Dear Diary... March 2024

Sunday 31st March – Nil-Nil

It was Easter Sunday today, and the clocks had also gone forward to British Summer Time, so definitely a day where any form of lie in would be appreciated. To be fair to The Cute Little One, she had slept well and came in to give her Nana a hug to wake up, which is lovely. I think she also really liked the new bedding that The Love had got for her, and that made her all snuggly. Once up she was happy to have some breakfast and also to watch Brave on Blu-Ray, which I had brought with me as I know The Love In My Heart mentioned to me that it would be a good one to watch. I do think that it’s nice to see that The Cute Little One loves to be enthralled by a good story.

Later on we got ourselves ready and headed to drop off The Cute Little One with her parents – who had been busy making an Easter trail downstairs for her to try and find all the little treats along the way. Maggie the dog was super happy to see her too of course, and it was good to have a catch up and chat. We got back and later on the World Mixed Doubles snooker was on, so I watched that for a while from Manchester Central with the likes of Neil Robertson partnering Mink Nutcharut, and last year’s defending champions were on the verge of going out thanks to some excellent breaks from Judd Trump on the other side, partnered with Baipat Siripaporn.

I had a ticket for today’s crunch Premier League clash between Manchester City and Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium. City needed to win to get back above Arsenal and remain a point behind Liverpool, and the top three were close, especially as Liverpool had won 2-1 over Brighton and Hove Albion earlier today. I got to the ground and took my seat in block 306 of the East Stand, where although I did have some diehard City fans close by, I did also see a number of football tourists, easily identifiable by their absolutely pointless half and half scarves. Oh dear. I really can’t see the point of those but clearly they sell enough. I’d rather have more diehard fans cheering the team on.

It was clear from early in the game that Arsenal’s tactic was to park the bus, defend stoutly and then really go for the jugular on any counter attack. That defensive formation did mean that City were having to come up with ways to try and get past the Arsenal defence, with Gabriel and Saliba being two massive barriers, the former keeping Erling Haaland quiet and the other ensuring no way through for any runs coming in from the wing from the likes of Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva. It was a case of possible half chances and a Nathan Aké header from a corner was about the closest we got to goal in the first half.

More cancelling each other out happened in the second half too. Arsenal did venture further forward at times, but each time they didn’t have the final ball quite right, and they made changes to try and affect the game, as did City. I was surprised Phil Foden went off though, we were all calling for him to be in the middle, and despite us huffing and puffing, and having a header from Erling Haaland go wide, along with a couple of snapshots being defended, it was to end 0-0 and a massively frustrating game. Both sides had cancelled each other out to be fair, and it was a better result for Arsenal as it kept them above us by a point. Three points separates the top three now, but I have a feeling we won’t win the league this year. Prove me wrong, City!

Later on The Love In My Heart and I had a really nice roast chicken with plenty of trimmings on the side including these small star shaped Yorkshire puddings which were really enjoyable. It was time to settle in and watch some telly together and I kept my eye on the World Mixed Doubles snooker final, where Luca Brecel and Reanne Evans triumphed over Mark Selby and Rebecca Kenna. It did feel like it was a curtain raiser to the Tour Championship finals this week and definitely for me good to see. Tune of the day is the Frank Sidebottom football medley, which even has a bit dedicated to “nil nil” which was apt considering today’s result for sure!

Saturday 30th March – Easter Bunny

It was an early rise for me today as I was avoiding the railway works around London Euston, and getting an alternative route from London to Manchester, and one I’ve done before. From mine it was off to St Pancras, and then a short walk over to Kings Cross for the first train of two – the 0735 departure to Leeds, where I’d then get a train over to Manchester Victoria. I had booked the trains weeks ago relatively cheap, and having checked Seatfrog, there was a potential first class upgrade available, which when I put in a bid, I automatically won it for £13. No complaints there really as this did mean a much comfier seat plus breakfast too, and so I headed up to Coach D to take my seat – and a single one by the window at that.

As the sun rose over the outskirts of London, the lovely staff served me coffee, orange juice, water and a really nice fresh bacon roll cooked to perfection, along with some biscuits. It did the job well and it was nice to be able to take it relatively easy on the way to Leeds, even with a diversion after Doncaster which was known in advance. Once at Leeds and on time it was a nice easy transfer over to Platform 13B for the 1017 train from Leeds to Wigan Wallgate via Manchester Victoria. The train was on diversion via Brighouse and then to Sowerby Bridge – again due to engineering work, and once past Hebden Bridge it was smooth sailing to arrive into Manchester, and a quick change to the tram up to The Love In My Heart’s place.

Once I arrived there, The Cute Little One was also there and looking adorable in her dress and boots, ready to head out later. The Love’s sisters came over for a while and we all had cake and coffee, with the cake being made by The Love and with help from The Cute Little One earlier, who was really proud that she had done that with her Nana. Awww. One of the Easter presentds was this inflatable bunny, which you then had four rings to shoot hoopla style on to the ears. It was a nice little present and that kept us all occupied trying to get the rings on the ears. It was clear that she loved it to bits and it was a nice present for her – not to mention all the Easter chocolate eggs too.

We headed over to see my Mum, who was there with her friend and it cheered her up to see The Cute Little One, and we had coffee and some small cakes and biscuits. Naturally the angel slice went down very well, so that was someone all excited and happy. It was good to see Mum though and it was definitely good to see she had company over the Easter period too. It was also appreciated that Mum and my youngest sister had both got a present for The Love In My Heart for next week, and they handed them to us whilst we were there. It was then back to The Love’s place and ready for going out for tea later.

We took the tram over to one of the local Pizza Huts near us, as The Cute Little One did say she fancied pizza. We’d not been in for ages, and the kids’ deal to be fair was pretty good – a small pizza with two toppings of choice (she went for ham), salad bar, drink of choice and an ice cream factory dessert. I did an adult deal where I could pick any indiivdual pizza, side, drink and dessert, and The Love did similar but went for the classic version. It did mean we had some nice fries on the side for us all, and The Cute Little One and I went to get the soft drinks and later the ice cream together, which as you can imagine made her really happy.

Once The Cute Little One had got back (she loved going on the tram) and she was all settled into bed, we settled in ourselves and watched the final of Gladiators. It was pretty intense with lots of games where the Gladiators were on top, especially Duel, where no prisoners were being taken. It was good to see Collision make a return as I do think that game worked well, with the contenders being taken down well. Overall two deserved winners and good to see that the show will be making a second series return for next year, with the theme tune being iconic and also being tune of the day for me.

Thursday 28th March - Printing Press

I had all morning with an engineer from Toshiba whilst we were able to check over and set up the new printers. He was a really good, calm and knowledgeable person to have around and really did go through everything thoroughly as we were able to work on the settings accordingly. The first thing to note was that for the Toshiba devices to be able to work with the Papercut printing system, you need to have the machine in the 08 Service Mode and they can then appply the necessary hardware changes to the machine to be enabled. This isn't done by default by the way, so that proved we needed someone.

Once that was done, we sat by one of the printers and I went through he configuration needed, setting up each page, having the web interface to be able to interact with the print queue and be able to get to that easily, and also make sure that when the machine timed out its login that it went back to the home page and displayed the icons as we wanted to. I also made sure it was all branded with the company logo and background that we had, and it was effectively looking reasonably good from my end - I was able to send an email scan from the device and that worked, and all sorts of good stuff.

Once we had a fully working configuration, we were then able to use the Toshiba TopAccess module to be able to clone the device config and save that, as you could then effectively clone it back to another device of the same spec in order to be able to make sure it worked as intended. That was of course much less time than it would have taken to get it all configured, so that was a bonus. All appeared to work correctly and once we had some of the final settings all set, we were able to road test it with some users and they were all good, so that felt all positive.

I did feel like I could end the week and have a few days off on a high to be honest, and more so later on when I was able to get some more Macs migrated over to our new management instance and be able to resolve an issue where some of the uninstalls hadn't removed an old version of a product properly, and so had a removal tool to try out - that worked, and installing new was all good. It was nice to chat to a few people today and to get to know what was going on, so nice to be around people. I think I've grown in some confidence over the last few months and that has to be a positive thing.

So with the week done, signed out and on leave for the next few days, the journey home felt rather positive all round and so was able to kick back, watch some of the latest Youtube uploads by a few people I follow, and then it was time to play some more games and listen to some more excellent music - and tonight, as I moved my membership for Penfriend over to Patreon (as Laura's moving stuff over to make it all easier to manage) and so the excellent Cancel Your Hopes song is tune of the day - it's defiant and joyous all at the same time.

Wednesday 27th March - Summer Events

It was an evening to relax after a pretty tough day at work, where although the new printers were delivered to the office, no configuration or setup was performed on them and we were left to wonder what we needed to do. On a positive note, what I was able to see was that I could get some of the basic stuff configured, and we knew the network addresses in order to make sure that the IP address was fixed for them both and so on, and as much as we could do to get ready was done. We did get some of the execs having a bit of a query with us, but once it was established that we needed a specialist engineer to set up some of the settings, that was explained which helped a fair bit.

So tonight it was out with the Commodore Plus/4 and to road test a delivery of some games that I'd had recently. A few of them I had before but I plan to trade in some of the duplicate ones with others that may be after them, and some did have slightly different cassette label variants compared to what I'd seen before - for example the game Rockman was on a white printed cassette. That did though also have the fast load version that isn't fully Plus/4 compatible unless you put in some POKEs to fix that - it's a technical thing but it's due to how the Commodore 16 handles bank switching differently having the 16K, and it's 64K big brother the Plus/4 doesn't have to think about that.

All the games I had delivered worked, and indeed worked first go. I must admit of course that as one of my favourites Tutti Frutti was in there, this had to be played a fair bit and that was still as addictive as ever, and still managed to get a great score on that one. I also did enjoy the likes of Big Mac, Formula 1 Simulator and also Megabolts, slightly under-rated in my view but also a good experience. One of the main reasons for the bundle was the Americana re-release version of Beach Head, and that's not the best game ever, but nice to have that release anyway.

Then for the big one - Summer Events! It's the sequel to Winter Events, both by the legendary Udo Gertz, and I never had the former on the Plus/4 first time round. I managed to source a copy courtesy of The Big Gift Shop in Guernsey, and they posted it really quick too - fair play to them. And everything loaded first go, no issues at all. Of course, there's some technical achievements this game have - the opening ceremony and skeet shooting events have stuff going on in the top border, which makes me like "how the hell did he do that?" - and it's not just technically impressive, either. It's super playable and great fun to play.

I did manage to do well on all of the seven events, apart from the diving, which still confuses me about how to execute and land properly. The swimming butterfly relay works well, the pole vault really does become a good sense of timing, the press the button rapidly to get speed on javelin with left to pull back and throw is very Summer Games II, the skeet shooting works fantastically well, the cycling and its rotational control is also a great nod to Summer Games II, and then the weight lifting does remind me of World Games a bit, minus the final part to waggle the stick when lifted to retain control. But all such an excellent package.

I do always recall the opening ceremony theme arranged by Brigitte Gertz (make that tune of the day) which rather cleverly has a bit of the theme tune from Dallas stuck in the middle of it, but works in the context of the tune. It's the same tune in both Winter Events and Summer Events and of course I remember it well from Winter Events back in late 1986 when a few friends would play that one. Needless to say both of them are absolute classics for the system and everyone should own it if they have that machine - said place in Guernsey still does have Winter Events if you're on the lookout for it.

Monday 25th March - Day One

It was day one in the new office today, and as I would expect, not everything would be going according to plan, primarily due to the fact that we would be moving into a building where although our floor would be pretty much ready to a degree, not everything within the building is. So, for example, whilst waiting for the lift, you do see other workmen around getting parts of the ground floor done, and even on our floor, half the toilets aren't functioning as they should, the lift areas still show some workmen and so on. It's not the most ideal scenario but due to the expiry of the lease on the old building, we couldn't leave the move any longer.

It definitely as well was good to finalise a few things that despite the weekend work we needed to do. We had our AV contractors in getting the last minute touches in to sort some of the rooms out (and all the guidance documentation I wrote had been produced and printed properly as well which is good) and then was able to give things a final going over. It was also useful to be on hand and work with the Service Desk teams as well and to really show a lot of co-operation around. I get on well with everyone, and I think it's having that approachability and being able to deal with each other is the main focus.

It did feel slightly surreal that the walk to the kitchen for a coffee is a bit longer based on where we are, but at the same time it was also nice to be able to get some exercise whilst doing so, as the building floor is fairly long overall so that does mean a fair few steps in. I think too that over the coming days we'll all settle in and find the bearings as needed. On the plus side, most of the desks do have power (some don't though and we were waiting on an electrician to sort that out) and at least the network is working - although not the network fully, we're having to use the guest wireless til the members one is sorted out.

So as ever with new moves, you will always get teething problems but to be honest that's expected, and nothing I wasn't prepared for. I think the experience of having seen this in different places especially in education makes you more aware that the softer launches can often be more sensible, in that you accept everything won't always work fully on that day one and you acclimatise over time in order to be able to work on the finer details later. And as one person said "At least we're here" which shows a sort of progress that makes sense.

I was able to get home reasonably on time tonight and have some music on in the background to relax after a good chatter with The Love In My Heart. I think for me that it's good for the soul to have something to relax to, and get that vital down time as you need. Tune of the day for me is the impressive new Nick Cave single Wild God, which really does sweep and soar for the final two minutes especially, and rather magnificently too it has to be said. I can't wait for the album to be released.

Sunday 24th March - Eastenders

Our plans for today had slightly changed - but all for a very good reason. The Love In My Heart's niece had moved yesterday into their new flat, not far from Dalston, and wanted us to head over and see the place before then we'd head out for a drink (and The Love and I would have lunch) as well. Of course we had an idea that the move may have gone well, but obviously we wanted to leave them to it with the removal people yesterday. So with plans made this morning, we knew we could head up on the Overground and that was the plan.

We got to West Croydon and it was on the Overground to Haggerston, as when I checked the map that was the nearest station. It also did have lifts to exit so handy as The Love would have her case with her (which I would be wheeling around.) From Haggerston, it was round the corner to the main road and then a short walk over to where the new flat was. The Love's niece and her boyfriend greeted us and we went up the flat, it took up the first floor and a part of the second, with two bedrooms (the second for a couple they're sharing the place with) along with a massive through lounge diner which looked the part.

We were both pleased that they all seemed to be in okay, and they did tell us of the fun they had getting the sofa upstairs (which I can imagine would have been fun and games). We then took the Overground over to Wapping where we went to the Wapping Tavern. They joined us for a drink before they were heading back to their old flat to make sure they would collect any fnal bits needed prior to the move out date, and we also ordered the Sunday roast, as it did look rather good. And so it proved - we both went for the chicken and it was really nice, corn fed chicken with roasties, Yorkshires, vegetables and gravy.

In fact the pub was noticeable for having a games area downstairs including some table tennis, pool and darts and even some arcade machines, and the upper section where we were sat had an Addams Family pinball machine (and yes, of course I had a go!) - and the drink selections were excellent, 28 taps of different beers, some were ones they had all the time and the others were specials, and that meant a cracking selection. We all liked it and it was somewhere different too.

The Love and I stayed in for another drink after her niece and boyfriend headed onwards, and I had the Gipsy Hill Hepcat which was as good as ever, as was the music - including Fleetwood Mac's superb Dreams (make that tune of the day) along with Landslide too. The original beams and exposed brickwork made it a nice place to be, and definitely one we'll come back to without question. It was then on the Overground back over to Whitechapel, changing for the tube and heading back to Euston, having time for a drink at The Signal Box in Euston before The Love would take her train home. It had been a lovely weekend all round.

Saturday 23rd March - Cute

The Love In My Heart was coming down for the weekend, and so I had spent a fair bit of time last night getting the flat all nice and super clean and tidy (it's normally clean and tidy anyway but always good to give it a good once over) - and also had been out to do some food shopping at the large Tesco to get stuff in for tonight's evening meal as well as some breakfast tomorrow. The Love's train thankfully was on time and not cancelled, so that was a plus, and I headed up to Euston to meet her off the train.

We took the walk over to St Pancras and then on the train to East Croydon and back to mine, where after a short while, and indeed seeing Manchester City Women take a 2-0 lead against Manchester United with two goals in quck succession, we headed off to the Green Dragon close by for a nice lunch together. I had the meat feast pizza which was rather lovely, and The Love had the cheese and barbecue beef sub with some chips as well as a nice drink each. It was good to chatter and chill out together and the rain was coming down intensely, but had stopped by the time we were leaving, which is something.

It was then on the train to Blackfriars and walking along the Victoria Embankment towards the lower entrance to Somerset House, and to see the exhibition Cute, which we both liked the idea of. There were plenty of interesting curios in the first part, including nods to the anime and manga genres, as well as the way pop music videos used adults dressed childlike (see videos from Björk and Sonic Youth for example). The undoubted highlight though was a massive Hello Kitty display which had so many of the soft toy variants, as well as some rather nice accessories and all sorts of branded merchandise.

And I mean all sorts - we're talking toasters, kettles, sandwich makers, everything. They also had a litle disco complete with massive glitter ball, and all sorts of silver in there as the likes of Donna Summer's I Feel Love was playing - bit of a classic and make that one tune of the day too. It's also notable that there were lots of little ones having a good boogie with their mums which was nice to see. The upstairs part also had features on how the cute genre extended to have monsters, a playful children's sleep over by a multimedia artist, and also a really nice set of figures and soft toys from all sorts of genres.

It definitely was pushing some boundaries but was an interesting exhibition, and we did also note as well the massive queue for the Hello Kitty café which we decided not to take part in. It was also nice to later on walk towards Covent Garden and have a good look around the market, including some of the craft stalls, before then bypassing the Porterhouse (as it was rammed) and on to the Theodore Bullfrog for a drink in there, and that was really nice to sit in there and chill out too. We then later got the train from Charing Cross via London Bridge and onwards to East Croydon and homewards.

Later on I made us some nice coq au vin together with some dauphinioise potatoes and some vegetables, and we settled in to watch some of the programmes related to the royal family (particularly in line to yesterday's news of course.) We also were able to watch the 1 Per Cent Club on ITV, and The Love was really good in answering most of the questions and we both between us got to the final question, where we wouldn't be able to get it as it was very hard (and to be fair none of the four remaining got it either). A good way to end a very good day.

Wednesday 20th March - Audio Visual Administration

It's been a busy week for me all told at work primarily due to the forthcoming office move that's happening. One of our team has also been having an operation earlier in the week and so are out of action, which does mean that I've had to step in and take on some additional work at short notice. Of course this has meant that I've had to adapt quite a bit and be able to be on call for a number of things: including discussions with some of the external AV technical people we're using about the kit being in some of the rooms.

On the one hand, I've been able to do some testing in some of the meeting rooms and all the small meeting room PCs that we use do appear to be working well when they are connected to the large screens. In addition, some of the larger rooms have a Lightwave controller, which is connected via a long USB-C cable that comes from under the table and on to the desk, and this switches the display easily and is a doddle to use. That does at least seem to be working as well as it can do, so there's one thing.

There are other technical issues I've seen though around some of the other side, and it's a case of working out what those issues are and then cracking on with it as best we can. I realistically think not everything will be fully functional on the first day next week (and there's even an email to sort of say some of the facilities won't be ready at all) but that's obvious when there is time pressure and a need to have to vacate the other building by a certain time. That's a tough balancing act to get right of course, primarily because of the fact that you want to continue to be as good as you can whilst spinning plates.

One thing of note that I did see in the new offices as well was the fact that it's quite long - so from exiting the lift, some of the business is at one end whilst some of us will be right at the other. It's a good walk down which will definitely keep a number of us healthier, indirectly, as we walk around, but even so, I do think that it will feel more like a new era for the move, strangely enough. I'm just happy I've got some good people to work with who know what they're talking about and can crack on with the job - it makes life a lot easier when it is all done that way.

I did feel tired tonight and did take the train home to be back a little quicker, but definitely for me it's been a case of cracking on and getting things done. I wound down once home and played some games on the Commodore 64 including the rather excellent shooter Warhawk, with its music by Rob Hubbard (make that tune of the day) and that's really got me into the mood of just being able to kick back after a hard day. More of the same for the rest of the week though I think!

Sunday 17th March - Down in the Park

It was nice to have a little bit of a lie in this morning, although Brian the cat wanted his Mummy to get up and to give him fussing and attention. We were getting up a little earlier anyway as we were going to have The Cute Little One in the afternoon and then she would be staying at The Love's place overnight after I had got the train home. I knew also that it was going to be a good day weather wise so a nice walk and play in the park might be on the cards for The Cute Little One too.

There was also the added bonus for me of the WSL game between Manchester City and Brighton (played at Crawley Town) being on BBC Two, so that meant I could settle in for a bit and watch that before we would set off to collect The Cute Little One. City were playing well and it was no surprise that the opening goal would be scored by us - with some neat movement involving Jess Park, feeding Lauren Hemp, and it was a nice goal at the near post for 1-0. Hemp also put a superb cross in for Mary Fowler for 2-0, with goals after the break from Bunny Shaw (a neat header from Yui Hasegawa's cross) and then Laura Coombs rifling one in. It was 4-1 to City in the end and a cracking result.

Off we went to pick up The Cute Little One and she was happy to see us both - and she had a Rapunzel doll which she was going to bring with her. I suspect it's one of the Disney Princess range which she loves and so wanted to play with it later. We headed off to Didsbury Park and that was pretty nice all round - they have a nature trail with wooden animals as part of that and the path has been covered with bark so it doesn't get too muddy for the little ones. The Cute Little One adored the likes of a fox, a rabbit and of course a hedgehog too.

What she did like too was the playground there, with a number of different slides and ladders to climb up to reach them, high fiving me or The Love on the way down the slide. There was also a little bounce board which is recessed into the ground nicely, so she was playing nice and letting other girls having a go before she got on, and that was nice to see. It was hard to get her to leave the playground to be honest as she was loving it all, and that was nice to see such a happy face be able to enjoy herself.

There was the promise of some nice tea though and so we headed off and went for something to eat. The Love ended up having the chicken boneless basket, with The Cute Little One having some chicken nuggets with chips (and of course a nice organic juice that she likes) and me having the fish and chips. It was good because she just sits with us at the table, eats her food and chats to us, and that is lovely to see. In fact I decided to get a little dessert, so we got her the kids' ice cream, so we could both eat together, and she was happy that we were both having something too.

It did feel sad as we headed to Manchester Piccadilly station, as she says "Warren going on choo choo train" but where the drop off is at Piccadilly you can't really see any trains unfortunately. Probably though that was also due to the delays happening that meant one train an hour between Piccadilly and Euston, so the staff told me to get on the 1815 departure and head home. It was full of Manchester United fans despite the game only having just finished after extra time (I suspect these left before the end of full time.) I had the headphones on and blasted out The Sundays including the excellent Here's Where The Story Ends, so that is tune of the day.

Saturday 16th March - The Magic of the Cup

It was nice to be able to have some time with The Love In My Heart after heading up on a delayed train last night (another poor performance from Avanti Worst Coast) and Brian the cat was of course purring happily knowing that he would be getting extra attention from his Mummy and from me as well. We did have a fairly relaxed morning with having a good breakfast and also working out what would be the sensible options for booking our holiday - which is now done. It would effectively mean that The Love would come to me before we would fly from an airport near me, but that would work better.

Of course, it was also the FA Cup quarter final for me tonight, so that meant a trip over to the Etihad Stadium to see Manchester City take on Newcastle United. I had a ticket in the second tier of the Family Stand as it's always a good view from there (and I had front row) and normally City would attack that end in the second half, which would mean goals to be seen. However, the toss was won the other way and so the sides swapped ends, meaning City came towards where I was sat first half. Not sure if that was a good omen or not of course, but let's see.

City pressed well and although Newcastle were attempting to be dangerous on the break, it was clear that they were defending in numbers and would be a case of us attempting to break through. Thankfully we didn't have to wait too long as a shot from Bernardo Silva took a deflection or two along the way and wrongfooted Martin Dubravka in the Newcastle goal, and it was 1-0. Lucky maybe, but as I always say, if you put a shot on target, you'll have a chance. So that was a positive and definitely for me a really positive start.

City continued and it was more of the same, and eventually another Bernardo Silva shot came off the head of one of the Newcastle defenders and into the net for 2-0. It was a decent shot but the deflection definitely went the other side of Dubravka, but again I'll take it. It was relatively straightforward for the rest of the half with Jeremy Doku having a good one to one chance but Dubravka saved well, and it was good to see that we were controlling the game well.

More of the same in the second half for City, and Doku went close on the left hand side, and Erling Haaland also had a shot that just went wide. At the other end Aleksander Isak missed a chance and didn't get his foot round the ball, and that meant that it remained 2-0 for the rest of the game. A good win and the draw for the semi finals would come around tomorrow, so we would see who we could get - potentially Manchester United or Liverpool, depending on who wins there. In the meantime tune of the day is the excellent In Yer Face by 808 State, always playing when the team is announced, and gets you pumped up for the game too.

Wednesday 13th March - First Class Failures

I had a chat with my Mum tonight and thankfully the Mother's Day card that I had sent her last Wednesday, first class, arrived today - a mere seven days after. Ironically I'd posted my brother's birthday card the same day and that arrived at his place the day after. Both addresses are in Manchester, and would have gone to the same delivery office, and yet so much disparity. You have to wonder what is going on, and I think Mum came up with the answer after speaking with one of the postmen yesterday.

So it seems that, and seems to match up to current theories going around, is that Royal Mail are prioritising any parcel deliveries (or any such as Tracked 24 or 48) and then standard letters are just being made to wait and then delivered in bulk. Now this might sound a little odd, but The Love In My Heart confirmed to me that's also happened to her. Now what's really a mickey take here is that one of the letters, and one from the NHS at that to Mum, was dated - ready for this - 18th February. Absolutely ridiculous, and you do have to wonder what the hell is going on and more to the point, what you're paying for, especially with the increase in first class stamps coming next month. Thankfully Mum's doctor had rang her to check she got the letter and when not (as they were sent a copy) they were able to get things sorted.

Now here's the thing: letters like that from NHS to patients could be for all sorts, including medical appointments, and then what happens say if that letter goes AWOL, the appointment goes by, and it's assumed wrongly that you've missed one for no reason. It's simply not good enough - especially a lot of these are clearly NHS logo branded, so you know full well these are medical letters going to people. If anything, these should be given priority, not sat in a sorting office with an elastic band around other letters and then delivered when they feel like it.

It's a total disgrace, and what if say a missed appointment led to other medical conditions happening with someone, which could have been avoided? Would that recipient have a right to sue? Actually, I think they would. And with good reason. Clearly the NHS have sent out their side in good faith, and naturally most GPs who are in touch with their patients will call and check too - but even so, having that written confirmation (and bear in mind there's some of the population out there who aren't that tech savvy and so emailing them may not work) is often vital. If that's being missed because of the management telling the workers to sit on mail and try to compete with Evri, DHL, DPD et al, it sort of misses the point.

To further back this up, I've also got proof. I found some useful info for Mum as a PDF, so as well as emailing it her, I printed it out so she had a hard copy to read, and sent that first class. It took two weeks to get there, but mailing it in the same sized envelope a few days later using Tracked 48 did get there two days after (as per the name says.) That was the proof right there that how much the powers that be are putting profits before service, and it's often the staff on the front line who suffer because of it. With that in mind, tune of the day is Please Mr Postman by The Carpenters, which was also used by Ant, Dec and Cat on SM:TV Live for the postbag - happy memories of that!

Sunday 10th March - Oriental Rain

It was a nice long lie in today before heading out. And it was raining. A lot. In fact it had been forecast for the rest of the day, so this is where the nice waterproof Joules jacket which The Love In My Heart got me for Christmas comes into its own. It's warm and snug inside too, and really does help when you're going to be outside for a chunk of the day. Thankfully, where I was going to was at least covered, so I wouldn't get wet. So it was off around lunchtime on the walk to West Croydon station to commence my journey.

And where was I going? Off to Leyton, via Whitechapel and then Mile End, for another visit to Brisbane Road (or for commercial reasons, the Gaughan Group Stadium) where Leyton Orient and Tottenham Hotspur Women play. The latter were against Manchester City in the Women's FA Cup quarter final, and so the Overground and tube got me to Leyton with minimum of fuss, and once walking to the ground, the City fans were in a stand behind the goal to the left, and two turnstiles to get us all in, and two food and drink stalls which were well used, and I simply had to have a pre-match chicken balti pie for lunch didn't I?

As City were training at the end by the fans, and my elevated seat was above the height of the goal so I could see down the other end, the thing to keep an eye on were flying balls as shots were taken by the players during their warm up. The rain carried on incessantly, the players came back out and the game started. City did start off well enough and a neat one two with Khadija Shaw and Mary Fowler found the Australian striker in a good position and her shot with the aid of a deflection went in for 1-0, in six minutes. Little did I know at the time, but that was as good as it would get.

The game wasn't the best game to watch, primarily as City were faffing around too much on the edge of the box and not getting a shot in, and were almost trying too hard to walk the ball in, especially during the second half attacking the end where all the fans were. In fact what was more concerning was Khadija Shaw going off injured after a collision - I hope she is okay for the rest of the season. City were not finishing the game off, and we were meant to pay for that in the sixth added minute of stoppage time with a mix up involving Khiara Keating and Laia Alexandri meaning that Beth England had to walk it into an empty net for the equaliser.

The extra time came and went and with a couple of chances at both ends, including a Chloe Kelly free kick that hit the bar, and a couple of long range efforts being blocked, but the more it went on the more of us City fans were accepting that it was going to go to penalties. And that it did, with both Chloe Kelly and Alex Greenwood missing the first two, with Becky Spencer in the Tottenham goal making saves. And despite Khiara Keating saving a penalty herself, Tottenham ran out 4-3 winners on penalties and that was it - City out of the FA Cup three days after exiting the league cup too. Not ideal to say the least.

On the way back I had Chas and Dave in my head, not least as the tannoy at the ground was playing most of their FA Cup singles they did with Tottenham, such as Hotshot Tottenham for the 1987 FA Cup final, and it made me remember their other non-football songs which I liked, so Rabbit has to be tune of the day for me. You've got more rabbit than Sainsbury's is an iconic line, and of course with your incessant talking, you're becoming a pest!

Saturday 9th March - Midlands Game Hunting

I had planned to head to the Midlands today as there were a couple of retro gaming shops I wanted to check out: some of which don't have an online web shop presence so you have to go and visit them in store instead. I do like that approach as often you'll get to a place and find some goodies you might not have been able to get in any other way, and often at a more reasonable price too, which is something to note. We've all seen expensive prices on eBay for games, although of course it's always worth remembering something is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it.

So it was up early and out for me as I had a 0716 train from Euston to Sandwell and Dudley. In theory I could have gone to Birmingham New Street but that would involve a longer first bus ride, so potentially less time. The train wasn't cancelled, thankfully, but Avanti Worst Coast still pulled a blinder by not having a driver ready and so delayed, eventually, 28 minutes late. I did know though that at Birmingham New Street there is normally a 15 minute stop and that could be less (and it was, so it proved) and so due to that I only arrived at Sandwell and Dudley ten minutes late.

After a walk up from the station to Sandwell Council House, it was on the 87 bus to Dudley, which took a relatively quick route and also allowed a view of the castle and zoo when heading up to the town centre. I could also see the tram tracks as the West Midlands Metro tram is being branched out to here and to Brierley Hill, which may be useful for future visits (noted that) and the bus station closure meaning different stops. Thankfully the terminus stop for the 87 was round the corner to the start stop for the number 6 to Stourbridge, so headed on that and via Brierley Hill (noting a shop location there for later) and then down towards the stop I needed to get off.

It was a short walk downhill into a small industrial area and then a left turn where I located Hidden Chest Gaming, my first stop of the day. And wow. If you wanted all sorts of 8-bit computer gaming, there will be something here for you. Even smaller formats such as the Commodore Vic 20, Commodore 16 and Plus/4, Atari XL/XE and BBC Micro / Acorn Electron were in stock and plenty of games too. The big 8-bit three of Spectrum, Commodore 64 and Amstrad CPC had plenty in, not just budget games but full price ones, some were even new old stock that hadn't ever been opened since back in the day. Nice.

There was also lots of hardware, some boxed and some unboxed, so spotted a boxed Acorn Electron, Atari VCS, Spectrum +2, and some unboxed ones were shrinkwrapped where they had been recapped and fixed. I spotted an Amstrad CPC 6128, Commodore 128 and others all around the place - it felt like a treasure trove. In the end I did get myself four games in there, namely the original Imagine double cassette release of Green Beret (£8), along with Brainstorm (£1) - the original Firebird release, not the C&VG multi format one, Hummdinger (£3) and Dizasterblaster (£3) - the latter two being by the great Shaun Southern, so had to get those ones.

After a good time was spent there it was back on the number 6 bus and this time to Old Skool Gaming in the centre of Brierley Hill. This was a good shop too and was noticeable for having a fair number of CBS ColecoVision cartridges as well as a good collection for the Commodore 16 and Plus/4. Killapede for £5 was my purchase here, but they had some other hard to find titles as well as some early Codemasters Commodore 64 releases that were well worth a mooch if I didn't have them already. Definitely well worth it, although having to ask the owners to look up their spreadsheet for the game prices was definitely a different experience.

It was then back to Dudley and if the buses were timed better I might have been able to get over to the Netherton suburb to visit Joypad Joy and Toys too, but alas time wasn't on my side, so was sensible to head back to Sandwell Council House on the bus and then have a late(ish) lunch down the pub before getting the train back to London from Sandwell and Dudley. It was a good experience to find some games I may not have been able to get, and cheaper than the likes of eBay and online too, so there is a win. As I had the loading theme by Martin Galway from Green Beret in my head as I took the train back, that's tune of the day and definitely one which reminds me today's haul.

Thursday 7th March - Reviewing

After a long day at work in the office and being able to resolve a number of queries and kick off the Mac migration well (and even come up with a plan of action for next week) the Commodore Plus/4 I have was out for action tonight as I wanted to line up a game review for the Mastertronic Collectors Archive, which I've been doing some contributions for. Obviously having the original hardware and games does give you a better experience of playing the games concerned, and especially as a fair number of them were ones I owned for the Plus/4 circa 1986 and 1987, so there's something.

Tonight it was to fire up Bandits At Zero, a game on Mastertronic's MAD (Mastertronic's Added Dimension) label, coded by the legendary Shaun Southern. Those of you who remember the Lotus game series on the Amiga? That was him. Or the superb Kikstart II on the Commodore 64? That was him also. In fact, Shaun was right up there with Udo Gertz for the best programmer for the Commodore 16 and Plus/4 series, making games which were always playable and which fans today still adore, notably a number of exclusives for the format too such as Tutti Frutti, Arthur Noid, and Bandits At Zero.

I was soon hearing the slightly morose title music and getting into the heat of battle, as the plane had to shoot other planes down and then be met with battle ships firing from the sea in later levels. It had lost none of its challenge and still for me was enjoyable, so noted down some thoughts as I played and turned to Word to get them all down in the review template for the site. Naturally, it's always good to try and show different aspects of the game too, so the refuelling at night, having the massive explsion at game over, all that good stuff. I didn't beat my best score tonight but did at least come close.

It's always good to write the review with a mix of explaining the levels and game in some detail as you play, and then writing down the thoughts as to what makes it good, or not so good, depending on the game aspect. For me, the way that the difficulty curve ramps up is fair, so that deserves praise, as does the response to the joystick (even taking into account modern screen lagging as you have to do) which helps. With most of it written, I'll finalise it tomorrow and get it over to the site editor, but definitely one I still do enjoy playing, so that's a good thing.

With the smooth comes the rough of course, and inevitably that does mean playing some of the less good games over time. Whether that be the pointlessness of Bionic Granny or the broken controls on The Last V8, that's something. I took the rest of the evening to listen to the new song by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, the title track to the new album Wild God, so that's tune of the day for me. Nice to wind down and be able to enjoy the evening spare time.

Sunday 3rd March – Derby Day

The Love In My Heart was off with The Cute Little One’s mum to see one of their family today, which gave them the perfect escape from al the excitement of derby day that would be later today. I must admit that it’s always a nervous time during the morning in the build up to the 3.30pm kick off later, but being at home with Brian the cat is always a relaxing time, as he rests up either on the bed or the pouffle and always seems to be just his super cute and adorable self. I had my retro 1970s long sleeved City shirt on at the ready of course, and was getting excited in the build up to the kick off.

In fact, I watched some of the World Indoor Athletics in the morning followed by the Women’s Super League game – and not just any game either. It was the North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham being played at the Emirates, and at half time the 0-0 scoreline belied the fact that Arsenal were just trying too hard to walk the ball into the net rather than shoot from a longer range if needed. In the second half though that momentum changed, the moment that Alessia Russo scored from close range was the turning point. It was a case of taking the chance when presented from Beth Mead.

Later on it was off to the Etihad Stadium for the Manchester derby – City versus United, blue against red. It was 3-0 at Old Trafford earlier in the season and after City’s midweek FA Cup win at Luton, hopes were high for another win today. That said, it is the derby and I would happily take a 1-0 win with a dodgy goal in stoppage time if it meant getting the three points and closing the gap on Liverpool, who we play next Sunday afternoon at Anfield in not quite a title decider, but definitely will be a game not to lose. I was heading over to entrance T in the Colin Bell Stand today and I would be at block 326, pretty close to the centre line and with a view of the TV commentary booths down below with Guy Mowbray and Peter Drury prepping for Match of the Day and Sky Sports respectively.

The game started and City pressed brightly, but were undone after eight minutes with a long clearance finding Bruno Fernandes. He held the ball and up came Marcus Rashford to rifle one home into the top corner. It was a well taken goal and to be fair it would have beaten most keepers. That wasn’t the start I wanted to see though and it was 1-0 to United all the way through to half time, with City pressing without much reward and Erling Haaland missing a sitter when it was probably easier to score than miss. Maybe the tension and nerves were getting to the players, and we needed to calm it down without question on the second half, as well as get Phil Foden on the ball as he was playing really well.

City started the second half well and it was without a doubt that United were camped in their own half, only looking for a counter attack when it was needed. City won the ball as Kyle Walker got the ball off Marcus Rashford who was screaming for a foul. That was telling not long after as the ball went down the right to Phil Foden, who ran towards the box, cut inside and unleashed an absolute beauty into the top right corner for the equaliser. A superb strike and nothing more than the Stockport Iniesta deserved to be quite honest, a superb effort and the passion he showed after the goal went through to the stands. We were level, now could we go on and win it?

Julian Alvarez came on for Jeremy Doku and straight away we seemed better, with Bernardo Silva out to the left and interchanging wings when needed with Phil Foden. In fact Alvarez did a very useful one two with Foden before Foden then went by the edge of the six yard box and rifled a shot home into the bottom corner for 2-1. The Etihad went mental (as did I of course) and it was a great finish too. Of course, this meant we could keep ball a bit and pressure every United players into mistakes. I was super pleased for Foden and he really was enjoying the occasion as he well should. Always makes a difference when one of your own does the business I think.

As the fourth official signalled eight minutes of stoppage time, United tried to clear but the ball was intercepted by Rodri, who fed Erling Haaland. And he wasn’t going to miss this one. Get in! 3-1 to City and that was now game over. It was such good fun in the last few minutes as almost all the United fans left as soon as Haaland scored and mass Ole’s every time City passed the ball around during stoppage time. The job had been done, Manchester is still blue and City won 3-1, with the tannoy system superbly picking De La Soul’s classic The Magic Number (make that tune of the day) as everyone left the ground in triumph and full of happiness. It had been the first league game since 2014 that United had lost a game when leading at half time which showed what an impressive performance it was from City. I was very very happy with that.

Saturday 2nd March – Goals and Golds

It was good to be able to have a lie in with The Love In My Heart this morning. Brian the cat of course wanted us both to get up and have a fuss, of course, but he soon realised that he could have some more rest time with Mummy, so he definitely was up for some of that. I got up and ready myself before breakfast as I was heading out later that morning, as was The Love, but for different reasons. The Love was off to RHS Bridgewater to meet her sister there for a walk and some lunch, and I was off to the Joie Stadium (formerly known as the Academy Stadium) to see Manchester City’s women against Everton in the Women’s Super League. With my City membership I get £3 off the women’s game tickets, so mine today cost me £8. Can’t argue with that really.

So it was over to the Joie Stadium and once in, queued up at the kiosk for a coffee, which was £2.50, so that’s decent really. Previously in other seasons you’d been able to have free hot drinks for some of the games which was a nice touch, but I did note that the food was much more reasonably priced than at the Etihad – for the same items. So the big steak pie was £4.50 here and the same one is £5.75 over at the Etihad, to give you some context. As the kick off was 12 noon a coffee was more than enough for me and took my seat up in the top row, S, in the West Stand, affording a good view of both ends and so that was good. And with Blue Moon by Supra belting out (make that tune of the day) it was all good to go.

City pressed early on and it was noticeable just how far up front they were pressing, and this would lead to a costly Everton mistake. Passing across the back wasn’t ideal if the pass didn’t come off, and sure enough that meant that Khadija “Bunny” Shaw was able to capitalise and slot it home easily for the opener. City pressed and had some good chances via Laura Coombs, Lauren Hemp and some good crosses from Chloe Kelly cut out too. Jess Park also impressed me again down the middle and really did switch on the afterburners to get past some of the Everton defence, and did really well. I was hoping for more goals but happily was taking 1-0 at half time and would have done that at full time to be fair.

The second half started well but Everton looked like they had had a good speaking to, and were definitely more potent up front. City broke forward down the right and Lauren Hemp took on a couple of the Everton defence, cut inside and rifled a low shot in the bottom corner for 2-0. A very well taken and deserved goal in my view, and that gave us a cushion. A good job too really because Everton did pull one back with a superb long range effort from Hanna Bennison crashing in off the crossbar and over the head of Khiara Keating in the City goal. City had their chances to get a third but it was more about seeing the game out, which City did, and the 2-1 win meant we were three points clear of Chelsea ahead of their trip to Leicester City tomorrow night.

Later on The Love arrived back and we had a relaxing afternoon, watching the first two episodes of the new series of Drive to Survive (which seemed to indicate that Daniel Ricciardo was always going to get a second chance with the Red Bull family, the only case was when) and overall enjoying the behind the scenes look once again. The Love also had got a roast chicken from Asda and we had that with some roasties, Yorkshire pudding, peas, mash, green beans and lots of gravy, and that went down well as we watched the last quarter final of Gladiators, which saw Hang Tough on there with one contestant being so close but getting the five points, and deservedly winning the women’s heat later on.

The Love was then watching all the royal stuff on Channel 5, and so I headed to watch the World Indoor Athletics Championships from Glasgow on BBC Two. It was a pretty epic hour or so to watch too as Josh Kerr deservedly got a gold medal in the men’s 3,000 metres, and that followed up from his two mile world record a few weeks back. It’s amazing what a world gold at 1,500 metres can do for you. And in addition, Molly Caudery followed up her fifth in the world outdoors last year, crucially clearing 4.80 metres on her second attempt to pip her New Zealand rival Eliza McCartney. That was a very welcome surprise and definitely good to see a golden hour like that!