Dear Diary... March 2023

Wednesday 29th March - Inspection

I had changed the work from home days and managed to get a spare seat in the office for tomorrow (Thursday) because I needed to be at home today. The landlord had requested that where possible I be available so that they could carry out an inspection of the flat and be able to check things over, make sure all was okay. It's the first time in a while this has needed to be done, and the original appointment a few weeks back wasn't doable, so was able to fit this in and be all good to go.

Now for me, I'm very good about taking pride in where I live. I've always kept places tidy because my view is that you don't know who might pop round, so if it's always clean and tidy you never need to worry. In fact, the only thing I really did was swap a few cushions around and also make sure that where possible there weren't any dust bits, so gave the duster and vacuum cleaning a once over last night and also then used the speed mop on the bathroom as well to be sure all was fine - which I normally do regularly anyway as a matter of course. It's just a lot nicer when it takes less time to get things done.

At the time they said they would, two of the landlord staff turned up, and were pleased to see the place tidy. One did ask me how long I'd been here, and it amazed me to think it's been almost seven and a half years now, how the time has flown. I do like my place because I do feel safe and secure, I've got lots of things close by that I could wish for (even a standard and parcel post box) and if I need to do shopping that's also close by, so all that I need and less a feeling of being miles away from anywhere. I did point out something I was going to report to their support email (which Idid do later) for full transparency, and that always helps. Honesty, after all, is the best policy.

I did nip out later and head to WH Smith because I needed a birthday card for a forthcoming birthday - and I still have a handy card I got back in October which gives me 25% off all greetings cards for a year. Let me tell you, that's been well used. I got a very nice card and some wrapping paper, and noted that the escalator upstairs had been blocked off, but stairs and lift were available. The whole of the upstairs is now their clearance section and I've got some good bargains from here before, and did feel sad that it was taking up less space upstairs now. If you do get the chance and your local WH Smith does have a section, check it out.

I got back and spent some time this afternoon working on some reports and being able to then sort out a plan of action for a site in Toronto tomorrow, where I can do some testing in the office and be able to do similar to what I've done for another of our long distance sites. In fact, the premise and modular way I've done it potentially could mean that I could bring it all together differently, but for now can keep it separate and just add the bits that I need for this purpose. And with that in my head, I blasted out the new Skindred track Set Fazers, which is absolutely mighty and tune of the day.

One last thing I do want to mention today is the sad passing away of Paul O'Grady. He was of course known for the drag act Lily Savage, which became massive in the 1990s due to the ascerbic sense of humour and not tolerating fools gladly, but also getting a drag act turn mainstream and host the likes of Blind Date and Blankety Blank, before that persona was then dropped and Paul was just Paul. But yet the best years for him were yet to come with his own talk show, and perhaps what he will be fondly remembered for, for so many, For The Love of Dogs and his visits to Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

The love of the animals was clear - they loved him to bits and it always was difficult for Paul to shy away from adopting an animal himself. In fact, he ended up with six in totals over the years from Battersea, and they all were in a loving home with Paul and his husband and family. If the fact that he was able to promote rescue animals as being kind and loving and deserving of a home, and encouraging us as the public to take in a rescue animal for a pet. That for me will be a lasting legacy, and not lost on Battersea themselves who put out a lovely tribute today as someone who spoke volumes for the work they do and indeed for all similar places across the nation where giving a rescue animal a new home means so many happy memories. So thank you Paul.

Tuesday 28th March - Hunted and Hopeless

It was a tough day yesterday as I had a funeral to attend, and although it was lovely to see some relations and spend time with some of them too, I do of course wish it was in much happier circumstances. I did at least have a fairly relaxing train journey from Clapham Junction via Basingstoke to parts of Wiltshire and Dorset along the way, with the service being in a village close to the border of both counties, and it did at least give me some happy memories of being there and seeing some relations there too. What was also nice (having checked when I got home but was sure of it) was that one of the pictures as part of a nice little board of pictures to remember the relation by was one I took back in 2010 when The Love In My Heart and I headed down there, so that was really lovely and humbling.

It was back off to the office for me and so on to the X68 and there in plenty of time. In fact, it made sense to get some toast and a coffee from Costa to start the morning, and that got me in the right spirit to tackle a few things that I wanted to get done today. One of those was to check over some Mac machines via our management system to see if they had re-enrolled (as their enrolments are renewed every 2 years) and of course to make sure that they were all cleanly done - and the automatic numbers were coming down nicely, which definitely for me has to be a positive.

I did venture out at lunch time and off to Holborn and some of the shops around there. It did decide to rain somewhat which did mean that I was taking cover where possible, but the rain stopped and was nice to have a walk around and get some fresh air. I'm always a little bit mindful of the fact that actually getting a good walk in at lunch time is far healthier if I can, and also does mean that I can spend some time away from the computer and desk too, another definite plus for me as well.

I got on the X68 bus back home (which apparently is in the plans for the Mayor of London's Superloop bus services to be one of those) and it was notable at Waterloo Station, the last stop before the express part, that the driver must have said three or four times that the next stop for this bus is West Norwood and he would not stop anywhere in between. Seasoned travellers such as me know this (which is why we get it) but dear me, it took two repetitions for some to realise and get off, and even then, some decided to not realise and then accept their fate approaching Brixton. Which part of X for express do people seriously not get?

Later on after a chatter with The Love In My Heart, I watched Celebrity Hunted, which is in aid of Stand Up To Cancer (and said theme tune is tune of the day.) Dear me though, some of the actions taken were a little bit hopeless. Attempting a getaway with a sidecar wasn't the wisest move, and although Katya Jones and Aimee Fuller had sourced help via a local business, the three vans on detour left without them and they had to make an escape elsewhere. Thankfully they realised this error and at least were able to get about, but still - lesson learned, plan a little if you can.

Of course, some of the golden rules of Hunted were broken, notably by Nicola Thorp who was supposed to be paired with her real life partner Nikesh Patel, but he was down with COVID so had to wait to join her. Of course, ringing your partner's house, even with a burner phone, was an error as you know full well that the Hunters were all going to be over that. And then the actions of Nikesh from his home in London, well, no spoilers, but another rule of Hunted is of course not to use public transport as that's going to flash all sorts of warning klaxons everywhere, right? Be interesting to see what happens next week...

Sunday 26th March – Sunday Strolling

It was lovely for the evening to have the company of The Cute Little One, who had been dropped off in the late afternoon. I had picked up from Fopp the first Peter Rabbit live action film (sadly with James Corden as the voice of said rabbit, but hey ho) and that was £3.50, so at least The Cute Little One could enjoy that later. As soon as she saw it she went “Rabbit!” and wanted me to play it, so that was something. Naturally it’s nice that they did cast Rose Byrne as Bea (basically Beatrix Potter) and has all the country charm you’d expect, so that was a positive. Of course she enjoyed her little self watching it and laughed when the rabbits got into all sorts of mischief, so that was good.

She had been fed some tea and was happy to sit in the high chair for a bit and watch telly, and later on she snuggled up on the sofa next to The Love In My Heart as she watched Peppa Pig for a bit. In fact The Love was very good: one more and then bed, she would say, and sure enough at the end it was off to bed, and The Cute Little One took one of her dollies with her to cuddle, and that was it – off to sleep in no time at all and very well behaved indeed. In fact she didn’t get up til a sensible time, even allowing the clocks going forward one hour overnight.

The Love had already thought it would be nice for us to have a posh breakfast out and that would also mean that The Cute Little One could have a walk around the New Islington Marina and feed the ducks, so definitely that was really nice too. In fact parking around Ancoats is free on a Sunday, so having got a spot we walked towards Café Cotton, part of the Hallé St Peter’s, and the staff in there were as lovely as ever. We all had a rather good breakfast, I did the full English and it was lovely, The Love had a breakfast bap which was bif and flavoursome, and we got The Cute Little One the child’s pancakes with blueberries. She ate all the fruit but wasn’t fully convinced on the pancake front, but we gave her toast and some bacon and she was happy too!

It was then over to the New Islington Marina to feed the ducks, and in fact it was quite windy so when passing the food over it was blowing in the wind with the Canadian geese looking on and thinking “come on, where is it?” – but we also did walk along one of the parts of the marina with seating and she was happy to sit and watch the boats but also the dog owners with their dogs and that got her attention – especially when some of the dogs were the same breed as the dog Maggie which lives with The Cute Little One, so she was pointing one out saying it was Maggie to The Love and I. Awww, how lovely.

We headed back and had some more time to play and it was nice to see that she was lining up her dollies for a little pretend tea party, and asking me to join in so she would pass me the tea cup to drink from. It was so nice to see that and nice too that The Cute Little One gets on with me (she even let me carry her on the way back to The Love’s car and reached her arms out to say “please lift me up!” which does make me feel rather humble but also included as well. I did feel slightly sad when she was being collected later by her parents but it was nice that at least we had some good times, and had a big cuddle when she left. Awww.

The Love In My Heart and I decided to head out for lunch later on and we headed off to The Ashlea in Cheadle. The restaurant area was booked so it seemed but we could sit and order in the bar area, and got a really nice table with some big windows and close to the fireplace for The Love to keep warm too. I had the chicken and ham hock pie, and The Love had the Sunday Roast pork which was suitably pretty massive and all lovely, so that really did go down well. In fact there were some lovely classic 80s tunes being played over the speakers too so that really did help the vibe nicely.

The Love dropped me off later for the train home – I was taking the cheap route so off to Crewe via Northern for a mere £3.50, then after that on London Northwestern to Euston for a mere £13. Bargain all round, and all on time too. I did kick back the headphones and listen to some tunes along the way and so it was on with the likes of Obey Robots and the excellent debut album, the title track One in a Thousand being tune of the day as we approached the final leg from Milton Keynes onwards to Euston itself.

Saturday 25th March – Trans Lancs Express

I had arrived at The Love In My Heart’s place last night, albeit with some considerable delays on the West Coast Main Line. It transpired that a member of staff had taken ill on one of the previous trains, which meant all the other trains coming out of London Euston had to be diverted around on to the slow line, pass the stranded train, then go back on to the fast line once again. This did though mean that inevitably trains were in a queue heading out and so was on a go slow for some time until well north of Milton Keynes Central. As it transpired, it was around forty minutes late into Manchester Piccadilly.

As it was, I had a good night’s sleep overnight and got up this morning, and The Love In My Heart and I had some breakfast and got ourselves ready to head out. The Love was heading out to meet The Cute Little One’s mother for afternoon tea, which they had been planning for some time. With that in mind, I decided to visit a couple of shops that dealt with games in the hope that I might be able to source some classic old Commodore 64 games amongst other things, but also do a couple of bus journeys which would basically remind me of a classic bus back in the day – but more on that later.

With a ticket bought on the first bus, the £5 ticket for all buses (another great move from Manchester of course, prior to the Government copying it!) and it was on the 216 bus to Ashton under Lyne. The first stop there was Rewind Collectables, and they did have plenty of consoles but also some 8-bit games too. I have bought from there before, and nothing this time around took my fancy, but definitely for me it was nice to see all the formats with stock present including a good mix of budget games from the likes of Mastertronic, Firebird and Codemasters, and if I didn’t already have some of the Codemasters C64 titles I’d have bought a few from there that were cheap too.

Once having been through the centre of Ashton and had a good mooch in some other shops too, it was time to basically almost follow the path of the old Trans Lancs Express, the 400 bus as was, an express route which took you from Bolton to Stockport via Bury, Rochdale, Oldham, Ashton along the way. I primarily did this was I wanted to get to Bolton but to avoid Manchester city centre, so was able to do it with two buses. First off was the 409 from Ashton via Hathershaw to Oldham and then on via Royton to Rochdale. It was good getting an upstairs view and see the hills and scenery along the way, although the in and out of the bus station at Oldham is a tad on the awkward side to be honest.

Once at Rochdale, I noted the new shiny bus station there and close to the terminus of the Metrolink tram too, so fully integrated. In fact both this and Ashton bus station had handy screens saying what bus left which stand and at what time which was really nice. If I had wanted to pay my £2 and go outside Greater Manchester to Halifax, both the 587 and 590 from here were options to do so – might give that a go in future actually (587 via Ripponden, 590 via Hebden Bridge, so you’ve even got two different routes and options too – noteworthy that is.)

As it was for me it was the 471 via Heywood and Bury and on to Bolton – I did note that from the M66 junction into Bury it was on a go slow, and approaching parts of Bolton it did slow too, but arrived in good time to have a nice walk around the town centre and also to get some lunch as well whilst I was there – and when you have a place that serves Titanic Plum Porter ale into the bargain, well that does have to be a winner doesn’t it? With me all fed and watered, it was then off towards the bus station in order to take either the 8 or the 37 as the next bus.

I headed on the 37 towards Farnworth past Burnden Park, where Bolton Wanderers used to play, but is now just an out of town shopping centre. Oh joy. The bus did the head under and head over the A666, and then carried on into the centre of Farnworth. I got off here and walked to a shop called Name of the Game, which claimed to sell computer games but in reality was only a small selection of console games, nothing 8-bit at all. However, if you do want DVDs, or you want toys and action figures from all sorts, this definitely is the place to go – shed loads of Thomas the Tank Engine available, lots of Marvel things, and all sorts of figures from every single thing you could ask – and a real haven for collectors too I imagine. Well worth a visit if you are into that sort of thing.

I headed on the 37 bus from there through to Walkden, Swinton and past Irlams o’th Height, where one of my friends used to live when he came down to study at Salford University, and then past Pendleton precinct and onwards past said University towards the centre of Manchester. I walked down Deansgate and then up Market Street, and nipped into Fopp. I was after the new Depeche Mode album and got that but also got the new Orbital album too at the same time, and picked up a Blu-Ray disc cheap which I am sure The Cute Little One would enjoy later too. With that in mind, the single from the Depeche Mode album Ghosts Again is tune of the day.

Tuesday 21st March - Productive Of Everything

It was off to the office today for what proved to be a quite productive day of sorts. I hadn't got home that early last night though after the train from Manchester to Euston got stuck in some signalling problems, meaning a ten minute delay into Euston and then meaning subsequent train from St Pancras to East Croydon was later than planned, meaning I got home at around 2245. Knowing it was an early rise tomorrow it was straight off to bed and then to wake up ready to face the day, and a nice walk to head off to the X68 towards the office.

I did need to get a birthday card and a little gift card to go with it, and thankfully the local Sainsburys close to the office is reasonably large to get all that I needed. It made sense therefore to do that, write the card out and then at lunch time post it in the priority postbox close to the office - so that should get to its recipient as quickly as possible. Thankfully I did have some stamps left which I had brought with me but the post office is also close to said postbox, so could have always nipped in if I needed to. That's one good thing about being close to things where you work in the office - it's easy to head out as you need.

Later on I was attempting to work on resolving a nice little thing that I'd done a few years back - a way of mass getting all the Lenovo warranty information from their site if you provide the model and serial and so on. I remember doing so and it was okay as long as you kept the number of lines of machines below 1,000. Since then the actual file you import has to be 30KB or less, meaning that even for us Excel diehards like me that works out at around 600 or so you can do safely (more so as in the comments field you can add the asset number for ease of cross reference)

This meant effectively splitting the task into a number of chunks, and then getting all the resulting info in four separate sheets and merging them. It did work pretty well in the end and it made sense to re-document the process as well, but of course that takes time - which wasn't on my side always with the number of meetings I had to attend. It was nice though to asisst some of our service team folks today on a couple of things and give them some useful titbits of information where they would be able to utilise that going forward - I'm always more for sharing that kind of stuff.

As it was fairly late when I left the office I decided to head for the train home instead (as the last express bus had departed) and that was relatively busy, being one of the first trains after 7pm, and thus cheaper rate on Oyster and the like. I was pleased though that at least it meant that I could relax, and chatter with The Love In My Heart, then kick back and listen to some rather excellent Obituary to thrash out the rest of the evening. The title track of their album Dying of Everything shows them at the top of their game so tune of the day it definitely is.

Sunday 19th March – Mother’s Day Relaxation

In the UK it was Mother’s Day today, and so The Love In My Heart and I got up and got ourselves ready for the day. She would have a visit from The Cute Little One and her parents today as part of Mother’s Day, and that meant of course that The Cute Little One would make a card for her cool Nana, and also have some flowers to hand over too. It was nice to see, even if she was being a little shy during the time she was here (despite her being with us yesterday) and gradually she was being more active, even heading to find Brian the cat and keeping a sensible distance whilst saying hello to him, which was adorable.

It of course sensible for me to head to see my Mum as well, and it was good to see her of course. I knew she was getting the fence in the front garden sorted so we’d all agreed to give her some money towards getting that done, but also I got her a nice box of chocolates for her to enjoy, which she said she would be saving for when she was seeing her friends next weekend to share, which was a good idea to do. It was also good to know that she had been to see her grandson recently on his birthday and he was really growing well and being so good too.

I think as well that realistically it’s good that Mum has got things planned for during the week in order to get out and about a bit. She had been regularly going for walks too and explained her route, which made sense for it to be a circular route and getting some fresh air, but also then spending time in the week being able to see some friends that she sees, and get together over lunch on a Wednesday with a friend too. She did explain how when the fence gets repaired that she would be able to then get some plants and do up the garden, so was a method to getting things done, and a good garden to relax in really does help the mind and soul too – so made perfect sense.

We then headed to the city centre later and into Ancoats, where The Love and I would have a couple of nice drinks around there and New Islington. We were able to head to Seven Bro7ers Beerhouse first of all, where their rather gorgeous Chocolate Honeycomb Stout was on offer for a pint, and so of course had to have that with The Love having the pilsner. I did notice that they were showing Brighton v Grimsby on the telly, and Brighton in the end won 5-0 and they won well and with aplomb too. The draw for the FA Cup semi final was made and Manchester City would be drawn against Sheffield United – a positive result for us I think. The place was playing some quality tunes too including I Feel For You by Chaka Khan, so tune of the day.

We also went over to House of Esk where I did have a very nice latte whilst The Love had a glass of wine, and it was just nice to chill out with some nice music and watch the world go by with the canal boats heading into New Islington Basin. We got back later and fed Brian the cat his tea before we would then go to the Golden Dragon takeaway to get a nice meal to take out – I went for the crispy shredded chicken in OK sauce where The Love went for the Malaysian Sweet Chilli Pork, both with fried rice and we got some won tons to go with it. It was all lovely and we enjoyed that whilst I kept an eye on the Manchester United v Fulham FA Cup game.

And what drama that was. Fulham took the lead through Aleksandar Mitrovic, and he almost headed another home mid way through the second half. There was then some moments of absolute madness. United broke forward and would have scored but Willian had handled the ball on the line. The referee checked it and went to VAR and the screen to be sure, and it was a red card for Willian, and the right decision – goalscoring opportunity and all that. The manager Marco Silva then got his marching orders for arguing with the referee and assistants. More was to come though as Mitrovic then pushed the referee – another instant red card there. United went on to win 3-1 with all that madness going on.

Saturday 18th March – The Return Of The Legend

It was the FA Cup Quarter Final for Manchester City today, as they were up against Burnley at the Etihad Stadium. Of course this had been a draw that I had predicted would happen at some stage, as effectively City legend Vincent Kompany, now the manager of Burnley and cruising at the top of the Championship by some margin, would be up against his former club and attempting to show just how much Burnley had developed under his managerial period. It was really good to see how well he was doing, and the interview on Football Focus this morning showed class and maturity, as you would expect of course.

The Love In My Heart and I did have The Cute Little One overnight last night, and she was her usual sprightly self when she did wake up. She had some breakfast and then was all happy watching the likes of Peter Rabbit and also something I spotted on Netflix, which was Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood, which was effectively a spin off from the hugely popular television series in the US from the late 1960s onwards, Mister Rogers Neighborhood (complete with iconic songs such as the title theme and Such A Good Feeling) – and the way it was done was very child friendly but also had characters which really did bring home the feeling that everyone did belong fairly which in a modern day environment the right thing. The Cute Little One loved the tiger character of course so she enjoyed herself.

Later on The Cute Little One’s Mum came to collect her, and she was being super adorable, even saying goodbye to Brian the cat and blowing him a kiss along the way, and then having a good chatter and say what she had been doing. It was nice to have some quality time with her this morning and I entertained her with one of the iconic songs from Madagascar which had her giggling with happiness as she was singing along too – and that was really good. I did keep an eye on some of the football scores later before heading off to meet my friend and to head to the Etihad for the football.

I am glad that we got there earlier and arrived in good time before kick off, as I suspected that it was going to rain later, and the rain really did hammer it down with the wind blowing the rain all around the ground too, so for me I was glad I had my waterproof coat on that was for sure. As the teams came out and Mike Summerbee, another City legend, got recognition for receiving his OBE, it was good to see that one of the people congratulating Mike was Vincent Kompany. The chant went around the ground of Here’s To You Vincent Kompany to the tune of Mrs Robinson by Simon and Garfunkel (hence that is tune of the day) and he acknowledged all the fans in all corners of the ground. It was great to see.

In the first half, Burnley did play pretty well with some quality attacking football. Nathan Tella who scored a hat trick for them in midweek looked lively, and he was putting our defence under pressure. A shot was well saved by Ortega in the City goal, and they definitely were holding their own and keeping a tight rein on the likes of Phil Foden when City did surge forward, and were committed as a team to keeping their defence tight. It’d need some magic to be able to get past the defence and I was impressed up to that point with Burnley’s team ethic.

That all changed within three minutes of the first half, just after half an hour in. Ortega cleared, Erling Haaland challenged for the ball and it came back to Julian Alvarez. He slotted the ball towards Haaland and then Haaland beat the Burnley keeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell to the ball and poked it nicely home for the opener. Then a move down the left with Kevin de Bruyne finding Foden, and a superb curved ball into the box found Haaland, and he wasn’t going to miss from there, neatly dinking it over Peaco ck-Farrell for 2-0, and a deserved lead at half time as once we got the opener, it was much more of a commanding performance.

The second half had plenty of rain hammering it down, and it also rained goals too. Some good work involving Riyad Mahrez and Foden meant that a low shot from Foden hit the post, but who was on hand to hit the rebound in? Of course, Erling Haaland, his second hat trick in successive games and it wasn’t long before he headed off to a hero’s reception. A quality move down the right found de Bruyne and he got to the byline, cut inside and hit the ball across the six yard box for the easiest tap in possible for Alvarez and it was 4-0. Game was very much over and we were looking forward to a semi final to come now.

More was to come too as City showed no mercy whatsoever, and surged forward whenever possible. Phil Foden had a shot on the right hand side which could only be saved by Peacock-Farrell right into the path of Cole Palmer, and he slotted the ball home for the fifth. Later on as the rain was swirling, a perfect through ball from de Bruyne found Alvarez, who took the ball past the Burnley defender, basically sitting him down, and then hammered it home perfectly for the sixth goal. It all faded towards the end with a few changes but a 6-0 win was really good, and I did feel a little sorry for Kompany that the side he managed had been punished for errors, but was effectively class in the post match interviews. That to me showed that it was a lesson learned for when they come up next season.

Tuesday 14th March - Haaland Hammers Leipzig

It was a busy couple of days at work, with the Monday being working from home and getting plenty of things done and some usual stats prepared, and then today it was off to the office. I was able to at least get the X68 bus to the office and because two came close together for whatever reason, it seemed to be a little quicker as they both tried to overtake each other. The traffic did seem quieter than usual too, especially heading through the centre of Brixton, which did make me wonder if there were some school strikes on as the traffic reminded me more of school holidays. No complaints from me as I got to work well in time.

It was a good day ahead for me as well as I was planning a few checks and balances and hoping to get some useful info together for our service desk teams. In addition to that, I was looking at packaging up the MSI version of SourceTree from Atlassian. Now, provided you do install as a system level user (the sort of thing you'd do with MECM of course) then the parameter passed of ACCEPTEULA=1 does work and does allow for a silent install. Ideally though for the MSI, if you want to have the likes of Git there to work with it, install those first, then when you run SourceTree, it'll detect it fine, useful to test nonetheless.

I headed home and took the train back as I wanted to get back fairly quickly and make myself a chicken korma curry for tea, which meant a nice use of some ingredients from the fridge and in the cupboard - so made the most of that before having a lovely chatter to The Love In My Heart. She had also sent me a video of The Cute Little One who was saying her name and other names when being asked by her Mummy, which was nice to see. In fact she was also wearing the nice posh pyjamas I had got for her birthday and she was a very happy little one indeed - and I'll see that smiley happy face at weekend.

As I was on the phone to The Love, she was able to hear loud cheers from the Etihad towards her place, and sure enough, Manchester City were on fire against RB Lepizig. Erling Haaland had scored a penalty after a soft decision for handball had been given in our favour, and after Kevin de Bruyne had hit the bar with a shot, Haaland headed in the rebound for 2-0, and two goals in two minutes. Just before half time a Rúben Dias header had hit the post, ran along the goal line and as Leipzig attempted to clear, Haaland got himself in the way so the ball came off him for 3-0 and a complete first half hat trick. Impressive stuff.

But there was more second half. Jack Grealish combined well with Ilkay Gundogan, and the City skipper did ever so well to slot home the ball into the bottom corner for 4-0 (and 5-1 on aggregate, so pretty much through to the next round now.) A Haaland header had been stopped but the rebound from Manuel Akanji made its way to Haaland and he smashed it home for 5-0 and his fourth. A shot came in, the keeper saved it, and Haaland smashed another one past the keeper for 6-0 on the night and 7-1 on aggregate. In fact only two previous players had scored five in a Champions League game: one was Lionel Messi (obvs) and the other was Luiz Adriano, which says a lot.

City had the luxury of taking Haaland off with around half an hour to go (I think he might have wanted to stay on the pitch for a sixth though) as they gave some of the subs some good game time and made sure everyone had a decent amount of minutes. Right at the end, Kevin de Bruyne scored an absolute beauty from outside the box, a cracking finish that and well worth waiting to see that one alone. But 7-0, a mightily impressive on the night win and 8-1 on aggregate, our equal best Champions League home win too. I will take that thank you, and the Erling Haaland song is tune of the day - you know the one: "Haaland, Haaland, Yorkshire born Norwegian lad, Roy Keane tried to kill his Dad, ha ha ha Haaland, hey!"

Sunday 12th March - Feed Bunny Shaw and She Will Score

It was a nice leisurely lie in this morning for me, as I had managed to have a good sleep and also blow out some of the remnants of the cold too, which definitely was a plus. I knew that Manchester City's women's team were away at Brighton and Hove Albion, and upon checking, the game was at Crawley Town's Broadfield Stadium. This of course meant potentially it was more reachable, and that it'd be good to see some live football and go to another ground to see the women away, having already done Kingsmeadow for Chelsea and Barnet's The Hive for Tottenham away (although that's now Leyton Orient instead.)

I checked out the likelyhood of the bus and train times, and found that two bus routes drop off right near the stadium but also they both end up at Gatwick Airport, with stops near the train station, with the fares capped with the current £2 fare that's on offer around the country from a lot of operators. So with that in mind, and the fact that a Thameslink only route to Gatwick from East Croydon was well cheaper than even using Oyster, it was sorted. I was going, and bought my ticket online and did the print at home thing to make sure I had a suitable QR code to be scanned at the gate. I'd have to pick a standing area, but didn't mind that one bit.

So just before 12 noon I arrived at East Croydon station, got my train tickets sorted (£6.60 super off peak return to Gatwick) and was soon on the train speeding along the fast line and over the M25 before arriving on Platform 7. I exited the station barriers and then followed the travelator towards the shuttle (as if I was going to the North Terminal) but there's a side passage and lift down to the A23 where the bus stop is, and before too long the number 10 bus arrived, which took me from there via some industrial estates and towards the centre of Crawley, then leaving out and heading along and to Broadfield. It was a nice easy journey and the bus was pretty comfortable - that route also runs 24/7 for workers who work at Gatwick too, and stops near the K2 where they have had the snooker, so useful for reference that.

Once in the ground itself I noted the food and drink outlets and had a very nice steak pie for a bit of lunch. Other pies and hot food were available and some of the stalls did hot dogs and burgers too, and some good looking chips. Plenty of families and children happily mixing, and some even were Crawley Town supporters who had come along to support the women's game - again, really good to see. It was dry at this point and as the teams came out it certainly felt like it was going to be good, and the players took the knee before kick off to a good set of applause all round the ground.

City started off strongly and it was soon clear that with Lauren Hemp on the left and Chloe Kelly on the right, with Bunny Shaw in the middle, chances would be created. Shaw hit over from an excellent Kelly cross early on, but soon made up for it midway through the first half when a little delicate pass from Yui Hasegawa found Shaw, and she slotted it past Megan Walsh in the Brighton goal for the opener. It was a case of chances being created and not taken, but Brighton did have some potential goals disallowed for offside before they did equalise - and deservedly so to be fair. The ball went forward with a lovely through ball and it was left to Elisabeth Terland to curl the ball well past Sandy McIver in the City goal.

It was 1-1 at half time and as I went to get a coffee to keep me nicely warmed up for the second half, I did note that Brighton did have this nice band where the blokes all looked like they wanted to be in a ska act, all sharp dressed and really tight with their instruments. They had started to play before half time and then took up space in the corner of the South Stand not that far from wheere I was standing, and played some really nice renditions of songs, such as the Spiderman theme (I used the Spiderpig words to sing along mind you!) as well as Depeche Mode's Just Can't Get Enough, Papa's Got a Brand New Pigbag by Pigbag, and perhaps best of all, and a stalwart Jools Holland Hootenanny number, Enjoy Yourself, composed originally by Carl Sigman with lyrics by Herb Magidson, has to be tune of the day - certainly made me think of the New Year festiveness!

By this time the rain was bucketing down so I was glad I was under cover at the back of the corner of the South Stand, and with that you'd think a low hard shot on goal would be tricky for the keeper. Megan Walsh in the Brighton goal was keeping everything at bay and having a superb game (and a deserved Player of the Match in my view) with the last ditch tackles coming in. They brought on Danielle Carter to try and get a winner, and City did need some good defending from Steph Houghton and Alex Greenwood to keep them at bay.

I did think it was going to peter out into a well earned (for Brighton) draw, especially after Chloe Kelly had shot wide, but City kept going, and the ball fell to Bunny Shaw, who turned and show low, might have took a deflection, and went past Megan Walsh for 2-1 in the 89th minute. Sickener for the home support, but it showed a great mentality of fighting to the end for City. Nothing else happened in the five minutes of stoppage time an City had earned it the hard way, but with Chelsea beating Manchester United earlier, a crucial three points in the title race, and after all, if you feed Bunny Shaw, she will score!

I made my way back to the bus stop and a few of the Brighton fans making their way back all seemed a little gutted with the result but one of them did say to me that you can tell Bunny Shaw is a class striker, which is fair enough. It was a really nice experience and the 20 bus, which was the faster one to Gatwick and skirted by the outside of Crawley before going via Three Bridges, meant I got back there quickly, and I headed up to the overbridge, down to the train station at Gatwick, and headed back on the Thameslink train smoothly enough to head home. It'd been a good day all round!

Saturday 11th March - The Four Minute Mile

I was at home this weekend primarily due to trains and expense, but also occasionally it is nice to do my own thing on a weekend. I do miss The Love In My Heart though, more so as she had The Cute Little One around today and she ended up dancing to one of the songs in Madagascar, namely I Like To Move It originally by Reel 2 Real with the Mad Stuntman (so make that tune of thd day) and she was being a very happy little girl bounding around too - which was very nice to see to be honest. No doubt too that it'll be next for her parents to end up buying on DVD or Blu-Ray to keep her entertained!

I decided that to try and get some fresh air and some exercise that I'd head over to Kilburn Park where there is a long established car boot sale in a primary school right near the tube station. I checked to make sure all the tubes and Overground I needed were running, and after breakfast, I headed off to West Croydon. The route was easy: change at Canada Water for the Jubilee and change over at Baker Street for the Bakerloo to Kilburn Park. It didn't take that long actually and was good to be able to make the most of the journey and get there relatively quickly but also in good time for the car boot sale admission being a mere £1.

I headed in, and the plan was that the front and back school yards were full of cars and all sorts of people selling their spares and wares - if you wanted an Xbox 360 or Wii game for example, you were well sorted, and indeed there were also plenty of electrical items. You did have to go through the central school hall and dining area (where some sellers had set up indoors) to get to the other side of the yards for more of the sales, but that worked out okay and even though I didn't get anything, it was a good mooch around and nice to be in the fresh air.

I did also notice that Paddington Recreation Ground was the other side of the church, so I headed to there and it was pleasantly really nice - a lovely play area for the children, a nature trail and a really nice café which did nice cakes and coffee, so that was me well sorted out then, and I had said items in there whilst I noted on today's developments on the Gary Lineker thing with no Football Focus as Alex Scott had quite rightly pulled out. It was also nice to hear the café playing some ace tunes such as the Soft Cell version of Tainted Love - no doubt The Love In My Heart would approve of that of course!

As I walked further along and spotted the pavilion next to where the cricket pitch is, and also the athletics track, there were two plaques I noticed. One of them was actually about Sir Bradley Wiggins living locally and using some of the facilities for training, but the other was more historic. The athletics track here used to be a cinder track, and it was the very track that Sir Roger Bannister trained on in order to try and later on make an attempt at breaking the four minute mile, which he then did in 1954, a historic moment of athletics history. The cinders have long gone but the site of the track is there and nice to see it commemorated this way.

I then walked towards Maida Vale station after exiting the park, and followed the roads along some really nice and posh houses until I arrived at Warwick Avenue (not quite like the Duffy song, but you know..) and then to Little Venice, which was rather lovely to see all the boats out and cruising along the canals. One of them seemed to have an open back area and had some nice women all dressed up having drinks, a little treat and one that looked like it was well deserved too!

I then headed to Warwick Avenue, got on the Bakerloo to Queens Park, changing there for the Overground for the small trip up to Willesden Junction, and then onwards to Clapham Junction and back home, and thus avoiding Zone 1 for a little saving too. I arrived home later and it was nice to chill out for a fair while before enjoying the football for the evening, with Manchester City just having enough to win 1-0 at Crystal Palace with Erling Haaland scoring the winner from the penalty spot. I'll take that all day long!

Friday 10th March - I Stand With Gary

It has been a tough couple of days with me attempting to get over the peak of a cold which I've been suffering with most of this week. I did at least manage to get some tablets when I was in Savers and so was able to make sure I took them and also had the hot lemon Boots own brand drinks at the ready as well, just to try and keep it going. I did also manage to get a nasal spray which has been helping for me to be able to breathe at least, with a bit of oil on the pillow to try and get me some well earned sleep.

As I worked today, I did notice that the ongoing row at the BBC was rumbling following Gary Lineker's perfectly valid criticism of the Government and the language they have been using with regards to the policies being put in place to "stop the boats" - a problem that the Government themselves have created by not effectively having a safe and legal route for those genuinely seeking asylum to be able to take, where paperwork could be done, shown at the border, and crossing perfectly legally and definitely not on a makeshift boat where a human trafficker has been paid a shed load to do so. Why not clamp down on those criminals instead, I wonder?

So after some consternation, the powers that be at the BBC put the brakes on and effectively told Gary Lineker he wasn't presenting Match of the Day tomorrow night. The statement made it sound like Gary had agreed to step back but that was soon blown out of the water by former BBC presenter Dan Walker, now on Channel 5 news, who is obviously still in touch with Lineker, and texted him live to actually get the true story out there. Class from Dan that (and he had Gary's permission incidentally) and that of course changed things - and the BBC had to admit that they did effectively suspend him.

Let's be perfectly clear on this - the so called offending tweet Gary put out wasn't offensive. It did not mention the N word that the Daily Mail and others claimed it was to stoke up further hatred, and comparing to the way that 1930s Germany was a restricive regime (which it was) and the way the likes of the bill under debate would be - the parallels are there. Ironically of course by gagging someone's freedom to speak out and cave in to the right wingers (where free speech is free if it suits them but not if it isn't, so technically not free) then it's also proven Gary Lineker's point to be actually correct, doesn't it?

Thick and fast the solidarity came in. I was not surprised one bit that Ian Wright was the first to call it out, and basically said to the BBC "Well, if Gary's not doing Match of the Day, I am not either" - and Alan Shearer soon followed. Alex Scott also confirmed she wasn't going to take part, and although not planned to be involved on BBC this weekend, both Micah Richards and Jermaine Jenas (who did his tweet straight after he was presenting on The One Show ) said that if they were due to be on, they would have pulled out too in solidarity. It was really comforting to see this and to show their support like this was a real class act from all of them, and the commentators led by Steve Wilson also did their bit and pulled out too.

I certainly know that those who did all that were doing the right thing, and history will show that they took a stand for what was right and just. It asks serious questions of the BBC though, especially after on Question Time the host Fiona Bruce played down a domestic violence incident that had previously happened with the involvement of Stanley Johnson (basically being a Tory shill as she always is) - and this despite her being a patron of the charity Refuge too. And of course, why the current BBC chair happens to be one involved in a scandal involving a loan of money to the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Cash for the top job in exchange? Who knows. But it's not a good look either way.

But let's make one thing abundantly clear. I stand with Gary Lineker. He is using a platform for good, and to rail against those who are being unlawful is the right thing. What the BBC are doing is wrong, basically playing into the hands of the likes of the Daily Mail and Tory MPs, and thus not being as impartial as it should be. I applaud all those who have stood up and been counted and supported Gary, quite right too in my view. And most of all, I'll refuse to watch Match of the Day until Gary is reinstated with a full apology from the BBC. Nothing less will do. And as for tune of the day - it seems appropriate that I'll Stand By You by the Pretenders says it all.

Wednesday 8th March - Inspirational

It is International Women's Day today, and for me it's always important every day (and not just today) to celebrate the achivements of women in all forms of society and life, and just how much that being supportive to the cause of equality is, of course, the right thing to do. I'm lucky that I do work in a workplace that does empower women well, and in terms of gender equality at least, is on the right track. No one would say there isn't more to do, because there always is, but being able to at least bring the right people in based on ability is always the right decision to make, no matter what the work they do.

We were encouraged to use the large mirrors that are in the cubicles of the gender netural bathrooms to think of whoever you thought were inspirational women and to celebrate them - whether it be your mother (and that's always nice), your partner, your friend, someone you work with who is wonderful, and if you wanted to, the reasons behind doing so. In fact in our previous office location a number of the meeting rooms were named after some well known inspirational women: so we had the likes of Kate Bush, Frida Kahlo, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Maya Angelou, and so on.

As I had been feeling a bit bunged up this week and more so today, a toilet break also meant I could try and flush out the cold bugs away from people too, but did find the time in the different cubicles to write a name down but also a brief description of why (so as not to take up the whole space!) - I did write down four but if I'd had the time I would have named five in all. What follows therefore is the five in question, in alphabetical order, and why I decided to choose them - hope this gives you some fresh ideas:

Barbara Lisicki is still to this day a disability rights campaigner, and at the forefront of the Disabled People's Direct Action Network (DAN) whom in the early 1990s objected to the pity fest that was the ITV Telethon, chained themselves to buses to show awareness of a lack of being able to board, and made a noise and nuisance to get their message across. The law changes in both 1995 and 2010 were definitely to the work that she and many others did and raise awareness, and properly as they put it "piss on pity." If you need to learn more, the drama Then Barbara Met Alan on BBC Two last year with the superb Ruth Madeley is well worth a watch. Learn, be educated and get involved.

Carol Shaw was a video game pioneer in an industry that was overly male dominated. She had programmed some games for Atari for the VCS console which were all good, and after honing her skills worked for Activision and produced to this day one of the all time classic games for that system (also called the Atari 2600.) River Raid was beautiful to look at, had the difficulty curve set right, and was super addictive as your plane attempted to shoot down boats and aircraft, pick up fuel and shoot down the bridges at the end of each level. It was a triumph of game design and a game I still own and play to this day - and there can be no better legacy than that.

Jacinda Ardern was my joint woman of the year for 2020 due to the way she led New Zealand through the first year of COVID, but was my woman of the year 2019 too as she also deserved a lot of praise of her handling of the terrorist shooting in Christchurch and having the courage to get the law changed to avoid incidents like that again (take note, America.) She also campaigned for rights for all people in her country, appointed Maoris to senior positions, and took a number of innovative actions in the battle against climate change. A shame she is no longer Prime Minister, but a woman who's done a lot of good for the world and someone I'd love to work with and work for.

Jill Scott had long been an excellent footballer for a number of teams including Manchester City, whom she spent many years at, and a Lioness for England through World Cups and Euros as well as representing Great Britain at the Olympic Games. Her mentoring of others, whether it be at summer soccer schools or her team mates certainly helped the younger squad during the 2022 Women's Euros, leading to them winning. Jill telling a German opponent to basically do one was iconic, her attitude and desire to win but also share her knowledge was superb. She later won I'm A Celebrity, and co-owns a coffee shop in Northenden, Manchester, which I've been in and does great coffee.

Skin (Deborah Anne Dyer OBE no less) from the band Skunk Anansie hit the charts and TV screens from 1994 onwards, and her no nonsense attitude, stage presence and ability to rock out with some superb well written songs stood her apart from her contemporaries at the time. She also is someone who calls it like it is and stands up for equality, and when you have her on your side, you know she'll have your back. She broke the mould of both rock and indie, and the musical landscape over here is much better because of it. There's many others musically, but especially during 1996 for me she really helped me understand more about being yourself, and supporting others for equality. In fact, Weak by the band is tune of the day - a master class in songwriting.

So there you go, five rather brilliant and different inspirations whom you should all check more of. There's literally so many musical others that I could go on about, such as Kristin Hersh, Laura Kidd, Beth Ditto, Polly Styrene, Toyah Wilcox, Siouxsie Sioux, Joan Armatrading, Debbie Harry, Patti Smith, Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks, Sonya Aurora Madan, Lucia Cifarelli, Gillian Gilbert, PJ Harvey, Tanya Donnelly, Juliana Hatfield, Athene Roberts, Kirsty MacColl, Clare Grogan, Katie Ware, Emma Pattison, Shirley Manson, Natalie Merchant, Corinne Drewery, Vonda Shepard, Sandie Shaw, Pauline Black, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Juanita Stein, Mélanie Pain, Beth Rowley, Denise Johnson, Andrea Lewis Jarvis, Kim Deal, Grace Petrie, Amy Macdonald, Gwenno Mererid Saunders, Harriet Wheeler and Ann Quigley - to name but a few! And if you've not checked out the work of any or all of those, please do so.

Sunday 5th March - A Tilt And Trains

It was a nice Sunday all told for myself and The Love In My Heart. We had decided to venture into the city centre for some well earned Sunday roast, and after checking online and realising we had left it a little late, we did manage to book a spot at Tarriff and Dale, which is on the corner of Tarriff Street and Dale Street, hence the name. We knew we could walk it there from Piccadilly station, and so with my weekend case all packed and ready to go, we ventured out to the tram stop and off on the tram to Piccadilly.

We did note the rail replacement buses everywhere and was pleased that I wasn't getting on one of those buses thankfully, so that was a relief. We soon made it to Dale Street and to Tarriff and Dale, and we were in the nice seated area downstairs which was also nice and cosy and warm too - so The Love approved of that of course. The staff were also lovely and knew the guest beer selections, and I went for one of the Siren beers because they're always a solid choice to have with anything.

The Sunday roasts were all on and the only difficult decision was which one we were going to choose from. In the end The Love went for the pork belly, and I went for the chicken supreme. Both meats were really nice, and we got mash, roast potatoes, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower cheese (that went to The Love of course) and plenty of gravy too. It was a right sized portion so as not to feel too heavy but it was really nice, and tasted spot on - the gravy particularly helped it all along well I thought, and a crispy Yorkshire pudding is always welcomed.

I did have a latte later on as I was going to have the almond cake for dessert, which was rather nice and came with some pouring cream which really did work well together to give it a nice texture and taste also. It was just good to be relaxed in there and the good thing was that you didn't feel rushed, and everyone was friendly too. Sometimes it's just good to be chilled out and have that vibe as you dine and chatter together, and The Love looked lovely in her top (and in fact bought a new top in Oliver Bonas in Piccadilly station on our way to eat too!)

We then headed back towards Piccadilly and had time to have a little stop in the Piccadilly Tap, where a micro milk stout that Thornbridge had a hand in was my ale of choice. The music taste was impeccable in there and this included Ghost Town by The Specials, a classic that so tune of the day for me all day that one. It was soon time to head off and I said a fond farewell to The Love at Piccadilly, heading to the platform - which makes a nice change from her heading off at Euston or dropping me in the station short stay. A hug ensued, I will miss her as I always do.

My trains this evening were via Birmingham as I had worked out a cheaper route to take advantage of Chiltern Railways' offer - so my advance single from Moor Street to Marylebone was a mere £3.20! Can't argue with that. I got to New Street with an hour or so in between trains which meant a visit to Tilt of course - a nice micro IPA was mine, as were some metal tune classics from Metallica and Black Sabbath, and some pinball too of course. In fact I did so well on the Mandolarian game that I ended up getting an extra credit at the end, so two for the price of one was not to be complained at one little bit!

It was a nice relaxed vibe in there and I didn't want to head off later but at least I could walk down the side of the Bull Ring to Moor Street and get on the 2017 train, which was nice and quiet, and despite a hiccup at Warwick, got to Marylebone on time. I wasted no time as I knew the trains were icky, so got the number 2 bus outside via Victoria, Vauxhall and Brixton and then to West Norwood, where I could change for the 468 bus home. Hopper fare counted too,so that was £1.75 in all (new fares as of today you see) and basically Brum to my front door for under a fiver. I cannot argue with that!

Saturday 4th March - City Tearing Geordies Apart (Again)

It was an early start for me today as it was a 12.30pm kick off at the Etihad Stadium for me and my friend as Manchester City took on Newcastle United. They had just come off the back of a League Cup final defeat to Manchester United, and wanted to try and re-hit some form quickly, and we had won at Bristol City in the FA Cup with Phil Foden being absolutely brilliant during that game. It was obviously going to be a shoe in for him playing of course, but at the same time it definitely was going to be good to see if we could keep up the league form after a good win at Bournemouth last time out.

We made our way to the stadium and admittedly it wasn't the warmest day ever, was pretty pleased that I had some layers on to be honest. The Newcastle fans were there in short sleeves as ever not meithered about any cold (which they are known for) and what was nice was that in the sixth minute, when the City fans had a moment's applause for a young fan Milly Rose who had died suddenly a short while ago, all their fans joined in too. Absolute class act from them that, and something which shows that in moments, no matter who you support, the football family comes together.

City kept pressing and before long a ball from Rodri made its way over to Phil Foden. He skipped past three players before being challenged near the penalty spot and he had enough confidence to dink it over Nick Pope, and albeit with a deflection, had finished well. It was a great solo effort and he put his hands up to the skies to dedicate his goal to Milly Rose too, which was so nice of him. City pressed but needed some good defending from Nathan Aké to keep Newcastle at bay, and going forward Erling Haaland had a header that flashed just wide of the post, so it was still anyone's game to play for.

Newcastle brought on three subs with half an hour to go, and all of them, especially Alexander Isak, looked lively and wanted the ball to run at the City defence. We were getting a bit fortunate but then a master class - Bernardo Silva came on for Kevin de Bruyne, and straight away he made their defence worry a bit, and after some chasing down the ball went to Aké and then to Jack Grealish. He found Haaland who had the sense to tap it on to Silva, who buried it in to the bottom corner with a well taken shot. The announcer did his bit by announcing the scorer as Bernardooooooooooooo Silva, just like the chant, which was pretty ace (Voulez-Vous by Abba which it it based on is tune of the day) and the score stayed the same.

Newcastle did have some more chances late on but we kept a clean sheet, and the 2-0 win was hard earned and well battled for. The City fans started singing Joy Division with the line of City, tearing Geordies apart again, and making the most of the chorus, and at the end the tannoy played Fleetwood Mac's Everywhere in recognition of the current chant being sung on the terraces especially away from home, so that was good. We made it back in good time for my friend to get his bus home, and made it back to The Love In My Heart's place with Brian the cat being super cute as per usual.

Friday 3rd March - A Fond Farewell

I was having a half day holiday from work today - and with a very good reason. I was heading up to Manchester in the afternoon and then joining plenty of my former work colleagues at the Salutation pub, and for a very good reason. One of my good friends was retiring from her job after many years of doing so, and due to some restructure she was offered a very good severance package and it would have been pretty daft to refuse it, so after some thought over Christmas, she decided that it'd be the right moment to go and be a free spirit (and I'm sure her partner will be keeping her busy!)

I did have to rebook some trains I had booked already for today but was able to rearrange those for mid-April so I didn't lose out, which made some sense, and then got the lunchtime train booked from Euston to Manchester. The Love In My Heart was also going to meet me at Piccadilly and take my weekend case home, so I wouldn't have to lug that around either which was a bonus. With that done, I walked down Grosvenor Street and stopped off for a coffee in Sandbar, one of my old haunts. The inside hadn't changed at all apart from the piano being removed, and still plenty of good beers on, so that was a positive win all round.

I then made it over to the Salutation and my friend was there to give me a massive hug, which was nice, and she explained that with the bar tab behind the bar we just took a black wristband, and was chalked off when you ordered a drink so they'd take it off what was remaining. It proved to be a good system and with a good few of us there but having plenty of chatter so as not to drink too quickly either, it did mean that the bar tab lasted pretty late into the evening, so didn't have to buy a single drink all night - which obviously is a win there.

I did chat to so many people that I used to work with - some had already retired themselves and was making the most of their time to do their own thing, which was good to hear what they were doing. So many seemed to be really pleased for me, and there was a good crowd of people there with some good tunes in the background including some classics such as Fools Gold by The Stone Roses (tune obviously, so that is tune of the day) and the nice Bollington Brewery ales including the White Nancy were on good form. My friend's partner was there too and we get on famously, so was really good to see him and how they were both planning for some Strictly ballroom type training. Cue - seven! and all that sort of thing.

One other nice surprise was that my former manager, someone who really did mentor me to be a better person and to use the skills I have not just to be good at tech, but also good with people too - was there. In fact he was there with his wife - what I hadn't realised was that he had divorced and remarried since I met up with him in Dalston a few years ago when he was down in London. She seemed really nice and warm and friendly though and does like a good real ale herself (so straight away there is a connection there anyway) and it was definitely nice to be able to spend some time chattering during the evening too.

It was hard to say goodbye to so many people that I'd known and had the pleasure of working with over the years, but wanted to make sure I ate okay and so went to my old haunt of Babylon on Oxford Road. Pizza and two toppings is still £5 and still as good as it ever was - the tomato sauce has a distinct flavour and that with the cheese and toppings works really well. In fact I will definitely need to go back sometime and have another one! I then walked down Oxford Road to St Peter's Square to take the tram back to The Love's place, and Brian the cat was being super cute and wanting fussing and cuddles. Awwww..

Thursday 2nd March - Garage Bands

After a longer than planned day at work due to the fact I had to assist some of our US teams with a couple of issues and offer some sensible advice how to get things sorted and move forward, I was all set for tonight's gig at Highbury Garage. It'd be the second time I'll have been to this venue: Kristin Hersh being the first one last year. This time around and after their successful third album Westgate Under Fire was released (my album of the year for 2022 no less) it was time to see Dub War and how much they would rock the place tonight. I had bought my ticket in advance but it very much looked like it had not sold out, a real pity that.

It was off on the Overground but to also take a cheaper route too. Although you can get the Overground straight to Highbury and Islington from West Croydon, it's much more expensive as you pass Shoreditch High Street in Zone 1. The way to avoid this is to go via Stratford and touch the pink readers there on the platform. So I went to Whitechapel, took the purple train to Stratford and then over to the Overground. Net result was a £2.90 peak fare instead of £5.00, so definitely well worth doing (off peak is also around £1.50 cheaper later on too, which I did on the way back.)

I got to Highbury and Islington and had some tea in a nearby pub that I've been in a few times: it's close to the venue and the beer is decent, and means I can sit instead of standing around. I had checked the stage times and was pretty much going to miss Bridget anyway due to the late work finish, so made more sense to eat and drink and then head into the venue in perfect time for the next band to come on, and indeed get a nice spot near the bar so I could have their Garage Lager, which at £5.50 a pint is reasonable for London gig prices to be fair.

On came Gen and the Degenerates, and they were really good. Plenty of attitude from Gen herself (short for Genevieve as she pointed out later on) and they were a good tight combo. I liked what they did and the final song Underwear really did rock pretty hard, and no messing about either. I quite liked also what they did with Hit Song too, and certainly proved to be pretty catchy. I'll be getting hold of some of their music over the weekend and next week - no physical releases though, it'd be nice to get a nice slab of vinyl or CD with their current work on and to rock hard on the rig.

Later then it was Dub War, and my they were on top form tonight. Of course they were going to play the tracks from Westgate Under Fire, and it was notable that the likes of Blackkkkman and Fun Done had the folks bouncing and moshing, and a singalong to Vibes in the Place (cue "just hit the ceiling!" response from me) and a 100mph rendition of Art of War too, which really hit the spot well. Benji was on top form vocally, and Richie on bass and Jeff on guitar were just as good as ever when I saw them all back in 1994 - yes, that's how long it was. In fact, whoever they had as the drummer deserves a lot of credit too - he was super tight.

I did think that I might get some of the old singles and class album tracks from their first two albums and I was not disappointed one bit. We had Mental of course ("Murder in de back yard-uh!") and the catchy Nar Say a Ting as well as Spiritual Warfare from Pain, so that got things off well. Fools Gold (not the Stone Roses song) was played for some chill out time and that came into the rather magnificent Strike It, which had so many people at the front going for it - it is a bit of a tune and my favourite Dub War song, so yes, tune of the day territory right there to be honest.

The second album Wrong Side of Beautiful also had plenty of tracks from it, some during the encore such as Million Dollar Love, others along the main set such as Cry Dignity, which came across really well. But what a way to end it with the magnificent Gorrit (and a nice pause to get everyone ready to bounce of course) and the track they did with the late Rankin' Roger on Westgate Under Fire, War Inna Babylon, which had everyone going for one final bound around and that was well, pretty awesome to be honest. I do love gigs, and although I did get back pretty late, it was so worth it!