A lifetime ago in a galaxy just round the corner from my house my local independent gaming shop quietly slipped away peacefully in its sleep. It wasn’t solely a video game store, more of a place to buy and trade electronics of all kinds, hence the name ‘The Exchange’.
Pitifully the gaming section amounted to a trolley, a book shelf and a glass cabinet, yet it was what we had and we relished the opportunity to visit, drool over the merchandise and barter with the owner of the store.
Our family computer consisted of a rusty bottle top, a bit of chewed gum and an elastic band back then. But you know, we were happy in those days, though we were poor. Aye, because we were poor. My old dad used to say to me, “money doesn’t buy you happiness”. ‘e was right. I was happier then and I had nothin’.
Typically his deals – the proprietor of The Exchange, not my dad, just to be clear – were along the lines of three used £2.99 Spectrum tapes swapped for one shiny new one, which I seem to recall him selling back to the public for the shrink-wrapped retail price. ‘Shrewd’ is one word for his approach to business. Other less polite ones are available.
In the intervening years the shop has been occupied by a number of other businesses, the latest a PC store selling off-the-peg systems, components and other peripherals, and offering repairs.
Recently they decided to move on to pastures new (refreshingly without actually being declared bankrupt), leaving the shop vacant once again. When they left, the premises were cleared lock, stock and barrel, removing all livery and trace that they ever lived there. Tearing down the latest signage unveiled something extremely poignant for me that quite literally hadn’t seen the light of day for several decades.
For a minute there I was eight years old again, skidding up to the shop front on my BMX in perfect synchrony, my best mate by my side. With three nondescript Spectrum games I forget the name of (Horace Goes Crocheting and the like probably) loaded securely into my ThunderCats backpack, my mind focused unflinchingly on the mark, I stormed the target. I resolved to walk out that day with a pristine, gleaming cassette copy of Wonder Boy, even if it meant having to sell my innocent young soul to acquire it. Looking back at the way my life evolved, it explains a lot.
When I was just a baby my mama told me. Son,
Always be a good boy, don’t ever play with guns.
But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die
When I hear that whistle blowing, I hang my head and cry…
Oh, wait, I think I know what I’ve done there. I’ve mixed up me, with Johnny Cash. Stupid radio.