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.

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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.

It’s The Grand National! Again!

Ah yes, it seems a long time since I’ve posted about my favourite horse race of the year. I know I didn’t mention it last year, as I was in Manchester last year, and I couldn’t be bothered installing anything on my phone, or fiddling about, trying to remember my login details.

I have placed my bets, but for fear of fate biting me in the arse like it seems to do every year, I’ll not post on here. Let’s see if I make my tenner back, eh?

That WAS Emtertainment part 4… no, really, it IS the end this time.

It is, with a heavy heart, that this time really was the last time I’d ever step foot in a That’s Entertainment. I know, I sort-of jumped to conclusions a few weeks ago when I wrote that initial post after I knew they were closing, and unfortunately, I sort-of pre-empted everything I wanted to write here.

Anyway, a week ago, after visiting the store on Bank Holiday Monday, I reported that I finally knew the closing day, and that would be this coming Sunday. Luckily, this also coincided with a week off work. No, nothing to do with my feet this time, no, just an actual week off. Legally booked and everything.

This would give me the opportunity to visit the store twice more. Saturday was one of the days.

As mentioned previously, the prices went down to 50% off earlier in the week. This would be an occasion for me to fill my boots with yet more cheap sleeveless CDs.

But first, the bus ride. One of those odd moments where I actually LIKED talking to a complete strange. It was weird. As before, I took the 36 bus, as it drops me off in Stockton town centre, pretty much outside the afore-mentioned shop. A guy got on at Billingham, and sat next to me. Nothing unusual about that. I’m on a bus. It happens. Normally, my earphones clearly wedged in my ears is enough to deter most people from talking to me. Or rather, they’re wedged so far in there that I can’t hear anything they say. This time, however, they either weren’t in right, or it was at a quiet part of the song, when I heard him speak..

“Going shopping then?”, he asked, in a jolly, Saturday morning manner.

“Sort of, I’m off to get some CDs.”. I explained that TE was closing, and he seemed genuinely surprised. Not in that “I don’t know what you’re talking about” way either. He seemed genuine. We got talking, and he explained he collected too, and used to come down to Hartlepool, to the Other Record Shop, but hadn’t been for years. I broke the sad news that the owner had died, and that it was pretty much a ticket store anyway. He asked if I go to many gigs. I replied in the negative, but the last one that I saw was Chris Rea.

“Oh yes, didn’t he do Stainsby Girls?” I could have hugged him at that point. It wasn’t one of his bigger hits, but it’s by far my favourite song of his. Certainly not the first song you’d expect to come up in a random bus journey conversation.

Before I knew it, my new friend got off the bus, and I felt slightly empty, knowing that there really was someone out there with similar interests to me, and that our paths will never, ever cross again. It was the first time, and probably the last in my entire life where my record collecting was genuinely interesting to someone, and not “The bald bloke with the glasses is talking at me, I must look at the wall”. Sigh.

Anyhoooo, back to record collecting, and before I knew it, I was alighting the 36, and making my way to the shops. Of course, my first stop was the “sleeveless” table.

This time, they had split the boxes. You could still buy some full boxes for £5, but they were also doing bags of them, rather like what they did at Hull that time, for £1.50. I picked three bags up, along with many other bits and pieces.

The reason why I picked the bags up, is that I decided that these would be more fun to “unbag” in a live Facebook video, and it would go on for less time than doing an entire box. After all, I could surely come back down on Monday and pick up a box or two, especially, as I was off this week.

Well. Monday didn’t happen, and neither did Tuesday. Memory escapes me why, but I’m going to hazard a guess at the weather. Out of all of the weeks I could have picked off, I picked the one with Arctic temperatures, more fog than a vaping convention, and an overall assumption that Winter would never end. Just like the weather, my heart was grey at the possibility of never stepping foot in another one of those stores again.

Judging by the elimination of the previous two days, I hope you’ve all reached the conclusion that something happened on Wednesday. I had to get up early, as Wednesday was the day of my weekly foot scraping (yes, that’s still going on), which had concluded by about 9:30. I returned home, and caught some of the athletics. After all, it’s the Commonwealth games.

After 9 minutes of heady excitement, watching Jamaica win their first medal in the women’s steeplechase, I decided that athletics was too exciting for a Wednesday morning, and I needed something to lower my adrenaline levels, and what could be better than a mind-numbing ride to Stockton, on the 36. And, mind numbing it was, as my headphones kept playing up.

I arrived in Stockton to find a depressing sight. All of the sleeveless CDs were gone. Not a single one in the shop. A third of the shop was now empty, with the exception of children, running around in the vast open space, as if they’d never seen an empty shop before. Ugh. It was horrible.

I scoured the shelves, prowling, like the last weak buzzard, pecking at the final bits of decaying flesh left on the carcass of a once mighty buffalo. The last remnant of something tasteful through the shelf upon shelf chick flicks and Owen Wilson DVDs….

Did I do badly?

Assuming the time on the receipt was correct, I exited the store at 2PM. There was still time to get one of the many buses to Middlesbrough, and hope for miracles that they found an entire sack of sleeveless discs underneath the floorboards….

No. My word. I thought there were slim pickings at the Stockton one. Middlesbrough was even worse. The music had almost entirely dried up. There were multiples of almost every DVD. Blu-rays were pretty much sold out, and naturally, sleeveless stock was gone entirely here too. There were three things I purchased…

SENNA – Already have it on DVD, two-disc edition, but I really like it. Worth upgrading to blu-ray.

ALAN PARTRIDGE – ALPHA PAPA – I’ve already seen it. Wasn’t amazing, possibly worth a second watch though.

ROCK OF AGES – Never seen it. Might be something I’d like. Plus, the DVD case is all purple and glitttery. Ahem.

So, there we have it. At 14:52, on 11th April 2018, a chapter of my life really did end. As I said, in my earlier posts, I sort-of jumped the gun when I said there would be no more (I didn’t know when they were closing when I wrote that), but this time I mean it. It closes for good in less than two days.

I don’t know what I’m going to do for music now. HMV are soulless, as John mentioned in the comments. Charity shops don’t have the same appeal they once did. I’m genuinely sick of looking through 250 granny CDs to find one CD I’d consider, only to find I already have it in triplicate.

So, as a homage to That’s Entertainment, here is a spreadsheet including all of the CDs I’ve bought from both of the stores since they announced their closure. There’s no way to tell which ones I’ve bought outright, and which ones came as part of the sleeveless stock bundles. This chapter of my life will close with nobody, except me, knowing if I actually wanted those S Club 7 CDs…

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1AFtpPiafbPpOM7btZmlKAT9vcxmJ4kxCAAgR85O8kRM

Please note, that whilst wholesome, the above spreadsheet does not live up to my usual level of care and attention, with many missing years and catalogue numbers, and possibly incorrect titles too. I won’t be updating the above spreadsheet any further, but my catalogur will eventually get the complete information entered into it.

The end. That’s Entertainment… August 2011 – April 2018.

That’s Entertainment – the end is nigh(er)

Yes, I understand that previous blog post was possibly the worst one I’ve ever written. I sort-of cobbled it together from bits of a blog post I wrote at the beginning of the month, and it didn’t really work, so I’ll keep you up to date with the real-time goings on as a customer of dying high street shop “that’s entertainment”.

Following on from my previous post, I can confirm that the last day will be 15th April, a mere week ‘n’ a half from now. That’s when the last barcode will scan, and my heart will sink lower than… than… oh, I can’t even think of a dirty euphanism for that. I’m losing my touch. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

I’m sure you’re all sick of me whitterng on about this store now. After all, to most [people, it’s just a bloody record / DVD store, but to me, it was more than that. It was a place where music got a second chance. All of those compilations that never got sold, ended up there. All of those CDs and DVDs that lost their cases ended up there, and a good couple of them ended up in my collection.

Anyway, as the bell tolls ever nearer, I’ve taken the opportunity to visit the store again, not one, but twice this week.

Saturday loomed, and after publishing that diabolically bad post on Friday, I thought I’d give the store one more look. At this time, I didn’t know what the closing date was going to be, so I was all about trying to find out when this was.

Instead of boring you all with the details of getting there like I did in the last post, I’ll just say that nothing much had changed. Everything in the Stockton store was still 25% off. and all of the shelves had been “compressed” so only half of the shelves were filled. This also means that they’d emptied their shelves of the “padding” CD cases. These were the empty boxes they used to make the shelves look a bit more full than what they actually were. It turns out they were selling these for £1 a box, containing approximately 160. I’d have picked one up there and then, except getting them back home would have been impossible, so I gave them a miss. I did get a couple of more sleeveless CDs, but nothig to write home about. I was going to go along to the Middlesbrough store too, but Accomplice texted me, and offered the suggestion of a Maccy D’s.

No contest. He picked me up, food was acquired, and that was it for Saturday, except for diagnosing a fault with Accomplice’s PC, and, oc course, a curry.

Sunday was Easter, so nothing was done on this day, except for cataloguing the CDs I’d bought on Saturday, and a run out with Accomplice to a computer shop in Newcastle. It was closed. Back home, more cataloguing!

Bank Holiday Monday came. I’d been thinking of some ways to get one of these boxes of cases home. Eventually, I asked Accomplice if he’d run through me to Stockton. He agreed, and I’m still shocked about this. I suppose there’s very little to do on Bank Holiday Mondays, so I suppose it wasn’t that much of a surprise.

Petrol was purchased from a service station, along with a sausage sarnie that had been sat under a heat lamp for an indeterminate amount of time. This was to become important later on.
Of course, Accomplice driving me to Stockton wasn’t without compromise. Instead of parking in the multi storey car park attached to the shopping centre, he insisted on parking in the outdoor car park, even though I’d already said I’d pay for parking, and it was hoying down with rain. Apparently “walking in the rain is what I got for wanting to come here”. Accomplice occasionally pulls illogical “dick moves”, and I don’t think I’ll ever know why.

I headed to the store, and picked up a box of cases. They also had some of their sleevelss stock, wrapped up and in boxes, for £10 each. Expecting to pay £11, imagine my surprise when it rang in at £5.50 – I didn’t realise that the discount had changed from 25% to 50%. Wahey! I did an unboxing video on facebook. It didn’t go well, as my connection kept dropping, for some unknown reason. Needless today, by part 3, I just recorded it and stuck it on Facebook afterwords. From now on, I think I’ll just stick to recording them and putting them on Youtube. Far less hassle.
Accomplice also went on the hunt for a computer store that might have been open on Easter Monday, eventually settling on Falcon Computers, in Sunderland. another Maccy D’s was suggested. It then became clear that something in my belly didn’t quite feel right. My guts were hurting just a little bit. Enough to knock back a portion of large fries from Maccy D’s, but not enough to attempt a Chicken :eg End.

I got back, went to bed. Got up at about 7, and went out to the Mill House, and despite it being a free bar, I could only knock back a couple. I just wasn’t myself at all. I got back in the house, and felt shivery, despite the heating being set to Volcano. Ugh.

Bed, and thankfully, after 10 hours sleep, I woke up, right as rain, which is quite apt, as all it has done for the past three days is rain constantly. Lovely. But, at least there were no lasting effects from my date with sausage related gut-rot. I feared…. the wurst.

Anyhoo. My clear obsession with a certain shop will come to a grinding and shuddering halt in less than two weeks. This will no doubt run into “Part Four”, so watch this space…. Or come back in two weeks when you’ll be greeted with eerie silence as I think of something to talk about.