Car boots, football, obscure tapes and manky keyboards

hmmm. It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update. I’ve had a bit of writers’ block. Well, I wrote a couple of things, but they just ended in vitriolic rants about certain people. Thankfully, however, last week was a week off work, so I’ve had time to catch up with things that I love. Record collecting, for example.

The last couple of weeks have certainly been part of a record collecting binge. This is the first time since I was a kid that I remember having such a long, hot summer, and since the weathermen have guaranteed long, hot weekends, I’ve been able to arrange trips to car boot sales with Chris. Last week, it was Seaham, and the week before was Sedgefield.

Now, I’m sure I started typing about the Sedgefield one, but I can’t find any trace of it, so I mught have dreamt it, but basically, I bought lots and lots of CDs and records. £2 entry fee, which wasn’t too bad. I just remember knocking out some crap jokes. A guy selling plants, and I said to Chris “they’re mint, them”. Of course, it was an actual mind plant. Shris laughed. the guy behind the stall said he must have been easily amused. I was just happy that someone else heard the joke. On another stall, I commented that one of the CDs he was selling was Absolute Garbage I had to spell it out to the store owner, who seemed to be slightly offended that I happened to be slagging off one of his CDs. No mate, just a crap pun.

It seemed to close early, as most of the people were packing up to go see England play. By the time I’d got home, they’d scored 5 goals. Turned out to be a great day overall.

Another week passed, and it was time flr the first Middlesbrough record fair. This was the first one for two years, and it was nice to have it back! Unfortunately, the day ended in absolute disaster… hanging around for three hours for a lift, only for my lift’s battery to run flat, and having to get the bus home anyway. I was fuming, and my foot went up like a pudding because of it. Great times.

I did bump into Glen – a fellow blogger and ex-work colleague whom I’ve not mentioned on here for what must be a decade, vut we had a bloody good catchup for about an hour. Preally nice to see him again.

Sunday arrived, and another visit to a car boot sale was arranged. Chris wanted some “tat” for “something” – saying what he wanted, and what for might actually spoil a surprise for someone, so I won’t say what. Of course, there’s absolutely no chance that the person involved will ever read this blog, but you never know. Stranger things have happened.

Anyway, we turned up, nice and early at the car boot. Roughly 9AM. There were a queue of cars waiting to get in and set up, but not many buyers. Had we got there too early? Well. Turns out that if you’re a buyer, it costs you £5 to get in before 11:30. the doors then close between 11:30 and 12:30, meaning if you want to get in early, you pay an inflated price. If you want to pay the cheap price, you’ve got to then queue for an hour, and miss out on potential bargains. Crafty.

Seeing as there were very few stalls set up, and it didn’t look that big anyway, myself and Chris went to Sunderland. Honestly, you’ve heard of ghost towns. You’ve never seen a ghost town until you’ve walked around Sunderland city centre at 9:30. My word. Even the pigeons were hobbling about, looking like they had hangovers.

I couldn’t bear the thought of being in Sunderland for any time longer than I needed to, so I quickly abandoned the idea of hanging around there for two hours, then queuing in the baking sun. Instead, I bit the bullet, paid myself and Chris into the car boot at the inflated price. Damn them. their cunning plan worked.

Unfortunately, there seemed to be more stalls selling absolute garbage than music, which, to me was a little saddening, although I did come home with quite a few CDs, a Zodion SS6 photocell for a streetlight, and a cassette tape for a format I don’t actually own…

Ah yes, the humble DCC. I remember, as a kid, I picked up a copy of Q magazine from 1993, that had a huge article on DCC. I mainly got it because it had a free CD on the front. As I’d only picked up my first CD player the Christmas before, any type of cheap CD to expand my music library was always welcome. Though, as a snotty teenager, the articles went more in-depth than what I liked. I think I’d only stopped getting comics at that point. Still, I was interested to see if this format ever made it into the wild. It didn’t, DCC sank without a trace (at least in your everyday consumer spectrum anyway) and I never ever saw one for sale.

That is, until I bought the one above. the guy had three for sale, one unwrapped. He’d clearly, at the time, bought these by accident, thinking they were just standard cassette tapes. I like to think he’s been carrying these to boot sales every weekend since the 90s and this is the first time he’s sold one. Probably not though.

Fast forward a week. If I haven’t bored you already, the weekend was quiet. I didn’t actually go anywhere. Mainly because I couldn’t. My guts were in absolute tatters for 4 days. No idea what caused it, It was a slightly toned down version or what happened to me when I was about 17. I’ll not go into it, but trust me, if I needed to go to a fancy dress party, I could have swallowed some gravel and went as a shotgun. Not nice at all.

Tuesday was the day when I finally mustered up the courage to leave the house safe in the knowledge that I wouldn’t be splattering my jeans. I’d made it my resolution to visit every charity shop in Hartlepool. The first stop was The YMCA shop, where I picked up probably my 2nd best purchase of the day… “No Sound Without Silence” by The Script. Not the type of album I’d normally see myself go for, but when I was in Amsterdam a few years ago, it was the only CD that was played on the coach, and I ended up liking it. Not enough to pay any decent money for, but for 50p, I couldn’t go wrong. It also has the theme to “Mrs Brown’s Boys Da Movie” on it… Terible film, great theme. Sorry.

I travelled from one end of the town to the other. While I was waiting for the bus, I heard a young chav lass shout “Fuck off” to her child. The child was below full speaking age, and was happily gibbering away to his mother Her response… “Oh, yeah, yeah. I had one of those, but the wheels fell off”. I had to laugh.

Towards the end of the day, I headed to the town. In one of the charity shops that shall remain nameless. A lad was looking at some CDs, went to the counter with 3 CDs, but the manager saw he was holding 4 just a minute earlier. Unknown to her, he’d put one back, but it was too late. She’d asked to check in the bag he was carrying. Well. You should have heard it. Not from him, but his mother, who was elsewhere in the store.

“Are you the manager? What’s your head office number? I’ll be reporting this! Do you know how much I spend in here? You didn’t apologise for looking in there”

There were so many things wrong with her argument. Now I know a little about customer services, after being in a role like this, but at the end of a telephone.

Point number 1. You can report staff all you want to a head office. If they’re double checking to make sure that stock hasn’t been stolen, then they’re always going to side with the member of staff. That’s your job. Point number 2. Shops are shops. If you’re offended by someone doing their job, then fuck off. Don’t come back. Don’t buy products from them ever again. If you dropped down dead tomorrow, the charity won’t fold. They won’t be looking out for you, as they stand underneath a big “TO LET” sign with a key in the shutters. No, ther people will buy stuff.

I did feel sorry for the manager behind the counter. I just rolled my eyes, as the complaints echoed out of the store and down the street. It’s probably water off a ducks’ back, but still.

Sorry, I went off on more of a ran than I intended there. I just hate rude people. Anyway you’ll notice that the Script CD was only the 2nd best purchase of the day. I’m sure you’re dying to know the best….

A keyboard. Yes, one of those things that you type into. One of the stores had a plethora of keyboards dumped under the CDs. Now, these were dusty old things. It was clear to see that there was a nice Dell keyboard underneath all of the tat. It looked practically brand new, but with the dust, and a very small amount of key wear.

Now, some places state that keyboards have more bacteria on them than toilet seats. I’ve not looked into that statement in any great detail, but it’s always had me a little wary over 2nd hand keyboards, but at £1.75, this was too good to miss. the knife didn’t come with it, by the way, it was just a make-shift key puller.

It had occurred to me, while approacting the wrought iron gates and gravel driveway or Mercuryvapour Towers, that this keyboard was probably hiding something. Why was it practically unused? Off came the keys, aaaaand….

Oh holy Christ! What the fuck is that? My god, I’d just gotten over a stomach infection, it looked very much like I was on course for another one. I have no idea what this stuff was. These Dell keyboards have drain holes, so thankfully, whatever it was only got caught under the F keys. Out came the Cillit Bang. The smell coming from the muck was ungodly. At a guess, from the colour and the smell, I’d have to say it was vomit, but I’ll never know. After an hour of scrubbing / spraying / wiping down with antibacterial stuff., it came up looking absolutely brilliant, and I can confirm that it actually fully works, because I’ve been typing on it for the entirety of this post!

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

London, Day 2

Well, seeing as I’ve received very little / no feedback on Day 1, I can see that you’re all really enjoying reading these. Never mind, I intend to keep going, with the help of more photographs and Google Maps.

Anyway, I awoke on the 2nd day. This was to be the main day we were there, and the only full day. We had intended to visit Brick Lane market at one point during the trip. Unfortunately, due to it only being open at the weekend, it was closed, so that was off the radar. There was, however, Borough Market just a short tube ride away, somewhere near London Bridge. We got there, and it was rather “foody”.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to a market that’s got a dedicated “Turnips” section. Admittedly, I did spend rather a long time debating whether I should buy a small tub of Scorpion Chilli powder, but seeing as there was no prices on anything, I decided against it. I’m one of those people who’ll take something to a counter, ask how much it is, and then begrudgingly buy it even if it’s more than what I expected to pay.

It’s probably still there on the shelf now. On the plus side, I didn’t have to carry it around all day.

Accomplice bought a “weird” bacon sandwich, and while I was tempted to buy a sausage sandwich, I didn’t…. my word, the excitement I get up to, eh? No wonder nobody is reading this bloody thing.

We walked around the nearby area, and happened to stumble upon one of the replicas of “The Golden Hinde”.

It was a short walk to London Bridge tube station, so we headed off in its general direction. As you pass under London Bridge, there’s a tannoy that plays a creepy music-box rendition of “London Bridge Is Falling Down”. That’s rather worrisome, especially as you’re going under it as the time. No matter though, as I’m sure it’s built with far more sturdy materials than when that particular tune was written. It’s an old folk tune anyway, so it was probably written about polio anyway.

One of the sights I wanted to see while I was in London was the Olympic Park, in Stratford. It sort-of fitted with the other things we were going to see that day anyway (or so we thought), so we headed off in that general direction.

It seemed we were going out of the more popular area of London, as the tube carriage emptied further and further we went along the line. This had me feeling already that there wasn’t going to be too much there.

Well. After getting out of the tube station, you’re greeted with a shopping centre. Nothing much wrong with that, but it just feels a bit like “You’ve come all this way to see something. Great! Now spend some money!” And, spend I did! I bought myself a sausage roll from Greggs (yes, they have them down there too) and a bottle of wahter. And the sausage roll was *terrible*.

It was a short walk to the Olympic park from the shopping centre. Well, it would have been had we gone the right way, but instead we ended up walking around the not-very-decorative loading bays for the shopping centre. Oops.

Onto the stadium itself. The words “underwhelming” spring to mind. Maybe it was because they changed the shape of it since it was used for the Olympic Games, but I was expecting something much grander.

The athletics championships had just finished a couple of days prior to us going, and there were still traces of the signage left standing. Unfortunately, as the stadium had begun the transformation from an athletics track into a football stadium (which has to be done manually, and takes 15 days), nost of it was fenced off. There were still signs up for the athletics though, including a sighting of my new second-favourite fictional hedgehog, “Hero”…

After that, we were “Gone, Gone, Gone!” Next stop would be Abbey Road. It was a mere couple of stops on the DLR…. or WAS it?

Judging by the presence of that sentence, you’d be right in thinking it isn’t. At least, not the famous one, anyway.

We got off at the appropriate DLR station named “Abbey Road”, and made our way to the bridge that leads out on the road, only to be presented with a sign filled with really crap Beatles puns, something along the lines of “Are you looking for the Beatles’ Abbey Road and are in need of a little Help!? Well, you’ll need to get a Ticket To Ride to “another station”.

Accomplice had pretty much given up on the idea of seeing it. I clearly hadn’t. Therefore, we travelled the 34 minutes on the tube, followed by about another 10 minute walk, just to see a zebra crossing. And it’s not even the original zebra crossing, which was a little further up the road. But nothing stands in the way of a good photo opportunity.

OK, it’s entirely the wrong angle, but I wasn’t going to get Accomplice to stand in the middle of road and hold up traffic. I’d have known what the response would have been.

So, the whole premise of going here and seeing the non-touristy sights were going really well. There was one place I wanted to go that even the hardened tourist wouldn’t have thought of.

Part of my job involves entering data about London streets from emails into a database. It’s all very old fashioned, and something that could be automated very easily, but because of this, I became aware of a street called Chandos Place, upon which stands a Nandos. Therefore, we headed there andhad Nandos in Chandos. I wonder how many other people have done the following just for that very reason. Yeah, probably nobody.

As we were still in an “upmarket” part of London (Covent Garden, to be exact), it seemed only right to go and do something even more upmarket. It was time to take my very first trip to Harrods. After all, I’m sure I’d fit in, with my purple Slazenger polo shirt and Sports Direct walking boots. I’m sure it was the type of clientele the shop regularly does business with. Mind you, nobody in their right frame of mind actually buys anything from there. I mean, £1.80 for a bottle of coke? Come on, I’m sure there was a Tesco Express around the corner.

I bet you didn’t know that the carrier bags for Harrods used to be made in Hartlepool? I don’t know if they’re still are, but I always remember going to infants school with my PE kit in a Harrods carrier bag. My nanna worked for the company that made them. Obviously, I didn’t get the significance at the time, but I’m sure it’d raise a few smiles these days, wandering around this lovely little fishing village with a Harrods bag.

I was considering buying a music system, but even if I put together all of the money I have ever earned from all of my jobs, and not spent anything else ever, I’d probably still not come close on buying this…

It was at this point my Nandos started moving, and I thought it’d be a nice little thing to say I’ve had a cack in Harrods. If you’re a bloke, don’t bother. There’s bogs on every floor for women, and one bog in the entire place for blokes, and there was a queue a mile long. There’s one thing I absolutely detest in life, and that’s following someone into a cubicle It’s happened too often where I’ve dropped an absolute panblocker, and someone’s went in straight after me. One day, I know the tables are gonna turn, but not this time. I kept hold of it until we found somewhere else.

And that somewhere else was apparently “the only pub on Sloane Street”, known as The Gloucester. Finding the bogs was like playing something in The Crystal Maze (which has returned to our TV screens! Hurrah!) – go up some stairs, through the doors, disable the laser, though some other doors, etc. While we were in there, I also had a pint of “Camden Pale Ale”, which was a nice smooth pint. I have blocked the price of this from my mind. Accomplice would watch out of the window as the shiny and expensive cars would go by, and comment on each of them. I would simply nod politely and pretend I knew what was being said. I didn’t have a clue. When it comes to cars, you might as well speak Swahili to me.

We downed the pints and emerged once more into the setting sun. Apparently, we walked up Knightsbridge, Kensington Road, then onto Exhibition Road. Lots of large colleges around there. Walking around there made me feel like I was back in Berlin or Vienna. It certainly didn’t feel like London.

Another quick ride on the tube took us to Victoria. A station I believe I last frequented in 2003. We walked down Victoria Street. Another street lined with modern buildings and shops, and of course, some not-so-new buildings. It was, at this point, it became clear that all of my hopes of doing the non-touristy stuff came to an abrupt halt, as unbeknownst to me, the road led to the Houses of Parliament, and of course, Elizabeth Tower, a.k.a. Big Ben.

It was a mere five days before the big bell would stop sounding for four years, so I suppose it was nice to be one of the last to hear it in action one last time.

We made our way across Westminster Bridge, and headed down the river towards London Bridge, taking in the sights, stopping off for the odd sit-down along the way…

I’d avoided any type of curry, so I don’t know how that possibly could have happened.

As we were walking, something became apparent. My feet weren’t holding up as well as I thought they were going to. I’d pretty much avoided the problems with my left foot (more on that later, probably in the next part), but instead I was having problems with my right foot…

And, right on cue, just as we’d passed the ITV studios (home to none other than ITV’s “This Morning”, as you can clearly see), I felt a massive blister go. Oh, this didn’t feel like it was going to be good.

I struggled on, desperate for a sit down somewhere, but we kept on, and eventually made it back to London Bridge. It was about 9PM at the point, but that music-box thing I mentioned earlier was STILL playing. Creepy.

It was still relatively early, and we’d made plans to go somewhere and catch something to eat, but my feet decided not to play ball, so we headed back, calling in at McDonalds on the way, as it was just a short journey from the hotel. My word, if you know Hartlepool, you’ll know you always get your flurry of harmless chavs hanging around. It’s warm, it’s dry and it has free Wi-Fi. What’s not for chavs to love? Well, in London, it’s like that, but the chavs seem a little more… sinister, like if you look at them the wrong way, they’d stab you. I felt like the guy sat next to me was going to jump me, or something. Then a guy sat next to me, carrying a Primark bag, having a full-on conversation to himself.

“Right, that’s it, we’re going”…

We arrived back at the hotel at approximately 9:30. I nipped downstairs to the hotel bar to see what it was like. Not very good to be fair. One lager of dubious origin on draught, and a price tag around the £4.50 mark. I managed to have one before they ran out. I then had a 330ml bottle of Stella and paid about the same. If I’d have thought, I could have nipped to the pub across the road. Though if I thought @the Maccy D’s was rough, I dread to think how rough that pub might have been, especially on my own and with a Northern accent. Yeah, best to stay in the safety of the hotel I reckon.

As I was unwilling to mortage Mercury Towers for another small beverage, I headed back to the room in preparation for the 3rd and final day in the Capital…

London 2017, day 1.

Yes, I’m aware that I came back from London over a week ago, yet I’ve only just got around to starting to type out it. “Why is that”, I hear you ask. WIt’s because I’m in the middle of recovering from it. I’m under doctors’ orders to keep the weight off my right foot, because, possibly due to a case of worn / ill-fitting footwear, soft Hartlepudlian feet, and walking for approximately 30 miles in the course of three days, means that I managed to lose a large percentage of the skin on my foot.

I did have an accomplice with me for the trip, but this person doesn’t want to be named in the blog. It’s to be expected. I mean, who wants to openly admit sharing a hotel room with me? Therefore, this person will be named as “Accomplice”.

Aaaanyway. Onto the trip. I arranged athe the abode of Accomplice just before 9AM. Thankfully transport for us to get to Darlington had been pre-arranged, as the train was at 10:28. We were both expecting the A19 to be heaving at this time, so we set off at about 9. Half an hour later, (including a stop off to pick up excessive amounts of Pom-Bears), we were there. Darlington Station isn’t really a place you’d want to spend an hour at, but I guess it’s better than missing the train.

The train journey was uneventful, expect for the occasional piercing scream from the child in the seat in front. Admittedly, I was slightly hungover, so this didn’t really help matters. Headphones did, however.

So, we arrive in London with the sun shining. Hordes of fellow travellers depart the train, and off we go towards the hotel. It was about a 5 minute walk from King’s Cross to the hotel, though the weight of my bag made it feel more like 50. Accomplice had been to the same hotel previously, so at least we knew the way.

We were early for the hotel by about two hours so couldn’t check in, but were allowed to drop our bags. That was a weight off. I don’t know if that’s often a thing that hotels do. but it could have helped with the times I’ve been places and carried my bag around until check-in time. I’ll have to remember that.

Seeing as we were now bagless, it was time to have a walk around. Up Euston Road, along Great Portland Street, and down Oxford Street because we both agreed it was time to grab the tube, seeing as we’d pretty much just done a “lap”. I make no secret about hating the underground, but it’s so convenient. Could have done without the £12.30 price tag for a day ticket though. Sure, an Oyster card might have worked out cheaper, but you know I hate shellfish. A-haha, etc.

There were a few places I wanted to go. Not exactly touristy things. Camden, and The World’s End pub were two of these. I’ve never seen the film, but still always wanted to go there.

We had a brief walk around Camden. It was crowded, seeing as it was mid afternoon, in the height of summer.. Camden Market really is weird though. It’s all of the stuff you’ve never realised you’ve never needed and actually didn’t want, but with really nice food stalls. They also get arsey if you want to take a photo too.

We decided that we’d come back after things have died down a little. Our stomachs were rumbling, so it was time to find something to eat. A quick dash on the tube later, and we ended up in Leicester Square. Accomplice had informed me there was a nice Italian place “around here somewhere” that would satisfy our foodular needs. Turns out we couldn’t find it, and instead went to “Steak & Co.”

You genuinely can’t go wrong with a good steak, and at this point I was starving, so it seemed a perfect choice. We were provided with a menu. A complete waste of time. I felt like saying to the woman at the door “Two slabs of beef, chips, bit of pepper sause… STAT! But, before I’d plucked up the courage to talk to a female, the waiter was on-hand with a notepad.

“Yeah, I’ll have that. that, glass of coke, and can I have it medium rare please”.

“Oh, it comes rare, YOU cook it how you want.”

What kind of actual voodoo was this? I’m in a restaurant, and you want me to cook my steak? Oh, okay, my knowledge of steak barely expands above Frankie + Benny’s, but… prepare my own steak? Eh?

It turns out, they bring out the steak on a massive, hot stone, and you cut it, fry it, and add the ingredients as you see fit. Admittedly, I expected to spend the next two days in the hotel bog, but nope, I managed to somehow prepare a steak on a hot stone and cook it all by myself, without food poisoning. It came to just under £25 for steak, chips and a glass of coke, but my word, we’re still talking about that steak now.

So, happily fed, we headed back off to Camden.

Crap photo opportunities aside, we headed to The Worlds End.

Before I found out how much a pint of “Soft Southern Piss” would cost, a small voice beside me said “What do you want?” Holy cow. Accomplice had offered to buy a pint in what would surely be the most expensive establishment we’d ever been in. Pint of your finest lager please, Barkeep! Well, actually it was Brooklyn lager, but still at 5.60 a pint, I made it last about an hour.

Brewdog is a brand we both have a bit of an affection to. Accomplice likes trying the different ales they have on offer. I like it because there’s less chance of it tasting like cat piss. On a night out, I buy the bottles of IPA. On a night out like this, I bought the draught lager. I thought that it may have been better value for money, seeing as it was my round. Nope. Pretty much the same price. Two pints in, and over 11 quid light.

Unfortunately, Accomplice had bought a “dark lager. Not up to their usual standards of taste, and if I hadn’t have necked three quaretrs of it, it’d have ended up down the sink.

So, Camden was completed. The tube was still open, and there was time to do the touristy stuff. I’d never seen Tower Bridge lit up before, so seeing I had my camera, we headed down there. Of course, we did get slightly lost, but ended up walking past a bar called “Fuckoffee” I took photos, but they were shite. Maybe you’ll be able to work out the name from this…

The walk continued, and it suddenly dawned upon us that Tower Bridge probably wasn’t in the direction we were heading. The GPS that my phone recorded clearly proved this.

Note that we didn’t suddenly swim over the other side of the river and back again. That’s just Google’s “Timeline” feature being slightly less creepy for a second.

Naturally, there were some night time river shots. One of which,


Yeah, not bad I suppose.

It was pushing 10pm by this point, so we walked the “short” distance between Tower Bridge and London Bridge, hopped on the tube and went back to the hotel.

Fasten your seatbelts, Day 2 is going to be a long one…