Dear Diary... May 2024

Friday 31st May - Keep on Trucking

It was off to the Hoxton office after a busy week where I had been doing all the preparation for the computer images to be used over for a major event coming up. This did also mean that we were able to as of yesterday get all the Surface Pro 9s road tested with a new build and ran through a road test of the kiosk application and provisioning package that we were going to use on those from start to finish, so that did mean that I knew that it would all work - always pleasing to see that of course.

Now we just needed to have the final pieces of kit arrive, and after they had been held up at UPS because apparently some paperwork wasn't filled out for customs purposes (even though it was!) there was a delivery finally due today from one of our partners in France. Effectively this meant that I could road test one of the all in one PCs that we use and make sure that some necessary amendments I made would work as intended. That lot arrived at 12 noon but not before I had to get one of my managers to pay an import fee as well (darned Brexit and the new rules) so that was all good.

I cracked on with getting an initial base down on there, which I could then add and tweak to as needed, and all was positive for that side. The good thing was that documenting the processes as I go meant that it was nice and easy to create and image that machine, and once done, I went through with a colleague and road tested the kiosk app - and it all worked as intended, so we had the right touch screen settings for tablet for the all in one desktop, and road tested that out - it got the thumbs up and we knew that we were good to go with that one.

In fact at lunch time four of us had headed towards Hoxton Market and just before there on Hoxton Street is a bit of an East End of London tradition - a proper pie and mash place to sit down and have that, including the liquor and even some eels if you so desired (not for me that one) - and proper East End folks running it too. F Cooke still does it the proper way, and it does the job. The pie was pretty good actually and it's nice to see that things haven't changed one bit here!

Later on I did head off to Euston only to find that trains were being delayed, and after having had some tea nearby, I managed to get the train I was scheduled to be on leaving on time (ish) but due to other delays and works going on, the delay crept up and by the time I reached Manchester Piccadilly it was half an hour late. I thankfully had some new albums on the iPod to listen too including the excellent Iechyd Da from Bill Ryder-Jones, and one track off that, If Tomorrow Starts Without Me, really stood out well, so tune of the day from me as the train eventually got to where it needed to be.

Monday 27th May - Hanging Out in Hoxton

The Love In My Heart and I had a nice little plan of action today, inspired by my recent visits to one of our other offices at work. So we would be heading to Hoxton and taking the Overground there and visiting the Museum of the Home. It's not normally open on a Monday, but as today is a Bank Holiday here in the UK, it is open after all which is a bonus. We did have some nice breakfast together and I made up some sausages, scrambled egg, mushrooms and bacon along with some toast, and that hit the spot well.

With everything all packed, we headed along to West Croydon and to the Overground, remembering the side entrance that can take you down a ramp to the platforms, saving lots of carrying hassles all round. We easily made it for the train and took the journey via New Cross Gate, Canada Water and Whitechapel before arriving at Hoxton with the sun still out and a nice straightforward walk across to the Museum of the Home. The nice thing was that they had lockers for suitcases and buggies etc, for free, so we were able to lock the case away and get it later.

We did both enjoy the museum a lot actually - it was really nice and the gardens were especially lovely, with lots of attention paid for it to be a welcoming and relaxed space. We did also venture around the exhibits on the lower ground floor, which had photography exhibits based on home space, those also missing from home (very poignant that to be honest) and also some good displays on how facets of the home life changed, including cleaning equipment (even a Dyson DC01 in there and some old proper Hoovers too) and all sorts. The ground floor had various stages showing the home set over the years, and that was fascinating.

As the building was also a former almshouses for the local area, set up by someone who sadly made their money from a not so wholesome trade, it was interesting to see how parts of that were kept restored including a hidden coal chute to the basement, the former chapel and nave in the centre of the building, and also the original features on the outside too. We did end up of course in the shop, and noted potentially more exhibition space opening soon (possibly where their former café was) and that was definitely good to see it grow. And it was busy too - more than we thought.

We didn't have far to go to get lunch either - basically across the way to Brewhouse Kitchen and Bar. I went for the fish and chips which was ace, and The Love had the chicken schnitzel which was also very good, and looked like it was well done to her standards too. They do make their own beer in there too and I had the very nice session IPA in a stein glass, with The Love having the craft lager and enjoying that - more so as we sat outside later on too.

We did head back to Euston only to find out on route that The Love's train had been cancelled, and so we had to wait in Euston for the next one - so we went up to the Signal Box pub and had a final drink in there before then saying a fond farewell. As I had the London Platforms app we could make sure The Love got to the platform first and got a seat (her reservation didn't stand for the cancelled train) and that was a relief. I got home later having had such a lovely weekend with The Love, and it really did feel special to have more time with her. Tune of the day is the excellent Snowbird by The Icicles, with the lovely line of "bring me Summer, lazy sunny days, warm breeze around my face" - and that was all true this weekend!

Sunday 26th May - In Bloom

After having some lovely breakfast together, The Love In My Heart and I were heading out for the day, and although the weather looked like it may rain, it was a weird mix of sunshine and showers even before we set off, so had the brolly and rain proof coat at the ready with us in case. We had seen that both the Chelsea in Bloom and Belgravia in Bloom events were still on over the weekend, and although not attached to the Chelsea Flower Show, has a similar sort if idea - but having the floral displays on streets and squares in both areas. As the Belgravia one is near London Victoria station, made sense to do both.

We got to East Croydon and let the first train to London Victoria go as it was a 4 carriage train and already super rammed. The next one was much better and we got seats, and it was less busy due to people swapping trains at Clapham Junction. Once at Victoria, we remembered to use the side exit closest to Platforms 15-19 to get out, and then followed the road along to Eccleston Street, where we saw the first of the large Belgravia in Bloom displays - chess pieces no less.

In fact the theme was very much play and games, and we were soon heading along to Eccleston Yards, which was a nice little find - not least because the square hidden away really did have some lovely little places to eat and drink and even some deckchairs. We did have a light shower here but did see a floral Rubik's cube which was pretty nice. One of the places here had been reserved for a wedding, which we thought would be lovely. We followed the roads to Pimlico Road and saw one of the displays there before then heading via Ebury Street to Elizabeth Street.

We noted the posh Bayley and Sage deli, and also the queue to get into Peggy Porschen Cakes, all very pink and all very busy. Along Elizabeth Street we did see the house of cards display with the flowers which was nice, and a lot of the shop frontages had some lovely displays here too. It was a little walk along towards Lowndes Street and we decided to have pit stop at EL&N there. I did the posh strawberry and coconut milkshake complete with cream and a really nice taste to it all too - and The Love had this rather nice mocktail with raspberry, lime and mint which was served in a large test tube container and straws - different and really nice actually!

We did then go along Montcomb Street, seeing the snakes and ladders and the Olympic medal rostrum displays, with the athletes in a mesh type look which was pretty good. As we made our way towards Sloane Street we did see a nice display outside a hotel - which was part of the Chelsea in Bloom display. The road had been closed off one side for works so everyone was walking along the other side, and this definitely felt a lot busier as we got closer to Sloane Square, it has to be said.

Once we got to Sloane Square itself, it was totally rammed, and there was a large floral tribute to the Very Hungry Caterpillar in the middle - which as you can imagine was very popular indeed. In fact there and the whole of the King's Road was just too busy really, and it really didn't help whatsoever with the fact that so many were faffing around. We escaped for a little while into Peter Jones and Partners (basically the Sloane Square version of John Lewis) and mooched around there, even picking up a recycling bag for my Nespresso pods from the concession there along the way.

Along the King's Road we were hoping that the footfall was quieter but alas it wasn't - even walking further out and passing an excellent display with Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and Piglet (naturally families everywhere) didn't seem to be the case. So we thought we had given it best and seen some displays but was just too busy to be wothwhile, so remembering my conversation earlier about the number 11 bus, The Love spotted it, we crossed the road and got the bus back to Victoria. Nicely done! In fact that worked out well as it dropped us off in the bus station and close to the Market Hall.

We spotted there were spots upstairs on the top balcony, and so made our way up there for a leisurely couple of drinks to round off the afternoon. And why not? In fact plenty of quality tunes were being played here too including Come on Eileen by Dexy's Midnight Runners (so tune of the day) and we were very relaxed indeed. In fact I had the Camden Stout because I could, and we were both all chilled out. I did take the camera with me and the pics of Belgravia in Bloom appeared to have come out well so that is something.

We got the train back to mine, and in good timing for the Monaco Grand Prix highlights. We both wanted Charles Leclerc to win primarily because he is from Monaco, and it'd be great to have a home race winner. After an eventful first start (understatement) the restart meant that with tyres changed, everyone was in limitation mode til the race end, meaning hardly any passing and that Leclerc won. The race was very dull but he won't care a bit about that - the first driver from the home country to win since 1931, and the first in the Formula One era in fact.

Saturday 25th May - You Win Some, You Lose Some

It was a nice relaxing morning for me as I was getting the flat all nice and ready for when The Love In My Heart would arrive later to stay at mine for the weekend. It's always nice when she heads down to see me - as she puts it, it's like a trip away to London but minus the hotel costs, and we did have some nice things planned for the weekend and a meal out tonight too, so that would all be lovely. I did keep an eye on the telly to see what was happening, and checked the trains too - so all good. In fact The Love's train was timed well so it would avoid all the football fans heading to Wembley for the FA Cup Final.

Admittedly, I would have liked to have gone to that with it being Manchester City up against Manchester United, but knew I had no chance of a ticket. The plan was that The Love would head to mine, I'd let her in when she arrived and I could then watch the game before we would head out later on. That did also mean I had time to box up another trade in for Music Magpie with some DVDs, books and CDs that I wanted to sell off, and some of which I did get a reasonable quote price for, meaning that I would be able to clear some shelf space at the same time - may as well recycle responsibly.

With all that done, time to settle in for the football and the traditional Abide With Me hymn before kick off (make that one tune of the day) and with the weather being decent, City looked like they were in holiday mode already, with United closing them down at every chance and not allowing them to get into the flow. I sensed this wasn't going to be good with a lethargic start and not really up and at them, and United's confidence grew the more the game went on. A mix up defensively between Stefan Ortega and Josko Gvardiol meant the back header went past, and there was Garnacho to feast on a freebie for 1-0 to United.

Just as The Love arrived, United were heading forward and a well worked move saw the ball head from Fernandes to Mainoo, and the United youngster slotted the ball home well for United to take a 2-0 deserved lead - and to be fair it was deserved. They took their chances, and City didn't - and looked like they weren't at all their usual selves. Even with some half time changes and Erling Haaland rattling the bar, with Julian Alvarez maybe missing a better chance, it took til a few minutes left for Jeremy Doku to pull one back and at least make the last few minutes exciting, but alas it was not to be - just the Premier League for City this season but at least we had won something.

With that disappointment, it was time to get ourselves ready and get changed and headed out first to the Cronx Tap for a drink, with their rather nice beers not being too pricey either - always a good thing that. It was then on to one of our favourite local restaurants, Aqua, for a nice meal together. The staff are always super lovely in there and they greeted us warmly, and we had a nice table with a window open to get some fresh air in too. The only tough decision to be honest was what to have, and even managed this time to have the beer of Cyprus - Keo, which they didn't have last time but did have one bottle left this, so my name was on it!

The starters were excellent as ever: The Love had the trio of dips with some lovely warm bread, and I had the Cypriot meatballs in a tomato sauce, and they were large meatballs too. The Love tried that and said it was fab, and I had to agree with her. We then had the mains later on, and I went for the smoked chicken tagliatelle with some really nice cream and pesto sauce to go with it, spot on. The Love had the pork bellly with roasted vegetables, this was good too. I think she'd still pick the souvlaki chicken over that in future, but nice to try something different and we both did have a lovely meal together and a perfect way to end the day.

Wednesday 22nd May - Dartford Diversions

After working at the office in Hoxton today it was nice to have some me time, and with somewhere secure to store the work bag overnight (so no traipising it around with me) it was off to Dartford to see Punt and Dennis, for a night on their We Are Not a Robot tour. I had seen them warm up some material in Epsom a few months back which was very good, so was looking forward to this, and indeed the promise of a new sketch of World of Wine (cue "You poured it on a fish?") was more of an incentive for yours truly to head off there. It was also at a place called Orchard West, and when I looked it up on Street View, I just saw an empty space, so let's see.

It was a relatively easy train journey with a change at Whitechapel for a purple train and from there all the way along to Abbey Wood. I have to say the majority of the train piled out at Woolwich, which shows how popular the line must be there, and at Abbey Wood I had to switch platforms for a train to Dartford. That train was busy but managed to get a seat, and arrived in Dartford itself in good time. I walked over the road from the train station via the bridge, where I spotted the original Orchard Theatre - under a load of scaffolding and tarapaulin. Then as I got closer to the theatre here for the signs for Orchard West it clicked into place.

You see, a while back, there were massive concerns over the use of RAAC type concrete, which was the norm of a lot of buildings around the 1960s and 1970s especially. Effectively, RAAC is reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete - note the aerated bit. This BBC article explains more as it was used a lot in schools, and having a school roof fall on your child - massive health and safety risk, hence the need to immediately get work done. It transpired that the Orchard is made up of RAAC in parts, so work is being done to sort it. So they used the spare land around the corner (hence nothing on Street View) to build a whole temporary theatre complete with bar and all sorts, which to be fair looks like a very good job was done on it.

I grabbed some tea at a nearby pub and then entered the theatre - and I have to say it was an excellent job inside, lovely clean toilets, fresh nice bar, serving decent drinks, and lovely staff. I am sure that they are making the most of it all and it really does feel like the whole community spirit is here. I got to my seat in row C and there was a couple sat next to me who had sat at a table across from me in the pub before. Small world and all that eh? There were some 80s tunes playing including Funky Town by Lipps Inc (so that is tune of the day) and before long it was 7.30pm and on with the show.

It was two hours of so of brilliance, it has to be said. Both Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis really are still very funny, with Steve more dry witted and Hugh using his mannerisms and impersonations to good effect as well as some top notch delivery of lines too. They chatted about transport including when a station announcer at Haywards Heath swore (well it is Southern Fail eh?) and also dilvulged a little into the very topical announcement of earlier today with an election looming. They ended the first half with World of Wine, and how they'd been kicked off the BBC and on to their own Youtube channel, with Steve playing Tarquin and Hugh being the as ever drunk Michael.

In fact, they started the second half with the remainder of that sketch, which was hilarious. They did talk about the ten years it had been since they last toured and how things had changed, and Hugh even let out a little "Milky milky!" which had the audience cheering, to which he responded: "See? They still remember." Oh yes we do, that was an iconic sketch that. The time sped by, it was a great show, and before long I was making my way back home from Dartford, having had such a good night!

Sunday 19th May - Four-midable!

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a ticket for Manchester City's final home game against West Ham United, and not for the lack of trying. I could have paid £300 for hospitality to ensure I was there, but thought that was too much and that with us having The Cute Little One overnight tonight, we thought that we could both be on The Love's patio cheering City on (or "Citeh!" as she says in her full on Manc) so with that in mind, we got up and had some nice breakfast and were all ready with the spare bed sorted, and sure enough the family members arrived around lunch time.

After a little bit of a watch of some television, we thought it'd be good to head off to Bruntwood Park in Cheadle, as often you do hear planes overhead, and the playground is also nice. Off we headed in the car and on the way we spotted a tram and some planes, so The Cute Little One was happily occupied as we headed there. Once i the park and got a parking spot in the shade (as we didn't want to be boiling hot in the car later) it was off to the playground, where the steps and slides were to her liking of course.

She did also want to go on the really big climbing frame and slide but we told her that was for when she gets bigger, and so was happy to go on the existing slide (a lot) as well as some swings. There's a little pond with ducks and geese in, so we went to feed those for a bit and stopped by the ice cream stalls where The Cute Little One had a strawberry mini milk ("pink one please!" she said) and I had a little tub too. It was then a nice little walk through some fields and back to the car, and all was well there for a nice jaunt out.

We stopped at The Gateway on the way back for tea, and sat outside but in some shade so that The Cute Little One didn't burn. We ordered some food and she was happy to have fish and chips and a nice drink, and The Love and I both went for the chicken boneless basket, which did the job. By this time the Manchester City game had started, and wow, two minutes in and Phil Foden had scored! He scored another a few minutes later and we felt like we were on our way.

Later on West Ham pulled one back for 2-1 but just as we were getting close back to The Love's place, City made it 3-1 through Rodri, and that was that. The Cute Little One and I stood on the patio and both were cheering on for City as the game ticked on and we could hear the noise - more so when a goal was rightfully disallowed for handball and it was still 3-1, so all good. We won and it was four in a row, cue Status Quo's Rocking All Over The World (make that tune of the day) as City sung the chorus with the ending of "Here we go, City's won four in a row..."

Saturday 18th May - Birthday Barbecue

It was a nice day today and I was glad that the weather was holding to be sunny and fair, as we had been invited along to my auntie's 60th birthday party - it was her birthday midweek but made sense to have the do at a time when everyone could get there. My uncle's son was hosting it at his place due to the fact he has a good sized back garden and if the barbecue was on, it'd all be good on the food department. I knew most of the family would be there and it would be a good chance to see many of them - and especially the little ones on my uncle's sons' side especially (three in all there for example.)

We'd been given the address and I knew it was close to Earlestown station, so we did think about taking the train, but The Love In My Heart thought it'd be easier if she drove, and with that in mind we also then knew that if we wanted to head off, we could do so whenever we fancied it. It was a relatively easy trip all told, down the M62 to junction 9 for the A49, and then turn off and head towards a country lane, past a golf club, under a railway bridge (tiny too) and then along a road that followed the West Coast Main Line for a bit, and soon arriving there in good time.

The weather was nice so we sat outside, and got some drinks and settled in to chat with the family during the afternoon. It was actually really nice to see so many and chatter around, and I did notice that all three children of my nephews all had the same dress on, and they looked adorable. It was nice to see them growing up well and had a good natter with the three year old (born a month after The Cute Little One, so definitely noteworthy of how much similar they have come along too.)

The barbecue was all good, and we did have some burgers, hot dogs with these chorizo spiced sausages which were ace, I loved them, as well as some sandwiches, salad and so on. We did keep an eye on the final day of the Women's Super League but Chelsea Women were taking no prisoners and eventually won 6-0 at Old Trafford, whilst City did win but it wasn't enough and the title went to Chelsea via their superior goal difference, which showed just how close it was.

The time sped by and it was good to see some faces I hadn't seen for a while too, so was good to natter to everyone for ages. In fact it was close to 6pm when we did decide to head off back homewards and had a really good time. We were tempted to have stopped off at Track for a drink but felt it sensible to head home and sort out Brian the cat, and then settle in to see some telly as well as the 1% Club, where I did decent enough and actually did get the final question (but would have admittedly been knocked out before then!) so all was very well indeed. Tune of the day was an 80s tune played in the car on the way, namely Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves, seemed apt that!

Friday 17th May - Hoxton Hopping

Well it was a nice and busy day of sorts and one of the many days I'll be spending in our space in Hoxton. We have a place not far from the station there and effectively it's a useful place to store all the things we need for events in an easy to access location, close to the A10 and also enough out of central London not to be an absolute pain in the backside to be able to get to either, so that's good. It's also a nicer trip on the Overground straight from West Croydon to there - and no air conditioning wars either as it's naturally cooler under the railway arch but in a good way.

So with that all in mind, yesterday I spent some time creating a new version of the Windows 10 base WIM with May's updates all included, and this meant I could include them in all the master builds planned for the events in a few weeks time. Basically, I have a MECM task sequence which layers on the OS and some base apps, depending on what sort of build you want to do, and then it does it all with setting up local accounts (one user, one admin) and not domain joined in any way. That does mean using packages instead of applications but does at least work nicely.

The good thing is that once all the base is down, it's less tweaking to do afterwards, mainly setting up the right Chrome home pages, adding any other applications needed, and using a nice little utility to effectively block Windows updates from doing anything without damaging the system - but with a toggle to turn it back on as you need if you want to get anything done, which is pretty good. It was good to nail down one of the main juror builds late yesterday and do some final tests this morning before then using Clonezilla to create a disk image clone (partly because one of the suppliers we use also uses it.)

So with all that done and dusted, off to Euston. And as I had time I did the bus hopper route of the 394 which goes via all the back ways towards City Road and then off to Angel, swapping there for the 73 or 205, whichever comes first, to get to Euston. That worked well and I'll remember that for other times too as it'll become a good little trip out when I need to (and I can the same in reverse if coming from Euston too of course). I did think about possibly Standard Premium but thought it best to save the pennies for another day.

It was good to head up to Manchester and to see The Love In My Heart of course, and Brian the cat was being his usual little self and being adorable when I got there, even allowing me to give him a fuss and a love, which was always a positive thing for me anyway. I think that it's always good that we can sit back and relax and enjoy Gogglebox, and take the time out to enjoy that with its theme tune (In a Perfect World by Kodaline) definitely tune of the day.

Sunday 12th May - The Señor of Snooker

It was nice to be up and have a leisurely watch of Match of the Day, seeing Manchester City do the business 4-0 away at Fulham, and then seeing how the rest of the games fared. In truth one eye was on Manchester United v Arsenal later, but I couldn't see anything but an Arsenal win to be honest. We had some nice breakfast together and during that time Brian the cat decided to sneak out of the smallest gap in the bedroom window and on to the communal garden, hiding in the bushes and snarling at his Mummy with his hissy face on. Eventually he calmed down and got back in.

Today was also the final of the World Seniors Snooker Championship at the legendary Crucible Theatre. It was a battle for the ages: Ken Doherty was looking for a grand slam of junior, amateur, pro and then senior world champion, and that would indeed be a first. On the other hand, the Brazilian señor of snooker, Igor Figueiredo, had impressed during the tournament, smashing Jimmy White 3-0 and making back to back centuries in his semi final win over Tony Drago. You'd have to say he was the favourite, and has Eye of the Tiger by Survivor as his walk on tune, so tune of the day for definite.

Ken Doherty made a century in the first frame to take that, only for the next four to be won by Igor Figueiredo, who put together some solid breaks and shots to make sure that the advantage had been gained and then retained further after the mid session interval. It was then up to Ken to pull a frame back and he did with two half centuries to go 4-2 down. However, the señor was not to be denied, and a superb break of 88 meant that he had clinched it 5-2 and won the World Seniors title. He also got the extra prize money for the highest break and qualifies for the Champion of Champions tournament too, so more money there - it's a big incentive to win.

With that done, and with us having headed to Home Bargains during the mid session interval to get a bag big enough to carry home the Nespresso machine safely in its box, we headed to Track only to find that the taproom was closed for a private event. Instead we headed over to Cloudwater, where they were open and I had their very nice cheeky vimno sour, which was a non-alcoholic 0.5% beer with the sour taste of Vimto. And it was utter genius, and gorgeous. I did have their Piccadilly Nitro Porter later but all was good, and The Love was all happy as she was heading off to see Take That later on.

It was a sad farewell at Piccadilly later for me to get the train but that meant I got back well before the Arsenal and Man U fans were coming out of Old Trafford and getting drenched, and did treat myself to a Seatfrog upgrade to standard premium so it was easier to sit in there and then put the bag between the seat headrests (there's a nice gap in between which is perfect for that sort of bag storage) and once at Euston, a walk to St Pancras and the train homewards, and all good to go. It had been a good end to a superb weekend!

Saturday 11th May - Eurovision Derision

It was nice to have a relaxing morning with The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat, who was of course being his usual self and wanted lots of fussing and treats from his Mummy, as you would expect. We got up and had some breakfast and got ourselves ready, as The Love's sisters were coming over later on. We thought it'd be a good idea to get some nibbles for tonight so we could just have whatever we fancied and watch Eurovision later. With all the controversy surrounding it this year, I was just hoping that it'd focus more on the music tonight, but the events have not helped matters whatsoever there.

The Love's sisters came over, and we got the little patio table and chairs out so we could sit out at the front with the paved patio and the nice area The Love has meaning we could have a coffee and some cake there. Both of the sisters were very generous, I got some beers from the Isle of Skye (wow) and also a nice selection of beers from Beermoth as selected by The Love's niece and her boyfriend, always appreciated. I did also get a gift card for a place called The Flower Bowl, just north of Preston. It has all sorts of fun including crazy golf so it'll definitely need to be visited!

Later on in the afternoon The Love and I took a walk down the Ashton Canal, and that was quite nice in the sunshine, and soon arrived close to the city centre. We were going to try the tap rooms close to Piccadilly station, and all of them were very busy: no chance of getting any sort of spot in either Track or Cloudwater, and even Sureshot looked rammed, although we did wonder if some sort of beer event was on as all three seemed much busier than usual, even with the nice weather.

Eventually we went along to Balance and managed to get ourselves a spot in there, so that was a positive to be honest. There were some good beers on selection, most of which though were in two thirds of a pint, so definitely something to note. We did also see that they rotated the beers regularly, and I even spotted the Cloudwater Fresh (their lovely 0.5% beer) and so did that later too which was all good. A short walk via Piccadilly station later and it was on the tram back to The Love's place.

After sorting out all the nibbles and indeed ordering something for the holiday that I needed (a nice new t-shirt and indeed a hat too which would be sort of essential) then we settled in for Eurovision, and in the capable hands of the two Swedish hosts, especially the superb Petra Mede, who is very ace at this and has done it a few times. There were nods to Swedish acts who had done well in the past, and of course there was going to be some reference to ABBA, although when that did come around it was a bit of a disappointment.

Talking of which, the UK entry with Olly Alexander. I can't be the only one who thought that due to the staging and the fact most of the audience couldn't see the performance that it didn't help with the singing, where he didn't sound at his best during the song. I figured the track was catchy enough but wasn't sure how it would fare in the vote. Switzerland's entry with Nemo's The Code not only staged the song much better, but the song felt more of a hook throughout (tune of the day for me) , and that for me was a contender, as was Ireland's rather excellent Goth Industrial sound of Bambie Thug, who notably yelled out "Love always triumphs hate!" at the end of their performance (Bambie is non-binary, hence the they and their pronouns, as is Nemo, incidentally.)

The Finland entry with Windows95Man was plain daft, with ways to cover his middle bits (even though he had flesh coloured underwear on) - and just needing the F1 driver Valtteri Bottas (who does have his Bott-arse calendar by the way) to complete the style there. I also did like the Portugese entry too, and Croatia also had a positive catchy number that might do well with the audience vote, I thought. As the voting started, the UK wasn't getting that many points and Switzerland were romping ahead. Ireland did well initially but faded in the jury votes, and Sweden gave the UK highest with 8 points.

So on to the viewer votes, where all the countries' viewer results are totted up into the classic 1-8, 10 and 12 points, and totalled in. The UK got a big fat zero which was disappointing, and despite my misgivings about the song, thought it wasn't that bad. It meant an 18th place finish overall, with thankfully love triumphing and Croatia and Switzerland getting enough viewers votes to see off Israel (who got 12 from the UK public as it transpired - what the hell?) - with the Swiss winning. Bambie Thug gave Nemo their crown they used in the song, and it was a lovely moment of respect. Well done Switzerland and see you in Bern/Zurich/Geneva/Basel next year!

Friday 10th May - Happy Birthday

It was my birthday today (and yes, admittedly, I am getting old!) and so as a result it was nice to have The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat there with me in the morning as we got up. We had planned a day out so it was good to be up and have a coffee, and then open some presents. I had already opened some presents from my friend (which were ace, the 1986 F1 season review DVD and two new albums I was after on CD too) and it was good to see that on the whole I'd got some lovely stuff. A fair few relations had got me gift cards, which are always useful and so that's always appreciated. And I had Happy Birthday by Altered Images in my head all day, so has to be tune of the day.

The Love explained that her two sisters would drop off something tomorrow (which was fine, no rush) and my brother also mentioned his online order hadn't come yet, but I'd be seeing him next weekend anyway on a family occasion and so would make sense to hand it over then, so all good. The Love had got me this really good book of escapes out of London, some of which we'll have to look into and try out, if we haven't done already, when The Love comes to visit, but then in she came with a big box all nicely wrapped up. Inside that was a Nespresso Pop machine, in the mint green colour wave, and that all looked very nice. You did at least get some starter pods with it to get you going an offer to redeem, so will look into that one. Still, that was very generous of her to say the least!

With everything nicely opened and the cards on display, and some lovely ones too, we got ourselves changed and ready to head out for the day after treating ourselves to a McDonald's breakfast, because we could. We first of all headed to see The Cute Little One and The Cute Tiny One, and they were both adorable as ever, and they handed me presents too from them and their parents. I got a nice little selection of beer and there was also a gift experience for us both to enjoy too, so that was going to be nice to do when the time came also. It was good to see the little ones with The Cute Tiny One holding The Love's hand and being so lovely.

We headed off on the motorway and before long and after heading around Preston, we were on the A584 heading along the Fylde Coast and to Fairhaven, just the other side of Lytham. The Love had spotted a nice crazy golf course there and was going to indulge me a little, and the lake itself looked nice to walk around too. We did get a parking spot for free on the car park next to the crazy golf, and then did that. It was a very good course indeed, 18 excellent holes and I was surprised to get a hole in one on the first hole! We did both play well though and The Love did some excellent shots throughout too, so it was good fun.

After stopping for a coffee we headed around Fairhaven Lake, including seeing the Spitfire mounted on a tall plinth at the far end, and the Canadian Geese with all their little tiny cute babies at that end too. We did walk via the Japanese Garden to the sea wall before then rejoining the lake and heading around - it was rather nice it had to be said, and definitely something different. We did notice a fair number of dog walkers and I suspect a circle around the lake was a good amount of exercise for both dog and human, so looked like it was popular, which was a good thing.

We then headed to Lytham and managed to get a parking space on the car park not far from Lytham Windmill. Yes, the windmill is still there and it still works, and on certain days (not today though) you can visit it too, which I'll definitely have to try out sometime. We did then walk into the town centre and admired lots of independent little shops and charity places too and with the Victorian frontages on some of them really did make the place feel really nice, it has to be said. We were thinking about where to go for some lunch and then I hit a brainwave, and it worked out!

We ended up going to Ego, a Mediterranean restaurant that used to have a branch in Manchester (and in Sheffield) and we used to love it there. The one in Lytham is still going, and thankfully, just as nice as ever. We did their lunch menu and The Love had the chicken milanese, nicely flattened with some fresh salad and fries, and I had the chicken supreme, which was delightful and had a nice creamy sauce, some mash, and some green beans. It hit the spot excellently, as did the beer we had in the Craft House later down the main high street, sitting outside in the sun with a nice beer. As you do!

After a quick jaunt to St Annes (where the pier was closing at 5pm so we had around 10 minutes for a quick mooch) and then heading up the seafront in Blackpool, wishing I was going into Coral Island (one for the future there) we then headed back homewards, having had a nice day out in some very good weather. We settled in and fussed over Brian the cat before then watching the likes of Gogglebox on the telly to effectively put the seal on the end to a rather lovely day all round, and one that really did make the most of the time off we both had. Yaay us.

Sunday 5th May - Lazy Sunday Afternoon

It was nice to be up and about on the Sunday morning, with a coffee and some breakfast, and some extra cuddles and preening for Brian the cat, who as ever wanted full attention from his Mummy, because he can. With the weather set fair we thought it may be a nice idea to head out for a walk later on, and to maybe take in the city centre a bit and the makers' market in Ancoats too which always has some nice things - and maybe some lunch if we fancied it. The nice thing is that we can just do that as we like, and after seeing the players come out for the start of the World Snooker Championship final, off we set.

Close by to The Love In My Heart's place is the Ashton Canal, and this takes us past the new Co-Op Live (which still doesn't look anywhere near finished looking at it from the outside) and then past the Etihad Stadium in the background. The Regional Athletics Arena sounded like it had an event on from the tannoy, and we then followed the canal towpath around the former gasometers and to the back of former mills and factories that front on to Old Mill Street. The towpath is well used by cyclists and dog walkers too, so there are always plenty of people about.

We got to the marina at New Islington, following that around and then over towards Ancoats itself, past the lovely Elnecot (was so tempted to book Sunday roast in there as it's lovely) and to the Makers Market. There were some lovely stalls including one who makes all sorts of baby knits, embroidering the likes of Paddington Bear and Peter Rabbit onto their designs, and looks fab. We did also see one stall that had nice Summer dresses but The Love wasn't sure by the sizing, but one blue and white dress did catch her eye so we decided an outside drink at Seven Bro7ers Beerhouse nearby was a good call.

And was it ever - we ended up having two drinks sat outside, so had the Satin Stout first of all, always lush that one, and then the gorgeous Iron Brew Sour from Vault City Brewing after that. Yes it was very sugary, yes it tasted like a famous Scottish soft drink, and yes, it was lush! Not everyone's favourite, but definitely need to source some of that sometime. The Love went back to the stall for the makers' market and after some chatter to the stallholder, bought the dress, which fitted superbly when she tried it on later, so epic win there of course!

We then walked over to the Abel Heywood for Sunday lunch, and the upstairs part was open so we went up - and why didn't we do that before? We normally go downstairs which is nice, but felt much comfier and cosier here, and with less noise too which was nice. In fact that did mean we could chill out more, and I had the fish and chips whilst The Love went for the Sunday roast ham which looked gorgeous. It was all lovely and a nice way to do lunch, before it was off to Fierce Beer. I did try a nice new 0.5% beer that one of their collaboators had on which was fab, and The Love had her usual Cerveza, very nice too.

We got back later on the tram, fed Brian the cat his tea and I settled in for some of the snooker during the evening. I did like both players really going for it, and Kyren Wilson's walk on music, Fire In Your Eyes by Chase and Status (which mentions his nickname Warrior in the main chorus, and sounds very like The Prodigy) is tune of the day - with Jak Jones going for a bit of Stereophonics, no bad thing of course. The final frame of tonight's sessionw was proper Crucible drama, with a black ball to decide the fate of the frame, crucial as it would happen to be...

Saturday 4th May - Haaland x4

It was a nice relaxing morning with The Love In My Heart and Brian the cat after I had headed up to Manchester last night. For once the train was pretty much on time, and I had the Manchester City versus Wolverhampton Wanderers game later at the Etihad. But first, a quick trip out to Ashton under Lyne on the tram, and with it being Star Wars Day, we did have a stormtrooper in disguise heading around the town centre, and someone playing the iconic set of film themes in the background, as you do of course. Nothing doing in Rewind Collectables and Games but good to get out there nonetheless.

Later on it was off to the Etihad, and with Arsenal winning 3-0 against Bournemouth earlier, we needed to win to keep up the pressure. I for one wanted to see a return to form from Erling Haaland after his goal last weekend, so captained him in Fantasy League as he was back fit. I set off a little earlier after watching the last bits of the World Snooker Championship semi final with Kyren Wilson overcoming David Gilbert to get to his second final, all good there and nice to see Kyren doing well again it has to be said (I quite like David too so was happy either way to be honest.)

At the ground, I decided on pie and a pint, and the nice thing is now there's a machine you pay by debit card, put the recyclable pint glass in, and out comes a fresh Asahi into the glass. And it's 10% less than using a kiosk too as a nice incentive, and was good to relax and enjoy that before the game, keeping an eye on the other scores with the 3pm kick offs. All looked good and as City warmed up I was hoping for goals, more so because Wolves did beat us at Molineux earlier in the season, and last time here we won with an Erling Haaland hat trick, so maybe my faith wasn't displaced?

The game kicked off and early on City got a penalty - which looked a very dodgy decision to be fair. Josko Gvardiol got ahead of the Wolves defender, but looked like a 50/50 challenge to me, and the ref pointed to the spot, and no VAR overturning it either. Erling Haaland stepped up and despatched the penalty for the opener, and before long he would tower above the defence from a deep Rodri cross to head into the opposite corner for 2-0. I was already feeling mighty glad to have captained him, let me tell you.

City pressed onwards with some good chances and before half time Erling Haaland was one on one with the Wolves defender, ran past him and initially we thought it was a good tackle, despite protestations from the City players. Eventually the ref went to VAR and overturned his decision for a penalty which narked off the Wolves fans. Erling Haaland took it and buried it into the bottom corner for a first half hat trick and 3-0 at half time. A defensive lapse however did let in Hwang Hee-Chan to make it 3-1. But that would only be for a brief moment..

The ball went to Phil Foden, and he curled forward an audcaious forty yard or so pass to Erling Haaland. The striking Viking took it in his stride, cut inside the hapless Wolves defence, and curled it into the top corner for a majestic finish and 4-1 City, with Haaland having scored all four. My Fantasy points were looking good, 18 so far and surely he'd get the bonus 3 points as well to make 21, and being captain, double that for 42 points. Nice. No complaints from me, and with a fifth goal from Julian Alvarez late on, a nice 5-1 win for City (and I do like a good 5-1 me) to keep up the pressure.

Tuesday 2nd May - I Wanna Be Elected

It was the local elections today in England at least, and so with all the necessary information supplied in a booklet, including advertisements for all the candidates, which were bordering on downright racist in some areas, it was off at lunch time to the local polling station to cast my vote. My view is, even though I am not that much into politics, is pretty clear: if you vote, then if for example what you vote on gets in, then you've done your part: and even if not, you can then at least ask why others didn't vote and perhaps change how your local council is run, or who the mayor is for a region and so on.

Naturally, the Mancunian in me would have loved to have been still in a Manchester postal area and so be eligible to vote for the Mayor of Greater Manchester: and if that was a possibility, then it'd have been no contest at all to vote for Andy Burnham. Remember during COVID when Manchester was being put into Tier 3 without no plans for business, who stood up for Mancunians and asked what the plan was. More so the later COVID inquiry proved that actually those tiers would not have worked anyway, and so was just a delaying tactic at best to serve out "punishments" on local authorities who dared ask questions. There's lots of other reasons, but needless to say I'd want to vote for someone who geniunely cares, and he does.

So when it comes to the London based elections, there were three bits of paper to fill out - the pink ballot paper was for the Mayor of London, and unlike previous where you had first and second preference votes, this time it was a straight fight of first past the post (possibly staged to try and help the Conservative candidate win, but we shall see.) The yellow ballot paper was the London Assembly member foir the local area (Croydon and Sutton being put together as the two closest London boroughs) and then one for the London-Wide assembly member in orange.

The staff at the polling station were all good and they asked for my photo ID (mandatory now incidentally) and that done, I did the casting of my votes with the cross into the boxes and dropped the folded ballot papers off into the boxes of ballot papers, ready to be counted. Unlike a lot of local councils (The Love In My Heart voted for her local councillor also, but she does hers by post) London didn't have any council elections in the main, and so was just a main mayoral scrap. I was sort of hoping that one candidate would win, but never do cast aspersions on that.

Naturally I had Alice Cooper's seminal Elected song in my head (make that tune of the day) and it definitely felt like a good thing to participate and cast the vote on. I can only hope for the future that all elections are this smooth and with the upheaval in Scotland at present - no elections even going on - then there may be at least some positives to take from today's vote, we shall see. I got all the stuff prepped for the weekend also as I was spending some quality time with The Love In My Heart, always a nice thing to do of course.