Viva Darbados – Day 1

As both of my readers may know, I have just got back (well, last week) from a trip to the city of Derby. This follows the previous years’ excursion to Macclesfield, and the year before that, to Skegness, both of which have been with my mate Chris, and this year was to be no exception.

Chris picked me up at 11AM sharp. The weather in Partypool was a little overcast, but dry. As we headed south, the weather changed and it would stay that way for the entire journey there.

Unlike previous years, we didn’t stop anywhere on the way down, as we had an extra day, so it was straight to Derby. To describe the journey as uneventful would have been an understatement. We arrived just before 3PM, and managed to get a parking space next to the hotel. the prices were very reasonable. £15.00 for 48 hours.

It was, of course, raining when we got there, and it wasn’t time to check in yet, so we headed to the first place to grab a drink, in this case it was a bottle of boke in the ‘Slug & Lettuce’.

So, a bottle of the ‘ard stuff later, the rain has stopped, so we had our first wander around. One thing became clear, Derby likes its abandoned buildings. Large swathes of the city centre appeared to be abandoned, or about to be demolished, and some of the shops that were opened were of a… shall we say… questionable nature.

As this was the first day of 4, we did a cursory glance around the charity shops. The first one happened to be a “Cats Protection”. Upon previous experiences, I know these are quite expensive, but at 50p a CD, it was acceptable. Nobody apparently wanted to serve me. Hmmm. Can’t be that used to havng customers. Eventually, a lady did servce me, and I left the establishment clutching a Nigel Kennedy Greatest Hits CD. No, I don’t know why either. I just felt like I had to start the trip somewhere.

We found what appeared to be the main shopping centre, namely “The Derbion”. This was a clean and spacious shopping centre. Your usual array of shops, and of course, there was the usual shopping centre collection of charity shops such as British Heart Foundation and Age UK.

The rain was continuing to fall lightly, so we headed back to the hotel to check in. The room was your standard Premier Inn affair, with the exception that the window didn’t open. Strange. I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in any hotel where this was the case.

By now, it’s an unwritten tradition what we watch Tipping Point. It just always happens to be on the telly when we get to wherever we’re going.

We spent about an hour or so in here while my phone battery charged. It’s reaching that age where it’s getting needier for a dose of electricity, and no, I’m not going to buy a new one until this one dies.

The rain had stopped, so it was time to explore the area in the search of… liquid refreshment. everal days earlier, I’d been exploring on Google Maps, and found a taproom just over the river from the hotel.

We walked in, only to be greeted with the sight of a laptop and papers strewn everywhere. Well, it didn’t look very open, and the guy behind the laptop had to check if they were actually serving today…. indeed they were closed. Apparently one of the contractors must have left the door open, as they were planning for a refurb. Gutted. The guy said that they’d be open at 3 the following day, so a return trip was planned. Instead, we went to “The Old Silk Mill”.

I liked this place. Pretty cosy, though it did seem to have an aroma of cooked fish about it. I can’t believe I got a pint of Madri when there were so many other exotic beers available. I didn’t see that they had Citra on draft until it was too late.

We had one or two in there, and then headed to “Ye Olde Dolphin Inne”. I really liked this place. It’s one of those places that were built when people were a lot shorter. Low ceilings, all the beers were pumped from a cask. the only thing out of place was the games machine. Sadly, I can’t remember the name of the beer I had (something like Screeching Owl), but it was exceptional. this was to become a regular for the next few days.

Two pints later, and we’d just excaped the rain. It was time to look for some food. There were a number of highly rated Indian Restaurants that appeared, so we picked one, seemingly at random…. The Spice Lounge.

This was certainly a good choice, as the food was excellent. Of course, I had the chicken vindaloo, and I enjoyed it immensely. If I had one critiscism about it, is that you don’t really get enough dips to go with your poppadoms. I think we’d finished 3 of the 4 dips between us, leaving only the white one, because nobody ever eats that stuff.

Overall, a very nice place, and I don’t think the prices were too bad either.

After we left The Spuice Lounge, we headed up the same road to see if we could find a nice pub to settle into for the rest of the night. We ended up in one called The Greyhound. Chris and I both agreed that this part of the city felt very much like York. and this place was no exception, it definitely felt like something you’d see there. The place was really nicely done out…. except for the toilets.

In the first draft of the blog, I put in a detailed description about them. Bog was, quite literally the operative word here Let’s just say some careful hovering was needed, and the rest I’ll leave up to your imagination. Instead, I’ll include a photo of the place itself.

The Greyhound had its last orders at half 10, so we drank up and completed the short walk to the hotel. One bottle of Peroni later, and that was me ready for bed. What excitement would await us the following day? One thing’s for sure, there won’t be as many photos of the inside of pubs as this one…

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.

A veritable smorgasbord of East Coast misery (Day 1)

A couple of years ago, during the height of what I affectionately call, the Panny-D (admittedly, not a name I invented myself), I came up with the idea of going to a random town, spending a couple of days there, and ultimately raiding the nearby charity shops. I thought it would end up no more than a drunken thought at the height of an insanely depressing time. A couple of months ago, I spoke to Chris about the idea… and he bloody loved it. He also thought it would be great to visit some… er, “lesser known towns”, and explore the sights, sounds, and almost certainly, smells of these different places. A plan was concocted, and before I knew it, we were booked up and winging our way down to the lovely fishing village of Skegness.

So, Friday came, I packed the essentials (a memory card full of music and a couple of T shirts), and off we went. Of course, just going to Skegness would have been a bit of a wasted journey without other stops, so on the way down, I chose a couple of other places, namely Scunthorpe and Grimsby. Chris almost forgot about the Scunthorpe bit, but luckily I reminded him about it with only 0.9 miles to go before the turn off. This would turn out to be the best move of the day. More on Grimsby later.

I had plotted a few places to look at in Scunny, (well, two car parks and a charity shop). Turns out the first car park apparently must have been an NHS one or something because it was closed. Luckily, the second one was open, and even better, it was free for two hours. That couldn’t have worked out any better.

So, charity shops, then. There were a few. I have absolutely no recollection of which ones we visited, but I do know the first one didn’t stock CDs. Oh no. Thankfully, this wasn’t the one I’d plotted on ye olde Googles, and I did pick up “5 for a quid” from one further down the road… this was a struggle, as it would appear some old folks’ home had just had a clear out of the ex-residents’ rooms, or something, as there were 8 shelves of absolute tat.

Of course, the next shop would be this charity shop that I’d located on Google maps, it looked huge, and normally, that’s a good sign. Off we went, and, I quickly began to doubt my map reading skills.. At some point, we’d ended up in the middle of some housing estate. That clearly wasn’t right. I even confirmed that it was open via the googles, so there was absolutely no way it had closed down. Absolutely no way at all. Google wouldn’t lie to me, would it?.

Turns out it had closed down.

Well not quite. It had just moved location, and by pure chance, we stumbled upon where it was now located. I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed in a collection of CDs in all of my entire career of trawling the shops. Ugh. I came out with ONE Paul Young CD and at the time, I wasn’t entirely convinced I didn’t have it in the collection. Of course, I could have checked the database, but I don’t think I could have faced the pain of spending an hour looking for this place, only to come out with nothing. Chris almost bought a knitted psyduck from another shop on the way down. I think this is his first foray into the world of pokemon

Overall, I enjoyed Scunthorpe. It probably would have been better if I didn’t send us on a wild goose chase looking for a shop that no longer existed, but in my defence, The Internets told me it was open.

Our 2 hours parking was completed with 18 minutes to spare, and off we popped to Grimsby…. oh my. A small part of me (read: ALL of me) wished we’d just plopped a couple of quid in the Scunny parking meter and spent a bit more time there. Grimsby is the land that time forgot. In fact, not just time. I think EVERYTHING forgot Grimsby..

Unsurprisingly, My first interest was a charity shop we’d passed on the way in. Chris stopped in a nearby car park to get some water, and I walked along. It became apparent that one of the myths I’d heard about Grimsby was entirely true. It really does smell of fish. And the charity shop was an absolute blow-out, as I hasn’t read the sign correctly…it was simply just a furniture shop, and didn’t sell CDs. Bah

We attempted to get into the town centre. Now, I can’t claim to know much about town planning and traffic management, but my word. Whoever designed the road layout and traffic light system in Grimsby, needs chopping up and feeding to the ample seagulls. It’s HORRIBLE.

Luckily, the town centre is incredibly picturesque.

By sheer luck, we found a carpark, and abandoned the car.

I’m not too sure what to say without coming across overly offensive, but….wow. The smell of fish was soon overpowered by the smell of weed. The few charity shops I raided weren’t even that good. there was a pretty little shopping precinct… thing, and a church of some description. Chris mentioned that he’s like to come back and visit this place…. Sights, sounds and smells of the fishing industry? Yeah, you’re going back there on your own, mate.

I did get a flashback of home, as there was an Indoor market that was almost completely deserted…

One thing that I did see, was some baby pigeons. Not very often you see those, which is just as well, as they were ugly little feckers

That was about it for Grimsby. Charity shops raided, the local “sights, sounds and smells” were successfully “endured”, it was time to make our way to Skeggy.

We got there at about 5PM. The guy from the B+B introduced himself to me and Chris. He was called Mike, and his wife, whom I never got the chance to meet, was called Yvonne. He asked us if we’re here for the scooter weekend. “Hartlepool”, replied Chris, presumably mis-hearing the question. At least it wasn’t me making an awkward faux pas for once. Turns out there was a scooter/mod rally thing on this particular weekend. Every hotel / B+B had scooters parked outside, and every band was playing The Jam.

The B+B was lovely. Completely spotless, and just a tiny walk from the local facilities… And by that, I mean the charity shops, Indian restaurants, and more importantly, the pubs. I only got one particularly bad photo of the outside of the place…

We dumped our stuff in the room, and fired up Google Maps one more time, and aimed it to the first Indian that didn’t have a shocking rating, and that place was called “Saffron”. Unlike the earlier incident, the technology didn’t fail us and we ended up walking there without incident.

A vindaloo and a pint later, we tried to find a nice quiet pub. That was a bit tricky, seeing as it was the afore-mentioned “Mod weekend”, and just a sunny weekend in general. We had a pint in the Wetherspoons whose name escapes me. The Red Lion? We soon decided that this was shit. After all, it was a Spoons. Time to look for somewhere else.

There was a strange deserted spot between the bars and the seafront. Seemed very eerie. Luckily that meant there as a small place called “The Tipsy Cow” that happened to be very quiet. Ideal!

A couple of pints later, we headed out for a walk along the seafront. It was your typical seaside resort, even at 10pm. Loud music, garish lights….

Speaking of lights, I was in streetlight heaven. The majority of the streets were lit by SOX (low pressure sodium) lighting. It must have been decades since I’d witnessed a scene like this, and seeing as this light source has been phased out, it’ll probably be the last time too.

That pretty much concluded Day 1. We spent an hour or two watching Chris Morris clips on YouTube, and then it’ll be Day 2.

London, Day 2

Well, seeing as I’ve received very little / no feedback on Day 1, I can see that you’re all really enjoying reading these. Never mind, I intend to keep going, with the help of more photographs and Google Maps.

Anyway, I awoke on the 2nd day. This was to be the main day we were there, and the only full day. We had intended to visit Brick Lane market at one point during the trip. Unfortunately, due to it only being open at the weekend, it was closed, so that was off the radar. There was, however, Borough Market just a short tube ride away, somewhere near London Bridge. We got there, and it was rather “foody”.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to a market that’s got a dedicated “Turnips” section. Admittedly, I did spend rather a long time debating whether I should buy a small tub of Scorpion Chilli powder, but seeing as there was no prices on anything, I decided against it. I’m one of those people who’ll take something to a counter, ask how much it is, and then begrudgingly buy it even if it’s more than what I expected to pay.

It’s probably still there on the shelf now. On the plus side, I didn’t have to carry it around all day.

Accomplice bought a “weird” bacon sandwich, and while I was tempted to buy a sausage sandwich, I didn’t…. my word, the excitement I get up to, eh? No wonder nobody is reading this bloody thing.

We walked around the nearby area, and happened to stumble upon one of the replicas of “The Golden Hinde”.

It was a short walk to London Bridge tube station, so we headed off in its general direction. As you pass under London Bridge, there’s a tannoy that plays a creepy music-box rendition of “London Bridge Is Falling Down”. That’s rather worrisome, especially as you’re going under it as the time. No matter though, as I’m sure it’s built with far more sturdy materials than when that particular tune was written. It’s an old folk tune anyway, so it was probably written about polio anyway.

One of the sights I wanted to see while I was in London was the Olympic Park, in Stratford. It sort-of fitted with the other things we were going to see that day anyway (or so we thought), so we headed off in that general direction.

It seemed we were going out of the more popular area of London, as the tube carriage emptied further and further we went along the line. This had me feeling already that there wasn’t going to be too much there.

Well. After getting out of the tube station, you’re greeted with a shopping centre. Nothing much wrong with that, but it just feels a bit like “You’ve come all this way to see something. Great! Now spend some money!” And, spend I did! I bought myself a sausage roll from Greggs (yes, they have them down there too) and a bottle of wahter. And the sausage roll was *terrible*.

It was a short walk to the Olympic park from the shopping centre. Well, it would have been had we gone the right way, but instead we ended up walking around the not-very-decorative loading bays for the shopping centre. Oops.

Onto the stadium itself. The words “underwhelming” spring to mind. Maybe it was because they changed the shape of it since it was used for the Olympic Games, but I was expecting something much grander.

The athletics championships had just finished a couple of days prior to us going, and there were still traces of the signage left standing. Unfortunately, as the stadium had begun the transformation from an athletics track into a football stadium (which has to be done manually, and takes 15 days), nost of it was fenced off. There were still signs up for the athletics though, including a sighting of my new second-favourite fictional hedgehog, “Hero”…

After that, we were “Gone, Gone, Gone!” Next stop would be Abbey Road. It was a mere couple of stops on the DLR…. or WAS it?

Judging by the presence of that sentence, you’d be right in thinking it isn’t. At least, not the famous one, anyway.

We got off at the appropriate DLR station named “Abbey Road”, and made our way to the bridge that leads out on the road, only to be presented with a sign filled with really crap Beatles puns, something along the lines of “Are you looking for the Beatles’ Abbey Road and are in need of a little Help!? Well, you’ll need to get a Ticket To Ride to “another station”.

Accomplice had pretty much given up on the idea of seeing it. I clearly hadn’t. Therefore, we travelled the 34 minutes on the tube, followed by about another 10 minute walk, just to see a zebra crossing. And it’s not even the original zebra crossing, which was a little further up the road. But nothing stands in the way of a good photo opportunity.

OK, it’s entirely the wrong angle, but I wasn’t going to get Accomplice to stand in the middle of road and hold up traffic. I’d have known what the response would have been.

So, the whole premise of going here and seeing the non-touristy sights were going really well. There was one place I wanted to go that even the hardened tourist wouldn’t have thought of.

Part of my job involves entering data about London streets from emails into a database. It’s all very old fashioned, and something that could be automated very easily, but because of this, I became aware of a street called Chandos Place, upon which stands a Nandos. Therefore, we headed there andhad Nandos in Chandos. I wonder how many other people have done the following just for that very reason. Yeah, probably nobody.

As we were still in an “upmarket” part of London (Covent Garden, to be exact), it seemed only right to go and do something even more upmarket. It was time to take my very first trip to Harrods. After all, I’m sure I’d fit in, with my purple Slazenger polo shirt and Sports Direct walking boots. I’m sure it was the type of clientele the shop regularly does business with. Mind you, nobody in their right frame of mind actually buys anything from there. I mean, £1.80 for a bottle of coke? Come on, I’m sure there was a Tesco Express around the corner.

I bet you didn’t know that the carrier bags for Harrods used to be made in Hartlepool? I don’t know if they’re still are, but I always remember going to infants school with my PE kit in a Harrods carrier bag. My nanna worked for the company that made them. Obviously, I didn’t get the significance at the time, but I’m sure it’d raise a few smiles these days, wandering around this lovely little fishing village with a Harrods bag.

I was considering buying a music system, but even if I put together all of the money I have ever earned from all of my jobs, and not spent anything else ever, I’d probably still not come close on buying this…

It was at this point my Nandos started moving, and I thought it’d be a nice little thing to say I’ve had a cack in Harrods. If you’re a bloke, don’t bother. There’s bogs on every floor for women, and one bog in the entire place for blokes, and there was a queue a mile long. There’s one thing I absolutely detest in life, and that’s following someone into a cubicle It’s happened too often where I’ve dropped an absolute panblocker, and someone’s went in straight after me. One day, I know the tables are gonna turn, but not this time. I kept hold of it until we found somewhere else.

And that somewhere else was apparently “the only pub on Sloane Street”, known as The Gloucester. Finding the bogs was like playing something in The Crystal Maze (which has returned to our TV screens! Hurrah!) – go up some stairs, through the doors, disable the laser, though some other doors, etc. While we were in there, I also had a pint of “Camden Pale Ale”, which was a nice smooth pint. I have blocked the price of this from my mind. Accomplice would watch out of the window as the shiny and expensive cars would go by, and comment on each of them. I would simply nod politely and pretend I knew what was being said. I didn’t have a clue. When it comes to cars, you might as well speak Swahili to me.

We downed the pints and emerged once more into the setting sun. Apparently, we walked up Knightsbridge, Kensington Road, then onto Exhibition Road. Lots of large colleges around there. Walking around there made me feel like I was back in Berlin or Vienna. It certainly didn’t feel like London.

Another quick ride on the tube took us to Victoria. A station I believe I last frequented in 2003. We walked down Victoria Street. Another street lined with modern buildings and shops, and of course, some not-so-new buildings. It was, at this point, it became clear that all of my hopes of doing the non-touristy stuff came to an abrupt halt, as unbeknownst to me, the road led to the Houses of Parliament, and of course, Elizabeth Tower, a.k.a. Big Ben.

It was a mere five days before the big bell would stop sounding for four years, so I suppose it was nice to be one of the last to hear it in action one last time.

We made our way across Westminster Bridge, and headed down the river towards London Bridge, taking in the sights, stopping off for the odd sit-down along the way…

I’d avoided any type of curry, so I don’t know how that possibly could have happened.

As we were walking, something became apparent. My feet weren’t holding up as well as I thought they were going to. I’d pretty much avoided the problems with my left foot (more on that later, probably in the next part), but instead I was having problems with my right foot…

And, right on cue, just as we’d passed the ITV studios (home to none other than ITV’s “This Morning”, as you can clearly see), I felt a massive blister go. Oh, this didn’t feel like it was going to be good.

I struggled on, desperate for a sit down somewhere, but we kept on, and eventually made it back to London Bridge. It was about 9PM at the point, but that music-box thing I mentioned earlier was STILL playing. Creepy.

It was still relatively early, and we’d made plans to go somewhere and catch something to eat, but my feet decided not to play ball, so we headed back, calling in at McDonalds on the way, as it was just a short journey from the hotel. My word, if you know Hartlepool, you’ll know you always get your flurry of harmless chavs hanging around. It’s warm, it’s dry and it has free Wi-Fi. What’s not for chavs to love? Well, in London, it’s like that, but the chavs seem a little more… sinister, like if you look at them the wrong way, they’d stab you. I felt like the guy sat next to me was going to jump me, or something. Then a guy sat next to me, carrying a Primark bag, having a full-on conversation to himself.

“Right, that’s it, we’re going”…

We arrived back at the hotel at approximately 9:30. I nipped downstairs to the hotel bar to see what it was like. Not very good to be fair. One lager of dubious origin on draught, and a price tag around the £4.50 mark. I managed to have one before they ran out. I then had a 330ml bottle of Stella and paid about the same. If I’d have thought, I could have nipped to the pub across the road. Though if I thought @the Maccy D’s was rough, I dread to think how rough that pub might have been, especially on my own and with a Northern accent. Yeah, best to stay in the safety of the hotel I reckon.

As I was unwilling to mortage Mercury Towers for another small beverage, I headed back to the room in preparation for the 3rd and final day in the Capital…

Bye bye Steetley part 3, the demolition

Well, it’s all over. the dust has literally settled, there is officially no more steetley Chimney. After many decades overlooking the residents of Hartlepool, its fate was sealed at 11:06AM, and it crashed to the ground in a cloud of black smoke.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have as many cameras covering the event as I anticipated, but I still managed to get these…

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Because it’s late… or early…

I’ve started typing this entry at 05:46 in the morning, so you’ll have to decide where it’s early or late. For me, it’s late, but that doesn’t really matter. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted anything reasonable. In fact, the last post was regarding the Tall ships, which have come and gone. In something that’s becoming a bit of a tradition, here’s a partial post I wrote…

The residents of the quaint little fishing village of Hartlepool can breathe a sigh of releif, as the town slowly returns back to normal following the Tall Ships “festival”. Regular viewers will notice the lack of updates regarding this particular event, that’s because, as I mentioned, I was in Employment Palace 3 of the 4 days, meaning I was only able to pick up one of the 4 main days. No fireworks for me!

Still, plans had been made to attend the last day of the tall ships with some work colleagues. Dick Brown, webmaster of the World Wide Wankstain dick-brown.com instantly announced his disgust at attending such event, or rather, announced his disgust at attending an event with work colleagues instead of friends. I was a bit gutted, as I thought we were friends. Clearly not. Never mind, eh?

Four of us agreed to go, and meet up at Jamie S’s house. The other two I shall name as Craig and Gary. After all, that’s their names. Everyone except for Jamie S happened to finish at a silly time in the morning, meaning he could have a sleep in, and we would wander (or drive), bleary eyed towards his house. Gary had to drive from Beiruit Port Clarence, and the plan was for him to park outside of Jamie S’s house.

I went to bed at about 9. At approximately 11, I got a text from Jamie S saying he was dropping out. It could have been predicted, but it meant that Gary had nowhere to park. Bugger.

I was going to go anyway, and had originally planned to get a good vantage point at the Headland. On my way there, I found that part of the fence had been removed, which meant the full dock site was open. I never expected that! For the first time I can remember, you could walk from Northgate to the marina, through the private land of the docks.

Predictably, it was not possible to have four dry days in Hartlepool, and the clouds threatened to spoil the going-away parade…

At approximately 14:35, it began to hoy down. Luckily, some of the tents / stalls had became vacant, meaning that I was just in the right place to take shelter.

It absolutely shat down.

It stopped raining for approximately 10 minutes, before the clouds rolled in again. Thankfully, I made my way out, but then back to the shelter of “my” tent before it started again. Unfortunately, these didn’t…

It’s not really visible, but the t-shirt stand next to where I was stood also sold umbrellas. I’ve got video (which I’m sure I’ll upload somewhere) of this rain shower of the afore mentioned umbrella seller…. “Umbrellas, three pound….. (rain gets heavier)…. Umbrellas, five pound now…” I found it funny anyway. So did quite a few people who had also joined me in the tent.

Eventually the rain stopped, and Gary rang me, asking where I was. I gave him my location, and we met up. He brought one of his dogs along, whose first job to lick me to death. Lucklily, I was able to move out of the way of the muddy paw hug, meaning my white t-shirt was safe.

Obviously, we went to see some of the ships leave. The first was the Christian Radich…

The weather actually began to change. the gloomy skies were, for the first time, being replaced with bright sunshine. Of course, this didn’t last long, and before we knew it, we were once again running for the shelter of the vacant tents. It was at this point I noticed Craig had texted me

…. and, that’s where I left it, suspension fans! You’ll never find what the text contained, or whether Craig made it. Actually, he didn’t. I’ll cut to the end of the day, as it was weeks ago now, but after most of the ships had sailed out of the port, me and Gary headed up to Crimdon for a view up there…

A unique view that will probably never be repeated again.

Right, that’s the end of my Tall Ships coverage. Well, OK, not quite. I’ve got possession of Andy The Iridium Fan’s “Tall Ships” archive. He was lucky enough to be down there all four days, and also get hold of a photography pass, meaning there’s 3,768 photos for me to go through… watch this space.

Photo opportinities have been few and far between, thanks to a few reasons. My complete laziness, “Just Cause 2”, and the weather. I’ve not even been out to get any sunsets recently, though I did attempt a bit of sunset photography with ATIF the other week. Unfortunately, the sunset was an abortion, so we just hung around until it got dark, and tried a bit of long exposure in a field… wait, that sounds wrong… we sat in a field and took photos of each others equipment…. hang on, that sounds worse… look, this is what I mean…

Actually, the rest of the set turned out quite good too

20th August saw me obtain a few plastic crates from work, in the vain hope of being able to sort something out of my record, CD and tape collection This is something that is ongoing (i.e. not started yet). though one of the crates has already been filled with old videotapes.

The 22nd August saw the end of an era. Yes, it was the last ever gig of “Accidents By Design”. I wouldn’t say I was their only fan, but I’ve been to as many gigs as I could possibly attend, fighting my way through rain, hail and snow. Here’s some video of their last ever gig.

Part 1
Part 2
Part3
Part 4

Parts 1+4 have feedback noise on them, unfortunately, thanks to a dodgy guitar pedal left by a previous band. Had a great day overall, and the sunburn I thought I’d end up getting wasn’t as bad as I’d feared.

Two sets of photos on this one, firstly, mine hosted on flickr, and ATIF’s which are hosted (removed). Despite the lure of cheap beer, with some of the money going to charity, I didn’t touch a drop.

EDIT: Ooooh, seems I missed a couple of things out of this post. Just had a comment from Jamie S, as I failed to mention he actually turned up for Pitch Invasion. I mentioned he didn’t turn up for the Tall Ships, but he broke his 100% record for not turning up to stuff, by er… actually turning up.

The first time he didn’t turn up for something was when we were going to Middlesbrough to see Wheatus. Which, in some type of weird juxtaposition of the present and the past, I received this email from someone who you may remember as “Poolieboydave”…

Alright

Hope your well. Just got back from Leeds festival and finally saw weezer after nine yeas of waiting. Anyway bizarrely they did a cover of wheatus’ teenage dirtbag, which made me think of the poolieboydave drunken msn rant!

Odd how these things crop up! I still check the blog weekly!

Bloody hell, three readers!

The Solstice!

Well, it’s the first time for a good few years that I’ve actually been able to get out and photograph the June 21st sunrise, though I almost never made it.

Through some stroke of odd luck, I managed to bag a 2PM – 2AM shift, meaning I would return home in good enough time to judge the weather, and whether it was worth taking the walk to a decent vantage point to catch the sunrise. After I got home, I was a little tired, and thought that the walk simply wouldn’t be worth it, so instead got the big Canon, and the tripod out, and began to take photos in the street. Admittedly, these weren’t up to much, and sadly, it turns out that my camera remote has bitten the dust, so I won’t show any on here.

Onme thing I did capture, however, is my own sign that the summer had started. If I’m awake, I watch it every year, yet this year was the first time I had actually photographed it.

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Yes, it’s the instant that the streetlight outside of Mercuryvapour Towers extinguishes. I must have sat there, with my finger over the trigger button for about 10 minutes, waiting for the trademark clunk of the photocell’s relay clicking over, and the sudden lack of artificial light in the vacinity.

Shortly after, I decided that the cloud cover wasn’t bad enough to ruin a good photo oppportunity, donned the new pocket Canon, and headed off into the general direction of the fields. Well, I say fields, it’s been a housing estate for about 8 years, but there’s still a bit of undeveloped land which gives you a good view of any possible sunrise. I thought I was too late from the view of this photo…

Summer Solstice, 21st June 2010

I knew I only had a few minutes to make it to higher ground. I power-strutted like I’ve never strutted before, to the tune of “Don’t Go” by Yazoo. I am happy to report that I made it to higher ground before it was too late…

Summer Solstice, 21st June 2010

Admittedly, it’d have been better if those streetlights weren’t there.

On the way home, I did manage to photograph one thing which has been in existence for the majority of my childhood, but is soon to disappear behind a wall of ivy, are the old cricket stumps I used as a child. You’ll have to forgive me if I get a little reminiscent here, but I know one rather quiet troll reader who will no doubt get a shiver down his spine by viewing these…

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Here’s a closer shot after some of the ivy had been removed….

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Finally, here’s s shot if you were stood in the ‘crease’.
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A place I wouldn’t see very often, as I was shit at cricket, and used to receive unfair bowls from Chad, such as “grass cutters”. Chad, you will note that many of the features we used to use have been removed. It’s no longer possible to lose a ball in “Carl’s bush”, and that the impossibly rare 100 runs for hitting Ringwood’s garage can no longer be achieved. A 6 or 4 can still be earned by hitting it up his driveway, though he’s not lived there for many years since Mrs Ringwood died. I can no longer hit a ball into Kevin’s pond (Kevin, you may remember had more than a passing resemblance for Ex-Tottenham footballer Vinny Samways) thanks to a growth of elderberry to the left of where I stood, and the fact that the pond disappeared years ago. The pile of rubbish is pretty much where we bowled from – the house is currently empty and undergoing renovation, hence the rubbish.

And on that note, I’m off to bed. Morning!