their bikes including Hayden Wilde of New Zealand, always an impressive athlete. He started to head away at the start of the run but unbeknown to him, he had not put his bike helmet in the box correctly (there's some strict rules around transitions and where you have to put stuff) which meant a ten second penalty loop. Even without that, Alex Yee of England had caught up to Wilde, and knowing that he had a penalty, the New Zealander graciously let Yee past and to take a famous win.

Later on after lunch was the women's event, and I suspected a two way scrap between Georgia Taylor-Brown of England and Dame Flora Duffy of Bermuda, who has a national day named after her there (as of course does Shaun Goater!) - the two of them broke away on an uphill section of the second lap on the bike and didn't look back whatsoever, they were unstoppable. As the run started it was the Bermudian who ran away with it, and generally got the gap larger throghout the run to beat Georgia by 40 seconds, with an excellent run from Scotland's Beth Potter meaning bronze for her too, which was nice.

It certainly has got me in the mood to watch more of the games over the next week and a bit or so, and it's just a shame that I couldn't head to the cycling at the velodrome (as that's in Stratford, East London, so doable) as the only tickets left were £125, and that's a little too much really. I do of course have Formula E to look forward to tomorrow, and of course there will be the England women in the Euro 2022 final on Sunday (really wish I had a ticket for that!) so we shall see hw it goes...

Thursday 28th July - Wombling Free No More

It was a busy day working from home today, and of course that was pretty nice to be able to get up and get ready without having to face the fun and games of the remainder of the catching up of the train strikes from yesterday. That did of course mean that at least I could crack on, and after some extensive testing yesterday was able to put a change into play so that from Monday we'd have a different (and better) way of accessing one of our systems, so was able to advise those who have a log in accordingly.

I did however feel very sad this morning too, with the passing of the late Bernard Cribbins hitting me particularly hard. As a child, I loved the television series of The Wombles, and always wanted to go to Wimbledon Common to see if they existed (of course they didn't, but childhood imagination, you know?) - and of course Bernard was superb narrating that and telling the story so well for everyone. It was so nice to watch that and it always made me feel happier even if my day wasn't great a a child, so fond memories.

Even more fond memories of course were of him being Mr Perks in the 1970 film version of The Railway Children, which to this day remains one of my favourite family films of all time. I got to see that when it was on television one Christmas, and of course we'd all impersonate him going "Oakworth! Oaaaaaaaaaakworth!" as he announced the station. And that epic scene at the end of the film where Jenny Agutter says "Daddy!" is just one of the most beautiful things with Perks in the background, being respectful and onlooking to make sure all is well. Acting genius.

But not just that, so much more that you may not have realised about Bernard. He was the only actor to be a companion to Doctor Who twice (in the 1960s and then more recently as the father of Donna played by Catherine Tate) and had a musical career singing novelty songs produced by a certain George Martin (you may know him from later producing a famous band from Liverpool later on.) In fact, at Martin's memorial service, Bernard sang one of those songs, Hole in the Ground, which had everyone moved, and Elton John afterwards asked Bernard why he didn't sing the other one (Right Said Fred - which has to be tune of the day) as well, because it was so lovely. So there you go.

Either way, I felt pretty sad to be honest, and it said a lot to me that one of my true childhood heroes was still doing children's telly years later in the likes of Old Jack's Boat as well, and someone hugely respected when being a panel guest on the likes of Would I Lie To You and Never Mind The Buzzcocks for example. I will over some point this weekend have to watch The Railway Children again and join in going "Oakworth!" in a passionate way to reflect the legacy he left behind, which is pretty sizeable.

Wednesday 27th July - A Lidl Diversion

It was a case of avoiding the rail strikes and be on the way to the office today, so headed up early, and got myself changed and ready, and a quick walk over to get the X68 bus meant I got a seat on the way to work. The bus was definitely busier though it has to be said, and arrived in the office around 8.20am, so lots of time to get some things sorted and ready and be all good for the day ahead. In fact this meant I could commence the test deployment of the new VPN client version and ensure all was good (which it was, so that's positive.)

I also did some testing following some instructions from the vendor of one of our pieces of software, which basically means that with the right setup we would be able to have Active Directory authentication for accounts to be able to log in to the instance on the web page. I was able to get a few bits of config done, with a caveat that any member of a certain group would of course then be able to have an account created. I did a test with me and my line manager and that appeared to work perfectly well without any issues, so that at least was good (for now!)

The journey home took a bit longer than expected: yes I did leave a little later than planned primarily due to the fact that I was liaising with one of our team based in the US, but also despite boarding the X68 fine, I knew it was on a diversion from Tulse Hill due to some water works going on in the West Norwood area. This meant effectively heading on the South Circular towards Streatham Hill, then following the road avoiding Streatham Common and joining at the North end, then up the hill towards Crown Point. I did see some smoke at the bottom right of the bus as it turned a corner, and at Crown Point it was obvious - a tyre deflation!

Anyway, I changed buses on to a 468 that was terminating early but that got far enough for me to hop on to the 157 and get off at the far end of Church Street in the centre of Croydon, where I'd head into Lidl to get some food for this weekend and next week. Amazingly it looked like they had another sort of beer festival on, with plenty of craft cans on discount, including the Wild Beer Millionaire for £1.49, and the same price for the Laine Brewery's Mangolicious, which I've had a full pint of in the Dog and Bull round the corner. Bargains all round, so definitely a worthwhile stop.

I settled in to watch the second semi final of the Women's Euro 2022, as Germany took on France. It was a proper encounter of heavyweights with both teams playing really well. Germany took the lead through (who else?) Alexandra Popp, who has been on fire this tournament. A speculative French shot came back off the post and off the German keeper for an own goal for the equaliser, but Alexandra popped up (see what I did there) with a powerful precision header to win the game for Germany. The two best teams (each only conceding 1 goal all tournament!) would meet in the final, and tune of the day is the marvellous Feuer Frei by Rammstein, an apt description of the flair on show tonight, firing free!

Tuesday 26th July - Liquid Football

It was the Women's Euro 2022 semi final tonight between England and Sweden, with me hoping that England would to the business and beat Sweden to get to the final at Wembley on Sunday. However, I did have a busy day at work ahead of me, so it was up, ready and out for the X68 express bus to work, and once in the office it was time for me to get a few things sorted, and test out some new application versions at the same time whilst I had the time and the network capacity to do so, which turned out to be a positive all round.

I did also head off on the tube (as that was running fine) off to Wimbledon Park later and to James Barbers to get the haircut, but not without incident. The tube train had to stop for extended periods of time at both East Putney and Southfields due to the fact that there was a lineside fire further down, and indeed as I did get out at Wimbledon Park I noted two fire engines outside with the crews potentially damping down an incident. It worked out okay in the end but it did make me wonder what was going on.

Hair cut done and all sorted (and looks tons better for it to be honest) it was off home via grabbing a takeout in KFC, and got home as the national anthems were being played prior to England v Sweden, with the Swedish anthem Du Gamla Du Fria admittedly being one of my European favourites. I just was hoping England would do well, but the Swedish started tons better and it needed some good saves from Mary Earps early on to make sure England didn't fall behind, but we managed to get more into the game as time wore on.

As Lauren Hemp was getting to grips more running down the left hand side, it meant that the Swedish defence tracked back more, and a cross went in which just missed Ellen White, but the loose ball was picked up by Lucy Bronze, who fed Beth Mead. Feed the Mead, and she will score, and she did just that with an excellent finish. 1-0 to England and that's how it ended up at half time. It definitely felt positive and we had weathered the initial pressure and came out on top. Now it would be a case of seeing we could kill the game off in the second half and get a vital second goal.

The second half started and England went for it early on, forcing a corner. The cross came over and Lucy Bronze headed through a crowd of players from the edge of the box into the bottom corner. Lauren Hemp was close to being offside but the VAR check showed she was level, and it was 2-0 to England. Excellent! And that meant of course that Sweden had to attack even more meaning that their defence was exposed. It made perfect sense to swap out Ellen White for Alessia Russo at this point and let her have a good go at the defence now Ellen's tireless running had weakened them enough.

There then came an iconic moment. Russo got the ball in the area and shot, but forced a good stop out of Hedvig Lindahl, and the ball came back to the England striker. She went to the right and cheekily backheeled the ball, nutmegging Lindahl and into the bottom corner for 3-0. Liquid football and absolutely naughty, but it was a great moment of joy. Even more so as Fran Kirby, after all her publicised struggles of late, shot a beautiful chip which Lindahl could only palm into her own net for 4-0. Fran deserved that for the way she's come back and really played well, and every England fan treasured that massively.

So, the final whistle came and it was 4-0 to England. Another clean sheet, another world class side demolished scoreline wise, and an impressive performance. It made me proud to have supported the Lionesses for a very long time and their workrate, effort and skill really is, I'm hoping, bringing another new set of fans onboard. It definitely means that whoever we face in the final, France or Germany, will know they have a game on their hands. New Order's World in Motion was played loud and proud tonight, so tune of the day it most definitely is!

Monday 25th July - Tick Tick Tick

It was a nice pleasant day outside, especially because of the fact that a fresh breeze was blowing in and that made it much more bearable to both sleep in and to awaken in. I did have a fair bit of washing to sort out and that meant I could of course get the washer on, do all the jeans first and then do all the shirts afterwards, and make sure I've got everything nice and clean for the week ahead. I set some of that off, switched on the work laptop and was all ready for the day ahead.

First task of the day - check a Windows 10 cloud build with one of the test laptops I thankfully have to hand, and make sure that our antivirus product installed fine - which it did. A further test at the sites showed all was good too, so that was a relief. It also meant I could get on with some other checks as well in order to be able to make sure that all systems were go during the day. And on top of that, get the July updates out to the masses after an extended period of testing, which was working well and meant that we were all secure nicely too.

I did have a nice arrival in the post when I checked my mailbox at lunch time - no less than the Stephen Mallinder new album Tick Tick Tick which I spent some time listening to tonight. It's certainly more funky than his previous Um Dada album but there's certainly some nods to some classic electronica as well as some Cabaret Voltaire too. It's a very solid release on the first two listens and I have to say so far for me the rather funky Hush with Mal's vocals being on point is ace, so tune of the day.

I also had an added bonus tonight on BBC Two and had some time to watch it - the Women's T20 international at Derby with England taking on South Africa. England batted first, had Sophia Dunkley out first ball but were steadily building up a nice total, and then right at the end Sophie Ecclestone, known more for her bowling than her batting, smacked a massive twenty six off the final score (three fours, a two and two huge sixes!) and that gave England a good total of 176 for South Africa to chase, which they didn't manage, Ecclestone taking two wickets and an impressive debut from Freya Kemp taking two wickets too.

It was nice also to head out for a little walk in the early evening and take in the fresher air - it certainly has felt nicer all told in the last few days after all the intense heat and hopefully will mean I get to sleep better. I didn't get a massive amount of sleep last night due to the late arrival home but at least did manage to rest and slumber reasonably quickly. I think too that I've been trying as much as I can to make sure I get suitable sleep these days and try and refresh the brain - hell it needs it!

Sunday 24th July – Open Gardens and Maillot Jaune

It was a nice early-ish start for The Love In My Heart and me, as Brian the cat was wanting fuss and attention as well as some tippy tappy in The Love’s direction to get her up. We were off out anyway over to support The Love’s sister at an open garden event that she was attending, which supports a cause close to The Love’s family’s heart. So once we were up and changed and had some breakfast, it was off towards the East Lancashire Road and onwards to the M61 motorway and off to where we needed to be. As expected, not easy to park nearby but The Love did find a suitable space.

We had a nice walk around the garden which was in a one way direction to see the outside of the path – and noted that various footballing families had donated a brick into the path (presumably with a donation) and that included the likes of Vincent Kompany and his wife Carla, Gael Clichy and his wife too. We also noted the nice greenhouse with plants being grown including some peppers, and also a nice outside walk over a little bit of a water feature too. It was all rather nice and part of the Open Gardens initiative, with a nomimal fee being paid for admission.

We met with The Love’s sister and her two friends (who were both lovely) and we had a coffee and cake and chatted for a while. Needless to say it was Victoria Sponge for me although the scones looked tempting, and later on The Love spotted the wildflower gardens on one of the paths outside and took some pictures to get some inspiration for both at home (where her wild flowers are getting some bee attention, much to the chagrin of Brian the cat) and it was overall a really nice early afternoon.

We stopped off in central Manchester on the way back and headed to Seven Bro7ers Beerhouse. Sadly the Porteresque beer had gone (boo) but did have their very nice hoppy pale with The Love going for the pilsner. That was all very nice indeed and so that definitely made us more relaxed although the rain was coming down outside – so got back very quickly to avoid being too wet, with a stop at the little Tesco for some bits on the way back to The Love’s place.

Later we settled in as The Love made some gorgeous pasta with meatballs and it was the final stage of the Tour de France, with Jonas Vingegaard in the maillot jaune and the winner, as the customary entrance into Paris ensued with eight laps of the Champs Elysee (cue line from Kraftwerk’s iconic Tour de France track and being tune of the day for that reason). Of course it was a sprint finish for the glory of winning the stage, but the top three had been long decided with Geraint Thomas for Britain finishing a very creditable third, and he now has a win, second and third in the Tour, so consistently good too.

The Love dropped me off at Manchester Piccadilly station in good time for the 2021 train and this at least meant that I was able to relax a little with the headphones on, although the train was on a go slow and 20 minutes late into Milton Keynes. In fact my plan to get trains from St Pancras to East Croydon was ruined due to Thameslink cancelling a number of trains with not much notice, and with one Southern train from Victoria in an hour or so, it was easier for me to get the 68 bus to Herne Hill and then the 468 home, although I did note the diversion around Tulse Hill which will be painful for the X68 home!

Saturday 23rd July – Marple Meal

The Love In My Heart enjoyed a well earned lie in with Brian the cat (who is finding the new bed very comfortable indeed as well as being able to jump up high to it, which shows to us both that he has lost some weight also) and I had a coffee and caught up with some of the World Athletics Championship from the night before. It transpired that we did reasonably well in some of the events, and the British medal haul was increasing – probably too much to ask for more golds considering the strength of the US team on their home turf, but good to see nonetheless.

The Love and I settled in for a bit of telly to start with, and she headed out later to get some bits of shopping from Asda as well as getting some petrol. I was half tempted to venture out into the city centre but was sort of waiting til pay day for anything extravagant to spend per se. However, we did have a look at potential places for holiday next year and came up with some nice ideas, so we’ll have to have a think and see what would work well for us both and what might be nice. Part of me does think Anglesey, but that might be a little too near for say The Love especially, but there’s also part of me thinking somewhere different. Besides which we’d booked for Edinburgh for October as we’re finally seeing something postponed three times!

What I had done though as a treat to us both was to book an evening meal in Marple at the Midland at Marple Bridge, as they’d given us an offer for a free glass of prosecco when you dine. We did also head out in the afternoon and as Wine and Wallop in West Didsbury was closed due to a private function, we headed along the same row of shops and bars to Neighbourhood, which was actually really lovely. The staff were friendly and nice, and there were some decent beers on including the Shindigger Mango Unchained, so that was a good win all round to be perfectly honest.

Later on we headed off on the tram into Manchester Piccadilly station and worked out our timings well for the train to Marple. In fact we used the Metrolnk ticket which includes Rail Zone 2 (which Marple is in) and that saved some money having a combined ticket. The train was an old 150 though (meh, wanted the new 195s!) and we sped off to Marple, down the hill to the Midland. The staff were as lovely as ever and we soon had a glass of prosecco to cheer as we relaxed and enjoyed the evening, with The Love looking totally gorgeous in her dress (I am so lucky let me tell you.)

We both had the starters: The Love had the chicken liver paté and me the salt and pepper squid which had a really nice garlic aioli dip to go with it, and was a nice way to settle in. The Love had the half roast chicken for main with some barbecue sauce, nice fries and gravy, and I went for the chicken, brie and bacon pie which had masses of chicken in there, and properly nice pastry that was just perfectly done all the way round, that with some mash and broccoli and green beans went down a treat.

I even had the trio of cheesecakes for dessert which was basically deconstructed: three different toppings which included a berry compote in balls of mascaopone and the filling, and on a bed of the biscuity base. It was stunningly nice, and I even had the Beavertown Neck Oil to go with that and The Love had some wine. It was a really nice meal and we timed it perfectly for the 2130 train back to Manchester Piccadilly (which was a shiny new 195, yaay) and a nice empty train too so we could natter on the way back. We had a lovely time and tune of the day, the marvelllous Take Me Out by Franz Ferdinand, reflects that.

Friday 22nd July – Friday Feast of Fun

It was off to the office today with a view that I’d be nearer to head to the trains up to Manchester from Euston, just in case for any reason we had a repeat performance of the delays and stuff last week. I must admit it’s always nice to get up, be ready and then head out on to the X68 express bus to the office. It’s cheaper of course but it drops me off much nearer than any tube or train line nearby, so there’s definitely a positive. In fact with it being a Friday morning the traffic was pretty quiet so that again was a good thing.

It was relatively calm and quiet in the office but this meant I could get on with plenty including the likes of getting on with some task sequence amendments, mainly to include the new versions of Chrome and Firefox, and all was working well when I tested it out. Got to be good that. In fact, I was also able to look into packaging the new version of Google Drive and get that road tested too. The detection method I got has a check for the major version registry (as that’s a numerical DWORD number) so version X or greater is fine, means anyone that gets a higher version is fine as they have minimum X. Nice.

I did however note that some Windows builds failed at our antivirus software step late afternoon so was able to investigate that and it seemed like some of the issues that the vendor had may have resurfaced. As such I’ve flagged it, but nothing much else I can do as yet until I get access to more testing, but do have a test machine on Monday I can commandeer for more information to get tested out, so there is that of course. It sort of proved an annoying end to an otherwise good day all round.

I headed to the pub near the office to get a drink and some food for tea, which went down nicely, before then heading over to the bus stop to get the 68 up to Euston. Thankfully there all was well and the trains were running to time, so was able to easily get on when I needed to, get to my seat (and no one sat next to me the whole journey, so winning) – and it was nice and quiet once I had the headphones on and playing some lovely music including Penfriend’s excellent Seventeen so that’s tune of the day for me.

The train did get into Manchester Piccadilly a few minutes late but it was lovely to see The Love In My Heart there at the station and she was really pleased to see me (as I was her of course). We headed back to her place and Brian the cat was being all snuggled up on the pouffle and just wanted some fussing, which he duly got from The Love. We did end up watching The Last Leg on Channel 4 +1 and The Love remarked on Frankie Boyle’s beard and in her view how it needed cutting (master of understatement!)

Thursday 21st July - Thinking About The Future

It was a positive day at work from first thing this morning - even though all the desk spaces were taken so I couldn't make a visit to the office (because nothing available) I was able to at least liaise with my colleague, who had spoken with our antivirus vendor who claimed the issue that they had yesterday. Sure enough when I spotted the updated web page I noted that they had just uploaded it after speaking to my colleague, and a test with the staff in the office proved that all was good and that things were working correctly again. So that definitely is a good thing for me.

I also spent a fair bit of time doing a comparison piece, checking if all the machines that report into our management systems for Windows and Mac (MECM and JAMF respectively) are also reporting in for inventory in Snow, or indeed if there's anything not quite right between them all. On a positive note, it's pretty much all there and I can cross-check each machine to see if it exists in two systems (which it should) and then if not, that can be investigated accordingly. It's more to make sure that all the figures do true up correctly too, with some stats on what I was able to pull off.

I did have a meeting in the afternoon which is a bi-monthly one that we have amongst our wider technical team - and it did prove to be useful. Not least because I could tell some of the things I'd put under discussion with management were raised (a positive obviously) and we did have some sensible discussion about how things have grown quickly in terms of staff numbers but also in terms of the actual way we've increased our existing departments more than expected, plus any mergers and acquisitions along the way too.

After work I headed out for a quick bit of shopping before having a browse of some potential holiday places to stay at next year. We did fancy a change and indeed are considering somehwere else within the UK to go - it proved to be really lovely when we did Norfolk this time around and may be considering the likes of Anglesey as one option, with Pembrokeshire another due to its rather lovely coastline, but a bit further away of course. We'll see I am sure but it's nice to be able to think about deciding where to go and what to do and to take it from there also.

It was on with the Euro 2022 coverage later and a real prospect of an excellent game between Germany and Austria. Indeed, with the sad passing of former German captain Uwe Seeler, it was played in such a friendly spirit between the two sides: no quarter asked or given of course, but respectful at the same time. Germany made the breakthrough after a high press in the first half from Lina Magull. Austria hit the woodwork three times including a thunder drive from 45 yards out, but it was Alexandra Popp who scored again for Germany late on.Tune of the day is David Hasslehoff's Looking For Freedom, a massive hit for Germany around the time of the Berlin wall coming down: also apt as some colleagues are in Berlin at present.

Wednesday 20th July - Pride of Lionesses

It was a very early wake up for me at 0500, as I figured as trains were running today to head back to London as early as possible, spend the day in the office having booked a desk, and then head home and be all good to check on the flat. The Love In My Heart was giving Brian the cat some play out time in much cooler air, and so very kindly dropped me off at Manchester Piccadilly, where I got through the barriers and on to the 0555 departure - the first one in fact as the 0505 had had been cancelled.

The train was pretty busy with quite a few getting on at both Piccadilly and Crewe, with the assumption to try and get towards London before the masses, so wasn't the only one with the same idea. The train did have to divert around Northampton due to some overhead wire damage between Rugby and Milton Keynes, and did have some go slows too, so did arrive into Euston some 35 minutes late at 0845. That said, when I saw the crowds at Euston attempting to leave to head North (probably those stranded after weekends in London) I was sort of glad to be going the other way, and took the 59 bus down to the office.

All the lovely air conditioning was welcomed, and was sharing a bank of desks with two of the lovely procurement staff and some of the other IT colleagues around, so that was a nice sight to see people face to face as well of course. I did note during the day that our antivirus vendor did have some issues with some of their instances, which meant no installs for anyone using that instance and main server location was having problems - a global one and recognised by the vendor accordingly. Still no further response from the vendor after checking tonight which must mean it's a serious issue.

I got home later on after taking the X68 bus, and all was well with the flat. I made myself some tea, opened the windows to let cooler air in (it was 31 degrees in the flat and dropped down to 26 by 10.30pm) and then settled in for this evening's Women's Euro 2022 quarter final, England v Spain. I knew this was going to be a tough game because although Spain lost to Germany when I saw them, they had a lot of possession but wasn't converting enough chances for me. Somehow though they would improve and it was a case of making sure England didn't make mistakes and held firm.

All was a fairly even and tight first half, and at 0-0 at half time I thought England would go on and win. Spain had other ideas and after some good work down the right with some sloppy defending, the ball came in to Esther González who buried it into the bottom corner. 1-0 to Spain. There was also a cross which actually ended up as a shot with Mary Earps in the England goal alive and alert to it, and stopped it well. Millie Bright was also being her usual colossal self at the back, an absolute beast who wasn't going to be beaten, and allowed the forwards to do their thing.

The time was ticking on, but with six minutes left the ball was crossed over, and Alessia Russo met it first with a lovely header to her club team mate Ella Toone, who does not miss those from six yards, slotting it under the Spain keeper for 1-1. YES! Get in! Some of the Spanish players claimed a foul, the ref was having none of it who even booked the Spanish sub keeper for dissent too. It was close at either end but extra time was looming, and it came, so another 30 minutes for someone to be brave and go for the win. I don't think anyone would really want penalties, right?

The first half of extra time saw chances at both ends, with Spain eventually bringing on the impressive Amaiur Sarriegi (and you do wonder why she didn't play in the tournament before considering her club form) - but as England surged forward, Georgia Stanway ran down the middle, the defenders stood off, and she let fly with an absolute piledriver. Get in! A superb goal all round and one worthy to win any game and 2-1 England. As it turned out, Spain tried but England held firm, and managed the game well to the end to get a huge win and one richly deserved, a battling performance and one that showed grit and courage. Well done the Lionesses, and well done to the fans too for absolutely giving their all. Tune of the day for me is the excellent World in Motion by New Order, which I played before kick off to get me in the mood. Come on you Lionesses!

Tuesday 19th July – Heatwave Day Two

Today was supposed to be even hotter than yesterday and it definitely felt it overnight. It was uncomfortable for sleeping in, despite the new bed, and The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat were up early anyway (as The Love was on an early shift at work). Brian did get some play time before the sun came up, but he was clearly not impressed with the impending heat, and for me definitely a case of the warmer weather bring tricky. I made sure that I had the curtains and blinds closed to try and keep him shaded.

Work wise, I needed to re-arrange a few things because of various things going on, so for example a training session I had organised for the folks in China I moved (with agreement with their manager) and had a positive one to one with my manager before he headed off to Berlin for some merger and acquisition work later in the week. That was pretty good all round so was comparing the fact that previously he could have flown from Liverpool John Lennon Airport there, but not now – two planes from Manchester via Heathrow no less.

And it was Heathrow that (no surprise!) saw the temperature hit over 40 degrees Celsius for the first time, and that was topped by somewhere in Lincolnshire later with 40.3. Honestly, the UK isn’t built or ready for that whatsoever, with the buildings retaining heat (glad I am not at my flat to be honest) and with some wildfires going on at scorched grass, it wasn’t pleasant. In fact, one of those fires was at Shirley Hills near where I’ve walked the London Loop and admired the view from the Addington Hills overlooking the East and South of London, so pretty dramatic to see that.

The Love arrived back from work, and she was positively warm and it had been very sweaty all day at her workplace – no aircon at all. Even later when we had Brian play outside when the sun came down, it was still warm to say the least. The Love settled in and watched Love Island, which appeared to be an extended version with a bit of a twist as well, so she was well into that. I for one don’t like it at all – it feels like there is a bit of bullying going on and The Love did wonder if the producers would have had words with two of them beforehand. We shall see.

It was nice to shower before bedtime although even with that I did feel pretty warm afterwards so that wasn’t exactly hugely helping to be honest, but as we saw the news and saw the fires, we were at least fortunate to see that we’d not had all of that to contend with, even with the grass outside The Love’s place being really dry (understatement). Brian the cat snuggled up on the new bed and mattress (he was happy and purring) and tune of the day in the meantime is the appropriate Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves, certainly felt like it when I did venture outside at lunch to grab McDonalds in the cool aircon inside the place!

Monday 18th July – Heatwave Day One

Thankfully I was working from The Love In My Heart’s place for the next two days, and for various reasons, good job that I was. I had originally planned to be here today and on a train home tonight but of course that wasn’t happening due to the fact of the heatwave incoming, but The Love’s new bed was being delivered (and assembled, so much less hassle!) and so was waiting in for the delivery of that at the same time. Bear in mind her old bed was one from Next some sixteen years ago, it’s done well but was showing its age, so got a nice replacement from Oak Furnitureland that she liked.

Sure enough mid-morning, a delivery van turned up and two very nice blokes with a Midlands accent were all good to go. They had several deliveries and next after me was Stoke-on-Trent, so that was a fair way to go. They had rung The Love and got access to the car park and parked up so was all sorted. I let them in and because we sensibly had disassembled the old bed yesterday, much less faffing about, it was all clear. I left them to it whilst Brian the cat ran and hid in the living room as the noise of the electric screwdriver was not to his liking.

All was good and the bed was assembled, and it looked fab. I am sure The Love was going to love it and when she got home from work later, she was really pleased. She was very hot and sweaty though, her workplace isn’t designed for these sorts of conditions and it was very warm, even with the curtains closed to try and keep the heat out. For me at least it was good to know that it wasn’t just me having a hard time with it – even though I had done the same to try and keep the heat out, and managed well, it was a case of bearing it with plenty of hydration.

We could not be meithered cooking as you can well imagine so I went and ordered a delivery take out from La Canadien down the road, they do some cracking burgers and I got a steak burger with cheese and bacon, and that was spot on, as was The Love’s cheeseburger. I was half tempted to see if I could get a ticket for the Academy Stadium for tonight’s Euro 2022 clash with Belgium against Italy, but tickets had sold out – yet when I watched it on the telly later, it was effectively half empty, What the hell?

Anyway, I did watch that and kept an eye on the France-Iceland score in the other game. With France winning 1-0 and scoring within the first minute, as it stood with a 0-0 in the other game, Iceland still qualified. That however changed in the second half as Belgium scored with an excellent low drive, and they clung on despite Italy pressure, and almost got a second. Iceland had a penalty after a lengthy VAR check and scored it in 90+12 minutes, but it turned out that was the last kick of the match, so they had the unenviable record of not losing in the group stage (3 draws) but went out. Tune of the day in the meantime is Heatwave, namely the cover version by The Floe.

Sunday 17th July – Out For Lunch

It was nice to spend a relaxed Sunday with The Love In My Heart today, and we both knew it was warm but bearable, which the next two days or so definitely won’t be. Having checked the trains also, it was a case of do not travel on Monday or Tuesday and that the ticket for Monday evening would be valid for Wednesday, so at least had an alternative plan for going home if I needed to. That made sense because I didn’t want to be getting a Monday night train and having to battle possible hours of delays.

We had some breakfast, and I watched some more World Athletics from Eugene, Oregon. They did have the men’s marathon on as well which thankfully was taking place early in the morning so that the athletes wouldn’t be mega hot, and looked a nice route taking in nature trails as well as the town of Springfield (yes, the same one immortalised in The Simpsons folks, hence the murals everywhere.) Surprised they didn’t have ghetto blasters around hammering Do the Bartman every few minutes as the athletes ran past, but there you go.

The Love and I decided that it would be too warm to make something (and rightly so to be honest) and so we headed off to The Gateway in Didsbury, primarily because we knew there would be plenty of outside seating and decent drinks too. In fact, The Love and I both had something chicken related – the boneless basket for her and the smothered chicken for me, both decent. I had the Brooklyn Lager bottle which was decidedly nice and cold (and not horrible lager either to be fair.)

In fact, we ended up staying for a couple of drinks there and finding a nice, sweet spot where I could have some shade and The Love could have some sun (as she can stand it much more than me). It was pretty good to be able to relax in this way and in fact I had the Plum Porter ale from Titanic, another of my favourites, so of course that worked out well in the beer department. I was quite a happy bunny with that, and The Love had a Moretti which was nice and cold, so it felt like (although not quite obviously) being on holiday.

Later I got back and left The Love to happily watch her favourite Love Island whilst I settled in for another game at Women’s Euro 2022 – and saw a dramatic clash between Netherlands and Switzerland. The Swiss had conceded an own goal but then went down the other end and equalised with Bramall Lane in raptures. It all ended up being quite tense but when the Dutch went 2-1 in front and then head a third goal eventually allowed via VAR after lengthy checks, and Gala’s Freed From Desire playing after the goals (make that tune of the day) it ended up being 4-1 for the Netherlands. Sweden though had hammered Finland 5-0 and so won the group!

Saturday 16th July – Porteresque Perfection

It was nice to be able to snuggle up with The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat, who was as ever enjoying his play out time on the decking in the relatively fresh air. Better enjoy that one Brian, it won’t be the same in the next few days, we thought. We did have some nice breakfast and then pottered around for a bit, and I watched the World Athletics Championships as well as most of the Austria – Norway game from last night’s Women’s Euro 2022, where in fact Austria had won 1-0 and dumped Norway out of the tournament, bit of a surprise that.

In any case, I headed off to Rewind in Ashton-under-Lyne on the tram, with a view to seeing what 8-bit games that they had. In fact, they did have some games I already owned reasonably cheaply including the likes of Monte Carlo Casino and Fruit Machine Simulator 2 for a pound each, which is good value all round really. I also did note an increasing number of Funko figures and board game characters, and they do have a board game section for play upstairs so I suspect over time they may be moving on from consoles, so snagging stuff whilst I might prove useful – nothing today but all good otherwise.

I also went into Home Bargains and was thinking ahead for some cold drinks and cold beers for the next few days, and they had some good offers on – a 4 pack of Meantime Ale for a mere £2.99, as well as the likes of Tango Dark Berry and 7-Up 1.5l bottles for 79p and 99p respectively. Best of all though, proper red Peroni (not the blue rubbish) for a mere 99p each. I know The Love also likes this too, so a few bottles of that were purchased, and well why not really?

The Love’s sister had popped round so it was nice to catch up with her and chatter before then heading out for a relaxed and chilled out afternoon, while it wasn’t so intense heat. We walked down the Ashton Canal and off to New Islington Basin, and stopped off at Cask first for a beer and some 80s tunes as well, and when I went inside to the loo, they were playing Living on the Ceiling by Blancmange, so tune of the day it simply has to be. Up the bloody tree and all that, you know?

We did then head to Cutting Room Square, admired the makers markets with their nice wares, and I nipped into Co-Op to get a couple of beers to drink outside in the square and natter, which was nice. Of course, no visit round there would be complete without going into Seven Bro7ers Beerhouse, and they had the really nice Hophurst Porteresque – but this time the mint chocolate version. Imagine mint choc chip ice cream in beer form and you are pretty much there, it tasted fab, and instantly has become one of my top ten beers of all time, that’s how lovely it was.

We relaxed during the evening with the likes of The Hit List being back on the telly, and I always like Marvin and Rochelle Humes on this – they have good vibes with the contestants and each other. The nice thing was that the winning team did well with one of them clearly being a little over the top but to be fair got the answers right, so can’t complain too much. Always nice to be able to win a few grand and know your music – and even got a Rachel Stevens single quickly which was good knowledge!

Friday 15th July – Cancel Culture

It was good to be in the office, as it was relatively quiet – and pleasant, with the lovely aircon flowing throughout. I must admit it was good to be able to get plenty done today, including some road testing of some new applications, as well as build up the new Windows 10 WIM with the July 2022 updates included, so means that when we do build new machines, they are already fully up to date without no interaction needed – and that is always a positive thing to be honest.

I did note throughout the day that there were being plenty of trains cancelled between London and Manchester due to shortages of train crew – the same sort of shortages that affected Southern Fail from 2016 onwards (which incidentally despite media bias GTR still to this day haven’t resolved.) Unfortunately, what this meant for me was that my planned train to Manchester at 2000 was cancelled, as was the one before it at 1940 (the rule being that if yours is cancelled and you have an advance ticket you can board the one before or after) so it ended up being the 1922 train to board.

Good job really then I was in the office and after work and after a pit stop at a local pub for some food, it was off on the trusty 68 bus to Euston, which reminded me of the days I used to take that from Elephant and Castle when I first moved to London in order to head for my trains back to Manchester – simpler times really. I was just pleased that my Spidey senses and having a useful app for Euston’s platforms meant I knew what platform the 1922 train was – and so was ready at the platform to be on the safe side and good to go.

Good job I did though – the train was totally rammed out by the time it left Euston with it being standing room only in some carriages. I was sensible of course and had got into the unreserved coach C so knew I’d be quick to get a seat in there. I didn’t have the iPod with me so no tunes in the background whilst travelling onwards, and it did have a couple of delays, but at least it meant getting into Manchester a little bit quicker which was at least something, I have to say.

The Love In My Heart came to collect me at Piccadilly, and we were able to rest and relax for a while with Brian the cat happily playing outside and having a whale of a time too. We did catch up with Celebrity Gogglebox before then watching the first of the new series of The Last Leg (the theme tune, Harder Than You Think by Public Enemy being tune of the day) so that was a positive to be honest. I did like the fact that they were focussing a fair bit on what was going on (as Adam Hills had said, shame they weren’t on last week!) and Miriam Margolyes was on too, who was as fab as usual.

Thursday 14th July - Bastille Brilliance

It is Bastille Day in France today, and perhaps most tellingly, it was also today that hosted the most iconic of stages in the Tour de France, the summit finish of Alpe d'Huez. In fact the route today from Briancon via the Col de Galibier and Croix de Fer was the same route as the infamous stage 18 in 1986 where Bernard Hinault, despite promises to help his La Vie Claire team mate Greg LeMond, kept attacking, although the two did finish side by side in an iconic shot in the end. Still, it showed that it was a stage that sorted out the very best in the Tour de France and it's a must win if ever the stage finish is here.

I had one eye on it during the day as I was working from home, and had three meetings to attend today as well. One proved to be pretty interesting: one office is looking at ways of blocking all personal devices and only allowing recognised devices (ie: laptops we issue out for example) and there was some sensible discussion about what would work and what wouldn't work. One good point made was that for most laptops they'd have an Ethernet and Wireless adapter present, so both of those addresses need to be added if we were to use some form of allow list (ie: allow x but block everything else)

In the afternoon as well as the team meeting we also discussed some plans to migrate some servers over, and it transpired that it made sense in a lot of cases to get two of them done "as is" which potentially would be less hassle due to a number of reasons. In fact one component on one of them, SQL Server Reporting Services, used by MECM for reporting, means that one of the potential suggested plans is out, because we can't run SSRS on certain instances, so that at least is sort of going the way I'd want it to go anyway. We shall see.

With work done it was keeping an eye on the Tour de France coverage. Tom Pidcock, the British rider with Ineos Grenadiers, had joined the lead group on the Galibier and his descending is legendary (he is Olympic mountain bike and World cyclo-cross champion after all) and so was able to get in front, but also take Chris Froome with him too - and after a number of injuries over the last few years it was great to see him back at the front on a lengthy stage breakaway. In fact the same breakaway group stayed constant through Croix de Fer and only split up on the final legendary climb to Alpe d'Huez.

In the end Tom Pidock broke away up the climb and broke the pack up, with only the South African rider Louis Meintjes the one to try and keep up - and he did keep a steady distance from Pidcock. Chris Froome battled hard and would finish a very creditable third, a good reward for his efforts. But the sight of Pidcock on his own at the top of Alpe d'Huez, winning his first ever Tour de France stage win and the most iconic at that, wow. Just wow. Take a bow! And have Kraftwerk's iconic Tour de France as tune of the day while we're at it.

Wednesday 13th July - Graduating In The Heat

It was good to be back in the office amongst all the lovely air conditioning, and good to see some familiar faces too that I had been able to see as well, so that was nice. In fact I found out a couple of interesting things about the office at the same time, so it's good to know the right people to get the right answers when you ask. I did have a few things to be getting on with, and the first of those was to test out to see if something upgrade wise had caused a problem or not, and thankfully it wasn't.

What I had noted in the last couple of days was that our antivirus installer kept failing during the build process, which had been working fine for absolutely ages. From one of the log files I could see that it was attempting to contact one of the servers for downloading the web content, but failed, so I was wondering if it was something there. Sure enough our manager of Cyber Security raised a call with the vendor, and they got back admitting they had some issues yesterday (which tied in) and so with that in mind, why didn't they inform anyone - which was something the manager and I agreed should have been done.

As I headed out to the local Co-Op to get some lunch, I did note that there were a considerable number of people graduating from London School of Economics (LSE) this week and as such their parents were in all the local coffee shops and getting cold drinks from the Co-Op as well, as although less intense heat, it was still pretty muggy on the whole, so was quite pleased to get the lunch I was after and then to head back to the office and enjoy some more lovely aircon for the rest of the day. Even the bus home had some aircon too so that was a definite win.

I settled in after tea and had a lovely chat with The Love In My Heart, and after that I then was ready to watch Netherlands v Portugal in Women's Euro 2022. It was a very exciting game as Netherlands went 2-0 up to a delirious crowd of orange shirts at Leigh Sports Village, only for Portugal to pull it back to 2-1 before half time, and then at the start of the second half get a deserved equaliser. Netherlands did have a goal disallowed for offside after a lengthy VAR check, but then it was a cracking strike that won it for those in orange. A cracking game, and all to play for when they meet Sweden in the final group game this weekend.

I had some ice cream and tried the best to cool down by having some of the windows open as the sun had set. It was still warm though, and I was tempted to splash out and get a bladeless tower fan to try my best to keep the flat cool as possible, but all the ones I saw had long lead times (unsurprisingly) so may be thinking of two Plan Bs - either more being based in the office (lovely aircon) or to see if I can visit somewhere local and track down a tower fan of some description and use it, to at least alleviate things a bit. We shall see. In the meantime, The Heat Is On by Glenn Frey is tune of the day.

Tuesday 12th July - Deutschland Uber Alles

It was a busy day albeit working from home today. The heat was pretty warm - more humid than outright temperature but for me that always makes it feel worse, due to the fact that it can be more oppressive. I did sweat a fair bit, not because of the work either, but bcause of the heat. I did also do a planned upgrade today - and managed to get MECM upgraded to version 2203, so that was the latest release. In fact, I also added the update rollup after that because of the fact that it fixed some client issues, but did that before we deploy the client en masse next week.

Interestingly, some points to note from said upgrade: there's a warning in place that Windows Server 2012 R2 becomes an unsupported OS for a site server come the end of 2023, so planning in place for upgrading that makes a lot of sense. In addition, there was also a note that the cloud management gateway needs to be a multi-VM arrangement rather than a classic cloud service application, which I'd sensed would be enforced due to some Azure changes as well, so planning ahead makes a lot of sense in my view.

After work, and a quick shower, it was off to East Croydon and to get the train to Kew Bridge and to the Brentford Community Stadium for my first live game of Women's Euro 2022: and I picked a cracker: Germany versus Spain, two quality teams. There was some signalling issues at East Croydon but got to Clapham Junction, then over to Platform 5 for the stopping train via Putney and Barnes to Kew Bridge. I made sense to get on the train near the Waterloo end, so that meant I was one of the first to exit the station - not daft me!

I got into the ground where the QR code scan of my ticket worked, and got myself a hot dog and some Pepsi to drink to keep cool. Of course due to various sponsors of UEFA tournaments, you could only get Heineken lager (standard or their new silver one), Pepsi of various description, so the usual Beavertown Neck Oil that apparently is on sale during a league game wasn't here - much to the chagrin of some Brentford fans who had come along to their ground to watch tonight's game. I had a good view from my seat - rail seating too so that the diehards can stand up normally - and spotted Gabby Logan from BBC Sport with Vicky Losada and Fara Williams too.

The national anthems were played (and I do like the Spanish one - no mucking around - so tune of the day) and the game started. Like they did last time out, Spain had a defensive lapse - their goalkeeper put it straight into the path of Klara Bühl, who slotted home with no problem, and less than three minutes on the clock. Spain to be fair got in to the game and had some good chances, the best of which fell to Lucia Garcia, but she was only able to hit the side netting with her shot.

I had a feeling Germany would hit on the break and despite having less possession overall, they headed forward and from the break had a corner. The corner was floated over by Felicitas Rauch and headed superbly into the net by Alexandra Popp, by far their best player, and it was 2-0 before half time. It was madness on the concourse with so many families queueing for food and drinks, and some fell foul of the "no alcohol in the stands" rule and had to drink their Heineken on the concourse. Germany held their own second half and the game did peter out a little but a 2-0 win was about the right result.

Afterwards, I followed the signs for Kew Bridge station - and by the stadium there's a set of stairs down to a passageway which leads to a tunnel under the road by the ground and right into Kew Bridge platform 1. The stewards marshalled this well and I easily got on to the second train - and it was an express so first stop was Clapham Junction, and made my way homewards relatively quickly. It was a good night all round and I have to say it was a good game too.

Monday 11th July - We Er Best i Verden!

It was sensible, especially with the forthcoming heat coming my way, to head to the office where the prospect of lovely cool aircon and a nicer work environment were certainly a good incentive for me to get things done. In fact the bus was also air conditioned too on the way and because I'd left a little earlier, it was less intense heat too, which helped. In fact it did mean I could have a brew in the office and stay cool still, and regulate the temperature nicely.

Of course, being the first day back at work meant some catching up to do, so spent the morning reading the emails and any messages left on the messaging systems as well. On the whole that was a productive use of time as I could see what had been happening in the meantime, on top of other bits and bobs. I did also bring my one to one forward with my manager a day as that was a better use for time for us both, and we arranged a meeting for the half yearly review next week. Hopefully there is enough evidence gained by feedback from various members of staff which will be helpful - that's the theory!

I headed home later on and made myself some tea, and settled in for the evening as England were playing Norway in the Women's Euros 2022. England had narrowly beaten Austria in their first match and Norway despatched Northern Ireland, so realistically after Austria had beaten Northern Ireland earlier today, if England won, they'd top the group (because a tie on points goes on head-to-head records, of which England would win that.) Most of the pundits were predicting a close game based on the fact Norway are a very good side and had won this and the World Cup before.

England started brightly and after Ellen White was brought down, it was up to Georgia Stanway to tuck away the penalty, which she did in the top corner for 1-0. Happy times. A few minutes later Beth Mead got down the right and put in a perfect cross for Lauren Hemp to tap home. It was flagged offside but didn't look it to me and when VAR looked at it, clearly onside, so the goal would be given and 2-0 to England. Ellen White then robbed the Norwegian defence faffing around and coolly slotted home. 3-0. This was the stuff of dreams to be honest, England we well up for it.

It got even better. It was an amazing performance. It was only a matter of time before Beth Mead got on the scoresheet as she was superb all evening, and both her well placed header and a mazy run resulting in a coolly slotted finish were the stuff of legend, she was playing so well. 5-0 was unbelieveable, but then when Fran Kirby went down the right, put the ball across the box and met to tap home by Ellen White (cue her iconic goal celebration) it was 6-0 to England at half time. Six. Nil. This wasn't happening, right? Except it was, and England was absolutely brilliant. So good to see Ian Wright going mental after each goal and cheering the Lionesses on too.

Obviously England took the the foot off the pedal second half but did bring on some subs who wanted to impress, including Alessia Russo and Ella Toone. The latter was unlucky with a couple of chances but one good cross to Russo and she finished into the bottom corner with a header. 7-0. Time to get out the letters (Seven) after the number for the scoreline. And it wasn't over there either - as after a shot was saved by the Norway keeper, Beth Mead shot home for her hat trick, and so that was 8-0 to England, and that was the final score. Impressive stuff.

I channelled my inner Bjørge Lillelien after the game and modified his classic bit of commentary thus: "England har slått Norge 8-0 i fotball! Vi er best i verden! Vi er best i verden! Jonas Gahr Støre, can you hear me? Your girls took a hell of a beating! Your girls took a hell of a beating!" - a bit like that. The opening bit translates as England have beaten Norway 8-0 at football. We are the best in the world! We are the best in the world!" and tune of the day is Three Lions by Baddiel, Skinner and the Lightning Seeds, because the England fans were singing "football's coming home" during the evening...

Sunday 10th July - A Sunday of Sport

Well with the weather being particularly warm, I felt it sensible to try and take advantage of the fact that the flat is cooler in the morning, so let some fresh air in, see how much I can get it to cool down, and then have the blinds closed in the afternoon to keep the sun out. On the whole, the plan sort of worked, but am in the office a few days next week when back which means lovely air con when working - and much easier to manage things too. So I booked the spaces as needed and got that sorted.

After getting stuck into more pictures, I spent this morning seeing the sprint race from the Austrian Grand Prix, which was decent enough, but not sure if those races should be a permanent fixture - I much prefer the points on the line to be settled in the race alone to be quite honest. I did also see the Tour de France highlights from yesterday which involved some nifty climbing, with of course the summit finish at Alpe d'Huez due in a few days time whch will be decidedly epic to be quite honest.

In the afternoon I switched over to BBC Two for the Wimbledon finals - first of all the wheelchair men's singles final where Alfie Hewett narrowly lost to world number one Shingo Kunieda in a final set tiebreak after some epic winning points and three hours of play. It was then to the men's singles finals in a match that would be difficult to call, but I suspected the experience of Novak Djokovic would mean he would win out over Nick Kyrgios. And so it proved, as after the first sent went the way of the Australian, Djokovic bounced back and took the next two sets, then the fourth and final one of the match on the tiebreak, and easily too. Seven titles for him at Wimbledon now.

It was over then to BBC Two for the first of two games from the Women's Euro 2022, with Belgium up against Iceland at the Manchester City Academy Stadium. For all the complaints by some players for playing at a small venue, the fact it was nowhere near full sort of proves it was the right decision to play there. It was a 1-1 draw and it was a tough match with both sides defending in numbers. Iceland scored with a header before Belgium had a penalty to level things up, and that's how it stayed.

Over to Channel 4 next for the F1 higlights from Austria, and in an epic battle at the front Charles Leclerc won, despite his car having gremlins with the throttle near the end (and after his team mate Carlos Sainz had to pull out of the race with a blown engine) - so that was good to see - and Lewis Hamilton got third so still making progress despite the Mercedes car still being a bit of a lemon. George Russell was fourth and Lando Norris seventh so the British drivers all did pretty well too.

Back to BBC Two and for France v Italy at the New York Stadium in Rotherham. No one I think expected the half time scoreline, with France absolutely ruthless in the first half and with a hat trick from Grace Geyoro to set the tone, France scored three in the last seven minutes of the first half to be 5-0 up, with Geyoro's hat trick the first ever in Women's Euros history to be scored inside the first half. Italy did pull a goal back but France were rampant with the song Free From Desire by Gala blasting out a lot too (make that tune of the day) and they looked like favourites to win it.

Saturday 9th July - First Class Homeward

It was an early rise for me this morning, as I was heading back home from The Love In My Heart's Place on board the 0815 train from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston. Thankfully it wasn't cancelled (other trains had been cancelled during the day) and so was able to wake up, get showered and changed, and then give The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat kisses goodbye as they were having a well earned lie in (and Brian snuggled up to his Mummy so he was very happy indeed) - and so took the tram and got to Manchester Piccadilly station in good time.

I actually did do the Seatfrog upgrade to first class, and that worked out well because the seat I got was facing forward in Coach K (win) but also it meant that the train I was on this time was one of the new refurbished trains, so could see how comfy first class was. Thankfully, unlike standard where the seats are rock hard, they're much better in first - nice leather headrest, cushioned comfy seats and of course lovely staff who serve you coffee, fruit juice and breakfast. The two staff on duty today (Julie and the effervescently cheerful Leanne who was fab!) did the business, and not only did the nice full English breakfast, but also did some toast as well to go with it which was super nice to have as a bonus.

I was able to kick back, relax and enjoy the journey down to London Euston, air con was on, coffee was all good, and it was nice to have such lovely friendly staff too. I had the iPod on once I'd had breakfast, and played some cracking tracks including Swing Out Sister's excellent Butterfly, so tune of the day for me for that one. The train sped on and was only a couple of minutes late into Euston. That allowed me to walk over to St Pancras and get the train back to East Croydon and then walk home with the minimum of fuss, so that was good.

I did have some post when I got home too - a couple of things I'd ordered prior to me heading off on holiday (and one I won during!) - so I had the Commodore 64 game Professional BMX Simulator, which Codemasters released on their Plus label, so you loaded up the standard or expert versions of dirt biking from the first cassette, then on the second one you could load desert riding or quarry racing as the extra courses from that - and be the skill level you picked on the initial load. Nice way to handle it and at least means you have options too.

I settled in for the afternoon and set about transferring the pictures from the camera to the PC, so I could then look at sorting them out, eliminating any badly taken ones and then working on seeing if I could get them uploaded to Flickr with all the descriptions etc that I like to add. I know this will take some time to do so and so tend to a batch at a time, go and do something else, and then hit another batch - that way it keeps me motivated and breaks down the task into smaller chunks, which is always a good thing.

Friday 8th July – Cross Country Homeward

The Love In My Heart and I had packed most of our things in cases yesterday before we headed out for a lovely meal, so we didn’t need to do too much this morning – get ourselves showered, changed, put everything in the bags as needed and check that everywhere was clean and tidy. We knew we had to check out at 9am, but as we had done all our checks early we didn’t need to be waiting around, and so with a final look at the sea as we left the cottage, it was off on the road at around 8.20am and the fairly long cross-country journey home to The Love’s place.

It didn’t take too long to head along the A148 to King’s Lynn and skirting around there before heading on to the A17, over the Cross Keys Swing Bridge and not long after the turn off for Spalding, we stopped off at a McDonalds for breakfast and a nip to the loo also. In fact there was some outside seating so The Love could catch a bit of sun in the meantime, and it was just good to break up the journey. Back on the A17, we headed across the Fens and it didn’t feel as slow going as it was on the way there, with us passing Brant Broughton where we stopped for lunch and no real queues. Once we got towards the end of the A17 there was a small queue at the roundabout, but nothing major as we hit the A1.

Once the A1 became A1(M) we stopped to get some petrol and a second toilet stop to be sure, then it was on to the M18 and M1 and up to junction 35A for the A616 (and then A628) over the Woodhead pass to Manchester. Knowing that the M62 had been snarled up for ages last week, this was the better option and it was only when hitting Hollingworth at the other end of the pass did things appear to go slow – worse the other way though due roadworks and temporary lights – would not want to be involved in that. In the end, we got back around 1.45pm – so with around half an hour of stops, that was just under 5 hours, over an hour and a half less than going!

Brian the cat was of course waiting for us both, and he was more than happy to purr contentedly when Mummy had him in her arms. He did seem a little impatient at first but having had a play out in the sun followed by some Dreamies and some cat food, he did seem a lot happier all told. I know The Love does worry about him even though some of her family had popped round during the week to see to Brian, so it was reassuring to see that he was all content and pleased. We could tell he had been sleeping on the bed a lot due to the mass of cat hair in one corner!

I had time to reflect on the holiday on the way to The Love’s place, and it had been really nice to go somewhere different. Both The Love and I did like Cromer, and the weather turned up on that day which made it good – and at the McDonalds she had been chatting to someone sat outside who had also been to the beach at Wells Next-the-Sea, so clearly a popular place for the beach too. For me, obviously I did love the fish and chip train from Sheringham on a proper old carriage, but the whole week felt really relaxing and lovely. Tune of the day is Drivin on 9 by The Breeders, as certainly I could hear that in my head as The Love headed along the A17 this morning.

Thursday 7th July – Sheringham Sunshine

After a nice lie in this morning, The Love In My Heart and I had some breakfast and took a walk along the promenade in Sheringham. It was a little windy and the tide was in a fair bit, but it was good anyway to see the waves crashing against the rocks and plenty of people were walking along in the breeze. We headed up from one set of steps and made our way along a couple of nice streets and back towards the beach before then heading along the High Street and having a good look in some of the shops. We did also stop off at No 10 for a really nice coffee (there’s an irony in there of course which we’d find out about later) and then headed back to the cottage.

We thought it’d be nice to head out for lunch so we went to the Priory Maze and Gardens, as the café there was nice from Sunday when we had a coffee, but lunch was a good call (as you didn’t need to enter the gardens and pay to go into the café – smart move.) So it was nice to get an outside table and a beer too, and The Love had the ham and tomato sandwich and I tried the Cromer crab sandwich. That was absolutely lovely, and it was really nice to enjoy that with the sun beating down. It wasn’t that warm, but the sun was very pleasant and The Love was happy with that.

The Love headed back to enjoy some sun on the balcony, and I took a walk which took in the coast but first it took me to Beeston Priory, the ruins of which stand by a pond and a view of Beeston Bump. It was really a pretty view and taking in the architecture of the priory, which was impressive. I walked back down the path to the A149 road and followed this to Beeston Regis, before taking a path to the left which would lead me to a level crossing over the railway (as I needed to pass this to get to the beach) and once over, I followed the path by the side of Beeston Regis Caravan Park and towards the coast path.

I then turned left and followed the path up the many steps to the top of the hill known as Beeston Bump, which had lovely views over to Sheringham and to Cromer too. I also noted the trig point at the top here too and then followed the path back down, past the putting green on the cliffs, then followed the path down by the house overlooking the sea, and along the promenade back towards the centre of Sheringham. It was still a little windy but the view was rather lovely all round, so definitely was one to savour and a walk well worth doing for myself.

I then visited Sheringham Museum, and that was surprisingly good. It had a lot of history of the lifeboats that served the town, and also on the upper floor a nice detailed history of the town itself, which included mock shop fronts of the age, and a special exhibition about being by the seaside, including replica swimming costumes, buckets and spades, neon ice cream parlour signs and all sorts. The viewing tower at the top offered some lovely views over the sea and that was really good too – so definitely for me a really nice place to be and that was good to enjoy. So much to see and a mere £4.50 at that – total bargain!

After The Love and I had a nice walk down the West Promenade, all the way to the lifeboat station and admired the sea view from the pebble beach there, we got back to the cottage and got ourselves changed and ready for a nice evening meal out. We were staying local and heading to the Two Lifeboats, having booked a table. It was very nice in there and I had the nice local Sly Wolf ale which went down nicely. They had some specials on and so The Love picked one: the lamb, and I went for the gammon steak with egg and pineapple, both of which were gorgeous. I even had a nice pavlova for dessert which really was spot on too, so a wise move to book it.

After the evening meal, we took advantage of the outside seating that faces the sea outside the Two Lifeboats and enjoyed a well earned drink as the sun set with a gorgeous red sky over the more calm North Sea, after it had been gusty this morning. The peaceful feeling was special and The Love looked lovely in her gold dress, and it just felt like a wonderful end to what had been a lovely time away together. Tune of the day in the meantime is the fab and happy Chasing Fireflies by The Icicles, certainly with the sunset it felt pretty special and was so lovely.

Wednesday 6th July – On The Beach And The Train

It was a day of two halves today, as the weather was looking the warmest of the week, if a little overcast, so The Love In My Heart and I thought that it would be nice to head off to the beach. We weighed up a few options and we decided the best one would be Wells Next-the-Sea, primarily because it sweeps around. So after breakfast it was off in The Love’s car and took the A149 westbound via Salthouses, Cley Next-the-Sea and Blakeney before then arriving in Wells, and then heading by the quayside to the road to the beach car park. Not cheap mind you, as the beach and car park are maintained by the Holkham Estate, so it was £6.50 for 4 hours parking or £10 for the whole day!

We did note a nice beach café near the car park, where I’d get us a coffee later, and also a branch of Joules as well – must be doing well to have one there as you wouldn’t normally find one this far out from any other shops. We headed up and over to the beach, and even with the tide in, there was space to relax with the soft sand, and it was lovely. In fact we had brought the picnic basket with us and packed it with some sandwiches, crisps, dips, cold meats, small munchies and some cold drinks (including some Camden Hells) so it meant we could relax on the beach and be able to even do a spot of sunbathing too. In fact, I took a walk along by the beach huts, and could see the tide coming out and a walk on the far shore really did show how much the channel from the harbour really does divide the beach in two.

We had our picnic lunch and that was very nice indeed – lots of nice things and it was just good to kick back with a cold drink, have the iPod on and have some nice relaxing music on including some Beth Rowley, so So Sublime is tune of the day. The time sped past and The Love had a paddle in the sea, which was warmer than she thought, and it was all lovely too. I really enjoyed the views across the sweeping sands and all the beach huts were on stilted steps in order to command a nicer view and be a little bit more protected from the sea elements a little with pine trees behind the dunes making for a really peaceful outlook.

Later on, we headed back to the car and The Love drove back along the coast road, and we did note two windmills also – one in Cley Next-the-Sea and the other at the far end of Weybourne, before the road ran along the North Norfolk Railway and then into Sheringham, so we were able to head back to the cottage and get ourselves showered, changed and ready to head out late afternoon. We walked towards the train station and stopped off at the bar nearby for a well earned drink – I had a nice tropical IPA and the music being played included the likes of The Smiths and The Jesus and Mary Chain, so all was good.

It was then to Sheringham station, the North Norfolk Railway one – to be on this evening’s train, which was a fish and chips dining train. I had seen this online and looked good, and we booked it three months ago. Good job we did, as it is now sold out entirely for the next few weeks. The staff were lovely and we had a table to ourselves (so no sharing) and indeed were on the coast side of the train too on table 23. The train even had an onboard bar so got us some drinks, and the seating was really comfortable and cushioned, and felt posh with all the lovely wood everywhere so well maintained. The train would go the length of the line to Holt and back, and a steam loco was hauling us too.

The Love looked absolutely gorgeous in her dress and we had a nice drink whilst the staff served us the fish and chips, wrapped up proper style and came in a nice tray when unwrapped. The fish was gorgeous as was the chips, and having that with a drink was lovely as the train hugged the coastline by the golf course before heading inwards via Weybourne station and onwards to Holt. The staff announced we had 20 minutes or so here, so we got out and stretched our legs whilst the steam loco decoupled, reversed down the other track and then joined back up at the front. We got ourselves another drink from the bar and what was nice was all the ales were made locally and specially for the railway. Just wished that they had the Railway Porter, but that obviously had proved popular on other dining trains!

The train headed off towards Sheringham and the staff served us a raspberry sorbet from the local Ronaldo’s Ice Cream, all nicely in a little tub and refreshing after the fish and chips – even The Love enjoyed it all and she is not normally an ice cream person. It felt all lovely and with the toots of the steam train as we headed past Weybourne on the way back it felt all lovely. As we disembarked from Sheringham station, The Love and I had smiles on our faces, that was a nice treat to ourselves and it was a very enjoyable experience indeed. We can highly recommend it if you are staying anywhere in North Norfolk to do the fish and chip train, it’s a lovely nostalgic experience all round.

Tuesday 5th July – Corking in Cromer

After a lengthy lie in and a nice rest this morning, The Love In My Heart and I had some breakfast and decided that with the weather looking reasonably good, it’d make sense to head over to Cromer and have a good look round. Even better was that we could take the train from Sheringham to Cromer, and it was only a few minutes away that way. The Two Together card discount meant it was just over a fiver return for the two of us, and that would most likely be cheaper than parking: and The Love could have some drinks as well so that was a winner. I bought the tickets online via Greater Anglia, who run the trains, and we soon were heading off through the High Street and to Sheringham station.

The train arrived on time (as Sheringham is the terminus of the Bittern Line) and I was pleased to see the level boarding ramps come out of the train: proven by an electric powered wheelchair and a manual chair, as well as a mother with pram, make use of that facility – proving that level boarding is a game changer. We got on the train, nice and modern and clean, and after a stop at West Runton we arrived at Cromer station and took the downhill road towards the town centre, and followed the road towards the sea and the cliffs that the beach at Cromer is beyond.

We followed the path down to the promenade and it was nice to enjoy the fresh air too before then going along the pier. We headed to the very end where the lifeboat station now is, and in the viewing gallery, we could see the lifeboat there ready to head off as needed. There were even dressing up outfits for the children too which was good. We walked back along the pier and admired the sea view before then going East towards the East beach, with its many beach huts and chalets along the way and steps down from them to quite a sandy beach and a relaxed setting.

We did stop off at the lifeboat museum and the upper floor had a café and the outside seating there offered an excellent view of the sea and pier and beyond. The Love had the ham, eggs and chips and I had a pulled pork bap, both of which were excellent as was the coffee, and we had lots of nice chatter as we admired the view. It was very enjoyable to be there for a bit, and we headed back along the promenade and inside the amusement arcade there, where some fun on the 2p falls was had. In fact we walked up the hill back to the coast road and noted something that I insisted we have a go of – crazy golf!

It was an adventure golf type course, which was called Crabstix. It had eighteen holes with some clever design, and was well maintained and looked after too. We did note that some of the pin positions weren’t where you’d expect which made for a good challenge. The Love did get a hole in one on hole 13, and that was the only ace of the whole game. We both got a good score and were consistently getting 2s on a number of holes too, so for the £7.50 per round it was well worth it, and can recommend it if you’re visiting around there if you get the chance to play it.

We were on a roll and after that we walked down one of the main streets and into an amusement arcade, where we noted one of the grabber machines had some Peter Rabbit soft toys based on the recent films. We put a pound in and The Love managed to win on her second go, getting a nice soft toy pink rabbit (most likely Lily I think from the new series) and that would make a nice additional present for The Cute Little One – we didn’t expect to win but it goes to show that sometimes it’s just the luck of when you have a go and are able to time it for a win. More 2p falls fun would ensue later as well but we did discover the outside courtyard of The Wellington pub, so we had a drink there and it was rather nice to be able to relax in what was now bright sunshine and were both chilled out in there.

We walked past some of the little shops and also the Hotel de Paris, where apparently Stephen Fry once worked when he was younger, before locating the impressive church and following the path by the Museum to a road to a view over the sea. It was rather pretty all round and we ended up walking back down to the promenade and the pier, and had a drink in the late afternoon sunshine by the pavilion theatre bar – which was rather lovely all round. It felt a really nice relaxed vibe and we were both pleasantly surprised that it felt so nice here too. We made our way back to the station in good time for the 1736 train back to Sheringham.

Once back, we did have Wimbledon on and did see Cameron Norrie fight back to win in five sets against David Goffin with royalty present to watch, and then I nipped out to the local Chinese takeaway for tea. The Love had the combination box of sweet and sour chicken with fried rice, and I had the pork and chicken fillet on fried rice with barbecue sauce, which was also lovely. We did have a starter combo of spare rib, spring rolls, prawn toast and seaweed to go with it all, and at around £20 all in, it was pretty nice, and my meal had lots of meat and lots of rice – definitely if you had a smaller appetite, two could share that easily. Tune of the day in the meantime is the excellent Happier Than Sunshine by Swing Out Sister, which really does have a mellow feel perfect for the Summer day today was.

Monday 4th July – Sandringham and King’s Lynn

After a good sleep overnight, The Love In My Heart and I were up relatively early and having some nice breakfast before we would be heading off. We had booked tickets for the house and gardens at Sandringham, and as The Love is a fan of the Royal Family, it would be good for her to have a good look around and that would also mean that we could see the gardens, the grounds and the overall estate. The weather didn’t seem mega warm but at least dry, and the two of us would be able to have a good day. So with the e-tickets to hand, it was off from Sheringham and out of the town towards the A148.

It was back along the A148 via Holt and Fakenham and then seeing the turn off for the B road, we soon noted the walls to the left hand side before the turn off for the carriage drive and the car park to the right. It wasn’t that full and so we were able to get a parking space easily, and then once parked up and with time to spare because the journey took less time than we thought it would, we were soon having a nice coffee to warm up a little before then showing the tickets at the garden entrance – you also entered the car registration plate which meant free parking (the registration would be scanned on exit) and took the walk down the path with the house in the distance.

I have to say that the fact that The Love found the house a little on the disappointing side – more because you would only see a small number of rooms in the house. The entrance was where the Queen does enter, and it did show the drawing rooms and the dining room where the table would extend to seat 22 people to seat the larger gatherings, but at the same time it didn’t feel a massive tour at all, even with the audio guide giving you plenty of information on the paintings, the furnishings and also the rooms themselves. We did end up in a large room that had a temporary exhibition for the Queen’s Jubilee, which included her first Christmas Day message from 1957, former small toy vehicles, and also features on her love of horses. It was decent but it did need a lot more for me.

We did have a leisurely walk around the gardens, which were very well kept and maintained, heading down to the stables, following the paths down to the ponds and admiring the raised view over the gardens to the house. We did walk over to St Mary Magdalene Church, which is where the Royal Family have their Christmas Day church service, and having seen the route you’d take in, it’s a lot smaller than it does look on the television – especially the fact that the arch in and the church behind is really small. We did go inside the church too and it was nice to see it so well maintained with the stained glass windows and the arches within. We headed back and had some lunch in the restaurant and popped into the shop before we headed off.

The Love suggested that as we were close by it would be sensible to head to King’s Lynn nearby, and we managed to get a parking slot in the town centre. We walked along some streets and found the minister, which looked very resplendent, and the guild hall opposite. We then headed to the River Great Ouse and had a nice drink at a very nice place with outside seating facing the river and playing some 80s classic including Footloose by Kenny Loggins (make that tune of the day) and that was all good. We did also walk along towards the market square and the old hotel buildings that adorned the square, as well as see one of the mammoth sculptures that apparently are all around Norfolk at present, so that was a bit of a bonus.

On the way back, we took the A149 coast road and followed it to Hunstanton, where the seafront looked very pretty and a proper seaside town with arcades, fish and chip restaurants and even some caravan sites, and then followed this through Old Hunstanton and a number of villages before Wells Next-the-Sea. I have to say this shouldn’t be an A road, it’s single track in places and really does hug the coastline somewhat. We made it back to Sheringham and had a quiet evening in with some nice food for tea and a couple of drinks and relaxed on the balcony as the sun set on another day of exploration.

Sunday 3rd July – Priory Gardens and Holt

After having a nice lie in and some breakfast, The Love In My Heart and I noted that the second day of the Potty Morris was on, and they were again doing morris dancing and also playing folk instruments right near the cottage in the square. This meant that for most of the morning and early afternoon the local roads were closed, so no chance to get the car out. However, we already had something good planned for today which meant it was a short walk away and somewhere we could enjoy together.

So we headed on the road out of the centre of Sheringham and towards the A149 coast road, and turned left following the road towards Beeston Common and after a left turn, it was through the pedestrian gate to Priory Maze and Gardens, which was a locally maintained attraction. The gardens were very lovely indeed, with lots of flora and fauna around, and a nice walk through some pine trees and plenty of pine cones as well for The Love to admire. We also noted at the far end all the nice water features of the gardens and the view of Beeston Priory next door through the hedges.

Once having had a nice walk around the gardens, we then entered the maze and walked to the viewing point, which unusually wasn’t in the centre of the maze, but a little bit after we entered. It was then following each of the different paths from the viewing points and seeing which one would take us out. This did take some time and it was pretty good to be able to get through together, and after taking some paths from one of the exits of the viewing point, we did manage to follow the path outwards to the end of the maze, and celebrated by stopping off at the café for a well earned coffee and a drink. It was really nice and the staff were lovely, so that really did make for a nice late morning and early afternoon.

We walked back along the main road to the centre of Sheringham and the station, where the North Norfolk Railway was hosting the second day of its heritage weekend, with more heritage buses taking you to and from Holt, stopping off in the town first. We did note yesterday that the Sunday market was on in Holt itself so it was good to be on an old National Counties single decker red bus, and before long we were in Holt and at the end of the market. It was a very nice market indeed with lots of stalls of hand made and crafted items with lovely staff, and we did note a beer stall and some food stalls as well. In fact, The Love bought this cute little crown with the name of The Cute Little One on it, so we got it as a present for her which was really good.

In fact, we sat in the square there and managed to get a table and seat, and tried out some of the street food, which was loaded fries and loaded nachos, complete with lots of chicken, cheese, and mayonnaise with spring onions. It was delicious and The Love went over to the beer stall – they had pints for £3.50 including a pale ale for me and a saison for The Love, which she really liked – I’ll note that for the future if she ever fancies something different. We had finished lunch and drinks when it did start to unfortunately rain for a little bit, we were under cover by one of the shops, and the passing shower did stop. I had a nice walk around the town and spotted the owl trail with the owls on the pavements, so well worth looking down to the floor if walking around there.

We did get another vintage bus back to Sheringham later which was nice, and we then headed back to the cottage and put Channel 4 +1 on for the British Grand Prix. It was very dramatic and we were both relieved that after a nasty accident Guanyu Zhou was okay, and rightly until the powers that be knew he was okay there were no replays of what happened. Some excellent racing ensued, especially after the late safety car due to Estaban Ocon’s breakdown where the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc were all battling each other in an epic scrap, and Carlos Sainz won his first ever F1 race too on his 150th attempt, so was pleased for him. Tune of the day naturally is The Chain by Fleetwood Mac, the proper F1 theme!

Saturday 2nd July – Sheringham Sunshine

We did note as we arrived into Sheringham last night that there was a festival on called Potty Morris, which involved the likes of morris dancing and folk music. The local roads in the town centre were closed off which included where we were, so we knew that going anywhere in the car wasn’t happening. That said, we did decide the night before that exploring around Sheringham itself would be a good thing to do, and the North Norfolk Railway did have some vintage events on too, so plenty around to keep us both busy. We had a nice breakfast and admired the view of the sea from the balcony.

We did hear the jingle of bells and the clattering of clogs and sure enough out came the first of the morris “sides” (that’s the term they use instead of teams, folks) to be able to get to Lifeboat Plain. In fact, as the square our cottage faced was next to the Oddfellows Hall and close to the Museum, it was the right size for most morris sides to dance at and show how they were. We had a prime view on the balcony overlooking all this (The Love In My Heart said we should have charged them a fee for the view) and they were all doing their thing, mainly also with flags, sticks and matching outfits, where some of them even had their face painted as well!

We headed towards the promenade and walked East at first, following around all the lovely little beach huts there and towards a house built into the cliffs – which we did look at renting but realising that the stairs down would be a total pain, so decided that wasn’t for us. You would of course get superb views over the sea and coast though, so I can see why it would appeal so much as well. We then walked back along and stopped off for a lovely coffee, then headed West along the promenade and admired the nice cafés and family friendly beaches – a bit less pebbly and some more sand as the tide was going out. It didn’t feel really busy either so it was a nice more relaxed feel too.

We walked through the town centre, stopped off at the amusement arcades for some 2p falls action (well you have to do this, right?) and then visited many little shops, the sort of shops The Love likes with independents selling gifts, cards and crafts. Plenty of them were nice and one of them was also an official stockist for Tintin, so everything from large collectable figures to the original French language posters for the books, and the books themselves. Impressive, even down to a soft toy little Snowy the dog figure too, so that was good to see – in fact the theme to the cartoon series of Tintin is tune of the day as it didn’t leave my head! We did note also that it was next to a little shopping arcade, one shop in there sold local beer, so got myself a couple of them to have later on.

At the North Norfolk Railway station (the other side of the road to the Greater Anglia train station) we spotted the vintage buses, and a steam train was on the platform too so that was good. It all felt very well maintained and classic vintage, so that definitely was a positive to enjoy looking at. We did stop at a bar opposite for a beer, and they had all sorts of craft beer on too. It was nice enjoying a pint there in the sunshine and admiring the view, and back at the shopping arcade there was a café and we had a toasted sandwich for lunch, which was very nice – my ham cheese and mushroom one especially was totally spot on – and it was noted how nice it was.

We decided as the vintage buses were free that we’d get on one and head to Holt station to see some of the vintage vehicles, and the bus we were on was an old RTL London bus – this was pre-Routemaster but had the same sort of design including the rear open platform to get on and off. It was narrow and we could tell when sat next to each other. The bus sped to Holt town (we noted that might be useful) and then onwards to the station, where plenty of vintage buses were shown – all lovingly looked after, and also a proper BBC outside broadcast van in dark green including the camera still mounted on its roof – probably used for the likes of the Grand National back in the day. That was impressive to see!

We headed back on the bus to Sheringham later on (a more modern 1970s design so wider and comfier) and walked back to the cottage, where the morris sides were still at it dancing away and with some folk backing from their sides also, This finished around 5.30pm and after that the square fell quiet apart from the people heading in and out of the pub (it was Saturday night after all) and The Love and I had some nice tea, a wine and beer and we relaxed on the balcony admiring the sea view, and seeing Nick Krygios winning his match at Wimbledon in usual bad boy mode – even swearing at the officials which was a bit off. In fact he and his opponent Tsitsipas could have both been defaulted and disqualified – the latter hit a ball at the crowd after losing the second set which was out of order!

Friday 1st July – Norfolk Broads

It was off to London Euston this morning to head up on the train to Manchester, where The Love In My Heart and I would be heading off in her car on holiday. I did have a think about doing the upgrade via Seatfrog, primarily because I knew that it would be nice to have breakfast on the train. So as I got to Euston, I checked and it was still the lowest upgrade price, and put a bid in with a couple of minutes left. And I won! So that was good, and definitely felt much more comfortable having a full cooked breakfast with some coffee and orange juice as the train sped up towards Manchester, and had the iPod on for some tunes too – and with that in mind, the fab Holiday by Pullover is tune of the day.

I got to Manchester Piccadilly and The Love was there for me, and after putting the case into the car, off we headed towards the M62. The traffic wasn’t so great past junction 25 due to roadworks between 26 and 28, and although the original plan was to head across to the A1(M) and down from there, the signage indicated that parts of that had roadworks and tailbacks. As such it was easier to be able to divert onto the M1, go past Tinsley and the former cooling towers, join the M18 and then to the A1(M) that way, which worked a treat. We could see the traffic heading north towards the bad section and it looked bad, so avoiding that made perfect sense.

It was all plain sailing until we headed off on to the A17, where for some reason traffic was crawling for a while and it took us 45 minutes to do around three miles, not sure if a slow vehicle was in front or if there had been an accident or something. Anyway we got past that and diverted off to the village of Brant Broughton and the Generous Briton pub for lunch, which I’d spotted to be decent. And so it proved: the food was absolutely gorgeous, the staff were really friendly and nice, and I even had a new Timothy Taylor beer which was hoppy and had a bit of a tropical aftertaste to it. The Love had the chicken smothered in peppercorn sauce and I had pork with stuffing and bacon in a cognac sauce – both were really good and not too dear either it had to be said.

It was back on the A17 after lunch and we knew it was all A roads from here, no motorways at all. It was relatively plain sailing apart from a small backlog after we got to King’s Lynn, but The Love did say that because everywhere was flat across the Fens it did feel like it was a lot longer journey than it was, and I can see where she was coming from with that. We got on to the A148 and were heading past Sandringham and onwards towards Fakenham and Holt before reaching the turn off for the A1082 and to Sheringham which was our base for the week. We navigated the town centre and found the place we were staying at on Lifeboat Plain, which used to be a former boat building shed no less. We did have a parking space which was handy too!

We got the key and entered, and It was pretty nice all round. The layout was upside down to the bedrooms were downstairs, and the living space upstairs. This made sense when you noted the balcony with views to the sea (and proper sea views too!) which was really lovely. We unpacked everything and headed to the local Tesco we’d noted for some basics and essentials (after discovering the “welcome pack” was just tea coffee and hot chocolate sachets, a marked difference from the one we had in Amble last year it has to be said.) It was good to get all nice bits for breakfast and a couple of meals for the evening (we were planning pub meals and takeouts too) and that set us in good stead and could relax later with a glass of wine and some beer.

We did decide tonight, with it being Friday and all, to have take out fish and chips. We went to Straits on the high street (as some of them had already closed, not a late night opening sort of town) and the staff were really friendly. In fact after us they had plenty more orders, which shows if you open a bit longer, you will get more business. The fish and chips wasn’t cheap but it was cooked fresh to order, the batter was light and crispy and the chips were spot on, and that set us up nicely for the week ahead. We snuggled on the sofa later and The Love could see the sun setting over the sea, and that proved to be rather beautiful all round. We had arrived, and it was going to be nice.