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….

I’ve read it. Very disappointing.

That, so far, has been the only reaction I’ve received to my Pokemon Go post. Well, in order to disappoint you even more, I thought I’d go through and clear off some old blog drafts I have saved. You know the drill. I start typing about stuff, and then it ends up I type too much, I get bored, and the blog sits harked as a draft until I eventually go through and delete it.

Firstly, a tittle short untitled one from 26th June.

Not that anyone of you will actually realise or care, but I’m typing this blog while sat on a train about to depart from Carlisle station. It was the third meetup of #speccy peeps.

Now, I know some of you don’t know who they are, so it’s an IRC Chatroom that’s been going since the year 2000, celebrating the existence of the humble ZX Spectrum. Of course, it never gets mentioned, we just tend to talk about crisps.

I decided it was far too uncomfortable to read the screen and type at the same time, so the blog post got abandoned. Instead, I decided to expand on the Carlisle trip, and include a rather graphic description of a foot infection, which I’ve still got. I really, really must go back to the doctors. Anway, I bring you a blog entitled “My left loot. Not a remake of the book/film.”

Hmmm. Ok, that’s not an imaginitive title, but then it doesn’t need to be, because I’m sure you’ve all been wondering about my feet. Well, that is, if you’ve read anything from me on Facebook over the last couple of weeks. Let’s just say, it’s not been pleasant. And, if you don’t like feet, then the next post is not going to be up your street. It gets foul.

Several weeks ago now, I went for a walk with Flav, over to Kielder. A couple of posts ago, I mentioned “I’m still recovering from this”. And, by that, I meant I was struggling with my feet. Quite a lot.

It all started the evening after the walk. I took my shoes and socks off, and noticed I had a rather large blister on my foot. I did take a photo of it, and post it on facey, but I didn’t keep it, so you’ll just have to imagine what arather large, bulbous blister looks like. Anyway, whilst sitting down, I totally forgot about this blister, until I popped it on the side of my chair. Ouch.

A couple of days later, I noticed my leg felt really tight. Mind you, I’d just completed a 13 mile walk, so that was probably to be expected. It was by far (well, a couple of miles), the farthest distance I’d walked, so I didn’t think too much of it.

Days went by, my foot would feel weird. And this is where things start getting a bit disgusting. It’s also where I’ll insert a random photo from the collection. Why? Because further down, there will be links, and descriptions that probably aren’t worth reading. Social media pick up on the images, and use them as the thumbnail. So, here’s a photo of an ice cream van.

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Righty doke. So, I’ve set the scene. Bad foot. It seemed to be healing to an extent. I would get twinges of pain, then it’d go, and my foot would feel normal. One night I noticed I’d tore the skin where this blister was. What a bugger. I’m a keen walker, so foot blisters that go into the deep skin are nothing new. You just peel the skin away and let them be.

Usually.

I’d peeled the skin back, but where I’d done it never seemed to stop weeping. My socks were perpectually soaking. Well, at least one of them was. Of course, these warning signs should have had me running… well, hobbling to the doctors. But no, I braved it. It was going to heal. It always does.

I t must have been a week or two before I noticed something odd. The foot was giving off a bit of a smell. Not a nice smell. In fact, it reminded me of a dog food tin being left in the sun. Slightly mouldy, slightly fishy. But only slightly. Might have been the socks. Or my shoes. This was the Thursday. I was due to travel to Carlisle on the Saturday.

Friday came, and now, I was seriously not happy about my foot. The nose test gave it away. But as I said, maybe it was just something that had crept in the sole of my shoe. It had a hole in, and Thursday was damp. So, that’ll have been the source of my odour.

Friday came, and with all of this in the back of my mind, I spent the entire day in my shoes, complete with a mile-walk home from Chris’s. at 1AM in the morning. This was great, because I found a new mode on my phone’s camera

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A night mode! OK, not great shots, but this was nearly 1AM.

Anyway, a slight detour there, because I got home, took my shoe off, and…. oh my god. I’ve smelt some awful stuff in my time, but knowing this was coming from a body part made me feel physically sick. It really was sobering. Sock in the sink, foot under the tap. Something was a bit wrong. I had to be up for the Carlisle train in a few hours. Oh dear. Most of the night was laid awake wondering if I should call the whole thing off. Technically, it wouldn’t have cost me anything as I had a cancellation plan on the hotel, but could I really miss out on not meeting some of the people I’ve talked to in #speccy for 16 years?

I slept on it. Well, I didn’t sleep on my foot, that was hanging out of the side of the mattress, having being severely washed.

I woke up the next morning. At this point, I was determined to go to Carlisle, manky foot or not. I’d just pack extra socks, and give my foot a good wash when I got to the hotel. Sound plan.

I arrived at Carlisle early. 11AM to be precise. I’d planned everything. I’ll do a bit of charity shop diving, hoping my foot holds up., and then make my way over to the hotel. A Premier Inn to be precise. I’d booked the hotel, so I knew exactly where I was going. My route, with the help of Google Maps was planned meticulously. The PI website said it was 0.9 miles from the city centre. I received a facebook message that most of the crew were already there. Awesome. I started the walk up to the Premier Inn. This felt much longer than 0.9 miles. The road seemed to go on for ever. Certainly not the 0.9 miles on the website, but then, they make them seem closer to the city centre, so you book them. Right?

A familiar purple sign glowed in the distance. I was finally there. My foot, hanging on my a strand of sock, would shortly get the relief it so desperately needed.

I plonk my backpack full of CDs and jeans onto the floor, and proudly announce my name. Papers went everywhere, the lady behind the counter flicking through them at a rate of knots, which would make a Brexit vote counter blush. “No, I’m sorry, there’s no Mr. Vapour booked here”. My heart sank. I’d known all along that Carlisle had two (technically three) Premier Inns. I can’t have possibly went to the wrong one. I’m not that stupid.

A quote of my reference number confirmed as I was that stupid, and I’d walked several miles to the wrong bloody hotel. I could have cried. A phone call to Marko confirmed I was in the wrong one. I’m sure the words “facking preck” were uttered during the conversation.

The lady behind the counter booked me a taxi, and while I was waiting outsie, the heavens opened, which was quite ironic following what Carlisle went through earlier in the year with Storm Desmond. The taxi driver picked me up, and gave me the details of Storm Desmond, an the fact that the hotel I was actually meant to be staying in, was afrected by the floods, and all of the houses around that way were pretty much empty

And that was that. In both posts, I never actually got to talk about the Carlisle meet, which was a bit of a shame, but a good time was had by all. I met up with Dunny and Daren, two people I’ve known through the internet for years, but never actually met, so that was good.

I’ll leave it at that. There are others, but they’re not worth trawling through. I’m off to decide the future again. I’m sure the commentor didn’t mean it with any malice, but it’s got me thinking… is there any point to all of this?

Flying, Fishermen and Flames…

A few of you know why I’ve not been looking forward to this past week. I’m happy to report that it hasn’t been as bad as I imagined.. the last few days should be pretty interesting too.

Anyway,Sunday saw me with Jamie S, Gary, and at a later point in the afternoon, Andy the Iridium Fan, who as usual, will be abbreviated to ATIF, for typing purposes.

Jamie S arrived at mercuryvapour Towers at 8:27, donning a pair of sunglasses and brown chinos. Gary arrived in the Flavmobile, some 11 minutes later. The festivities didn’t start until 10AM, so this gave us 90 minutes to get to Sunderland. Normally, it’s a 20-minute journey, but we had to account for traffic. It was bound to be *packed*.

It took us 25 minutes. Bugger.

We were one of the first to arrive at the Park ‘n’ Ride thing, located near Haversham park. I didn’t actually know this at the time, I just Google Map’d it.

Anyway, we were lucky enough to have a ride on one of the Red Arrows. I felt so priveleged!

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By the time we arrived at the airshow properly, it was about 10AM. We walked along to get money at a nearby Morrisons, after all the cost of anything here would clearly be extortionate, things like this always are. First plan of the day was where to have dinner. Sure, we could rely on the burger vans and stuff, but Gary knew where there was a pub with a carvery which would serve food even though the air show was on. Jamie S spent about a week talking to someone about joining the TA. I can tell that he’s really interested in doing this, as the information she gave him is still in *my* bag!

After buying some books at a charity stall (50p for 2!), we headed up to the carvery… I must admit, the meal was excellent.

Suitably stuffed, we walked back along the seafront and headed onto the beach to watch the first show of the afternoon, the parachutists landing. Now, there was one reason why I mentioned Jamie S’s chinos. they would make us easy to spot in a crowd. And, they did! Andrew D didn’t know we were here at the time, yet he still managed to photograph us…


(It would appear this image is broken. Bugger. If I’m not lazy, I’ll redo it. At some point.)

Jamie S wanted to go to Morrisons again, so me and Gary watched the spitfires from what could possibly the the best vantage point… in the middle of a raised roundabout!

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The view was short-lived, however, as a marshall moved us on a few moments later. Awwww.

Jamie S had exited Morrisons at this point, and we began to make our way down the promenade. The displays continued around us. I used my A480 to record some video, and I gave control of the 450D to Jamie S, in the hope that some good shots of stunt planes flying by would turn up…

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Yeah, thanks. You want a job doing properly….

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the worst picture of me taken on the day. There are worse, much worse. At approximately 3:15, I received a tap on my shoulder. Presumably, it was someone asking me to get out of the way, after all, the seafront was pretty packed. Instinctively, I turn around, only to receive a camera lens in my face…

Yup, ATIF had turned up! Now, the odds of us both meeting up were very slim, due to the size of the event, and apparently a million people there. He even let me borrow his telephoto lens! Otherwise, photos such as these would be impossible…

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Of course, with Andrew being there, there just had to be another embarrassing photo of me taken. Deep down, I quite like this one…

I don’t know why.

Nottingham! It’s in Nottinghamshire! (Part 2)

So, I awoke on the 2nd day at about 8AM, after a perfectly acceptable nights’ sleep. This was surprising, as I’m not a fan of hotel beds. I seen to recall my sleep was disturbed by a passing police car. Despite being on the 7th floor, and quite a distance from the road, the building next to ours reflected the sound into the room, and by the time the car had headed along Maid Marian Way (no, seriously, that’s that the road was called), I was awake, bright as buttons. Gah.

Chris slept through it, so I amused myself by abusing my phone and uploading all sorts of garbage to Facebook. I gave it until 9PM before I decided to surface and risk waking Chris up. 19 minutes later, while in the middle of a shave, my phone started going nuts, it was Chris’s dad. Amusingly, Chris slept through approximately 20 seconds of my annoying shopping centre yet there were two charity shops in there, a particularly bad YMCA shop that had literally 10 CDs in there, and a much better shop, where I spent under £7 on CDs. I could have spent more, but I didn’t realise the singles were “Buy one Get one Free”…

By this time, Chris’s boredom threshold was being tested to its limits, so we went in search of the now removed railway, and found it entirely by chance…

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The closed tunnel entrance in the centre of the picture, the unmistakable blue brick to the right forming the entrance to what was once a railway tunnel, now a car park.

By this point, the effects of the Greggs Pasty were wearing off. I was hungry, and so was Chris. I had a bag of CDs to drop off at the hotel. It suddenly dawned on us. Where the fuck was the hotel? I knew one thing, we were near this building…

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In hindsight, this building was visible from the hotel window, but we were lost enough for me to break out “the technology” – bring up Google Maps on my phone and make sure we were heading in the right direction. We were! Eventually we returned at the hotel, I dropped my CDs off, and headed in the general direction for something to eat.

Three days consisting of nothing but curry would probably be a bit too much, so we gave the curry houses a miss and headed off back into the town, eventually resorting to going to the Wetherspoons we’d went to the previous night. I settled for the “simple” steak ‘n’ chips, while Chris had some type of Panini thing. I always thought they just made sticker annuals…

Food was consumed, and the day was still young. The only tourist attraction either of us could think of was the castle, as Nottingham, at one point, had a large fortification overlooking the city. It was £5.50 in. Unfortunately, there’s very little remaining of the castle itself, except the walls. Inside, is a large museum and art gallery. There’s also a fair amount of gardens to walk around and admire that thing where they make shapes out of plants… erm… can’t remember its name…

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The highlight, for me was the fact that the museum actually contains the very football shirt Maradonna wore during his infamous “Hand Of God” incident. Now that’s not something you see every day.

We left the grounds just as a horde of foreign students invaded the place. Perfect timing! They all seemed like proper twunts. We made or way to “Ye Olde Pube”. I can’t remember its proper name, but it’s set inside the cliffs that Nottingham Castle stood on. While me and Chris were enjoying a quiet pint in the “beer garden”, the hordes of students had apparently left the castle and headed to our quiet little inn. None of them were over the age to drink, so they just stood outside and took photos of the place. In pure “Jamie is a complete dick” style, I tried to photobomb as many as possible. There’ll be some kid, thousands of miles away, wondering why there’s a bearded guy with a pint glass on his head.

At this point, it started to get cold, and the time for food was fast approaching. We headed off back to the hotel. After remembering how bad the beer was in the free bar the previous night, we stopped off at the Tescos and picked up essential supplies…

Amusingly, there were signs on the hotel entrance that “No food or drink to be consumed in the room”. I’m sure they’d try and stop me.

No food or drink in the hotel....

After a quick change, we headed out of the hotel and, after a quick walk round, decided that our next meal would once again be consumed at “Chutney”. After all, their service and food was superb last time. It was even better. the staff were friendly, and even gave us another discount because we’d been there the day before. Ten, no, eleven points for service.

Once again, we headed back to the hotel and got ready for the night’s festivities. I say festivities, I really mean drinking some of the world’s most watered down lager known to man. It’s not even worthy of the “Making Love in a Canoe” joke…

We returned to the room early, pouched the cans, and I attempted to take some long exposure shots out of the hotel window. I’d show you them, except it would appear that Flickr has eaten them. Grrrr.

Nottingham! It’s in Nottinghamshire! (Part 1)

So, the world and his dog can’t have failed to notice I’ve been out of Hartlepoolland for a few days. I wasn’t meant to be going until a couple of weeks ago, as Daddykins was meant to be going, but he dropped out at the last moment. There was a group of us who attended, 15 in all – members of the club I attend on a Tuesday night (when I’m not at Employment Palace).

I got a taxi at 8AM, picking Chris up on the way (he’s also one of the 15 members), dropping us off at the bus stop outside of the college at about 8:10. The coach wasn’t due until 8:30.

At approximately 8:45, the coach finally turned up. We boarded, and headed off around the North East, picking up other eager tourists ready for the trip. As soon as the last one got one board, the driver finally introduced himself via the microphone. After the formalities were dealt with, he said something like “So, you’re off to Nottingham… may I ask… why?”

I can’t remember his name, but he shall, from now on, he known as “Happy Harry”. Considering we were only technically there for a night and a full day, it wasn’t exactly heartwarming to have a bus driven by a cynic…

He announced there would be a stop-off in Derby. I won’t bore you with the details of the journey there (or how Chris almost got charged £89 for a bottle of drink, two sausage rolls and a copy of Viz), as most of it was spent, drifting out of consciousness whilst chuckling at the articles in Chris’s afore-mentioned adult comic.

So, we approached Derby. Imagine the scene, as we head along the road, only to be faced with red traffic lights, and a bloke peering out of his flat, stark bollock naked. I don’t think he quite planned to be waved at by a group of “tourists” laughing their heads off. Of course, he backed away pretty sheepishly after this. Classy, Derby. Very classy.

Of course, Happy Harry then managed to take a wrong turning, meaning we got to see more of the centre of Derby than we needed to. He then dropped us off at what appeared to be a random bus stop, and said he would pick us up there. You want to know how random the bus stop was? Here you go… Linkage

Hardly suitable for buses, never mind coaches. It’s pointing at the Babington Arms, which is a pub, just in case you’re thick and didn’t realise it from that link. Either way, it would appear that not only did we have a cynic driving the bus, it was a cynic with no sense of direction. Joy.

It was a Wetherspoons, so you know what to expect. It was also the place where the first photo of me got taken, shamelessly stolen from Facebook…

After two hours we were all ready to go and get set up at the hotel. Happy Harry had other ideas, as we arrived in Nottingham, circled the hotel, and then went in completely the wrong direction to find the entrance. His apology once again, came over the coach tannoy system… “What a bloody stupid place to put a hotel”…

After what seemed like an eternity sorting out the keycards, we made our way up to the hotel room. Thanks to some name juggling, according to their system I was called Barry. It shall stay this way for the entire time I was there.

Upon first impression, the room was excellent. 7th floor, two double beds. It even had two bathrooms which means two toilets. Therefore, any outfall caused by excessive vindaloo consumption could be kept to a bare minimum. Bonus. I recorded another stupid “wish You Were Here” style video, but it needs editing badly. The view wasn’t the best. A call centre (complete with Aspect telephones) to the left, a car park to the centre, and other modern buildings to the right…

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After dumping the bags, and getting a bit of a cleanup, we headed off looking for a bite to eat. Close friends and relatives will know that I scoured Google Maps to see if there was an indian nearby. Not one, not two. Not even four. there were SIX within spitting distance of the hotel. Unfortunately, most were expensive, and were shut. We were inspecting the menu of one of the couple of open ones, a place called “Chutney”. One of the waiters came out and thrust a 20% voucher into my paw. This was looking tempting. Actually, I lie. With that little piece of paper in my hand, my mind was already made up…

We went there!

It was exceptional. Food was great, staff were friendly and yeah, the discount stuck. Happy days.

The same, however, can’t be said for the hotel bar. The Blackpool trip featured entertainment in a root big enough to be used as a conference centre. Fair enough, it wasn’t top notch entertainment, but it kept us sane, and the beer was acceptable for hotel standards.

That was Blackpool. This hotel’s night facilities consisted of a tiny room, Entertainment came in the form of (wait for it) 6 games of bingo, should you choose to pay for it. If you didn’t, you just had to sit there and drink your “free bar”. That is, if you like watered down beer. I had a bit of toothache, and was on a full stomach, so I thought it was just me who thought it was as weak as kittens. Thankfully it wasn’t.

Disappointed with the free bar, we headed out into the city, eventually settling in the Roebuck Inn. It seemed pretty quiet, and that name “Wetherspoons” cropped up again. I introduced Chris to Jaegerbombs, which he didn’t enjoy. He introduced me to something stunning. Don’t ask me what they call it. It was apple juice and some newly available cinnamon liqueur. I DID enjoy this. I have no idea how he found it, but he knows of my love for apple and cinnamon. Therefore, the two combined in some kind of alcoholic beverage was out of this world. Towards the end of the night I remember having a good crack on with the bar staff. It was this place that made me really begin to like Nottingham.

Day 2 was only a sleep away…