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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did I do badly?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That Was Entertainment pt.2… And “Now 4”

Ok, so maybe that last update wasn’t the last time Id visit a “That’s Entertainment” store. If you’ve not been following the blog, you won’t have known that this chain of cheap-arse record stores is “contemplating its future” on the high street. Well, that’s how their blurb stuck ot the front of the counter puts it anyway. The stores have already stopped selling “tech” products, such as mobile phones, tablets, etc. and are no longer accepting new stock.

Anyway, enough about the inevitable. A few weeks ago, I thought I’d take one last tour of the Stockton store. This was one of the better ones in the area for cheap CDs. They always had a large selection of the 49p CDs that I would crave.

After all of my years searching through these boxes, I found plenty, but nothingm I would consider “gold standard”. A diamond in the rough, as it were. Something told me, days before, that I must go to this store. I’m not really a believer in fate, or anything like that, but something bugged me for the entire week, telling me to go, even to the point where I would lie awake, waiting for Saturay to tick by.

Anyway, Friday night came, and I did a few “humorous” live broadcasts on Facebook. It was more of a test for something I have planned. I basically drank beer and played shit songs for about an hour. After the videos completed, I purposely stayed sober. I only had a couple of cans, and that was during the live things I did. Something was tugging at my mind that I just had to go to this store.

I awoke early on Saturday. Thinkfully, despite there being an accumulation of snow on the paths, the roads were clear, meaning that the buses were running from Hartlepool to Stockton. This is a two-leg journey, and the firt leg saw me get off at the town centre. A person, who seemed to have a habit of spitting, told me all about the wellies he qwas wearing, as they stop him from slipping over. It was a riveting conversation, and the 36 bus couldn’t come soon enough.

A normally dull bus ride was brightened by the sight of the local areas covered in snow. It was a surprisingly pretty sight, considering how desparate Teesside looks on your average day. Huge snow drifts stood at the side of the Greatham road – the likes of which we’ve never seen since Boxing Day 1995, and certainly not at the start of March, when the daffodils are meant to be poking though.

I arrive in Stockton, and I get off the bus. There was only one shop I was interested in. Normally, I’d head off to the charity shops, but my radar was firmly fixed on That’s Entertainment. My first glance was at the 30+ boxes of “sleeveless” CDs placed in the centre of the shop. My eyes lit up. It was like Christmas. My heart sank, however, when I realised they were still 49p each. Bugger.

I wouldn’t lie if I said I was a tad disappointed. The Middlesbrough store was going through the exact same turmoil, and they’d reduced their sleeveless stock to 10p.

I started going through them. Some average ones, some unknown ones that could be classics. Mostly filler and classical CDs that I wouldn’t touch with a bargepole. I was on to about the 3rd of 4th box, when I pulled out a CD. My heart stopped.

This wasn’t just any CD. This was one of the rarest CDs going. Namely “Now That’s What I call Music! 4”

For the uninitiated (I got the right word this time), “Now, That’s What I Call Music” is a thrice-yearly collection of chart hits and occasionally, exclusive remixes, that continue to be released to this day. At the time of typing, we’re up to “Now 99”. If you want a time capsule of 80s / 90s / 00s / 10s music, you can’t go wrong than picking up a few of these.

Way back in 1984, Now 4 came out on what was, at the time, the obscure CD format. Tapes and vinyl were, of course, the go-to choice, and CDs were some type of weird luxury that only rich people can afford. This pretty much lasted until the 90s, so a CD, back in 1984 was a clear rarity.

The “Now 4” CD does appear on ebay, but you’re looking at hundreds of pounds. Even Discogs, which is usually a little more sensible with the price, had the latest one selling for around £250, and here I was, holding it for 49p. Cor!

Of course, every story has a downside, and this one is that it’s “sleeveless” – there’s no case for it, so I have the bare CD in a plastic wallet. That probably knocks something like 90% off the value, but it proves it’s out there, and for those lucky bastards that do have a boxed copy, that’s one more out of the equation – yours probably just got that little more valuable! Saying that, for a CD to survive that long, especially without its case, is nothing short of miraculous.

Fast forward to the present day (You’ll probably be reading this on Good Friday), and I think that’s me done with “That’s Entertainment” for ever. Maybe I’ll have a trip down there tomorrow, depending on what services the buses are running, but seeing as I’ve bought approximately 250, that might take some time…

The Wesley, Hartlepool fire…

Sad news from anyone from the town, the iconic building known as “The Wesley” has had a major fire this evening.

I was in the comedy club at the Town Hall, and this was the scene about half an hour ago. One of the few remaining iconic buildings in Hartlepool.

Goodbye Maplin (Teesside Park)… I hardly knew ye.

One of my favourite haunts for “tech stuff” is closing its doors very soon. In fact, assuming I finish and publish this post on 21st May, it’ll be “today”.

I’m not sure where to start with this post I’m sorry to see it go. I’ve bought so much stuff here over the years. My desk drawer is full of those little screwdrivers they sell at the counter, because they’re so cheap, and I’m always losing the little bits out of them, and whenever any work needs doing on my PC, I’m searching all over for *that* Philips bit that’ll undo that weird screw holding something in place.

My condolences go out to the staff, and the poor bugger who had to put this up in the window, sealing his fate. Rather like what happened to me back in 2012 when I (and my colleagues at the time) saw other people doing our work.

On a side note, there are absolutely no bargains to be had. There a re a couple of “50% Off” bins near the counter, containing weird shaped fluorescent tubes and ink cartridges, but nothing of any relevance.

I did intend to type a whole long rambling post about what I’ve bought in there over the years, but, quite frankly, I can’t be bothered. Any chain of stores that thinks it’s reasonable to charge £25 for a CD wallet doesn’t deserve my custom. There, I said it.

EDIT: As promised, and seeing as I’m at Teesside Park right now, snaffling free Wi-Fi, here it is. All closed down

EDIT: MARCH 2018 – It’s sad news that the entire chain are closing all of their stores, and will disappear off “the high street” altogether. As a commentor mentioned below, the nail was in the coffin when it turned into a glorified toy store.

Hartlepool. It’s a town on the… grrooOOooww.

Ah, it’s not the first time I’ve ripped off a Simpsons quote for a blog title, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I’m feeling a bit of a commoner today. I’ve been out and bought tickets to one of those footballing match things. You know, where grown men go around and kick a bag of air around for 90 minutes, whilst slack-jawed on-lookers shout things like “poppycock” at the referee, and question the poor man’s eyesight. Suddenly we’re all opticians, are we?

Of course, I jest, but it does seem a bit odd for me to actually plan in advance to go to a football match. It’s something that’s only happened three times before (we won 1-0 against Brentford in the 1991-92 season), lost against Oxford in… some other season, and lost 5-1 to Newcastle United in a friendly. So, I’ve got a 2-1 loss record on seeing Hartlepool play. It’s not looking good.

You see, the reason I bought the tickets, is that it’s a pivotal time for the club, and the town as a whole (not discounting the tickets were only a fiver). The match is Hartlepool V Doncaster, and it’s pivotal for both clubs, and the mathematics goes something like this…

If Hartlepool win, and Newport lose, Hartlepool stay in the league. If Doncaster win and Plymouth lose, they become League Two champions. In three days time, Hartlepool might be out of the English football league for the first time in their entire history. There’s been some squeaky bum moments in recent years, but I think this is the greatest yet.

Now, don’t quote me on this (bit hard, seeing as this is a blog), but I have a sneaking suspicion it could finish the once proud club off if the worst were to happen. Imagine if they go down to the conference, the club would be worth less, yet the area of land that the ground stands on is prime real estate, and with only a large car park behind it, a leisure centre well past its use-by date, and a great little pub, I can see the land being sold off to developers, and the whole area being yet another great big retail park. Which is something the town is crying out for, he says sarcastically.

So, Saturday evening could see a load of grown men cry. In fact I cried today, after they charged me £1.50 surcharge for using my credit card to buy the tickets. Robbing gits.