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.

Another adventure with “That’s Entertainment”. And crisps

Long suffering viewers will know I collect CDs, to the point of hoarding, so I’m always on the lookout for a bargain or seven.

I attended work (for only three times this week, thank you peepers), and a colleague, who is also into music informed me that the “That’s Entertainment” store at Dalton Park was closing down. This was good news to me. It meant that they’ll be having a “clearance event”, and getting shot of a load of old stock that they can’t be bothered to ship off to other stores, or back to the magical warehouse, full of whimsy and music.

Saturday came around all too quickly, and off I jolly well popped. Usual route to Peterlee, and then I’d get the 22 bus from there to Dalton Park. No dramas. Excfept I found that a rival company had started running a service that goes pretty much directly to Dalton Park, and it stops at the bottom of Mercuryvapour Towers’ leafy driveway, give or take a few hundred metres. So, I could have saved myself the hassle of waiting half an hour for a bus. Anyway, I rattle on enough about buses on Facebook, I’m sure you don’t care on this.

Aaaaanyway. Two bus journeys, and I find myself outside of Dalton Park. It’s a weird shaped shopping complex, rather like half a horseshoe, with strange plastic sheeting covering the aisles. You know, the stuff that’s permanent, but goes mouldy really quickly, so looks rotten after a couple of years. I didn’t come here for any other shop other than “That’s Entertainment”, and I skipped on merrily by, as I ignored the rest of the shops..

In the window, there was a sign that said “75% off all replay stock”. Those are the second hand CDs which I was looking for! This could be interesting. A quick glance around the shop showed that most of the things worth anything (for me, CDs) had already disappeared – either been sold, or sent back to the warehouse. Not sure, but my heart sank a little when I noticed *the* little blue table. This was where the 49p CDs were housed. It was completely empty. Not a disc in sight. Couldn’t help but think my journey was completely wasted. That was, until I took 5 steps forwards, and noticed an almost entire wall, crammed full of 49p CDs.

And, not only were there thousands of them, but it turns out they were actually giving them away at 12p each, and multi-disc sets actually counted as one disc. Sometimes, they’re a bit picky about that, but the deal of the collection was 5 Simon + Garfunkel CDs and a DVD for that very price. 2p a disc. Thank you to the totally random guy who tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I’d be interested in it. Yes, sir. Yes, I would.

At some point, I’d ventured the shop looking for a shopping basket, as the pile of loose discs I’d picked out was looking pretty precarious. This also meant selecting discs was a lot easier. they’d just get thrown in, and I could sort them out later.

After about 2 hours, I gave in. I was in pain from repetitiveness, standing with my head slumped, looking down as my halds flipped quickly through the CDs was starting to give me neck ache. I don’t think I touched half of the stock. Nothing more that could have been done. I did end up with a couple of duffers, namely 2 pirated Now 74 discs, and a Now 31 disk, professionally pirated. Both of which I had anyway, but if I had checked the discs before I took them to the counter, they’d be in a skip right now.

The day wasn’t over. [Person who doesn’t like to be named in public] picked me up, and we went through to Newcastle. A walk-around the usual shops, including a check in PC World to see if the hard drive prices had gotten any lower (they hadn’t), and a quick perv in All Saints because some of the ladies in there have really nice bottoms. (Careful, Jamie, some of the girls might be offended by that – Ed). Oh, OK, They ALL have lovely bottoms.

The day was nearing an end, and I had one last stop to make. A chain store named “Bargain Buys” sell these really nice crisps.

Daddykins also likes these particular crisps, and a multipack of 6 different types are £1, so I thought I’d stock up, and get 4 packs. I get to the till, and the guy offers me a 50-pack box of Golden Wonder “snacks” (Cheesy balls, Onion Rings, and Salt ‘n’ Vinegar Sticks) for £1 because the expiry date was the day after. Personally, I think they had a little competition between the staff members, as when I agreed to purchase, he seemed overly enthusiastic. Still, crisps don’t go poisonous overnight, and almost a week later, they’re still perfectly edible.

This was where I originally was going to conclude the blog, as the bargain hunting was over for the day. I never fully finished writing it, as I got sidetracked by Pinball, or something. 2 sleeps later, Monday arrived. It was an uneventful day at work at Employment Palace. I finished, headed for the bus, and missed it by about a minute. Oh well. Thankfully, this job, unkile my last one, means that if I miss a bus, I can just cut through the shopping centre, and get all number of buses (Three, actually) close to Mercuryvapour Towers.

So, I begin to cut through the shopping centre. One of my new haunts is a shop called “ReNew”, which is a bit like “That’s Entertainment”, albeit with less organisation. CDs are placed on the shelf by letter, but it’s a gamble whether the letter is the artist, or the album title. The are also large wooden bins where CDs are just thrown in without order. Everything is £2 per disc, or 3 for £5.

Anyhooooo, this particular Monday, I walked past, and there were balloons outside, and staff holding charity donation buckets. Normally, I’d go in the opposite direction at the site of such a contraption, but I was curious. It turns out they were laving a literal stock clearance, and giving everybody who went in there 10 CDs / DVDs (in total), as long as you put a donation in the bucket.

I donated every penny I had on me at the time, and I hope my 65p helps!

My first few days with the QPAD MK-80

… and this, I promise, will be my last post on the matter. It’s been several days since I brought home my latest toy, the afore-mentioned mechanical keyboard, and I have to say I’m really liking it. It’s supposed to be a gaming keyboard, but that’s not really the reason I bought it. I just wanted something that actually felt decent when I typed.

Admittedly, this isn’t the first mechanical keyboard I’ve used or owned. Back in the late 90s, I was given an old PC that came with some bits and bobs, including possiblt the oldest keyboard known to man. I swear, I was expecting bits of typewriter to be stuck to it. It was so old, that the F keys were down the left hand side of the keyboard. It was so old that I can’t find a picture of it. Photography probably wasn’t invented back thenIt was also switch controlled, but unfortunately, some of the keys were knackered. It was OK to type on, but a few of the keys were unresponsive, and I eventually gave up on it. It kept me in supplies of small springs for ages. Years after, I was still standing on them with bare feet. Nasty.

Anyway, I digress, and I go back to my review. I’ve settled on typing with it really rather quickly. For those of you who couldn’t be bothered or have “forgotten” to watch the video, it’s got Cherry MX Blue switches. There are many different type of switches out there, but you’ll need to find these out for yourself. I doubt I’ll have the money to invest in other keyboards in the coming years, so unless some kind companies want to send me “samples” of their keyboards, then this’ll be the only review you’ll be getting!

So, functionality. Well, it’s not exactly feature rich as far as some gaming keyboards go. Pass-through connectors for 2xUSB, audio and microphone jack. The USB ports are handy, I can never have enough of those near the front of my PC, so two more is an added bonus. The pass-through connectors… meh, I can live without those for now. My PC case has mic / headphone jacks on the front, so I don’t really need those at the moment. I’ll probably end up getting a new computer in a couple of months, so maybe there’ll be a use for them then. Seeing as this is a gaming keyboard, however, there are absolutely no other gaming features. The blue LEDs, however, have four levels of brightness. When I first discovered the LEDs were blue, I was just that little tad disappointed. Some of you may remember that my streetlighting interest came about partly because I could see a blue halo around mercury streetlights. About 25 years later, I actually worked out that was because my eyes actually saw blue light as slightly out of focus. Thankfully, the light levels range from just comfortable, so it looks like the writing on the keycaps is blue, to an intense sheen of blueness, that wouldn’t be out of place on a hospital toilet ceiling to stop the smack rats going in and shooting up.

The blue LEDs are also included in the design of the status lights. Ironically, this is a gaming keyboard, and if you switch them all on, they look like the highest score I’ve made, in pretty much every game I own…

BLue LEDs on my keyboard
BLue LEDs on my keyboard

… and also the mount of actual readers who have managed to sift through this pile of absolute blithering crap. Ahem.

Actual feel of the keyboard is really nice. I’ve been asked if it’s improved my typing. Probably, but then I’ll get to the FAQs in a sec. The feel is that rubberised plastic, on the outer of the board, and on the wrist rest (which yes, I did manage to get fixed to the keyboard!) Best way to describe it is like those sightly up-market “Smooth grip” Bic biros. Although it doesn’t feel too bad, there’s a disadvantage, and that’s every bit of grease on your fingers shows up like some kind of shiny skidmark, and every bit of dead skin that you shed goes into the grooves, meaning that’s only been here for 3 days and it already looks rather unpleasant.

It's a mucky keyboard!
It’s a mucky keyboard!

Of course, shedding skin is a human way of life, and I’d much prefer it if I’d shed moob fat, but due to the matt black nature of the keyboard, and the fact it has a little groove running around the edge of it, I wouldn’t be too surprised if, in a couple of months time, that little groove will look like a re-enactment of the Battle of The Somme, but with extra blood, sweat, shit piss and Iron Brew… OK, I jest, but that brings me to another possible downside, there are no drain holes!. I’ve always got a glass of “water” next to me when I’m at my computer, and many times there’s been a bit of a close shave, or there’s been actual spillage. The last few cheap keyboard I’ve had, have had drain holes in the bottom, should the worst happen, but this doesn’t appear to have theme. Maybe it’s because of the hundred or so switches, LEDs and other tomfoolery crammed inside here, but I have a feeling it’ll be only one small mistake with a beverage and Pratfall Percy sat here, and it’ll all be over. Quite literally. Of course, now that I actually don’t drink as much, there’s much less chance of that happening.

Right, sod it, I’m nearly up to 1000 words. I’ve been asked two questions about the keyboard. It’s nearly 1 in the morning, and I’ve got to be up for work. So, I promise, I’ll break my promise and conclude tmorrow, or whenever I can be bothered. Bet you can’t bloody wait.