Things, Stuff and Wastes of Time

This was supposed to be about hobbies and things I collect. That is really too grand an idea though, I don't really do any of this seriously, like most things I mess about with it. However, since websites are supposed to be full of interesting things about you (I believe it's in the rules) this is the closest I can get.

If you have read any of the rest of this site you will see I am wallowing in nostalgia. probably a sign of getting old, the realization that there is less of life in front of you now and that most of it is behind you (are you depressed enough yet? No, keep reading, you will be...). So looking back is more fun since there is more to see than looking forward. Looking back isn't without it's surprises either, things you missed and get to rethink. It's possible there are more surprises in the past than the future, since that seems pretty mapped out now and on a gentle downward glide (now are you depressed enough? Oh I haven't even begun yet...go fetch the Welbutrol). This is particularly true for me, since I am forgetting so much, people who know me have reminded me about "remember when..." situations that actually, no, I don't bloody remember. Are you sure I was there? Apparently I have had an more interesting life than I thought...

Recently I have become a little obsessed with experiences I will never have again. I don't mean the first time stuff we all only get one shot at, first kiss etc, but the stuff that we may have taken for granted when it was happening. The stuff that the last time you did it you had no idea that that would be the last time, or you would probably have done it harder, faster or taken pictures. Like having a drink with a good friend. It doesn't matter who, sadly there are a bunch of examples. Something happened, totally without notice at the time, and that was in fact the Last Time you would ever have a drink with that friend. Nothing cataclysmic , they didn't spontaneously combust or anything, there was no reason to suspect that it was in fact The Last Time but now, 25 years later you realize, wow, that was the Last Time and it will never happen again. I should have ordered a double.

Life is full of stuff like that. Of course it does kind of come with the territory when you emigrate to another continent but even so, there have been things that have happened since being here that turned out to be Last Times.

Yes, you know what's coming; sooner or later there will be a list of Last Times here for me to obsess over, at least the R rated ones that wouldn't be typical of any mid life crisis married with 2.4 chins type of whining.

But not yet, you are depressed enough, on with the hobbies and wastes of money...

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I have an odd thing for maps. Maybe I like the gods eye view, maybe I like the voyeuristic thrill of seeing the normally unseeable, maybe I like squiggly lines, who knows? I used to spend a lot of time poring over Ordnance Survey maps, the more detailed the better, then disappear in a cloud of two-stroke to go find out if I really could get from Numpnett Thrubwell to Ubley by bridleway. Always trying to find a secret path, grove or stream. The walls to my 6x8 work isocube are decorated with maps and satellite images.

I even love maps to places that don't exist, Terry Pratchett's Discworld and Ankh Moorpork maps hang proudly on my bedroom wall.


Known as flashlights in these parts. Don't know why I can't walk past a torch without getting the urge to buy it. Slim metal cylinders packed with, I'm sure there is something deeply disturbing in my psyche relating to that. Although it may be simple nostalgia again, I always used to get a lot of these as presents at Christmas. Waving a torch beam into the night air is still a bit of a sad thrill. I have run out of places to justify putting them, both cars have one in the glove box, one in the boot. All over the house...


Don't you love Ebay? All those toys you lost, destroyed or only your rich friend had, you can now track down, 35 years later, and get. True you may have to pay through the nose but now my allowance is a lot more than half a crown. Well, a bit more, as long as my wife doesn't notice...

I always wanted the UFO Interceptor that was in the window of Ken Davies toys, bait and fishing licenses shop in Stockwood. I never got one and Ebay has demonstrated that I still can't afford them, must be one of those rules of life.

I had a very cute pink matchbox car with glass panels in the door. I got mocked at some point for liking a pink car, funny how we pick up these tiny mental scars. No idea what happened to it but that car stuck in my memory, at least the toy did, the name of it leaked right out. My (relatively) wealthy friend had a bigger Corgi version, in a more manly green and white. Anyway, thanks to Ebay, me and the pink car have been reunited for $12, turns out it was a Lamborghini Marzal...

Hammer Horror Movie Posters

I was just a bit too young for the heyday of Hammer Horror films. That strange arts program of the 70's, Aquarius, did a special about them where they mostly panned the cheapness and lack of style compared to the great Universal versions. Yeah, right. Anyway, from what little I saw of Dracula and The Mummy I was hooked. I caught up with most of them thanks to Friday night TV and the few TV shows they did in their death throws.

Later, buying books about Hammer I discovered the lurid art of their cinema posters. When I was about 15, thanks to fan magazines, I got hold of three Hammer movie posters. Pinned to my bedroom wall (instantly destroying any value they may have had) that was the extent of my collection for many years until along came Ebay...

If you want to know the state of my obsession now, check out for the source of the inexplicable drain on my money. I have told my wife they are an investment, certainly if I had bought more back when I was 15 I could have saved myself a lot of money. Oh well.

Books and Geeks

I used to read a lot of books, these days I don't often have the time. It used to all be Horror with a smattering of Sci-Fi and Fantasy. What? I get enough reality from real life. Over the last couple of years I have been experimenting with more mainstream stuff, though generally stories that are allegedly funny. Terry Pratchett is the best writer ever and I love the evolution from puns and parody to mysteries and noir. I always thought Jack Chalker was vastly underrated and have re-read Midnight at the Well of Souls so many times. I was sad that he died last year, I got a couple of books signed by him at a Sci-Fi convention (yep, I am that big a geek, only been to a couple, the Klingon strip show was memorable). The one big sci-fi convention I have been to was the 1996 World Con in LA. The first thing I saw was a lot of people were in Uniforms and Costumes for their favorite characters. All I will say about that is Logan needed to do a lot more Running.

I am useless at meeting my heroes, I have been to signings by Terry Pratchett every time he has been in the area. I regress to a mute fan boy and have yet to string a sentence together in his presence. Though my claim to fame (such as it is) is that we both stared down the same cleavage expansively displayed when the rather attractive and posh lady at the Chelmsford Literary Society bent over him to check if he needed anything. He looked, I looked, we looked. That was it, my little shared moment with a hero. No wait, don't leave, I have sadder stories...

Stand Up Comedy

Billy Connolly, Ben Elton, Greg Proops, Jasper Carrott and Mark Lamarre when he was still a poet. I love stand up comedy and it is the number one place we head for when we have a babysitter. My wife and I haunt Rooster T Feathers in Sunnyvale. Not exactly on the main circuit for your Jerry Seinfelds (seen him, he wasn't that good) but they still have had some great acts. I make a point of buying the home made CD's they often sell at the end of the show and putting them on my Ipod for those long trips and boring meetings.

Something Fishy

I have a couple of aquariums where I play God of the Guppies. nothing fancy, just little freshwater easy maintenance stuff. Since I am congenitally lazy I am in search of the Perfect Filter. I keep trying to think up something that needs no attention, cleaning or fuss. I'll let you know when I get there. My experiment with a big bucket and under gravel jets is certainly not it. Tropical Fish are just one of my Anorak tendencies. Hey, at least I don't collect stamps...


Who isn't into music? I am still on the quest for really, really good speakers, I'll let you know when I finally get some. Got close for a while with the enormous ones I had in my bed-sit but had to leave them behind and anyway, they need to be 7.1 home theater ones now...feel the weight of my sub-woofer.

I still miss the days of driving round in Paul Meadow's Triumph Herald listening to what today they call mix tapes but then were just - tapes. No gutter was free of a partially despooled cassette tape in the 70's. Load's of music recorded by teenagers too poor to buy records. Songs were taped from Tony Prince on Radio Luxembourg would-you-bloody-believe because I am older than dirt and remember when Radio 1 (247 meters MW, moved to 275 & 285 before finally going FM and stereo)  shut off at 6pm. Remember the Luxembourg effect? The sound faded in and out, made it painful to listen to and stupid to record, especially by holding a cheap cassette recorder up to the radio, but yep, that's what we did. Our car tapes included dogs barking and parents telling you to turn it down. Digital my arse. When we did buy singles they were either in the bargain bin after the new charts came out on Sunday or those Music for Pleasure Top of the Pops LP's (before that phrase was Copyright) where the chart hits were done by unknowns impersonating the real thing, often really badly. And there was always recording the Radio 1 Chart countdown on Sunday afternoon, trying to hit the Pause button before Alan Freeman rambled all over the beginning or end of the song. The Ipod generation have no idea how crap it all was.

So I am totally loving all the MP3, Itunes, Kazaa stuff. I was a little old foggie about it (If it's not CD quality I ain't interested...) to start with so I missed the heyday of Napster. Now my great pleasure when everyone else has gone to bed is downloading music. I love it. I started by trying to find every record I ever remembered but never owned, all the stuff that mattered a bit, at the time. Then it got to be a challenge to think of stuff I couldn't find to download, to stump the global piracy network. It's amazing, some took longer than others but I think I found it all eventually. I love the tickle of nostalgia, every tune wiggles a dusty nueron with a teenage memory attached to it. Excellent. Then what? How about some new music, how about dragging my beer gut into the 21st century and finding some music not from the 80's and, god, the 70's...I love the BBC, they really have got the idea on the Internet. I started listening to Radio 1, Radio 5, Virgin and GWR at work and late at night. It drives me nuts that you just can't find anything but the same old crap on US radio. Itunes is great, you find something you like and it points you to Other stuff you might like too. One tune at a time I am catching back up with the world. If I keep this up, I can embarrass my kids.

I waste a lot of time trying to find album cover pictures for the more obscure stuff I have downloaded of the net. So for anyone else out there who likes the same kind of rubbish I have bought over the years, here are some of my contributions to pretty up your mp3's.


Mentioned above, but this time with music...I would have been happy to continue to collect Movie posters in my later teens if I could have afforded them...but I couldn't. In fact, it was only a few years before that I could have had them for free. Teams of fly posters used to paste movie posters over any spare bit of derelict wall or boarded over building that they could. For some reason Vanishing Point (1971) was one I remember seeing just about everywhere.

The laws changed in the early 70's though and film posters could be traced back to the distributors if they carried on doing it. So the movie posters stopped being slopped up  but music promoters are a more shady lot, they kept on doing it. So my mate Nick and I would deliberately modify our routes after a night out to take the motorbikes past Bristol's student turf and well known flyposting sites to see what we could scrape off.

These are not the nice glossy ones that you bought in Woolies. They were usually two or three colors at most but nice and big. If we got our timing right, we could carefully peel them  off before the paste dried. Otherwise, it was still possible to get a hardened one off. Often resulting in a poster that was half an inch thick with previous substrate posters in one corner, and a bare tissue in the other by the time we peeled it that far. It took several attempts usually, but that was OK because they fly posted a lot of posters in one spot. Inevitably, we got caught peeling a still soggy one while the team was just on the other side of the road putting them up. They weren't amused but on this occasion were stringy students smaller than us so they didn't make too big a deal out of it and gave us an unused one to bugger off.

I spent quite a few trips home late at night with a rolled up poster poking me in the face stuffed down my jacket and putting glue stains over my jumper. I had a lot of them but they must have got lost along the way somewhere, I can only put my hands on the three mentioned on this site. I do still have the enormous Heineken, Refreshes The Parts Other Beers Can't Reach hoarding poster my girlfriend cadged for me though. It had pride of place for many years occupying one wall and half the ceiling. Great poster.


All right, this is a bit that probably belongs somewhere else, Bristol Town Center does get it's own Nighclub section but I wrote this for something else and I feel I should recycle it.

As a former born and bred Bristolian now living in California, I can't help feel that I need to say a few words to any potential first time visitors. Yeah, for some reason I feel I have to make some excuses because I'm not sure that Bristol's good at first impressions. I'm also sulking because I can't go back home for Christmas every year, to celebrate it properly with Antlers on my head and binge drinking. So this ramble is my self-indulgent nostalgia, serious visitor information can probably be found elsewhere.

Bristol is England's 4th largest city, but this is being written from my memories, without contemporary fact checking. So you can guess it's a "in-between" kind of place. It's not London that's for sure. It's a big, working city but it's at the gateway to the popular holiday destinations of the West of England. So it can feel rural, even though it's very concrete urban in the center. The almost-Somerset Bristol accent, which has a passing resemblance to Long John Silver as traditionally done, means that if you leave Bristol you will suffer a lifetime of sheep buggering and tractor driving yokel jokes.

Bristol has never had the grim credibility of Manchester, or the character building poverty of Liverpool. Though strangely, parts of Bristol are frequently used as movie stand-ins for other parts of the UK. Some of the gangsterish under-the-railway-arches warehouses of the Feeder area pretend to be Manchester and London when the BBC needs them to. It's well known that most of the external locations of "Only Fools & Horses", the classic cockney wideboys comedy, is actually filmed using tower blocks and street scenes in Bristol. Being a 1000 year old major port, central to the whole New World slavery operation, means that there is some real understated quirkiness and character to the place. Bristol is certainly understated, it's got a lot going for it but you have to search to find it.

As an ex-pat, I have the slightly rose tinted view. Which is just as well, because if you talk to the people right there they will mainly whine about it all. It's a Bristol thing, we are whiners. There have always been at least two populations there, pulling it in different directions. The permanent but itself diverse local population constantly absorbing immigrants, and the temporary but ever present Student population that locals feel swamp the place. Now there is another wave coming in, transplants from Essex and the London satellite suburbs who have come up with the jobs boom. Everyone seems to hate the city council for changing things but I love what they have done. They are turning the ugly and empty office blocks that the 60's gave us into apartments, so people actually LIVE in the city's center again. A bloody good idea to give a sense of ownership of the center back to residents and drive out the lurkers who creep in at night when the offices are closed.

The city center is a nexus for busses and taxis to get you out of Bristol after your night on the town. It was just an over large patch of vomit sodden waste ground turned into a traffic island surrounded by multiple lanes of largered up boy racers. There was a public outcry when this area was smartened up with some expensive if silly fountains and semi-pedestrianized. All those in Bristol who actually never went to the center hated it, but as one of those who stood on that scary little patch of scrubland watching drunks running over slower drunks on many Saturday nights, I can only say anything was an improvement.

I love the hidden things in Bristol. The cobbled streets hiding behind the concrete office blocks (Christmas Steps). The vast underground network of tunnels and man made caverns that occasionally are glimpsed as part of a pub or restaurant (Harvey's Wine Cellars, The Slug and Lettuce, The Ostritch) but in fact cover almost the whole city as part of the bad old days (read Secret Underground Bristol - I had no idea!). The ruined Luftwaffe bombed Temple Church ( with the alarmingly leaning tower where most of my wedding pictures are taken - I love the fact I was married in a deconsecrated church!

Not everything is treated with respect of course. The village of Catbrain was paved over to extend the runway at Filton when Bristol was developing the Concord and BAe/Rolls Royce needed to extend the runway. Bits of it are overgrown and still there, along with the original 501 Squadron airbase buildings, it used to look like something out of Sleeping Beauty. There is a roman villa too at Laurence Weston, covered in council house kid graffiti.

With it's new young and trendy population increase, Bristol has converted a lot of historic banks and financial offices into pubs, and I love them (most of Clair St) though I'm not so sure about all the faux-Irish bars. King St is still the home of the best Jazz pub, The Duke, the most scary drinking pub, The Navel Volunteer (volly to the locals), the most perspective giving 40-something separates and desperates pub, which has changed it's name and I can't remember but you'll know it when you see it, and the Llandoger Trow. Allegedly the model for The Spyglass in Treasure Island but usually just good if you want to sit down and have a quiet drink.

Most people I think like what they have done with the whole dockside area, it's worth a walk around the whole thing. With all the cuts and floating harbor it's hard to see where it begins and ends.

Bristol is a mixture and seems to deliberately hide it's best bits behind the ugly 60's concrete, but it's a great place to walk and explore. Though it is definitely urban so exploring is more a daytime thing. It's also a gateway though, to truly wonderful Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. The West country is nothing to do with the North-South divide or the heartland East, it is definitely "other" England. Historic Bath is just next door and is the Edinburgh to Bristol's Glasgow. Not forgetting of course the many beautiful castles of Wales, from fairytale to romantic ruin, are just over The Severn Bridge. I always liked Chepstow.






























moving this down the page until I have time to sort it out...and now for some rambling unifinshed notes I must sort our some time...

Music, John Miles...OK pretentious song but what the hell, like most music it places me in a particular place at a particular time and tickles the appropriate memory cells when I hear it. Read below for what Music triggers (not much actually).

So I like music, as far as type goes it's probably like everything else about me, superficial and shallow. I like pop, I like simple, I like catchy, novelties, one hit wonders, crap...and other stuff.

Before we had a record player...
Aunty Bet gave us a bunch of singles which we played on the ancient gramophone at the old peoples home (no really was a gramophone, had a needle that was nothing more than a spike, they came in packets, made it go by winding a handle). Mom had a cleaning job over the road at the old peoples home in Ladman Grove. There was a auditorium type room that had a gramophone, my sister and I would play in here while mum worked.

Hoots Mon - Lord Rockinghams XI - Hoots mon, there's a moose loose aboot this hoose - a phrase that still rattles around in my head to this day
GI Blues - Elvis - Have not liked Elvis ever since, sorry

If you're a collector forget it, at some point they all became obnoxious kid Frisbees or target practice.

You want Radio 1 Nostalgia? Yer, ya go:'s_Jingle_page.htm

meanwhile, on Radio 2, junior choice:

Little Boxes -
Mud, mud, glorious mud
Bernard Cribbins

On TV, occasional aminated or puppet gems that I would look forard to - hah! CBBC, you have no idea...

Day-Oh! No, you're too loud man, animated guy moves further and further away...

And of course, Adverts!

Nut's whole Hazelnuts, ooe!

Finally, a Music Centre!
After our first "Music Centre" arrived: radio and record player combined, the big thing in the 70's, ours didn't have a cassette tape player though. A source of annoyance as I got older and wanted to tape the Radio 1 (247!) chart show - remember that? Hovering over the pause button to cut off bloody Alan Freeman. Those were real mix tapes, songs that ended with -shup! Napster, pah!

Blockbuster, The Sweet: First record I ever bought. Played it a lot, still do. So bite me.
Monster Mash - Bobby (Boris) Pickett (SD)
Laughing Gnome - David Bowie - 1973 re-release
The Crunch - Rah Band

Those Memory Triggers...
Tiger Feet - Mud -  can't stand this record though...must be bad. Possibly ruined by the secondary association of trying to do the hands on belt dance that goes with it at discos, can't dance, never could. Only difference is now I dance anyway. Sod you all.
I Feel Love - Donna Summer - After Dave Watts left school I bumped into him walking back from my girlfriends one night on Sandy Park Road. Hung out in his room listening to records of which this was one introduced with the recommendation "This is what they play at Raquels...". I remember being oddly happy about hanging out with Dave since I was never really sure whether we were mates or not while at Briz, he could be a bit intimidating but was a good bloke.
Ring my Bell - Anita Ward



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