Dear Diary... November 2023

Wednesday 29th November - Mancunian Magic

The Love In My Heart had been awoken by Brian the cat being his usual needy self - he was gently tapping The Love with his paw to get up, wanted to have a play out on the patio, and then on top of that, was miaowing by the front door for him to go and have a play in the hallway. I was awoken by his miaowing, and he really was crying for his Mummy a lot. Not sure why he has ended up being so needy as of late, but he did settle down, ironically once we were both awake and getting ourselves ready for the day!

We both had some crumpets and coffee for breakfast, and it was just nice to be able to spend some time with The Love before she was heading off to work and I was then heading off to Manchester city centre. With the ground still cold and frosty from last night (glad I had the big coat with me) it was nice that when I did get on the tram that it was nice and warm so definitely was good to head into town. I got off at Piccadilly Gardens and started to walk down Market Street, with all the huts in the middle that were the Christmas Food Market (because it's almost all food and drink stalls now) and off to Fopp.

I had a nice good look around Fopp and there were some CDs that I was tempted by had I not already thought of them as potential presents that The Love In My Heart could get me, so had to resist some of those. It's always nice to listen to whatever is being played in there though, and that soothed me nicely before I headed over to Uniqlo. I did actually get some thicker socks in there and they were in the sale section, so £2.90 a pair, and love the way that their tills just recognise everything and the right price at that, it's super impressive how it all works.

I did then head into Tim Hortons for a coffee, which was much needed, and so nice that when you go to the quick pay tills they give you an option to stay in and indeed have it in a proper crockery big white mug, which is how it should be done. And it was very nice having their dark roast, it has to be said. I then had a good look in Vinyl Exchange for old times' sake and although no CDs were forthcoming to be purchased, there's always the massive variety of titles that they have which really does make for it always being a pleasant visit in there too.

It was soon time to head on the 1155 train back to London Euston and got on the reserved seat, but it was aisle. I did find an unreserved window seat so moved to that and had no one sat next to me the whole journey despite the train being quite busy (epic win there) and that also meant I could listen to some lovely music too - so the fab Velvet Days by Kristin Hersh is most definitely tune of the day as it really does have a wonderful mix of acoustic and strings.

Tuesday 28th November - Legends of Manchester

I had today and tomorrow off work, primarily to spend some time in Manchester (which also means quality time with The Love In My Heart) but also to see the Champions League game between Manchester City and RB Lepzig. I hadn't done a Champions League game this season and would be nice to see one, and with the added incentive of a draw at least would win us the group and mean home advantage for the second leg in the last sixteen, plus avoiding the other group winners in the draw (and considering that's Bayern Munich with Harry Kane on fire for example, sensible!)

I had booked the trains through Avanti West Coast to head up to Manchester and back, but this time using their Superfare thing they've done with Seatfrog. For £20 each way you choose the day and day, morning or evening (need to book 7-21 days before) and then the day before you get an email with the ticket with your train and seat reservation too. I had today's one come through yesterday (for the 1033) and tomorrow's came through this morning (1155 tomorrow.) I had picked mornings in both cases as evening would be until 1800 and that might mean me not making it in time for kick off!

Euston was very busy when I got there, primarily because of late incoming trains and having a knock on effect on outgoing ones. I had a hunch thanks to London Platforms to be near platforms 12-15, and sure enough, Platform 14's screen changed and I was able to get on and get my window seat B40 before the mad rush. In fact, there were trains in front not going so fast, plus some signalling issues, so at Rugby time was lost and then bizarrely between Wilmslow and Stockport, so much so that I got into Manchester Piccadilly 17 minutes late and so was eligible for Delay Repay, so put a claim in for that later - granted, it'd be £5, but better than nothing.

The first tram at Piccadilly was only going to the Etihad Stadium but that was fine because I wanted to go and see the new statue that was at the ground - one that paid tribute to the trilogy of players during the late 1960s and early 1970s golden era, with Colin Bell, the recently departed Francis Lee, and Mike Summerbee immortalised. In fact the plinth below has all the twenty nine squad players of that time too including the likes of Joe Corrigan (whom I would see at the statue too), Neil Young, Alan Oakes, Glyn Pardoe, Tony Coleman, Tony Book and so on. Nice to acknowledge them too.

I then headed back on the tram and over to The Love In My Heart's place where Brian the cat was of course wanting some fussing and seeing me, he got off the bed and was dropping hints to have some Dreamies! I settled in with a coffee and watched the UK Championship snooker before The Love arrived home from work - she was on her early shift today to avoid the football traffic. We had a good catch up and natter before she settled in to make some lovely tea for us both - some pasta with fresh meatballs and a gorgeous sauce, along with some garlic bread. Just the thing to keep me warm for the football later - I am so lucky!

I headed off to the Etihad Stadium and got in relatively early, primarily to ensure to get past the extra security and be all good with the ticket. I decided even to have an Asahi beer before kick off and found a seat on the concourse with table where I could just relax with the drink. Having had my tea earlier, no pie was needed so it was all good to go once drink consumed, and the laser show along with video paid tribute to Bell, Lee and Summerbee with lasered lettering and light shows, it was really good. Just the thing to get the crowd nicely warmed up, and even the classic The Boys In Blue (make that tune of the day) with words for those who didn't know, and naturally I was singing along big time to that.

To say that this was a game of two halves was a massive understatement. City did not turn up at all in the first half and looked shaky defensively, particularly any time RB Leipzig went on the counter attack. One ball over the top resulted in a challenge being won by their striker Loïs Openda and he pelted forward for a well taken goal. Too easy to concede that way, and almost a carbon copy for his second as the ball was won by Openda on the half way line and he scurried towards the box, and avoided the attention of Josko Gvardiol to slot it home. 2-0 down in thirty two minutes, and with shots blazed over from Rico Lewis and Erling Haaland, it wasn't working.

Sensibly, Nathan Aké came on for Ruben Dias at half time (Dias had been booked and could have been red carded close to the end of the first half) and that started to help a little, but the double change bringing on Jeremy Doku for Jack Grealish and Julian Álvarez for Kyle Walker (and switching Rico Lewis to right wing back at past of that) really did pay dividends. Almost straight away Phil Foden moved more centrally, and his delicate pass to Erling Haaland meant he was through on goal, and he slotted it superbly home for 2-1. Over half an hour left, and the belief came back for the fans.

City pressed onwards and although Leipzig were still dangerous on the break, the presence of Doku down the left skinning two of the Leipzig defenders really did change the belief around. Some great work down the left hand side and the ball was passed to Doku, who found Gvardiol on the left. The ball was passed into Phil Foden and he took it around a defender before then slotting through the legs of another and into the bottom corner, a superb finish and it was 2-2. This now meant (due to the head to head rule) that we would be top of the group if the score stayed as it was.

But City were not having any of it. After the scare of a Leipzig goal correctly disallowed, City surged on, and some superb work with Doku and then Foden meant that the ball went into Álvarez in the six yard box, who bided the time and slotted it into the bottom left corner. The Etihad went delirious and being in the front row of level two in the North Stand meant I had had a cracking view of all five goals (all scored at that end!) - and it was good to see that win out. Five wins out of five, albeit this one done the very hard way indeed to say the least. The Boys In Blue, as the song goes, never give in, and not a truer word said for tonight's game.


Sunday 26th November - Sunday Strolls

It was nice just to have a relaxing sleep and lie in this morning after being out and about during the last couple of days. We had at least booked lunch at the Crown and Anchor, one of our favourite places, this afternoon, and that would be a good way to end the weekend. The weather was at least still dry, so I made us some sausage and bacon toasties for some breakfast, and had a coffee to go with that and enjoyed that whilst keeping an eye on the telly and also looking at the tour dates for Paul Weller for next year. It does look like that none of those dates would tie in, but if anything else was added, we could see what happened.

We decided to head off early as The Love wanted to head into Primark (we actually didn't pass any yesterday) and wanted to get some gloves as well as a couple of other bits. We did browse around and there were some nice pairs, and she elected a medium grey pair which did the job nicely and weren't that expensive. She did also find a little present for one of her relations too and so was able to get that at the same time, with the queues being pretty quick to progress thanks to one of the managers being in charge to ensure a smooth flow of customers, good move that.

We also did have a look in Next Outlet to see what was there, and did spot a couple of pairs of jeans that were decent, not in my size sadly, but at least the style and colour was good. We did pop into One Below also where The Love got a a couple of items that were work related and after a quick visit into Sports Direct, it was on with the walk to East Croydon station, and got the train to London Victoria, and stopped by the Oliver Bonas shop there to have a mooch at some lovely items for The Love. There were some nice dresses that she did like but some of them were too long.

After a trip on the Victoria Line to Warren Street, it was over to the Crown and Anchor. The Love went to the bar to get some drinks and one of the staff recognised us, and also had said to The Love that he reserved us the table 7 (that we usually have) because they knew we liked it - and knowing the customers is good, right. I had the rather gorgeous dark beer from the Orkney Brewery called Dark Island, which was stunningly nice. It was dark, a little chocolatey and really did drink easily too, which I will definitely need to try and source more of sometime.

As for the Sunday lunch, The Love went for the Sunday Roast chicken which was up to their usual ace standards, and I had the fantastic fillet of hake, with some new potatoes, king prawns and samphire in a lovely butter. It tasted superb and was the best fish I'd had in ages, the hake was just so melty with the prawns complimenting it wonderfully well. I did have the Gipsy Hill Hepcat later and The Love had a glass of wine as we were keeping an eye out for what the trains were doing, and it was a bit manic at Euston later to say the least, with trains being delayed and masses being guided the wrong way. Meh.

Still, that didn't put a dampener on what was a fantastic weekend with The Love In My Heart and one that really showed just how nice it is for me when she comes to visit and we can make the most of the time together as well as get up to plenty. And the weekend was made complete by Manchester City giving Tottenham a 7-0 thrashing in the Women's Super League football. See that Bunny Shaw? She scores goals, she does. A well deserved win and one that made me think just how much good value watching the women's game is, food for thought there. Tune of the day in the meantime is the excellent Velvet Days by Kristin Hersh, certainly felt velvety and nice today!

Saturday 25th November - Shopping Central

A few weeks back when The Love In My Heart and I did a canal walk from Little Venice to St Pancras, we took in parts of Camden Market and the nice Hawley Wharf development which is close to the canal and a little bit quieter than the other parts of the market. In one of the shops under the arches there she had seen something which was a potential present idea, and having checked in last week she did mention to me that she wanted to head there and see if said gift was still there, and if it was, buy it. I was fine with that and in theory we could plan a shopping trip starting there and making our way around other places, before then heading over to Putney later to meet her niece, boyfriend and also her sister for some tea (where we had again sensibly booked somewhere.)

So first off after a nice hearty breakfast it was off to East Croydon and to get the train to London Bridge. That was absolutely rammed due to the train before being cancelled due to a lack of train crew, thus proving GTR's "we have enough drivers" lie from back in 2016 is still a lie. It was also busier as lots of Crystal Palace fans were on the train heading up to Luton for their league game later on, so that made sense why it wasn't the mass exodus at London Bridge that it normally was. Anyway, we managed to pass by the little Hamleys under the arches before then getting to the Northern line station, and all was well until we got to Euston, where the train stopped. It carried on but then became an Edgware train on the way to Camden Town due to a broken down train on the High Barnet branch, which would have ramifications later on.

The queue to get out of Camden Town was horrid, and to be honest, the whole station needs a complete redesign (something I've said privately for years). It doesn't serve as it should, and the platform arrangements if you need to interchange branches is all wrong. I'd re-engineer the line and tracks so that the Northbound platforms are next to each other, and the same with Southbound, and make more exits and lifts available. Anyway we managed to exit and walked along the main street towards the canal and turned right onto Hawley Wharf where all was good, and we managed to locate the shop we were after. As it transpired, everything that The Love wanted was in stock, and so she was very happy to purchase what she came for. Winning!

We walked down the other parts of Hawley Wharf and noted the Three Locks Brewery and tap room and that they had spaces inside. We had a table by the window, and I went to the bar and ordered some very nice porter for myself and some mulled cider for The Love, which was made fresh and pretty hot, so we needed to wait for that to cool down. We did enjoy that and there were some twee versions of Christmas hits which were a at least nice to have in the background as we looked outside to the canal, and a very chilled out view.

We decided that next would be a trip over to Marylebone High Street, and I knew we could get the 27 bus so walked to the end of the wharf, across Camden Gardens and to the bus stop there as part of the one way system. This proved to be good for a number of reasons: first of all, it meant we were on the bus and with a seat before the masses at the Camden Town stop: second, the queue outside Mornington Crescent station to be able to even get in the station showed that the Northern Line was still screwed. It wasn't too bad and we were soon making our way along to Marylebone Village.

It's always nice to walk down the high street there, and the Conran Shop certainly had had a redesign and was lovely, albeit expensive, and then we passed along some more lovely shops, heading in for some deli delights at Bayley and Sage and having a good look around Caroline Gardner, with a pit stop at Pret for a toastie and coffee to keep us going until later on. We also then went inside The White Company where every woman and her posh dog were present, and it was busy but we did manage to get a couple of nice presents in there too which was a bonus.

We walked back along Marylebone High Street and popped into Daunt Books as well as getting some chocolate from Bayley and Sage as some presents, and then passed a couple of lovelty childrenswear shops which gave us some ideas for future presents, before then heading to Baker Street. We had a plan or two: if the Northern Line had recovered enough, we'd change at Waterloo and get the Northern to Battersea Power Station, but if not, we'd just get off at Waterloo and walk along the South Bank. We got the Bakerloo line primarily due to the ease of change with the Northern.

At Waterloo we made our way to the Northern platform, and did see a tube in a few minutes to Battersea Power Station, so we waited for that and made sense to change there and avoid the masses changing at Kennington. Once at Battersea Power Station, we made our way along to some of the shops and then into the power station itself, admiring all the lower ground floor shops and noting how many more had opened since we were here last year, including Uniqlo having expanded, and the Lego shop too. We also noted on the upper floor just how busy the control room two bar was.

We headed outside and spotted the ice rink by the river, complete with the likes of the two large bars. We thought it sensible to get a drink and so went to the Battersea Brewery where we got an inside table and I had their saison beer, which was nice, with The Love having the unfiltered lager. It was good to relax even though the music was a little on the loud side, but I guess that was to add to the atmosphere and all that. We did also then head back via the Battersea General Store and past the cats and dogs home, and took the road to Queenstown Road Battersea station, so that was a direct train ride into Putney and to save faffing later.

Once at Putney we crossed the road and over to the Railway pub where I'd reserved a table for the five of us for 7pm. The Love's sister and niece arrived not long after with the niece's boyfriend watching some football before joining us. It was nice to catch up and chatter together, and the staff were lovely. Unfortunately they had ran out of the Sambrooks Wandle, but the Beavertown Neck Oil was on so that was fine. As for the main, I decided to have the rustica pizza which was very thin, very crispy and very nice. The Love had the flattened chicken which had dauphonoise potatoes and vegetables which was really nice too, and in fact all five meals were good. I even indulged for the sticky toffee pudding later on!

Time sped by and before long it had gone 9pm and was time to say our farewells, and thankfully not far to go for the train. We did luck out with the delayed 2107 arriving and so got that to Clapham Junction and then across for the East Croydon train, so did the whole train trip in 24 minutes. We got back to East Croydon and I noted on BBC Two there was a Take That thing recorded at the Radio 2 Theatre, so left that on for The Love for a bit before Match of the Day later. They did Back For Good and as I know The Love adores that so much, it's tune of the day, as I'd always want The Love to be back for good of course!

Friday 24th November - Walking In The (Aldwych) Air

It was nice to have the day off work and be the start of a nice longer weekend, more so because The Love In My Heart was coming to visit me for the weekend and we would be doing some festive things a little bit earlier than usual. This was primarily due to the way that some of the football fixtures fell (and I wasn't able to get a ticket for the Liverpool home game tomorrow either and knew that a while back, so kept this weekend free) but also as it would tie in nicely with The Love's pay day and so mean that if she wanted to get any Christmas presents and so on whilst here, she could do so and potentially go wild in the aisles.

I spent the morning doing all the domestic chore stuff, so changing the bedding, getting everywhere tidy (it was already but giving it all another going over) and then making sure I had all the things in for breakfast as well as some wine for The Love and so on. It was all good and having finished by mid morning, I could relax with some telly and just take things relatively easily, with no work to think about. The Love was able to get her train on time and it was also nice and super quiet for her too, so that was something.

Later on with all the trains being good, The Love informed me she was at London Victoria and all good for the Littlehampton train which stopped at East Croydon so off I headed to meet her. She did look lovely in her Joules jacket and scarf, and definitely was happy that things went relatively well transport wise. Due to the fact we were off out to the theatre tonight, we didn't have that long, so got back to my place, unpacked the case as needed, and then had ourselves changed and ready to head out for the evening, taking the train from East Croydon via London Bridge to Charing Cross.

We did note the lovely tree outside Charing Cross station and headed down the Strand, all resplendent with some festive lighting, and did a stop off at the Savoy where we noted the signs were all festively decorated and the two cats sculpted from bushes were all there to see too, all rather lovely. In fact the theatre there was also pumping out fake artificial snow outside the entrance which of course got lots of younger passers by rather excited, and that was really nice to see to be honest. We made our way back across the Strand and over to the Wellington pub where we would be eating.

Because we knew we'd be close all the West End theatres tonight, we sensibly booked a table at the upstairs dining room in the Wellington. And glad we did, and as we sat comfortable with a drink, others who came upstairs without a reservation were turned away. I had the Nicholsons Pale Ale (always a solid choice as brewed by the St Austell folks) and The Love had a Camden Hells, and for the main she had the fish and chips which looked really good, and I had the steak and ale pie with a really nice rich gravy that went down ever so well. All was lovely, and it gave us plenty of time to then walk past the theatres along Aldwych and over to Kingsway where the Peacock Theatre was.

I'd never been in that theatre before, so from street level you go down to the circle (where we were tonight) and then for the stalls you went down further still, so all below ground. The bar at the circle level was all good and I had a Free Damm beer whilst The Love had a wine before then taking our places in upper circle row F and with seats right in the middle. We noted the stage was set almost like a snow globe, pretty apt considering we would be seeing The Snowman tonight, a Birmingham Rep production and with Sadlers Wells involved, much more of a dance interpretation which would prove to be interesting.

And I have to say, The Love and I both thought it was brilliant. There were no spoken parts throughout, just like the original film, and all the staging and the way that changed was really well done. The nice use of multiple props to roll on and off stage as the boy built the snowman was really good, and also having the ballerina come to life from the wind up box was a inspired idea - allowing some ballet into the performance to expand on that part. In fact the same ballerina would be in the second part where the snowman and the boy are visiting Santa, so that worked really nicely as a storyline too. And yes, they did walk in the air using some rather clever attachments and in the night sky scene you couldn't see the wires either.

It was all so impressive, and the musicians who did everything live deserve special mention, a stunning version of Walking in the Air (got to be tune of the day) and that just ended the first part fantastically well before then arriving with Santa, and all having a joyous time there and plenty of dance. Sensibly they kept the ending in, but also didn't dwell on that too much before having all the actors in their snow people and other costumes back out for the curtain call encore and dancing some more, which all the children (little or big!) loved too. It was well paced and at 1 hour 50 minutes including interval was about right for what it was, and lots of happy ones everywhere, so well worth us going.

We walked down Fleet Street towards City Thameslink station and although one or two of the pubs were full, we did manage to get a space at the Old Bell, and had some rather nice red Winter ale and was able to chatter and relax with The Love for a while, with the background of the St Bride's Church behind where we were sat. It was just a lovely way to wind down the evening before heading to the station and a nice straight journey to East Croydon to get home, and then watched Graham Norton before we went to bed, with Take That being on there being a huge highlight for The Love, as you would expect!

Sunday 19th November - Bargain Hunting In Peckham

I had a really good online chat with some friends last night, and after having had a good night's sleep, I got up this morning and thought it would be sensible to head over to the Harris Academy in Peckham, as they have a fortnightly car boot sale organised there, whatever the weather, and it was today. I also knew it didn't open til 10am (and you get charged more for early bird) so getting there just after 10.30am and paying the £1 admission fee made a lot more sense to me to be honest.

WIth that in mind, it was time for breakfast and a watch of last night's Strictly Come Dancing before I set off. I did note the excellent choice of the Wham classic Wake Me Up Before You Go Go that Bobby Brazier and Dianne Buswell danced to (so has to be tune of the day) and that set off the Blackpool special well. Layton Williams and Nikita Kuzmin were awesome with their couple's choice, and the fun Charleston from Ellie Leach and Vito Coppola also scored highly. I was most surprised by Angela Scanlon with Carlos Gu as she nailed the Argentine Tango superbly, moving Carlos to geniune tears - and well deserved scores too - it was really well done.

I then headed off to get the 197 bus from near mine which would take me to Peckham (ironically the 197 was a bus near me in Manchester too!) and the bus went to Norwood Junction, Penge and then Sydenham before then following the roads to Forest Hill, passing along by Dulwich Park and taking a right turn by the library to head towards Peckham Rye Common and onwards to the centre of Peckham itself, where I got off by the train station and then followed the roads towards the academy, and there was a sizeable queue of people waiting to get in, assumedly as they had all timed it for the £1 admission.

I eventually headed in and paid the money, and it seems that both main play areas either side of the main building were being used, and a lot of clothes on rails and hangers everywhere, less so other items. In fact you could turn up as a pedestrian and get a pitch, then use whatever you had to lay out a stall and sell the items - so any outside bench space or areas like that were also used where possible. It reminded me of one I've been to in Pimlico (possibly run by the same people) so that was notable. And whilst I didn't get anything myself, plenty of people did - with one of the UAL campuses not far away, lots of students around going for anything vintage they could find too.

I headed back into Peckham and noted that the 197 was due in 20 minutes (might have just missed one) so instead I hatched plan B and took the 363 to Crystal Palace, that went round Camberwell Cemetery and then a couple of back roads, turning right at the Horniman Museum, following the old railway line (but way over it by climbing the hills) and arriving in good time and I just switched at Crystal Palace for the 410 bus back home. It did prove to take around the same time as the journey outwards, so that wasn't too bad overall (and of course because Hopper Fare kicks in, you can at least use those alternatives!)

Saturday 18th November - Boat Race In Reverse

Despite the weather not exactly looking 100 per cent today, I decided that I'd take my chances and do the next part of the Thames Path walk along the South Bank of the Thames, which would be from Mortlake to Putney Bridge. Now if those names sound familiar, that's because normally the University Boat Race actually uses that section of the Thames, but upstream with the tide rather than down. So effectively today I would be doing the Boat Race but in reverse, and a very sensible thought on the part of who created the walk to have a section that would be the exact route - and if you were walking the sections in reverse, even better.

There weren't any trains from East Croydon to Victoria via Clapham Junction due to engineering work, so came up with an alternative plan: take the tram to Wimbledon, get the 93 bus from there to Putney, and then join the train at Putney and head off to Mortlake. That did work well and actually I had timed it reasonably well so that when I did get to Putney, I only had to wait a few minutes for the Mortlake train (and they're normally every half hour.) I did note that it was starting to rain heavily and I really hoped that it was just a passing shower that would go away. Somehow all the rain had me thinking of Here Comes The Rain Again by the Eurythmics, so that's tune of the day.

It was still raining when I arrived at Mortlake and by the time I did get to the Thames and indeed to the University Boat Race stone that marked the boat race finish, it had at least stopped. I did suspect that the path here would be fairly muddy as a lot of it were trails by the river and no hard standing paving, and that was proven correct. Plenty of runners were heading past as I walked along and definitely for me it was noticeable that it was very muddy for them too. I would probably need to get changed when I got home and certainly I noted that later on arrival in Putney.

The walk took me to Barnes Railway Bridge and I crossed underneath that and then noted the nice bars and pubs in Barnes by the riverside, before then taking the Leg O'Mutton nature reserve path with all the reserve on the right hand side and the river on the left, along with the Chiswick river side across. It did take me some time to navigate as it was a large curve around the river at this point, but in the distance I could see Hammersmith Bridge and that meant that I had done a fair chunk of the walk - and with the bridge closed to road traffic, the blissful nature of being cycles and pedestrians only really did seem good.

Passing under the bridge, I passed the Harrods Furniture Depot on the right with the likes of Riverside Studios on the other side of the river, and all the way through I had noted plenty of boats with four and eight person crews rowing along, probably getting some sensible practice in when they were able to. I noted the London Wetlands park to the right which looked interesting, and also a memorial stone to one of the founders of the Head of the River Race, postioned exactly one mile from the Boat Race start, then Fulham's new Riverside Stand across the river which is looking close to completion.

As I headed towards Putney and the path became properly paved and more of a riverside promenade, the rowing clubs everywhere did seem sizeable, some for the colleges, some for the high schools locally (must be posh ones) as well the private clubs too - and even with this foul weather, a hive of activity also. I did note the stone marking the start of the race by Putney Pier, and that was the walk done. It had started raining once again so I decided it would be sensible to get some lunch before then heading back on the 93 bus (which had to divert right round Wimbledon Common due to its normal route having a road accident) and the tram homewards.

Friday 17th November - Underwhelming

It was an early rise for me today as I wanted to head out to the local Lidl and get some food shopping for the next couple of weeks. I always find that if I am able to head out early (the one near me opens at 7am) it is much less busy, so I normally get there around 7.45 to 8.00 ish and then just blitz all I need. Indeed, it tends to me that all the stock has been sorted too and that means you can get everything that you want, without any hassle. In fact that did mean that I was able to treat myself to a few items too before heading back home.

Later on I did watch the Euro 2024 qualifier between England and Malta. England had qualified with a game to spare but even a draw tonight would mean England topped the group, and two wins from the final two games would also guarantee a pot one seeding next Summer. Of course with the difference in rankings, you may think this was an easy game and the strong side that was put out (albeit with some defensive changes) would give an indication to that.

The game started and an early attack down the right hand side which involved Phil Foden did mean that the Maltese defender Enrico Pepe unfortunately put into his own goal the opener. Eight minutes gone. Did the floodgates open after that? No, they definitely did not. England were very poor in the first half and didn't make any chances - and that really did feel like that they had settled for just doing the bare minimum. I had considered getting a ticket for this game and going - so glad I didn't now.

The second half did improve slightly when the likes of Bukayo Saka and Kyle Walker came on, but it just needed some impetus from somewhere. That did happen eventually with a flowing move involving Saka and Phil Foden with the final ball from Saka putting it onto a plate for Harry Kane to score for 2-0. A minute later I thought that Declan Rice had scored a fine finish from his run forward after coming off the bench, but alas, two England players were offside and VAR ruled the goal out.

It did feel rather underwhelming all round though and the 2-0 win was just enough, but definitely not really that inspiring. I felt that I'd probably watch some non-league football this weekend and get more entertainment (which I might just do, depending on the weather and options tomorrow.) I do want to take a nice walk if I can but if it's weeing it down, then no can do. In the meantime tune of the day is the excellent Spirit Power and Soul by Johnny Marr - sort of what the England team lacked tonight!

Wednesday 15th November - Together We're Better

It was good to be in the office today as there were a number of things that we needed to be in for, and with a particular part of the company migrating elsewhere, we had all the necessary tools in place to get their laptops off our management systems and then on to the news ones they have, and so after much testing of the way that we would be able to effectively move a number of machines and users en masse. Effectively I would be on hand for any back end issues, assigning machines to users, and for troubleshooting if things weren't going according to plan.

I have to say that the day did go by pretty quickly because of that, and it was also a positive for me to see so many of the users really being appreciative of the work the colleagues were putting in to get them all sorted. We had at least sent comms to them beforehand to ensure that their work would need to be backed up ready for switchover, and in some cases we did also find that it made more sense for that to be done first thing in the morning and then commence all the tools that we needed to get them all switched over. This was working and actually better than we expected.

The important thing was that as a team we did pull it off, getting licences assigned where needed, associating primary users of machines, and also then ensuring that everything we did do post move and to get them up and running was noted if we saw any issues or anything odd behaviour wise. In the most part it was just a case of making sure all the account side played ball (which it did) and in almost all cases that the account was being recognised and in sync too.

I did head home via a couple of shops to pick up some items I had ordered, and that did work out nicely in that the shops were open later and so I could visit them on the way to Farringdon to take the train back home. In fact, it proved to be a wise move to let one train go that was busy because the next train, going exactly the same way, was a minute later, and relatively empty. So I managed to get a seat no problem and managed to get home at a reasonable time, more so than earlier in the week when I had been pretty late due to the temporary roadworks on the bus route.

I did also look at some more Christmas present shopping when I got home but also looked at getting myself some new music as well, as I hadn't done that in a whiile and wanted to be sure that I would get something which wouldn't clash with anything that I might think about getting at Christmas. I did take advantage of a couple of offers and ended up ordering myself three CDs, but also took time out to listen to one of my last acquisitions, the excellent Clear Pond Road by Kristin Hersh - and from that, Constance Street is tune of the day.

Sunday 12th November - Cuteness Overload

It was a nice relaxing morning for The Love In My Heart and myself as we had a good night's sleep last night. Brian the cat was snuggled up next to us both and he definitely wanted The Love's attention and wanted some tuna and Dreamies as well as having a fuss and a play, so eventually I decided that a good distraction tactic would be to play ball with him - and he really did want to pounce on the ball as well when I bounced it, so was having lots of fun with that.

We did get ourselves showered and ready and were up in good time for the visit of The Cute Little One and her Mum who was coming over, as The Cute Little One was staying overnight with The Love whilst her Mum headed out on a nice night out with friends. It was of course lovely to see them both and have a good chatter with them, and of course it was time for reading books and some dolls for The Cute Little One before we were heading out with her later on. I really was pleased to see that she had a happy smile on her face and was looking forward to later - she said she loves Nana's car. Awww.

The three of us headed over to Bents garden centre. Well, we headed mostly down the East Lancashire Road without issues, but for the last half mile or so to the roundabout and then left towards the garden centre, the traffic was mental, and more so when we eventually did get to the car park entrance. The Love headed straight towards the very back and spotted someone pulling out, so that space was ours to be had, which was good, as The Cute Little One did say that she needed the toilet and we got her there in good time.

With parking and everything sorted, we saw how absolutely rammed the place was. Everywhere you went it was completely choc of people and spending time on the outside with some of the Winter and Christmas displays was nice, especially as of course they had litle minitature worlds and train sets (cue "choo choo!" from an excited Cute Little One) and we also saw some nice sleds you could sit in and feel all festive, as well as large elves, reindeer that lit up and also a massive light up snowman for the front garden. The Cute Little One was enchanted and seeing her happy face smiling was just so nice overall.

After that we headed off to The Woodside, a nice pub and along the East Lancashire Road on the way back. We had booked and The Love had a discount code for Vintage Inns when she signed up to the app (I had done the same when we went to The Fox in Coulsdon a few weeks back) so it was a nice comfortable table for the three of us. The Love had the Sunday Roast pork belly which looked lovely, and I had the chicken and mushroom pie with some lovely creamy mash. The Cute Little One had the kids fish and chips with beans, and the fish was massive (she scoffed it!) - and a little ice lolly from the folks at Pip Organic for dessert.

It was so nice that The Cute Little One is so well behaved, saying please and thank you, and generally having a happy face. When The Love was heading back to Manchester to drop me at the train station, I managed to get the Bluetooth connection to the car, so I could play the likes of audio from Youtube, which meant nice nursery rhymes such as Five Currant Buns and Miss Polly Had A Dolly, but then also (because she knows all the moves) Baby Shark. She was a very happy bunny and The Love and I even sang along too, she was super pleased so tune of the day it is. Sometimes, you've got to go with the flow!!

Saturday 11th November - Remembering Chester

It was Armistice Day today and although The Love In My Heart and I did have a nice day planned out later on in the day, I did remember to have the telly on close to 11am and make sure that I knew when to partake in the two minutes' silence when it was time. For me, it's about respect: for those people who fought and served and gave their lives to save freedoms, and for those who are still with us and who served our country so well over time. I have first hand knowledge from some of my older relations when they were with us of how they served, and they explained to me just what today and indeed Rememberance Sunday means to them. So the least I can do is to be quiet and show the respect at the right time.

We got ourselves ready and later on we decided that we would head off to Chester for an afternoon out, and to possibly do some shopping also depending on what we would see. We did think it might be busy traffic wise, but also there's always the car park we usually park in which means it's relatively easy to get in and out of the city centre without too much fuss. It was over towards Princess Parkway and then along there to the M56, following that to junction 15 and a brief flirt with the M53 before taking the A56 into the centre of the city, going round the back of the bus station and parking in our favourite car park.

Once out, we decided that a pub lunch was very much needed early afternoon so we stopped off close by and had a nice little meal as well as as drink together, and that was really good. In fact, it did mean that a small rain shower also passed by and it was then drier for the rest of the day, so a nice double win there. We did head to the new look market, and it did look very nice, with all the places to eat and drink all really busy, showing it was a destination place now too. I can imagine late evening this actually being a really good place to chill out and enjoy yourself.

It was more shops for us as we went in the likes of The White Company and Zara, and also then spent some time having a nice walk around by the Eastgate Street clock before heading into the Grosvenor Shopping Centre. Of course The Love does like heading into Sostrene Greene, and had a really lovely time getting a few little decorations and also a nice festive candle holder for her advent candle, so that proved worthwhile. I did also look in HMV in there as a local band was setting up for a live gig later, and there was also a nice little shop next door which did lovely boots and scarves as well as gifts which The Love admired.

It was then a case of walking down the hill from the city centre after a mooch in Oliver Bonas and towards the waterfront of the River Dee. It was nice to see people walking along the Chester Wall above but we wanted to get to the bridge (the one that was made famous by Hollyoaks) and just after there was Snugburys by the River - and I had to of course try out the Snugpuds. It was as gorgeous as ever with the blondie and some ice cream, and being sat by the river with a coffee was actually a rather lovely time to spend to be honest, so that was rather lovely and a good way to end the day.

We headed back to The Love's place and had some lovely steak for tea and watched Strictly Come Dancing during the evening. It was all eyes on trying to get to Blackpool for next week, and there were some impressive routines from all of the dancers, but especially Ellie Leach and Vito Coppola, who did a rather excellent rumba to the Cyndi Lauper classic True Colours (I love that song and make that tune of the day) and considering that's the dance of death for most couples, they pulled it off superbly. We did think that Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Lauren Oakley might be out in the dance off, so we shall see.

Wednesday 8th November - Farewell Twitter

So I made a decision a few days ago, and one that I've done with a slightly heavy heart, but it's now time to say a farewell to Twitter / X / whatever Elon Musk feels like calling it this week, with a view that I'll be pretty much permanently disabling or removing the account from the end of this month. I had thought about this for some time, and it was noticeable that when I did first sign up to Twitter back in 2010 that it would be an experiment (of sorts) - and one that's ended up lasting thirteen years in all.

I did think about whether I may leave things dormant and locked so only followers can see them etc, but also recent events as to who has been allowed back on to the platform (effectively some people who would be spreading hate even more) and the way that those who've paid for the blue ticks seem to be the most nutty of nut jobs, where the quality of discourse has gone rather downhill, has indeed made the mind up even more. I did think that it would eventually go into this way but perhaps (naively) thinking it might be longer than it is. Alas, no more.

There is of course the flip side in that if I needed to say contact Avanti Worst Coast to see what diverted train I could get and not have an account to feed back to them on, that wouldn't always work. But as they also say, what you don't have, you also don't miss, and I'm pretty sure that eventually some of the companies may also move to other platforms as they feel necessary, so who knows? More to the point, what's wrong with an actual phone number where you can speak to a human?

So the plan will be that on the 30th, it'll be basically game over. I may look at completely removing all the tweets (there's 23,000 of them though so that may take time) or doing a full deactivation and delete of account, or leaving it locked and dormant. Either way, I won't be posting anything new on there from that date and already have my escape plan of another social media platform setup elsewhere, which I have to say, since I've started to use it, already feels like a much nicer place to be, and basically almost what Twitter used to be like in its heyday. We shall see.

So with that all sorted, it somehow seems appropriate to have a song for tune of the day with a goodbye in either the title or lyrics, and listening to The Wonder Stuff's excellent classic Hup album I remember that the track Good Night Though is on, with the chorus of multiple goodbyes and so longs, that really punctuates all the verses. Definitely it sounds like though as the song goes on there's almost a sense of someone going through the stages of being somewhat drunk - and maybe that's Musk's forte for making snap decisions on Twitter at the moment? So who knows..

Sunday 5th November - Sunday Lunch With Mum

It was out for lunch today but not an ordinary lunch either. You see, my Mum had reached a special birthday last Friday and she wanted to have a meal with family and have us all together, which made sense really. I was glad she didn't want a big party because inevitably that means more expense and everyone turning up. We had already arranged for myself and The Love In My Heart to collect Mum and head off to the pub we were having lunch in, so The Love and myself got ourselves showered, changed and ready and off to Mum's.

My sister and her son were already there, and it was good to see them both and catch up, and we did note that Mum had already received a number of cards and presents from family and friends already which was lovely to see. In fact I could see some nice flowers there also and it was good to see. It was soon time to head off so Mum and I headed to The Love's car and it was a case of going through Levenshulme towards Heaton Chapel and turning off on the road to the left (as if we were heading to Marple) but instead coming off at the Hinds Head pub - we hadn't been there before but the youngest sister recommended it.

We had a nice table in the conservatory area all laid out, and my other sister was there with her husband and children, and baloons were up (not loads) which looked nice at least. I headed to the bar to get myself, Mum and The Love a drink and caught up with one of my brothers at the bar. Sadly, my youngest brother couldn't make it as him and his wife had both fallen ill during the week and were told to isolate by the doctor, so sensible advice was to stay at home - and understandable to make sure that didn't put Mum at risk of catching anything either.

The staff were lovely and came to us to take the order - and as Sunday roast was on the menu a lot of us went for that - I went for the roast beef which was plentiful along with vegetables, Yorkshire pudding, gravy and a surprisingly large amount of meat - certainly getting the money's worth. The Love went for the lamb which was just as nice, and it was all good to be able to chatter to everyone, and in my head I had Happy Birthday by Altered Images (tune of the day obviously) as the afternoon progressed.

A cake came out (my sister organised that!) and it was a nice cake to share, but we also still had dessert, and I went for the sticky toffee pudding which was rather lovely, complete with ice cream. In fact a few of the desserts did look nice, and the overall value was very good - good food, friendly staff and ambience was also good. The place was also very busy on the other tables when we went to the bar to get drinks - a surefire sign that it was also a place that people do go to. I was just pleased it all went well for Mum and later on as The Love In My Heart and I reflected on the way back to the train station, a nicer afternoon than I thought it would be.

Saturday 4th November - Bournemouth Battered

After a train journey up to Manchester last night with some delays due to Avanti Worst Coast doing a typical Avanti, and having had a reasonable night's sleep, it was good to be up with The Love In My Heart and having breakfast together, with Brian the cat keeping an eye on things and then spending time looking outside from the bedroom window watching the squirrels run around and having his eagle eyes cast on them to say the least. The Love was heading off to see her sister later and I was off to the Etihad Stadium for good reason, as Manchester City were at home to Bournemouth.

It was a positive week all round for us City fans having seen us beat Manchester United 3-0 at Old Trafford last week, and as I headed over to the Etihad, with me avoiding the rain by getting in the ground early, I got to the second tier of the North Stand where I'd be in Block 240 in the corner, and having a very good view of the pitch. I decided that a pie was needed and so it was on to the concourse where a number of City fans were watching the last few minutes of Fulham's game against Manchester United, with wholesome groans coming from there as Bruno Fernandes scored a very late winner for United.

Back to my place in the stand and City looked lively and ready to go, and before kick off, The Last Post sounded and it was the time for the Armistice Day moments of rememberance, as this would be the nearest home game before that day. Quite fitting that all the fans remained silent as that played, and very poignant of course. The game started and City were not in the mood to muck around, with lots of moves forwards and especially good work from Jeremy Doku down the left, and who would do a nice one two before slotting the ball into the bottom corner for the opener just after the half hour.

More was to come as City charged forward, this time Doku heading down the right hand side, cutting towards the box and then laying the ball for Bernardo Silva to slot it past the keeper. The announcer did his best to get the crowd going by announcing the scorer as "Number 20, Bernardooooooooooo" to which City responded with said Bernardo Silva chant to the tune of Voulez-Vous by ABBA (make that tune of the day) and really got going. It did get better too a few minutes later as a Doku shot which was going wide deflected off the back of Manuel Akanji and into the bottom corner. 3-0 at half time. Bliss.

Erling Haaland went off at half time - possibly something ankle knock related, and sensible not to risk it (even though every Fantasy League manager would groan in agony!) and Bournemouth did try a comeback and had a goal disallowed for offside. Gradually in the half City did reassert control and a lovely through ball from Jeremy Doku to Phil Foden meant that the Stockport Iniesta would be able to slot home a cool fourth, and a welcome reward after he had come off the bench to replace Haaland. Bournemouth did pull a goal back and it was what their travelling fans deserved after coming all this way.

All that did though was to fire City up for the last twenty minutes or so and go again. A sublime through ball from Doku found Bernardo Silva on the right hand side, who ran towards the box and dinked it over the keeper - the defenders thought they had stopped it, and Matheus Nunes did hit the rebound in to be sure, but the referee's watch had told him goal line tech showed it was a goal - and it was. 5-1, and that became 6-1 a few minutes later when Oscar Bobb down the right cut in a lovely low cross and Nathan Aké scored a sublime diving header. Wow, what a game!