Friday, 2 March 2012

ABIDE WITH ME: Fact and Fiction (2) - TOYS

As ABIDE WITH ME deals with the childhood of the narrator - John - there are, inevitably, parallels with my own childhood.  And in the seventies - before the age of computers, there were such things as TOYS. One scene in the book has John and Kenny playing a game called CROSSFIRE:

CROSSFIRE was great.  The idea was to shoot at a target consisting of a large ball bearing encased in a red plastic ring, with a constant barrage of smaller ball bearings fired from a gun.  To play it properly, you had to lay full length on the floor.  Therefore, my memories of playing CROSSFIRE always come with the smell of carpet.  Sort of like Air Hockey. But what I remember most about playing CROSSFIRE was that after each game, I'd have a pulsing, globulous blister on my trigger finger the size of an egg.  Every time.  Design fault?  Possibly.

In ABIDE WITH ME there is a scene where John and Kenny are playing CROSSFIRE, sort of illustrating my point:

I let go of me gun, and shake me hand to get it workin again. Can't play no more cos me finger's all blistered up. But Kenny ain't takin no notice, just keeps on firin down at me. The metal ball thing's in my goal, where he shot it last, so he ain't got nothing to aim at, just keeps on crackin em out.
'Kenny!' I shout, cos I'm a bit pissed off now what with him takin no fuckin notice.
And he lifts his head up slow and looks at me in that blank way of his that's sort of scary till you got used to it. Even then it still puts the fuckin shivers up me.

And that was CROSSFIRE.

Other games from my childhood that didn't make the cut include:

Ker Plunk
One of the more sedate seventies games, the idea was to pull a plastic straw out of the squashed plastic strawberry thing one at a time, being careful not to let too many marbles through.  Any marbles that came through whooshed through the tube and into your little plastic holding area at the bottom of the tube.  Then the tube would be twisted round to the next player.  The one with the fewest marbles at the end was the winner.  A bit like Jenga, but with straws and marbles.  
Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots
A violent crunching beat em up - seventies style.  Each player would attempt to beat the living daylights out the other player's robot by pushing their thumbs down on the yellow buttons outside the ring.  Each button threw a punch.  Combinations were best.  The winner was the one whose opponents head sprung off its shoulders at the end.  Brutal stuff.
 Battling Tops
Battling Tops involved the age-old principle of last man standing.  You'd wind a length of string/cottony stuff round your top, set it in the launching position in the corner of the arena, pull back hard, and the top would spin out into the concave arena darting and whizzing in all directions.  The two battling tops would bounce and collide off each other until only one was left standing.  The winner would be declared, and there'd be Rise 'n' Shine all round.
Quite possibly, the greatest game ever invented.  Me and Stu had the set above - the 1974 World Cup Edition. A large chunk of my childhood was spent flicking the plastic based heroes about, keeping a log of matches played - with Stu or against myself.  I'd have league tables, suspensions, injuries - if you weren't careful, a player could get snapped off his plastic base by a flailing elbow or over-excited knee only to reappear in the next game repaired with model glue, though significantly shorter.  Was almost impossible to line the broken legs together with the stumps sticking out the base.  Fortunately, heading never played a big part in Subbuteo.  Mind you, I trained my lads for it.  Yep.  I had training sessions.  Time after time, I'd have one player take a corner with a specially designed corner kicker that was suppose to launch the ball at head height but never did, and I'd simultaneously flick with all my might several players at once from the edge of the penalty area.  It never worked.  Not ever.  Didn't seem to matter at the time, though.  I'd just set them all up and go again.

Ah, thems were the days . . .


  1. Ker-Plunk! spent a lot of time playing that as a kid as well as a computer game called '1941'.

    Don't play games now though. I sit in my compound and plan for war.

  2. Ha, a subtle comment from Mr. Brazill.