The record shop that almost destroyed me…

NOTE: I originally wrote this in a rather pissed-off and unhappy mood. I’ve slept on it since then… I’m only publishing it because everyone likes a car-crash style blog post.

Sigh. It’s a Saturday night. It’s one of those times when I really should be meticulously updating my record collection with the huge haul of wonderful vinyl that I have acquired. but no, I’m sat here with a can of Carling, freezing feet and a pet lip the size of an inflatable dinghy.

If you don’t bother with Facebook, or have me blocked for some reason, you won’t have seen my realtime updates. You won’t have noticed that I was due to travel to Newcastle to attend a local record shops’ “All you can carry for a tenner” deal.

So, let’s start from the very beginning, shall we? Approximately three weeks ago, I get tagged in a post which says “All the records you can cary for a tenner”. It’s one of those things that make your heartbeat skip a beat. Or that could have been the cholesterol in my blood. I don’t know, but I began to make plans in my head to go.

This was around the time that I got my eyes done, as you can remember from the previous post. Even from that moment, my gut was telling me not to bother. All the records you can carry for a tenner with my scrawny little pins? Would I really be getting my money’s worth? And then the logistical task of getting them from Newcastle to the leafy mansion known as Mercuryvapour Towers would be a nightmare.

I had a couple of offers of lifts, but these fell by the wayside, due to work commitments. So, I was literally on my own.

Flash forward to this morning. My alarm clock rings to the tune of… whatever the default alarm sound is on Ericsson phones. Despite knocking 7.5 pints back the night before, I was unusually ready for the occasion. Clothes were donned, pockets were lined with mandatory headphones, and a selection of “bags-for-life”, and I set off to catch the 9:02 train to Newcastle.

An uneventful journey took place, except the train was 6 minutes late.

Bing bong! The next station is Newcastle. Well, that’s what I imagined the announcement would have been, I was listening to the 12″ version of “Lambada” by Kaoma as we pulled into the station.

I walked the small journey where the record shop was, expecting to see a few people there… and well.


For those of you who want to play along with Google Maps…

Click here

The queue starts where that blue wall is, and if you turn 180 degrees, then turn right at the end of the road, at the top is the shop. That’s your queue.


I could have walked off. I’d already had backup plans. It was a nice day. Cold, but not raining. The backup plan was to get the metro to Whitley Bay. There are plenty of charity shops there, and they are all virgin territory to me. Yes, there’s a joke in there somewhere.

I joined the queue, mainly just to get a GPS location to post to Facebook, and to see how far it moved after 10 minutes. The answer was, not far. But, after 10 minutes. I thought I might as well see it a bit further.

30 minutes into it, and I wasn’t quite sure whether ice was forming in my blood, or whether the excess sugar in there was turning it to sherbert. Either way, the longer I waited, the more I was determined to stick it out. Every small march of a few steps closer up the road released a small fanfare in my mind, as it brought me closer to records, and more importantly, warmth.

Hours ticked by. I got sick of the music on my phone the instant it played One Direction (I can explain). I was getting colder by the minute.

2 hours into the ordeal, I turned the corner. There it was! The big, white sign… totally obscured by a sea of people… but at least I knew where it was! The Chinese Christian church, the Indian restaurant, the tattoo shop, and then the record shop. Heavenly angels sang overhead. It surely was almost over.

2 hours, 30 minutes ticked by. The moment I was dreading arrived. Years of heavy drinking means my bladder has been honed to become a finely tuned barrel, capable of holding enough liquid to fill the ballast tanks of a small passenger ferry. Unfortunately, thanks to years of spicy curries, the same can’t be said about my bowels. It was either flight, flight or shite. I had to rely on complete strangers to keep my place, and not see me as some kind of pushy-inny pushy-inner, when all I wanted to to was pushy-outy.

Thankfully, the matter was taken care of, thanks to a nearby pub, and I rightfully took my place back in the circle of life. Er, Sorry, the queue. Boredom was soon setting in, not just with me, but the rest of the queue. Someone even said “If I was here on my own, I’d have gone by now”.

Everything stalled at this point. The queue stopped moving. Very little progress was made for an hour, and we’re now up to 3 hours 30 minutes. It became clear this was because they were clearly running out of stock, and there were still about 50 people in front of me. My fears were confirmed, when a guy came out of the shop and announced that had virtually nothing left. Plenty of CDs, but the vinyl had all but gone. I was heartbroken. This always happens, whenever I do something like this, it never works out. I never get there. I am forced to live a life where I avoid queues because I know, I’ll get to the front, and they’ll have ran out of what I want. This was proven today, but in a more extreme scale.

I wanted to prove myself that I was being daft with this theory, but no, I was right, I am never destined to succeed with queues. I could be holding what I want to buy and they’ll still come up and say it’s out of stock.

It’s not very often these days that I feel rage, but that was one moment, where I walked out of the queue, and headed up Westgate Road, almost with my head in my hands, the last insult was having to walk past the place, and see the amount of people in there, clutching their piles of vinyl. I can imagine what they felt like on Bullseye, when Jim Bowen announced “Look at what you could have won”. I literally could have cried. Both shoulders had seized up from shivering. My back had pretty much locked from standing for so long.

I should have listened to my little bony arms and just not bothered.

I’ll tell you how bad I felt. I went charity shop diving afterwards. Mainly to warm up, mainly because there was no way I was going home empty handed. Here’s what I picked up…

A K-Tel instrumentals album called “Horizons”. K-tel for fuck’s sake.
Neil Young – Decade, 2CD set for £1.50. Actually, that’s not bad. Don’t mind a bit of Neil Young
Prefab Sprout – From Langley Part to Memphis…. scratched to buggery for 99p
The Adventures – Trading Secrets With the Moon… also badly scratched for 99p. It’s the follow-up to “Broken Land”, and I’ve never heard it. And, if those marks don’t come off, I never will.
Pete Yorn – musicforthemorningafter – I had one of his singles. The album was 50p. Suppose it’s worth a punt. No idea who he is.

Anyway, this browsing of CDs calmed me down a little, and I vented my spleen on the stores’ facebook page about their lack of communication.

Back to “the day after”. In hindsight, I probably should have calmed down first. My choice of words were harsh. It was pointed out to me that only 4 people work there. My conclusion is that it wasn’t their fault entirely. To a point, anyway. It’s not their fault the facebook posting spread like wildfire. It’s not their fault the amount of people turned up.

I do still think more could have been done to “help” the crowd, with more updates on stock levels and the likelihood of not getting anything. By that point, I’#d have been happy with a cup of water.

The little red bloke on my left shoulder, however thinks “£10 for everyone past the front door? Ker-ching!”

It’s an argument that could run and run. I do know, however, that “one bitten, twice shy” comes to mind, and next time an event like this happens, I shall think of my comfy, comfy pillows, and the duvet that I really could do with replacing.

Diabetic retinopathy and why I no longer like lasers…

Long time viewers and people who know me in the flesh know that I’ve been in and out of the Eye Infirmary recently in a bid to prevent me from going blind. It’s not much fun.

I won’t bore you of the details of what the disease actually is. You’ve got Wikipedia for that mundane task. Instead, I’m here to tell you ehat it’s like to have your eyes shot at with lasers, as if your retinas were in some type of scaled down 1980s James Bond movie. I don’t find it a nice experience.

Let me start off by saying the NHS is brilliant. It’s probably the only thing that this country has left before it collapses into a slurry of overpriced train fares and Jeremy Kyle. The staff do an excellent job for far less money than they deserve.

Anyway, my treatment has been taking place at Sunderland Eye Infirmary. It’s a building, that from the outside resembles a paper factory from the 1960s. You almost expect to see middle-aged men in tweed jackets walking out of the place with clipboards and questionable combovers smoking a pipe. I find the look of the place intimidating, and not very friendly. I’m not a fan of architecture, but give me a hospital-type place with bright open spaces and the odd fake plant hanging from a balcony any day.

I’ll start from the last time I went, a few weeks ago. It was an afternoon appointment, most probably the last one of the day. It was getting dark when we got there. I handed the letter over the reception, and waited in “Outpatients B”. It’s a small waiting area, with chairs, covered in pink plastic covering which you only ever see in hospitals. Some chairs were normal. Some chairs were large, some chairs were those large, wing-back chairs you expect to see old people die in.

Previous visits gave me the knowledge that the only place you can get any type of 4G signal is one of the high-backed ones, so I settled myself down for a wait. No sooner had I got my phone out of my pocket, about to spout some pessimistic bullshit onto facebook, my name was called. That was quick.

Every time I go there, I get an eye test. Read the chart on the wall. Cover that eye… yes, my bad one is still fucked. I’ve had them so often now that I’ve managed to memorise the first few lines, but then I can never see past the first two lines anyway. Eyedrops are administered which make your pupils dilate. This means, scouting out the best spot for a 4G signal was entirely worthless, as my vision is now so blurred, if I went for a piss, I’d grab a pube instead.

They strap a bracelet to my arm. Something I’ve not seen the point of. they could simply ask if I’m going to go wandering off, and if I say no, save the penny or two from printing it off. Nobody looked at it.

Anwyay, off I go back to the waiting area. My phone appeared just as a white blur, so the only other entertainment was a telly on the wall showing Antiques Road Trip. They say true love makes your pupils dilate too, so mine must have been going back on themselves at the sight of the dreamy Anita Manning. “Oh, hellloooo deeeeearrryy”. Rawr.

These drops do take time to kick fully in, so I was there for about 45 minutes. It’s apparent when you’re in this state just how stupidly bright the waiting area is. Every second ceiling tile has a CFL bulb sticking out of it. I’m sure you could get away with half the brightness in there.

Anyway, Antiques Road Trip was about to end, and I really wanted to see how much they got for a pair of Sooty + Sweep puppets, but before I had chance to find out, my name was called. Awww.

I guess I could go back and check iplayer, but I can’t, for the life of me, remember what day I went. Bugger.

I was shown to a darkened room, where a contraption rested, that looked more like an instrument of torture than an instrument of good.

My details were confirmed, and the doctor suggested it was getting rather warm and she’d turn the air conditioning on. This didn’t go so well, as she had to get someone in to show her how to work the remote. Wait, hang on… You’re about to zap the living fuck out of my eyeballs, and you can’t work the air conditioning? My arse nipped to the seat.

More eyedrops were administered. These were to numb the pain. Allegedly.

the pain started instantly. This time, it was what she was doing to my ears, as she asked if I didn’t mind listening to Xmas music. To be fair, I’d have listened to a looped recording of a yelping dog if it made her feel comfortable

So, the procedure started, She stuck a lens to my eye, which I assume made it flat I didn’t question. I just wanted it over and done with as quickly as possible. A bar of light is shone in the eye, along with a series of 9 red dots. This is the laser’s sight. She would tap a pedal on the floor, and my sight would be filled with a green flash. Many green flashes in fact. Someone them even looked as if they were actually blinding me. The best way to describe this, is the centre of the flash, surrounded by an area of black vision. I’m guessing not many people reading this have played around with cameras, and overloading the sensors. but this is what it looked like.

This worried me. This never happened last time, back in 2013!

Oh, and then there was the pain. My word, I’ve never felt anything like it. Maybe those drops never actually went in my eye fully, but each flash coincided with a feeling of shooting into the back of the head, and emanating in a blast of white hot pain, feeling like it was coming from inside my head, behind my ear.

All of this to the tune of “Jingle Bells”.

Ever since then, when I blink, or suddenly saw a flash, for instance if I look at my phone screen in the middle of the night, I could see several little areas of 9 dots arranged in a small grid where the laser went. This was disconcerting and worrying to say the least.

Anyway, today I went back and had exactly the same procedure done. This time, I got extra anaesthetic eye drops, and I asked about the dots. It was a different doctor, and she informed me this was normal, and that they’ll fade after a couple of months. We’ll see, over the coming months just how successful it’s been.

So, I’ll see you all again soon……. hopefully.

Firing blanks

And so, 2016 on here didn’t go exactly as planned. I tend to do an annual post bang on the stroke of midnight, so I can pretend I’m sat at my computer hovering over the “publish” button just as New Year kicks in. Except nooo, this year, my usually trusty script decided it wasn’t going to work properly, and left the post in “draft” status

Anyway, I’m sure you’re all too hungover to even care about that. Go and have some turkey. Or something.

Happy 2016!

If you’re reading this at the moment it comes out, you’re a very, very sad person. If you’re reading it several minutes after 12, then this is for you. Have a happy and prosperous 2016. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. I don’t know what that’s even supposed to mean, but have a good one anyway.

I considered writing a “Review of 2015” post, but it was so dreary, I couldn’t even bring myself to type it out.