November 29th, 2015: Pirates Revenge
Posted by Gravecat at 9:26 pm under Childhood, School Diary. Comment?

Out of the plethora of relics that survived my childhood days, my favourites to this day include the old school journals, where we were supposed to write about what we’d done the day before, then draw a picture on the adjacent page. Filled with mischief and lies, I’d constantly formulate my own half-truths (and, often, utter fabrications), as I didn’t consider reality to be quite interesting enough to spend my time writing about. I have scanned images of four of these books, so let’s take a look at another, going back to the first page of book 1, at some point around September 1988.


I’m not even going to talk about the intricate mesh of cables and electronics that seem to surround the arcade machine in what can be described only as a health and safety nightmare. I’m also not going to go into much detail about the pirate’s laser, which is escaping the confines of the game screen and bouncing around the surrounding room. Instead, I’ll just say what you’re doubtless already thinking by now:

This game never existed. My first (at least, the first surviving) school journal entry was a tissue of lies.

There is no such game as Pirates Revenge, especially not in 1988. Even if there was, I’m a little confused by the control scheme, which seems to consist of a joystick only capable of moving horizontally and buttons labeled “fire”, “jump”, “run”, “walk”, “duck” (?), “aim” and a mystery unlabeled button at the top. Nonetheless, something so simple as a game not existing would never be enough to stop me from writing a school journal entry about my experiences with it.

I think it’s also a sign of the times that an arcade game would cost 10p (an amount worth around 15¢, or 0.14€ today), though I do have hazy memories of once playing an arcade game of Pac-Man and feeling annoyed that it required a whole 20p to play. That was a fair chunk of a 7-year-old’s pocket money in 1988! Luckily, I’d also taken to hanging out around the coin-pusher machines and slyly collecting handfuls of unclaimed 2p coins when gravity took its toll. I was a crafty little bastard even at a young age.

November 29th, 2015: Tales of kleptomania: the bag of marbles
Posted by Gravecat at 4:25 pm under Childhood, Tales of Kleptomania. Comment?

No picture this time, just some ramblings about my days as a juvenile delinquent: yes, as a small child, I had a brief stint where I was bizarrely afflicted by kleptomania. Perhaps I’d discovered that I possessed the skill and cunning to successfully steal desideratum, or maybe I just enjoyed the adrenaline rush, the fear of getting caught and the thrill of success. Here’s a little anecdote regarding my time as a thieving little brat, since I’m fairly sure the statute of limitations has long-since passed. More will follow in future posts, including the time I stole a live 9mm bullet.

The most memorable experience I had — and, perhaps the first time I ever stole a thing — was when I spied a bag of marbles left in a classroom, lost property which had been handed into the teacher but unclaimed by any. Marbles were huge in my school. Huge. If you didn’t play marbles, you may as well not exist. I was not only moderately skilled, but also carried around with me a large metal biscuit tin which contained my extensive collection of marbles. I had them all, from “crappies” (glass marbles with slivers of coloured plastic) to the middling “milkies” (white with a swirly, pastel pattern, generally worth about two or three crappies apiece), through “galaxies” (coloured glass marbles with a speckled paint pattern), the ultra-valuable “frosties” (which hardly require a description, so I’ll just mention that the ‘value’ from lowest to highest was: green/blue < white < black < red), and the ever-elusive “bollies” (ball bearings, sometimes erroneously stolen from vehicles).

After the class had filed out of the room, I ambled my way to the back, waiting for a lack of prying eyes to swipe the small plastic bag of glistening goods and stashed them quickly in my biscuit tin. Thinking I’d escaped scot-free, true horror struck when I was confronted by Jack, the freckled redhead boy who was one of my good friends at the time. He had challenged me to a game of marbles, and as we all knew at the time, one could not simply decline. That would be the absolute peak of bad manners, but I was struck with a realization of utter horror: were I to open my biscuit tin, the stolen bag of marbles would be plain to see, resting there atop their free-roaming brethren. In a wild panic, I refused his challenge and tried to get away, but he pursued me through the school grounds, loudly proclaiming to all who would listen that I had declined his challenge, clearly a gross violation of playground law!

Words cannot describe the panic that gripped me as I tried to find a way out. Fortunately, I managed to steal myself away to the school bathrooms, quickly emptying the rogue marbles into my tin to mingle with their brothers, disguised once the damning plastic bag had been disposed of. I don’t remember if I ever actually played that game of marbles with Jack in the end, but I’ll still never forgive him for his act of supremely terrible timing. Did he know my dreadful secret, or was he simply craving a challenge? Perhaps I shall never know.

Speaking of school bathrooms, I once bought a “water resistant” digital watch for some absurdly low price like 50p, one of those cheap plasticky bullshit things with a dozen fake buttons and very little actual functionality, the kind that think a “Quartz” logo is a selling point. Determined to put it to the test, I ran it under the tap for a full minute or so, and — feeling like its water resistance had been proven — I then started pressing the buttons in “to help the water”. Inevitably, an impossibly thin plastic sheet detached and floated away, quickly heralding the sudden failure of the watch and a horrifying blank screen. It had failed. It didn’t resist the water. I was devastated.

November 28th, 2015: The fridge or what?
Posted by Gravecat at 3:30 pm under Childhood, School Diary. Comments (1)

Of the numerous relics that have survived my chaotic childhood, perhaps the most treasured are a collection of my old school journals. These consisted of books with alternating pages of lined and plain paper, and each kid in my school had their own — the idea was that you were supposed to write about what you’d done the day before, and draw a picture to go along with it. Due to the way the books were constructed, the central page consisted of two plain pages, allowing for a larger drawing with no text required — this was the Holy Grail of the school journals, something we all looked forward to with barely-contained glee.

Naturally, being the maddening little shit that I was, I’d decided not to play by the rules; the vast majority of what was written in my school journals ranged from a significant bending of the truth from actual events, through to plausible lies, to utter fabrications involving ghosts and aliens. I wasn’t content to merely write about what had happened in my life; I was  going to make it more interesting.

I’ve got dozens of scans from these books, which I’ll be posting every so often on this blog, but to kick things off, here’s one of my personal favourites, and the origin of the phrase, “The fridge or what?” which a few local friends and I still use to refer to being extremely cold.


This almost certainly never happened.

The gist of the story is that I was reluctant to get out of bed, and in an attempt to turf me out of my fortress of solitude, a mystery assailant pulled off my blankets, and then things descend into unintelligible madness. “Something hot went back on” may have referred to an application of a hot water bottle, then the lack of blankets and pillows resulted in a core temperature so low, I could think only to reply with, “the frige [sic] or what.” All the evidence here points to my older sister being responsible, but I doubt this was actually the case.

Apparently, Philip was number 22 in the class register, which is the reason for it being my unlucky number. Both of these things are also almost entirely complete fabrications. Philip was somewhat of a nemesis of mine, in that we were on friendly terms, but he was also the class clown — a rank that I clearly deserved. He once tried to trade me some magnets for one of those shitty little handheld electronic LCD game systems — a little yellow plastic thing that involved defeating ghosts with a crucifix — but I fabricated some lie about how I’d brokered a better deal for it already, so I couldn’t accept that fine trade of two fucking magnets.

As for the caption on the picture, “Hardwares” referred to my trainers, which were one of the more successful attempts by Clarks Shoes to appeal to kids, and god damn did I ever love my Hardwares. This was in stark comparison to a later advertising campaign (for a different pair of shoes) in which a snot-nosed little shit in the TV commercial announced, “I want somefing mega,” causing my entire school to immediately stop using the word “mega” overnight, and to never utter that word again. Good job, Clarks. Good fucking job.

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