Ugh. Thank you, Europe.

Oh, look! I have one of those cookie bar things! You know the things that, by law, bug you on every website you visit? Yeah, I’ve got one too. Sorry.

One thing though, is that on a PC screen, it’s not too distracting. It’s a little bit more obnoxious if you view it on your phone. I just hope it doesn’t drive away both of my readers. And, if you post a comment, it mentions something about a third party (Akismet) checking your post for spam. It saves me a job, and it’s just shy of deleting 100,000 spam comments on the site in the 15 or so years I’ve been using it.

I hope it doesn’t spoil your enjoyment of reading the no posts I’ve posted recently.

It’s Eurovision time, 2018 style!!

Oh yes, the time of year I await with baited breath. As with previous years, I’ll be going through and reviewing each entry, so this is a live post. Keep reloading, as I’ll be updating this through out the night, with the latest update first…

23:50
And here endeth the Aurovision for another year. A controversial night, and not a great winner. Reminds me too much of that “Bom Bom” song

22:07
ITALY: I’d probably like this one, but the suject martial’s put me right off. Thankfully this is the last one, I can go and get something to eat after this!

22:03
CYPRUS: This is supposed to be the favourite. Not sure why, it’s nothing special

21:58
IRELAND: Usuaully a fan favourite. Never realised they hadn’t been in it for five years though. That streetlight isn’t giving out much light though. The song wasn’t bad.

21:55
NETHERLANDS: Never a fan of country, and this one is no exception. Looks like he’s applying to be on the crystal maze.

21:50
ISRAEL: I genuintely don’t know what to make of that. She sounds like a dog choking on a chicken bone.

21:46
HUNGARY: Ha! this is more like it! The bloke singing it can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but it’s certainly more upbeat than some of the dreck on before it.

21:42
SWEDEN: I always like Sweden’s songs… unfortunately, this year isn’t one of their best. Bring back Carola, that’s what I say!

21:34
MOLDOVA: I’m not typing anything as I’m actually watching this one. It’s been the most eurovision-ny one so far.

21:34
BULGARIA: I take it we’re reaching the dreary stages, or the bit where I get bored… not sure which yet, but this one isn’t very good at all.

21:30
FINLAND: Redeeming features: 0. Not a fan of that one at all. Something about monsters being under the bed.

21:22
AUSTRALIA: I really fancy a dairy milk after seeing that dress. Very generic song.

21:18
DENMARK: I don’t think I can listen to anyone whose eyes are that close together. A bit unfair, however, as the song isn’t TOO bad. In fact, as it’s gone on, it’s grown on me. Not bad at all.

21:14
CZECH REPUBLIC: Cack. Absolute cack. Swing/Jazz is sooooo 1994.

21:11
FRANCE: It’s not great, is it? It’ll probably win.

21:06
ALBANIA: Oooh, this one isn’t bad. I do like the occasional acoustic guitar. He also looks like Photonicinduction. I keep expecting him to smash a lightbulb, then shout “I ain’t ‘avin’ it!” But yes, I do like this one very, very much.

21:02
GERMANY: It’s Ed Sheeran on a budget isn’t it? Totally ripping off every Adele Song.

21:00
SERBIA: Forgettable entry from a hipster, and someone wrapped in boiler cladding slapping fuck out of some oil drums. Nil points. Still trying to find out what that prick shouted

20:52
UNITED KINGDOM: SuRie – Storm. This is the only one I’ve actually heard (unsurprisingly), and I really like it.If politics weren’t involved, we might have had a chance of winning.

And someone ran on stage during our song. Sigh. I’m going to rewind that and see what happened.

Apparently, the intruder grabbed the mic, and shouted something foreign.

20:46
PORTUGAL: Oooh, I don’t mind this one. Pretty minimalist with just a piano in the background, but I do like it.

20:43
NORWAY: Yeah, this one isn’t great. Probably the catchiest one so far. Same lines over and over again. Nil points

20:39
Opera. Maybe this is a good a time as any to open my first can. It’s only uphill from here…. Clever dress though, that apparently cost €65,000. I wonder how many glasses just broke?

20:34
AUSTRIA: I think this is probably my favourite song so far. But please, enough of the crowd interaction. CErtainly my favourite so far.

20:30
LITHUANIA: Started off ever so slightly out of tune. Unless that’s just my ears. It’d probably be a good song, but she’s got a weird voice. Sounds a bit like her who just died out of The Cranberries. Have they banned snare drums from this years’ competition?

20:22
SLOVENIA: I doubt this one will do well at all, it’s pretty generic. I think I’d rather hear Spain’e entry again, and that almost put me in a coma. Some pointless crowd interaction there. You’re supposed to sing the song, petal, not them.

I thought these songs were only supposed to last three minutes? That felt like it went on for a fortnight.

20:22
SPAIN: Oh my god, I can’t stand this one already. I can’t understand the lyrics, but it’s setting my fucking diabetes off. NEXT! My predition is that it’ll do well. Really well.

20:18
UKRAINE: It’s slightly catchy, in a “Self Control – wo-oo-ooah” style way. The guy looks like if Declan Connelly became a vampire. And oh shit, the stairs are on fire!

I haven’t started drinking yet.

20:13
Apparently, in China, you can’t have tattoos on television, so it’s been banned. OH WELL.

20:09
Oh joy. There’s a flag ceremony.

Now the Longscar Centre’s burned down….

For those of you familiar with the lovely seaside resort of Seaton Carew, you’ll notice that one of its major “eyesores” went up in flames yesterday. And for those of you unfamiliar with it, it was a major eyesore that had blighted the main part of Seaton Carew since its closure in 2009.

You could almost hear the cheering from Clavering.

Unfortunately, I was unable to get to Seaton to take my own photos, but thankfully, Chris sent me these…

I won’t speculate on what happened, why it happened, or any monetary exchange that may occur because of it – that’s for someone else to decide (and, of course, social media), so instead I’d like to go through some of the memories I have of the place.

The news said it closed for good in 2009. That’s probably right, as Coasters, the pub, remained open, but long before then were the arcades. I’d spend many a saved-up 2p and 10p in this place, and if pocket money could afford it, even an odd pound coin.

This place was one of the largest arcades in Seaton.

As you went through the door, past the rickety old racing machines (where the horses would judder along badly maintained rails, and you’d bet on which one made it to the end first – if you got it right, it would spit coins at you),

On the left, there was the “Prize Bingo”. This was great for the mams and aunties. I don’t think I ever went with my mam, but certainly went with my aunty when I was about 13, this would have been the first time I went there, it can’t have been log after it opened.

On the right were the arcades, on the far, right were the miniature bowling alleys. More on them in a bit

So, as I mentioned, the first time I went there was with my aunty. Now, she used to read the blog, finding out what I get up to, but apparently they stopped reading many years ago because I swore too much. I think that was a polite way of saying I’m a disappointing nephew. Ahem, Anyway, I knew that we went there, because I can still remember seeing the mechanical 7-segment display on the wall, showing the jackpot. No LEDs for us, not in those days!

I remember one of the very first times I was let out on my own, to an event. I must have been about 14 or 15,, and a slightly younger lad called Ste was with me. PJ and Duncan (as they were known back then), were headlining a local radio roadshow.. Of course, I cared little for their music, and while hordes of screaming girls belted their lungs out at the sight of the wee Geordie Grinners, myself and Ste got up to other activities, such as playing Ridge Racer in there.

When the whole Ridge Racer craze died a few years later, games started evolving, and Ridge Racer disappeared. They invested in new, large generic arcade cabinets, what you could sit down on, the controls would be separated from the game by about 4 feet, but the monitor would be comfortably large enough to see. One all-time favourite on here was, of course, Track and Field, the 1983 Konami classic. The original game used buttons, these cabinets used joysticks and buttons, making the whole running bit a whole lot easier. Unfortunately, due to the physical nature of the game, the joystick would always be broken, and the buttons unresponsive. Of course, you can’t find that out until you’ve deposited your 10p.

Other machines had more obvious faults. A “Punchout” had one of its monitors just showing a bright line (The flyback transformer was loose. Ironically, sometimes giving the machine a good thwack would bring it back to life.)

The years went on, and as I got older, I frequented it a lot more, usually with Chris. I went there on the day that I got my GCSE results. You know, to take the incredible feeling of disappointment away.

By this time, It was obvious to see that the arcade part of this place was beginning to go down the tubes. The mini-bowling had stopped working, part of the arcade got replaced with a tiny indoor go-karting track, and the few arcade machines that were there, fell more and more into disrepair. On my last ever visit, I noticed that even my beloved “Track + Field” had a board fault, as the colours were all wrong – the track showing as white background with black lines.

Shortly after, the arcade was gone. Rumour has it that the games were sold off really cheaply.

The only place that remained open was the pub “Coaster’s”. I don’t recall ever going in it, but I do have memories of a manager (who shall remain nameless) at an old place I worked at, offering to buy us curry every Friday night. Naturally, it was free food, so we all agreed. He’d disappear for about two hours, get absolutely legless in Coaster’s, drive back (hence the anonymity), and serve us all up with lukewarm curry! While I absolutely do not condone drink driving, it’s safe today what these Friday nights were the catalyst for my love of the spicy stuff – from takeaways anyway.

The manager retired, and Coasters closed. I don’t think there was any coincidence in this., but you never know.

And so, that concludes my brief history of The Longscar centre. Rather like The Wesley, I have a feeling it’s going to be even more of an eyesore than what it was beforehand…

Another weekend, another radio rally!

Ahhh, radio rallies. A subject I’ve touched on briefly, yet can’t have touched on them enough, as everyone l mention them to, seems to look at me with some type of confusion etched on their faces. So, let’s start from the beginning.

I’ve mentioned before, Daddykins is a radio ham. No, that’s not some type of wireless pig, it’s a name given to someone who has an interest in amateur radio. For as long as I can remember, he’s been taking me to radio rallies, and I always enjoy them. There are basically huge places, filled with lots of stalls, selling radio, and sometimes computer goodies. I remember getting a load of ZX Spectrum tapes from one, when I was about 10, most of which got used as blank tapes to store other games on, as they weren’t very good..

Fast forward through the years, and, until recently, visits to radio rallies were few and far between, yet I always looked forward to them, sometimes planning them months in advance.

A few years ago, Daddykins and myself began attending the yearly BARAC rally in Spennymoor, a small town a few miles west of the lovely fishing village of Hartlepool. This was an annual event, usually talking place in the first week of December. We both enjoyed it. Daddykins would look for the radio stuff, and I’d spend my time rummaging through boxes of loose cables and circuit boards for something that looked vaguely interesting. Usually, it’d be a drive of some variety, whether it be CD, flash, or even floppy.

Years went by, and we have began to attend these a lot more regularly, and further afield. There was Newark last year, this year so far, we’ve been to Ripon, and today, Blackpool. Now, this held a bit more of an interest for me, as it was going to take place in the “Norbreck Castle” hotel…

Well, OK, the ” RBRECK C STLE HOTEL”. You probably won’t remember that I stayed here many years ago. I recall the out-of-date biscuits next to the kettle. You, however, may recall, however, that I did a video about a hairdryer, filmed in that very hotel many years ago…

Haaaa. fun times.

Anyway, back to the radio rally. Chris came along with us. He was also making the same return trip (he’s the one holding the camera in the above video), and we were both interested to see just how much renovation had happened to the place since we’d both checked out. The answer: hardly any. It still looked almost exactly the same. It was like travelling back in time 7 years. Anyway, we were not here to ridicule the decor, we were here to have a look at what vintage tat I could walk away with.

It was being held in the big exhibition centre they have there. This was the place where they held the “entertainment” when we were there, and could quite comfortably hold a few thousand people…

The ceiling lights had changed from mercury to LED over the years, however. Ahem.

It wasn’t long until I started rummaging through boxes. The sight of “Everything £1” caught my eye, as you’d expect it would. I started rummaging, and pulled out a little, nondescript beige box, with what looked like either a taser, or a dictaphone / recording device thing. It was £1, so it was either going to be broken, or something missing from it, such as the battery, but for less than the price of a bottle of coke (damn you sugar tax!), I wasn’t going to pass it up. I also pulled out an absolutely massive old external CD/DVD drive. This thing was such a beast that it took standard size DVD drives, and not the shitty little laptop drives. Also, at £1, I decided that the power supply alone would be worth that, even if the drive was completely shagged.

Chris almost had a coronary at the sight of these… and at 50p each, he picked both of them up…

It was around that time, that I mearly creamed by boxers at the sight of an old, yellowed Chicony keyboard, with some of the nicest switches I’d used for a long time. Unfortunately, it had the old style 5-pin AT connector, no windows keys, and the asking price was £40. Ever so clightly out of my price range, but seeing as I think this poor little keyboard is reaching the end of its life (or at least be relegated to the keyboard I use at work, or something), I’d have liked that to be my replacement. Never mind.

Just along from that, was something made me go weak at the knees, was the sight of a laserdisc player, in perfect nick, with some discs to go along with it. I didn’t even query the price of it, as I simply didn’t have the space for one, but it was the first time I saw one “in the wild”, as it were.

A few other bits and bobs were acquired (20 slimline CD cases for £1 for example), and it was over all too soon. Daddykins had gone back to the car, and we’d completed enough laps of the place to make Mo Farah look dizzy (He only does road races now, you know – Ed). Shut up.

I had a peer into my little beige box, and upon further investigation, it was indeed a dictaphone type thing. It looked in absolutely perfect nick. It was 8Gb too, and to my amazement, it powered on and recorded!

A test recording

Back in the box it went, for further examination when I got home. The way back was uneventful, except I managed to get a folder of a “Trainer tree”… around here they hang trainers from telephone wires. Up on t’moors, they grow them on trees…

Looks like it’s blossoming for the spring!

So, anyway, back home, and I examined this little recorder a little more. Here’s a photo of the device itself.

Everything appears to be in the box, except for the Micro USB cable, of which I have dozens, so absolutely no loss there. The headphones were still sealed, but they look cheap as hell.. I’d never heard of the make (Evistr?), and I’d expected it to be an Amazon / Won Hung Lo Special, and indeed it is, but it’s on there for £33ish. Not bad.

So, curiosity got the better of me, and I had to see if it had been used in the past. there were no files on it, except for the one I’d recorded above, so I opened the device in a hex editor. All of the sectors appear to have been used, so that would suggest there was something on there. A quick run through an undelete utility, and voila!

I’ve had a listen, and this definitely did belong to someone else in the past. It has someone singing for a couple of the files, and also two 3-hour long recordings of music, probably taken from a radio at the other side of the room, or something. All of these sound like they’re possibly Chinese.

Just a look at the waveform shows this probably isn’t a great device for making sonically accurate recordings…

I’m assuming these were taken with the built-in microphone. It has an external socket for a microphone too, so you never know, that might be better… judging by the quality of the headphones, I suspect not, but it’s worth a look.

Overall, a successful day out

It was, indeed, a Grand National.

As you saw previously, today (or Saturday 14th April, as I didn’t get this out on time) was the day of the Grand National. The annual horse race where animal rights activists scream at their tellies, and the glue factories rub their hands with glee. I posted that previous message, went to do something…. and entirely forgot to make a note of which horses I’d put a bet on. D’oh. Normally, I’d sake a screenshot, or save the results page on Evernote, but I literally got gripped by an episode of Tipping Point that was reaching its conclusion on one of the satellite channels. Oops.

12 O’Clock game, and I left the house to meet up with Accomplice for our “yearly” excursion to watch The Grand National in other locations than our front rooms. I have a 31-year tradition where I will not miss the race. No matter where I am, I will watch it under any circumstances. The closest I came to missing it was when I was in Edinburgh, exactly 11 years ago today… I ended up perched in the doorway of a betting shop, on my tiptoes, then rushing back to the hotel to watch the replay in the room.

pic

Then there was last year, at the Speccy meetup in Manchester. I watched the whole race from a queue at a bar in Manchester. Still didn’t miss it!

Accomplice is well aware of my little “traditions”, and is willing to take part in this one when possible, despite the fact he follows horse racing about as much as I follow the life and times of a sewing machine. Yeah, not very much, then

As it was only early, and with it not physically being possible to spend 5 mours in Newcastle, we headed off to the Metrocentre first. Of course, I have two stops which have pretty much became a religion now… the sweet shop in the yellow sector to stock up on cherry lips, and the American sweet shop in “The Village” to stock up on “Wild Cherry” Pepsi. You can’t get that over here, not the full sugar variety anyway. For some reason, over here, the government have one of those “things” against sugar, which I’ve yet to understand. I mean, they introduce “sugar tax”, in order to “save our health”…. and then lead us blindly into World War III by bombing Syr…. oooh, sorry, I almost came over all political there for a second… Let’s get back on topic.

So, The Metrocentre was plundered for its sugary goodness, and we headed into Newcastle city centre, for a brief look around. Now, Maplin was one of the stops that we usually make. Of course, due to their recent difficulties and imminent disappearance from the high street, they’re having a sale. I managed to pick up a USB3 powered hub, and two 11-watt PL-S fluorescent light bulbs. These are the type that my desk lamp takes, and considering LEDs are taking over, I thought getting a stash of these would be a good idea.

Once again, back to the main subject, the Grand National. Race time ticked ever nearer. My feet were sweatier than a yoga instructor’s jockstrap. It was time to find a comfy seat for the race.

Our first, and what I thought would be our only port of call, was “the Gate”. A strange complex, where every unit is either a bar, a restaurant, or a casino. It has a Wetherspoons, going by the name “the Keel Row”, or something like that. We went in, and it was heaving. It always is, due to the footy. Accomplice said we’d never find a seat. He vacated the premises, while I found a table. I did! A perfectly vacated table, with nobody on it. I plonked my arse down, and waited. I thought Accomplice was right behind me……. nothing. I tried to call him, only to encounter one major issue with “The Gate” – there’s no mobile signal in it. At least not on Vodafone. Gaaaaaah.

I left the vacant table, ran outside to see him standing by the escalators. I gestured for him to get inside, as I hurried to by newly vacated table…. only to find it occupied, along with all of the others. I know I don’t swear on here, but as Daddykins, and my aunty and uncle probably haven’t read this for years, I think I can safely say, in capitals… FOR FUCK’S FUCKING SAKE.

So, what now? Granted, there were many pubs in Newcastle. The chance of getting a seat in any of them were NIL. Absolute zero. Zip. Nada. Could this be the year that I actually miss the Grand National?

We head down… the road that I can’t remember the name of, but it’s the one with all of the charity shops on, and also “richer Sounds” – a TV / Hi-fi shop. It was 5PM at this point, and the race was due off at 5:15. Hurrah! They had it on *every* telly in the shop! But it’s a really small shop. How could we pad out time enough to pretend we’re looking for something, without buying it? They have a demo room! Brilliant! We sat on the couch, and I could still see a telly with the National on! Everything was starting to go great… until the shutters started to come down. Oh.

We were once again on the streets. Would we find somewhere in time? There wasn’t long to go at this point. Thankfullyy, there’s a betting shop over the road. I don’t think I’ve ever fully stepped foot in one in my entire life, but something seemed odd. It was empty, and, literally, a few minuted from the start of the big race, they were showing a generic jumps race from Newcastle. I asked the lady who was more than willing to throw a betting slip down our throats , if they were showing the Grand National. Accomplice thought this was the most amusing part of the day. Therefore, I must explain my reasonaing. Flashback to Edinburgh. I watched the race from a betting shop that I couldn’t even get into. It was crowded. Here we are, seconds before the race, and they’re showing no buildup, nobody is in to watch it, nothing to say that the world’s greatest steeplechase was just about to start.

It was an innocent enough question. I wanted to see the race. If they weren’t showing it, we would still have enough time. What if Ladbrokes had lost the rights to show it? There was still a Yates’s a few hundred yards away I could run to. In almost 40 years of life, this was the deppest I’d ever been into a bookies. There was bought to be the odd stupid question.

The Newcastle race faded out of view, and they did indeed dut to Aintree. It became clear, as I settled into my position that eye contact in here was really something that should be vaoided. Granted, I’ve got eyes like 20-past-12 anyway, so that’s not difficult, but there was one bloke in front of me, juggling mobile phones he’d just bought, trying in vain to insert the SIM cards.

The TVs switched over, and the live coverage began. Phew. I peered over the edge of the mobile phone guy, still avoiding eye contact, not just with him, but everyone in there..

The Canal Turn came. A shout from behind announced that I’d a certain horse won, then someone would be able to pay their gas bill. A depressing thought, but at least the weather is getting warmer now so they won’t freeze to death.

The rest of the race completed, Tiger Roll crossed the line first, and the place cleared. Had I won? I still couldn’ t remember what I’d put on.

We left Newcastle behind, and I’d returned home to log into my setting account. Imagine my surprise when it said £15! YES!

OK, so my overall winnings came to only a fiver, but a win is a win.