I thought I'd let you read what was/is the epilogue of my first book, whilst I recover from all the building work of the last 6 weeks and re-discover my muse and the time to indulge it:
I hope you enjoy...
2011 had been a turbulent year. The manuscript for this book was initially completed back in March and I had edited and added elements here and there, sending copies and excerpts to friend and foe alike. To my surprise (and I confess, delight) my efforts were applauded. It seemed that I’d hit the vein from which the lifeblood of memories flows, reminding people of their own past escapades in the microcosm which is gaming in all its forms.
I was on the crest of an emotional tsunami. I had done it – I had created something that was of value to someone, somewhere. Even if my manuscript languished in my safe I had made a record of my life and of those of others. It was a time capsule of lost youth that had given me much cause to smile and indeed mourn during its creation.
I learned of the passing of parents of friends along the way, driving home the fact that a quarter of a century had passed by, although, it remained fresh in my memory as if it had been only last week that everything happened.
In the summer, Anne Bishop, who was only in her own summer years passed away after long and debilitating period of illness.
Anne, who I referred to in the book as Anna, long suffering partner of Lloyd was a petite, glamorous, no-bullshit lady of genuine warmth and wicked wit. As I have already related, Anne often curbed Lloyd’s big brother-like teasing and natural propensity for profiteering from any transaction to the extent he may have liked. Anne was in her own small way like a big sister, Lloyd a big brother. She was that rare thing in this hobby – a normal person. Everyone who knew Anne will miss her sorely. I said earlier I wanted her to see this book – She never did.
Anne’s passing focussed a lot of the ‘old guard’ of my youth. I think a number of us realised just how tenuous is our grip on this planet and how temporary is our teNancy agreement with the universal landlord. Old hatchets were buried and acquaintances renewed, and for that I shall always be grateful, but what a price to pay…
A matter of weeks later, after a debilitating round of hospital stays, my father in law also passed away. Nes, known to Kayte, as ‘Daddy Bear’ was a straight talking man who had little time for the arty types such as your humble narrator and perhaps you may recall that my first meetings with him were in my eyes at least somewhat abrupt. He responded to my statement that I was an artist by commenting ‘Aye, a piss artist!’
Over the years – but not soon enough – I got to know Nes better and learned that comments such as that which had wounded me so many years ago, delivered with a poker face, were fundamentally who he was. Nes, I realised was a far more complex man than I had suspected, who loved his family even more than his beer and his garden. He had a puckish way which could make a statue smile. It goes without saying that his family will miss him, including a certain ‘piss artist’.
And so we reach another year and my attempts to contact friends from those halcyon days of which you have read have paid dividends. I managed to touch base with Lisa and P.A, the two Pauls and many others. In fact, Paul ‘B’ has created an online community solely for those of us from those hedonistic days of yore and it’s becoming a great place to recount those long-lost days of our youth with the people who were there and who mattered more than we realised at the time.
It was the conversation with Lisa which really made me add this particular chapter after information imparted during that conversation literally floored me and left me with a sense of anger, the likes of which I have seldom experienced in my forty-odd years.
You will of course recall that way back in chapter 30, I recounted how I was banned from my beloved local gaming emporium and threatened with having my spine split in twain should I ever darken the doorstep by Clive.
Well, as I conversed with Lisa, I broached the subject of her being ‘fired’ which you will also recall was recounted all those pages back. Her response laid me low, like an unseen blow.
‘I didn’t get the 'boot' from Games Workshop.’ This stated with a laugh.
‘You didn’t?’ I was reeling here. Those eight words literally hit me like a sledgehammer to the cranium. And here, I recounted the reasons that I had been given all those years before, the effects of which had warped my view of the world and hung upon my psyche, like saddlebags from the rump of malnourished mule.
'You used to get stuff for me at discount you will recall? I was told that you had pocketed my cash and then I was in receipt of the proverbial stolen goods. That's why they banned me - apparently.’ The memories of Clive’s threats to my spine came rushing back.
‘Is that what they told you?’ Lisa laughed and continued.
‘Frank and Chris had left. They were going to put me back on part time hours, so, I got job at ‘Tie Rack’ and left. I'd just met my future husband as I recall. I’d worked at Games Workshop from the age of 16 until I was nearly 20.’
I was well and truly running on adrenalin by this point and reaching for my mobile phone to get hold of Lloyd and try to make some sense of what I’d just been told. His phone was engaged and so I returned to the conversation with Lisa, expressing may feelings of mixed anger, amazement and euphoria at what she had just imparted.
‘Peter left before me. I loved him - he was the best boss I ever had. It was, Joe in charge, Clive hated me (and here I omit the reason she gave as it’s frankly not relevant and I cannot substantiate it).
‘Christ on a bike, I spent nearly a quarter of a century carrying that chip on my shoulder Lisa.’ My head really was swimming. It was as if I had managed to break the surface, having had my head held under water for longer than is advisable.
‘Oh my god… What a set of hypocrites.’ Lisa it seemed had got a handle on just what an issue this had been for me. ‘They were all doing it.’ The latter referring to her colleagues purchasing games etc for friends, on their generous staff discounts.
By now I was incandescent with rage. Seldom have I been so.
‘Lisa, to say that I am fuming is somewhat of an understatement. Those bastards ruined my life!’
‘Sorry love, but I swear its not true. If so, how come I used to still go into Games Workshop? I told you that I didn’t get on with Joe and Clive. Joe once said I’d stolen some 50p earrings - remember them, on the front counter? I started laughing at him and it went downhill from there. But I left with a good reference from Peter. They had no grounds at all to do that to you! If mobile phones been about back then, we could have sorted it all out in half hour.’
It all made sense. Kids were an annoyance and I was the best known of those annoyances by my passion for the hobby. Indeed, I reminded Lisa of the time that I had visited Games Workshop twice a day for almost the entire summer holidays, to see whether the game ‘Golden Heroes’ – which in all events was dire and soon discontinued – had been delivered with the weekly new releases.
‘I'm sorry if I seem bitter Lisa. I walked around thinking I'd helped to get you fired. I stopped going to the Runelords and lost a lot of my mates because of that.’ The adrenalin was hitting my stomach and I felt sick.
‘Don’t be sorry at all... I honestly am gob-smacked. You speak to someone who you’ve not seen for nearly 30 years, and with nothing but good memories, and then, you find out something like this.’ Lisa it seemed almost as ‘rattled’ as I was and, I decided, discretion was the better part of valour - I wouldn’t impart to her the rumours that I had heard about her over the years by certain parties.
So there you have it. Straight from the proverbial equine’s facial orifice, I had what appeared to be the ‘real story’. Twenty-five years of stress dropped off me in the space of an hour. Once again I had been shown that real life is indeed, a bugger.
I think it shows just how adults and children differ. We often assume – erroneously – that teenagers are just young adults. Maybe in terms of stature and intelligence they are. But in terms of psychology and emotional maturity they are not. What seems to be a ‘wicked wheeze’ in the eyes of an adult and their peers can so damage the young target of their so-called wit, that the teenager in question carries psychological scars into their own adulthood.
The realization of this by your guide during the preceding seventy thousand words, or thereabouts - let’s not be picky, now that we’ve become such good friends – has as I have said already, been quite cathartic.
I suppose that the teenage me, that boy who is familiar yet so distant from who I am now, would have plotted some kind of petty revenge on the antagonists. But no, I think, that to coin a phrase, I shall endeavour to wipe it from my memory, like a greasepaint mask as a certain progressive rock ensemble put it. Life is short and the majority of my own is behind me, whereas for that boy it was ahead of him, red in tooth and claw.
I can’t change the past, and to try to correct the history books so to speak would be a mammoth undertaking. Therefore, I’ll continue to be who I am to everyone, loved by some and loathed by others. After all, it’s both love and loathing that have allowed me to write this book and prove beyond a doubt that real life truly is, a bugger!
Hark! I think I hear a fat lady singing in the distance…
Paul 'B' was Paul Stephens who passed away just before Christmas of 2016. We had 'history' over a woman nearly 30 years ago. I think we had eventually got past it and both grown a little as a result.
P.A was Pete Armstrong. He also passed away early in 2017. He was a mentor and a tormentor, but I owed him so much.
Both, died tragically young, and are missed more than I can truly convey.