Published: 01/09/2017 15:30 - Updated: 31/08/2017 12:23

The teenage me loved listening through Amstrad


In two months time ‘The Apprentice’ will return to the BBC. In October Lord Alan Sugar (British television entertainment’s equivalent to Donald Trump) will once again grace our screens. But that’s not the point. In the late sixties Alan Sugar started a successful company called ‘Amstrad’ (the name is a contraction of Alan Michael Sugar Trading) which made low-priced hi-if and car stereo kit. Sugar famously said of his very first product, the Amstrad 8000 amplifier, that it was “the biggest load of rubbish I have ever seen in my life”. This famous quote kind of sets the tone for me. The agony. I was sixteen, and having a decent stereo system was all the rage. But how to get one - and how to pay for it? Longingly I poured over the hi-fi magazines, but really it would have to remain a dream. Except.. In the attic was my beloved Triang-Hornby model train layout. My LNER B12 locomotive in apple green (ditto livery for my pride and joy, the Flying Scotsman), the GWR Albert Hall, the M7 4-4-0 in British Railways blackberry black, even the not-so-sexy Hymek diesel engine - with an abrupt abandonment of an innocent late childhood, the cruel decision was made. The whole lot would have to go; and I placed an advert in the paper. Well! Sell they did - and double quick too. Shortly I had the princely sum of eighty two pounds. So I went back to the hi-if magazines, and there it was on a back page. “Extra Special Offer” A Garrard SP25 Mk III Turntable, a Goldring G800 cartridge, a pair of Celestion Ditton 15 speakers, and last but not least, an Amstrad IC 2000 amplifier. All for - can you believe it? - only £79.00 - slight trouble though, the offer was to be had in an obscure shop in the east of London... But fortune favours the bold; and I cut out the form in the magazine, filled it in, and sent it (and the money) off. Then after a week nothing. Two weeks later, still nothing. So then my dear old dad took over and phoned. The man on the other end prevaricated. “Right” said my father when he had put the receiver down “I know exactly how to deal with his type - we’ll send your Aunt Pamela round to see him.” Aunty Pam still lives on in my mind’s eye as a sturdy and straight-talking woman in jodhpurs, long boots, and brandishing a large riding crop. Newly exiled to London from Tain, she nevertheless remained someone to be reckoned with. No man messed with her and lived to tell the tale: two days later all my stereo kit arrived. Except that the speakers were not quite what the advert had promised. They were a strange make called ‘Keletron’ that didn’t feature anywhere amongst the fine print of lists of speakers for sale. Ah well. But at least I now had my stereo! My father and I connected everything up, switched it on, placed an LP on the deck, and gently lowered the Goldring G800 stylus. Joy! Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor shook the house. The celebrated ‘rumble’ of the Garrard turntable, the frying pan and hiss of the ‘Keletrons’, and the occasional bang and crackle of the Amstrad only added to the occasion. So we turned it up so that my mother in the kitchen could hear it. Then the Amstrad blew its fuse. And then seconds later the house was plunged into darkness. But that’s not the point either. Although the Amstrad got through fuses at quite a rate - although the Garrard did rather rumble (and ‘wow’ and ‘flutter’ too) - and although the speakers fell apart (I mended them with bits of meccano) and once (famously) worked by themselves (Radio One!) without the Amstrad being switched on - that wi-fi system was for several years the closest thing to paradise. That is - until there came an opportunities to travel round Europe with friends in an old Ford Escort estate (white). Europe - where there are lots of pretty girls... But how to pay? Another hard and cruel decision was taken. I sold the hi-if to my little brother. All the same, should I ever meet Lord Sugar, then I shall thank him for his Amstrad IC 2000 amplifier - rubbish too, I suppose, it really was.

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