Hartlepool Dockfest Day 2

Ok, this is a slightly late post, rather shutting the stable door after the man dressed up as a horse has bolted.

I didn’t stay long on the 2nd day. I ‘d pretty much seen everything I’d needed to see, and most of the stuff going on was a repeat of the first day. Still, I stayed for a couple of hours, snapping away as usual…

After I’d taken these photographs of the 2009 Hartlepool Beauty Pageant (giggle), I moved slightly to my left, and took photos of the juggler, whose name escapes me now (Defying Gravity, perhaps?).

Well, that’s what is says on that sail thing anyway. Unfortunately, that particular act only gripped me for the same amount of time as it took for me to focus the camera lens and take about 3 shots.

Off we went for a walk over to the food tent. Once again, they’d been cooking something with fish in, but they were about to demonstrate the “smoothie bikes”. A clever conception. Strap a blender to the back of a normal bike. Stick a dynamo to the back wheel, and connect the dynamo to the blender. You can then pedal your way to a healthy, if slighty disgusting looking drink! Of course, the slight drawback is that you have to get someone to hold the lid on the blender whilst you pedal like fuck, mashing the fruit into oblivion.

I was hoping, at the end of the demonstration, the ‘chef’ would remove the lid and say “Smoothie Smoke, don’t breathe this!” Unfortunately, there was no smoke and so, no hilarious end to the demonstration.

We left the tent in time to see an amusing spectacle. Apparently, we’ve “grown out” of hanging monkeys here, instead, in the 21st century, we prefer to hang dogs…

Well OK, hang a bloke in a dog suit. This particular character was Barry The Beagle from Real Radio. And, apparently, he wasn’t any worse off for his ordeal…

I was hungry, and thirsty by this point, so it was time to refuel from one of the eatery vans dotted around. After having a (rather disappointing) tray of curry and chips the previous day, I decided to have a jacket potato, with a choice of topping. Naturally, I went for the chicken curry. This set me back £3.50 but I must admit it was one of the nicest things I’ve ever had from a mobile eatery establishment.

So, at this point Andrew decided he could hold off no more, and headed off to the sweetie stall. You see, placed right in the middle of the main area was a tent selling sweets, sort of a pick ‘n’ mix, but in a tent. While I waited, Andrew chose come confectionery. I asked him the price it came to.

£5.30

I thought he was joking, but clearly wasn’t. Five pounds, thirty pence. I almost fell backwards off the chair I wasn’t sitting on at the time.

At this point, there wasn’t anything else going on. Everyone was getting prepared for the big show in the main tent. This was of aboslutely no interest to me, so I phoned Daddykins to pick me up. This was one of the very rare occasions where he hadn’t had a drink on a Sunday. The phone call was interrupted by some people on stilts. I would class that as being one of the more peculiar moments of the two days.

So, as I disappeared off into the distance, Andrew stayed down to watch whatever was going on in the main tent. I got home, and laid on the couch whilst watching Wimbledon. Predictably, I drifted off on the couch, only to be awoken at approximately 5:30 by a thunderstorm. Wooo. I was hoping it would blow over by the time I’d planned to set off for the night’s festivities, which I’d planned to set off for at 6:30.

Thankfully it did, but I decided not to take my chances walking over, and instead got the bus down. Turned out, it would have been quicker for me to actually walk than to get the sodding bus.

By the time I got there, the queue was about half a mile long. Joy. Thankfully, Andrew had got there early, and was about 6ft away from the entrance. I “tagged alongside”. We were guaranteed awesome seats, and we got those. Second row, just left of centre.

In fact, I can be clearly seen in this picture. Obviously, it’s not my photo, so there’s only a link. Just look for a huge slaphead on the right hand side.

Unlike the music night, I was overjoyed with the three acts that performed on the main stage that night. The host himself was awesome, very quick witted. After some heckler shouted out something random, he replied with “Shall we get you some crayons? Do you want the blue ones because they taste like the sky?” Oh, man, I really did think I was going to fall off the chair at that point.

Sean Lock was predictably brilliant. I did get photos. Obviously, you weren’t supposed to take cameras in, but nobody said anything about cameraphones. Sadly, the images are currently “locked” into my phone, as I have no way to transfer them over. I’ve lost everything to do with my phone’s data transfer abilities. Whoops.

So, anyway, another brilliant night took place, and I can personally hail the 2009 Hartlepool CockDockfest an absolute success.

Hartlepool Dockfest 2009, Day 1.

So, going by my many postings there, you can hazard a guess that day 1 of the Hartlepool Dockfest is now complete. Time to write up a review, and post pictures wherever necessary.

I headed off to the Marina, slightly annoyed at losing one of the rubber earbuds for my phone’s headpiece. That wasn’t a good start to the day. It meant that on my strut from Mercuryvapour Towers, to the afore-mentioned Marina was spent only half-listening to the music. The other half was spent trying to keep the earpiece in without having my head tilted to one side. Grrr.

Eventually, I arrived, and had planned to meet Andrew there. I phoned his mobile to see where he was.

I rang…

“It’s me, where are you at?”

I got some crypic reply back, along the lines of “If you’re calling for my brother, he’s out”.

Eh?

Eventually, the call fizzled out. I must have been in a position where he couldn’t understand me, or didn’t think it was me. I moved location and rang back…

“It’s Jamie, I know you’re out, you asked me to ring you when… oh.”

It had currently dawned on me that instead of ringing Andrew’s mobile, I’d rang his house phone. It was indeed his brother that answered, who must sound very similar to him on the phone, which means that Andrew’s brother’s brother was indeed out, and awaiting a call on his mobile instead of the house phone, as he was not in, as described in the initial call answered by Andrew’s brother’s brother’s brother. If you see what I mean.

So, I eventually get in contact with Andrew, and we meet up at the Wingfield Castle. He had his camcorder, needless to say, I took my camera.

The first “treat” of the day was the “Community Cavalcade” Now, I didn’t really know what to expect from this. Turns out, I should have expected very little. Best way to describe it was a town-wide school play, with kids singing in between. Of course, I didn’t realise this, and thought it was the opening ceremony. WROOOONG.

I could have cried. We started queuing at 11:30, didn’t get in there until 12:21. For the 51 minutes, we were in the blazing sunshine. My sunburn is back with a vengence. I wish I’d actually read what it is we were queuing up to watch.

I only took interest in part of it, and that part was when the music CD malfunctioned.

Despite the relaxing shade of the large entertainment tent, we abandoned the “cavalcade”, and by chance happened tofind one piece of “street entertainment” from a guy called Turbo Jonez. As you can guess by my “heartening” description of the cavalcade, it should now be clear that I don’t have a cynical bone in my body, in the same way that I don’t have a sarcastic one.

OK, I’m sarcastic and cynical, but when I say that this guy was one of the best street acts I’ve ever seen in my numerous years visiting these “maritime festivals”, I really mean it…

It takes a lot for me to laugh at stuff like that, but this guy was awesome. After his show had finished, I even went up and shook his hand, and had a quick discussion about the records and equipment used in his act. An all round nice guy.

There was a performance immediately after, next to the Wingfield Castle, about punishment in the middle ages…

I think there’s one of those every week. At this point, one of Andrew’s camera batteries had died, so he headed off to a top-secret location to put the battery on charge. While he did that, I took some photoes of the Thundercats…

OK, I could have said speedboat, but I didn’t.

We walked back in the general direction of the tents, and happened to stumble across the “FoodFest” tent.

As well as containing an oven, this place also behaved like an oven. I was dismayed to find that the recipe he was cooking contained smoked fish. Ugh. Oddly, I stayed in my seat, without running out of the place like a screaming girl. Turns out all of the savoury dishes being prepared over the weekend actually contain fish.

The guy running the workshop also had to teach this recipe to a bunch of children at the same time, something which he CLEARLY had never had any experience with.

COnsider the following paragraph as “Citation needed”, as I can’t remember the exact order of events, but one of the little kiddywinks, asks if the thing he is cooking it on is “hot”. The chef replies “Yes, that’s why it says ‘Caution Hot Surface’, pointing to a sign laid flat on the table in front of the hotplates. Slight issue with that, is that the child was too small to see any sign laid flat on the table, or understand the words, and was only asking the question because the chef turned over something in the pan with his fingers. Oh, man. I hope Andrew got it on tape, but I doubt he did, so I may have made the entire last paragraph up.

We walked out of the cookery class, and decided that refreshments were in order. I ended up paying £1 for a bottle of water, followed by £2.50 for a tray of curry and chips.

We then watched a juggler with the worst sound system known to man, and then decided to head off to Navigation Point. This was to be my place of departure, as I wanted to go home for a bit or a rest before the music section started good and proper.

Daddykins picked me up, and I did certain tasks as take plenty of fluid on board, and examine my fucking sunburn in greater detail. Why is it, now, that when I was a kid, I could be out in the sun all hours of the day (well, yes, up until 6PM, Chad.), yet these days, my skin incinerates the second a bit of sun hits it? If that’s not evidence of a depleting ozone layer, I don’t know what is, or we may have just had shit summers in my childhood.

OK, back on topic.

I had arranged to meet Andrew again after I’d returned. By this time the weather had taken a turn for the worse. Cloud had spilled in from all directions, and by complete coincidence, Daddykins was heading off to the Marina by means of a taxi. I asked if I could jump in too. He answered affirmatively, and I’m glad he did, as the heavens opened whilst on the way there.

I got dropped off, and attempted to reach Andrew via the mobile airwaves. His phone was switched off. Bugger. Oh well, I was on my own for the night. No matter, but it would have been nice to not look like a Billy-no-mates all night.

The first couple of bands came on, and they were both… erm, “not my scene”, despite the fact I’d made my way to the front of the audience area, and now only had a 4-fit railing between me and whowever was performing. It was then, I came across a fear of dread, or maybe it was dehydration. I’d realised that if I was at the front, I’d be there for the long term. One of the bands finished, and the crowd dispersed slightly. I had to do it. I had to head to the bar. There were several reasons I was putting it off. Mainly the price. A “pint” of lager for £3.50

Of course, the reason why they charge through the nose for your beer, despite the fact you’ve been queuing up for 25 minutes before eventually receiving a plastic glass full of luke-warm piss, is that you’re receiving top-notch entertainment for nothing. If you’re thirsty, pay for it, like the freeloading whore that you are.

After queuing for 25 minutes before eventually receiving a plastic glass full of luke-warm piss, I head back to the front of the stage. Phew. There was still a little space. At this point, Andrew texted me saying that he also returned home for a bit, and will be there shortly.

He turned up in time to see the John Power Band. Now, I’d personally never heard of them. For some reason, I was expecting some type of large brass band number, thinking it would be a bit odd to but them on before the Lightining Seeds. Turns out, they weren’t. In fact they were another normal band. SOmething, somewhere mentioned that he was the lead singer out of “Cast”. My word, that was blast from the past, in a way.

It started off with several new tracks, or songs that were John Power Band only. Although enjoyable, it wasn’t something I was familiar with, or could enjoy, despite certain members of the female audience attempting to force themselves next to my perfectly reserved spot. Note to females, should you attempt to push your 4’10” frame into a space occupied by a 5’x” fat c*nt, you’re not going to succeed. It is likely that person will class it as the biggest sexual encounter he’s had for several months.

Something awesome happened during this. John Power announced that he was going to play some of his old stuff for the first time in years. Yes, all of the old Cast hits came out, including “Walkaway”… a song that is hard for me to explain. It’s one if the songs that made sense while I was going through puberty, but for no explicable reason, took no notice of it after that period.

I still knew every word, sang at the top of my voice, and for a short time, after the song finished, stood there shaking, as if some type of chemical bubble had burst in my brain… I’d never expected that I’d be singing that song, mere feet away from the person who brought it into my life in the first place.

Next up were The Lightning Seeds. Had my life been reaching up to this beautiful climax? You may remember my (clearly drunken) analysis of the song in 2004. I couldn’t imagine how good it would sound live.

Apparently, Hartlepool was their first gig for 10 years. They must have read my blog, and made sure they played on one of the nights I was off work. Thanks guys. Unfortunately, you might want to stop reading here…

… I thought it was, on the whole, awful. They really sounded like a band who had not practised together for 10 years, never mind just played a gig together

Technical difficulties marred everything they did, from squealing feedback, to whole guitars cutting out for no apparent reason, to the point where Ian Broudie closed his eyes and just realised that nothing was going his way. Many vocals were out of key.

If it really WAS ten years since the band last played together at a gig, I’m sure that the last thing they’d want to hear is constant chants of “It’s coming home, it’s coming home, football’s coming home” every time there’s a break between songs. Unfortunately, that particular fact wasn’t relayed to the audience by the “Real Radio” DJ who encouraged the audience to “ask” them for the song.

After several poor efforts by The “Seeds” to get audience participation, the finale was about to come. “The Life of Riley” was first. Unfortunately, this caused a crowd surge that caused anyone in the very front row (i.e. me) to be bounced around like a turd in one of those choppy up things for when you don’t have a real sewer line thing…

The finale, an all acoustic version of “Three Lions”, went down an absolute storm. As the crowd dispersed, the chant of “It’s coming home, it’s coming home, football’s coming home” grew ever more quieter. It’s one of those odd moments, like when the band James used to close their gigs to the chorus of “Sit Down”.

Unfortunately, after getting the front row, I realised (long after it was possible to make any difference) I have been included in many, many photos. Some I posed for, some I didn’t. No doubt I’ll be in the mail again. Whooppee…

Top Gear Live, part one

Top Gear live was bloody brilliant, as you would probably have guessed. That was two days ago…

(Quick edit… to the person who searched for “top gear live will it be recorded”, and found this site… um… I think the clue is in the name, especially the word “live”. I’m probably wrong. And to the persion who searched for “top gear live is shit”… well, I disagree, but you can’t please everyone I suppose.

As mentioned previously, Chris’s brother Jonathan had secured three tickets to go and see Top Gear Live. Now, some of you have thought I meant I was going to see the TV show being recorded. No, that’s recorded in Dunsfold Park, Guildford. This particular one I went to see was in Earls Court.

The day, as you can imagine for this time of year started off cold and rainy. You may remember in the previous “long” post, that I mentioned I’d been at a halloween do the night before… needless to say I was still feeling the effects of this. Anyway, after typing up that particular blog, I went for a shit. This particular fact has no relevance to the story at all, but it seems like an age since I’ve mentioned a bowel movement in this blog, and we can’t let a tradition die after 7 years and 365 days (leap year, anniversary tomorrow)…

Erm, moving swiftly on. We went down to Chris’s house, to pick him up. Our original plan of getting the train directly from Hartlepool was scuppered by the fact it was at about 7AM, so we were getting the 11:27 from Darlington down to Kings Cross.

The journey down to the station was unentertaining. Daddykins was playing one of the CDs he’d picked up while on Holiday, from some guy who may, or may not have appeared on the X Factor. He can do Ronan Keating spot on, but his Neil Diamond sounded worse than me on karaoke [citation needed]

So, we arrived in good time to catch the train, and had about an hour to spare.

Darlington station is very, very boring. There are a few shops there, including an anti-Tardis WH Smith. And by that, I mean, fron the outside, it looks huge, but when you get in there, it’s tiny.

Chris had booked the train tickets online, so all we had to do was visit a machine to collect them. Strange that these machines were called something like “Fast Track”, yet there was still a queue.

After collecting our tickets, the walk to WH Smith was halted by frantic banging on the window, and a little kid running after us. Turns out Chris had left one of the seat confirmation things in the machine. Ooooooo. Lucky.

Off we went to browse both of the shops.In the end, I bought a bottle of water (to take my sodding tablets with later on), a packet of Quavers, and a copy of The Sun. Chris bought a coffee and a copy of Private Eye. It’s the first time I’d ever seen one of those “in the flesh”. A bit above my intelligence level, I’m afraid. Imagine that episode of Family Guy, where Peter’s staring at a comic outside a newsagent for several days, before saying “Aaaaah, now I get it…. yeah, can I have a copy of Jugs?” Unsurprisingly, I can’t find the clip of that on Youtube, so if you haven’t seen it, that’s tough.

On the subject of Jugs, after buying our merchandise, I noticed that someone had left a copy of the Saturday Sport in the waiting lounge. So, yes, I had a look through, but decided against keeping hold of it, for obvious reasons.

Eventually, after what seemed like an age, the train arrived. We located our seats, and found that we were, once again, facing somebody, just like that trip with Coatesy to York. These two people were clearly twins, which made it harder to even look in their general direction.

Shortly after the train set off, Chris went to the bog, and I didn’t see him again until we arrived in York Station. Amusingly, he got stuck behind the food trolley.

The rest of the journey wasn’t just mind numbing, it was arse numbing too. The only piece of excitement was the recogntionof somewhere I’d been before – Stevenage. On Boxing day last year, I went down to Stevenage with Daddykins and a few other people. I remember as we entered the estate one of the people lived on, we went under a narrow railway bridge, and the estate had particularly old, probably still mecury vapour, streetlighting. So, after a bit of a rummage through the archives, I’ve found the bridge, in Stevenage, where I have now been over, and under…

See, who said it’s pointless taking a photo of absolutely everything?

We arrived in Kings Cross at approximately 13:57. Everything was how I remembered it. Busy, mainly. The old mechanical destination boards, however, had been replaced with the now standard orange LED display. The announcements are also done by the same guy who does the announcements on the Weakest Link.

We were going to meet Jonathan at Waterloo station, as he already lives down south and so got a separate train down.

Chris’s pigeon-like sense of direction made sure that we didn’t get lost. Now, remember the tapdancing busker that we saw in Paris? The one that was actually quite good? Well, on the tube down to Waterloo, there was one that was really, really bad. And still, some people gave him money.

That’s it. I’m quitting my job and becoming a busker.

Eventually, we made it to Waterloo. It took longer than usual, as one of the lines (I forget which) was closed for maintenace, or as they like to call it, “service improvement. Most of the afore-mentioned orange LED signs were out of order, thanks to some type of software error. I’d have gotten a picture, but we were in a rush, and couldn’t get the camera out in time. It was only a generic preset message anyway.

Off we go to Earls Court. It was a number of stops away, so we braved the underground again. I say braved, because I really, really dislike it.

After what seemed like an age, we ended up at the Earls Court tube station. In my previous two trips down to the big city, the weather was acceptable. Today, it wasn’t. It was absolutely tipping it down. In the 100 yards from the tube station to Earls Court, all I could think of was “London Rain” by Heather Nova. I really like that song.

So, we entered through the huge doors and into the foyer. The tickets were scrutinised, and we entered into the huge display area. And I mean huge.

That photo doesn’t really do it justice, but unfortunately, none of the photos do the place justice! I only took my little Acer, as I wasn’t too sure whether cameras would even be allowed or not, It seems they were and I really wish I’d taken my Canon now, as I didn’t take one good photo of the show itself. Bah!

After a very quick look around the display area, we made our way to the entrance to the main “theatre”. I use quotes, as technically it isn’t a theatre. It’s a big building with temporary seating and a stage. We made our way through what was quite literally, the biggest queue I’ve ever been in. It was massive. Remember the one for the Eiffel Tower? Forget it. This one seemed to go on for ever.

Turns out we had really good seats. High up, and dead centre. Perfect.

A few pre-recorded car adverts looped through for about 20 minutes. One of them even broke down, turning the two huge LED displays random colours, and emitting ear piercing squeals. We thought that was part of the act, but no, it just appeared to be a technical glitch as the adverts looped through for another 10 minutes or so.

Then, the lights faded…

More adverts, but this time in the shape of live adverts on the stage.

Then, we got the introduction. On came Clarkson, May and Hammond. Now, I’m guessing that most of the shows are going to be very similar, so if you’ve found this via Google, and are planning to go and see it, then I suggest you click the back button, or something… In fact, I won’t go into too much detail, just in case.

It contained all of the things that make Top Gear great…

First off there’s the challenges…

Then there’s the whole interaction with the audience…

You know when I said the photos turned out really, really bad? I clearly wasn’t lying.

Er, anyway. There was also the Cool Wall. An interactive version of it. You all get cards given when you enter. Red on one side, green on the other. A computer monitors the input from the camera, and can calculate the amount of red or green in the picture. Green = cool, red = not.

There’s also stunts and stupidly impressive car displays, as you’d expect.

You’d thinka stage of that size would also not be able to handle a game of Smart Car Soccer. and you’d be wrong.

The Stig finishes the show in another impressive display.

That’s all I’ll say for now. I’ve still got a load of pictures which have yet to be uploaded, these will get done today. This particular one is also a highlight for me, personally.

How cool is that? I managed to get my photo taken With Jeremy Clarkson……………..’s cardboard cutout! The rest of the photos need to be uploaded, so I shall do that and return with Part 2…

York City are magic! Magic!!

I thought I’d start off with a Lee and Herring quote, as I don’t think there’s enough of them in this blog. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if that one was my first one. Anyway, it does have some relevance, as I have spent the day in York. Needles toupé I took my camera.

Several days ago, Coatesy made a reappearance on the scene, it was a nice surprise to see him on Messenger. It was the first time I’d heard from him properly since February 12th, after a trip somewhere got abandoned at the last minute.

We got talking (unsurprisingly), and arranged a meet-up and a trip out, to York. This sounded cool. I’d never actually been to York since I was a kid. In fact, I remember getting some type of colouring in / crayon set from there the last time I was there. And Treasure Hunt was still on telly.

Er, anyway. The trip was arranged. I was to meet him at his flat on Saturday Morning at approximately 8:30AM. I awoke at 6AM. After spending the last two days awaiting a text saying that he wouldn’t be able to make it, I was surprised to find my phone void of texts. Awesome!

Anyhoo. I set off, along the moderately short walk from Mercuyvapour Towers to Coatesy’s abode. It was a lovely morning, if a little chilly. In fact, I turned back because I thought it’d be cold enough to require a jumper.

This apparel change, unfortunately made me three minutes late for the festivities, and I arrived on his doorstep at 8:33. He was ready to go, and after picking up a Wispa and a foreign bottle of Dr. Pepper (which smelled oddly of cheese) from the local shop, we headed off towards the train station.

I was surprised to see that the station at Hartlepol has been slightly revamped since my last trip on an English train six months ago. Yes, it’s all been redesigned, and it really doesn’t look right. The platform is still a pigeon and chav infested mess, however.

I am happy to report, however, is that one of the possible reasons that the station hasn’t been done up yet, is because the fares are so damn cheap. £9.60 retun to York. Bimler.

We sat on the platform, awaiting the train which would take us the first part of our journey, from Hartlepool to Thornaby. It’s a journey of approximately six metres. In fact, it hardly felt worth sitting down for it.

My memories of Thornaby station aren’t good. I simply remember a vast expanse of urine soaked tarmac and bricked flower beds which uncomfortably acted as the only decent and non-vandalised piece of seating. I’m happy to report that this is no longer the case. There is a station building, ticket office, proper seating, and even destination boards saying when the next trains are due. These weren’t there last time!

Coatesy informed me of some of the things he’s been getting up to recently, including meeting Ricky Tomlinson, and getting his autograph. Unfrotunately, he didn’t get the pleasure of meeting Duncan Norvelle who was also appearing with Ricky Tomlinson. According to Wikipedia, Duncan Norvelle now lives in Darfield, a place which I have visited, and had a very nice bag of chips at. You may also notice that I didn’t complete that post about Barnsley. Oops.

Er, anyway. Back onto the present day, and back to the trip to York. After a few minutes loitering around the Thornaby platform, the second train showed up. A big, purple, comfortable looking train, manufactured by Siemens.

We picked two of the only seats available, sat facing some odd couple. It was not possible to look forward without staring them in the eye. I think I know every detail about the train carpet, walls, seat design, yet I wouldn’t be able to pick the guy who was sat in front of me for the hour-long journey from a police lineup.

The journey passed pretty quickly, thanks to the playing of the golf game on my mobile with Coatesy, and also the reintroduction of posting stuff to my twitter account.

We arrived at the station, just before 11. The first thing I noticed was… OLD STREETLIGHTS. Oh, man. I was in my element. More on those later, as I’m sure you’ll all be gripped in hearing about those.

It was at this point I whipped out of the camera, and began to take photos…

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Yes, I was taking a photo of the streetlight. The Yorkshire wheel is just a bit of an added bonus. Speaking of which, we did go up onto the wheel. And it was great. Whilst up there, Chris rang me to see what I was up to.

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I informed him that the trip had gone ahread, and we were indeed in York.

The ride lasts only 13 minutes (according to their website), so at £6.50 it was a bit expensive, but the views, as you can imagine, are stunning. Should you ever go, we were in car number 22. Just so you know that I have breathed in that very same car… oh, and the air conditioning doesn’t work in it. It’s supposed to be lovely and cool. It was more like an oven. This is one of the reasons I look like a beetroot in the above picture. That, and the fact I may have had the saturation setting up too high on the camera….

So, it was time for a quick look at the railway museum. This place is vast, and I’m pretty sure we didn’t get to see it all during our trip round there.

Now, for all of you going there to see the Flying Scotsman, well, you’ll be a bit disappointed. It’s in bits.

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Of course, if you LIKE to see old steam engines in bits, then I’m sure you’ll be happy with the sight.

So, after another quick look round, we headed out of the museum and down the road towards York Mister. It was one of the reasons I wanted to go to York. Last time I was there, I wasn’t old enough to appreciate it, but I still remember shots of it burning down on the news.

Before we went there, we stopped off for some food. I opted for a pair of sausage rolls, whilst Mr. Coates disappeared up the road for a Subway. We walked along to a shady little square situated at the end of The Shambles to consume our food products.

Out of the corner of my eye, I spied a market. Now, these things normally mean one of two things… records and lots of cheap fruit. You’ll have to work out for yourself which one of those I’m more interested in. I didn’t really come to buy records, and even though I found a stall that sold records, I couldn’t really buy any. It was still early in the day, and although I was sorely tempted to buy one, I held off the temptation. After all, lugging records around on a day out really isn’t something worth doing.

Next stop was York Minster. This place is immense in every sense of the world. One thing I found really interesting was a “busker”, for want of a better word, sat outside, playing something called an autoharp.

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I see that the guy is called Paul Jennison (or at least that’s the names on the CDs he is selling) but unfortunately, Mr. Jennison doesn’t have much of a web prescense, unless I’m just searching for the wrong things.

Onto the Minster itself, then. As I said before, this is one of those places that is just immense.

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Remember my rant about Notre Dame being handed over to the gawking tourists, with camera flashes going off every six seconds? Well, I am happy to report that this place has got it right… You have to “buy” the ability to take photos. This means that your average Little Miss Snapalot will think twice about leaving her camera with full flash on, because you have to pay for the privelege! An awesome idea.

The full price for everything (that includes, photo rights, entrance to the tower, entrance to the lower levels) costs something like £9. Now, because there was a private wedding going on (seriously, a wedding in York Minster? How much money do these people have?), we got a discount, so the cost was £7.50. Unfortunately, we were unable to gatecrash the wedding, but I’m sure that Husband and Wife will have a happy three months together before it all ends up getting shat up the wall. Not that I’m cynical about marriage, or anything.

Our first stop was the tower. We thought it was probably best to get the excersise out of the way first of all. There’s a narrow 275-step climb up to the top of the tower. It’s the first time I’ve ever visited a church and had a health and safety warning, and been asked to declare that I didn’t have a list of diseases longer than my arm…

This now ranks third in the “most steps I’ve climbed in one go”. The top three looks as follows…

1. April 14th 2007 – Scott Monument, Edinburgh… 287 steps
2. July 17th 2008 – Arc De Triomphe, Paris… 284 steps
3. September 27th 2008 – York Minster… 275 steps

The walkway for the Minster is almost as thin as the Scott Monument, but not quite. You do also get the chance half way up for a nice view…

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This was, however, only 108 steps into the journey. There was still a hundred and a bit to go. No mater how much I liked the view right there, it could only get better the more we got up. And if I’d have just stood there taking photos on a very narrow gangway, I’d have held everyone up.

Another very narrow corridor and set of stairs later, we arrived at the roof, and I’m sure you’ll agree that the views were absolutely stunning…

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I mean, have YOU ever seen a CCTV camera that size before? I couldn’t BELIEVE it.

After eight minutes on the roof, we were ushered back down by a woman who seemed eager to get everyone down as quickly as possible. It became quite clear why. By the time we’d got downstairs, the queue was pretty much round the block. Talk about good timing, we only had to wait a few minutes, whereas the people in the queue… well, they’re probably stil there now…

We took a further look around the Minster, including taking in all of the sights of the underground section. This was a particularly interesting section, as you get to see all of the medieval / Roman stuff. It was amazing how it was preserved.

After that, we took one last walk around the minster itself before leaving it and heading towards the arrays if shops. At this point, I was gasping for a drink. The climb up and down those narrow stairs certainly took its toll on my body’s fluid reserves, and before I knew it, I was in a little paper shop buying a nice bottle of Ribena. This is one particular drink I have started to like again, despite not drinking it for approximately 10 years.

At this point, we decided to have a look at the boat trips. There’s a nice boat trip which takes you all they way up the river Ouse to the Tate + Lyle factory, and all the way back round again. When we got there, it was quite clear that the nice weather had influenced the entire population of Yorkshire to come out and have exactly the same idea as us – the queue was about half a mile long. It became apparent that we weren’t going to get on the next boat trip, and we wouldn’t have time to get on the one after that, so we just headed back to the station in order to get the next train. Unfortunately, Coatesy had to attend his place of Employment on the night.

Now would be a good time to mention that his old job involved the manufacture of many things including streetlights, and he could confirm that the Thorn Beta 79 ceased manufacture only a few months ago. Shame. It seemed odd that we were having a conversation about streetlights.

Oh, and I also think that now would be a good idea to copy and paste some links to the streetlight photos I mentioned umpteen paragraphs ago.

To start us off, here’s an example of an extremely rare Thorn Beta 9, gear-in-head…

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I think it’s probably the only one I’ve seen in my entire life, so that was a nice surprise. I originally got the name of this lantern completey wrong. Bah!

Secondly, there’s this one…

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It’s been identified as a “Thorn Grenville” floodlight. Oddly, if you google that, the only thing that comes up (apart from something about family names) is the reply to my request for identification in the StreetlightingUK group.

After heading back to the station, we nipped into WH Smiths. I was still dying of thirst, mainly because my clothing apparel consisted of black items, and considering this was one of the nicest days of the year, I was sweating buckets. I picked up a bottle of water, Coatesy picked up a paper.

We sat on the platform and watched a train undergo some emergency maintainence. Apparently, one of the doors had jammed, so I whiled away the few minutes watching them trying to fix the doors. I never found out of they managed it because our train arrived shortly after. Again, it was very similar to the one we’d got down there. Nice and comfortable.

After a short while, we were back in Thornaby. Now, it said that the 16:37 train to Carlisle (via Hartlepool) was cancelled, but the following screen said it was still running… how odd. Luckily, the ticket office was still open, so we thought it would be best to check. Coatesy volunteered to ask, and I wasn’t going to argue with that

Now, the oddest thing happened in the queue in front of us. Apparently, some old woman had just got a free ride from Northallerton to Thornaby, as nobody had came around to sell her a ticket. Fair enough, you might think. She’d just walk away with a couple of extra quid in her pocket… no.

She was demanding that she should be charged for this journey. The guy behind the counter looked about as confused as I did. Huh? She’s just got something for nothing because someone clearly wasn’t doing their job correctly, and she feels like she should be the one to cough up?

Eventually, the guy printed her a ticket out, she paid for it…

Guy: “Shall I just bin this?”
Her: “Well, it’s no use to me now, is it?”

Miserable old goat. I bet she’s the type of person that leaves your average customer service rep with a nervous tick.

However, there was still the matter of the cancelled train. Was it cancelled or not? After Ms Moneybags fucked off, it was Coatesy’s turn in the queue. The guy explained that they were testing out a new system, and the train WAS running. Hang on, surely if you’re testing out a new system, the information you give out on it should be ACCURATE? Otherwise, what’s the point of actually redoing the system?

At 16:37 and 2 seconds, the train pulled into the station, We boarded, and took the short journey from Thornaby to Hartlepool, taking in the wonderful sights such as the abandoned Cerebos factory and the various waste disposal sites. During this journey, I attempted to get Daddykins to pick me up from the station. He was cooking the tea, so he suggested I get a taxi and he’d pay for it. Awesome.

Coatesy and I went our separate ways, and I becan the mammoth task of uploading all of the photos, and eventually typing this blog.

All in all, an excellent day, and it has became apparent that if I am going to use this camera properly, I’ll need more than just a 2Gb memory card… all of the photos here!

I bet you thought I’d got lost…

You know, it’s always the same, I have a big long spell of blogging, and then I don’t do anything for two weeks. Oops. This wasn’t intended, but it seems I did the same last year, after the dizzying heights of the Berlin trip. Oh well.

Even for a British summer, the weather has been truly appaling. There hasn’t a day gone by where it’s not absolutely hoyed down at some point, or been so dull that it’s not even worth sticking your foot out of the door, never mind going around and doing stuff. Ever since I’ve came back from Paris, I have had absolutely nothing to look forward to… I tried to change this by arranging a trip to Countdown for me and Chris, but seeing as he has no holidays left, this has fallen through, leaving me once again, staring to the inky void, where the only light at the end of the tunnel is the reflection from the bottom of a beer glass. Even worse, is that it would have been my last chance to see it under its current guise.

On a lighter, and much happier note, Wayne has finally got back in touch after 18 months of being silent!! Unfortunately, he missed all of the email I’d sent to him in this time, thanks to NTL/Virgin’s policy of only keeping email on their servers for 90 days, but at least he’s still alive! Coatesy, however, is still radio-silent, and it’s looking less likely that he’ll ever get back in touch.

Christ, this is an amusing entry isn’t it? Laugh-a-bloody-minute.

To make things worse, morale at Employment Palace has hit an all time low. Once again, I can’t go into details, mainly because I’ll end up putting my fist through the monitor. This has depressed me more than anything, I think.

On another note, I’m an organ donor. Or rather, I’ve been for months, but I never bothered mentioning it before. I’m only metioning it now, because I’ve just found an old registration form I meant to send off, but never did. On the back of it, it states “Discuss your wishes with those closest to you, so they know your wishes should the time ever come… I’m sorry, I know whatthey mean, but surely that’s the worst way of putting it, ever? What do they mean by “should”? Do they suddently think I’m immortal, or something?

Ahem. On the subject of death, another reason I’ve not been updating much is the “dying” of Beastbits, my main machine… You may remember a few months ago, the 250Gb drive I had, started clicking, going all weird and just not working in general? Well, I replaced it with a 500Gb drive. And that’s on the way out too. It began with The Click of Death.

Eventually, strange things started happening The drive would disappear from Windows completely, and today, during the reboot, in the BIOS detection it wouldn’t reappear. Nasty. I decided the drive was duff. My curiousity got the better of me, and after a physical power-off, it reappeared.

Now, something was up, and I decided to back everything up to an external HDD. During ther copying process, it halted with a CRC error. Not good. Files were on the bad sectors! Oooooo!

I happened to note the name mentally of the corrupt file. Thankfully, it was just an outdated SQL dump I’ve done from my website, and wasn’t of much use anyway. The rest of the backup passed without a hitch. Everything else copied. For a bit of mirth, I decided to copy the original file I’d had a problem with. It copied first time. To me, this began to sound like something more “logical” than physical.

Soooo, I powered up “Darik’s Boot And Nuke”. I had used this in the past to “fix” the bad sectors on the earlier faulty drive I mentioned. Anyway. I started it on this drive, and it failed. It quit with an error saying that the drive may have bad sectors. Duh.

Fair enough, this wasn’t playing ball, so I grabbed the diagnostic software from the Samsung website. I wasn’t expecting miracles. Still, I ran it, and there they were, the bad sectors…

Fair enough, at least they were official.

I wasted at least 3 hours of my finite time on this planet allowing the disk check to finish. It prompted me to perform a disk erase. Meh. All backed up. It can’t do any harm. After all, these sectors were goosed, so another few hours later, the entire hard drive was erased, and I ran another diagnostic check Now, thanks to that photo, I had the exact location the bad blocks. Imagine my surprise as it skipped over them without a single bit of hesitation.

OK, so unbelievably, the drive was back to its normal self. All of this took place on Monday night, so I formatted the drive while I was at work on Tuesday. I returned home, and copied all of the stuff from the external backup drive onto it. And, tonight (Friday), it has gone back to the original problem of the click of death. Joy!

In a thread on Glens’ forum, I mentioned my problems, and although Crag has a very valid point, it’s still a 100% failure rate. And, I can’t even send it back either, because the only way it will detect bad sectors is obviously after the disk has been in use for a few days after an erase, which means there has to be data on it. And, seeing as I know the sort of ahem… “data” I keep on it, I’d rather not let it out of my sight!

Yesterday turned out great

My word. Considering I was claiming it was going to be a shit day, it actually went really good.

No sooner had I pressed “Send” on my previous post, Daddykins awoke, and came downstairs. Before I even had a chance to plead with him to take me somewhere, his first words uttered to me were “Get your shoes on”…

“…why? Where are we going?” I replied. It seemed a bit of an odd statement considering he’d only been awake a few minutes.

“Don’t know yet” was his reply.

I was shocked, and delighted. Me and Daddykins were going on a proper day out for the first time since at least 1997. Sure, we’d been places before, but not for a proper Father/son type thing. There had always been “complications”. OK, I’m sure it wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t got the new car, but I’ll not use that as an excuse. I’m sure my dad took me out because he loved me… yes, that must be the reason.

Needless to say, I took my camera. My dad must have had some idea where we were going, as we headed in the direction of the North Yorkshire Moors. Well, when I general, I mean DIRECTLY, even taking the necessary shortcuts Daddykins had picked up during his many years working around that area.

This narrowed it down to a few places… three, in fact. Whitby, Grosmont, or Goathland, the real-life village which is the setting for Heartbeat’s “Aidensfield”. Whitby was quickly ruled out, which is just as well, as it’s expensive, probably crowded, and there’s nowhere to park easily. I remember this from when we used to go to days out to Whitby as a child. We (being me, my mother, nanna, and any other freinds/relatives who tagged along) would get dropped off, then my dad used to disappear somwehre with the car, sometimes taking half an hour to return, after parking it in some obscure back lane for free.

So, Grosmont, or Goathland. I was indeed correct. Daddykins took one look at the parking situation in Grosmont, and thought “sod that”… I didn’t quite work out why, either the car park was full, or it was too expensive. Either way, we kept going, along the same road, through Grosmont, and onto Goathland. As we approached the centre of the village, our path was blocked by a policeman. Daddykins rolled the window down (or rather, pressed the button that brings the window down). and asked him what was going on…

“Oh, they’re just shooting a scene”, he replied. “Won’t take long… they’re averaging about 3 minutes per take”. Woooo! They were filming, there and then. I could hardly believe my luck. Daddykins got chatting to the copper.

“So, where’ve you came from?” The copper asked, to start conversation.
“Hartlepool… West View”, daddykins replied, quite correctly.
“Ohhh, West view Road?”, the copper replied.

Turns out that the guy’s grandparents lived on West View Road, near the Brus, and he used to eat in the (now demolished) Brus Cafe. What are the chances of that happening? It’s not quite as amazing as the time I stayed in a hotel on the Isle of Wight, and the owner knowing Eric Wilkie who used to drink in the Queens, and a good friend of mine and especially my dad. Even Coatesy knew him. Eric, you may remember, is whose front room I spewed up in on the Millenium night.

Er, anyway, I’ve swayed way off topic there. Back to Goathland. The take eventually finished, and we were free to go on our way, to the car park. It cost £2 to park up for the full day, which I consider entirely reasonable, though in previous visits, we parked for free on the edges of the road, but these are all now yellow-lined. Bugger. Either way, we parked up, and headed for the site of the filming…

Here’s one of the takes…

After I took this photo, I was told by some anonymous woman in a Hi-Vis jacket that I couldn’t take photos while they were recording. That, to me, doesn’t make much sense. 1) my camera is silent when taking photos, 2) I was in a public place.

I’ve always wondered how the law stands on such matters. I must admit, I was 100% compliant with her request – personally I just enjoyed watching the recording, and was happy in the knowledge that between takes, I could photograph what I wanted, most of it appearing very similar to what I could have shot during the takes – same people, same equipment, slightly different stance, maybe. It’s all a bit academic anyway, as I only took 6 photos while watching the filming. Ah well.

That was an added bonus to the day I wasn’t expecting in the first place.

We spent a big portion of the day at the train station, as they have steam trains there, and Daddykins loves them. As expected, the whole place is kept in a retro style, with old fashioned advertising placards dotted around.

The first thing we did when we got there was get some refreshments. Daddykins can’t function without his morning cup of coffee, and considering we’d went straight out, he never had chance to have it. I was surprised he’d went as long as he did without collapsing into a caffiene-deficiency related coma. Either way, we watched a total of 3 trains come in and out…

… each of them looking like that one. It’s a shame there’s only a few of these things running anymore, as they’re certainly impressive. And huge. And noisy.

During the wait between the trans approaching, we went for a walk up the side of the hill, which formed the valley that the station was in. Before you leave the station, however, was this gate…

Penalty for leaving the gate open, £2. I’m sure that this sign was added when two pounds was actually a lot of money, and actually a bit of a deterrent. Never mind though, as everyone who went through it did indeed close the gate. It wasn’t a hard walk, and the view for reaching the top was stunning

There was no mobile phone signal, however, even at the top of the big hill, which I was a little surprised about. I wasn’t planning to call anyone, it was merely an observation.

After we watched the trains, it was time to take a last walk around the village, and take in the scenery.Something which is clear with this place is that they will never need anyone to mow the lawns, as there’s sheep everywhere…

I thought it was great personally. Although this was a novelty for me, being an outsider, I could imagine that the residents would get really rather sick of their fluffy white prescense…

As this point, I went into Ye Olde Gift shoppe, and bought Daddykins a little momento of the day, as a thanks for the day out – another model car for his collection. 20 years ago, the roles would have been reversed – he’d have been the one buying ME the toy car, but he collects them. And he has a lot of them.

On the way back, I took more photos, and finally managed to get a decent shot of Roseberry Topping

And that was pretty much it. On the way home we went to the chippy, only to find that it was completely packed. Therefore, the day was completed with a trip to the Brus Chippy. The chips were very nice, if a little expensive, and a little unforgiving with the portions.

The full set of photos can be viewed here.

Ich bein ein… um… beeren, sil vous plait?

You’ll be glad to know that there will shortly be another “trip” arranged with Chris, and also this time his brother Jonathan. This time we shall be travelling to the lovely city of… Berlin. Yes, I’m finally taking the passport out for its first trip. Now, although I’m looking forward to it immensely, there are a number of things I’m worrying about.

Firstly, the language. I have a very short amount of time to learn an entire language, or at least enough to get me there, and survive the trip. I suppose all I’ll need is to know “Kind sir, I would like 3 bottles of your coldest, least expensive alcoholic beverage”, and “Please help, I appear to have fallen, and now find myself in a situation where I am unable to get back up”. Ultimately, the thing I want learn most is “Chicken Madras and rice, please”.

Unfortunately, the entire knowledge of Germany I have, comes from the first series of Auf Weidersehen, Pet, which, admittedly was filmed mostly on the site of what is now Albert Square in Eastenders. So, to be perfectly honest, I don’t really think that’s the most accurate place to get all of my information from…

The food too… what’s that going to be like? I have just checked Wikipedia, and I’m staying clear of Sauerkraut and Eisbein. Fermented cabbage and… er, whatever Eisbein is? Apparently, “it can be an alarming experience for the unwary tourist”. No, thank *you*.

Luckily, Wikipedia knows everything, and in fact this article has been enlightening and interesting… woohoo! Currywurst is looking promising.

Right, that’s the first thing I’ve learned, and it feels good.

I’m not going to say exactly when I’m going away on here, just in case when I arrive at Berlin, there are hoardes of fans waiting for me at the airport, screaming my name, clutching prints of the time a few years ago when I accidentally appeared naked on the webcam. Speaking of which, I’d better delete the images I have up there at the minute. Ahem. Seriously, though, I’m one of those people who will tell everyone who knows me anyway… I think I’ve told everyone at work about 50 times already…

“I’m going to Germany, you know…”
“Yes, we SODDING KNOW”…

Either way, there’s an un-nervingly short time until this trip going ahead. I believe flickr have hard drives on standby to handle the stupid amount of photos I’ll take. OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, however, I do have 3.5Gb spread over a number of SD cards, and I intend to use as much of it as I can.. Expect more mammoth blogs after the trip takes place. I have a feeling it’ll be either a complete disaster, or the best time of my life, in the whole history of the world, ever. I have let Chris do all of the admin, as usual, as I’m useless at that type of thing…

I’m currently listening to “The Volume” by Shy Child, a band introduced to me by Big Phil at work. It’s a quality tune, though I wish I wasn’t listening to it on cheap headphones.

Actually, if I’m honest, these headphones are really good for the price I paid for them…. 98p. They’re the Magnavox ones from Asda, bought around the same time as the curries in the previous post. If you’re looking for some headphones which are cheap as crap, but actually AREN’T crap, I’d recommend these.

I shall update you on my foreign and German-learning antics over the coming weeks. It’ll be fun. Allegedly.