London 2017, day 1.

Yes, I’m aware that I came back from London over a week ago, yet I’ve only just got around to starting to type out it. “Why is that”, I hear you ask. WIt’s because I’m in the middle of recovering from it. I’m under doctors’ orders to keep the weight off my right foot, because, possibly due to a case of worn / ill-fitting footwear, soft Hartlepudlian feet, and walking for approximately 30 miles in the course of three days, means that I managed to lose a large percentage of the skin on my foot.

I did have an accomplice with me for the trip, but this person doesn’t want to be named in the blog. It’s to be expected. I mean, who wants to openly admit sharing a hotel room with me? Therefore, this person will be named as “Accomplice”.

Aaaanyway. Onto the trip. I arranged athe the abode of Accomplice just before 9AM. Thankfully transport for us to get to Darlington had been pre-arranged, as the train was at 10:28. We were both expecting the A19 to be heaving at this time, so we set off at about 9. Half an hour later, (including a stop off to pick up excessive amounts of Pom-Bears), we were there. Darlington Station isn’t really a place you’d want to spend an hour at, but I guess it’s better than missing the train.

The train journey was uneventful, expect for the occasional piercing scream from the child in the seat in front. Admittedly, I was slightly hungover, so this didn’t really help matters. Headphones did, however.

So, we arrive in London with the sun shining. Hordes of fellow travellers depart the train, and off we go towards the hotel. It was about a 5 minute walk from King’s Cross to the hotel, though the weight of my bag made it feel more like 50. Accomplice had been to the same hotel previously, so at least we knew the way.

We were early for the hotel by about two hours so couldn’t check in, but were allowed to drop our bags. That was a weight off. I don’t know if that’s often a thing that hotels do. but it could have helped with the times I’ve been places and carried my bag around until check-in time. I’ll have to remember that.

Seeing as we were now bagless, it was time to have a walk around. Up Euston Road, along Great Portland Street, and down Oxford Street because we both agreed it was time to grab the tube, seeing as we’d pretty much just done a “lap”. I make no secret about hating the underground, but it’s so convenient. Could have done without the £12.30 price tag for a day ticket though. Sure, an Oyster card might have worked out cheaper, but you know I hate shellfish. A-haha, etc.

There were a few places I wanted to go. Not exactly touristy things. Camden, and The World’s End pub were two of these. I’ve never seen the film, but still always wanted to go there.

We had a brief walk around Camden. It was crowded, seeing as it was mid afternoon, in the height of summer.. Camden Market really is weird though. It’s all of the stuff you’ve never realised you’ve never needed and actually didn’t want, but with really nice food stalls. They also get arsey if you want to take a photo too.

We decided that we’d come back after things have died down a little. Our stomachs were rumbling, so it was time to find something to eat. A quick dash on the tube later, and we ended up in Leicester Square. Accomplice had informed me there was a nice Italian place “around here somewhere” that would satisfy our foodular needs. Turns out we couldn’t find it, and instead went to “Steak & Co.”

You genuinely can’t go wrong with a good steak, and at this point I was starving, so it seemed a perfect choice. We were provided with a menu. A complete waste of time. I felt like saying to the woman at the door “Two slabs of beef, chips, bit of pepper sause… STAT! But, before I’d plucked up the courage to talk to a female, the waiter was on-hand with a notepad.

“Yeah, I’ll have that. that, glass of coke, and can I have it medium rare please”.

“Oh, it comes rare, YOU cook it how you want.”

What kind of actual voodoo was this? I’m in a restaurant, and you want me to cook my steak? Oh, okay, my knowledge of steak barely expands above Frankie + Benny’s, but… prepare my own steak? Eh?

It turns out, they bring out the steak on a massive, hot stone, and you cut it, fry it, and add the ingredients as you see fit. Admittedly, I expected to spend the next two days in the hotel bog, but nope, I managed to somehow prepare a steak on a hot stone and cook it all by myself, without food poisoning. It came to just under £25 for steak, chips and a glass of coke, but my word, we’re still talking about that steak now.

So, happily fed, we headed back off to Camden.

Crap photo opportunities aside, we headed to The Worlds End.

Before I found out how much a pint of “Soft Southern Piss” would cost, a small voice beside me said “What do you want?” Holy cow. Accomplice had offered to buy a pint in what would surely be the most expensive establishment we’d ever been in. Pint of your finest lager please, Barkeep! Well, actually it was Brooklyn lager, but still at 5.60 a pint, I made it last about an hour.

Brewdog is a brand we both have a bit of an affection to. Accomplice likes trying the different ales they have on offer. I like it because there’s less chance of it tasting like cat piss. On a night out, I buy the bottles of IPA. On a night out like this, I bought the draught lager. I thought that it may have been better value for money, seeing as it was my round. Nope. Pretty much the same price. Two pints in, and over 11 quid light.

Unfortunately, Accomplice had bought a “dark lager. Not up to their usual standards of taste, and if I hadn’t have necked three quaretrs of it, it’d have ended up down the sink.

So, Camden was completed. The tube was still open, and there was time to do the touristy stuff. I’d never seen Tower Bridge lit up before, so seeing I had my camera, we headed down there. Of course, we did get slightly lost, but ended up walking past a bar called “Fuckoffee” I took photos, but they were shite. Maybe you’ll be able to work out the name from this…

The walk continued, and it suddenly dawned upon us that Tower Bridge probably wasn’t in the direction we were heading. The GPS that my phone recorded clearly proved this.

Note that we didn’t suddenly swim over the other side of the river and back again. That’s just Google’s “Timeline” feature being slightly less creepy for a second.

Naturally, there were some night time river shots. One of which,


Yeah, not bad I suppose.

It was pushing 10pm by this point, so we walked the “short” distance between Tower Bridge and London Bridge, hopped on the tube and went back to the hotel.

Fasten your seatbelts, Day 2 is going to be a long one…

Strange radio interference from the 1980s.

How’s this for a niche post? Yes, I’m looking at YOU, my dear readers, to help identify some interference we used to receive on local radio stations. Now now, that would be too easy. No, this is taken from an off-air recording I made in 1989.

I used to hear this a lot, and I used to tape off the radio a lot, but this is the only recording I know of, of this particular interference. Yes, I know, I’m not going to discover aliens eith this particular tape, and there’ll be a logical explanation, but I simply don’t have it.

My personal thoughts? It’s the hospital pager system. At the time, I lived a mere stone’s throw from the local hospital, and seeing as these recordings were made on a little Saisho twin cassette deck thing, it’s possible the aerial could have been pointing in that direction? The interference lasts almost exactly a second, and seems to ramp up in strength. All of the recordings have this same characteristic.

So… erm… any ideas?

Extreme Robots!

Note: I originally wrote this post in April, didn’t publish it for a bit, and then we had all of that awful stuff in Manchester, so it just didn’t seem right publishing it at the time.Imagine you’re reading this in April.

I’ve been in Manchester so much recently that I’m expecting to get a bill for Council tax. Well, OK, it was only twice in two weeks, but you know what I mean.

Second time around, it was to see “Extreme Robots”. I’ve been a fan of Robot Wars since it kicked off on the telly about 20 years ago. I’ve always wondered what it was like to see it up close and personal. Despite the show being revived, I’m guessing that getting tickets for the actual recording of the program is a nigh-on impossible task, seeing as filming only takes place over 4 days.

When “The person who must not be named’ noticed that a similar “touring” version had started up, I grabbed the tickets as fast as humanly possible (or I might have waited until pay day, I can’t remember). The days ticked by, and before we knew it, 22nd April was on us, and it was time to head to Manchester.

The weather gods had smiled upon us, and the journey was uneventful. There was, of course, a stop for a Maccy D’s somewhere down the road, in the strangest looking service station I think I’ve been in. It looked more like an office block than an actual service station.

Food was consumed, and we headed off in the general direction of the Trafford Centre. We knew that the arena was going to be around there somewhere, so it made sense to actually just go there instead of venturing into the city centre, and its hilarious traffic system.

I’ve been to the Trafford Centre a good few times now, and rarely ever buy anything. I must have been there 5 times, and I’ve bought a Pendulum CD and a coat.

On an entirely different side note, I’m listening to music on my phone. I was halfway through typing “Pendulum” when my phone chose the song I actually bought the CD for… “9,000 Miles”, off the CD “In Silico”. There was a 1 in 12,463 chance of that happening. Weird. Er, anyway. The Trafford Centre. It rally is one of the more “picturesque” shopping centres I’ve been to, with foliage and fountains everywhere. Unfortunately, this is shown in the cost of everything in the shops, hence why I don’t buy much.

Time was approaching to go and find this arena where Extreme Robots was on. Turned out it was about a quarter of a mile away, but due to “The Other Person’s” inability to negotiate roundabouts, we ended up going on a two-mile loop of the place.

Eventually we got there. I think it was about 45 minutes before the show started, but already there were queues. I’d paid the extra and got the VIP tickets, which meant we got a shiny VIP pass, express entry, decent seating, and a tour of the pits at the end.

The first thing you’ll notice, is that, compared to the Robot Wars arena, this one is TINY. The guy who sat in front of us had actually been to see Robot Wars being filmed (lucky sod), and said the arena was about a third of the size.

Still, all of the Robot Wars hazards were there… the pit, the floor fipper and flames. Except the flipper and flames never actually worked, much to the audience’s amusement when the presenter guy tried to show them off.

Despite the size of the arena, there were still some of the old Robot Wars favourites turned up. TR3, and Eruption, who made it to the RW Grand Final this year amongst the famous names.

Of course, as this is a touring version that goes on for a number of shows, and possibly due to the size of the arena, there isn’t quite the amount of destruction allowed than in RW itself, still the axes seem real enough

In between the main bouts, there were contests for smaller robots too – about 10 of them in the arena at the same time – basically just a melee. Or however it’s spelt. I don’t think anyone could actually follow what was happening.

And so, the main bouts. Not going to say who won, just in case it’s the same for every show (which I doubt), but there was one “amusing” robot, named “Donald Thump”. Unfortunately, this robot, despite is hilarious name, didn’t actually work. Maybe that was the joke, but I think there were three bouts where it didn’t even begin to get going.

Of course, there was then the pit tour. And that was great. I was able to get up close and personal to some of the very robots I’d been watching on Robot Wars only a week or two earlier.

Included in the VIP ticket was a trip around the pits after the show finished, where you get to see the robots (and the operators) up close and personal.

Overall, a very enjoyable few hours. It’s left me wanting to see the real Robot Wars being recorded though. Now *that* would be epic.

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.

Repressed childhood memories #186

Picture if you will. The year is 1988. I sit in school, in Mrs. Dawson’s class, staring out of the window, paying very little to no attention to what is flowing from the afore-mentioned teachers’ mouth, instead he stars across the playground, watching two birds peck away at the remains of another dead bird, when all of a sudden, the classroom doors bang. It’s the caretaker, and behind him he’s pulling the school telly! Of course, it’s a Rumbelows one, on wheels. The class erupts with excitement as she pulls out an ancient VHS tape out of her desk drawer.

This will be the only time in the entire school day that the class will have her full undivided attention.

“If you’re good, I’ll let you hear the music”, she says, bribing the class into facing the front, as she struggles to get the sun visor across the top of the telly in place, as it collapses hilariously at least once. Of course, we’ll hear the music because Mrs Dawson only knew one button, and that was the Play button.

In goes the tape, and she presses play. There they are. For me, the highlight of computer animation at the time. Yes, four spinning ITV logos.

We could have been waiting for a programme on making cardboard boxes (to be honest, we probably were), but as long as I got to see (and hear) that, I was content.

These “Schools” TV shows were always broadcast in the morning, so when you were off poorly, it’d be a special treat to actually see that animation on your own telly. And, of course, I’d be sat there with the tape recorder, grabbing as much as I could.. Sometimes you’d get more of the track than before, as the gap in between each program was different

At the time, we thought that this music and countdown clock was there to help teachers queue the programme up for the class. While this may be partially right, there was also a much more mundane reason. These were the days before the national curriculum, and different areas were allowed to show different programmes, meaning that one region could show a 14-minute programme, and the rest of the country could be watching a 12-minute programme, so for that extra two minutes, the rest of the country will see an extra two minutes of the spinning ITVs while they wait for that region to catch up. On very rare occasions, they would play the full track, if there was an especially long wait between regions.

I remember getting this on audio tape, and I played it that much, the tape snapped. The music was surely lost to obscurity. This animation ran every school morning from 1987 until 1993. By then, the national curriculum was fully in place, and eventually there was no need for long breaks between programmes.

In 2002, I made a brief post about this animation and a site I’d discovered which had far too much technical detail about this. Sadly, the site no longer exists.

However, I did manage to find out who did the music. It was by someone named James Aldenham. Except it wasn’t, because that name was a pseudonym for Brian Bennett, the bloke out of The Shadows. It turns out that both of the pieces of music were released on CD, and due to their rarity, were stupidly expensive. They were on the “Music House” label.

“The Journey”, which is the long bit of music was released on “Atmosphere 12 MHA-!2)” and “Just a Minute”, unsurprisingly, the countdown clock music was on “That’s Entertainment (MHE-15)”

And, thanks to eBay, at under a fiver each, I have them both. Another part of my musical journey (pardon the pun) over.

EDIT 5/7/17: Here’s a little bit of extra information for those playing along at home. For the entirety of its run, both tracks were only ever aired in mono. During the initial introduction when the schools broadcast started for that day, the first minute of “The Journey” would always be played, before fading out to the clock. This recording was of a fixed length, and the audio was taken from the left channel track, and every other broadcast would be played from the right.

The reason for this, is that the left channel had slightly less instrumentation around the intro, so it could be made to sound more “peaceful” to start the day.