11 – Somewhere Over the Rainbow Island
Beer. Lovely stuff,
as I’m sure you’ll agree, but you should never, ever,
EVER, make life-changing decisions while beer is in possession
of your soul.
I suppose that, given the bad decisions I could
have made, I got away lightly by instead only ending up with a
financially crippling hobby that puts lots of strain on my marriage.
I mean, I didn’t wake up next to my best mate with a pack
of used condoms next to the bed. I didn’t jump on a plane
and wake up penniless in Peking, I’m pretty sure that I’ve
never offered to fight the heavyweight champion of Old Peckham
Rye, and I’ve always made it home it in one piece. Well,
What I have done, loaded on beautiful beer,
is: kissed almost everybody I know (and several people that I
don’t), given watches and mobile phones to strangers, jumped
on to a sleeper train, for London, and stayed on it till Edinburgh,
broken my teeth, and lost a countless procession of coats, umbrellas,
ties and one bag (not the contents, just the bag).
Ex Liverpool goalkeeper - Bruce Groebbelaar,
already tarnished reputation no favours.
And under the influence of Fullers London Pride,
on the eve of my 30th birthday, I decided to collect arcade machines.
As we all know, most beer influenced plans and
ideas get no further than the public bar. Many things, that seem
flawless during alcohol-drenched evenings, do not stand-up to
the ‘cold light of day’. Kebabs, is one example. Telling
your boss exactly what you think
of him, is another. And so is the notion of ‘living on a
desert island’. Many of these things seem like a good idea
when thoughts of dismissal, paying the rent and throwing up are
nothing but a distant possibility, but in the morning –
the flaws become all too apparent. Mostly, it doesn’t even
take until morning.
But this one, collecting arcade machines, stuck.
A conversation, which started out as a quick rant about the joys
of emulation, had progressed to a sort of proto-Rodent discussion
about the good old days, and that. And, since we were in a pub,
the conversation turned to that mainstay of seventies pub gaming
– the tabletop arcade machine. The cocktail machine.
Now, there is something peculiarly British about
tabletop arcade cabinets. Obviously, they were mostly designed
and built in Japan, but they only seem to work in a pub, in a
British pub. Specifically, a seventies, or early eighties, British
pub. Where it should be sat in a dark corner next to the gents,
or strategically placed among the other tables – a stealthy
attempt to trick unsuspecting punters into playing Space Invaders?
Horse brasses in pubs, ahhhhhhh. That's
As that beery conversation flowed, I started
to realise how much I missed arcade games. Not the games themselves,
the software—I had that on my PC, emulated by the megabyte—but
the machines – the beautiful, evocative, hardware. I missed
having to get change to play the latest game, I missed putting
my coins on the corner of the table (or on the control panel)
and waiting for my turn, I missed sitting down and supping my
beer while my opponent had his life. I even missed the slightly
wobbly controls, distorted sound, and less-than pin-sharp monitors.
Okay, given that I was just a kid: it was probably lemonade or
orange juice back in the seventies, and early eighties, but my
memory, that night, had substituted those tastes for beer. Or
So, there I was, standing at the public bar
in the Paviours Arms and, as I glanced around, I could almost
see the glow of a Space Invaders humming quietly to itself.
“I wonder what happened to all those machines?”
That was Steve – ‘drinking partner’ and on this,
and several other occasions, mind-reader.
“They must be somewhere, right?”,
he continued, “There were hundreds, thousands, millions
of them – what happened to them all?”
That was it. That was the trigger, I woke up
the next morning with a mild, but not unpleasant, hangover and
a determination to find out what had happened to all those machines.
And this is my story, my on-going story. Arcade Nirvana indeed.
Here. (Its working again).
Things to 'Make' and 'Do'.
your kids about the bad, really bad, effects of dirty beer.
Learn all about the delightful
world of horse brasses.
Read Some guides to collecting
Arcade Machines (Bank Manager not pictured).