Home town memories
Once upon a time and when I was very stupid, I took hallucinogenic drugs. It wasn’t clever and it most certainly wasn’t safe but I was young and naive, looking to have a good time. There were good times but at the same time there were god awful, shitting your pants terrifying times too; drugs are bad and will never do you any good and if you take my advice you’ll never take them.
So why on earth am I telling you yet another thing about my past? Well let me give you a little more insight in to me first. I was born in St Albans General Hospital on the 23rd April 1984, I grew up on the Watford Road in Chiswell Green and have spent my whole life in St Albans. My family own a business near the cathedral, one brother is a St Albans City FC fan and my father a St Albans lover; it is not at all strange then that I stayed in the local area to play, work and live.
My parents have always commented on how good my long term memory is, often remembering things from my childhood that they barely recall. Whilst on one of the few, real hallucinogenic trips I experienced, I pictured perfectly every footstep taken around the no longer trading InShops and Odeon cinema.
The InShops were a small, covered shopping precinct found in various towns across the UK. St Albans had an InShops based in the Maltings and it was a place that a lot of us spent vast amounts of time in. Why you might ask, surely it was just shops? Let’s take you through it step by step.
As you got to the top of the escalator and to your right you had:
A computer game shop (I was known as ‘cheat’ as I could memorise game cheats and pass them on)
Grasshopper (Selling Bongs and other hippy material; at this point a bong was completely alien to me)
Behind these stores on the right:
Army Surplus (Boy’s pretending to be soldiers, what more fun could we have)
Toy shop (The first memory of magic worms!)
A little electric shop (They sold me my first NES arcade controller albeit 5 years past it’s retirement)
On the left you had:
An Indian rug / furniture shop (I never saw anything sold but they seemed to always be open)
A shop selling yarn, thread and party supplies
Chaos City Comics (I bought so many X-Files cards from here!)
There were things that I haven’t mentioned yet but that is because they have more of a meaning than any of the above.
Through out the life of the InShops, an Arcade was moved around from empty store to empty store and is the first real memories I have of playing computer games outside of my home. This wasn’t an arcade in the sense of the overpriced games rooms you see in cinemas and bowling alleys but instead somewhere a £1 pocket money could last all morning. I have great memories of playing Title Fight at 20p per credit with my brother Roland.
Other games included an awesome arcade version of Die Hard, Tekken and Cruisin’ USA (a game I later revisited on the N64).
Ruff N Tumble
Until you were deemed to big, Ruff N Tumble provided a good half day of ‘it’ in a soft play environment. If you don’t know what ‘it’ is you may have heard it referred to as ‘tag’, if you still don’t know then look it up! Once you had grown to large for Ruff N Tumble you typically then took over the McDonalds play area until disgruntled staff kicked you out.
Lifts? Really? How could they be fun? Michael and I spent hours playing man hunt using the adjacent stair case, lifts and car parks. We would both start in opposite locations i.e top floor and bottom floor and then run up and down until we caught each other. A couple of times we were asked to leave unless we were shopping but most of the time we were left to our own devises. It wasn’t a good Saturday unless we were sweating, tired and full of sugar.
There was one other place I visited regularly up until my 11th year in life and that was the Odeon. St Albans had a popular cinema until around ’94 when Jarman park and Woodside opened in Hemel and Garston leading to its inevitable closure.
The Odeon is the only memory I have of my whole family going to see a film, in a rare evening outing we went to see Jurassic Park and I was absolutely captivated; my poor brother Roland had to sit through Star Trek Generations with me as I was too little to go on my own.
My fondest memory of the Odeon is from one of the 4 trips to Jurassic Park myself and Michael Gow (my best friend of the time) undertook. At the time the Odeon had both a soft drink vendor upstairs and a canned drink machine downstairs, it’s still clear in my mind that the branding was Pepsi. I nipped out to grab a drink and deposited my 50p in to the machine, clicking Pepsi I then heard an unusual noise. Not only did my drink appear but so did my 50p piece! This occurred 7 times before the machine kept my money, the looks I must have got carrying 7 tins of Pepsi back to my seat.
So there you have it, a very brief description of memories that occurred as a result of stupidity growing up. I love the memories and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have needed what I did but what is done is done. The next post will be tomorrow and I can happily say it involves the places I’ve worked growing up!