This morning I bought myself a ‘Red Zone’ all day travel ticket to roam on buses throughout the Washington / Sunderland area. To remind myself for future reference, the ticket today cost me £5.30. Don’t know why these tickets continue the steep upwards price sting, they are more expensive every time I buy one.

Looking back, it’s been the best part of eleven months since I travelled on a bus. My last record shopping expedition took me to Newcastle way back in January. Then of course, everyone was free to go about their lives. Fast forward to December 2020 and I’m about to board a bus for the first time since the British Covid-19 lock-down, after which we were placed into regional categories or ‘Tiers’ as they’re better known.

The North East of England has been in the most stringent Tier 3 for months so I’m well versed in the requirements to all citizens living in such a rigid environment.

Boarding the bus to Newbottle this morning was a little weird for a couple of reasons. The first being that passengers who were paying for their ticket by cash had to place their coins into one of those ‘collection containers’, the ones that usually get flashed into your face by anyone collecting for a charity. Only have the correct money too! No change is given.

The second reason my journey to Newbottle was a little strange and weird was because I realised that this was the first time in eleven months I had actually journeyed outside of Washington. From the last Winter to this Winter, the Seasons had merged into one. I have been a ‘prisoner’ of circumstance, fear and travel restrictions. Who would want to board a bus full of passengers sitting less than two metres away and potentially riddled with Covid-19?

Anyway, after a pleasant walk in my new pair of Monkey Boots to Newbottle from Herrington I reached the family home and exchanged Christmas presents with my Mother, but did not enter her house. We stayed outside occupying her small garden area and chatted.

OK then, it was time to split to Sunderland and another bus journey. Not many people around, it seems everyone is either just too scared to go out, what’s the point when the virus injection is being rolled out to every citizen soon? Or they’re all just too busy in their bedrooms, kitchens and garages inventing a homemade “Raygun”, a beautiful weapon of choice to go on a murder rampage. Anyone entering shops without a face mask have every reason to be extinguished by shooting discrete pulses of energy into their useless fucking faces.

Nothing worth buying in HMV. Nothing worth buying in Waterstones book shop. I also decided to have a wander into a charity shop called “Age-UK”, the outlet in Sunderland has a vintage area upstairs but this was restricted to ‘No Entry’ because of the virus. There is simply no way to socially distance inside this shop, its so small and compact, junk and second hand gear everywhere. I had to laugh or at least pray for the day when I can buy a flamethrower from Argos because there was a ‘coffin dodger’ riding her mobile scooter inside one of the rooms. When she decided there was nothing for her to buy from a shelf filled with books she attempted to make a three-point turn. Hilarious! I just don’t understand why this useless fucker went into a tiny shop like this riding her mobile scooter during a deadly pandemic. Nuts!

It was then onto an independent record shop called “Hot Rats” on the outskirts of the town, near the bus station at Park Lane. Their stock was decent with old and new records. I wasn’t that bothered about ‘only’ buying original pressings today, I was much more interested in acquiring some new sounds, records I didn’t know much about.

The first record I decided to take a chance on was an EP by Q65 called “Kjoe Bloes”, a ‘Record Store Day’ release. I know all about this ravin’ Dutch Beat group but I don’t recall hearing anything on this record. A £4 score.

Shocking Blue have always passed me by too. I know some of their numbers but hardly anything else, so the “Singles Collection” 2 LP set will be a perfect entry point.

I have held original copies of the Screaming Lord Sutch album recorded with the help of his ‘Heavy Friends’ several times. But the price of around £30 to £40 was always a little too steep for me especially after reading that it’s not that good. Well, it’s time to check out and hear the gear for myself.

Now then. The Television Personalities. Another group I’ve heard good things about in the past but have never discovered an entry point. I decided the best place for a TVP novice is to commence at the beginning with their earliest singles. I’m really looking forward to hearing this compilation. C’mon Dan Treacy, don’t let me down.

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