I used to have many relatives in Wales, and probably still do only they are all very distant now as my poor old Granny has been dead a good few years now and I will almost certainly never see her old bungalow in the shadow of Pen-Y-Fan again.
Her sister lived in a place called Johnston, a really odd name for a place in Wales, in Pembrokeshire exactly half way between Milford Haven and Haverford West. I loved it when we went to visit her, because there were great beaches there where we would pick buckets of cockles that I generally refused to eat. We would also play cricket my uncle on vast expanses of wet sands.
There were also rocky expanses of coastline too, with those 5p binoculars you could use to look at the big cargo ships going in and out of Pembroke dock.
There was also a massive bridge, which my memory has fooled me into thinking was a suspension bridge. A bit of research reveals that this was actually the Cleddau Bridge, a cantilever toll bridge that carries the A477 over the River Cleddau. .
I visited this was my cousin Robert, a long wavy haired hippy type who drove me there with his girlfriend in his orange VW Beetle. We parked high above the bridge and he gave me a pair of binoculars, told me to watch the pillars sway in the breeze.
He was a bit of a case was Robert; it was him who lived on a farm with a psychotic grandfather eating muscovy duck and a murky tank of neon tetras. Last I heard he was still odd.
But he did give me something really cool – my first and as yet only (!) hand held video game.
I loved the very early arcade and video games I had encountered; it seemed natural being a kid who lived astronomy and space things. There was a very early video Ping Pong I encountered in a hotel in Brodick, Arran, which was the first one I ever played on. Then there was the Atari console owned by Dennis Law the footballer’s son which my stepbrothers would borrow. This thing had me in awe, the Combat cartridge with the biplane fighters! And you could fox Space Invaders so your spaceship fired double bullets.
These devices were much flasher than the Entex Space Invaders handheld that Robert had, but they weren’t mine. Neither was the Entex, until Robert saw how much I loved it and decided to gift it to me.
By today’s standards it wasn’t much of a game of course. You had a space ship, two flat shields, and a team of 8 enemies in a rectangular formation who would gradually descend on you while you fired at each other. The top of the screen belonged to the enemy flying saucer, who would go backwards and forwards allowing you to blow him up, at which point the unit would engage in a series of loud trills while flashing an amazing score of “20” in battery draining LED.
The game was LED rather than vacuum display (not that I know what the latter is anyway), the aliens, their shots and your missiles were all the same. On the lower setting I played it endlessly; in Auntie’s house, in the back of Grandad’s clanky old red Ford Escort. On the fast setting it was really quite hard, and the higher pitched sound really grating so I never played it on that setting.
Besides I like taking the path of least resistance.
The game had LR buttons and a fire button, irritatingly arranged the wrong way round for a left hander. It took 6 (!!!) AAs as well, so it cost a fortune in batteries and I will always remember the disappointment I would feel when the game would start acting up when the batteries were running flat – LEDs would just start lighting up at random – and the desperate attempts to get just a bit more gaming out of the unit before it became unplayable.
I think I had about two years use out of it before things like the usual happened, by that I mean losing the battery cover, getting the screen sticky and then simply getting bored of it.
But for an ADHD kid, that’s quite a long time’s fun use out something!
Copyright Mulberry Lightning 01.12.18