Rewind to 1977, the Silver Jubilee year, where swathes of communities up and down the country engaged in celebratory street parties, not because it was a bygone age of Royalist adulation, but perhaps mainly because there was fuck all else to do back then.
You couldn’t immerse yourself in the web, stream music, FaceTime mates, net twitch on social media so a get-together in the streets was exciting for this 12 year old boy and people younger and older.
Bunting across streets in Thorne, Doncaster, were replicated I’d imagine in other towns and villages across the country, but we didn’t know because our world wide web was a 1 mile radius of home and we were blithely ignorant of other places locally, nationally and globally.
I remember vividly though the beginnings of addiction, which I’ve carried to this day.
I was addicted to sugar as a kid, eating sweets constantly, with the result now that my teeth are a car crash; I remember sneaking alcohol from a young age from the living room cabinet stocked with various bottles; the experiments with smoking at 15; the compulsion to play the Kentucky Derby ball rolling game at Brid or Filey, but mostly the rabid obsession with Space Invaders, which addictively consumed me.
Taito Space Invaders, no less.
There were two versions of the arcade machine – one with buttons, the other with a joystick knob and I became the local legend on the knob one at Thorne swimming baths.
You remember it?
7 or 8 rows of pixellated invaders with your only defence being crumbling barriers and sporadic gunfire with the occasional appearance of a spaceship to earn 50, 150 or 300 extra points and lives.
I became an expert by watching others and playing endlessly.
I knew spaceships were worth 300 points if you counted bullet shots to 21 first time, then 15 thereafter; I knew spaceships stopped when there were 8 or less invaders and I knew the milestones for extra lives – 3000 points.
This was 40 years ago and days before YouTube tutorials on Space Invaders and it gave me some geek kudos in that environment.
There’s one for sale here too.
Fast forward to when I was 30 and I got addicted to Tetris on the Game Boy and fast forward to 49 and Candy Crush Saga became my salve when off work long term.
Addiction is something in my brain chemistry – to a point where those first sips of illicit alcohol in the 70s became a daily fix from 18 until I called last orders in 2016.
It’s a serious business addiction and it seems particularly strong to me in men.
Let’s not beat around the bush – it’s a brain disorder and one that I developed in childhood, from obsessive buying and reading the casual tales of racism, insularity and sexism in the Famous Five books to becoming alcohol dependent or alcoholic, if I’m being honest.
Addiction is an outlet for men to cope with emotions – my childhood fixation on Space Invaders provided an escape from home, but also my skills at it raised my low self-esteem amongst a few onlookers, who knew I was a legend at the game.
It was only when I reached crisis point in December 2016, with alcohol addiction, that I reached out for help and that’s well documented by me here.
If you’re suffering from addiction, there’s people and organisations who can help.
If it’s alcohol, ring 0800 9177 650, the AA helpline, who are there to support you.
Gambling, which effectively what my addiction to Space Invaders was, can be helped too. Click here.
We will be looking at addiction in more detail in future articles and if you’ve a story to share, openly or anonymously, please submit one.
We’ve even got £25 M and S gift vouchers ready for published ones.
Talking is good, writing is even better therapy, trust me.