Dear Diary... May 2023

Monday 29th May - Minding the Gap

It was a more leisurely day for The Love In My Heart and myself today, especially as we had been out and about for two days. Today was going to be much more relaxed, and more so as I got up, headed out to Savers and allowed The Love a nice lie in whilst I got some essentials such as kitchen roll and some shaving gel, as well as some Compeed plasters which would be handy for the feet if I was wearing certain shoes which I know would rub quite a bit - always good to have those to hand so that at least they wear in a bit and don't pinch as much, always a good thing in my view.

I got back and made The Love and I some well earned breakfast, complete with sausages, bacon, mushrooms, and scrambled egg along with some plum tomatoes for The Love as well as some toast. It all went down nicely and I think I've managed to definitely make things nicer over time when doing a full brekkie, and we both deserved it really. It was also good just to potter around the flat for a while knowing we had booked a late lunch later on which would be rather lovely.

In fact with the weather still decent we headed up to the top floor in the block of flats I'm in, as there is a roof garden there. Imagine my disappointment to find out that the roof garden had been locked - even though the green light showed my key fob should work. I need to find out from the concierge why this is as certainly when some friends came over last year it was really nice to head up there with some drinks and relax. We headed back down and decided to play a little game that I got as a present from The Love a while back - a tube related card game called Mind the Gap (see what they did there!)

In essence you're dealt a number of cards, and you can only play on top of a card if one of the tube lines and colours matches the card present. So for example, if Bond Street was there, that's Central and Jubilee Lines (remember folks: Purple Train aka Elizabeth line is not a tube line) - so in essence you can play a card that either has Central Line (say, Oxford Circus) or Jubilee Line (say, Green Park) that you have in your hand. There's also some special cards that are basically miss a turn, hand a card over to another player, and so on. The aim is to remove all your cards to the stack first.

There are some tactics of course. So if you have Kings Cross St Pancras, you want to hold on to that til near the end because you have multiple tube lines on there and so can play on top of lots of lines easily. Single line stations are handy to play though if you have multiple and you may think the other person doesn't have that, so definitely that can be helpful. The Love did really well to be fair and won more games than me when getting rid of the cards - the games don't take that long in 2 players, but I can imagine 4-6 players of this would really be a good hard game to play!

We headed off later via East Croydon and Victoria to my favourite tube station (Warren Street of course) and then to the Crown and Anchor for a lovely well earned lunch together. The Love had the chicken schnitzel which was really nice and full of flavour and she appreciated the salad too, and I had the chicken leek and ham hock pie with mash - a proper pie and proper nicely filled too so definitely well worth it. I even indulged in the Lucky Saint lager which for a 0.5% one is actually very good and definitely worth it if you fancy a change and don't want to be on something strong.

It was a very fond farewell to The Love In My Heart at Euston - we always don't like saying goodbye but having a nice hug and kiss at Euston together keeps me going for the rest of the week until I see her, so that definitely was a good thing. Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather lovely Wild Wood by Paul Weller, which is one of both our favourites and was in my head as I headed back from St Pancras to East Croydon on the way home. And the weekend went by far too quickly!

Sunday 28th May - Easy Like Sunday Afternoon

It was a reasonably early rise for The Love In My Heart and me, as we were off to Bournemouth today to see my cousin and her family (technically it's second cousin, but it's one of the relations I'm closest to in the family, not least as we were born 16 days apart with her being the older one.) We'd not been down for a while and thought that this weekend was the perfect time to head down and spend time with her family for the day. I had managed to get some cheap train tickets and Two Together Railcard discounts kicked in too for us, so that was pretty neat to be honest.

So it was off to Clapham Junction first from East Croydon, and there we did notice quite a few people on Platform 9 waiting for the train already. We did nip into Costa to get some coffee and sausage baps for breakfast, and when our train did arrive, it was busy but we did manage to get two seats together in the final carriage right at the front and at the far end of the platform. The train did empty out a little at Woking so it meant pretty much everyone could sit down, but imagined it may get busier along the route. We had to head via Guildford and Havant down to Southampton instead of the usual Basingstoke / Winchester route due to engineering works, but was all nice as we got to Southampton and saw people get off for the cruise liners.

We arrived a couple of minutes late into Bournemouth where my cousin and daughter were there to greet us, which was nice. In fact her husband and son were in one of the two cars, so we ended up boys in one girls in the other as we headed out of the relatively busy centre and through some of the local back roads towards the far Eastern end of Boscombe, so we could have some lunch. In fact, the pub was called The Commodore which made me chuckle due to my Commodore 64 related stuff, and my cousin's husband did enquire if Lionel Richie would eat here (The Commodores, hehe!) - it did make me think of Easy by them though (and possibly the Faith No More version) so that's tune of the day. Hello, is it lunch you're looking for?

It was nice we had a table reserved and we were sat so that The Love and myself could look out to the sea, which was really nice. We got some drinks and the Landlord was on, so an easy decision really. The food did take some time to head out but the Sunday roast turkey I had was perfectly fine, cooked well and gravy came out for all of us to share. We did indulge in some dessert afterwards (more so because it was free for a couple of reasons) and so the younger ones had the massive chocolate brownie sundae and I did have a nice strawberry shortcake cheesecake, so all was well.

We did then take a nice walk down to the beach and was able to walk along the path that's there along the seafront, seeing all the beach huts and on a warm day like today, very well used too. However, you can't stay overnight in them so have to lock up in the evening, but we did notice one little bar popping up with a DJ playing tunes that did look very busy in the mid-afternoon sunshine and ended up in Southbourne, so that was nice. We then headed back up one of the cliff paths and followed the coast road and Overcliff Drive back to where we had parked up, but in that afternoon sun it was just a nice walk to do.

We took the cars back to my cousin's place, and was just lovely to sit in their rear living room and dining space, have Sky Sports News on the telly keeping us in touch with the football (and Jeff Stelling's final day) and chatter more with coffee. We also got to see Mikey the cat, who looked absolutely adorable and was happily playing in the back garden as well as heading for dry food and treats, so that was good. We just chatted easily about everything and it was just a really lovely time - which went way too quickly it has to be said.

Before long we said our farewells as my cousin dropped us both off at Bournemouth station - and being local, knowing which side to drop off at to be at the right platform, and arrived in good time for the 1850 train back. Of course because this is where the 5 carriages from Weymouth join 5 at Bournemouth, everyone tries to get on the 5 already there, but we were sensible, saw the attachment and went towards coach 9 at the back, with tons of seats, so got a nice comfortable ride all the way back to Clapham Junction before heading back to Croydon and home again. It had been a fab day all round and definitely need to head down again soon!

Saturday 27th May - There's Only One F In Fulham

It was nice to be able to rest and relax a bit this morning, as the flat was all nice and tidy and ready for the visit of The Love In My Heart for the weekend. It's always nice when The Love comes to see me and it does mean that we can have a lovely time down here - and she does say it feels like a mini-break in London minus the expensive hotel prices and all that. I mainly was getting things sorted around the flat and also headed out to collect an Amazon delivery of a nice little back case for the new phone, so it was all nice and protected with suitable bumpers and a nice surface.

The Love's train was on time heading into London Euston and she messaged me at Victoria so I was able to walk up to East Croydon and meet her, with the sun shining and the weather being good we both hoped it would be a rather lovely time together, and the weather holding would just add to that. We were having a quick change and turnaround though as we were off to Putney to meet The Love's niece and her boyfriend and head out for the evening over to The Crabtree in Fulham for some food.

We got the train to Clapham Junction and had a choice of two trains from there, but one looked old and sweaty on board and the next one three minutes later was a much nicer one and with aircon, so that was definitely a good thing. We arrived there and met up with The Love's niece, but not just that (and hence I won't be uploading this entry til Monday) - The Love's nephew was over from Taiwan with his wife too, which was lovely to see. There's a surprise planned for The Love's sister, so as that's happening then, didn't want to add any spoilers for obvious reasons.

Anyway, the six of us headed down Putney High Street and towards the bridge, crossing the River Thames and then following the Thames Path on the North side through to the outside of Fulham Palace where there was a dance event on including one of The Love's favourites, so Lola's Theme by Shapeshifters just has to be tune of the day of course. We went through Bishops Park and past Fulham's ground at Craven Cottage before then heading back to the riverside path and following that to The Crabtree.

I had eaten here before a while ago, having Sunday roast after a long walk, and so knew that the food was good. Even better was that the table booking for the six of us meant we had a riverside garden table so we could see the river from there and with us already having got some drinks, it was just really nice to be able to sit and relax and chatter. As for the main, The Love and I had the fish and chips which was very good and with a very large fish, The Love's niece had the burger which looked decent, and her boyfriend had the crab burger which was different and did look nice. The Love's nephew had the fish and chips too and his wife had the arancini and truffle mac and cheese (a starter and side instead of one main, which made sense)

All was well there and it was just great to chatter and have some drinks and food by the river - it worked out that we also had someone famous sat on a table close to us which some of the six of us recognised, but I wanted to leave that person be, they were just having a meal and probably didn't want any fanboy/fangirl goings on. We did walk back to Putney later and stopped off at the Coat and Badge, there were some quality tunes on and we were able to sit outside and relax too which was nice. The Love and I headed back later on the train and we both agreed we'd had a lovely day.

Friday 26th May - New Phones

I had decided during the week that I really did need a new landline cordless phone with answer machine to replace the old one - primarily as I know that when I had been on the phone to The Love In My Heart, she did say that she could hear crackling at my end - and I have to say that's a good point. For me at least, I knew that I wanted something similar but also stylish too, so that I would be able to have calls properly. As I have a landline anyway as part of the broadband and phone, and because it's handy for people to leave a message, I managed to locate the one I wanted in Argos.

Now here's where I got a little clever. I did get those One4All gift cards for my birthday, but it turns out you can swap them online for an e-Gift card at certain retailers including Argos. So with that in mind I had two to cover the cost of the phone exactly, and my local Argos had the phone I wanted in stock too - so did the swap which was dead easy, had the vouchers there and then and did it all online, and had a collect code ready to then go and collect during the lunch break, which is what I did. Happy times, and didn't take me that long to set things up and get it all working as I wanted it to, and by the phone call tonight with The Love, all seemed well.

The other thing was that it was about time I got myself a replacement mobile phone, primarily because the one I've had is fairly long in the tooth now, it's served me very well indeed but realistically is showing its age - I will keep it as an emergency spare as there's nothing wrong with it, but wanted something a bit more up to date. After checking a few websites I ordered one, and went for a refurb, primarily because the cost of new for a lot of devices is way too dear, and I also wanted a higher grade model, so the thought being I'd get more for less, so to speak.

And so that proved too - and was very happy when I had a delivery around noon with everything all inside nicely. The good thing for me is that because the replacement phone is also Android, transferring the information via wireless and with the Google app is a doddle, and that didn't take long for the account settings and all the other goodies to come across, all the apps the same, everything the same. In fact later on I then went and updated all the apps on the new one, and all was pretty well with that too.

The good thing too with the transfer was even the likes of the custom ring tones and notification tones I'd added (all mp3 files with audio at that) also did the business too, so that did mean I got to keep certain songs for when certain people ring me (it helps me know who it is) as well as being able to have my classic notification little jingle, which is something familiar to some depending on if you get trains. As for tune of the day though, the new single from Skindred is rather good (as all of them so far from the new album forthcoming have been) and L.O.V.E (Smile Please) continues that trend well.


Wednesday 24th May - Brighton Rock

It was another day in the office today, as it had been for all of this week. However, I was also heading to a temporary office we've got for a few months whilst we're road testing some of the kit being used for a forthcoming event. I started off in the normal office and did some final tests to make sure that the image we'd created with Clonezilla was fine. The only thing I needed to amend was the key for the wireless network - I'd added an extra character in error and so this was a case of checking everything and mkaing sure it all worked as intended.

With that done, it was then off to the temporary office, and was able to commandeer some desk space. The plan would be to effectively get out the flight cases with 10 laptops each, and as there was space for 4 laptops in a row, and I had 4 USB boot sticks and 4 USB hard drives ready to rock and roll, it meant that I could do a batch of 4 and two batches of 3, boot to Clonezilla, clone them all back, and then once done just log in and rename as needed and reboot, and that was all of them consistently the same.

That did work well for me and it was effectively most of the rest of the day that I had spent getting all of those sorted out, so did the production line, starting off with the two boxes of laptops in their original boxes (5 of each of those, so 10 in all) and then it was on with the three flight cases, and they were nice and easy to get out, do and put away accordingly. It did mean that with the fast speed of the extrernal hard drives, and the fact that the image compressed to be really small, I was able to effectively get those done in not much time - in fact each one took 7 minutes to transfer the hard disk image over.

And of couse, doing multiple meant that I could rattle them off, and we managed to get 40 done in a good few hours and meaning that we had all of those boxed off in under a day, which was impressive. I was pleased with how that turned out and the good thing is that for the future, we know that we've got some tried and tested methods to get this all working in quick speed. I headed home on the X68 bus and the sun was out too which was rather nice all round, so definitely made me feel happier.

I kept an eye on the Manchester City away game at Brighton, and both sides played really well. City did go in front via Phil Foden and it was a good finish, but then Brighton had a scorcher of a goal from Enciso to make it 1-1, and that's how it stayed. Both sides went for it and that point was enough for them to clinch a place in the Europa League next season, and Thursday nights there are going to be some atmosphere with the ground bouncing, that is for definite, so very pleasing to see overall that is.

I also did watch the first episode of the new series of The Great British Sewing Bee tonight, and one of the contestants was from Brighton. The classics with a twist theme was nice, especially the twist top. After comparing notes with The Love In My Heart, I knew that we both liked Asmaa - her twist top was gorgeous, and I know The Love would wear that. I also really liked the character of one of the Tonys, who really did a stunning made to measure and was Garment of the Week for it. It really did fall to pieces for the person eliminated though, and that was a shame to see, but sometimes it doesn't happen. As for tune of the day - as ever the music in this show is always on point, so having the excellent Girls on Film by Duran Duran has to be done!

Sunday 21st May - Title Time

The league title was Manchester City's, and after breakfast this morning it was time to say a very fond farewell to my friends after what had been a really nice weekend overall - lots of time spent catching up but also lots of time having nice drinks and in the sunshine, which was a massive added bonus let me tell you. We had some breakfast before we set off, and thankfully it looked like the trains arrived on time, so that was another good thing. Before I knew it I had left Ulverston and was on the way to Manchester Piccadilly where The Love In My Heart was waiting for me.

Normally, I'd be off to the Etihad with my friend and we'd be seeing the title lift. Unfortunately, he happens to be in hospital at the moment, and it was a case of priority for me being that we'd go and visit my friend in hospital during the visiting hours. That was later on, and first off The Love and I headed off to The Gateway so we could sit outside and have some well earned lunch together. It was lovely to catch up of course, and we both had a nice meal with a drink and that meant some Camden Hells for us both and I had the smothered chicken, all rather nice. Naturally I was all pizza-ed out after the weekend!

Once that was enjoyed, it was over to the Royal Infirmary to see my friend. Thankfully the ward wasn't too hard to find and close to the old entrance, so was soon able to get to spend some time with him. It was definitely a nice thing that The Love was there too and that did cheer him up, and thankfully he had enough mobile data and Sky Go to be able to watch the match on the phone, not the same as being there, but at least that would keep him going. I'd be doing the same myself later on.

The Love and I headed to the city centre and managed to get an outside table outside Elnecot in Ancoats, so it was the Elnecot Lager for her and the Cloudwater Fuzzy for me, both lovely. The shade came over the street but it was still nice to sit outside anyway, and we both had plenty of chatter and just enjoyed the last of the sun for the afternoon too, so that was really nice for us both to be able to do that. It was soon time to head back off homewards and Brian the cat had his tea and some love and fusses from me (which he did accept much to my happiness, it has to be said.)

I had the game on myself and Manchester City took the lead through Julian Alvarez, and although we did press for a second it didn't arrive, with one goal being ruled out due to a handball from Riyad Mahrez. Erling Haaland came on and almost scored, but the 1-0 was done at leisure and it was a great win for us to further show us out front at the top - seven points in front with still a game in hand, and at worst we'd win by four points, so we proved again we were indeed the best team in the land and all the world. It was nice to see the City fans singing Daddy Cool by Boney M for the "Johnny, Johnny Stones" chant and that was tune of the day for me. Well done the lads!

Saturday 20th May - We're Going Down The Pub

I had a relatively good sleep at my friend's place, even though it was an air bed - it was set up in the front room and I was nice and cosy with the duvet, so all good there. Once I was up, shaved and showered, it was ready for the day ahead, and some nice breakfast followed for us too - some sausage barms to get us all going. Definitely the right move and that really did fill us up well. We did keep an eye on some of the sports and news happening in preparation for some of the football later (of which I had a vested interest because if Nottingham Forest beat Arsenal, Manchester City would win the league today.)

First port of call was a short trip over to Dalton-in-Furness and to the Brown Cow pub on Goose Green. The beer garden at the front was nice, and they also had some picnic style benches in a field which housed a new car park for the pub, so we took the outside benches and basked in the nice weather. The good thing was that all their ales were looked after (had some of the local Ulverston ones including Lonesome Pine, obviously named due to the Stan Laurel connection) and that it was a reallty calm and relaxing atmosphere, with a view of the church on the hill above. Very nice!

We headed back to Ulverston and passed the Stan Laurel on the way to the Swan Inn, which had a beer garden too. In fact that was a bit of a hill at the back of the pub which did mean that it was a nice view looking up to the tower above the town and with the sun out, a nice place to relax with some drinks. I had a really nice summery ale in here, something about rabbits in the name if I recall, and there was a chocolate porter from the Durham Brewery that if it was later in the day I'd have been tempted to have a go of - although that was a bit strong to say the least.

The time ticked by very quickly it seemed and it was around 4.30pm when we went to the centre of Ulverston and to the really nice fish and chip place in there, which also allows you to dine in too. In fact the Holland's Pies were on so the chicken and mushroom pie and chips were enough for me, some had other pies or puddings too - and all freshly cooked especially the chips. Definitely the right thing to fill the gap, and that would keep us going as we headed uphill to the Old Friends, where sadly the beer garden was already full and so no outside drinking in there for us, so we moved onwards.

It was then upstairs at the Mill, up the spiral staircase and all the way to the top for the nice enclosed beer garden there. It was very nice actually and definitely for me good to see people out having a leisurely drink and as part of their night out too. I definitely enjoyed a really nice Lancaster ale there and it definitely felt like Summer was very much here. It was then through the town and to the Piel Castle - a Robinsons pub so some Trooper for me of course in there. We did try the pool table but it did slope to one corner, so we only had one game before calling that one off. I also did put some tunes in the jukebox including True Faith by New Order, which had a couple of people dancing to it (bonus!) so tune of the day for me there.

After that it was off to the Hope and Anchor and got a space outside. They were preparing for a singer to come on with his guitar (think a cross between Billy Bragg and Mark Chadwick from the Levellers) and we got a table with beers, but there was a woman sat on the table next to us who I think was happily drunk from some wine, and she was singing along with the singer (not sure if he appreciated it!) along with some more sober versions of the audience. He sounded alright actually and it was nice to be outside and as the sun went in, very pleasant too (I had admittedly burned a little!)

We stopped off at the Kings Arms but almost all the beer was off, and the Wainwright I had wasn't that good, so we headed back to the Stan Laurel for a final drink of the evening, and they even offered us some free beer as they wanted to change some barrels - I didn't take them up on it but it was nice of them nonetheless. It was back for more pizza and takeout later and the ham and mushroom one I had this time was spot on. And of course with Forest beating Arsenal 1-0, City had won the league too and so all in all it had been a rather brilliant day all round!

Friday 19th May - Escaping Eventually

After a long four days at work sorting out plenty of things for some large events next month (and indeed, being able to get a lot sorted in the meantime) I had Friday off and that meant an escape up to see a friend of mine for the weekend, being joined by two other friends too. I definitely felt I needed that quality time away and with a visit via Manchester on Sunday for the football and for lunch with The Love In My Heart also, it was definitely going to work out nice. I headed out relatively early as I had the 0913 train from Euston to Manchester to get on, and with Southern and Thameslink running way less services, wasn't chancing it so was on the X68 bus to Russell Square and a short walk to Euston.

That did work out well and after a pit stop at Sainsburys for a breakfast meal deal (hash browns, sausage bap and a Costa coffee for £3.50 - cannot complain at that!) it was on the train and with headphones on for the trip up to Manchester. The sun appeared to be coming out (good) and it looked a nice day, although there was rain in Staffordshire on the way up and it looked like it had rained in Manchester as well when I did get to Piccadilly, and with some time to kill before the next train, it was off to Vinyl Exchange for a mooch (and well why not?) - I did see some CDs there that I could have been tempted by, one of which were all the folk songs from Bagpuss, my favourite children's show.

It was time to head back to Manchester Piccadilly and for my train up to Ulverston. Normally this is a direct train via Preston, Lancaster and Carnforth. The departure board just said Delayed, which wasn't good. It turned out that there had been a train broken down between Preston and Lancaster, so for some odd reason the train I was due on was being held at Manchester Airport. Made no sense that - getting us to Preston would have at least been helpful. After much faffing around the staff at Piccadilly told us to get the next Preston train, so the Blackpool North one was due in, so at least got to Preston.

At Preston, there was supposed to be a 1445 train outward, which if I got that would mean an hour delay overall and not that bad, but just before then, Northern decided to cancel it for no reason whatsoever - and as they had laid on a rail replacment coach then, it was supposed to have left at the same time. No one had a clue what was going on and it was only by chance I found where it was. I took my chances and boarded it, only for a train later to leave Preston I could have got. Poor from Northern all round, and even more so that the coach was boiling hot and horrible, so decided regardless to get off at Lancaster and at least there was a tap room there where I could have a well earned beer!

I did that and spoke to someone who was on the same coach from Preston and had got off similar to me. It turned out she was on the train that had broken down, and the passengers had to be evacuated to the track side - which of course meant closing the whole line while that happened, so definitely not one for the faint hearted that. That did explain some of the delays but had that info been forthcoming earlier, I could have at least thought of an alternate bus plan (bus to Lancaster, 555 bus to Kendal, X6 to Ulverston) - but there was hope in the 1652 slightly delayed train arriving - and it did. Thank heavens!

So I eventually arrived in Ulverston at 1745, some three hours after I was meant to arrive. A nightmare really, but still worth it to see friends, and after we had a brew and a chatter back at my friend's place, it was time to head out to the Stan Laurel Inn (yes, really) for some well earned drinks and more chatter. As it was, they had some of the local ales on and they were very nice indeed, especially the Stan's Ale which they had brewed for them and that was good to just relax and enjoy the evening, and with some quality tunes in the background too which was good.

In fact it was also nice to discuss some of the old games and we were thinking of what would be a top tier in terms of musicians, programmers, graphic artists and so on, as well as software houses. One of the musicians we'd have as top tier was of course Martin Galway, who certainly knew how to make the Commodore 64 SID chip sing really well. We'll all have our different favourites of his of course, but one of mine is the ethereal soundtrack and especially title theme to Wizball, still one of my favourite games of all time too, so has to be tune of the day for that reason.

It was on for take out pizza later and in a refreshing change, a place that takes cash only, no cards (which is handy that I always have some cash on me, after all, a card reader could break and so on right?) - I went for a chicken and mushroom one which was very nice indeed and definitely filled the gap, as I did manage to get a warm bacon barm at Lancaster station but that was the last time I'd eaten, so it was then watching some Commodore 64 demos loaded from the Ultimate II cartridge, and really did do the job well to set the evening off in style. Another good day ahead too!

Sunday 14th May - Manchester Magnificence

It was a busy morning as The Cute Little One had stayed overnight, and so was up and awake - and had her big happy smile as she said hello to me and The Love In My Heart too. Brian the cat had his spot by the window and he wasn't giving that up for anyone, all relaxed as well. We got up and had some breakfast, with The Cute Little One deciding it'd be a good time to watch the animated series of Peter Rabbit followed by bits from the film Peter Rabbit 2 as well, and she was content and happy doing that, so that made it all a relaxed time as we both made sure she was kept entertained and well fed.

Their parents came over at lunchtime to collect her, and she was so happy, saying "my Daddy!" a bit like the closing moments from the original film version of The Railway Children, and it's good to see that she loves her parents to bits - the feeling is of course mutual and it's nice that she appreciates the time with us too. As it was early afternoon we thought it'd be nice to spend some time outside in the nice weather before I was heading back on the train - the 1855 departure as it turned out, following confirmation of the Avanti Superfare ticket (where you get allocated a train 24 hours before, after picking morning, afternoon or evening.)

We decided, as it had looked nice when I went past yesterday, to head to Mayfield Park, which is near Freight Island on the other side of Piccadilly Station, and a nice new green space. We got the tram to Piccadilly and walked over, and both us really felt comfortable in the park - it even has one of the bees from the Bee In The City trail from a few years back, and also had a coffee stall at the far end with some nice views of the river that flows through and round. Lots of plants and greenery, and also an adventure playground with one bridge going over the river, and then up to a slide where the slide is in a tunnel going back over, so proper adventure that!

What's nice is that it's very family friendly, with places to sit on both seats and grass, with the hillside next to Freight Island providing a nice place to catch the sun also, and an ice cream van near the adventure playground, and well why not? As the weather was nice we headed into Freight Island, where a Magic Rock Saucery ale was mine, and The Love had a Camden Hells, and it was rather lovely with the sun out. It did cloud over a little but we thought we may as well do lunch here, and got one of the nice booths with a window looking out to the park and seeing people play the catch ball with the two bats (we bought one yesterday and The Cute Little One loved it!)

With booth secured, I headed inside to Burgerism and ordered a nice cheesrburger for The Love, and a cheese and bacon burger for me (and without the salad bobbins) and some fries to go with it. It was a case of collect in around ten minutes so I headed back, and The Love headed to the bar and got me a pint of the Lucky Saint (which for a 0.5% lager is actually really nice, had to be said) and a glass of wine. We admired the families all playing and being happy outside and chatted, and kept an eye on the football scores whilst having the very nice burgers.

Needless to say, it was a happy little me later on as two goals in three minutes from Ilkay Gundogan and Erling Haaland made it 2-0 before half time for Manchester City, and away at Everton which I thought might be a tough game to be honest. Gundogan scored a superb free kick in the second half, and we had another drink and more chatter as some nice tunes came on, including the original song where the riff was taken for Eminem's My Name Is, namely Labi Siffre's I Got The... so that has to be tune of the day. The other amazing fact about that song: Dave from Chas and Dave plays the bass, Chas on guitar, and both of them also sing backing vocals on the record. That main bass hook is around two minutes ten in during the original.

The time went by far too nicely and with City winning 3-0, The Love headed via the Oliver Bonas in Piccadilly Station to collect an order she had made, and we headed back to her place to feed Brian the cat his tea, and I could collect my overnight little bag and head homeward later on the train. I managed to get to my seat and realised it had no view, so found an available one in the same carriage that did have a window view. Nice to see the sun set over the countryside as I headed homewards, and I even managed to make it in time for Match of the Day, which proved to be really good viewing as Arsenal had lost 3-0 at home to Brighton!

Saturday 13th May – Not So Megabus

So with another day of strikes on the trains, this time by the RMT union of conductors, train managers and station staff, it was a very decimated service. I was going to try out the £20 Avanti Superfare today which basically means you get allocated a train in a morning, afternoon or evening time slot, and then 24 hours before you get the train ticket with the time of train and seat reservation. As that happens to be around £20-25 cheaper than an advance ticket, thought it worth a go and the one I’ve got booked for tomorrow is at least still valid (got that ticket this morning) but due to strikes, I had been refunded for today’s morning booking.

Thankfully I had seen that forthcoming, so once the strikes were announced I took no chances and booked myself on the 0830 Megabus departure from London Victoria to Manchester Shudehill for £12.99 – it was possible to get it for £8.99 a few weeks prior but needed to act quick. Good job I did though because that bus sold out and other much longer stopping coaches were around £30-40 in the week before today, so it was a good thought my part. Obviously having a non-stop coach may help, but as ever, you are at the mercy of traffic and with Eurovision on in Liverpool, I’d expect more traffic on the M6 but also due to Manchester United being at home today too, that’d add.

As most of the limited trains were not starting until 0800, I left the flat early and planned a bus only route to London Victoria, taking the 468 to West Norwood and changing (with 1 minute wait!) for the 2 onwards to Victoria. Both buses were busy which shows people do use them (and possibly also due to strikes they were busier) but as an upshot, it did take59 minutes on the buses, so wasn’t that bad. It did mean I had time to visit the Sainsburys in Victoria Place, get a meal deal breakfast (sausage bap, hash browns and medium Costa coffee) for £3.50, and of course get a Costa loyalty bean. I did get some water and crisps for the coach to keep me going nicely.

I made my way into the coach station and soon found Bay 13 for the 0830 departure. As it was, a lot of coaches left at 0800, so soon the Megabus came in (double decker) and I was able to board easily. All of the upstairs was unreserved, and following a handy hint from Dylan on his travel reports Youtube channel, I spotted the emergency exit window seat with more legroom, and that was spot on. The seat was comfortable, and the seat back in front did have USB ports, but they didn’t work – real shame that. There was a toilet in the downstairs (and when using it later, it was super tiny) and some of the reserved downstairs seats had a table for four too, nice if a few mates are going and you want to play cards or something.

Anyway, the Megabus left and got snarled in some traffic heading to Hammersmith before then getting onto the A4 and then M4, turning off for the M25 the short way to get to the M40 near Beaconsfield. All the way up to Birmingham this seemed relatively smooth, and although there were some roadworks on the M42 later on, it wasn’t bad. I was wondering whether the coach would take the M6 Toll and thus avoid the M6/M5 bottleneck, but no, and sure enough it was a little slower getting through there. However, the worst was yet to come for this journey as the sun came out over the skies in Cheshire (cue Sun Hits The Sky by Supergrass, ace that and tune of the day.)

As the Megabus approached Sandbach services, the traffic in front seemed really slow, not sure whether this was due to those heading to Liverpool for Eurovision or the amount of cars turning right on to the A556 at junction 19 for Manchester. Either way it took 15 minutes to go one mile, and the same time for the final two miles past Knutsford Services to get to the junction. It was slow and painful, and that really was just down to bad traffic – although you would think Megabus would factor that into their timetable, right? And once on to the M56 it crawled a bit close to Princess Parkway as traffic headed towards either the M60 or the A5145 towards Old Trafford.

Eventually after heading around the city centre ring road, the Megabus arrived in Manchester at 13:30, some 50 minutes late. I was pleased that the bus was air conditioned and that I was at least comfortable (can’t say anything negative about that) but knowing how bad the traffic on the M6 can get, it does make you wonder whether the stated 4 hours 10 minutes timetable is actually realistic. Bear in mind the last time I did Megabus was the 23:30 from Victoria with my uncle after the FA Cup semi final one year, and we arrived at 03:30 (on the dot, 4 hours) – and that’s late at night, so you do wonder about the realistic thing. To be honest, this just proves why for me taking the train is the better option if you can afford to do so.

The rest of the day was rather lovelier all round once I got back to The Love In My Heart’s place. Because I had been delayed on the coach coming into Manchester, The Love had gone to her sister’s and with The Cute Little One in tow, whom we were having overnight. When they got back, we fed Brian the cat an earlty tea and then headed out to Ancoats, parked up and then walked over to the marina at New Islington – there weren’t many ducks and geese out because of the fact everyone was outside in the nice weather, but it was good to see that the few that were swam across to us and were happy for the feed that they had, which was rather good.

We then headed for a nice drink at House of Esk, sat outside with The Cute Little One enjoying her crisps as we had a refreshing drink, then back to The Love’s place for tea – we later on had a nice chicken kiev with potatoes and vegetables, and The Cute Little one had her spaghetti bolognaise and then some ice cream before her bath and bed. Once she settled in she slept soundly all night and was being super adorable, she can say my name right and asks me to play and colour in with her, which is lovely. And she is now really chatty a lot of the time too, aww.

Once The Cute Little One was settled, we watched Eurovision. And Liverpool really did put on a good show, with plenty of nods to Ukraine, including an opening from last year’s winner Kalush Orchestra with lots of guest players including Sam Ryder and Princess Katharine of Wales too, playing piano, which was a really nice touch. Of course it had the unusual and the absurd during the 26 songs that were in the final, and opinion was divided about the UK entry – The Love quite liked it, and I thought it was a bit derivative and not that good. We both did like the Belgium one, but we were both were not sure why the Swedish one was favourite, it was okay but not that good.

As the jury votes came in, it was pretty clear that the UK were returning back to recent form in terms of the result, with not many countries giving us points, and it was worse with the public vote. In fact only Germany finished lower as the UK came 25th. Clearly Sam Ryder did something right last year, engaging with everyone, being really friendly, and actually playing a good song (and in fact his new song was played tonight with no less than Roger Taylor on the drums as well – which was a pleasant surprise). In fact though, that does mean that it further showed up how bad the entry is.

Friday 12th May – Surviving the Strike in Seven Seconds

Here in the UK it was a strike by the train drivers’ union ASLEF, which basically meant that no trains were running on a lot of parts of the UK, including all the ones I potentially could have got to either go into central London for work purposes, or up to Manchester tonight if I was going to head up there early (more on that tomorrow.) As it transpired, it was on to the X68 express bus as per usual and I set off for the one earlier bus so that if there was traffic, I’d be all good. As it was, I got into the office at 8.15am and that was after visiting Sainsburys to get a birthday card for a relation and into Greggs for a cheeky breakfast.

I mainly was sorting out something for next week in terms of how I’d be able to get things done for a forthcoming event without that much network in the building we’re going to use, and as such it meant that I had an idea to create standalone media for the MECM task sequence – meaning like I’ve done with other sites with not the best network connections, I can do it all offline. Thankfully I had kept things pretty neat and tidy for the way I do the base builds for the event, so it meant that I could then run that offline, get a base on there and work from that for the images themselves. For me, that’d work really well and was just a case of making sure all the relevant bits were right.

I also spent time today packaging some applications primarily for one of our locations in the far East, that now includes Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia, so ever expanding somewhat. They did want a certain piece of software, but thankfully our Cyber Security team beat me to it and flat out refused it for security risk reasons (and quite right too to be honest.) However, there were a couple of applications I needed to get sorted so worked on them during the day, and also got out the office Mac in the afternoon so I could also do the Mac versions as well where needed, and that proved to be very productive.

Despite leaving on time, I knew that based on previous train strikes, the X68 bus home would take longer as it would inevitably snarl up close to Waterloo, and also in Brixton, and my hunch was correct. In fact Tulse Hill gyratory was also bad, so much so that when I got to West Norwood, I swapped for the 468 bus behind to get close to home, and I tapped it 61 minutes 53 seconds after the tap on the X68, meaning I just about got Hopper Fare. For those of you who don’t know, Hopper Fare allows multiple bus journeys inside 60 minutes for one fare, but unofficially, the time is actually 62 minutes to allow for any small delays when alighting and changing buses. So I got in – by a mere seven seconds! Needless to say a certain hit by Neneh Cherry was in my head due to that and so it’s tune of the day.

I got home and had the remainder of the chorizo pasta bake that I had made yesterday – when I do cook it there’s always enough for two portions, so have the first one on one day, cover the remainder and put it in the fridge, then put that back in the oven for tea the next day. That does work well and it’s a real joy to have something that I have a good skill in making. In fact, the tomato and bacon pasta sauce in Lidl really goes superbly well with it and that does mean I get lots of flavour too – so that is a huge positive. I settled in for the rest of the evening with Gogglebox and a nice Thornbridge Kakawa stout, served in my new Thornbridge glass. Oooh yes.

Wednesday 10th May - Birthday Bliss

It was my birthday today, so it was nice to be able to have the day off and spend it with The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat. In fact, Brian was more than happy to look all adorable and cute and miaow with affection as he looked on at me heading up. The Love and I went into the front room and having a lovely well earned coffee, it was nice to see that a number of cards had arrived for me for the birthday, and I'd already picked up some cards and presents from Mum's the other day, so that was pretty nice to see that everyone had been so kind and considerate.

I opened up the presents from friends and family first, and they were all lovely: either gift cards for One4All (which meant I could spend them in lots of places) or TK Maxx, and plenty of beer - in fact that'll keep me going at The Love's place for some time and have kept them there. One of my friends got me the Manchester City red and black away shirt, and also two CDs, one from Steve Cradock and one from Moby. It was also nice that The Cute Little One's parents had got me a nice shirt, which looked the part in blue and white check also.

I opened the card from The Love, and it was fab, having an actual Scrabble tile on the front! There were also a couple of cat cards which were fab (one looked like Brian on the front) and The Love had very kindly got me some lovely presents: the compilation CD Manchester: A City United in Music and also the new album 1982 from A Certain Ratio, which was much appreciated. In fact that features The Freshies classic I'm In Love With The Girl On The Manchester Virgin Megastore Checkout Desk (make that tune of the day) And a lovely checked Fred Perry shirt which will be perfect for the Summer and for the holiday in the next few months, so that's lovely.

One of The Love's sisters had also got me a gift card for Bents, a garden centre not far from Warrington. But there was a sensible reason for this: it has a full 18 hole crazy golf course, which meant we could use it for that and play there. So we thought it'd be good to head there during the day, do the crazy golf and also do lunch outside. That was the plan, and once we got ourselves showered and changed and ready (and with a nice McDonalds take out brekkie courtesy of The Love) we headed off, and we were just hoping that the early rain in the morning would move away.

As we got there, the rain had eased off a bit, and we did have a nice peruse around all the little outlet shops that they have there, there's a Trespass, a pet shop (so lots of lovely cat beds for Brian that he would probably not use!), as well as a Lakeland and a massive deli food section with all sorts of beer, not that some of that was cheap mind you. It definitely is always a more destination place to go, and we went over to the crazy golf just as the rain which had started again had stopped - it said it was open til 2.45pm but in fact when we tried the door it was closed - meh. So we'll need to come back another day but it's doable, so can save it for sunnier times anyway.

We did though decide that we may as well have some lunch whilst here: I had the hot pot, which was really nice and included some nice meat and carrots as well as some veg on the side, and The Love had a deli platter with a massive sausage roll, bread, brie, ham and some salad too which looked the part. We did also stop off later on at The Woodside pub on the way back for a drink, and the Landlord on cask there was on top form as we relaxed and admired the view outside with the mixture of sunshine and showers.

The day had been lovely and relaxing, even if I didn't get to do the crazy golf in the end. Spending time with The Love was the most important, and as she dropped me off at Piccadilly station later to get the train home, I did feel sad I was leaving here, so a massive hug ensued. However, what we both didn't realise was that The Cute Little One's Mum had sent me a video message with The Cute Little One wishing me happy birthday and saying "I love you" in her cute way. I saw that sat on the train and I will freely admit that I did cry happy tears on the way back as that was so lovely to see.

Tuesday 9th May – The Thornbridge Experience

The Love In My Heart and I were having a couple of extra days off work to enjoy the nicer (hopefully) weather and also give ourselves a little treat – The Love had paid for us both to do the Thornbridge Experience at their brewery in Bakewell, and as their beers are some that I do quite like, it made sense to go there and make a day of it overall out in the Peak District. We got up and had some lovely breakfast and changed and ready to head out, with the weather being a mixture of sunshine and showers as we left The Love’s place to head onwards and outwards.

We headed towards the main A6 road and it was towards Stockport, then through to Hazel Grove, past Lyme Park to Disley and there we were stuck behind a wagon going slowly, and it looked like it was going to breakdown and managed to pull off a couple of miles onwards to get out of the way. It was reasonably plain sailing through Furness Vale and Dove Holes to Buxton, then over the tops via Taddington and on to Bakewell itself, where we had a quick stop and look around the shops. There were some lovely little places to mooch around as ever, and it was good to stop by the river and the bridge with the thousands of locks that had been placed on each side.

We then headed back out of the town centre a little way and followed the road to the small industrial park at Riverside Park where the Thornbridge Brewery and Taproom were. It was good to see the tap room was so large, and there were plenty of beers on offer to try. It was nice and quiet and relaxed, and we went to the bar to let the staff know that we were here for the experience tour. As it turned out, there was only us two on the 1pm tour and no one for the 2.30pm one either, so it was going to prove nice and relaxed for the whole afternoon.

Our guide Liam was really good, he explained how he started working for the brewery and the fact that he loved the beer and didn’t live too far away was an easy incentive to work there. We did note the different malts to smell and try out: some for the dark beers, some for the pale ales and lagers, as well as the hops including some imported from the US for some of the different beer that they have. He also explained a lot about the history of Thornbridge, backed up by a video which showed the original Thornbridge Hall a few miles away where the first cask beers were made (and the original wooden casks are still visible and used in the brewery today) and how they developed from there.

What definitely was a nice touch was that Liam checked in before he got the beer for the beer tasting session was that if any of us were either gluten free or vegan beforehand – although we’re not, it was appreciated and I know for two of The Love’s friends who are vegan, at least then the tastings would be suitable. It’s those little attentions to detail which are appreciated. As it turned out, we had six different little one thirds of beer in two flights, the first three being keg and the final three being cask.

So first up were ones on keg, so we had the Lukas helles lager (definitely The Love’s favourite), followed by the Green Mountain hazy pale which was lovely (had that before) and then the gorgeous dark chocolatey porter that is Cocoa Wonderland. I’d swap that with The Love so she would have two Lukas and me two Cocoa Wonderlands later, but the cask ones were really good. The Lord Marples was the first cask ale they made, and still a solid choice, and the Brother Rabbit is one brought back recently and nice and light, and then the lovely Japiur, but on cask. And wow, what a difference – yes this is nice on keg and in cans, but in cask, wow, different level!

You also get a beer glass as part of the package for the experience and 10% off in the shop, so for the cost of £15 each it was well worth it to be honest. In fact I checked later and the Jaipur glass we both got was around £7, so that plus the beers proved to be well worth it. What was noticeable was how large the tap room was and apparently it gets full at weekends (so you have to book a table) and also, during the initial lockdowns in 2020, their online beer delivery sales went up a massive 2000% (and I thought I was being generous around 250%). We sat outside with music on including Fleetwood Mac’s classic Go Your Own Way (make that tune of the day) and enjoyed the beer together.

Later on we then headed to Buxton and off to a pub we had seen on the way for a late lunch / early tea together. We both had the fish and chips which was lovely, and crispy fish batter too. In fact the place had Jaipur on keg, so tried that as a comparison, and yes it was still nice, but definitely the cask version is better. It was nice to sit by the window and admire the view over some gardens in the centre of Buxton, so well worth a stop on the way back before we headed home. It had been a really enjoyable day and one that we both thought was excellent. I’d love to head with some friends to the tap room and stay there all day!

Monday 8th May – Out To Lunch

It was a nice day to at least be inside and do things that weren’t outside, as the rain was hammering it down outside. Brian the cat certainly wanted some playtime but wasn’t keen on getting his paws wet, so would sit there at the window and just watch the rain come down as it seemed to be getting heavier during the day. Thankfully for me and The Love In My Heart, we were heading out later, but we would be indoors so that meant we weren’t getting drenched whatsoever, so that was a positive. We got ourselves showered and changed and ready and with Brian having cuddles and fusses, it was time to set off.

We had decided that it would be nice to take my Mum out for lunch and with today being an extra additional Bank Holiday, we were all off too. Once we got to Mum’s we headed off to one of her favourite places, the Cheshire Line which is on the way to Cheadle from East Didsbury, and a former railway station in the past. It’s somewhere that we know that the food is always good, and we did ask for a table close to where the railway line goes (and the odd freight train still goes past on occasion too) – so that meant a nice big window with plenty to see, so that was a positive.

It was good to see Mum was all well and we had a good natter before deciding the main course: and as it turned out some of them were in a deal where it was two mains for £20, which you can’t argue with really. The Love had the smothered chicken, with pulled pork and cheese on top of the chicken with chips and salad. I had the chicken and black pudding, which was grilled chicken and slices of black pudding, together with some bacon, mash and peppercorn sauce. It was actually really nice, and my Mum had the rump steak which was cooked just to her liking.

It was all lovely and relaxed and I have to see it was nice to see my Mum out enjoying herself, and we both decided to indulge in dessert: they do a range of mini dessert deals where you get one of those plus a coffee of your choice. We both had the raspberry cheesecake which to be honest was not mini at all – it’d pass for a dessert of normal size in most places. So that and a nice latte in my case and a capuccino for Mum was very lovely indeed, and we both enjoyed that as a welcome dessert. The time flew by nicely and before long we had dropped Mum off at home after a lovely afternoon out.

In the evening, The Love In My Heart and I had a relaxing time in together, and I decided to catch up and watch the Formula E race from Monaco which had taken place on Saturday. It was a very enjoyable race and definitely one I’d have liked to have been there for. The Love was enjoying the soaps later on and we settled in for the evening with the Prince Andrew documentary which was intriguing and showed what a car crash decision that it was to go ahead with the interview with Emily Maitlis on BBC. It definitely was noteworthy for the fallout afterwards as to how much he would have to step back. Tune of the day is the excellent Step Back by Rollins Band, something that maybe Andrew should have listened to?

Sunday 7th May – Seniors Snooker in Sheffield

It was off to Sheffield for me today as I had decided that as the City game had been moved to the Saturday, I could head to the hallowed Crucible Theatre and see the World Seniors Snooker Championship being held there. For the last few years it’s been hosted straight after the World Championship, so makes sense because all the infrastructure, tables etc are all there and means that it’s a real draw for the senior players to play there and win there, as Lee Walker did last year, beating Jimmy White in the final. So it was up early and off for the 0931 train from Manchester to Sheffield.

As the train was via the Hope Valley, and because Transpennine Express had done their usual and cancelled trains, the train was busy. Lots of hikers were heading to Edale and the rest of the Hope Valley, and those who do live there were also heading into Sheffield for shopping or football (Sheffield Wednesday were at home today) so definitely a well used train. Ironically one half of the train was an old East Midlands 153 and comfier seats than the 150 of the second half! It was soon though to be the familiar walk heading up the hill and past Sheffield Hallam University before then arriving at Tudor Square for the Winter Gardens and the Crucible itself.

As I did have some time, I headed along one of the streets close by and off to Marmaduke’s for a lovely coffee, sat outside and with a view of the Crucible in the distance. It was really nice to relax and I know a few of the BBC team go to the same place, so if they do that why can’t I? Once coffee was consumed, it was then off to show my e-ticket and get admission in the theatre. It was as busy as usual and got myself a bottle of water before taking my seat in Row G. As it transpired, someone else I know who goes to the snooker who lives nearby (and used to paint her nails snooker colours) was also there and it was lovely to see her and have a little catch up natter before play commenced.

Rob Walker was doing the introductions and getting everyone in the mood beforehand, and reminding everyone to turn off their phones before play (which some people still don’t do!) and then on with the first semi final – Jimmy White against Tony Drago. One thing was for definite – this wasn’t going to be slow, not at all. In fact Jimmy was on fire – the long potting he was doing was really world class, and Drago was definitely keeping his Tornado nickname with an average shot time of around 17 seconds, super quick. In fact in one frame he had potted nine reds and nine blacks in quick time, and had ran out of position for the tenth red. He did pot it but the white went in off as a result, so end of break. A real shame that but it showed he still has it.

Jimmy White did play really well though and his consistent break building and some excellent safety meant that he would end up a 4-1 winner and qualify for the final. He played properly and went for the shots when he needed to. I went to to the loo and to get a coffee at the interval and all ready for the second game with Alfie Burden facing a former amateur champion in Ben Hancorn, who had qualified through a number of efforts and had won two final frame deciders in his previous matches. I would imagine that this would be close but thought that Alfie Burden might have the edge in this one.

And this is how it would play out. Alfie Burden played well from the off and took the first three frames with some quality breaks, despite the second frame being a re-rack due to tippy tappy near the pack of reds. Sensible they decided a re-rack early to keep the play flowing quickly and Alfie Burden had played well go to 3-0. It was a spirited effort from Ben Hancorn and a good break to pull it back to 3-1 under some pressure. In what proved to the final frame, Alfie Burden smashed in a century break of 101 to seal the match – it could have been higher but he ran out of position on the final brown, but did more than enough. And as Jimmy White is his idol, it’ll prove to be an interesting final later on.

I headed back down towards Sheffield station and as I had some time before the 1614 train home, it was into the Sheffield Tap for a cheeky little drink, then on to the train, which picked up a number of hikers along the Hope Valley on the way back home. The train was on time and all good, and The Love In My Heart picked me up from Manchester Piccadilly and we went to the Track Brewing Co taproom later on, and sat outside in the nice weather. I did have their Vertigo dark mild which was rather lovely, and as cask, served in a proper old school pint pot. That was all nice and definitely for us both well worth the quality time there.

The evening was spent keeping an eye on the Coronation concert at Windsor Castle, where amongst the guests were Steve Winwood and various choirs performing his song Higher Love (make that tune of the day as I love that) and the concert also had the likes of Lang Lang, Katy Perry, and Take That, who of course closed the show and had Never Forget as their last song, with Kermit the Frog in the Royal Box doing the clapping to the chorus with everyone else. I did also have the snooker on too, and Jimmy White overcame Alfie Burden 5-3 to win the World Seniors Snooker Championship for the fourth time – well done him!

Saturday 6th May – Crowning Glory

It was a very early start for me today as I was heading up to Manchester for a long extended weekend and off to see The Love In My Heart, of course. As I also knew that today would be the coronation of King Charles III, it would be sensible to leave London early and to avoid the crowds heading the other way towards the Mall and so on. I had therefore booked trains, but had to go via Sheffield because at the time Avanti West Coast hadn’t confirmed their timetable. So it was an early rise and off to St Pancras for the 0702 departure to Sheffield.

I did note that a considerable number of people had come off the train from Corby and Luton via Luton Airport Parkway, so saw them head past and all waving flags as they headed past. As it transpired, I managed to get a Seatfrog upgrade cheap to first class, so was able to sit comfortably and be fed and watered as I headed up. In fact I was the only person in the carriage and the member of staff was lovely, and so had coffee, yoghurt, pain au chocolat and some porridge (EMR don’t do bacon baps at weekends sadly) and that was more than enough to keep me going well. I also was able to admire the countryside as I sped North and towards Derby, Chesterfield and then Sheffield.

It was a different story as I headed on the 0943 train from Sheffield – the train was busy but knew where to stand to get on and got myself a seat, and sped through the Hope Valley to Stockport and Manchester. I was able to head to the tram station and then get the tram over to The Love’s place, where when I arrived the coronation service was starting. It was a good service and full of tradition, and ceremony. It was noticeable that all faiths were represented and that there were modern additions such as a gospel choir too, so embracing all where possible. Of course, some object to pomp and all the monarchy and they do have a right to protest that – but having the Met Police be their usual heavy handed selves based on a wrong law that the Tories passed is also not right either.

With all of that done and the King and Queen then heading back to Buckingham Palace for a reduced fly past due to the poor weather in London, it was time for me to meet my friend and head off to the Etihad for the game against Leeds United. The game had been moved back to Saturday because of the Champions League game midweek, but couldn’t be 12:30 to clash with the coronation. So a 3pm kick off, pretty rare that to be honest. It was good to get in the ground and then take our places prior to kick off, with 808 State’s classic In Yer Face blasting out as the City team was announced (make that tune of the day) and although a changed side, nice to see Kevin de Bruyne back and have Erling Haaland hopefully score more goals, but we would see.

Leeds United of course had changed manager again and had hired Sam Allardyce for the last few games of the season in interim. The task he had was soon shown as City pressed forward, and the chances were coming thick and fast. A neat move involving de Bruyne and Haaland had a shot just wide, and a few corners had close headers from the likes of Nathan Ake and Aymeric Laporte. I did think a breakthrough would come sooner or later, and sure enough, the ball was fed in to the edge of the area from Riyad Mahrez, and perfectly found Ilkay Gundogan who slotted it coolly home into the bottrom corner for the opener. The same combination worked again a few minutes later, and this time the ball went into the other corner with the Leeds defence stood still and not picking the markers up. We were thankful for that!

City were crusing and at 2-0 up had a number of chances to further seal the game. Haaland hit the post, and a couple of other chances went close as the game continued. Leeds United made some more tactical changes, bringing the likes of Rodrigo on, and later on Phil Foden’s mazy run entered the penalty area, and he was cropped in there for a clear penalty. We were expecting Haaland to take it, but he gave the ball to Gundogan to see if he could score a hat trick. I was concerned about this (and greedily wanted a Haaland goal for Fantasy League reasons!) and even more so when the penalty was taken and Gundogan hit the post, and so stayed at 2-0. Leeds went up the other end and Rodrigo scored, meaning a nervy few minutes near the end to hang on for a 2-1 win instead of cruising at 3-0.

It was a relief to have got over the line to win that one, and heading back later to The Love’s place, we had a relaxing evening in together. There were plenty of more highlights for The Love to watch, and after us both having some lovely chicken for tea, I settled in for a chat online with some friends for the evening, and having had some nice beers including the Kakawa stout, it was just good to catch up and natter for ages, including the football and all the potential options for the Championship final games on Monday which would involve one of my friend’s teams, so that was good to note. Time flew as ever and it was good to spend time that way before then watching Match of the Day and heading for a well earned sleep.

Monday 1st May - Beer and Bread in Brixton

The Love In My Heart and I had had a very good night's sleep, and woke up to a mixture of sunshine and showers, but hopefully that wouldn't put off what we had planned for today. We were meeting up with The Love's niece, who lives in London, and going to check out the Brixton Beer and Bread Festival at Brixton Windmill. This would mean we could check out the artisan food stalls, try out some beer, and then if the food was an option for lunch, we would have something there, or head back into the centre of Brixton and grab something there, so plenty of options.

The Love and I got to East Croydon station and the first train to London Victoria was rammed, so we let that go and wait for the one a few minutes later, which had come from East Grinstead - and as this doesn't go past Gatwick, it was so much quieter and civlised as we headed towards central London. Of course, from there, getting the Victoria Line the other way back out of central London was quieter, and at Vauxhall I did wonder if The Love's niece would get on (as she would change to tube there) and sure enough when we arrived at Brixton, The Love spotted her a couple of carriages down, so that was all good timing!

We decided as we were a little early to stop off at Brixton Blend for a coffee, with the David Bowie mural opposite and in view as we sat and had a brew. It was a nice small intimate place and the coffee was also spot on, so good to note and definitely nice also to support a more independent business. With us having the caffeine and some catch up chat, we headed along the main road and uphill slightly heading towards Blenheim Gardens and at the end, the Windmill Gardens and Brixton Windmill itself where the festival was.

It was great to see the actual windmill, and it really showed how much work was done to maintain it well, with the sails all in good condition, and the main body of the windmill in black. In fact in the windmill shop you could even buy some flour that was milled in the mill too, which was good. We noted the four different beer tents, a stage for live bands, and two different food stalls also. We decided to grab one of the picnic tables that were out and then The Love and niece went to one of the beer tents, the Bullfinch Brewery one. They had the Herne Hill Helles, and I had the Rascal, a very good session beer with a little haze and a citrus flavour. Definitely need to pay their tap room in Herne Hill a visit.

We did note also the children's area with various family activities next to the children's playground, and the live acts were playing after an initial glitch with the sound system. Lots of families around, a really nice community vibe, and even a small rain shower didn't stop us soaking in the atmosphere and enjoying it. The artisan bread stalls really had some good breads that you could take home and enjoy, along with some other food stalls which had sauces and condiments, and it was thoroughly good. I'll have to make a tour of the actual windmill itself someday, but we had a great time.

We walked back to the centre of Brixton and after finding one pub wasn't doing food today (because Bank Holiday) we went close to the station and into the Beehive. It was nice to have a little booth and some drinks with some food and settle in for the afternoon, and I had Brixton by Renegade Soundwave in my head (make that one tune of the day) as we chattered and had some nice drinks too. The niece's friend also came along lovely, and was good to catch up and chat with too, so definitely was a nice Monday chilled out vibe all told. With the two of us refreshed, and with The Love's niece and friend settled in for the afternoon, we headed back to the tube station and off to Euston.

It was a really sad moment to say a fond farewell to The Love In My Heart as she headed home, but was safe in the knowledge that we had a really good weekend, was able to do plenty and also was enjoying the nice weather and making the most of the time that we had. It's always good to know that she feels the same too, and no doubt when she got back Brian the cat had plenty of fussing and cuddles along the way. I just really enjoy all those lovely moments, and may we have more of them in future.