Goodbye Micro Mart, I shall remember you fondly.

Ah, so 2017 starts off with the first sad death of the year… my favourite little magazine… “Micro Mart”.

Well, OK, technically, it died last year, as this last issue is dated 29th December – 31st Never, but still, I didn’t find out until I was browsing a local WH smith.

I must start by saying , I wasn’t a prolific reader, and instead decided to just pick up an occasional issue, either when looking for a new PC (or parts for an existing PC). In fact, it was waay back in 1996, when one of my old college lecturers told me about it, and especially one of their advertisers, called something like “Page 72”, who, you guessed it, always ran their adverts on Page 72. I’m probably wrong with the page number there, but I always thought it was a nifty little martketing tool. You’d always know where to find them!

In fact, I bought my very first computer from out of a Micro Mart advert, around that same time, possibly from that very first issue I bought. Of course, way back in 1996, the internet barely existed. For me, it had only just started existing, and I certainly didn’t have the ability to shop for a new PC. I relied on the pages of Micro Mart to tell me what I was looking for. And it didn’t disappoint.

My very first PC was a Pentium 166Mhz (With MMX no less!), 16Mb RAM, 2Gb hard drive, and a 1Mb graphics card. Eventually, I outgrew this little machine, and the next one I bought also came from the hallowed pages of Micro Mart.

Time gre on, the internet became plentiful, and I didn’t really rely on Micro Mart for anything after that, but my love for it didn’t die. In the back of my mind, I’d be in a service station somewhere, or an airport, and I’d think to myself “Well, I’ll need something to fill the journey time”, and I’d walk out with a copy of MM under my arm. Sometimes I’d even pay for it!

Ho ho, I jest. In all seriousness, print medium when it comes to computer magazines is shrinking all of the time. Although there’s roughly 100 feet of shelf space in every large WH Smith, the computer section is dwindling rapidly. The vast majority of what’s left, taken up with “special” publications which seem to hang around for months, and the old established monthlies (and in MM’s case, even more frequent) are going to the great paper pulper in the sky. And I, for one, will miss them.

RIP Micro Mart.

It’s a complicated entry into 2017!

And you’re welcome to it! I can’t guarantee what time this post will appear, but I can guarantee it’ll be in the following year it’s typed from, for you see, although I’ll set the post to automatically release its contents at a second past midnight in the year of our lord 2017, it won’t appear until someone visits the website. Something about it triggering cron jobs, or something. Sounds rude, anyway.

So, going by my current visitor tally, and people who actually read this, it’ll appear around 3rd January… everyone will be going back to work, and not giving a flying toss about what I’m typing or who it’s aimed at.

I think I wished a happy 2016. That went well. Just do whatever you can to survive in 2017, and I might write shit about it.

So, this is Christmas 2016

… And what have you done, I hear you ask, for yet another recycled introduction to the Christmas blog post. It’s the first time I’ve done one of these in a couple of years. Well, a proper one anyway, mainly because for the last couple of years, I’ve been busy on Xmas eve. This year, however, I’ve gone and caught myself a rotter of a cold, so I’m just sat at home, feeling sorry for myself. And if you’d like to leave a sympathy comment in the boxes below, well, that’s be just lovely.

So, as usual, I’ve felt as festive as a turkey about this time of year. I’ve been to absolutely no parties this year, and I’ve only been out a couple of times, and neither of those times were particularly festive. Not a beard bauble in sight, and only a hint of a Xmas jumper.

First, let me clear up something I started off in the last post, but because I rambled too long about getting lost in Stockton, I sort-of forgot about it.

“Another year older, and no longer in debt”

You ssee, since January last year, I’ve owed a lad called Chris a tenner. Not the Chris who has been mentioned many times on this blog, but a Chris I used to work with. Back in (I think) January, we’d went for a “works” night out. I no longer work for the company in question, but I still thankfully get invited to their nights out in the town. Unfortunately, on this incredibly cold January night, I’d made one massive error of judgement, and forgot to go to a cashpoint. This was shit news. It meant I had a six-mile walk home, at mignight, with snow on the ground. Bugger. Thankfully, he was at hand to line my pockets weith the Queens’ face, and this small gesture was not forgotten.

11 months passed, and I didn’t see Chris again, until 9th December, when I was able to pay the tenner back, and I could, once again, hold my head up high as a well upstanding citizen.

Right, anyway, enough of that. Back to the topic.

2016 has taken another figure of my Xmas childhood, as I learned a few minutes ago that Rick Parfitt, out of Status Quo, has died, which is a shame. Status quo always reminds me of Xmas, because I got a tape of theirs when I was about 9. You could say this would have been the beginning of my proper music collection, as for that year, I got my first dual tape deck. And I loved it so. I even remember taking that tape deck on holiday with me to Sandy Bay.

Here’s the Discogs entry for the album, for those playing along with at home.

So, tomorrow is the big day. For the first time, I’ll be somewhere else, and not sat around my computer, but I can guarantee, somewhere between then and now, I’ll be squeezing a couple of games of Rocket League in…

I might even squeeze in a review of the year before we kick 2016 into the rubbish bin where it belongs.

The way it… was?

Not really much of a post, and it’s probably one I’ll elaborate further at some point (no I won’t), but just to say that Bruce Hornsby has released an entirely live version of the album “The Way it Is”, seeing as it’s now 30 years old.

There’s a link here for those wanting to reflect, 2016 style, on what was, to me anyway, a great album. It’s a free MP3 download, lossless and better quality for those who like paying full whack for music. (EDIT: The site does ask for your email address. I’m sure we all have enough throwaway email addresses for this not to be a worry.)

Nice of him to actually still do tracks from his early albums in his live shows. I do like hearing it live, and there’s plenty of example on Youtube, seeing as there’s no official remixes of it, no extended versions, etc. There is an instrumental version on the B side of “Every Little Kiss”, (along with a different version of “the River Runs Low”, from the album (unless you had the very first pressing, but let’s not get too geeky here (Oooo, nested brackets))) but it’s not that different.

Download it. Or don’t I’ll not lose any sleep.

Sixteen days off and what do you get…?

Another year older, and no longer in debt.

Yes, for the first time ever, I booked myself two weeks’ holiday, and tonight is the last night so I thought it’d be fun to share with you what happened. Fun, being the loosest word I can use in this phrase.

Originally, I took the week off on the anniversary of my birth. Unfortunately, that day also co-incided with a trip to the eye infirmary, so this year, my birthday was literally a complete write-off.

And really, I can only think of one thing to type about, and that’s a rather interesting visit to Stockton. OK, not interesting for most people, but for me, it ended up getting lost in the suburbs of the afore-mentioned Teesside town, and thank god it wasn’t raining.

So, let me take you back a couple of weeks. I left work early November, with the thought of two weeks full of charity shop shoppin’ and more CDs than you can possibly imagine. I have two main places to visit when I go to Stockton. the High Street, and the Daisy Chain charity shop, located on the outskirts of town, within view of the A19.

The morning started great. I literally caught the bus to Hartlepool’s glorious town centre with seconds to spare. If my little legs hadn’t carried me any quicker, I’d have missed it. And that would have been shite.

Right, so, anyway. Long story short, Teesside bus ticket purchased, and I get to Stockton nice and early. There’s plenty of time for me to start raiding the charity shops, and I did indeed pick up a fair haul. “Tyne Bargains”, a 2nd hand shop on the High Street also saw a fair chunk of my money. £3 for pretty much my own body weight in CDs. A couple from other assorted charity shops, and a highly disappointing visit to the newly opened “That’s Entertainment” One thing that the festive season always brings, is a drought on the “49p” CDs. Those are the ones that don’t have cases, and are literally a pot-luck of stuff. Completely randon, and I’ve picked up some absolute classics, though I’m sure I’ve rambled on about those before.

Most of the charity shops were plundered, except one, which lies on the outskirts of the town. It’s more like a charity warehouse to be fair, and all of the CDs are 5 for £1.

Daisy Chain charity shop in Portrack Lane, Stockton.
Countless amounts of CDs. Of course, I’ve visited this shop on a number of occasions, and have plundered it for everything that it’s worth. But, you never know, if you somehow stumble accross this photo and/or shop, you might find something worthwhile.

If I remember, I’ll remove that caption. but look at them. Look at all of those CDs. I didn’t even look at the records.

I successfully plundered the shop, and decided to get the bus back to Middlesbrough. Again, perfect timing saw the No. 13 bus to Middlesbrough turn up. Perfect!

Well, I thought we were going to Middlesbrough. Nope. All of the times I’ve caught the bus back home from Middlesbrough, I’ve learned that the 13 stops in the bus staation, but not in the direction I was travelling. As the stops went by, it dawned on me we weren’t going to Middlesbrough, but deeper into native territory. I rang the bell, and got off, knowing I didn’t have a clue where I was. Google maps wasn’t much help. I waited at te bus stop across the road, and noticed there wasn’t any timetable or stop number on this bus stop. What if the 13 didn’t even stop here? Only one thing to do, and that was backtrack.

I walked down by what I hoped was the right road, to see an old lady stood at the bus stop.

“Are you looking for the 13, love?” she says to me…

“Er, I think so”. I then explain my predicament in many less words than what I’ve used here.

“Ohhh, it’s always bloody late. I’ve got to be at the doctors for half three, and….” I’d zoned out at this point. All I wanted was to head back to the bloody High Street, where I knew were I was.

“eeeh, well, I’m going to walk down and catch the 59… That’ll get me as far as St James’s…” I’d zoned out again. I offered to walk down with the old lady as she was currently my only link between getting home, or dying lonely in a strange town. I’m not sure if she warmed to the idea. After all, an out-of-towner walking with an old lady to the bus stop, what could possibly go wrong?

We’d walked about 100 yards down the road, she’d informed me to look out in case the 13 mysteriously turned up… and guess what, just at that point, it did. The next 20 seconds saw me comically running back up to the bus stop, frantically waving my hand for the driver to stop. I get on, it was only the same bloody bus driver who’d took me there in the first place. He must have thought I was a right bloody weirdo, with my bag full of CDs, running back up to the bus stop.

The bus reaches Stockton High Street, but I know this will take me to the bus station.. Everyone except me gets off. The driver asks me where I’m going. In a questionable tone, I say Middlesbrough Bus Station. He then takes the bus out of service, and takes me there directly, as if I had a 46-seat limousine to myself for the next 20 minutes. A quick walk around Middlesbrough later, in the search of an LED light bulb, and I headed home, into the sunset….

Of course, if this was the highlight of the two weeks, that’d have been pretty dismal, but this was the easiest to blog about. After all….