My new toy

What’s got 2 legs, drinks crap beer and spends far too much in charity shops?

Well, I doubt I even need to answer that question, for you know that idiot is me. When it comes to charity shop shopping, I have two rules, never buy anything over a fiver, and never buy anything electrical.

So, on Thursday, I bought a £6 tape recorder.

This isn’t just any tape recorder, it’s a 4-channel tape recorder. Something I’ve never seen before, but apparently, they were once a thing. And this one is in really good condition

For some time, I’ve been after something that can play tapes. I’ve been after one to hook up to my computer, as I still have a load of tapes from my childhood to go through, and convert. I’m sure I was an absolute scream when I was 9, but it’s things like the old radio clips I want to convert. I do have a USB one, but the sound quality is dubious at best. I wanted something a but more… sturdy.

On Thursday, after knocking back a bag of chips for my dinner, I sauntered back to work. and decided to check out the Alice House charity shop. I was on the mooch for CDs, after only picking up a small amount on my travels. Before I even got to see the rotating plastic demons, something caught the very corner of my good eye. It looked like a tape recorder. And, clearly it was! I took it over to the little seating area they have, and by the time I’d sat down, a complete stranger said “You’ve got a bargain there!”. Upon closer examination, the sticker shows that it had only been PAT tested the day before, so yeah, it looks like I was indeed the first one to pick up the bargain!

Now, despite the obvious difference of having more knobs than a Taiwanese brothel, I didn’t quite know what I had hold of. Turns out it wasn’t just any old tape recorder. This beauty has the rare ability to record an all four tracks of a cassette tape. For the uninitiated, cassettes tapes have four tracks on them, but you only ever hear two of them at a time, the left and right channel. You turn the tape over, and you hear the other two left and right channels. This particular recorder uses all 4 tracks on the tape at once. Back in the day, it was a simple and relatively easy way to get a multi-track setup for home recording.

Last night, I plugged it in to make sure it all worked. And it did! One slight problem was that it was playing all 4 tracks at once, meaning at Side A was being played forwards, and Side B was being played backwards. 4 channels, y’see… there must be a way to have it just play stereo, but time was getting on, and I demoted it to the cupboard. I had a feeling it might have stayed there for a while.

I was speaking to a lad at work who knows more about this type of stuff than I do, he said just change the pan and tilt controls, and set channels 1 and 2 to L/R. This was too obvious to work

My interest in the device was rekindled. I’d planned in my head how I was going to announce my new bargain to the world. I hadn’t knocked up a Youtube video for a while. My camera battery was charged AND I knew where all the bits of my tripod were. This was all falling into a place.

I even got home and shot the beginning of the video. There was also a truly hilarious joke that I was going to include that saw me plug the power adaptor in, I’d then turn the light off, and then edit it so it looked like it tripped the lights, followed by a truncated “OHHH, FUUUU.”, and then immediately cut to the close-up shot of the tape recorder all set up and working, followed with “Only joking!”

This is where karma kicked me right in the balls. I’d got it set up, camera positioned, aaaand, the power supply for it went south. The power light was flickering, and the output lights were jumping around. I was not amused. Turns out the bit of cable that goes into the power supply is intermittent. Looks like someone’s picked up the (relatively heavy and brick-like – you can see it in the bottom left of that screenshot) power supply by the cable, and stretched it to near breaking point. Could this be the reason why it looked so good? Was the previous owners’ attempt to use it thwarted by a small piece of cable? I will never know,

One thing I do know is that it’s working again, after fashioning a makeshift splint from a bit of masking tape and some cable ties. I’ll farthom out a more glamorous s

I’ve yet to hook it up properly to my computer to have a proper play around with it, but I’m eager to see if it sounds as good as it looks…

Car boots, football, obscure tapes and manky keyboards

hmmm. It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update. I’ve had a bit of writers’ block. Well, I wrote a couple of things, but they just ended in vitriolic rants about certain people. Thankfully, however, last week was a week off work, so I’ve had time to catch up with things that I love. Record collecting, for example.

The last couple of weeks have certainly been part of a record collecting binge. This is the first time since I was a kid that I remember having such a long, hot summer, and since the weathermen have guaranteed long, hot weekends, I’ve been able to arrange trips to car boot sales with Chris. Last week, it was Seaham, and the week before was Sedgefield.

Now, I’m sure I started typing about the Sedgefield one, but I can’t find any trace of it, so I mught have dreamt it, but basically, I bought lots and lots of CDs and records. £2 entry fee, which wasn’t too bad. I just remember knocking out some crap jokes. A guy selling plants, and I said to Chris “they’re mint, them”. Of course, it was an actual mind plant. Shris laughed. the guy behind the stall said he must have been easily amused. I was just happy that someone else heard the joke. On another stall, I commented that one of the CDs he was selling was Absolute Garbage I had to spell it out to the store owner, who seemed to be slightly offended that I happened to be slagging off one of his CDs. No mate, just a crap pun.

It seemed to close early, as most of the people were packing up to go see England play. By the time I’d got home, they’d scored 5 goals. Turned out to be a great day overall.

Another week passed, and it was time flr the first Middlesbrough record fair. This was the first one for two years, and it was nice to have it back! Unfortunately, the day ended in absolute disaster… hanging around for three hours for a lift, only for my lift’s battery to run flat, and having to get the bus home anyway. I was fuming, and my foot went up like a pudding because of it. Great times.

I did bump into Glen – a fellow blogger and ex-work colleague whom I’ve not mentioned on here for what must be a decade, vut we had a bloody good catchup for about an hour. Preally nice to see him again.

Sunday arrived, and another visit to a car boot sale was arranged. Chris wanted some “tat” for “something” – saying what he wanted, and what for might actually spoil a surprise for someone, so I won’t say what. Of course, there’s absolutely no chance that the person involved will ever read this blog, but you never know. Stranger things have happened.

Anyway, we turned up, nice and early at the car boot. Roughly 9AM. There were a queue of cars waiting to get in and set up, but not many buyers. Had we got there too early? Well. Turns out that if you’re a buyer, it costs you £5 to get in before 11:30. the doors then close between 11:30 and 12:30, meaning if you want to get in early, you pay an inflated price. If you want to pay the cheap price, you’ve got to then queue for an hour, and miss out on potential bargains. Crafty.

Seeing as there were very few stalls set up, and it didn’t look that big anyway, myself and Chris went to Sunderland. Honestly, you’ve heard of ghost towns. You’ve never seen a ghost town until you’ve walked around Sunderland city centre at 9:30. My word. Even the pigeons were hobbling about, looking like they had hangovers.

I couldn’t bear the thought of being in Sunderland for any time longer than I needed to, so I quickly abandoned the idea of hanging around there for two hours, then queuing in the baking sun. Instead, I bit the bullet, paid myself and Chris into the car boot at the inflated price. Damn them. their cunning plan worked.

Unfortunately, there seemed to be more stalls selling absolute garbage than music, which, to me was a little saddening, although I did come home with quite a few CDs, a Zodion SS6 photocell for a streetlight, and a cassette tape for a format I don’t actually own…

Ah yes, the humble DCC. I remember, as a kid, I picked up a copy of Q magazine from 1993, that had a huge article on DCC. I mainly got it because it had a free CD on the front. As I’d only picked up my first CD player the Christmas before, any type of cheap CD to expand my music library was always welcome. Though, as a snotty teenager, the articles went more in-depth than what I liked. I think I’d only stopped getting comics at that point. Still, I was interested to see if this format ever made it into the wild. It didn’t, DCC sank without a trace (at least in your everyday consumer spectrum anyway) and I never ever saw one for sale.

That is, until I bought the one above. the guy had three for sale, one unwrapped. He’d clearly, at the time, bought these by accident, thinking they were just standard cassette tapes. I like to think he’s been carrying these to boot sales every weekend since the 90s and this is the first time he’s sold one. Probably not though.

Fast forward a week. If I haven’t bored you already, the weekend was quiet. I didn’t actually go anywhere. Mainly because I couldn’t. My guts were in absolute tatters for 4 days. No idea what caused it, It was a slightly toned down version or what happened to me when I was about 17. I’ll not go into it, but trust me, if I needed to go to a fancy dress party, I could have swallowed some gravel and went as a shotgun. Not nice at all.

Tuesday was the day when I finally mustered up the courage to leave the house safe in the knowledge that I wouldn’t be splattering my jeans. I’d made it my resolution to visit every charity shop in Hartlepool. The first stop was The YMCA shop, where I picked up probably my 2nd best purchase of the day… “No Sound Without Silence” by The Script. Not the type of album I’d normally see myself go for, but when I was in Amsterdam a few years ago, it was the only CD that was played on the coach, and I ended up liking it. Not enough to pay any decent money for, but for 50p, I couldn’t go wrong. It also has the theme to “Mrs Brown’s Boys Da Movie” on it… Terible film, great theme. Sorry.

I travelled from one end of the town to the other. While I was waiting for the bus, I heard a young chav lass shout “Fuck off” to her child. The child was below full speaking age, and was happily gibbering away to his mother Her response… “Oh, yeah, yeah. I had one of those, but the wheels fell off”. I had to laugh.

Towards the end of the day, I headed to the town. In one of the charity shops that shall remain nameless. A lad was looking at some CDs, went to the counter with 3 CDs, but the manager saw he was holding 4 just a minute earlier. Unknown to her, he’d put one back, but it was too late. She’d asked to check in the bag he was carrying. Well. You should have heard it. Not from him, but his mother, who was elsewhere in the store.

“Are you the manager? What’s your head office number? I’ll be reporting this! Do you know how much I spend in here? You didn’t apologise for looking in there”

There were so many things wrong with her argument. Now I know a little about customer services, after being in a role like this, but at the end of a telephone.

Point number 1. You can report staff all you want to a head office. If they’re double checking to make sure that stock hasn’t been stolen, then they’re always going to side with the member of staff. That’s your job. Point number 2. Shops are shops. If you’re offended by someone doing their job, then fuck off. Don’t come back. Don’t buy products from them ever again. If you dropped down dead tomorrow, the charity won’t fold. They won’t be looking out for you, as they stand underneath a big “TO LET” sign with a key in the shutters. No, ther people will buy stuff.

I did feel sorry for the manager behind the counter. I just rolled my eyes, as the complaints echoed out of the store and down the street. It’s probably water off a ducks’ back, but still.

Sorry, I went off on more of a ran than I intended there. I just hate rude people. Anyway you’ll notice that the Script CD was only the 2nd best purchase of the day. I’m sure you’re dying to know the best….

A keyboard. Yes, one of those things that you type into. One of the stores had a plethora of keyboards dumped under the CDs. Now, these were dusty old things. It was clear to see that there was a nice Dell keyboard underneath all of the tat. It looked practically brand new, but with the dust, and a very small amount of key wear.

Now, some places state that keyboards have more bacteria on them than toilet seats. I’ve not looked into that statement in any great detail, but it’s always had me a little wary over 2nd hand keyboards, but at £1.75, this was too good to miss. the knife didn’t come with it, by the way, it was just a make-shift key puller.

It had occurred to me, while approacting the wrought iron gates and gravel driveway or Mercuryvapour Towers, that this keyboard was probably hiding something. Why was it practically unused? Off came the keys, aaaaand….

Oh holy Christ! What the fuck is that? My god, I’d just gotten over a stomach infection, it looked very much like I was on course for another one. I have no idea what this stuff was. These Dell keyboards have drain holes, so thankfully, whatever it was only got caught under the F keys. Out came the Cillit Bang. The smell coming from the muck was ungodly. At a guess, from the colour and the smell, I’d have to say it was vomit, but I’ll never know. After an hour of scrubbing / spraying / wiping down with antibacterial stuff., it came up looking absolutely brilliant, and I can confirm that it actually fully works, because I’ve been typing on it for the entirety of this post!

Writer’s block. It doesn’t come any tougher than this!

Well, OK. I can’t exactly class what I do on this blog as writing, but I’m doing it anyway. It seems over the last few months, the part of my brain that converts the thoughts in my head into “words” (some of them, admittedly made up), and then down my arms, to the fingers, finally onto the inky blackness of my keyboard, has been playing up. I’ve had loads to write about despite the fact I’ve been on the dole, but every time I sit and start typing, I get about three lines down, the whole thing turns to shit, and I end up with yet another barely-started entry in my “drafts” folder, helplessly waiting for the precise moment that the mixture of caffeine, sugar, and quite possibly alcohol, finally kick that part of my brain into gear, and the words cascade into this blog, like some weird form of UTF-8 diarrhoeah.

So, let’s start off by stating the obvious. Both of the people who read this, have found out through Facebook that I do indeed have a new job. It starts tomorrow, and yes, I’m as shocked as anyone.

That’s the last I’ll say on it for now, as you should know what I’m like, for my infamous “splots”. Basically, this is the sound of my arse imploding, after I get overly paranoid about what I say on here, and that my place of employment may very well be spying on me.

I don’t know what I’m bothered about, if I’m honest. It’s been a fact for centuries, that nobody actually reads a blog, and instead they just stop off to look at the purdy pictures. And that just goes to prove that in the world of social media, the humble blog doesn’t really have anything to say anymore. You’re probably not reading this now, you’re just looking for the next photo, so I could go on from here and literally slag off every employer I’ve ever worked for, however, that would leave me without references, and that would be a bad thing.

So, admittedly, it’s been since January since I last updated this site properly. I do apologise. February was pretty much a write-off. I had a chest infection that laid me up on the couch for a good long while. Pretty much the entire month, if I’m honest.

I really can’t be arsed with a timeline of what I’ve been up to, places I’ve visited, that type of stuff. That’s what I have Twitter for. I can, however say that I’ve been trying to further my education. Back when I initially signed on, I bumped into an old security guard who worked at Employment Palace. He informed me of a cabling course running in the grounds of HUFC. Hartlepool United Footba… etc. A trip to the job centre later confirmed me as being on the course…

Unfortunately, due to the job, I’m not actually able to complete the course, and this was pretty much the “fear” all along. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to finish, as I didn’t plan to be on the dole for 12 weeks. Still, I’ve left with some skills I never had before. Not many people can say they’ve done this…

This is 100 core cable, routed into 100 RJ45 sockets for voice communication. Or something. My brain's not really switched on at the moment.
This is 100 core cable, routed into 100 RJ45 sockets for voice communication. Or something. My brain’s not really switched on at the moment.

… and know exactly what each strand of wire does. The downside is now, that my head is full of absolutely useless anagrams which I’ll probably never use again. “We Ride Big Yellow Vans” and “Be On Guard By Six”. both refer to how you terminate 20-core cabling, and the colours of it. It was all genuinely interesting, even though I am usually shit at anything practical. for someone who could barely wire a plug, building a working RJ45 ethernet cable has got to be one of my proudest moments to date. Well, OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but yeah, still proud.

so, that course took up 12 hours of my week up. I have also been converting some of my old audio tapes to digital format. I can’t remember if I mentioned I picked up a USB tape deck a few months back. Well, I did, and it’s pretty awesome. It was spurred on, once again, by Chad. I’d got a bit drunk the other night and headed off to Youube. During my time there, I’d discovered that the demo version of one of my favourite albums, “Bridge of Spies” by T’Pau, not only had been released, it was on Spotify. Oh my word! Off I went to Facebook, to show my approval of this…

Me: I’ve just found a demo version of “Bridge of Spies”. The first album I ever owned, despite it being on a C90, supplied by Chad Phillips. Recorded 2 years before the album’s release. Every single track is a demo version. I’m up to track 3 on spotify, I must own this.

Chad: I have no memory of ever owning, copying for you or listening to this album. How do you remember all this?

Me: I literally grew up with this tape. As strange as it sounds, it’s one of the most important pieces of plastic in my life. Remember when my Speccy broke, and you (or your parents) donated the C16 to the “keep Jamie happy” fund? I listened to this tape over and over again while games loaded. Probably something to do with the C16 having its own tape deck. The other side of the tape was even more important to me, with such classics on it as Status Quo’s “In The Army Now”, and Samantha Fox’s “I Surrender (To the spirit of the night)”.

I briefly wittered on about this very tape and album, back in 2008, which is when I first started to digitise my tape collection. Sadly, I have no idea what I did it, but I can at least provide an image of the tape.

Er, anyway, enough about that tape, as there’s been some classic finds… a 30 second clip of the afore-mentioned Chad, remixing the “Why Don’t you…?” theme, involving exchanging Y-fronts for boxers…

Another, slightly more harrowing recording, is one I have absolutely no information on, except I’m on it, and I was possibly in school, in IT class. I was going to post an actual MP3 file of it, but it didn’t seem right, seeing as I don’t know who else is on there, so here’s a transcript.

Person 1: Get off my computer NOW!
Person 2: Hey, Leave him alone!
Person 1: Get off me computer y’ daft cunt, what did you do that for?
Me: Get off! Because I fucking did
Person 1: Did that hurt?
Me: Oh yeah, it did fully.
[recording stops]

Again, I have no idea why this 15-second recording exists, but it certainly leaves more questions than answers. I was never the most popular kid at school, so was I being bullied? Did I record this just to get evidence? Or was I being a twat, and had sabotaged Person 1’s computer in order to gauge a reaction so I could record it for comedy purposes? why did I have access to a tape recorder in school anyway? The rest of the tape doesn’t provide any other clues. It’s all just music I’d taped off records.

I have yet to sift through them in any great detail, but when I do, I shall post some finding on here. And I might also keep you updated about the job.