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 I recall the out-of-date biscuits next to the kettle.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did I do badly?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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…

I forgot to write about a Youtube video…

If you’re reading this on Facebook, you might as well stop. Scroll down. Look at that post below this one, which is bound to be some bell-end spouting political bullshit, or a photo of some ugly kid, because I actually posted this on Facey B a few weeks ago, and entirely neglected to post it on here for both of my readers who don’t have facebook. Yes, it’s the video of the Hull trip, or more correctly, the hundred or so discs that I bought for a tenner.

I explain it all in the video. Enjoy, if you’ve not already seen it.