A weekend in York (Day 1)

You know, it seems sometimes all I post about on here is Amiga stuff and charity shops. It’s pretty much what my life has became recently. Sometimes I do leave the house, and this time it was for a mooch around York. Well, yes, there were charity shops involved, but there was other stuff too.

In early July, Martlepool hosted a leg of the Tall Ships race. It’s something that has happened before, way back in 2010. Sadly, I wasn’t able to attend much of those festivities thanks to work commitments. this time, 13 years later, I avoided it through coice. This time, it promised absolute carnage for the lovely little fishing village of Hartlepool. Chris, who you may remember from many blogs previously, lives in an area of the ‘village’ affected by the traffic measures, so he decided to get out of the way for a few days, and head to Leeds and York, instead of having to fight the council for a parking permit. Plans were made for me to join him half way through this trip. I said I’d get the train down on the Saturday, meet up with him and stay overnight, and come back with him on the Sunday. Of course, there was possible “industrial action” on the train to worry about. Would I actually make it down?

I booked the ticket the week previously. I was surprised just how easy it was. I’ve never actually ordered tickets on my phone before. Despite my technical knowledge, I can’t help but think that paper tickets, or having some physical representation of a ticket is the best way to go. Anyway, no sooner had I paid, it got put into my “online wallet”, and I was all set. I was genuinely amazed at how simple it went.

Anyway, as mentioned. There were train strikes, and that was my worry. This particular train company didn’t have the greatest reputation when it comes to reliability. I’d have thought that any excuse to cancel a train, they’d be all over it. Anyway, I awoke early on the Saturday, still expecting to read my phone and find that the train had been cancelled. Amazingly, this never happened. I arrived at the station to find the board was still showing it was turning up. While in the waiting room, the guy next to me ran out without his phone charger. Amusingly, I’ve known the person who I spoke to for about 30 years, I’d totally forgotten he’s worked there, and to complete the circle of life, he still has some Amiga disks with my handwriting on. If only Elton John and Tim Rice were in the vacinity. I do wonder if this guy ever collected his phone charger.

This particular train company was even a guy walking up and down the platform showing people where to stand to get onto the right carriage. Never had that service before, so this was my position while I waited…

The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that the other platorm (which was supposed to be ready in time for the Tall Ships) is still out of bounds. There’s now a bridge connecting both platforms, but it’s not ready yet, and there’s no canopies or lighting installed on that side.

Anyway, I successfully boarded the train, and took in the sights of Teesside and Yorkshire, as the bone rattler wound its way through many little villages and towns.

An hour or so later, I was in York., and I was taking in the sights and sounds… of a place I’d been to about 60 times before, but I still can’t help busting the camera out.



That last one is of “Grape Lane”. A street that has had a slightly different name in times of yore. I’ll leave you, the viewer to find out what that is.

As menitoned previously, I hit the charity shops. And by golly, did I find some classic tat in there…




At some point during the “Wayne King” record, and the Metrocentre postcard, Chris met up with me. Of course, we had a mooch around a few more shops (many of them may, or may not have been of the charity variety), before the weather started to turn. It was raining. Not much, but enough to think “Oh, there’s a microbrewery. Let’s have a sneaky pint”. And so, that’s exactly what we did.



I love that little ornament of the eagle, and his little hat made out of beermats. Sadly, I doubt he was for sale, so that photo will have to do.

Sadly, the rain kept up, so I didn’t get many more photos. Instead we headed off to Drake’s for some chips. Seems everyone had that same idea, because it seemed like the world’s longest wait for two portions of curry and chips. They weren’t bad, I guess, but could have done without the wait!

With the charity shops plundered and time getting on, we headed off to the B+B. And what a nice little place it was, about half a mile away from the city centre.

Sadly, I didn’t really get a decent photo of the size of the room, but Chris had that big bed, and I had my own bed, right next to the open window. This would become beneficial later on.

Shortly after, we went out to the first of the pubs we’d passed on the way.

A nice little place. I think I had a pint of something called “White Rat”. It was nice whatever it was. We stopped at another place. The “Royal Oak”. I think we had one or two in there, and then decided to go for the most predictable part of the night… an Indian! I’m guessing it must have only been about 6PM at that point. Turns out this was the best decision of the day. We entered, asked for a table, the guy shuffled his papers for what seemed like an age, and then ushered us to a table. It was right near the door. this meant that we could hear everyone that came in. “Sorry, we’re fully booked until 9:30”. Ha! We’d just got the last table, and it was lovely. Not quite as nice as the one in Macclesfield, but it was certainly enjoyable, and the fact we were the last ones to get an unbooked table just added that little extra spice to it all.

No trip to York is complete without a stop in the “Three Legged Mare”. One of my favourite haunts in York Something interesting always happens.

We’d grabbed a seat right at the front. Little did we know that there was going to be a band/duo on, until they turned up with all of their equipment.

I must admit, I wish I could remember their names, because they were bloody good.

I’m bound to find out, and I’ll update when I do.

We began to head back relatively early. Chris wasn’t sure what time the B+B closed its doors, so we were back by 10.

About 10 minutes after getting back, we opened the window and found out that our timing was, once again, impeccable. We looked out, and there was a thunderstorm going on outside. I think we spent the next two hours or so discussing which presenter was at the centre of the latest BBC shenannegans. Turns out my guess was completely wrong.

Eventually, I drifted off to sleep, with the sound of the rain and thunder being a perfect white noise generator. Day 2, the journey home, should be fun.

Day one in Treacletown

A couple of years ago, during the lockdown, I came up with the idea that when we were through it, I’d visit a few places that I’ve never been to, with the whole premise of raiding thr charity chops and trying a few nearby eateries and… drinkeries. Last year, I travelled to Skegness with Chris, and this time we headed off to Macclesfield.

As I type this, it’s 7:39AM. I’m laid in bed in a Travelodge listening to the traffic go by. Unfortunately, the traffic seems to consist of large trains, seeing as we’re probably less than 50 yards away from the main train line, the one that runs from here to Manchester. I’d ask Chris which one it is, but he’s snoring merrily away, and by the time I get this online, I’ll probably forget.

Anyhoo, on to yesterday. It started off with a trip to Huddersfield. It’s a place I’d been to several times. One place I remember with a great amount of fondness, was a little record shop known as “Vinyl Tap”. The top part of the shop was unassuming, and not really that interesting. It was all new stock. All stuff that was out of my price range, and also stuff that just didn’t appeal. There was one saving grace, however. A massive basement, that probably ran underneath three other stores, full of 7″s and 12’s, of all different genres. I remember my previous visit in 2016, I spent hours down there and came back with a fairly decent haul.

Sadly, on this visit, the record basement was no more. Instead of a welcoming staircase to heaven, there was instead, the velvet rope, draped across the stairs. I could have cried.

So, after about 2 minutes, aimlessly looking at CDs I was never going to buy, we left. Probably never to return, ever. Sad times

Of course, Huddersfield has more to offer than just one record shop. There were, of course the charity shops. And what a disappointment they all were.

Approximately 2 hours of walking around yielded 4 CDs, and most of those were from a branch of Barnados that had only just opened.

There was also the outdoor market. I don’t know whether Tuesday is “Flea Market” day, but it seemed like it. Not one shred of anything decent. Unless you like horse ornaments.

We then stumbled on what could only be described as a fire waiting to happen. It’s hard to put into words just how cramped this place was, stacked high with tables, chairs, cabinets. If it’s made of wood, it’s in there.

Of course, I had to stumble over a mercury vapour light. Should I have bought it? I certainly didn’t fancy lobbing at around, with no guarantee that it actually worked, so I passed on it.

One of the last few stops we made was to one of those local community / tourist places. Ended up picking a bottile of Carolina Reaper hot sauce. At the time of typing, I’ve yet to try it.

So, that was Huddersfield. It was getting a bit late in the afternoon, but there was still time to head somewhere else, and that place was Oldham.

Getting there was a piece of cake. Getting parked, not so. Eventually we settled on a car park that we’d passed twice. Luckily by that point, I’d discovered two charity shops, so we headed there. It was 15:32, and one of them, the RSPCA, closed at 15:30. Sure enough, the doors were already locked.

That’s definitely one of the worst thing about being a charity shop fan, having to put up with whatever opening hours the old dears beihind the counter can put up with.

The other one is an Oxfam. These are always hit and miss. Sometimes, they’re great and have reasonable prices, sometimes they just slap any old price on stuff.

It was raining at this point. Missing a charity shop by 2 mintes had also not lightened the mood. I was ready to put on par with Grimsby as the most depressing place I’d been to, but thankfully there was no smell of fish in the air.

We found another untapped vein of charity shops, adn I ended up with my biggest haul of the day. Only 9, however, but it was still more than before.

We did find a diamond in the rough, however. Tucked away in the top left corner of the “Tommyfield Market” was a lovely little micropub called the Cob & Coal. I didn’t get a photo of the place itself, but here’s a photo of the doorstop, as we both found it particularly amusing.

And that was Oldham. The rain had not relented the entire time we were there. Thankfully, this meant that there was no dust from the shopping centre they’re knocking down… and it also allowed me toadd to my ever growing collection of shopping centre demolition photos with…. two.


And the onto the final destination. Good old Macclesfield. Sally satnav showed us the way, and after making only one wrong turning, we’d reached our destination. I was quire surprised how small the town seemed. Seemed one minute we were in the country, the next second was the sight of the Travelodge, and our base for the next couple of days.

Even though it was raining, there was a decent view out of the window, both daytime and at night.

We dropped our stuff off. Chris has a cup of tea and I watched The Chase. We then went in search of food. Naturally, we went for an Indian. Of course, before that, we made a stop into a nearby pub, the George and Dragon. What a lovely little place. Not sure if it had just been done out,, but it was absolutely spotless. The drinks were nice… I went for a Dizzy Blonde, and Chris had a pint of something called Unicorn. It was decent. And the bogs were spotless. Not often you can say that about many pubs. they even had genuine brand-name hand soap.

After a couple of these were necked, we went onto the Indian. Now, we ended up going to a different one than we originally planned, a place called Lazeez. It was over the road from the George and Dragon, and seeing as the weather was still ‘inclement’, we ended up here because it was closer. The food itself was absolutely lovely. There was some sauce that came with the poppadoms. Now, anyone who knows me will know that I could quite happily bathe in the red sauce that you usually get. This time, it was like a brown sauce. No idea what it was, but it was beautiful.

I went for a vindaloo, naturally. Ended up getting loads. Only downside was that the beer wasnt great., it tasted like it had been in the pump for a while. If you go here, It’s probably an idea to get a bottle, but that was genuinely the only downside to what was otherwise a decent place. 7.5 out of 10.

So, the night was getting on. We went to a place for one more drink, namely Alfred’s. They had Beavertown Neck Oil on. Its lovely stuff. Expensive, but worth it. I ended up trying to teach some of the intricacies of Pok√©mon Go, but I don’t think he could have been any less interested!

So, back to the Travelodge. Thankfully the rain had stopped at that point. A couple of episodes of Family Guy later, and time for sleep. Turns out that the bed seemed slightly smaller than a normal single bed, and it felt like I was going to keep falling out. The trains going past didn’t help. Chris later explained that the rail appeared to have a loose fishplate, which was causing the “Th’dunk” sound every time anything ran over it. So, I’d say it was a below average sleep. Not terrible, but not great either.

And so, onto the main event… day two!

Car boots and Castlegate

Now, it would be remiss of me to not start off this post by mentioning the passing of our dear old Queen Elizabeth II at the ripe old age of 96.

Anyway, I mention this, as it meant that plans for this weekend were a bit sketchy if they went ahead or not.

Let’s rewind a new days. I got sent a flyer on facebook… there was a car boot sale in an area of Stockton I’d never visited. Now, Stockton is a couple of towns over, and this wasn’t a journey that could have been made by bus. I asked Chris if he fancied it, and the answer was to the affirmative.

Evenrything was planned… until the sad death of our former monarch. Pretty much the country stopped. Horse races were cancelled. Football was stopped. Even the BBC dropped their coverage of the final Diamond League athletics meeting of the year halfway through their coverage of the women’s 3,000 metre steeplechase. The country had ground to a halt.

Understandably, there’s a period of mourning, and I was wondering if this car boot sale had been cancelled. I asked on facebook. Nobody got back to me.

Saturday morning rolled around, and I took a chance. Yeah, we’re going. The entire journey for me had a nagging, painful memory of a car boot sale that didn’t happen,back in… oooh, let’ws say 1996. Back then, I’d arranged with Chris to go to a similar car boot sale in Billingham on an early Sunday morning. Now, this was long before Facebook was a thing, and real-time information on events was non-exisent. Either way, Chris’s dad drove us up and down this road where it was meant to be… aaand no sign of it. Absolute waste of a journey, and I felt awful for it.

As I mentioned, I ‘took the plunge’ Google’s sat nav guided us to the destination. The church was there, and there were some stalls set up. Phew.

Overall, there were meant to be 33 stalls. There might have been than many, I didn’t count. I’d been though a few stalls, and picked up 6 from one at 50p each.

Now, the next stall I visited was… shall we say, awkward.. I’m going through some more CDs, at 50p each. While flicking through, and picking one or two from a particular artist, I heard the words “He liked those”. My heart sank. I knew what was coming next.

The sellers were two women, probably late 60s, early 70s. I’m clearly looking through some of the CDs that a late son had once owned. Oh my.

I was in too deep at this point. I’d picked some out, but I clearly wasn’t going without a few more, was I? Admittedly, I had a couple of them which I left behind, but the rest of those came home with me. “Think Of [Dave] While you’re listening to them!” were her parting words….

Shortly after that, the heavens opened. Thankfully, we’d managed to go through the entire car boot sale before the rain started. It was time to go, and head into Stockton’s town centre itself.

Now, 2022 is a bit of a time of change for Stockton. The “Castlegate Centre” that has been “at the heart of Stockton” for at least 40 years, is getting flattened. I have very good memories of this centre. And I hope you’ll excuse me if I go on a bit of a ramble. I’m archiving memories of a (now defunct) shopping centre….

Let’s go back to the 80s. I remember being there, must have been something like October or November, as the Christmas decorations were being put up. the fluorescent lanterns that were used to illuminate the external walkways were 4ft Thorns. At this time I don’t have an exact model number, but they were the same that were used in Hartlepool, and that’s what made them stand out to me.

Let’s fast forward to the 90s. In 1991, before I even owned a proper record player, I picked up my first “proper bought” single, “Carribean Blue” by Enya. It was either this, or “World In Union” by Kiri Te Kanawa. The Rugby world Cup had been happening at the time. There was something like 20p difference, which made me choose Enya. Plus, it had “Orinoco Flow” on the B side. A song I vaguely remember liking at the time. I remember going back to my cousin Julie’s house, and listening to both sides on her record player, as she lived near the Stockton railway station at the time.

So, as I mentioned, it’s getting flattened. Like a lot of shopping centres, it’s suffered a massive decline, and Stockton council think it’s going to be better off replacing it with a park.

Here’s a “few” photos I took at the weekend.

A brightly lit, modern shopping centre, with three people in it.

This was Kitsons butcher’s last day.

This left one shop still open… Herons. Quite surprisingly, this was the last shop before you hit the barricade of where they were demolishing the place. I asked the ‘lady’ behind the counter how long it had left. “A few more weeks”, she grunted, as the new shop in “Welly Square” was still being prepared. I genuinely don’t think she was much into conversation, or communication in general.

Even the parking meters had been “evicted”…

Did this mean the car park was free? I’ll never know. There was, however, a “graffiti wall”, where memories could be posted of the place… I was very disappointed with the complete lack of actual vandalism, and people posting actual memories of the place.

So, yeah. this will almost certainly be my final trip into Castlegate. I’ve just had a couple of memories come into my mind while typing these. There used to be a “Cash Generator” in there. I remember picking up some great vinyl from there which they were getting rid of, for 20p a pop. At some point, it moved across the road, became “Tyne Bargains”, and became of little interest to me, as they stopped selling music.

This was also one of the sites of my final “That’s Entertainment” pilgrimage when I found out they were closing. I picked up a box of empty CD cases from there for 50p. To this day, the cardboard box full of empty CD cases is still cluttering up the kitchen. Whoops. This very same store wa also the one I picked up “Now That’s What I Call Music! 4” on CD, for 49p. I’ve seen it go for hundreds of pounds with the case… sadly, mine was just the CD and therefore probably worth nowt.

Oh yeah, I also bought “Faithful” by Go West from there. It was exactly a week after my mother’s funeral, and it was also the first time Id ever been over the Transporter Bridge…

Right. We’re getting a bit too deep into the memory banks there, so let’s just draw this bit to a close. I hope that somewhere down the line, these photos remind someone of The Castlegate shopping centre…

UPDATE OCTOBER 2022: I can confirm the shopping centre has now closwd down, though B+M, Barclays and maybe another one will remain. Can’t remember. These are all accessible from the high street. No doubt these will go in the future too.

UPDATE FEBRUARY 2023: the demolition continued. They’ve taken a fair chunk out of the old Swallow Hotel now too.

There’s a chance I’ll be going back at the weekend for a proper look at the weekend, so I’ll post a proper update if I manage to get any decent shots. I’m not sure how much of it is fenced off.

Opening files from Amiga disks on the PC…

A nrecent commenter asked about the disk images that I’ve recently created… “Can you browse the contents of the disk images you create without loading them imto an emulator”?

The answer is… “Of course.”, and it’s all done using HxC. (Note: Not to beconfused with HxD, the hex editor).

I can’t remember if I mentioned HxC in any of my last posts, but it’s what I’ve been using to get those pretty green circles as shown in my other posts on the subject, but here it is in all its glory.

To load your freshly created disk image, you can either click “Load”, or drag the file onto the program.It’ll confirm it’s loaded by giving you the file name.

Click on “Disk Browser”. If it’s in a format that’s recognised, such as PC DOS, Amiga DOS, etc, you’ll see the disk contents. Note that this won’t allow you to read the files on protected disks / ones that aren’t in a standard format, but hopefully you expected that…

After that, the files are saved onto your computer. Naturally, what you’re able to do with the files is going to vary wildly. In my example, thankfully, the IFF / ILBM image format, along with the HAM variant, open up in a few modern programs. My example below is from XNview MP.

That means if you have a disk of images you made with Deluxe Paint back in the day, there’s a very good chance you’ll find something to open them with. Sadly, the GIMP, as of version 2.10.30 doesn’t want to open these examples. Shame.

It’s not going to do any harm to have a bit of a play around

Happy 21st birthday to this blog!

21 years. That’s a lot to take in. I’d have been sat in a very similar position this time on Sunday, 4th November 2000, behind a keyboard with my legs underneath a desk, as I open my Blogger account, and begin typing about my day, my dreams, my banal, inane life as a 20-yr old Hartlepudlian. At 41, however, the world is a completely different place, and I’m a different person. Everything electrical has a blue LED in it…. Back then, they’d have only been invented 7 years ago. Blogging is a completely different scene too I had friends with blogs, but they’ve all come and gone. the rise of Myspace, and Twitter, then Facebook and Youtube quickly put paid to spending hours toiling over a keyboard. You could allow your audience to have small chunks of your mind without committing reams and reams of text to the ether.

As you know, I don’t really post much on here now. I used to joke about my “both of my readers”, but it’s ofrficially down to zero. I’ve not had a comment on a new post for years now. the only comments that come in now are hits from Google. I suppose I have to type something for people to read, but when I spend hours and get no feedback, it seems such a waste.

Privacy is also an issue. It’s naturally not a good idea to post stuff about myself in as much detail as I used to. I genuinely would have liked to post a lot more about the struggle I had with my foot, but maybe not a good idea to post *everything* in a public forum.

I know I say this every years, but I do have plans. Maybe go into more of a “Charity Shop Shit” type vibe, and start talking about the crap I’ve picked up in charity shops. Make that the permanent fixture. At least after 21 years of doing this bollocks, the bloody site will have a theme of some sort.

I’m sure you’ll be interested to know (lie) that I still do “blog” now, it’s it’s all private. I like “photo hoarding” where I take hundreds of photos when I’m out somewhere, and then add the details to the photos themselves via the IPTC information… Here’s an example from last Saturday…

A day out to the charity shops around Guisborough, Stokesley and Redcar. A particularly cold October day, there was definitely autumn in the air. Another decent haul of CDs, especially from the Herriott charity shop in Stokesley. An amusing part of the day was in the first charity shop we visited, “Frade” in Guisborough. I asked for a carrier bag, got given the pinkest, most floral “carrier bag” I’ve ever seen. Couldn’t have got rid of it quicker, but at least it made a good photo opportunity.
Might put it as my facebook profile pic.

Right, so that’s the celebration over with. I can’t believe I’ve kept it going for so long… here’s to another 21 years! There’s a chance I might have received that fucking Desmonds record by then…

Late Spring snow and early Fall sleet

Well, wasn’t this morning fun? As you’re no doubt aware by the title (which I’m sure I can improve on, but probably won’t), today saw the first heavy snow shower in April for as long as I can remember. Now, snow in this month isn’t that uncommon, but usually it’s just a very brief blast that might last a few minutes, and melt shortly after. Apparently, it was cold elough for it to not even snow, but lay too.

Let’s turn the clock back a few hours. It was 5AM. I’d just finished my weekend late stint at the computer, and was getting prepared for bed. I’d gone for a pee, and noticed the sky was a very weird colour. Sort-of a light grey colour. Although the nights are indeed getting shorter, it was just too early for the sun to be rising. I did a double take, and noticed that the roofs were covered in snow… Yep, it had been snowing, and there was plenty of it too. The cars and the road were covered. Lovely!

Now I’d intended to go to sleep at that point, but I decided not to. I really wanted to see more of this, and get some photos at least. It’s the first time we’d had proper snow for quite a white. We’d had snow earlier on in the year, but…. it wasn’t quite right. It was more hail than snow, and wasn’t that photogenic, if you know what I mean. This was proper snow, the fluffy type, the stuff that piles up on the top of things, sticks to tree branches, and gives everything that wintry, frosty look.

It was definitely the first time I’d seen it since I got the “new” phone with the decent camera, so I decided to break my duck, and actually head out of the gravel driveway for only the second time this year, and the first time for purely a leisure walk. The only other time was Wednesday, as I met up with “somebody”, as he’d ordered some beers and got them delivered to Mercuryvapour Towers.

I’m lucky enough to have a small park area not too far from where I reside, so this was the perfect opportunity to blast out of the camera, At just before 8AM, I donned my coat, and headed off for the first proper “leisure walk” of 2021. I was well aware that the paths were going to be extremely slippery. It appears that the temperatures had dropped again since the snow had fallen, as there was a slight crust of ice forming over the snow. I took no chances, and walked in the middle of the road. The small amount of vehicles that had went through the commoners’ suburban streets had thankfully melted a walkable path. It wasn’t just me who had this idea, as there was another set of footprints oddly going through the middle of the tracks and not actually on them. Surely you might as well have just walked on the path? Oh well. Makes it look like Fred Flintstone’s headed out to get the paper…

It was early, there weren’t going to be many cars about, and if there was, I’d hear them a mile off, crunching through the ice. I was also painfully aware that I hadn’t put my phone on charge for any period of time, therefore it was cooking at about 15%. Considering it was about to take the amout of pictures that it did. For the record, it conked out literally as I got to the front door.

I had a very brief walk through the afore-mentioned park area. As I was taking photos, I had a brief chat to a lady who I hadn’t seen for a good long while – I’m sure I’ve mentioned her in my (unpublished) ramblings, but she’s from the Birmingham area, and used to always get the bus at the same stop as me. The last time she’d seen snow like this, was just after her son was born, and it was just outside Coventry.

There wasn’t that much more to photograph to be fair. The sun was starting to break through the clouds at this point, making way for a typically sunny, if a little chilly, spring day, and just a few hours later, any trace of the snow ever existing was to be confined to memories, and of course, these photos.

On a side note, whenever it snows, I always pile up a little bit to see how long it lasts. I’m not talented or patient enough to make a snowman, but somehow, I managed to accidentally sculpt a silverback gorilla facing away from the camera…

Let’s hope it starts warming up soon, eh?

EDIT: As I’m sure some of you will be wondering (lol, righto), and my usage of the word “fall”, the title of the post comes from the Don Henley song “A Month Of Sundays”. It was the B side to his big hit “The Boys Of Summer”, and also featured on the CD pressing of the album “A Month Of Sundays”, but not the LP pressing. Whenever there’s snow in April, or November, the whole section of that song plays through my head… “Late pring snow and early fall sleet, I held the leather reins in my hand, felt the soft ground under my feet”. It was on the fery first CD album I ever bought and was going to be part of my “10 albums in 10 days” blog, but I never finished it.

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!