August 2014


Tuesday, 5th August - Hanley (big shop)


I had to go to Poundland to get a birthday present for the good lady wife (maltesers again, oh how she laughs when I rattle the box) and all the other stuff was just bird food and lighters, so I thought I’d throw convention to the wind and eschew the pictures of bag and contents (except I did buy some liquorice allsorts which should be mentioned since I am becoming quite a connoisseur, having developed a sudden craving for them around the time I had pneumonia and had to cut down on the smoking, beginning with the premier variety as made by Bertie Bassett in his own, rather unfortunate for the poor chap, image, which are very nice and soft, whereas my regular fix from Mr. Morrison are harder on the tooth and contain too many of the circular coconut type, of which I am not fond, whereas my favourite, the more jelly-like aniseed one covered with tiny balls, is rarely encountered for some reason, whereas they are there in abundance in the big bag I bought from Poundland, which, as the scale slides, are harder yet again, which is obviously how the liquorice allsort taster can ply his craft and sort out from which emporium they have been bought and astound his friends with his knowledge at those exclusive parties in the salons of London and Milan, where liquorice allsort tasting is a sign of sophistication, especially when you spit out the half-chewed double-decker one and cry, “too hard, it’s from Poundland”) and just mention this ‘Deadstone Valley’ toy which caught my eye.
     Now there was a time when toys such as this, freely available to children aged 36 months or more, would cause questions to be asked in the House, and miserable women with man names to write books about their effects on the little tykes. Now, we accept them with equanimity and think no more about it, unless you happen to be an F.B.I. profiler and then you have to start again from scratch, for no longer is it enough to spot a serial killer by his tendency when young to have a fixation with death and burying things in the back garden. Now, every child can start their future life of crime by purchasing a ‘Deadstone Valley’ toy. There were several varieties at the Hanley (Big Shop) Poundland, including a very scary-looking ballerina, but I settled on the more mundane ‘Jailbird Suggs’. There was also an old woman, a fat wrestler in the Giant Haystacks mould, a maid and a traffic warden, although the latter, I thought, was a bit too obvious (they are manufactured by H. Grossman Limited. and I suspect this was old Harry’s suggestion, “Everybody hates traffic wardens, even three-year olds,” he probably said puffing on his big cigar, and all the designer chappies were too timid to demur, but I may be doing him a disservice and he may have suggested the ballerina, which, if there’s still one there next time, I’ll buy it so I can show you how scary it is, or if you’re in the vicinity of a Poundland you can have a look yourself and save me the bother, and the nightmares). What you get is a cardboard burial plot, a coffin to which the figure is attached and which can be flirted upright if you so desire, a coffin lid and a headstone with a piece of doggerel on it.


Underneath the coffin is a sticker with a Burial Activation Code. Armed with this, one can visit the Deadstone Valley website which opens up a whole new world of funerary treats. You can build your own body (not your own body, obviously, because that would be a bit macabre) and give it a name and write an epitaph, then you get to watch an animation of the burial and finally you’re presented with a certificate. Hours of fun, really, if you’ve got lots of people on your hitlist. There are rules of course, so you can’t use bad language, or be abusive or racist, and everything is approved before it’s allowed on the site, so I rejected my original choice of Russell Brand and, since I’ve spent the last few months immured in the murky depths of the Fleshly School of Poetry affair, I settled on Algernon Charles Swinburne and buried him. Well worth a pound.

November 2014


Monday, 10th November - Hanley (little shop)

pound1417 pound1418

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull DVD (2 disc special edition).

Adaptation DVD.

L.A. Confidential DVD.

The Eagle DVD.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? DVD (Special Edition).

1 10 metre roll of Christmas Wrapping Paper.

3 3 metre rolls of Christmas Wrapping Paper (3 for a pound).

50 Sticky (Christmas) Labels.

2 packs of 2 Christmas Gift Bags.



1 pack of 10 Kodak Heavy Duty AA Batteries plus 1 free.

1 pack of 10 Clean Zone Non Scratch Sponge Scourers.

3 packs of 6 disposable lighters.



1 Special Festive Poundland Bag - 10p.


1. Another long gap but I have been on holiday. Not since August 12th though, I hasten to add, in case you think I’m rich as Crœsus. That’s one person you never see in Poundland, Mr. Crœsus. No, I was away for a bit and then I did go to Poundland a few weeks ago but all I bought was lighters, so I didn’t bother noting that visit. I had actually gone in expecting to buy great baskets of stuff: I was alone, I had time, and I hadn’t been in Poundland for a while, but when faced with all the shelves of DVDs in the Hanley Big Shop, I just thought, “Ar conner be bothered”, picked up my lighters and left. That sounds like I nicked them, but I didn’t. Poundland seems to be turning into a shop. Gone are the glory days of finding the weird bargains, the discontinued toys and such like. I know I’ve mentioned this before, et in arcadia ego and all that, but it’s worth mentioning again. I went on the Poundland website and they’ve got a Christmas catalogue on there where you can peruse decorations and other festive delights, and it’s all much of a muchness, apart from the DVD section where they’re pushing Saw III as a suitable accompaniment to celebrating the birth of Our Redeemer. I notice Lidl and Aldi now have Christmas TV adverts to match those of Marks and Spencer and Tesco. The Aldi one has the great smiley face of Jools Holland wishing us a Merry Christmas, as though you’d want him come round your house on Boxing Day to play your piano. Next year, I predict, Poundland will fall into step and they’ll be showing off their wares, the tinsel and the box of maltesers and the DVD of Saw III, complete with a smiley face of someone they’ve picked up for a pound - there’s a lot of dead people from the 1950s on the telly at the moment, I spotted Des O’Connor on ‘The One Show’ and Shirley Bassey on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, so my money’s on Dickie Henderson. But to get back to me point, all these low-end shops, previously scoffed at by those with money (i.e. Londoners), are now becoming like the regular supermarkets. There was a time when you’d go into Aldi and all you’d find would be pictures of Hitler and tins of food with funny names and a big jumble sale bit in the middle. I went into our local Aldi the other day and it was full of stuff, most of it recognisable, and there were people with big trolleys full of it as though they were in Mr. Morrison’s on a Monday morning. The jumble sale bit in the middle was still there though. In fact, the only interesting bits in Poundland are the books and DVDs. I still admire its economic model, the simplicity of the concept, the comfort of knowing how much everything costs (bar the Hanley Big Shop’s exclusive experiment of selling some DVDs for £2), but I miss the olden days, the excitement of the treasure hunt.

2. So, I went to Hanley Little Shop Poundland, this time with the intention of just buying lighters, with the good lady wife in tow on  the lookout for Christmas peripherals, and with limited time, and I ended up buying 5 DVDs. Whether it was because the shelves in the little shop are littler than the shelves in the big shop, so it doesn’t seem like so much of a chore to go through them all, or whether it was fate that things caught my eye, I don’t know. Nothing worth explaining, just films which, for various reasons, I didn’t have on DVD, that’s all.

3. Talking of films, I taped one the other night on ITV4. That’s one thing which has changed for the better - television. I went on that new Radio Times site where it lists all the programmes since it began and had a look at what I was watching when a nipper. I remember a lot, Robin Hood and Roy Rogers and Superman and Dragnet and that quiz show with Johnnie Ray’s brother* and Marion Ryan, but they all seem to be on ITV and we didn’t get that till I was four. Since it’s the Radio Times it only lists BBC programmes and here’s a sample (plucked at random) from 3rd June 1955:

It starts at 3 pm with ‘War in the Air’ about war in the air. Then ‘Sportsview’ with Peter Dimmock (I remember him - moustache, talked about sport a lot) then at 5 pm: “Children’s Television: A programme of films for older children
‘The Cisco Kid’ with Duncan Renaldo and Leo Carrillo.
‘The Range Rider’ with Jack Mahoney and Dick Jones.
‘Cine Gazette’
A film showing how tube train drivers and guards are trained at the London Transport Training Centre at Lambeth.”
I remember the first two not the last one.
Then 40 minutes of Welsh.
Weather and News.
7.45 pm ‘The Grove Family’ (which, even aged four, I reckoned was a bit rubbish).
Then ‘The Royal Tournament’ (which I think is still going, it’s the one where they take a cannon apart and carry it over fences then put it back together again, which no doubt came in useful in Afghanistan.)
Then ‘The Centre Show’ (which I don’t remember at all - this one features Fanny Smallpiece and Birdie) “From the Nuffield Centre before an audience of H. M. Forces” - seems to be a very military tone to the whole night.
Then at 9.30 pm ‘Asian Club’. I would have been too young to stay up for that and so I missed
“Men and women from Asian countries put questions to Professor G. J. Renier on ‘The English : Are they human?’” which is a pity.
Finally we get Bernard Braden in ‘Bath-Night with Braden’ (!) and at 10.30 pm ‘News (sound only)’ - which seems a bit of a technological leap backward.

So, apart from ‘The Cisco Kid’ and ‘Range Rider’ and ‘Asian Club’, I think it’s safe to say television has improved. Plus I remember watching ‘Sunday Night at the London Palladium’ (on ITV) whilst sitting in a tin bath in front of the fire, whereas now, although it has just reappeared again on our screens, I have a separate bathroom upstairs with hot running water, so that’s another improvement. And the toilet isn’t down the back yard either, so there’s posh. Good to see the back of those teddy boys too.

Anyway, going back to that film I taped on ITV4 (should explain now that I’m probably the only person who still uses a VHS video recorder - even the good lady wife’s aged parent has a hard disk recorder - and I’m also the only man who doesn’t own a mobile phone - I should have badges made and then people can point at me in the street and I will become a ‘character’) it was called Horsemen of the Apocalypse and I like Horsemen of the Apocalypse films (although the best one I’ve seen is an episode of Rawhide where the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse turn up on the cattle drive and have some fun with Gil Favor and Rowdy Yates and, of course, Wishbone - the scamps) but when we sat down to watch it, it seemed a bit familiar. We were halfway through before we realised we’d seen it before and it was a bit rubbish. But, since we’d got so far and couldn’t remember why it was a bit rubbish, we carried on watching till the end, and it was a bit rubbish. So we’d wasted nigh on two hours of our fast diminishing life when we could have watched summat good, like O Brother, Where Art Thou? On the other hand, since I remember most of O Brother, Where Art Thou? (because it is good) did we actually spend our time more wisely in watching something bad that we had forgotten? Thus experiencing something, at least for half of it, as though it were new. I think that’s one for Jean-Paul Sartre and his mates.

4. And, before I go (where are you going? you ask. To bed, I reply.) did you see the report (full page, with diagrams) in Sunday’s Observer about how tins of Quality Street are getting smaller. This is not news, the rest of us have been aware of it for years. What next for these intrepid investigative journalists, “Shock horror, Wagon Wheels are half the size they used to be!” I think Mr. Observer would be well advised to turn his gaze in another direction and give us the full details of the extraterrestrial event which occurred in 1955 and led to TV programmes asking “The English: Are they human?”

* Jackie Rae, co-presenter of ‘Spot the Tune’ with Marion Ryan, was not Johnnie Ray’s brother. I’ve spent nearly sixty years with that mistake hanging round in my head and now, with the aid of the internet it has been chucked in the bin. Checking facts, that’s another thing that’s better now.

Saturday, 22nd November - Worthing

pound1419 pound1420

Ripple Effect DVD.



2 packs of 6 disposable lighters.


1. I nearly put the DVD back on the shelf and walked out, not wishing to be bothered with the queue, but then I thought that would be churlish, so I chucked a couple of lighters in the basket. There’s always that doubt about unknown films you find in Poundland - maybe this time (in Liza Minnelli mode) it will turn out to be a lost masterpiece of cinema. Then you stick it in the machine and it inner. Ripple Effect, which surprisingly gets 4.9 on imdb, is not good, despite the presence of Forest Whitaker, Minnie Driver, Virginia Madsen and a nice cameo from John Billingsley (you’d know him if you saw him). Unfortunately it is written and directed by Philippe Caland, who also takes the starring role. The theme of the film seemed to be that one thing leads to another but if you wait long enough everything will work out for the best, rather refuting Dorothy Parker’s contention (expressed to Sam Goldwyn) that “in all history, which has held billions and billions of human beings, not a single one ever had a happy ending.” Never mind, it passed 75 minutes and Minnie Driver got to sing a song and Forest Whitaker did a bit of nervous grinning acting and, as I said, the John Billingsley (yes, you would) cameo was nice. In fact, stick another half hour of Minnie Driver or Virginia Madsen staring through a window, sell it to the BBC and you’ll have The Observer crying out for Baftas for everyone.


December 2014


Tuesday, 16th December - Hanley (big shop)


Eh up! What’s going on here then? ‘Tis Christmas time, mistletoe and wine, so you’ll have to wait a bit before I can reveal what’s in the three (yes, three, count them!) bags.

* * *


Friday, 19th December - Stafford

pound1423 pound1424

Troy DVD.

Strictly Come Dancing The Live Tour! DVD.

To the Devil a Daughter by Dennis Wheatley.

B is for Ballroom by Anton Du Beke.

Deadstone Valley: Hannah Batiste.

3 Balls of White Wool (3 for £2).

100 Gift Tag Stickers.

20 Luxury Napkins.



1 pack of 70 Paper CD/DVD Covers.

2 packs of 6 disposable lighters.


Well, this is confusing, sticking an extra visit to Poundland in before I have chance to reveal the contents of the three-bagger. But, so it came to pass. No. 2 son was up for a pre-Christmas visit and we decided to continue the Christmas tradition of going to the Bradley Garden Centre just outside Stafford where I would partake of their fine faggots and chips and we would say hello to the reindeer and buy something unusual from the shop, which we have done for the last few years. It was closed. In fact, it had closed back in March, so let that be a lesson to you. Do not rely on personal Christmas traditions to have any bearing on the state of the economy and always check the internet to see if places are still open before setting out on a 20 mile trip in hope of finding faggots. So we went back to Stafford, but, it being the Friday before Christmas everybody else was doing the same and we got stuck in a traffic jam and so, requiring faggots, we turned off and had us dinners elsewhere, which was nice though no faggots, and the traffic having eased, continued into Stafford and ended up in Poundland. The good lady wife made some festive purchases, and some wool, and some dancing-related items, and No. 2 son, inspired by my tales of Deadstone Valley, plumped for Hannah Batiste in that range. I did not partake since they did not have the scary ballerina, but I did buy a Dennis Wheatley book and Troy. I am not one for cgi, for me it conjures up a picture of a bloke sat at his computer drawing, but I remember being impressed by the trailer for Troy where they pull back from on board a Greek ship to reveal an ocean full of similar vessels. I knew it was drawn by the bloke, but for a second I uttered a silent oooh! I have since watched Troy and it is good, but one has to be careful with epics. In the olden days they were usually interrupted by the appearance of Saint Peter who would give you a sermon in his authentic Scottish accent, which slowed the action down a bit. Greek epics are usually free of religion, but you can still come a cropper when reaching for historical accuracy as Oliver Stone did with Alexander, where, obviously surmising that if Saint Peter was Scottish then the Greeks were all Irish, ended up with a three hour episode of Father Ted. I recently watched Noah, where the Biblical account of the flood is re-imagined by noted director Darren Aronofsky. At one point the good lady wife asked if they mention Rock Lords in the Bible? Although I have commented before on the g.l.w.’s lack of religious education, this was a witty response to the cgi drawings of the fallen angels and I must give her credit for recalling an old toy that I had quite forgotten. Actually, the first half of the film, with the Rock Lords and much fighting was far more interesting than the second half where Noah, as played by Russell Crowe, just turns into a moany man and we have an hour of him looking grumpy while Emma Watson hones her thesping skills. I think Darren missed a trick here because there could have been a lot of animal-related incidents in this second part, such as having one of the unicorns die, or some ironic discussions about the dodos, or even debate about the wisdom of taking the wasps along. Instead all we got for the last hour was moaning and Ray Winstone being cockney, which, of course, he does so well.

Time marches on ... the festive season has passed and I can now reveal what I bought in the Hanley Big Shop Poundland on 16th December:


The Terminator (2 disc Special Edition) DVD.

Tower Heist DVD.

Quantum of Solace (2 disc Special Edition) DVD.

3 Baku Sky Raiders ((Jaaakor, Mutabrid and Fusion Dragonoid).

1 British Armoured Tank (includes clip on guns).

1 bag of milk chocolate peanuts.

1 Toblerone.



2 packs of 8 Wild Bird Fatballs (new improved recipe).

2 760g bags of National Trust Autumn & Winter Mix bird seed.

1 pack of 6 Kodak Xtralife AA batteries.

2 packs of 6 disposable lighters.


I think the birds did best out of that lot. Although the Baku Sky Raiders were a hit - wish I’d bought one for myself since they turned out to be powered by magnets! The tank was a jokey present for friend Clive and has presumably by now been cast into the blue bin.The DVDs were for me - part of the £2 range which still seems to be exclusive to the Hanley Big Shop, but, it was Christmas. And the nuts and Toblerone were for the good lady wife. So that’s it. Another year gone. 


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