Dear Diary... June 2019

Sunday 30th June - Homeward Bound And To Bed

I did not have a very good night's sleep last night, primarily because some stomach cramps had returned, and I also then had some constant diarrhoea which wasn't good. The Love In My Heart had managed to find me some Immodium which kept me going and that would at least get me home hopefully without too much dramas later, but it was a nice sight seeing Brian the cat back where he belongs, snuggled with his Mummy. He even had a nice cosy yawn as he looked around and gave me the look of "my bed, Warren!" which is what he does.

I had a drink of water when I got up and got myself ready as I was on a train first class from Euston later on, back down to London. I had sensibly booked that knowing that I'd have more luggage and it was emotional as I gave The Love a cuddle and said goodbye at Manchester Piccadilly. I got myself some Lucozade and also then noted my train was in, so headed down the platform to the coach, and settled in the comfy seat, with plenty of baggage space. All good.

In fact the train journey was going well, you got some coffee and some complimentary croissant and yoghurt too, Yeo Valley at that, so not bad for a Sunday morning. However just as we were coming into Euston it appeared that the power had failed to the overhead lines so we were stranded around a half mile from the station for a few minutes, we got the power back, but then had to wait for a platform, so was around twenty or so minutes delay in all. If only Virgin Trains did do Delay Repay 15..

Anyway, I soon made my way down to the tube station and noted that the Victoria Line platform was rammed, so I waited for everyone to pile on the first one, and lo and behold, the second one a minute later was way more civilised. I don't get this "If I don't get this tube it's the end of the world" mentality to be honest, and never will. I got to Victoria, a train was around for me to get back to East Croydon and before I knew it, I was back home and at least resting in the flat.

Which is pretty much what I did for the rest of the day: I slept most of the afternoon still feeling poorly in the tummy, and in the early evening I woke up, re-watched some of the England women game from the other night with proper commentary, and watched the F1 race from Austria. That proved to be dramatic in the end with a really tight battle and well worth watching actually, and they even closed out the show with some Noel Gallagher as well, so perhaps fitting then that as his brother Liam was not doing a good as job at "Wonderwall" as what Noel would have done, maybe "Rock and Roll Star" that suits Max Verstappen should be tune of the day...

Saturday 29th June - Fun, Fun, Fun, On The Niçoise Tram, Tram, Tram

The hotel had very kindly sent us a text yesterday asking us if we fancied taking up an offer of late checkout - this is normally around €40 or so, but they would do so for €20 up to 3pm. With the weather set to be hot it would mean we could have a walk around Nice for a bit, have a final shower and change, then head to the airport. So we paid the hotel the cost last night on our way out, and that made a lot of sense. It meant we would be able to have a more leisurely time and not lug cases around, epic win of course.

In fact this worked out well, we had some coffee and croissants in the room and then headed along the Avenue Jéan Medicin along the way, stopping off in a number of shops. The Love In My Heart got herself a very nice new handbag from Pull and Bear, and we also had a good mooch in a number of other shops including the shopping centre Nice Etoile as well, before turning right at Masséna, following the street past Muy Mucho and onwards towards the Promenade des Anglais, where we paused by the blue chairs and admired the sea once again.

We had a good walk through the Vieille Ville again and indeed it was nice to see the markets on the Cours Saleya so vibrant and full of fresh flowers, that was rather lovely actually, so much so that we really did want to make the most of it and adore the fresh smells around. We eventually got back to another shop The Love wanted to go in which did modern art prints of Nice, and picked up a couple of little gifts in there as well, rather good all round actually.

We had lunch in a little café and headed back on the tram (free trams all weekend due to the opening of the new bit of Line 2) and back to the hotel, and The Love sorted out the extended access, and we chilled out, had a shower and then changed tops and were all ready to head to the airport. The Hotel du Centre staff were all lovely, and I definitely can understand why it has the rating it currently does on Trip Advisor. Small, yes, but pretty well formed throughout, with friendly staff, lovely clean rooms and everything you need in a nice little package.

We headed down to the new Jean Médicin tram stop! Yes, line 2 has now met line 1 here, and it was a short walk from the hotel, direct to the airport, and free. I felt like Eccentronic's Croydon Tram song (well worth tune of the day that) and sure enough the tram glided in, we got ourselves on, and it went through the underground tunnels coming out just before Magnan, and following the Avenue Califonie all the way towards Saint-Augustin and then under the railway and roads for the airport itself. Easy peasy, and free, and even if not, €1.50 would be a tiny price to pay methinks!

We checked in to Nice Airport, went though security and so on, and headed to the departures lounge of Terminal 1. It was deadly quiet, but nice because of that, and The Love and I even went for a drink and sat at the window together nattering about the week and how nice it all was. We were right to wait this side of the terminal and not go through the passport checks till later, as there were much less facilties on the other side. We got to the gate, and got on the plane, but we weren't going anywhere, just yet.

Turned out Nice air traffic control had a backlog, so we were in a queue. Thankfully all our passengers were on (the plane wasn't full) and so we actually got ahead of the Gatwick flight. BA staff were good, you got some water whilst stationary as it was intensely hot outside, and then after take off, some more cold drinks, then a little box with some pulled pork salad and a barm, so you could do a sandwich if you wanted, and a chocolate cake too. Much better than going out of course, and the option of coffee, wine or beer later. We made up the delay and arrived in Manchester on time too, woohoo!

Well, we did then have to get a shuttle bus to take us all the way to Terminal 3 from where the aircraft stopped off, and claimed the baggage, then the train and tram home, but got back to The Love's we did, and picked up Brian the cat later too. He miaowed all the way home but once back on his pouffle and his bed he just wanted nothing more than a cuddle off his Mummy, awww. He's all lovely, and even though I didn't end up getting much sleep, it was nice to be at least cuddled with my favourite animal and my favourite person too. I know!

Friday 28th June - Very Warm in Villefranche-sur-Mer

It was our final full day in Nice, and we decided that it would make sense to head to Villefranche-sur-Mer, as it was reachable by bus or train, and indeed it would mean if we took the bus we could then get an all day ticket for tram and bus, which is what we did. We got the number 1 tram from Jean Médicin to Garabaldi, and then round the corner for the 81 bus to take us to Villefranche-sur-Mer. The bus was busy but that might have been because it also serves Beaulieu-sur-Mer and St Jean Cap-Ferrat as well.

We got off at the Octroi stop and walked down the hill, passing the old town and walking through the Rue Obscure, then headed down towards where the train station is and the beach. It's a more shingle based beach so it's a bit more comfortable than the beach in Nice, but it was very very warm indeed. The view was lovely and it was very very hot again. In fact, I laid back and chilled out for a bit, but could feel me warming up a lot. We headed along the seafront later for lunch at The Good Mood Café which had some decent beer as well as a nice ham sandwich for me and a nice bagel for The Love.

We walked over to the citadel, but part of that was closed off due a music festival taking place that weekend. We could see down from the upper level to where the stage was, and that was nice to see a seafront location being used in such a way, I bet it would be lovely. We spent some time walking around the citadel parts including the round tower overlooking the sea, and then I took a look at some gardens close to the citadel. It was still very warm but we decided on a different route back.

Indeed we took the 80 bus, which started from the bottom of the town close to the sea, and then headed up to the main square, and on this route also down to the harbour and the small private estate of Rochambeau, before then climbing uphill on some dramatic twisty roads with the views of the sea simply gorgeous, and getting to the Col de Villefranche before crossing back down and heading downhill towards Riquier. In fact we got off close to Saint-Roch tram stop and got the tram all the way back, which was rather nice.

Later on we were to head out for our final evening meal and we walked down to the Cours Saleya and this time to La Storia, where we'd eaten before. My penne carbonara was lovely, and The Love didn't expect her ham dish to have a creamy sauce (she would have preferred a tomato based one) but it looked nice. We had a nice meal in there and walked back along the seafront seeing all the preparation for the Nice Ironman event being held on Sunday. It was a long and very hot day and sadly my body wasn't feeling it, as I had some stomach cramps which wasn't going to be good..

Thursday 27th June - Baking in Monaco

We decided to head to Monaco for the day today, and of course it wasn't a far walk from the hotel to the train station, which was a good thing consdering that the weather was forecast to be pretty hot all round. We got the tickets at the station, and once done, we managed to board the 1037 departure, arriving in Monaco just after 11. We took the upper escalators which would take you out of the station and to the bus stop directly outside. The number 2 bus would take you up to the Jardin Exotique, which is where we were going to first.

The gardens were lovely, and a lot of water retaining plants such as cacti and other plants of similar ilk. Of course heading downhill for a time would mean going up at some point, but the gardens also had some caves where you could go down on a guided tour as part of the price. The Love didn't fancy that but she went up to the archeological museum and I then headed down with a small group into the caves. It was 300 steps down, which also meant 300 steps up, but the stalagmites and stalactites down there, formed over millions of years, was pretty spectactular and well worth the effort.

I headed back up, and then up the stairs to the museum and the gardens, and met up with The Love back at the entrance to the gardens. We stopped off for a drink as it was getting boiling hot, and although we were going to walk downhill, we decided instead to get the number 2 bus and get off at Sainte-Devote. We went into the little church there as it was open, and they now have a little sculpture of the saint there too. From there we noted that most of the seafront by the swimming pool and where the F1 pits usually are is now a home for a showjumping event for the next three days, and horses in this heat? No wonder all the areas for the horses had plenty of water to keep them cool.

We walked along the harbour and off to lunch at a place we had lunch for The Love's birthday a few years back: Le Pattaya. I had the Reine pizza which was gorgeous, and The Love had the club sandwich, and that had plenty of goats cheese on it to say the least. That with the unique red Monaco beer was just a nice way to do lunch together, and it brought back happy memories too, with the place having misters to try and keep you cool. We walked past the now completed Yacht Club area which looked ace, with even some nice bars at not that expensive prices, pretty good all round.

We then walked through the Japanese Gardens towards the Grimaldi Forum and Larvotto Beach, and from there we then headed back towards the tunnel, but took a shortcut through the lift towards Starbucks which got you to the famous Fairmont Hairpin. In fact as we climbed up to the little park here, we noted a few photographers around, and with good reason - lots of old classic cars were making their way round to the back of the casino for an exhibition. This way, we could see them for free, and full credit to The Love for suggesting that!

We then walked around past the casino, down the hill back to Sainte-Devote, and then along the F1 home straight and found a street of nice bars. We stopped for a drink and I had the Monaco red beer again, which was good. In fact it was good just to attempt to cool off as the heat was getting intense to say the least, and even The Love was feeling it, which was probably a sign of how hot it was. We took the train back which was busy but we did get a seat, and headed back to the hotel to chill out.

Later on we headed to the Vieille Ville, and this time went to another restaurant at one of the squares close to the cathedral, this time Le Romarin. Although they did a fixed price menu with two courses from three, that was only available at lunch, so we stuck to the three courses. This time I had the salmon tagliatelli which was nice, and The Love had a beef ravioli with stewed beef. I also had a beer too and all in all for everything it was just under €40 which was pretty good - definitely well worth doing that again.

We went to Les Distilleries Ideales, and of course as it was England v Norway tonight in the Women's World Cup, they had the game on, so we both had the nice Pelforth beer and were all chilled out, and obviously England doing well (with England fans in the bar too!) was pretty good all round. The strike from Lucy Bronze was superb and well worth watching, liquid football indeed it was. It was a late night but nice to be walking back in the night and still very very warm!

Wednesday 26th June - Cimiez and Mont Boron

We decided to head out this morning to the North of Nice and to Cimiez, and because that needed buses as well as trams, we got an all day bus and tram ticket for €5, which was good value all round. There was a sales office for the tickets really near the hotel, so I could pay cash over the counter and that was nice and easy to do really. We then walked over to the stop close to the Notre Dame which was for the 17 bus, and this arrived on time and took us east out of the city centre, then up some steep roads before joining the Boulevard de Cimiez and onwards to the stop for the Musee Matisse.

As it turned out, the tickets for admission would also get us in a number of different museums in Nice for a 24 hour period, including the photography museum close to the Palais de Justice, so that would be good to do. We went around the museum and there was a photographic exhibition of artists inspired by Matisse, including the likes of David Hockney, Andy Warhol and so on. It was also good to see that the exhibit about the life of Matisse had been updated with both French and English information too, so that was good for The Love too. We enjoyed it in there.

We also again enjoyed the Monastery Gardens, always a very nice and peaceful place to be and plenty of people seeking shade in the trees and really making the most of the dramatic views over the East of Nice. We also noted the monastery itself was open so we went in, and The Love, being Catholic, lit a candle too and blessed herself with the water. It's a thing special to her, and I just appreciate the architecture even if I'm not religious. We went to the cemetery next door and spotted the grave of Matisse in there too.

After a light lunch in the little café in the park close to the museum and monastery, we took the bus back, and had a bit of a rest in the hotel room and went with a lighter carry. We decided to head down to the photography museum and that had some nice exhibits in, and that was good to at least use the ticket for the museums we had. In fact one part had some local art in which was good to see as well as old cameras from the 1900s onwards, and that felt pretty good all round.

We headed towards the front and the beach, and The Love was to go on the beach for a bit, and I would then be going up to Mont Boron, a place in Nice I'd always wanted to go. I walked to the bus stop close to Cathedrale-Vieille Ville and there the 14 bus came. It takes the route out of the centre towards the middle corniche road, climbing uphill out of Nice. At the Col de Villefranche, it uses a little side road to turn around and then go back on the road up the hill, and the whole of Mont Boron is an urban forest park. Getting off at the stop for the castle allows you to walk up a road to the castle of Mont Alban, and the views over to Villefranche-sur-Mer were unbelievably good.

Not just that but I also later walked to the little village of Mont Boron and followed one of the paths, with Bellevue in the name, and this circular route took you round an old fort, and the views over the sea were gorgeous. It all worked out that I was able to use the water fountain to fill up the water bottle I had, and then refresh for the way down back to Nice, and I then stopped at the Spar and grabbed a beer for The Love. She had enjoyed the sun but the pebbly beach wasn't the best ever!

Later on, after we had had a drink in Le Bateleur on the way back to the hotel, we headed out for the evening meal and went to the La Claire Fontaine in one of the squares of the Vieille Ville. The three course fixed price menu gives you everything you need, and I had the fish soup to start, the chicken with spaghetti for main, and the ice cream for dessert. The Love had the salad niçoise for starter and the pasta with beef for the main, which did look pretty good too. It was all good and a lovely day all round, sad thing was that the holiday was going by far too quickly!

Tuesday 25th June - In And Around Nice

We decided after two days of trains that staying in and around Nice would be sensible. We could have a lie in, have a relatively relaxed day, and just take it easy. And that's pretty much how it turned out. We walked down the Avenue Jean Médicin, stopping off at some of the little shops along the way, and then headed past the Jardin Albert 1er and to the Promenade des Anglais. We noted it was busy as per usual along there, and we walked along towards the end of the promenade where the I Love Nice sign was, and, unsurprisingly, plenty of people wanted their picture with the sign!

We then waited for the lift to take us up to the Colline du Chateau, the hilltop park that flanks over the Vieille Ville and the port, and at the top of the lift we walked past the gardens, admired the view over to the port, and then followed the path to the very top. In fact this worked out well as it was lunch time and the little café at the top does decent little sandwiches for lunch and soft drinks too, so we had lunch up there at the top - a perfect chance to relax and enjoy the view.

We walked around to where the lovely waterfall is, and noted some doves around too, which was nice to see, and we then decided to take the walk down the steps and pass the tower that is the Tour Bellanda, with its lovely tiling. That was nice to rest and admire the view then take the steps down. We even stopped off for a well earned drink in Le Bateleur (as you do!) which was just as nice we thought it would be, and then from there took a walk through parts of the old town, and also stopped at Les Distilleries Ideales later too. We both noted the cute little dog who belonged to the tattoo parlour nearby, and that was cute.

We walked through to the Garabaldi Square, which was nice, and now with the main tram works for Line 2 done, the square seemed all quiet and peaceful again with artists and restaurants on the square giving it a very urban and relaxed feel, so that was good. In fact we spotted some nice little shops too, so all was good. We walked back to the hotel later and really enjoyed the chance to be out and about. In fact, it recharged the energy a bit so we were all good.

Later on it was back to Le Bateleur whilst happy hour was still on, which meant the likes of Moretti for a mere €3.90 (which for a pint in France is cheap) and I had one of the local French ales for €4.30, so not too bad at all. We also decided to have some food here too, so I went for the two little "mini-pies" which were more like pasties really but still good, one with steak and another with chicken curry inside, and all good. The Love had the burger, and also good, and I also had the tiramisu ice cream from Fenocchio's for a little treat afterwards too. It was all in all a nice relaxed day!

Monday 24th June - Alfresco in Alassio

So today was an earlier rise than most other days, and for good reason. I had booked us tickets on the Thello train which takes you from Nice to Milan, but goes along the lovely Ligurian coast as well. After some research I'd decided that it would be good to explore Alassio, with its mural wall, narrow streets of the town and the beach too, and because Thello do advance tickets, also bookable via Trenitalia, this meant that you could go all the way there for a mere €10 each - and have a reserved seat too. Bargain!

So we arrived at Nice-Ville station and sensibly the barrier had been opened for the Thello passengers, so you could head to the platform with no issues. The train came in, we found the carriage and seats, and got ourselves comfortable for the journey. I even nipped to the little café onboard and got us both a capuccino which was very nice actually. The train sped to Monaco and then next stop Ventimiglia. We both noted the mass of security and Italian police at the station, and clearly they were checking passengers on the train. We had been warned by Thello that we needed our passports so had them with us for ID, it wasn't needed but we were to find out later why strict controls were needed.

The train headed along the coast, although a lot of it was through long tunnels, including one that had San Remo station in the middle. It certainly made the view less nice but as the train left Andora and headed towards Alassio, having to wait for another train to pass a single line section, the coast and sea came up which was nice to see. We arrived at Alassio station and walked through the main square and down the street to the promenade and the beach.

In fact, almost all stretches of beach were privately run, so if you wanted to hire a lounger and umbrella, you were looking at least €30. Each. And that's if you wanted to be a little further from the sea, with the price going up. We did spot a bit of public beach near the tower that splits part of the promenade, so we stayed there and chilled out for a good couple of hours, with the heat coming down nicely and The Love getting herself on the way to a good tan. It was good to see the public area being used with some bringing their own parasols and umbrellas too.

Later on we walked to one of the main streets and a little square, and we spotted a nice restaurant to have some lunch. I decided to have the Reine pizza, which was lovely, and The Love had the milanese, which was veal instead of chicken. It still was decent from the bit I had though, and being in Italy meant much cheaper drinks prices with meal - a large 400ml glass of Menabrea for €4, and The Love having a half litre carafe of the house white wine for €6. Absolute bargain. The staff were also lovely so that was good too, and in the shade it was good to have an early afternoon lunch.

Afterwards we walked along the Budello, the main street for shopping, and some of the shops weren't open as yet, having an afternoon rest, so we walked further down the promenade, and rested for a drink at one of the nice bars there. It was good to be able to enjoy a nice cold beer and of course being in Italy, with snacks too, as is the usual there. By the time we'd had a drink the shops had opened, so we walked back along the Budello and had a good look in several nice shops too, and it felt a very relaxed and cultured place to shop.

We also then stopped off near to one of the city squares for a drink, and that was all good, and on the way back to the station later we saw the Muretto, one of the main sights of the town. This is effectively a wall of various tiles commemorating the town, and it had one of Max Bygraves for some reason, who apparently loved it there. It was nice to see a nod to the 1982 Italian World Cup winning side as well with a tiled plaque signed by the players, and even some more modern art and sculpture too. I did feel inspired and it was all lovely.

We got back to the station and our platform (which was 2 and 3 on an island) was packed as the train to Milan was due at the same time as our train to Marseille (via Nice). However, they announced the Milan train was going to go to Platform 1, and that left pretty much us left there for the train. We got on the train, found the seats and was all good. I even went to the café bar and got an Aperol Spritz for The Love and a craft beer for me, which was reasonably priced too, and that was very civilised!

At Ventimiglia the train stopped for a small while and the member of staff in the café had told me that they have to turn most of the power off as the train comes in, for security reasons. We could see why. Across the tracks there looked to be a considerable number of people looking to illegally cross over into France, which wasn't really on. Of course the extra security was preventing boarding, and some also were gathering as we left the station on the tracks too - good job it's not third rail or else electrocution central! In fact the train stopped at Menton Garavan and police boarded, and they got someone off there, so it looked like someone had attempted to board the train whilst moving which was highly risky. Drama over, we cruised into Nice, and it was a lovely day out and good to do something different!

Sunday 23rd June - Magic Menton

One of the places both The Love In My Heart and I had wanted to visit was the town of Menton, which is after Monaco on the train line, and indeed home of a very famous Lemon Festival every year. The locals even had a car free promenade Sunday every fourth Sunday of the month apart from July and August, and it turned out that this day was one of them, so if nothing else it'd be good to see how that would all look. We knew the trains were regular too so we didn't have to worry too much about that, and it was a shortish walk to Nice-Ville station.

I sorted the tickets out using the SNCF machine (dead easy, instructions in English and works perfectly) and before long we would hear the classic SNCF four note jingle too. Of course the train was going to be busy with people going to Monaco, but as we both predicted, after Monaco the train emptied and it was nice to get off at Menton relatively relaxed all round. We took the walk down the hill to one of the boulevards, where the middle reservation often has the Lemon Festival sculptures when it's on, and we soon spotted the casino at the bottom and the promenade.

It was nicer to walk down there without any traffic, and indeed as we walked past the Jean Cocteau Museum and the old fort and towards the harbour, complete with seating areas giving you a water mist spray to keep cool, we also noted the beaches further along - like a lot of the Riviera, some of these are private and you have to pay, but some public areas are available so we did stay on there for a little while before then walking through a part of the old town and finding a very nice little takeaway sandwich shop that did decent baguettes for not expensive prices, and we took them down to an area close to the museum where there was a decked area to sit on (and sunbathe!) near the beach too.

I left The Love to sunbathe for a bit as I wanted to explore the higher parts of the old town and see the cathedral (under a lot of repair work) but also the very top citadel is also a cemetery where there's whole sections devoted to families. It was a great place to have a view of Menton though and well worth the walk up a lot of steps up that's for sure. If you get chance and it's not too hot, I can recommend it. I made my way back down stopping off at Casino supermarket to get a cold beer each, and joined The Love back on the seafront, and she had moved to the grassy area close by because the decking was just reflecting heat and being megahot!

We later had a walk through the old town and found this to be very lovely. In fact in the shop Muy Mucho, we managed to get two little coffee mugs with grey hearts on for a mere €1.50 each, which worked out well as we could use those for coffee instead of having to use the paper cups we get at the hotel. Just made more sense. In fact we also later on spotted the tennis club which looked very nice and had a nice drink at one of the bars facing the sea - The Love had an Aperol Spritz too - well why not?

After we got the train back to Nice and relaxed a bit later on, we then headed the Vieille Ville (old town) in Nice and went to one of our favourite haunts, Wayne's Bar. The atmos was as good as ever in there, and I had their house burger of bacon and cheese without salad (The Love went full salad with hers) and it was as per usual a lovely experience, and the staff are always great in there. They did have some of the football on too so was keeping an eye on things Women's World Cup as well at the same time, but was a nice way to end our first full day on the Riviera. Italy tomorrow!

Saturday 22nd June - Terminally Delayed

The Love In My Heart and I got up, had a very light breakfast and then were all ready to go. We decided as that Terminal 3 at Manchester Airport was a bit further away, we'd need to leave a little earlier to make sure that we had ample time from the station to get to the terminal and check in. Little did we realise what was to happen later, but hindsight actually is a good thing. We got the tram to Manchester Piccadilly and made our way through the ticket machine options to get the right Two Together Railcard discount to get to Manchester Airport, and as it turned out it was a pretty empty Transpennine Express fast one. Win!

Once at the airport we followed the walkway to Terminal 1, then did the walk outside and round to Terminal 3, and the lovely staff there said we could check in now if we wanted, and this was around 11am for our 1.30pm flight. Checked in, bags sorted, through security, and all relatively relaxed in the small departure lounge. This does however have a JW Lees pub in the middle of it which meant I could have a cheeky real ale (and The Love a glass of wine) now. It was good to relax and chatter and the gate number came up, so we made our way there for the flight.

So the gate was meant to open at 12.40pm. Nothing. No one at the gate, no idea what was going on. Other gates were boarding in some cases, but only one Ryanair one near us. I eventually got word via Manchester Airport's Twitter feed that their systems had gone down and were therefore attempting to bring them back up. A serious failure of airport management here - why didn't anyone think "there's a shedload of people waiting to check in or to board flights, at least tell them there's an issue?" As it turned out the systems went down around half an hour after we had checked in, so we were good at least, but some had to have manual check in done, and some of the staff were being trained on the day to do it. Anyone heard of contingency planning?

I sent out a couple of tweets to the airport asking about the lack of communication which they replied with a stock message. My tweet was picked up by the BBC's Have Your Say, and I was on the phone to a couple of their reps for some time. In fact when they were going to the news just after 3pm, potentially they were going to set up a live chat with me at the airport about the situation, so would have been on national news. However the systems came back up and so I texted the BBC folks back to say I'm on my way now, and they appreciated that. We eventually boarded just before 3pm.

And.. although a smaller aircraft meant a 2/2 formation meaning The Love and I had no one sat next to us, BA fell short here. They only offered a "snack" of some crisps or popcorn as well as a complimentary drink (which was at least a Brewdog special ale they'd done for BA) and below what I expected for the normal economy class with their CityFlyer subsiduary (unlike flights from Heathrow and Gatwick where you have to pay for M&S stuff in advance, the CityFlyer stuff is complimentary.) If we'd have known this we'd have probably had something at the airport beforehand!

Anyway, we landed in Nice around an hour and a half late, but good news, our bags came quick, we left Terminal 1 and all seemed well, but I then saw the 99 airport bus to the train station leave. So I worked on Plan B: take the tram line 2 to Magnan, bus the rest of the way. This took time but it worked and we eventually arrived at Hotel du Centre for the week. There had been some confusion as they do offer a pickup taxi service but I had declined it as we were taking the airport bus, but we got that sorted thankfully. Our room was the superior double which wasn't massive, but had all you needed, some hangers with space to put more hangers on, hot shower, mini fridge, Nespresso machine, and a view of the Notre Dame Basilica from our bedroom window!

After nipping into Monoprix to get some supplies, we then got changed and headed out along to La Pizza Cresci, one of our favourite places to eat in Nice and close to where we'd previously stayed before. I had one of their half moon pizzas, and The Love had some carbonara. It felt good to get some food down us after what seemed a pretty long day, due to transport delays, and back at the room later we were all fairly chilled out. We had arrived, woohoo!

Friday 21st June - Longest Day, Long Train

It was the longest day of the year in terms of sunlight here in the UK, and for me it was a case of getting up slightly earlier than normal so I could head with my big case on the train to London Victoria, then the 390 bus all the way to the office. That made so much more sense than battling the tube to be honest, and it made plenty of sense because I could work during the day and head straight to Euston for my train later. It was a case of making sure I'd get done what I could get done, and then leaving enough of a note for while I'm off, effectively a handover email, to my manager, so all was good there.

The time to leave came and I was soon on the 390 bus to Euston, a journey made happier by the fact that the water mains damage at Eversholt Street had been fixed meaning that the bus station at Euston was open again. I was also pleased to see that it meant a relatively quick journey, and I was soon upstairs and in the first class lounge (I had booked first class advance for this, so much nicer when you have a big case to carry) and looking at the concourse, this was proving to be a wise move - some of the signalling had failed just north of Euston, which meant knock on delays to trains in and out.

I knew the train leaving was going to be late, but the staff in the first class lounge kindly told me which platform it was on before the screens, so I made my way down, and that was so much easier! I got on the train, and it was pretty packed even in first class, but I had beaten the mad rush and got the luggage on (not daft me you know!) and all was set fair. The service as ever was lovely, with fish and chips for tea, and even some of the very nice Redwillow Wreckless Ale to keep me going during the journey.

Sadly, delays hit after Lichfield Trent Valley and by the time I'd got to Crewe, it was 28 minutes late. I informed The Love In My Heart and said I'd get the tram to hers rather than her wait at Piccadilly for me, something I think she appreciated! As it turned out it was 29 minutes late at Wilmslow and Stockport, and was half hoping for a minor delay to be 30 minutes plus to have Delay Repay kick in for half the fare. And that's what happened, so it was 32 minutes late into Piccadilly. Half the money back to me, and all good on the tram to The Love's place.

It did feel odd without Brian the cat being there, but one of the The Love's relations is cat sitting at their place for the week so she had already dropped Brian off. It was nice just to catch up and chatter of course, but even nicer that in fact we had some nice time to ourselves too. It did feel now like the holiday was almost here and we'd soon be on the French (and Italian!) Rivieras having a lovely week together. Tune of the day is going to be the Undertones' classic "Here Comes The Summer" which reminds me also of that Irn Bru advert with the goths in Blackpool.

Thursday 20th June - Packing It All In

I spent a bit of time today working with one of my Service Team colleagues on looking at getting Visio Professional 2019 packaged and downloaded ready for install. A number of people in one department have purchased a licence, but the way that the licence works, it is available in a different Microsoft section, not the VLSC place. We were able to trace that for the product key - perhaps notable it was a MAK volume licence key instead of individual licences, but there you go. In any case I had the info I needed and so would be able to create an installer either using the Office Deployment Tool or using the SCCM method to do so.

In either case, an attempt to install Visio Professional on top of the existing Office 365 click to run install (even though it was the correct Semi Annual Channel 1808 release) didn't work, claiming that you had to uninstall 365 first. The 2019 releases are only available as click to run versions, no matter what, and so no MSI is available. It transpires of course that for most people, when the 2019 installer for Visio is created, normally it is set to be a Perpetual Volume Licence and has the licence model 2019PerpetualVL in the XML configuration file.

After noting lots of other complaints online, I found the answer. Effectively you have to modify the XML that you've used for the Office Deployment Tool - once you've downloaded the volume licence installer, change the XML so that the update channel is the same channel you're using elsewhere (normally Semi-Annual in our case) and then badabing, running the setup with the /configure command and your XML all works. What the hell was that all about eh? Absolute rubbish from Microsoft to be honest, not documented anywhere and shows why a lot of us IT Administrators loathe their awful click to run model.

Later on when I got home and had my tea, it was time to get some packing sorted for the holiday. I had ironed all the clothes I needed, and was just a case of working out which was the best way to put everything in. In the end I managed pretty well, primarily because I had folded things neatly and was able to put lots of things together well, including t-shirts, shorts, socks, trainers, and also some shirts and jeans as well as some new underwear, all the stuff for bath and shower, sun cream, sunglasses and hat. In fact I packed all the clean socks into the hat itself so that it'd keep shape but also mean that it was a sensible use of packing the case, not daft me you know!

I also saw some dramatic Women's World Cup games tonight, not least because of Cameroon against New Zealand. It was 1-1 and either side needed a 2-1 win to go through as one of the best third placed sides. Cameroon went forward and their star player who had already scored one goal turned the defence inside out and shot into the goal with a beautiful finish a mere 10 seconds from the end of stoppage time - the last kick of the match in fact, and a real moment of glory. The reward is now England on Sunday, which I might have to be in a bar to watch I reckon. In the meantime tune of the day is the impressive Chilean national anthem sung proudly by the fab Christiane Endler as she led her side almost fo qualification, coming up short despite beating Thailand 2-0. Francisca Lara's penalty miss near the end proved very costly, indeed!

Wednesday 19th June - Tooting Tootle

After work I was going to head home, but realised that the other branch of my hairdressers is based in Tooting, within the market. I noted that because Tooting Broadway station was close by on the Northern Line, it would make sense if the tube I got on at Tottenham Court Road was a direct one to Morden (instead of changing at Kennington and attempting to get on a packed Bank branch train) - and as timing would have it, one to Morden was coming along, so instead of heading to Wimbledon Park tomorrow, I thought "well why not?" and managed to get a seat after I got on.

The tube went along to Kennington then joined the other branch line towards Oval and onwards past Stockwell, all the Claphams and Balham and soon I arrived at Tooting Broadway. The centre of Tooting looked busy enough and it was a short walk along the high street and to locate the market - and walking through, lots of nice food and beer stalls and even a branch of Franco Manca pizza as well, good to know. The market had a very nice urban vibe inside and certainly felt rather good to be honest, so will have to know that for reference. I located the hairdressers and didn't have long to wait before the lovely staff in there did the business, all nicely cut short and the eyebrows done as well (they do get annoying) so all sorted.

I walked back through the market and although some of it was closing at 7pm, it certainly felt like a real vibe in there. I walked back to the tube station and could have got the tube back to Balham and the train to East Croydon, but the thing was that in the early evening that might have taken time, so instead noted that the 264 bus to Croydon wasn't long, so headed on that and had a relaxing journey past Tooting rail station, into Mitcham and through Mitcham Common before passing the A23 and my local Matalan before heading into Croydon centre and in good time home for the England v Japan Women's World Cup game.

England played pretty well overall although did look tired in the second half. Ellen White scored first with a lovely ball through from her Manchester City team mate Georgia Stanway, and Stanway came close with a shot, as did Jill Scott also. England looked decent and Karen Bardsley had to be alert to save a Japanese free kick onto the bar. England struggled but two massively important Steph Houghton tackles were key to the clean sheet, and then with some subs on, one of them, Karen Carney, used her experience to control the midfield and control a lovely ball to Ellen White, and she didn't miss - took her chance well. 2-0 England, nine points out of nine, happy days.

Unhappy days for Scotland though against Argentina. Having seen the retaken French penalty last night due to the new rule of goalkeepers not standing on the line, every coach should have drilled that into their keepers, hopefully. Indeed for Scotland it all started well, with an opening goal in the first half from Kim Little meaning that half time was 1-0. That became 2-0 with Jennifer Beattie's excellent header and a short range finish on the rebound from Erin Cuthbert. Scotland were 3-0 up with twenty minutes to go, and dreamland at that point for their team.

And then, the team switched off, and it all went wrong. When England were holding things tight against Scotland, Phil Neville as manager used experience and game management to see the game out. Shelley Kerr needed to do that for Scotland, but nope. The defenders stood off and allowed the chance of a low shot from Milagros Menendez to pull what I thought was a consolation back. But again, more sloppy defending and four minutes later a long range effort from Florencia Bonsegundo was only parried by Lee Alexander onto the bar, back off the back of her hand and just over the line. 3-2.

And then.. more drama. Argentina went forward whilst Scotland had just brought their subs on, and one of them, Sophie Howard just was beaten to the ball by Aldana Cometti. The referee had a very long look at VAR and gave the penalty. But not the end of it. Lee Alexander saved the penalty but had moved way off her line, and the referee checked that with VAR and ordered a retake. I suspected it'd happen and a shame for Lee as the penalty save itself and follow up was excellent. Sadly for Scotland, Bonsegundo made no mistake and it was 3-3, no good really for either side.

The officials gave five minutes of stoppage time but there must have been nine or ten plus for VAR, so when she blew the final whilstle almost after the restart, it was a look of shock on both sides, awful really. Heartbreak for Scotland but better game management wouldn't have allowed Argentina back in the game whatsoever, and compare that to the control England had even when defending stoutly at 1-0 up, and that's the level Scotland need to aim for. I hope they do and get better, but in the meantime "Heartbreaker" by Pat Benetar is tune of the day - seems somewhat apt..

Tuesday 18th June - Testing Times

A lot of testing by me today, as there's a fair bit of deployment that I can't do at the moment - a number of proposed changes are on freeze and hold due to a big event being on this week, so it's a case of not sending anything out which could potentially stuff up a machine when it's being used. I've therefore planned my week to do a lot of the background work and testing needed so that when things are ready to go, I know that my test plan has been pretty good all round, which has to be a positive.

One thing I did want to do is to roadtest one of the new updated versions of one of our security programs, as it was a case of it being allowed to be installed over the top of the previous version, but also that we wanted to be sure that it could still prompt the user for a restart. Indeed with the new client settings that we have now because of SCCM 1902, we can show a full window wanting a restart, so that definitely is a plus point. In fact, it shows that we were able to do a successful deployment.

I also wanted to road test it with a Windows 10 1903 WIM image recently created as well, and that meant I could double check that it was able to be applied to the operating system without causing any issues. I knew the new version was okay prior to upgrade and after upgrade, but applying the OS separately was defnitely a good scenario to sort out. In fact, it went pretty well, and all worked without a single problem. In fact this meant I could also roadtest the revised uninstall command to be sure that it would be a case of checking that works without any issues. Good when stuff works.

Even more so when I was able to do a bit of offline servicing using SCCM. I had the Windows 10 WIM and the May cumulatives applied, so I was able to bring down the two 1903 updates for June, and then use those as an available update to service the WIM with. It was all relatively good to do and in fact it also meant that you could see the log files and watch the progress as it applied. It did take some time and of course if you choose to push this to the distribution points straight away, that might be something to take into consideration if people are building a machine and using a task sequence with the image referenced.

I headed homewards through the rain later and it did feel rather clammy to be honest as the rain set in. I did have the likes of Italy against Brazil in the Women's World Cup in the background, so it was good to allow the weather to cool off a bit before doing some ironing. In the meantime and as Metallica are playing the Etihad tonight, I thought a blast of the classic Black Album was in order, and the excellent "The Unforgiven" is a perfect bit of background to rock out to, and tune of the day.

Monday 17th June - Selling Out to VAR

It was nice to be able to complete a couple of auctions on eBay tonight, primarily for parts from the old PC which were still working well but needed to go because they were incompatible with the new PC base unit and motherboard that I had upgraded to - even though I was able to test them in other kit and know they were working happily. I had put them up for sale a few days ago, and knew that the RAM was going to sell, and sure enough I also had a bid on the graphics card as well - it did need a meaty PSU to be honest and I have a nVidia Quadro 600 now which is a lot less power hungry but does the job for what I need.

So it was good to see them rising slightly in price before the end of the auction and indeed the fact that they were both paid pretty promptly on the same night is testament to those that bid, so well done them. In fact, I was able to get them both packaged and all ready to send in the post tomorrow - I had plenty of packing material which is always good, but especially when it's the perfect size to send stuff over in the post as well, and keep things well secured along the way.

Later on I settled in to watch the Women's World Cup final games in Group A, mainly France against Nigeria. The Nigerians knew that a draw would potentially get them four points and be able to get through as one of the best third place teams, and possibly even hit France on the break, depending on the way the game went. I have to say that it was all France for the first half but Nigeria were defending pretty stoutly, and dared to go on a counter on occasion too, so definitely going to plan.

However that all changed midway through the second half. France brought on the likes of Eugenie Le Sommer, and it was a case of them going forward and putting pressure on. That pressure led to a tackle from behind in the penalty area - on first glance it looked okay but you could see the leg being taken. The referee checked VAR for agea and awarded a penalty, and a red card for the Nigerian defender. That wasn't the end of things though, oh no..

Up stepped Wendie Renard to score, but missed the goal. However, the referee had checked the rulebook and noted the Nigeria keeper had moved off the line before the ball was struck, so VAR confirmed it had to be taken again. Renard scored this time and all was well with the French in Rennes, although you have to say that Nigeria were hard done by and now need other results to go their way to go through the group stage, so we'll see how it pans out. Tune of the day in the meantime is the excellent "Ignore-Moi" by the very lovely Mélanie Pain, which I played after the final whistle in a nice little bit of French connection - because I can.

Sunday 16th June - Heading Home

My friends and I all woke up in the Ibis, and all was good as the power shower was just that, very powerful, and this meant that we were all able to get ourselves up and refreshed, before then heading over to the Wetherspoons for some breakfast. I did have the sausage barm but as I refilled the coffee, I also found the time to have some porridge with blueberries as well, which actually set me up nicely for the day, and the refill coffee was of course appreciated.

We headed back to the room for a bit and had some mindless telly on including old school Wheel of Fortune with a very young Bradley Walsh attempting to look like a mod with blonde hair, and the ever lovely Jenny Powell. We kept an eye on the news and stuff before we then checked out of the Ibis, and said goodbye to a few people who were around in the bar area who was at the gig last night. It was then a relatively short walk to the train station and to grab a coffee from Costa along the way to keep us occupied.

The train had come in and was ready on Platform 7, the time to depart passed and no one was being allowed on. Eventually the guard turned up and we were all good, so was able to get ourselves on and got a table for four, with a journey being catch up and despite being nine minutes late out of Hull, we did arrive in Doncaster only a couple of minutes behind schedule. My train to London was around half an hour or so, so said my goodbyes to friends at the station and felt rather sad heading to Platform 1 to take the train home, only buoyed by the fact it was a shiny new Azuma train!

Indeed it was, and pretty nice onboard too - the seat reservations are nice and clear to read, and also use a traffic light system, so green means available and easy to spot for those walking down the carriage, and luggage racks above the seats seem to be spacious too. The seats seem a little too thin and upright though, but seemed okay. The journey did take a delay at Grantham due to the emergency alarm being pressed, but I suspect this may have been by accident by someone who didn't understand the new trains and pressed something unintentionally.

I got back to Kings Cross, walked over to St Pancras, and got the train home, and it was a diversionary route through Herne Hill and Streatham, but get home I did, and settled in to watch the USA against Chile in the Women's World Cup. The Chileans belted out their anthem with passion (tune of the day for me that) and although the USA went 3-0 up by half time with two goals from Carli Lloyd, the score was being kept down by Christiane Endler, the Chilean keeper. She pulled off some unbelievable saves in the second half including possibly save of the tournament stretching to claw a goalbound header from Christen Press.

Saturday 15th June - 8-Bit Symphony

On to the second half of a good weekend with myself and my friends, and we were heading over from Doncaster to Hull to see the 8-Bit Symphony concert at Hull City Hall - which would be orchestral renditions of classic computer game themes complete with the Hull Philharmonic Orchestra doing them justice, and a full compliment of 60-70 of them at that. We had got tickets a while ago, and I'd booked the Ibis hotel close by as well as being able to sort out some advance train tickets between Doncaster and Hull, therefore keeping the costs down for us all as much as possible.

We got up in Doncaster and had some really nice sausage barms for breakfast, much appreciated and perfect to set us on our way. We also watched a bit of football and the news before later sorting out a taxi to pick us up and take us to Doncaster station. In fact we arrived earlier than expected so headed to a nearby pub for a drink before we set off, and there was one very large hen party all meeting there. As it turned out they ended up on the same platform as us later but not on the same train, which was a good thing. Our train turned up and it looked like it was an ex-Scotrail train, a three car 170 Turbostar with nice comfy seats, and space for luggage and a table for four together, all sorted.

We arrived in Hull on time and made the relatively short walk from the station to the Ibis Hotel, and all sorted on that side. In fact it was a nice easy check in and we had two twin rooms on the third floor, so should be relatively quiet at that end to be honest. We headed back downstairs to the reception and bar and spotted a few people we knew from the retro scene, so was good to have a lengthy chat to them as well, and was all good there. A number of people had tickets for a VIP event and were heading there, but not us, it was down the pub and to the local Wetherspoons where we had lunch in there and spotted a number of people as well so was good to chatter to all sorts.

We were sat in an upstairs part with an outside garden but we were under cover, but the heavens opened and the rain came whilstling down the wind towards us all so we sought shelter downstairs and was able to find a space downstairs, and saw an absolute downpour for around forty minutes. We then saw a small break in the showers, although still raining a smidge, and headed along Carr Lane and towards Hull City Hall. I had the tickets on the phone so was easier to be able to show all those at the door rather than print out the paper copies which may have gone wet. We saw plenty of people we knew inside, and I also bumped into MJ Hibbett and his lovely girlfriend Charlotte as well on the way to the seats, so definitely all good there.

The concert got underway with an introduction to what the night was about, and one of the staff of Hull College explained why they supported it financially (Rob Hubbard, legendary C64 composer, is from Hull, so makes perfect sense) before starting off proceedings. Nice to start off with "Imagine Ocean" which had a set of the Ocean Loader themes, the opening theme from Rambo: First Blood Part 2 and a bit of Comic Bakery. The orchestra were on good form and this continued into the likes of "Kentilla" and also "Forbidden Forest and beyond" with both of those games given a real cinematic spooky treatment, and really did convey that atmosphere. We had "W.A.R" too although the middle section was cut out, but what was there was still decent enough. Time sped by to the interval and bumped into more people I knew.

The second half had "International Karate", for me and friends, the weakest rendition of the night, it just didn't work. However, much better was to come, especially "Trap" which really did capture the epic feel of the original spot on, and all nine plus minutes or so gorgeously orchestrated, and tune of the day for me. "Firelord" was also really good, and the nod of both the Wastelands loading and main theme from "The Last Ninja" with a tribute to the late Ben Daglish was good to listen to, although it would have been nice to mention the co-composer for that game, the late Anthony Lees, as well. There was also a storming film score version of "Aztec Challenge" too which was really good.

There was a fast version of "Monty on the Run", maybe going a little free range on the middle part but then coming back for that fast ending and being storming in the end. It was also nice to end proceedings with Jon Hare having a nice tribute to Richard Joseph before then the orchestra doing a nice happy rendition of "Stifflip and Co" which got people into the right mood to end the night on a high. On reflection, the gig was a success. One or two tracks maybe didn't work the way that they should, but considering full orchestration had never been tried with them before, it was understandable, and I'm sure for all of us there it was a groundbreaking event to have been at.

My friends and I chatted to more people on the way out of the venue, in the square in front, and then in one of the pubs close by before then heading back to the Wetherspoons, seeing more people and then heading to the local takeaway for food. I got myself a pizza which actually was pretty nice, and two of the friends had kebab, and one went for chicken. It was a late finish of sorts and was around 12.45am by the time we settled back in the hotel room for some sleep, but it had been a good night all round and was a different thing to do on one of our weekends together, for sure!

Friday 14th June - Doncaster Day

I had a half day in work today, and so spent some time checking over the Mac JAMF stuff. As it turned out, not all of the hardware inventory was being pulled over and I did some other checks and test to see what was happening. I've also kept those in the loop who needs to know so that they were aware, and also ensured that the update packages for both Windows 7 and Windows 10 were downloaded, and so once we are able to get the go ahead to go to UAT, we can then get all that sorted and release them accordingly. It works well to get stuff prepared as that's less hassle later on.

I then headed on the 390 bus from work, just as it was absolutely start to throw it down, and off to Kings Cross station. The bus took a little time getting up Tottenham Court Road, primarily due to some delivery vehicles slowing the road down (the two way thing is not quite as yet working as it should) and then along past the closed Euston bus station and down to Kings Cross. One Boots Meal Deal later purchased, and it was off to the platforms to get the 1348 Hull Trains service to Doncaster.

Interestingly, they replaced their normal train with a High Speed Train (HST) which had effectively been handed from GWR (also a First company as Hull Trains are) and no disguising what it was. Even the wi-fi on board was GWR branded, and the seating arrangement was a case of taping over the seat numbers above the seats with black insulating tape, and having to read the tickets on the seat heads to see which was which, so my former 08F facing seat by the window was now an aisle seat with no window view. Confusion reigned for some as they attempted to locate their seats.

Anyhow, the train got to Doncaster on time, and I walked next door to the bus station and got the 54 bus to my friend's place. My other two friends were already there, so it was good to catch up and have a coffee before later having some beers and all chilled out, watching the likes of the Angry Video Game Nerd Pepsiman episode, the theme tune of which was in our heads all weekend. In fact one of my friends mentioned a review of the Thomas the Tank Engine game, so much so that he actually ended up singing renditions of it (make the original TV theme tune of the day) and that was good fun.

We had some food later on and headed to the local Spar for some snacks, being back in time for the England v Argentina Women's World Cup game. We had that on in the background as we chatted about all sorts and caught up, and it was good for me that England did the business, with a well taken move being finished by Jodie Taylor and that proved to be decisive. We then later headed to the local Chinese takeaway for some late night food, and the crispy shredded chicken in a spicy sauce and with rice was gorgeous, well worth it. We watched some other stuff online and before we knew it, it had gone midnight, the time went too fast and I was heading for bed, it was going to be a long day tomorrow.

Thursday 13th June - Mac By Proxy

I had late yesterday finally managed to get a long outstanding issue sorted with an idea one of my colleagues in the team wanted to do, and that was to get the JAMF Pro SCCM plugin running. In effect this retrieves the data from your JAMF Pro instance (for Macs) and sends the hardware inventory over, does some translation and then via proxy and via a certificate you installed into your SCCM system, pushes it into your hardware inventory and database in SCCM, so you can see at a glance hardware configurations, including Macs, for inventory and other purposes.

The main stumbling block had been that it uses an ISV Proxy certificate, and although we had obtained a suitable one from our certificate authority, it had refused to import into SCCM - that was till late yesterday, when I made the breakthrough. It turned another older ISV certificate which had expired was from the old certificate authority that no longer exists, so even though it was blocked, it was blocking the JAMF Proxy certificate we'd generated from being imported - because the subject name of the server was the same in both cases. I had to do a bit of SQL wizardry thanks to an online blog post which gave me the correct guidance to get it sorted.

However, although the service is now running, and indeed the data is at least being pulled from the JAMF server into a series of XML files, processing some of these does not push into the hardware inventory in SCCM - and checking the log files, it's pretty random - some of them do no problem, others just come up with a red error message and fail, even if it's the same hardware and revisions. I have a feeling that actually it might be the way that the plugin is attempting to process the data, but also another factor: one of the plugin DLL files is based on an older SCCM SDK (the 1706 one to be precise) and as such as we're now on 1902, that might not help matters. We shall see.

On another positive note though, I've also been able to put through a change to decommission the application catalog role in SCCM. It's soon going to be removed entirely anyway, and Microsoft are already recommending you remove this. In fact, as I had rebranded Software Centre some time back, this meant it was an easier transition to make - effectively we're already using the new version, so not the old one, so users could not click links anyway, so it was a case of removing any catalog URLs from the client settings, then removing both the application website and catalog roles. Done. Easy.

In fact Microsoft's documentation tells you what to look out for in the client log files, and I could see that as I had some available deployments to my user account - and lo and behold, exactly what I needed to see was in the logs. Sorted. One thing Microsoft have got right over the last couple of years is that they've really improved their online documentation hugely, and for us SCCM admins, it's a good reference point now to say "look, this is the official guidance, let's follow that" and especially where I last worked where some people thought they knew best and would block ports for the hell of it, ignoring Microsoft best practice, and then wondered why my manager and I would be annoyed when stuff didn't work...

Anyway, it's almost the end of the week and tomorrow it's a half day as I'll be heading up North to see some friends for the weekend - that's going to be good, and I'm sure it'll be nice and chilled out as it's the week before I have some lovely times with The Love In My Heart too, so it works out pretty well on the whole actually. In the meantime I've been listening to some classic game tunes in preparation, and none more so than the classic Rob Hubbard Skate or Die title theme. Sampled electric guitars and rocking out? Bring it on, and tune of the day for sure.

Wednesday 12th June - Very Abject Refereeing

Dear me, when VAR was introduced in the men's World Cup last year, it was flawed in so many ways. Delays to make a decisions, softer than soft penalties being given, and a real sense of not letting the fans know what the hell was going on. You'd think a year later that FIFA would have actually spent some time getting things right, but no. Tonight was another nail in the VAR coffin, especially considering the context of the match and indeed the fact that there were other factors to take into play which were ignored.

But let's start at the beginning. It's France v Norway in the Allianz Riviera (none of this Stade de Nice effort) and the crowd understandably are well behind the host nation, with a pretty full stadium and the fans and players belting out Le Marsellaise before the start of play (make that tune of the day) and it was a tense first half overall. France were on top but Norway were holding pretty firm defensively, and they even counter attacked a couple of times and sent some murmurs into French hearts. 0-0 at half time but I suspected that France would score at some point.

And score they did, with good work down the left from Amel Majri and a nice little dummy from Gaetane Thiney meant that the ball went to the recalled Valerie Gauvin who slotted low and hard and home for the opener, inside a minute of the restart. France went mental and the atmosphere was rocking. That however became very flat a few minutes later as a cross from the Norwegian left was inexplicably intercepted and slotted into the bottom corner of her own net by the usually reliable Wendie Renard. She couldn't quite believe it, nor could the crowd, and the next twenty minutes or so were pretty tense.

France headed forward once more and the ball broke loose on the right of the penalty area. In went Marion Torrent, and Ingrid Engen went to clear the ball away, and the follow through landed on Torrent's knee. It looked worse than it was and Engen had played the ball. The referee went to VAR and in the video's mind, it looked like Engen had kicked Torrent, ignoring completely the fact that Torrent had gone in two footed for the challenge and could have easily been red carded for dangerous play. The referee gave the penalty, wrong decision in my book.

Under extreme pressure, Eugenie Le Sommer scored the penalty into the bottom corner, and France did enough for the rest of the game to see it out and get two wins out of two, although I have to say that they might have scored anyway, the fact that it was a really bad VAR decision that was the difference (as was England's opener against Scotland to be fair, something I'd said at the time) and that did leave a sour taste in the mouth. I bet though Nice is rocking tonight!

Tuesday 11th June - Raining Goals

From the American team! More on that later in this diary entry, but first of all, I spent a fair bit of today getting to work and having to take routes to avoid the rain. Some trains were busier than usual because other passengers were on diversions, due to closed lines. And closed for good reason too - the rain had flooded some of the lines and in fact you could not even see the electric third rail in a lot of cases, so running with that on at full power is naturally quite a risky thing you would not want to do. And indeed there was more rain later on tonight which really did hammer it down big time.

Of course that did mean that it was good to be inside and spending a chunk of time today writing up some documentation and a proposal to possibly look at using a cloud management gateway for SCCM for external clients that don't connect to the network and VPN. It's one potential option (another being DirectAccess of course so that any Internet connection will directly connect with the internal network anyway) but it has to be said that there are costs involved for the Azure virtual machines, the amount of data transferred and indeed transfer between worldwide zones depending on where the virtual machine was stored.

I had also nipped into Matalan at lunch time as I was after a hat for holiday, but they didn't have one I was after, but it was 20% off in their sale, so I ordered it online and then I could collect that later this week or early next week to be sure. For me, I know last time out I had a straw based hat which just itched like hell and by the time I headed off to Sorrento I gave up using it because it was just too uncomfortable, so a cotton based one should be better and comfier, reminded me of the one I first got in Asda when I went to Lisbon back in 2015.

After a lovely chat with The Love In My Heart, I settled in for the evening to watch the USA women against Thailand in the Women's World Cup. Naturally I expected the USA to win and even after a disallowed goal it didn't take long for Alex Morgan to open the scoring, and the Thai keeper was doing all she could to keep the score down. She maybe should have dealt with the shot from Rose Lavelle better though which squirmed under her for 2-0, and even a close range finish from Lindsey Horan to make it 3-0 seemed like they were only in second gear all the way through. Impressive.

Impressive became brutal with four goals in the space of seven minutes at the start of the second half. Samantha Mewis scored two of them, the first a powerful deflected finish, Alex Morgan got her second and Rose Lavelle placed a second in herself with a well taken goal. 3-0 had become 7-0 and as Thailand tired, my pre-match prediction of 9-0 looked under threat. Alex Morgan completed her hat trick with a well taken goal for 8-0 and captain Megan Rapinoe slotted home well, and with eleven minutes left, it was already nine. Thailand looked shattered and any attack could produce a goal.

And produce, it did. From the edge of the box Alex Morgan hit a powerful shot home, possibly the best goal of the night and 10-0, double figures now. Germany's record 11-0 win in a World Cup finals was under threat. Mallory Pugh rounded the goalkeeper and slotted home beautifully to equal things, and a powerful shot into the roof of the net from Morgan meant her fifth goal (the golden boot is already looking close to being sealed) - and still time in stoppage time for Carli Lloyd to place one in the bottom corner. A mere 13-0 at the finish, and a huge result to send out a statement of intent for the United States. Not quite raining blood, but said Slayer track is tune of the day as I yelled out "Raining goooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaals!" to that instead. You get the idea.

Monday 10th June - Tipping It Down

It was battling through the rain and off to work this morning. I had actually got on a train to London Bridge, so thought I'd try a different route, switching trains and getting off at Cannon Street. There were queues to get through the barriers there, then across the road and into the new entrance to Bank station. The problem is to get to the Central Line, you've got to walk through numerous underground corridors and then up and down stairs to finally get to where you want to go - not really so good to be honest. And of course that line was pretty busy to say the least, so once tried, then sacked off big time.

It was good to spend some time today monitoring the client deployment of the new SCCM client, and also write up some documentation in terms of what to check, what remediation can be done, and how you're able to spot where there's issues or failures. On a positive note, the majority of times that there was an occasional fail was down to a lack of disk space, so nothing necessarily client related and relatively easy to fix and sort. In fact, the figure looked quite nice by the end of the day.

I did brave the rain at lunchtime and headed up to Uniqlo to pick up an order I'd placed at the back end of last week - another pair of shorts for holiday for a mere £5.90 a pair, so definitely good to have all round really. I must also admit that it's good to at least get plenty sorted for going away and feel like I've got some new parts to the wardrobe as well, which will be all good when I look cool on the beach (well, that's the theory of course, let's see how long that lasts!)

In fact, provided the weather is dry one day this week, I do need to head into Matalan and get a hat as well, primarily because I know that the sun will be warm and I'll want to keep the head nicely protected from the sun, and also with glasses on attempt to look cool (well, sort of really). I did see one the other week so need to get it, but obviously didn't want to get one whilst it was raining heavily - which it was on the way home and I was glad to be in the dry and warm!

I ended up watching the Canada v Cameroon Women's World Cup match later on. To be honest Canada weren't that impressive apart from Janine Beckie, who put a number of good crosses in and went forward whenever she could. Of course the onus was on Christine Sinclair to score, but it was almost as if there were attempts too much to get her involved. It was a 1-0 win but a struggle and Cameroon were unlucky not to draw really. It was a good game and all set for the next day with the Americans on, and with all the French chic around the place tune of the day is the ace "Ignore-Moi" by Mélanie Pain. I love it!

Sunday 9th June - Kitted Out For Summer

The Love In My Heart and I had a relaxed morning, effectively snuggling up to Brian the cat, and as soon as I had got up and been in the front room making a coffee, Brian of course was on the case, instantly snuggling up to his Mummy on the other end of the bed - and on the pyjamas that were nice and soft for him as well. He does like soft but not furry (hence the other side of the blanket is his favourite) and he was more than happy to take that place on the bed - because that's what he does!

After breakfast and getting ready later on, we were going to head through the city centre to the Universities and possibly check out the degree shows, but the rain was lashing it down and it wouldn't have been so nice walking through art exhibits sopping wet, and as we got off at Piccadilly Gardens, plenty of people were heading to Parklife with wellies on looking already muddy and soaked even before they got there. We did decided to head indoors as soon as possible, which did mean The Love heading into Primark - definitely not my thing at all! Still, she did get a nice little Summer dress for herself for around a tenner or so.

After that we went into Uniqlo, as I knew that each store had different items in store discounted, and always good to check what they had. I did manage to pick up some nice boxer shorts for £2.90 each as opposed the normal £5.90 or two for £9.90, and in my size too, so that was good. The Love was impressed with the really light and compact rain macs which could fit into a pocket sized pouch so perfect for the days when you need to travel light but also be waterproof, so a definite plus.

We then went into TK Maxx and I did see a few nice shirts - and as The Love did point out, two of them were ones we saw the other week but was not decided. I did get this nice one for £14.99 and in fact my other All4One voucher was for £15, so that worked out perfectly - getting free stuff and something to show for in terms of my present is a definite plus point too, so well worth it. We went into the Virgin Money Lounge for a well earned coffee and chatter before deciding lunch was in order.

It was onwards to The Bank, and to get some lovely Sunday lunch. I had a voucher for 25% off the food too, so I had the rather nice Hogshead lighter ale Little Swine (a mere 2.8%!) and for lunch I had the chicken and mushroom pie which was fab, and The Love had the Sunday Roast pork. It was all lovely and we then braved the rain as we headed back to the tram stop, and walking back from the tram stop to The Love's place I bumped into my sister and her boyfriend, so that was all good.

We did get back so I could watch the England v Scotland Women's World Cup game. The Love served me cake and coffee and also was sorting out some stuff on the laptop whilst I was seeing England play decent in the first half - a VAR penalty that to be honest shouldn't have been, but Nikita Parris slotted it home well. Later in the first half after much pressure the chance fell to Ellen White who hit home for 2-0, and ironically a disallowed goal in the second half spurred Scotland on (could have been 3-0 otherwise) and late on they scored through Claire Emslie and forced a grandstand finish. England won 2-1 but Scotland played well too - and tune of the day is the theme tune BBC are using for their Women's World Cup coverage: "Remember The Name" by Fort Minor, updated with lyrics from London rapper Ms Banks. Nicely done.

Saturday 8th June - Soaking in Salford

I headed out of the flat this morning, and got to East Croydon station, nicely on time, and after heading to Victoria and then on the tube to Euston, it was off on the 0820 train to Manchester Piccadilly. I did note earlier trains had been delayed due to the rain, but this was delayed a little bit out of Milton Keynes Central due to the number of people getting on, but then at Stoke-on-Trent staying there for ages due to a train fault that needed repairing. Sadly, the train arrived in Manchester Piccadilly 28 minutes behind schedule, which wasn't enough for Delay Repay to be active but definitely an inconvenience. Meh.

The Love In My Heart was waiting to collect me and so we headed back to her place first, where Brian the cat was being his usual cute self and would have probably wanted to play out more had it not been absolutely hammering it down with rain. Boo. The Love got herself sorted and even started baking a gorgeous Victoria Sponge cake for later, although she did say that it might not be her best one, still looked gorgeous enough for me though! We headed off later to see The Love's father, and despite the rain, The Love and her sister under brolly cover sorted out the pot plants.

Indeed, The Love's father also asked me to sort a couple of things on the PC for him - he'd had an email with an image attachment and for some reason it wasn't printing out. I got that sorted, and also made sure that at the same time all was good on there for him, so was well worth devoting some time to getting that sorted out. We then braved the rain, spotted all the buses taking people to a rain-sodden Heaton Park and the Parklife festival (rather them than me to be honest) and then onwards round the back of Salford University and on to the Lowry Outlet Mall.

I had some All4One gift cards for my birthday and knew I could spend them in Gap and Gap Outlet. In fact when we got there it was a happy hour of an extra 20% off, so it worked out that with the 30% off full price, the pair of jeans I was after was around £22 instead of £45, so used the £20 card I had and put the rest to - although the till was playing silly so and sos at first with the card. I was just glad it was all sorted and that meant purchase was made happily. We spent some time mooching round the other shops and felt the need to head across to the Dockyard for a well earned drink - I had this gorgeous peach based ale from the Seven Brothers Brewery which was lovely.

Later on we headed back to The Love In My Heart's place, and we settled in for the evening with Brian the cat all being chilled out on his pouffle. We ended up having some lovely steak for tea, and the sponge cake afterwards for dessert, which was rather lovely all round. We did end up seeing The Voice Kids for a while and there were some good singers on there, and they had a repeat of the Hunt v Lauda documentary, but the edited version minus music clearance, so no Fleetwood Mac's "Rhiannon" as there was in the original (make that tune of the day) - but all in all a good day.

Friday 7th June - Bienvenue a Paris

I got home from work tonight, had my tea, and settled in front of the telly ready for the opening game of the Women's World Cup 2019. Over here in the UK we're very lucky, in that the BBC has been a good supporter of women's football for a number of years, and they've gradually increased the coverage and awareness of how much better the game is these days, and also the impact it can have on youngsters wanting inspiration and having people that they can look up and want to be. Certainly the last few years the Women's Super League has had better attendances, better football and a real sense of coming togther even more for the England team.

I must admit I was pleased that BBC got Alex Scott involved as she knows her stuff and has been excellent as a football pundit full stop, but for them to also get the former USA keeper and World Cup Winner Hope Solo was brilliant - she's really spoken out about wanting more equality and she was not messing around when it came to the initial discussion about players and the state of the game. And for us, Jonathan Pearce and Sue Smith on commentary has long been the best partnership commentating on women's football, so all set, the French anthem of La Marsellaise belted out (make that tune of the day) and on we go!

The French were up against South Korea, and from early on it was pretty clear that the traffic was going to be one way. It was no surprise that Eugenie Le Sommer got on the end of a quality ball in and smashed it into the roof of the net for close range for 1-0. There was still time though for a goal to be disallowed and a VAR decision on what took absolutely ages to resolve, and that really didn't help the flow of the game and the boos were understandable, it didn't actually seem offside either to me.

France weren't dwelling on that too much though. My favourite French player Gaetane Thiney, playing the attacking midfield role in a way I'd have loved to have played as well, put a quality outswinging corner in, perfectly on the head of Wendie Renard, and her height and quality heading told, and it was a well taken finish. 2-0 France. That became 3-0 on the stroke of half time as another outswinging corner, this time from Amel Majri, and Renard was there again, unchallenged.

France understandably were still going forward but were taking things a lot easier and more calm in the second half, knowing that the game was pretty much done. It was probably sensible to save themselves for their next game against Norway in Nice, and they seemed to have that air of authority, and you could understand why they were tipped as favourites in their home country to go all the way. Still time for Amandine Henry to put a gorgeous curling shot home late on for a fourth goal, mind you, and a perfect way for the captain to cap a performance.

Thursday 6th June - D-Day

I took a bit of time today to pause and have a thought about events of 75 years ago, and as such, no tune of the day today. I wanted to take some time out to pause. It was perhaps one of the most important few days of modern history, and one which changed the course in favour of liberation and freedom in the Second World War. The D-Day landings, meticulously planned and executed, were ones which stand out in a vast array of heroic acts as the soliders landed on to the French Northern front, and were able to start the long and painful campaign.

Every single one of those who were there that day, and gave their lives on the line. Some are still alive today and to see them commemorate solemnly their moment with dignity and class shows how much we owe them all today for all the freedoms we have. It's very easy to perhaps underestimate what we do have when there's so much negativity, so much bitterness, and so much hatred in the world today, but none of the democracy, none of the freedom of expression, and none of the world where travelling and finding new exciting places became such a lovely privelege to have, would be present without what had happened.

I did also note that there was one touching moment where the great grandson of one of the soldiers represented the family, wearing the medals, and having a beautiful moment with one of the surviving soliders, embracing together and bridging the divide. It is those moments which should define us, not divide us, and for me really gave me a reality check. I'm definitely of the view that we need to think more about our history, where we came from, and how much we absoutely owe all of those so much gratitude, respect and honour.

It was also perhaps somewhat poignant that I felt the need to head out of wherever I was around 6pm, and have a moment or two to pause and reflect. There's so much I could feel emotionally about what it meant, not least as my Grandad served for a time in the Second World War and that connects me to the sense of occasion that today was. I also think that I know how lucky I am too, and that does not go by unnoticed on a regular occasion as I appreciate all I have.

With that done, it was time later to sort out a few things at home, and as the sun set with a beautiful red sky, I thought of the overnight landings on the beach, the running into small towns and cities, and gradually, very gradually, getting all of that freedom back on successive warm days and successive sunsets. One day, the newer generations will appreciate just how much this means to us who understand. In the meantime, all we can do is educate and allow those who wish to learn to do so.

Wednesday 5th June - Recycling

After a busy day at work, I headed off to TK Maxx on Charing Cross Road to collect a parcel that I'd had sent there via their click and collect service online. Effectively, it was for a nice French Connection shirt that I had ordered which The Love In My Heart and I had seen, and I liked, but wanted to order online so it was all new and unopened. They'd got large back in, so ordered it and used my gift card to pay for most of it, and all was well there. In fact it was in a quite small packet when I collected it so it fitted into the work rucksack and was able to travel home relativlely lightly.

I had been sorting out a few fair pieces of clothing which were either old or had shrunk and didn't fit me anymore (and in some cases worn beyond use as well, such as one shirt where the collar had virtually collapsed after a wash and clean). It made sense to get them all folded neatly, bagged in a black bag and then that fitted into a large recyclable shopping bag, and I could use that to get some shopping at the same time afterwards. It did feel like a good purge actually and meant that my wardrobe certainly felt much more flowing nicely. So, all sorted, time to head to Sainsburys.

It was on the 412 bus from mine, passing along the twin railway lines and diving under bridges where it could, before heading uphill for some time with Croham Hurst on the left, before then reaching the centre of Selsdon and Sainsburys. They still had the clothes recycling green bins for Oxfam (two of them actually) and so I deposited the black bag of clothing into there, so they'll be put to good use elsewhere. I'd much rather them at least be ethically reused and it feels the right thing to do - I couldn't be one selling on eBay to be honest, not really worth it in my view.

With that done, I had a good chance to get a few bits from Sainsburys itself so I had some nice stuff in for tea for the next week or so, and as it was relatively quiet, I could get what I needed, nip into the quick pay tills and be out in good time for the 412 bus coming back (only every half hour in the evening, so timing has to be good). It was a lot quicker going downhill on the way back, and passing the many restaurants of Croydon's South End as well along the way (a couple of them I noted were also having refurbishment work done at the moment) and so not that long to head back home either.

It had been a good day really, The Love In My Heart had had a good day, I spoke to Mum earlier who's in Cornwall with one of her friends, and all seems well with the world there, and that was nice to see she's having a bit of an adventure with it too. It also reminded me to sort a few things for my own adventure in a few weeks time, so spent some time getting all that done. I feel organised now, so for me, tune of the day is the ace "Rules and Regulations" by Fuzzbox - after all, there must be more to life than rules and regulations to command and obey, right?

Tuesday 4th June - Upgrading

Today was the day that I had set aside to do the SCCM upgrade at work, effectively moving it to the current branch release of 1902 (we were on 1810). On the whole, I was well prepared, having documented the pre-requisite check and performing that yesterday just to be sure all was good. In fact, the very nice folks in our infrastructure team had scheduled a backup of the SQL databases and a snapshot of both of the main servers, so all was good and working well on that side. It is always sensible to be prepared and have a fallback plan just in case of course.

Naturally, it was good to get cracking, and once the initial checks had been done, it did its usual waiting for the update inbox to be updated, with a 10 minute wait. Lesser admins will assume it's stopped and attempt to cancel it, but no - it's by design folks. Always take note of various people like System Center Dudes who note that as an important one, and one I went through with my colleague at one of my last jobs because it means that she was aware of it. Once you know, you know, and it's often a good time to lock the workstation and make a coffee so it'll be all good when you get back.

With that done, the server did its upgrade of the database, installed the files, and then did all the role upgrades. Of course that always takes a little time as it has to stop one of the main SMS Executive services, install that new version first, and as a lot of the other roles are threads of that process, they're then added on accordingly. The thing which always takes additional time is the management point setup - the log files for sitecomp and indeed the MPSetup are always worth a watch for that so you know there is actually something being done!

All was well by lunchtime, including the secondary site server having its own upgrade, which hadn't been done by the previous admin in almost two years. That might have said it might have been planned for a decommission or not, but thought it best for consistency to get it all done. It worked well, I tested out deployment of the new client, and indeed some task sequences and builds, and all working fine as expected. It was good to be able to document it all (it needed doing) and that just adds more strings to the armoury too, so mighty pleased.

It was wet but yet humid on the way home, which wasn't so nice to be honest, and I was glad to be able to head homewards and at least have the windows open and cool off a bit too. I did have a good listen to some old school Juliana Hatfield, especially some of the singles which I have on vinyl. I still adore "Girl In Old Blue Volvo Disowns Self" from the Universal Heartbeat single, and that's tune of the day. There's just a real sense of feeling of driving down the coast with that one for some reason..

Monday 3rd June - To Cut A Long Order Short

I had decided a few weeks ago, and having tried on some of my existing pairs, some of which didn't fit so well having shrunk in the wash, that I needed some new shorts for holiday, as the weather looks like it is going to be pretty good all round. With that in mind I had been in Uniqlo Manchester with The Love In My Heart, and she had suggested a pair in there she liked, and thought I'd look good in. Having checked their sizing, they're on the small side so I'd need a large in whatever pair(s) I was going to order.

I'd had a look on the website on Sunday night and they had the red striped pair in to order, but looking at the sale stuff, they also had a few of the other pairs reduced too - a nice olive green plain pair and a blue check pair too. Needless to say for the price, and in my size, it was worth doing, so I ordered all three pairs, and they did offer for free click and collect at their stores - one of which is just down the road from the office. So it was nice and easy to walk up there in the lunch break, and the click and collect point was located in the basement. A very nice and friendly member of staff sorted me out, and she was lovely, and I soon had them all to take home later.

I did try them on when I got home, and all was good, they were comfortable and nice to wear, had good sized pockets which is always handy, and just felt nice on too. I must admit that I'm thinking of getting other stuff front there knowing what fits well, and it seemed reasonably priced too for what it was. I wasn't near approaching the £60 spend for £10 off, but good to know that all was good. I must admit that for me it's not always something I wear, as I'm not a big fan of my legs, but at least I've now got something to feel more comfortable in too. Here's hoping!

I also spent some time tonight sorting out a shed load of washing and ironing, and working on what clothes I could potentially clear out and donate to charity. For me, there's a couple of Sainsburys close by which have the clothes and textiles recyling, and that works out nicely for those that need it. Plus it just feels the right thing to do and have a good clearout at the same time, so possibly might be making a trip there later in the week and sorting some donations out.

I had a relaxed evening mainly transferring over the pictures from the weekend and sorting out which ones I am going to upload later this week. Shame then that with all the changes to Flickr as of late, the classic Uploadr app just fails due to some API related issues. I might have some workarounds, but still. In the meantime, tune of the day is the rather lovely "Pink Sunshine" by Fuzzbox, and with the nice weather today it certainly reminds me that Summer is approaching!

Sunday 2nd June - Wonderful Winterbourne

It was nice to be all snuggled up together in the hotel, and The Love In My Heart and I headed down for breakfast once we were all ready to go. The breakfast area seemed like it had more tables laid out, possibly because of more people staying on Saturday night, so all the likes of the pastries, cereal and so on was in the bar area. In fact I got some of the red berry fruit and added some natural yoghurt, and that worked nicely. We had coffee, toast and a full English breakfast again, and that certainly went down very nicely indeed.

We had packed everything and checked out of the hotel, and asked if they could store our luggage to collect later, which they were happy to do. I had thought of some ideas to spend some time during the day, and noted Winterbourne House near the University of Birmingham, and so were going to check that out. So we headed across to New Street station, and got the tickets sorted (Two Together Railcard discount too) which was from New Street to University station. In fact the train we got out to there was a fast one to Worcester, so missed Five Ways and went straight to University. Excellent! That was good.

We left the station and passed the queues of people waiting to get a ticket, and followed the paths through the main university square and then past the King Edward Schools, and there was a little bit of rain coming down as we took the right turn and down the hill to Winterbourne House and Gardens. As it was raining, we decided to do the house first then the gardens afterwards. The house was very much inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, which was a good thing to see, with wide corridors and lovely well decorated rooms, especially the nursery complete with old teddy bears and the office room.

The rain had stopped so we headed outside, checking out the old kitchen and scullery of the house first, then heading towards the little bookshop and art gallery which had a set of art pieces which were nicely illustrated and available in the shop. We then saw the lovely vegetable garden with all sorts of root vegetables growing well, and followed the path around the garden down towards the children's area with willow tunnels and the nut walk. That was nice, but even nicer was to come later.

And as we walked further down the gardens, the rockery gave way to a woodland walk path, and when you followed that you headed to a small pond with a lovely little bridge over it, and that certainly felt rather lovely. The Love stated that the gardens were even nicer than Quarry Bank Mill too, and so that was good. Certainly we both enjoyed them, and all the nice flowers and plants and little walkways to different sections of the gardens, including the likes of oranges and lemons growing, was lovely to see. What wasn't so lovely was the rain coming down as we headed back to University station, not so good!

We got back to New Street and I had dried off a little by that point, and we headed across to Bacchus Bar for some lunch. I had the steak and ale pie and it was a proper pie too, and The Love had the Sunday Roast pork belly which looked gorgeous too. We chatted about all sorts and headed back to the hotel to get our cases before then being back at New Street, and I walked down with her to the platform for her train, and gave her a massive hug and kiss. It had been a lovely weekend and we had both made the most of it, and thought of her a lot as I headed on my train back to London Euston. Tune of the day is the epic "Weekender" by Flowered Up, a classic of its time and was us, going out, having a good good time!

Saturday 1st June - Canals and Custard

It was really nice to get ourselves up, have a shower and head down to the first floor breakfast room at the Burlington Hotel, where myself and The Love In My Heart are staying for the weekend. In fact, we remembered that we had sat at the same table for breakfast when we last stayed here, so was good to be able to look out of the window and watch the world go by in the morning. We both went for the cooked breakfast which meant that The Love of course handed me her black pudding in trade for the grilled tomato - this way we get more of what we'd like and can sack off what we don't. In fact it was pretty nice overall, complete with toast, coffee, pastries and fruit too.

Once all sorted, we headed to get ourselves ready for heading out, and then followed the road out of New Street and towards the Mailbox complex. We noted that Heal's now had a store in here as well as too, so had a nice mooch around there before then heading out of the Mailbox and following the canal towards Gas Street Basin, and heading under Broad Street towards the canalside restaurants and the International Convention Centre. In fact it was nice to see that a number of the canal barges were all moored ready for a trip out, and it was something I fancied doing as we'd never done that before.

We plumped for the Bosworth Cruises boat, as it seemed to be leaving shortly, and had some of the windows open so you could see out without any perspex in the way. This proved to be a good move because the woman who was our guide was giving us plenty of information about the industrial areas by the canals, how the city had developed, along with maps and information to guide everyone. The sun was coming out too, and as we headed out of the city centre alongside the railway, we were told to watch out for a family of ducks - and the parents and small ducklings all swam past and were amazingly cute.

The canal barge had done a u-turn at Gas Street Basin, heading back up past the National Indoor Arena and along towards Sherborne Wharf, then followed the railway, then did a left close to the duck family towards Icknield Port and you could see the large hill towards Edgbaston Reservoir, then it showed the new housing developments before then heading back towards the city centre, taking a left turn past the Roundhouse, being restored by the National Trust at the moment, then doing a right past the National Indoor Arena and to where were came. An hour or so's cruising, lots of good information, and £8 for that seemed pretty good value to me to be honest.

After that we walked down Broad Street, past the Library of Birmingham which had the top floor viewing gallery closed to a function, and then over the old roundabouts and flyovers and over to the Museum and Art Gallery. We stopped off here and headed into the Edwardian Tea Room, still as lovely as ever of course, and had to have some carrot cake and a coffee in there. With us refreshed, we then headed to Grand Central and the Bullring and had a good look in the shops. I didn't see anything I fancied as such to spend some vouchers with, and as it was getting warm we decided to head for some fresh air.

As we exited close to the Bull Ring market, a proper old school market, I had an idea, and so we followed the road out down Digbeth and towards High Street Deritend, and then turned left for the Custard Factory, an arts complex that was once the factory where Bird's Custard was made (and it was an egg-free custard by the way) - hence the replica mugs in the Museum and the display in one of the shops and bars in the complex. We stopped off here with the sun coming down nicely and some hip hop being performed, and headed in the Mockingbird Cinema and Kitchen. I had the very nice Clwb Tropicana ale from Tiny Rebel, and their own lager was decent too according to The Love. We both had the buttermilk chicken which was nicely spiced with some chips - awesome stuff.

We also followed the urban art, headed under the arches and followed the road along to Lower Trinity Street, which had a complex of bars and urban street food eateries there, and a record shop. It was £1 to get in, but the vibe was really nice and we enjoyed mooching round the shops and the record shop was fab. We went into the Café Colette and that was really nice, their own lager for around £4 a pint was good, and the DJ was playing some proper tunes too. Lots of nice urban art around here too which was good to see. We enjoyed the whole vibe of the area, and walked back to the shops later feeling rather happy all round.

We did then head back into the Bull Ring, and indeed then via a couple of the shops and to Oasis, where The Love got some new shoes for the summer, and then we headed back to the hotel to relax for a bit. We ended up seeing the final of Ninja Warrior, and that was awesome, especially Tim Champion being the first person ever to complete Stage 3, and then clock the final climb with one second left, it was epic stuff! We got ourselves changed and ready and out for the evening.

First off was Ask Italian, and it was nice to just have a relaxed seat by the window and just natter together and have some lovely food. The Love had the brushcetta, I had the calamari for starter, and then for the main The Love had the chicken Milanese, and I went for the carbonara, which was pretty good, but needed more sauce in my view. We then headed back to Bacchus Bar and I had the coffee porter which was stunningly nice, and The Love and I had a nice chat and were all relaxed together. The music selection was awesome including The Cure's In Between Days, so tune of the day for me. It was a nice way to end a lovely day and we both were really tired after a long day, but it had been worth it!