Amiganuts…

Cor, (almost) three posts in three days. I must be spoiling you! OK, so the last two weren’t of particular interest to anyone other than those that has a failed NAS drive, but they still count.

I’m happy to report that this one won’t be of interest to anyone either. Sorry about that.

I’ve spent the last few hours on this dreary Sunday morning, by listening to music. Nothing special there, I admit. This is, however, Amiga music. I’ve spent the last few hours going through some of my old favourite Amiga MODs. Now, for those of you who don’t know what a MOD is, or think it’s something you put on an in-game weapon, it’s short for music module, and it was an extremely popular way of making music via computer, using something called a tracker. My writer’s block is creeping up on me already, and I currently can’t describe what a tracker is (except for a delicious cereal bar), but if you ever played a game on an Amiga, Atari ST, and certainly some of the consoles, you can bet it was composed on a tracker. I’ll let Wikipedia tell you if you want to know any more.

I must admit, I’m not much of a musician. I couldn’t carry a note in a bucket, yet still, I spent most of my last school years playing about with OctaMED, ProTracker and various others, knocking out daft little tunes. This was before the days of the internet, and certainly before mass storage was available, therefore, most of my MODs were only heard by a few people. I’d often give Amiga formatted disks to friends with them on, and then think no more of them. Surely, I’d *always* have a copy, and will *always* be able to listen to them. No. Pretty much all of my Amiga data disks have been destroyed. I have a couple of game disks hanging around, but almost any work I’d done on the Amiga is long gone.

A few weeks ago, I discovered I’d actually lost all contact with Wayne, the old school friend who I mentioned a few times on here a few years ago. My only contact with him was through email, and even then, I’d not heard from him for a couple of years. Thanks to the Virgin/NTL email fuckup, I dropped him an email to see if he’d been affected. Turns out he had, and his email address is no longer valid. I know I’d sent him a LOAD of my stuff back in the day. Gutted, I turned to Facebook, to see if any of my other school mates may have had a copy. It drew a blank

Sadly, yet amazingly, the only one I can think of that survives, is one of the very first I ever did, and one of the ones I’m most ashamed of. I never gave it a proper name, but it is heavily based on “mod.fairlight” – if you were lucky enough to get the Amiga Format version of OctaMED on the coverdisk, you’ll recognise this as the demo track that came with it. Before the internet, I had to bastardize what little music I had, in order to learn the program. I was lucky enough to have borrowed a sampler from the afore-mentioned Wayne, which allowed me to record samples and fit them to the music. For this particular MOD, the vocal samples were mainly from a radio talk show, hosted by a person with the initials “TD”, and this is all it was ever known to me…. td.mod

Computers have moved on, I have went through dozens of hard drives, yet still, this td.mod, like a bad penny just simply won’t go away. Chris came round, and I played it to him again after at least 16 years of not hearing it. He couldn’t believe I still had it. It created an instant ear-worm, to the point he was quoting “Salted-salted-salted peanuts?” to me, some 7 days later.

It is, with the least bit of pleasure, I bring you, one of the most painful things to hit human ears.. here it is… TD.MOD!

And that wasn’t even my original point of the post. It would appear my brain got sidetracked about the fact that everything I have ever done is complete shite…

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.

It’s forest o’clock!

OK, I’m really struggling these days when it comes to imaginitive titles. After my massively expensive shopping trip yesterday, it was time to do something entirely different, and that was to spend the day walking around Hamsterley forest. This time, I’d be with Gary (aka Flav), and, once again, Jamie S would be in charge of the transportation.

Unfortunately, the first thing I noticed on Thursday morning, was the fog. It’s the thickest it’s been in a long time. Thankfully, Hartlepool is on the coast, and Hamsterley Forest is many miles inland. I’d be hopeful that the mist would burn off. After a quick stop off at the town so Jamie S could pick up some Primark Plimmies, we headed off to Port Clarence to pick up Gary. Now, I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of this particular place, but it does have one of my favourite pieces of graffiti…

FUCK OFF

Awesome. It’ll always remind me of getting the No. 1 bus to Middlesbrough for jury duty.

The first step was to the petrol station. It was only fair that we helped fill Jamie S’s car up a bit. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a mortgage application form to hand, so I just handed him a tenner and hoped his car would get away with breathing fumes.

The journey there was brightened up with the discovery of the best placename of the day…

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North Bitchburn. Awesome. Jamie S had to hold up traffic slightly while I took that photo. Unfortunately it was in the wrong direction for us, so the only thing I can say about the place is it has a wikipedia article that really should be tidied up.

Shortly after, we arrived at Hamsterley Forest. The car park was literally nothing more than a few mounds of earth and a bit of gravel. Saying that, it looked newly constructed, so they’ll probably put grass over the top of the mounds to make it look a bit more attractive. The question is, what route were we going to take? There was the blue route, which was a piece-of-piss 1 mile journey around Bedburn Beck. There was also the orange and red walks, which were longer. Of course, what’s the first thing three blokes do when entering a forest? No, not that, you pack of pervs. You go and have a play on the swings of course….

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To be honest, I actually want one of those swings. They’re pretty awesome. One thing I don’t want, however, is a fireman’s pole, though Gary appeared to thrive off them…

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Riiiiiiiiighty-ho. Moving swiftly on, we began to follow the orange path. According to the signs, it was a decent length, and would have taken a perfectly acceptable amount of time. Of course, there were distractions and diversions….

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The biggest distraction had to be when we accidedentally walked off the beaten track, and found ourself in the middle of a mountain bike course…

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Eventually, we found our way onto the correct path, mainly by chance. Something came darting out of the trees near the bottom of the path we were heading. I think my first reaction was “Woah, what the fuck was that?” It took me a few moments to notice it had a red collar on, and was a dog. Eventually, the orange path just sort of fizzled out. It headed into some fields with picnic tables, with no clear path on where to go next. Therefore, we just made up our own way back. We knew which side of the ‘river’ we needed to be on, and thankfully, there was a gravel path leading back in the general direction.

We were right, it was indeed the correct road, and we ended up back at the swings. Jamie S was so delighted by this, he surprised us all with a beutiful rendition on the tubular bells…

Truly haunting. Jamie S and Gary continued to make use of the “obstacle course”, with hilarious results. It had been a good walk, and it’s only thr second time I’ve been able to use Endomondo properly…

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Well, I say properly, it would appear I’d had it set on “running” instead of walking. Never mind.

We headed back to the car, and discussions on food were next. We’d passed through a village that appeared to have a nice chippy, so off we jolly well went. and could we find it? No, is the definitive answer to that. We passed through all manner of villages and small towns, looking for a location that would serve us deep-fried potato chunks. Eventually, we ended up in Durham city centre. A bit of a way out, but hell, there was bound to be edibles there.

At this point, Jamie S informed me of his purchase at the Metro Centre the day before. He had bought a bottle of… “scent”. I don’t know what you call it. It’s not aftershave, it’s not deodorant, but either way, it was presented in a large box, and price-tagged at £25. My jaw initially dropped at the time of purchase, but by jaw dropped even more when it explained what was in the box. A blue, glass bottle, no bigger than his inhaler, with 30ml of expensive guff inside of it. That was just under £1 per millilitre….

So, I got ripped off with onion rings, he got even more ripped off with… I don’t know. Our thoughts turned away from small bottles of smelly, and we walked around Durham looking for an eaterie. We ended up, ironically, at Burger King. The irony is, that there has been plenty of discussion recently about my refusal to eat burgers. It seemes foreign to some people that you can live a life without eating a burger. I’ve managed 31 years so far… I do have to wonder, if I’m the only person to ever enter Burger King and not actually order a burger… instead, I ordered large fries, and a portion of onion rings… which cost a third of what they cost me at the Metro Centre. They weren’t as nice, however.

After screaming at traffic on the way out of Durham, we headed back home. After all, he had to get changed for the night out…

Top Gear Live, part one

Top Gear live was bloody brilliant, as you would probably have guessed. That was two days ago…

(Quick edit… to the person who searched for “top gear live will it be recorded”, and found this site… um… I think the clue is in the name, especially the word “live”. I’m probably wrong. And to the persion who searched for “top gear live is shit”… well, I disagree, but you can’t please everyone I suppose.

As mentioned previously, Chris’s brother Jonathan had secured three tickets to go and see Top Gear Live. Now, some of you have thought I meant I was going to see the TV show being recorded. No, that’s recorded in Dunsfold Park, Guildford. This particular one I went to see was in Earls Court.

The day, as you can imagine for this time of year started off cold and rainy. You may remember in the previous “long” post, that I mentioned I’d been at a halloween do the night before… needless to say I was still feeling the effects of this. Anyway, after typing up that particular blog, I went for a shit. This particular fact has no relevance to the story at all, but it seems like an age since I’ve mentioned a bowel movement in this blog, and we can’t let a tradition die after 7 years and 365 days (leap year, anniversary tomorrow)…

Erm, moving swiftly on. We went down to Chris’s house, to pick him up. Our original plan of getting the train directly from Hartlepool was scuppered by the fact it was at about 7AM, so we were getting the 11:27 from Darlington down to Kings Cross.

The journey down to the station was unentertaining. Daddykins was playing one of the CDs he’d picked up while on Holiday, from some guy who may, or may not have appeared on the X Factor. He can do Ronan Keating spot on, but his Neil Diamond sounded worse than me on karaoke [citation needed]

So, we arrived in good time to catch the train, and had about an hour to spare.

Darlington station is very, very boring. There are a few shops there, including an anti-Tardis WH Smith. And by that, I mean, fron the outside, it looks huge, but when you get in there, it’s tiny.

Chris had booked the train tickets online, so all we had to do was visit a machine to collect them. Strange that these machines were called something like “Fast Track”, yet there was still a queue.

After collecting our tickets, the walk to WH Smith was halted by frantic banging on the window, and a little kid running after us. Turns out Chris had left one of the seat confirmation things in the machine. Ooooooo. Lucky.

Off we went to browse both of the shops.In the end, I bought a bottle of water (to take my sodding tablets with later on), a packet of Quavers, and a copy of The Sun. Chris bought a coffee and a copy of Private Eye. It’s the first time I’d ever seen one of those “in the flesh”. A bit above my intelligence level, I’m afraid. Imagine that episode of Family Guy, where Peter’s staring at a comic outside a newsagent for several days, before saying “Aaaaah, now I get it…. yeah, can I have a copy of Jugs?” Unsurprisingly, I can’t find the clip of that on Youtube, so if you haven’t seen it, that’s tough.

On the subject of Jugs, after buying our merchandise, I noticed that someone had left a copy of the Saturday Sport in the waiting lounge. So, yes, I had a look through, but decided against keeping hold of it, for obvious reasons.

Eventually, after what seemed like an age, the train arrived. We located our seats, and found that we were, once again, facing somebody, just like that trip with Coatesy to York. These two people were clearly twins, which made it harder to even look in their general direction.

Shortly after the train set off, Chris went to the bog, and I didn’t see him again until we arrived in York Station. Amusingly, he got stuck behind the food trolley.

The rest of the journey wasn’t just mind numbing, it was arse numbing too. The only piece of excitement was the recogntionof somewhere I’d been before – Stevenage. On Boxing day last year, I went down to Stevenage with Daddykins and a few other people. I remember as we entered the estate one of the people lived on, we went under a narrow railway bridge, and the estate had particularly old, probably still mecury vapour, streetlighting. So, after a bit of a rummage through the archives, I’ve found the bridge, in Stevenage, where I have now been over, and under…

See, who said it’s pointless taking a photo of absolutely everything?

We arrived in Kings Cross at approximately 13:57. Everything was how I remembered it. Busy, mainly. The old mechanical destination boards, however, had been replaced with the now standard orange LED display. The announcements are also done by the same guy who does the announcements on the Weakest Link.

We were going to meet Jonathan at Waterloo station, as he already lives down south and so got a separate train down.

Chris’s pigeon-like sense of direction made sure that we didn’t get lost. Now, remember the tapdancing busker that we saw in Paris? The one that was actually quite good? Well, on the tube down to Waterloo, there was one that was really, really bad. And still, some people gave him money.

That’s it. I’m quitting my job and becoming a busker.

Eventually, we made it to Waterloo. It took longer than usual, as one of the lines (I forget which) was closed for maintenace, or as they like to call it, “service improvement. Most of the afore-mentioned orange LED signs were out of order, thanks to some type of software error. I’d have gotten a picture, but we were in a rush, and couldn’t get the camera out in time. It was only a generic preset message anyway.

Off we go to Earls Court. It was a number of stops away, so we braved the underground again. I say braved, because I really, really dislike it.

After what seemed like an age, we ended up at the Earls Court tube station. In my previous two trips down to the big city, the weather was acceptable. Today, it wasn’t. It was absolutely tipping it down. In the 100 yards from the tube station to Earls Court, all I could think of was “London Rain” by Heather Nova. I really like that song.

So, we entered through the huge doors and into the foyer. The tickets were scrutinised, and we entered into the huge display area. And I mean huge.

That photo doesn’t really do it justice, but unfortunately, none of the photos do the place justice! I only took my little Acer, as I wasn’t too sure whether cameras would even be allowed or not, It seems they were and I really wish I’d taken my Canon now, as I didn’t take one good photo of the show itself. Bah!

After a very quick look around the display area, we made our way to the entrance to the main “theatre”. I use quotes, as technically it isn’t a theatre. It’s a big building with temporary seating and a stage. We made our way through what was quite literally, the biggest queue I’ve ever been in. It was massive. Remember the one for the Eiffel Tower? Forget it. This one seemed to go on for ever.

Turns out we had really good seats. High up, and dead centre. Perfect.

A few pre-recorded car adverts looped through for about 20 minutes. One of them even broke down, turning the two huge LED displays random colours, and emitting ear piercing squeals. We thought that was part of the act, but no, it just appeared to be a technical glitch as the adverts looped through for another 10 minutes or so.

Then, the lights faded…

More adverts, but this time in the shape of live adverts on the stage.

Then, we got the introduction. On came Clarkson, May and Hammond. Now, I’m guessing that most of the shows are going to be very similar, so if you’ve found this via Google, and are planning to go and see it, then I suggest you click the back button, or something… In fact, I won’t go into too much detail, just in case.

It contained all of the things that make Top Gear great…

First off there’s the challenges…

Then there’s the whole interaction with the audience…

You know when I said the photos turned out really, really bad? I clearly wasn’t lying.

Er, anyway. There was also the Cool Wall. An interactive version of it. You all get cards given when you enter. Red on one side, green on the other. A computer monitors the input from the camera, and can calculate the amount of red or green in the picture. Green = cool, red = not.

There’s also stunts and stupidly impressive car displays, as you’d expect.

You’d thinka stage of that size would also not be able to handle a game of Smart Car Soccer. and you’d be wrong.

The Stig finishes the show in another impressive display.

That’s all I’ll say for now. I’ve still got a load of pictures which have yet to be uploaded, these will get done today. This particular one is also a highlight for me, personally.

How cool is that? I managed to get my photo taken With Jeremy Clarkson……………..’s cardboard cutout! The rest of the photos need to be uploaded, so I shall do that and return with Part 2…

All this talk about bikes…

Ahh, this takes me back. It’s funny that Chad (aka Randy Lahey in the recent comments) mentioned my very first bike, which was amusingly titled the Bangermobile. Therefore, I shall reminisce a little about said bike.

Actually, if you want to split hairs, The Bangermobile was NOT my first bike, though it was the first one I actually used. Many years ago, my parents bought me a white BMX bike (not the one I mentioned in the previous post) out of the paper. The only problem is, it was huge, and I was tiny. Therefore, I never, ever rode it. It just gathered dust and cobwebs in the washhouse for about 2 years. I hoped I’d grow into it, but I was about 6 at the time, and I’d need to have waited until I was 14 before I’d have been able to get on it without someone’s assistance.

I was frustrated, I knew I had a bike. I wish I was big enough to have taken it out. Eventually, I got bored of waiting, and lost interest. I was about 8 at the time. Suddenly, unknown to me the bike disappeared entirely. The story, as far as I know it, is that my Uncle Jimmy took it to the bike shop up King Oswy, and swapped it for a bike which was more my size. The result was a plain purple coloured pushbike with racing handles on it, shown below…

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(Rescanned the image in 2016 to make it less blurry)

Over time, I found the racing handles a little hard to use, therefore they were replaced with standard handlebars which looked like they may have came from one of those little trolleys old people pull behind them. I didn’t mind. The bangermobile was mine, and no matter how much the other kids in the photo mocked me, I didn’t care, I could finally join in with their races, etc. That is, as long as they didn’t go beyond the end of the square. For the record, Chad is the lad at the back with his thumbs in the air.

I loved that bike. I could finally join in when everyone else got their bikes, building ramps in the square and jumping over certain objects, though I seem to remember falling off more times than enough.

I have no idea what stopped me from using the Bangermobile, possibly a puncture, possibly the fact you used to be able to turn the handlebars without the wheels turning, possibly a horrific fall which I’ve subconciously blocked from my mind and now cannot remember.

Either way, if bikes were dragons, the Bangermobile would be called Puff. Purple things and rusted rings made way for other toys. The bangermobile slowly slunk into its cave, located behind my dad’s shed. Well, it wasn’t a cave, I just said that so it fitted in with the song. In fact, it was (and still is) a completely useless piece of the back garden, which has always been covered in weeds.

Some time later (at least a couple of years), the Bangermobile was discovered by me and whatever friends I was with at the time. We decided it would be great to see it back from the dead, and attempted to repair it. Unfortunately, these attempts proved to be fruitless, when after repairing the tyres about 5 times, getting them pumped up at the Shell garage, only for the air to escape 5 seconds later, it was decided that the life of the Bangermobile was at an end. I’m not sure what happened to it after that. I was too old to care. We probably smashed it up.

It’s not all bad news. Remember those handlebars I didn’t like? The ones in the above picture? Well, they’re still with us. They now act as a handrail in our (mainly disused for 10 years) downstairs toilet…

I went out on my new bike again, just for something to do while the sun was shining. Imagine my delight when the front reflector fell off and went hurtling down the road to the side of me. I’m going to replace them with lights at some point anyway, so that’s not a problem, but why did it have to make me look like a cock in the first place, having to stop and pick it up? Someone was walking past at the time, I bet she had a good giggle. Sob.