A weekend in Manchester

Ahhh. Summer’s here at last. Well, no it’s not, because I saw a gritter on my way to work this morning, but the past weekend certainly felt like summer. A warm spell in an otherwise cold month.

But what was I doing in Manchester, I hear absolutely nobody ask? Well, I’m sure I’ve talked about the ol’ #speccy meetups in here before, where once a year, a few of us from the afore-mentioned IRC channel and the World Of Spectrum forums meet up, and have a few pints and a bit of a chinwag. Well, this time, it was going to be in Manchester.

I’d prepared for this *well* in advance, and by that, I mean I somehow managed to book a train and a hotel without getting the whole thing completely mixed up, and ending up booking a room in Manchetser, New Hampshire, and the train heading off into the middle of the sea. Or something. Still, a little of me had a feeling this trip was going to be doomed to failure.

Marko, the main organiser, who has commented a few times on here (probably about the meets, I can’t remember), unfortunately pulled out and couldn’t go, so I was left in a bit of a situation. I didn’t have any contact details for anyone else going, other than Facebook. So, I pictured myself getting there, not actually knowing what anybody looks like, and spending the entire night on my own. Well, that is, if I was going to get there at all.

Wednesday came, I was in the snooker place, batting some balls about when I received a text…

“You aware of Northern rail strikes on Saturday? ”

As the while ball shot off the table, it became clear I wasn’t aware. This threw all sorts of spanners in the works. The Transpennine trains were running normally. Northern Rail trains weren’t.

Saturday was also Grand National day, and although getting to Thornaby for 08:32 wasn’t a problem (I bribed Daddykins into giving me a lift), there was no telling how packed the train was going to be. I was worrying the night before about finding my seat, and finding a random Boro chav sprawled out across it. that is, if I could even get on the train for the crowds.

I needn’t have worried. Maybe the news of the rail strike caused most people to stay in bed or make alternative arrangements. Maybe most people were just still hungover. Dunno. I just knew I had my seat, and the rest of the journey would be a breeze.

The guy say next to me got off at York, so I had a window seat for the rest of the journey, and the next two hours were spent watching England’s green and pleasant land roll past.

I arrive in Manchester, and there was two hours before I could check into the hotel. There was only one thing for it… LET’S GO BARGAIN HUNTING! RECORD SHOPPING!

As I mentioned before, I’ve been to Manchester a couple of times, and I know that Piccadilly is a good spot for vinyl. I knew of at least 3 shops…. the Vinyl Exchange, which is probably the biggest of the three. Piccadilly Records, which just sells new stuff, and it’s really up my alley, plus another one, which I can’t remember the name of.

Unfortunately, despite spending some time in all three, I came up empty. All seemed a bit expensive, and to be honest, considering how warm it was, I didn’t really want to carry many heavy records with me anyway. Plus, I had put some time away on the Sunday, to go back and have a better look.

I checked the time, and it was time to check into the hotel. On my way down, a board caught my eye, advertising the “Vinyl Resting Place”, in a rather “hipster” location known as Afflecks. It was on the top floor, and the more I went in to the place, the less I felt like I fittedf in. It was one of those places you go to have a tattoo, buy black lipstick, or some type of… oh, I can’t describe it. I just know that in this maze of little shops was a place selling vinyl.

Eventually, I found it., and started rummaging through the boxes. There was some stuff, that on another day, I might have purchased, but even at 3 for £1, I almost didn’t get anything.

In the corner was a box of 12″ singles, and I managed to pick three out of there….

“Played A-Live” by Safri Duo, “Let there Be Light” – dance version by Mike Oldfield, and “Angel’s Symphony” by RAF. The latter of the three I used to have as a CD single, but it went for an absolute fortune on ebay. I’m not going to sell this one though as it’s a good little tune.

those, surprisingly were going to be my only 3 music purchases of the weekend. And, on that note, I checked into the hotel!

After a slight rest, and to allow my phone battery time to charge, I headed off to the meet. The stop for most of the night was “The Moon Under Water” on Deansgate, which from what I heard, claims to be the biggest pub in England. It used to be an old cinema, so yes, it was pretty big. I’m sure I’ve been in bigger though.

Of course, this was Grand National Saturday, and, as tradition would have it, I watched it in a pub, making this the 28th Grand national in a row that I’ve watched.

Beer flowed nicely, and after grub was consumed, we headed to another place. I couldn’t remember the name of the place, but my handy “google Timeline” thing tells me it was “the Ape and Apple”. I liked this place. Not crowded, and we could all talk. The night started winding down at about 11, as everyone was going home. I waddled back to the hotel, and that was me asleep until 9:30 the next morning.

Sunday was obviously the shortest day of the two, but I still found time to walk to the record shops for one last look… aaand, they were all closed. Bugger.

Since I was up this way, I thought I’d take in one last “tourist attraction”, and it’s where you’ve reading this from now.

Some photos from the Manchester Speccy meet

This is Turner St, Manchester. The home of 34SP, fine purveyors of website stuff, and my money flows down this road every month to keep mercuryvapour.co.uk afloat. Well, I actually doubt that the servers are hosted here, but it’s where the staff are.

Unfortunately, I’d entirely misjudged where it was, and it turns out it’s just to the right of this photo, out of shot. But look how close it is to that pub, though.

And, that was my lot. I’d studied the train timetable long and hard (oo-er), and thought I knew the train times. Well, this was incorrect. I’d reached the station and found that there was only a 20-minute wait until Thornaby.

“The person who cannot be named” had offered to pick me up from Thornaby station, which means I didn’t have to travel back to Hartlepool. Overall, a good weekend. And I’ll be back in Manchester in a weeks’ time.

My stupid Aintree idea…

It’s that time of year, now that spr…. hang on, haven’t I said that before?

But yes, it IS springtime, and it IS the Aintree festival. The time of year where I take a week off work, and the only time of the year where I line the bookmaker’s pockets.

I’ve just realised that I’ve put a tenner in my bookies’ account, instead of the minimum deposit (a fiver), so I have a little more cash in there than what I was expecting. Now, I could put it all on the big race tomorrow, but where would the fun be in that?

Let’s put a £1 bet on the five live races on Channel 4 today. But, I officially know nothing about racing. There have been times where I’ve won sweepstakes, but that’s luck of the draw.

How else would I pick the horses? Randomly? No, I have a system.

Long-time troll, Chad, used to live on our street, until almost two decades ago when he moved to Japan to take up teaching, drinking foreign beer, eating tomatoes, and presumably a secret career in professional karaoke. For some reason, his old telephone number is embedded in my brain, despite the fact I don’t think I ever rang him. After all, he was only five doors away.

So, I thought I’d use this otherwise-wasted 6 “bytes” of information in my brain, and put a bet on with the first five numbers (they’re only televising 5 of the seven races) of his telephone number. After all of the shite he’s given me over the years, it’s about time he gave something back. Therefore, todays betting slip looks like this…


Well, I’d have only spent that fiver on crap records and beer anyway.

UPDATE: Well, the Topham Chase is next, which is the one over the big fences. So far, I’ve had a faller and 2 2nd places. It’s not looking good.

So, you have an Active Card…

Are you one of the lucky ones that own an Active Card, issued to you by Hartlepool Council? I bet you’ve noticed the T is a dancer. Oh, so minimal and so fresh! How modern!


Stop right there. It’s a breast. A bazonga. Mummy’s airbags. Whatever you want to call them. Think I’m wrong? Let’s photoshop out the fluff.


See it now? No?


You’re welcome.

LED arrives at Mercuryvapour Towers

OH dear. It’s as if the future landed on my doorstep, and I didn’t really want it to. Yes, it’s almost inevitable, that the leafy street that leads up to Mercury vapour Towers, and it’s gravel driveway, will no longer be lit by mercury. The transition to LED from the traditional lantern has been much quicker than I expected, and it’s almost… ALMOST lighting up my doorstep.

Seeing as I’ll probably never publish this post, I might as well describe the actual street that MV Towers resides on. It’s a 1940s/50s cul de sac, which until 2005, was illuminated by one Revo Moseley cast iron column, which was installed when the road was built. In 2005, the council installed a new lighting column at roughly the bottom third of the row, to cast light on the otherwise dark square. Both lanterns were Philips Streetfighter SGS101s, as was the tradition at the time. The council seemed to get batches of different lanterns and use them as general replacements.

In 2012, the streetfighter outside of my house got converted to a mercury. I won’t go into how and why this happened, but it did. Similarly, some time after, the other Streetfighter also received a mercury lamp. Nearby lanterns also received CDM lamps,leaving a white-light trail up the road.

In 2014, Hartlepool council began to replace their entire lantern stock with LED, starting off with the estates. The rules were, any column under 20 years old were to be relamped with LED lanterns, anything older would be replaced

Hundreds, if not thousands of lanterns were removed on the estates, replaced with Urbis Axia lanterns. The older (or concrete) columns stayed in their place, retaining their old lanterns. For now.

As of the time I type this, the replacement of new column lanterns is still taking place, and as far as I know, there’s not been a widespread replacement of columns. I say this, as of December 27th, and my passing of the concrete Mercuries off Oxford Road, they were still there and retaining their GEC Z5590s. I assume, that when they finish the mass replacement of the lanterns, the council will start on the 2nd phase, and begin to replace the elderly columns.

This, if you’ve been paying attention is where it has significance for me, as on 12th January, at about 10:42, the new Philips Streetfighter got removed, and is now replaced with one of the Urbis Axias. As it’s still on an old column, the first Streetfighter remains intact. For now.

For my own records, and seeing as I’ll probably never publish this, the rest of the nearby street (that road beginning with R, just in case I do publish it) was relamped on 19th January. Oddly, this is the first time on this day, that the webcam ever malfunctioned, yet still managed to record an image. 19/1/15 07:25:29 – the image has JPEG corruption on it, but not through the entire picture. The next picture taken was at 7:37:09. I’m not sure if the machine rebooted, but a number of the lanterns in the picture had power cycled and were just coming back on. I was out of the house by this point, and on my way to Employment Palace, so I’d have never seen this, or known what happened. What I do know is that column 6 in R-road, carrying a ZX1 and a CDM lamp had been off most of the night, as the lamp had failed, and would only remain on for a small period of time, had its final restrike. It fired back up, and was switched off shortly after by its sensor. At 06:53, it switched off for its final time. At 10:11, this particular lantern was replaced. The rest of the road’s lanterns were also replaced in this time period. It signified the end.

The end of street lighting as I know it. Or rather, the beginning.

Something I noticed entirely by accident, while looking through the webcam photos is that the lights dim just after midnight and brighten up again at around 5AM, give or take 10 minutes. This intrigues me. I’ve seen videos where these lights dim, but I’ve never seen it for myself. The wqay that is apparently hard coded into the lanterns is that it reduces brightness slowly over a period of about five minutes, which would make sense. I suppose if the light is right outside your window, you don’t want a sudden flash of brightness.

I’ve emailed Andrew to see if he can shed any light (ha ha) on this, but as of yet, he hasn’t responded. I’m interested to learn more.