For quite a while, I've spent time perusing Ebay for used VHS tapes. Now, when I say used VHS, I mean ones which were bought blank originally and then used to record stuff off the telly. After all, it's a great way to discover hidden treasures which aren't available either commercially, on YouTube or through the black market of rare TV.
Sure, I can always head down to the BFI Archive, but that costs time and money. Two commodities that, ideally, I'd like to preserve to help hold onto my sanity.
The problem with Ebay, though, is that I'm never 100% tempted by anything I see; the seller's descriptions are always vague e.g. "GOT FILM, SPORTS, FILM" and when I ask them how old the tapes are, I just get "DON'T KNOW BUT THEY'RE OLD - YOU INTERESTED, MATE?"
I'm not your mate, sonny jim!
Anyway, a while back I saw a listing for some used VHS which were quite obviously from 1988ish as they featured a sponsorship message for the 1988 Olympics on the cover. Yes, that's right, I'm a perceptive old sod! So, I spoke to the seller to see what was on them and explained about my obsession with retro TV.
And then he told me that he had about 50 tapes in total and they covered the mid 80s up to the early 00s. Best of all, I could have them all for a piddling £25, so I bit his hand off and here they are:
Surely there had to be a whole myriad of forgotten gems packed into this seemingly humble Happy Shopper box. I mean, 150+ hours of footage? If that doesn't spell opportunity then I don't know what does.
Turns out that 99.9% of this box, when it comes to spelling opportunity, is crippled by dyslexia.
It didn't take too long to scan through the tapes, but believe me it was still a gruelling task. Many simply contained one film or were nothing but back to back South Park episodes from Channel 4. There were a few tantalising moments where I saw the 4Later logo appear, but this was purely reserved for episodes of some US show called Homicide.
I was a little dispirited, but I guess I have to appreciate that not everyone shares exactly the same tastes as myself. That's why they were recording what they loved and not concerning themselves with what some TV anorak would consider acceptable in 20 - 30 year's time.
However, it's not an experience that I felt was completely galling. The anticipation of what lay within was exciting and, you know, it could have turned something amazing up. Maybe, next time, it will.
One interesting little show which did turn up was an episode of This Week from 1987 with Jonathan Dimbleby entitled 'Drugs in Prison' which doesn't appear to be on YouTube. I'll upload that at some point along with some choice ad breaks which caught my eye.
And if you've got any old VHS lying about, just get in touch. I'll even do you a DVD copy.