Tuesday February 23rd, 2016

If you’re looking back wondering what happened to Sunday and Monday’s posts, well I didn’t write them.  Nothing much happened and…….I just didn’t feel up to writing posts for the sake of it.  These are diary entries and if I had a boring day with nothing much to say, I am not going to make up posts for the sake of “page filling”.

I’d not do it in a paper diary, so won’t do it here either.  Them be the rules, ok ?



Today, on the other hand, was full of good stuff to blog about.  Btw, I’ll always use the past tense as I’ll always write these posts the day after…for obvious reasons.  Just like a proper diary.

The weather forecast for this week was great with lots of sunshine and no rain.  Not that we trust forecasts beyond, say, a few hours as being an Atlantic island buffer for mainland Europe, the British Isles weather is changeable to say the least. We can have 4 seasons in one day and as things turned out, that almost happened today.

But at 8am, the sky was blue, the sun was out….and I was in bed !  Come on, it was 8am, people !  I go to bed at 2-3am and read for a while so I’m never getting up at 8am unless there is a very good reason for doing so.  Actually the same goes for 9am and 10am but some of that could be classed as me just being lazy !

Anyway with the forecast being so good, I did get up at the crack of 9am, showered and had my porridge and then got onto Google Maps to work out where to go. It was going to be cold, as in freezing, so that ruled out a trip to the beach. Low temps also ruled out simply walking around a picturesque town or village so I thought…..where could I go that would be inside (warm) and interesting ?

Why a  shopping centre of course !

The nearest large centre/mall to me is Meadowhall in Sheffield which is the 8th largest by size in the UK and 11th by number of annual visitors. But it also means going down the M1 to get there and I try and do that as seldom as possible as it is the very definition of a boring road trip.

My other choice was The MetroCentre in Gateshead which is the largest by size but only the 15th by number of annual visitors.

I might as well mention here, before anyone bothers to check my stats, that just about every list you look at on t’interclacker gives different sizes and numbers of visitors for these centres so I’ve just stuck with the one website for my stats.  It’s really not that important – although I’m not sure how the area of a shopping centre can range from 175,000 m2 to 190,000 m2 depending on which list you look at !

Anyway I realised that I could scoot up the A1 to Gateshead, spend a few hours at the centre and then come back the scenic route (A69/A68/A1) and have a great day out with a mix of shopping and nice scenery.



At 9:40am I left home and was soon heading north on the A1, with the dulcet tones of Ken Bruce keeping me entertained on Radio 2. Despite some 11 miles of road widening work which had us all going at 50mph, I still got to the MetroCentre by 11:30am.

I immediately logged onto their free wifi, picked up a map of the place from the info desk and set off to explore.  Now I’d been there once before, many years ago but I didn’t know just how old it was……30 years exactly.  And it looked it.  It was a bit “tired” looking although there were no empty units as such. I know it was a Tuesday in mid February but I was a bit surprised by how few people were there.  I assumed it was because the place was so big that it probably never looks busy but the number of annual figures would suggest it’s more than just due to its size.

I’d no plans to go anywhere specifically but right away I came to a Carphone Warehouse store and as my 24 month phone contract was due to expire soon, I was interested in a phone upgrade. I’d done my research and despite being a HTC owner for my previous 3 smartphones, I’d already decided I wanted a Samsung for the next 2 years. The Samsung Galaxy S7 had just been announced on Sunday with a release date of 11th March but I assumed it would cost too much so I was thinking that the current S6 price would drop and it would be a good deal.

It was.  In the previous 24 hrs it had come down from £34.99/month to £27.99 for the plan I wanted with EE. I’d almost decided to get one there and then but just said “I know it will be silly money but what is the pre order price for the S7 ?”  Joshua, the CW salesman, well salesboy really, looked up the prices which they’d just received that morning and I was shocked, in a good way.  The monthly fee was £37.49 with an up front payment of £79.99.

That was nearly £1 less than I’ve been paying for a 2 yr old phone !  Joshua saw I was interested and offered me a £20 discount sweetener to make the up front payment £59.99 but I said I’d have to think about it and set off for the nearby EE store to see if they could match or better the deal.

They couldn’t and so I returned to CW and signed the contract. Pre ordering it meant I’ll get it delivered to my home 3 days before the official release (so in two weeks time) plus I’ll get a 360 Gear VR headset which was the deal clincher.

No not really.  I can’t see me making much use of a VR headset but who knows !


When I left CW, I got some idea of how unobservant I can be. Neither they nor EE actually had S7 handsets for me to “play with” so I’d effectively signed away £958 of my hard earned savings over the next 2 years for something I’d not even seen. I wished there had been a Samsung store in the centre but I knew there are only 15 in the whole country and my nearest one at home was in Bradford. Told you I’d done my research.

Maybe it’s something to do with being left handed but when walking along streets (or inside shopping centres), I invariably look at more stores on the left than the right. So this time, having walked the walk already, I looked more to the right and stopped in amazement…….outside a Samsung store !

I went in and of course they had plenty of S7’s for me to checkout  Thankfully I liked the feel of the handset, although I didn’t bother having a go with the Gear VR headset, apparently worth £80.

I was happy….and relieved that I liked the S7 !



After lunch I walked around for another few hours and as I’d planned on leaving before 3:30pm to enjoy the scenic drive home, I was a bit late getting to the car about 4pm.  I went to set up the Waze app to get directions and it said “no signal”. I was outside of the wifi range so the phone should have gone to the mobile signal but there was none….or at least my phone wasn’t picking it up.  This seemed odd so I checked the relevant settings but nothing worked.  It said I was disconnected from EE.

I was concerned that due to the pre ordering of the S7, they may have switched me over to the new SIM already so I went back to CW to get help. Joshua was busy with a customer so his boss took my phone and spent a while going through loads of settings but I’d no idea what he was trying to do – he just kept commentating on the number of apps I had (over 200 but many came pre installed) as if that mattered….or was any of his business.

In the end he could find no fault with the settings and confirmed the pre order hadn’t even gone through yet so that wasn’t the problem. I left and went to the EE store but the girl there just reset the SIM card and when that did nothing, she washed her hands of it !

This all took a while so by the time I decided to just leave and sort it out once I got home, it was closer to 5pm than 4pm by the time I set off.  The sky was also overcast so it was getting dark and there were some rain spots on the windscreen.  So much for the scenic drive home but I still headed that way.

After joining the A69 westwards towards Carlisle, I left it to join the A68 south and started climbing over the North Pennines.  Suddenly there was snow on the ground and it was also falling as sleet.  The higher I drove, the more the sleet became proper snow and I was soon in a blizzard.  This was not what I’d expected, mostly because I’d not realised this scenic road was over the Pennines, the mountainous backbone of northern England !

What should have been a lovely sunny road trip home became a dark, snowy 37 mile drive along a narrow road behind a large truck all the way to the A1.

Once home, my phone picked up my wifi and this in turn seemed to kickstart my mobile signal too as it came back.  I’ve no idea why it registered as “disconnected” not only at the MetroCentre but also on my many checks of it along the way home.

Very odd but then the phone has been doing odd things recently like powering off despite having plenty of battery power left……sometimes over 60%.

Probably a good thing that in two weeks time I’ll have the S7.


One thing that did piss me off later was what the CW boss guy had done to my phone settings. When messing about with it he must have reset the settings to the HTC defaults so the keyboard type was wrong, all my many app notifications were gone and even the ringtone was wrong. It took me quite a while to get things back the way I wanted them.

After the European football and before bed I watched “The Boy” which was quite disturbing but held my attention.  Worth a look but probably not right for our Friday movie evening.

Still haven’t picked one to watch yet. Open for suggestions.

All the walking and standing and driving (not to mention the early start) caught up with me and I was in bed by 2am.

Not sure how I’ll get on if I decide to drive nearly 3,000 miles in Europe this summer !



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