Your 'Memory' Move... Creep!
it's time once more to delve back into the memories of a man ever so slightly just outside the 'norm' for one more round of 'memoirs'. Part 5 is finally here and this time it's all about how as youngsters we sometimes want what we can't afford and therefore have.
The year is 1989 and although a younger leader of the mighty Decepticon army is now working two jobs, he has already found more ways to make sure his expenses far outweigh his income. To make matters even worse all of the ZX Spectrum magazines are talking about the Christmas season big hitters and after buying all of said monthly magazines how on earth is Megatron going to be able to afford his very own copy of the hottest game in videogame town... Robocop!
Dead or alive you're coming with me! In all sorts of weather...
I hated doing those paper rounds of mine, I really did, those days in the summer where I sweated my nuts off then in the winter those same nuts got frozen to the core. Also whilst im on a rant let’s not forget the Autumn when it rained every single day and all of this for a pound a day…… What a joke!! Now it’s important to tell you this tale because sometimes a nice little backdrop can help paint the picture to allow you to identify with my feelings and emotions….Also I do love a good story!
It was the summer of 69’…Oh no hold on that’s not right is it, that’s a damn song I like, it was in fact the Autumn of 1989 and my Sinclair Spectrum love was at it’s very peak. For a few years now I had enjoyed the budget gaming bonanza especially as my then wages were little better than those Chinese peeps who make your I-Phones for 5 quid a month so my collection was growing huge although only the cheaper games mind, the full price releases from companies like OCEAN were still out of my weekly budget. So as the end of the year approached I was always in the same position in that all the magazines would be talking about stuff like Red Heat, Untouchables or Batman and I would have to wait 6 months for the budget release, imagine that pain when Robocop came along. What was worse was that this game was out way before Christmas and the young me was unable to save money towards it due to needing (yeah I said needing dammit) all these games magazines, sometimes to the point where come the end of the week I would actually owe the paper shop owner cash because so many publications had come out.
Does it hurt? Does it hurt???
The killer here was that Robocop was announced as the game of the year, it got perfect scores across the board and the fact I had played a demo given away on a cover tape from Sinclair User (I think??) and had loved it so much was making everything a million times worse. There are very few times in my games playing life where I have felt like a junkie craving a fix and this is easily one of those moments, it actually hurt me not having it. I tried to save towards it, I really did, but the 50p here and 20p there just wasn’t adding up and after about 3 weeks of raising less than 2 pound for a game costing 9.95 I gave up and just decided to be miserable instead.
The weeks and months passed by and even more stuff got released for the spectrum, not only that but I also had that Master System I loved so much to get games for so when xmas came around my mother left me with a horrible dilemma, I was to choose 1 game and 1 game only, heartbreak! See the thing was Master system games were £29.99 and I almost never managed to buy one so I used my birthdays and xmas to get two a year and the rest of the time borrowed others from friends and rented from the local video shop that actually stocked them. When given a choice for only 1 game of course I was going to pick the expensive Master System title and not a game a third of the price, nobody would and don’t try and tell me a younger version of you would not have made the same decision as me. The problem here was Robocop, how on earth was I going to get this game now???
The choice had been made, there was no way I was passing up the option to get a rare prized console game for my Sega and so at this point as I entered the third week of December I had resigned myself to having to simply wait for the so called game of the year. Nobody else in the area had it either so a copy was out of the question, I had weighed up the more expensive game and my love of computer magazines against one spectrum game and it had lost, a part of me died that day. To be honest I think it’s one of the most important learning points in my life as it dawned on me that disappointment was something that would follow me around in life like my shadow, we were going to be great friends he and I.
Serve the Public Trust, protect the innocent! Deliver tabloids...
The last few days of Pre-xmas had arrived and it was the last Saturday before the happy day and there I was delivering papers again in the dark and freezing cold, and again if you have read Megatron’s Memoirs Part 1 you know that my route included a massive old people’s home so you know that this quite frankly scared the shit out of me. If you have ever been in one of these places it’s no wonder they all die so quickly because it’s too hard to stay alive in one of them, they are fucking scary as hell, to this day I still hate them. Long narrow corridors with blind corners and always emergency strength lights, by that I mean almost dark not super bright. Imagine you’re a kid and your walking around that every single morning for years on end. This day however, this day a miracle happened, a Christmas miracle!
After delivering papers to several houses before the old peoples home, the looming spectre of the buildings drew closer and just as I was about to enter a door opened and the service manager of the place called me over, he told me that several of the residents wanted to talk to me and that they had placed signs up on the door to ask me to knock and wait till they answered. He didn’t tell me why, I prepared myself for the worst of course as this has always been my nature and with head down walked into the Adams Family mansion of death!!! One paper done, no sign, two papers same story then about five or so in I saw one of those signs and I felt like I had been hit by a truck so I knocked on the door and waited…… And waited (old people folks). After what seemed like an hour but was more like 20 seconds the door opened and a lady said ‘HI’ I replied softly, the same as a response, then she said thank you for all my hard work this year and handed me a card, wished me merry xmas and then handed me a wrapped up piece of what was obviously xmas cake. You have to understand I’m not prepared for this so I take a slight step back and said thanks about 10 times and then she said 'bye' and closed the door.
Im stood rooted to the spot in a dark corridor….What the fuck just happened here??? I had been doing this round for about 3 years already and nobody had ever gotten me a card before let alone cake, this was so weird…. Still I had papers to deliver and so carried on. About five or so customers later, same note on door and after knocking almost the exact same response... cake and a card. This happened about six more times and by the end of it I had almost the same full bag as when I started, no papers just cakes and cards, bizarre….
OCP runs the cops... You're a Cop!
I went back to the paper shop to pick up the next lot of papers to deliver (I had a weird double back route so split the weight up to move faster) and off I went to deliver those to the folks who were my customers. All in all my entire route took about an hour and a half or about 45 minutes on a bike depending on how heavy it was raining, this particular morning it was cold as hell but no rain. I got home and after changing out of my stupid bright orange jacket (safety) got the cards out of the paper sack and my pieces of cake and went and sat in the kitchen.
My mum asked me why I looked so weird and after telling her that’s how I always looked and that she should maybe have married a sexier man if she wanted attractive children, I told her about the stopping to talk to old people adventure I had just been on. She smiled and said it was nice that they appreciated that I went around in the cold and wet to make sure they got their papers and laughed at the cake pieces all wrapped up, I replied with the fact I care not about stupid xmas cards but that a thank you was lovely and now I had cake!!! I opened up a piece and then it hit me, this was old people and xmas cake so yeah it will have fruit in it. Fruit cake is in my humble opinion utter shit and flies right in the face of what cake is meant to be about, cake is a treat, a sweet treat at that so adding fucking fruit to it not only makes the texture suck balls but if I want fruit I will eat a sodding apple.
After throwing them on the kitchen top I went and sat in the front room like a spoilt little shit, something I was not proud of even at the time. About 2 minutes passed and my mum poked her head around the door and said…. ‘What about your cards’ to which my reply was something like….. ‘throw them away, it’s a card... like I care!’ again not my best life moment at all. This is the part where my sometimes perceived sexism highlights how right I usually am about how the opposite sex work. See the thing is women are genetically nosey, don’t hate them for it, it’s honestly not their fault and they cannot control it at all but when faced with a mystery a woman will 100% of the time investigate even if it has nothing at all to do with them.
Take a look at my face... Dick!
My mum calls me back into the kitchen and tells me I should check the cards before she bins them and points me to one she has already opened (surprise!!!!) Just as im about to ask her why she felt the need to open my card I peek into it and see what can only be described as a thing of beauty….. A crisp and I do mean crisp £5 note. I was told my face lit up like a lighthouse and then it struck me…. What’s in the other envelopes?????
Now I would be lying if I said I knew the exact number of cards after all these years but it was absolutely more than 5 but less than 10, so let’s say for the sake of this story 7 cards and one of them had a fiver in it, you can guess what happened next. I burst into the remainder like a half starved street child and in the next one I found 2 £1 coins sellotaped inside, 2 Christmas cards in and already I’m 7 quid up. I absolutely was giddy with joy and another card opened took me to 9 pounds as that too had 2 £1 coins inside. By the end of the frantic ripping of paper I was now the proud owner of just under £20.00, mind officially blown and understand this is 1989 money so £20.00 felt more like a million lol lol.
My mum then proceeded to be a mum and nicely brought me crashing back to reality with a lovely lecture on how I should make sure of everything before I get upset or walk away from things, at which point I realised I had been a diva of sorts and said sorry and went back into the front room now the richest man in all the land. As I sat back into my chair all happy and proud of myself for some weird reason the thought hit me like a train to the face. Forget how nice it was for me to get my very first ever free money / xmas tips or some lovely written cards by really nice people, forget the United Nations emergency food parcel they had given me in cake form, I had been given the best and most important Christmas present and miracle of all.
The gift of ROBOCOP!!!
That's some fancy shooting son, what's your name?
30 minutes later I’m in the middle of town with my wallet of cash so thick it could club a whale to death and im inside the local indie games shop in one of the town’s shopping squares. This was one of the very first shops that I ever truly loved and that’s a word I hardly ever use sincerely, but this place was great. It had a smell, a vibe and a sound to it that I simply craved, it was my church and I prayed to it’s majesty. As I looked around though I couldn’t see the game at all and I panicked so hard I thought I would faint, the owner of the shop who knew my name asked me ‘Mark, what’s the matter?’ to which I replied ‘please god tell me you have Robocop!’ He pointed to the spectrum shelves and said if it wasn’t there then they had sold out. I turned back around to double check and nothing….Nothing at all, my world came crashing down like a waterfall throwing water at rocks. I had come so close, only to be destroyed at the final straight.
As I turned around, crushed, he smiled as he held in his hand a copy of the game and it’s not completely accurate but it’s very possible I let out a yelp and then rushed towards it. I asked him why he had been so cruel and he said that not only would it be funny for everyone in the shop (oh yeah, Saturday, so you know Packed!!!) but that he had to keep them behind the counter because inside the big box was a really nice poster and he didn’t want people stealing them. I handed over my £10.00 and he put the game into the bag and I rushed out to get my butt home. As I walked past the high street it dawned on me that I still had money left so a quick trip into the local toy shop meant I was now the proud owner of a Transformer toy as well, and as I left the high street I also stopped to get 2 plain cheeseburgers, fries and a milkshake from McDonalds, yes I remember everything important about this day with perfect clarity.
When I got home my mum gave me that look I was already expecting, the look of ‘why did you spend all your money straight away’ to which I simply held up the game and said 'Robocop mum….ROBOCOP' and went upstairs. My early Xmas present from total strangers was the one game I wanted more than anything else and after giving up on ever getting it, it had somehow fell into my lap through total luck... Or was it something else entirely, was this the work of fate? Or something more obvious, did Santa Claus just do me a solid?
If you have no idea about the game itself let me just tell you right now, it’s fantastic. It’s a technical marvel for a computer like the 48k Spectrum, plays like a treat and the music on the title screen is something to behold, it’s a masterpiece through and through. I wont go into details here because for me this feature is about the feelings and emotions behind games you just have to have.
Finally... let me direct you to the boxed ROBOCOP in the picture next to this text, that’s my original spectrum version bought with money given to me as Xmas tips by those lovely people from Croft Court retirement home in 1989, I still have it, it won’t EVER be sold, traded or leave my side. Stuff like this leaves a lasting impression on me and sure, it may just be an object, but the sheer amount of feeling behind it puts it’s value to me as quite simply... Priceless.