My gaming life

I’ve had a creeping longing for a return to some kind of normality recently. And by ‘normality’ I don’t mean tombstoning at Durdle Door, where the few seconds of free-fall you experience as you plummet towards the shimmering waves below is, quite ironically, the safest way to socially distance yourself – by more than two inches – from thousands of lobster-skinned beachgoers shitting into burger cartons and ice boxes.

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Essential viewing

The other day, I watched Jason and the Argonauts with my four-year-old son. It was one of my favourite films to watch as a boy (on many a rainy Bank Holiday) so I thought he might appreciate the sword fights and variety of weird and wonderful mythological creatures. So we snuggled up on the sofa together and watched as Pelias brutally murdered one of King Aristo’s daughters, coldly running her through with his xiphos as she cowered beneath a statue of the goddess Hera.

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They’re not scars, they’re medals

Children sliding down the 'Monster Drop' at Blackpool's Professor Peabody's.

I don’t have the exact figures to hand, but there are approximately one billion blog posts offering parents sage advice on how to “survive” soft play. It’s certainly something to be endured (soft play is a misnomer; it’s hard, gruelling even) but your survival is usually guaranteed. After all, I’ve never once entered a soft play zone to find a dad bleeding out on a crash mat, while a crazed toddler triumphantly pulls a bloodied trident from deep in his belly.

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Shut it all down

I miss the olden days. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t miss black-lunged street urchins scurrying up cramped, carcinogenic chimneys. Nor do I miss the days of young cotton mill workers getting a vicious strapping for having the gall to complain about exhaustion and a degloved finger. No, I’m talking about a mere 25 years ago, which genuinely feels like the olden days.

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The playlist that time forgot

Maybe it’s that the world is so fucked up right now and seemingly teetering on the brink of nuclear war (Donald Trump’s preference to being impeached), but I’ve been spending a lot of time wrapped in a warm, comforting blanket of nostalgia recently.

It all started when I heard Madonna’s ‘Borderline on the radio, which instantly triggered a memory of a school coach trip to Wales in 1986. Midway through the four hour journey from Watford to Criccieth, a girl I fancied suddenly reached over my seat, placed her Walkman headphones over my head, and pressed ‘play’, saying: “This is what you do to me.”

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My grandma died a couple of weeks ago. She’d just turned 91, was in failing health, and died peacefully in a nursing home. There were no frenzied attempts at resuscitation, with medical professionals swarming around her bed to a discordant soundtrack of blips and bleeps from an array of lifesaving equipment. She just ate some porridge for breakfast, returned to her room, then slipped away.

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Oh Dear Diary

I like my comfort zone. In fact, I enjoy curling up in a dimly lit corner of it, with peace and serenity washing over me like a warm summer breeze. I don’t really challenge myself – ever. To do so is to flirt with failure. In the words of Homer Simpson, when offering advice and reassurance to Bart and Lisa: “Kids, you tried your best…and you failed miserably. The lesson is: never try.” I pretty much live by these words.

So when I recently agreed to read my 1992 diary to an audience of strangers in a Birmingham bar – as part of my friend’s Oh Dear Diary event – it was completely out of character, and a truly terrifying prospect. My aim was to maybe get a couple of laughs and not get bottled off the stage. Although seeing as the audience were sitting close enough to spit a drink directly in my face, the fear of being taken out by a volley of bottles was completely unfounded.

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